This story is by Wendy Maston and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Good morning, Matilda,” Shelly said as she opened the curtains. “And how are you today? I think we need to replace these curtains.”
“Good morning. That’s all I get?” I said. “Don’t you ever say anything else?”
Matilda thought to herself, I’m tired of looking at the same things out that window. It only changes with the seasons, so I know what time of the year it is. But I don’t know what year it is.
“Matilda, of course I do. Anytime I’m here, we talk to each other,” Shelly said.
“And what do we ever talk about? How many years have I been here? It’s always the same things every shift.”
Shelly said, “What would you like to talk about?”
“I really don’t know. What are the current topics these days? Who is president? That’s what I’d like to talk about?”
“I can tell you that Susan Erickson is our President,” Shelly answered.
“A woman. Wonders will never cease,” Matilda commented.
“I’ll let the nurse know you would like to talk about these things. She’ll put it in the chart so others will talk to you more. Is that alright?”
Matilda mused, “It’s about time someone paid attention to me.”
“Matilda, you know we all love you and anything you want, ask. We’ll do what we can.” And Shelly left the room.
It’s always the same thing day after day. Sure, they say they will, but as soon as they leave the room, they’re on to the next one. Why are the others better than me? I’ve been here the longest. It’s hell. I don’t know why I’m still here.
I was napping when I heard voices in the hallway. An older woman came into my room.
“Matilda, I’m your great-granddaughter, how are you doing today?” Helen said.
“Miserable, and what are you here for? My money’s all gone. That’s all you want. Money, money, money.”
“That’s not what I came for. I don’t need your money. I came for a visit. No one ever told me about you, or I would have been here sooner. I’m your third-generation granddaughter. I guess the others forgot. This home called me several days ago. When I heard what happened to you, I was stunned. How could someone do that to another human being? I know it must get lonely. Would you like to take a walk outside? It’s beautiful today.” Helen said.
“Okay, I need the exercise. Might as well go with you. Those dumb aides here don’t have time. Do I need a sweater?”
“No, Matilda. It’s warm.”
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go.” I was out the door before Helen could catch up.
We walked the same path around the gardens every week. At least Helen still came. Those younger ones didn’t remember I was here. Helen was right. It was warm, and the flowers were all in bloom. Just because I was a test subject, when I was younger? We needed the money. Nobody let me forget it. Only my husband was forgiving.
After a while, as the years past, even Helen didn’t come anymore.
The door opened, and an older man came in.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I’m George,” he said. “My grandmother talked about you all the time. I’ve moved back into town and came to see you.”
“What for? No one comes anymore. I didn’t think I had any family left. Are you sure you’re my grandson?”
“Yes,” George said. “My grandmother was Helen. She passed away several years ago.”
“That’s where she went. Made it to heaven before me. Everyone does you know.”
“I’m still here. And I’ll be here for a while. I came back to find a home where I could retire in peace. I had no children. You’re my family.” George said.
George faithfully came to see me almost every day. We would talk for hours while he told me stories about what happened to everyone in the family, those he knew about. It was the best time of my life, listening to him. But even George stopped coming. The pastor here came to tell me George had passed away. Did I know of any next to kin? I was the last one.
“Good morning, Matilda,” said Number 12 as she opened the curtain. “And how are you today? These curtains need cleaning. I’ll let the nurses know.” The aides were numbered, so it was easier for the residents to remember them.
“How many times have you said the same thing to me? And how are you today,” Matilda snapped at her.
“I don’t know. How long have I been here? About eighteen years. How many shifts have I seen you? That I can’t even count. And I say the same thing to everyone.” Number 12 answered.
“That must be boring for you. Who’s president these days?”
“James Erickson. He’s the grandson of our first woman president, several years ago. Everyone really loves him. James is following in his grandmother’s footsteps.”
“That’s good. What’s the weather today?”
“It’s freezing and going to snow later. Would you like to go down to the day room to watch the snow?”
“I suppose. It’s better than sitting here all day.”
Number 12 said, “I’ll tell the next shift where you are, so one of them can get you. I’ll be back as soon as I take care of my other patients.”
“Okay,” I said, wondering if she would remember.
The seasons changed, and I continued to live on this earth. I would sit for days watching out that window. The trees grew larger, and some died. I didn’t think about anything much anymore. Occasionally a pastor would visit and read the bible to me.
“Pastor, why am I still here?”
“That’s hard to answer, Matilda. The Lord has a pathway that’s different for everyone. He will let you know when He needs you.”
“But what if He forgets me? I’ve been good, I think. I raised my children and took care of my husband when he was sick. I tried to do everything He wanted. I don’t understand.”
“I know, Matilda. I don’t have the answer.” And another Pastor left. None of them had any answers.
Now I realized the testing years ago was to blame. I never should have done it. How was I to know that it would make me immortal? That’s what this is. Was that money worth it? Maybe.
More years passed. I didn’t even know the year. The last I could remember was the year the pandemic took so many lives. It was 2020. And my daughter died of it, and I came here. Am I immortal? I not, but what else could it be. Maybe I’m a vampire. They’re supposed to be immortal.
“Good morning, Matilda,” said Number 72. “How are you today?”
She knows I can’t answer. Why does she always say those things?
“It’s a beautiful fall day. The leaves are changing colors. How would you like to go to the lounge? The construction is all done, and it’s lovely. The windows are larger so you can see all the trees. I’ll take you down when I finish with my other patients.”
Sure, she will. She’s like the others.
They changed my room. I’m not sure what happened. I’m trying to move, but I can’t. What’s the matter? I hear voices around me but can’t turn my head to see who’s there or even open my eyes.
A doctor spoke, “This is Matilda. We don’t know why, but she’s been with us for a long time. She arrived here in 2021 when her daughter who had been taking care of her passed away from the Covid-19 virus. All the daughter’s children had moved away and were living their own lives, they didn’t want the responsibility. They didn’t have the loyalty that their mother had. Matilda’s now in a coma and we hope she will pass soon. It must be terrible to live like this.”
“But doctor, that would make her over one hundred and fifty years here. How old was she when she arrived here?” One student asked.
“Matilda was seventy-four. And her organs are still as strong as a thirty-year-old. She volunteered for some testing a local doctor was doing. The government stopped it. They kept track of her for decades before someone decided it wasn’t necessary. We have wondered for years if there are any more people involved. We don’t know what may happen in the future. Perhaps there’ll be an answer by then.”
Will someone please kill me? I can’t take this one more day.
“Why can’t we give her peace and help her go?” Another student asked.
“You know we can’t do that. It’s against the law,” The doctor said.
Please, please, please. Let me die. Matilda screamed in her head.