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Adriel’s mind spun. He felt the bounce of the road as he lay in the back of the speeding ambulance that hurried to get him to Holy Cross Hospital. An objective observer would have found the transport time from Mistic View Court to the emergency room to be just under half an hour. Adriel’s perception was convinced it was both nearly simultaneous and half a year.

He felt the tightening and loosening of the band around his now scrawny bicep as the machine automatically checked his blood pressure. The two paramedics spoke to one another, one from the driver’s seat and the other by his side.

“Come on, Adriel,” the nearer of the unknown men said to him checking the IV drug drip that he had inserted into his arm. “Hang in there. Gabrielle was telling us all about you not half an hour ago,” he added as he pulled the stretcher’s transport straps around Adriel’s chest just a bit tauter.

Adriel did not want to hang in there. It seemed as though he had been tired forever and now the dull ache that had become his body’s base-line state of being had morphed into serious, mule kicking pain in his chest. He did not want to leave Gabrielle but his fighting spirit had already flown.

He made a decision to quit, to allow his life-force to ebb away, and just as he felt the relief of succumbing to defeat, of letting God’s will be done, the ambulance came to an abrupt halt. The rear doors flew open, his stretcher was again made mobile and he lurched out of the vehicle and into the bright glare of overhead outdoor lights.

‘Head toward the light,’ he told himself, surprised at his ability to joke about his own end even as it was occurring. He closed his eyes and said his last silent good-bye to his wife and as he slipped into nothingness he heard her voice.

“Adriel! Adriel! Don’t you die!” she screamed at him from the side of the truck. Then she whispered plaintively, “Not yet.”

“Ma’am? Please. You’ll have to get out of the way,” a voice said as Adriel was rolled forward. He felt her hand on his arm and opened his eyes just long enough to look in hers. For that split second of contact he was certain that she could see him too.

“Gabrielle,” Officer Davies said to her, “you need to let these folks do their job. Come with me, I’ll take you to the ER reception area.”

Her coerced departure coincided with Adriel’s loss of consciousness.