The Arboretum


by Nina Roselle

My hospital room was filled with flowers and cards with cheerful “Get Well Soon!” wishes.  Nurses and doctors fluttered in and out of my room like little white moths drawn to a lamppost.  I longed to be outside.  From my window, I could see trees swaying gently in the wind, reminding me of the silly dances we did in elementary school.   I closed my eyes and held on to a memory of happier times.

A knock on my door interrupted my thoughts.  My doctor, Ravi Singh, entered.  He’d been my physician for over a year now.  He was a compassionate man, who I’d grown to trust, despite my dislike for medical practitioners in general.  I only had to look at his face to know what he was going to say.

“Amir, I am sorry. “ He paused and cleared his throat.  “It appears you have a very aggressive type of lung cancer.  I wish I could tell you that a course of chemotherapy or radiation therapy would help.  Obviously, if that’s your wish, we will try.  I just don’t want to give you any false hope.”

“How long do you think I have?”  My lips trembled.

“Three months, maybe four.”

I cried at the finality of the words.  Dr. Singh stood by and rested his hand on my shoulder, clearly distressed by my situation.

I composed myself, “I don’t want to stay here in the hospital. I’d like to go home.”

“I understand. I’ll prepare the discharge papers today.  We’ll set up an outpatient treatment plan. You should make any arrangements…” He didn’t finish the sentence.  “I would like to speak with you about something important, Amir.  When you’re at home, please call me as soon as possible.” He looked behind him to be sure we were alone and gave me a card.   “Call me at this number, not here at the hospital.”  He quickly left the room.

I looked down at the plain white card, containing only the word “BIGENX” and a telephone number in black lettering. I placed it in my nightstand, with the other papers I would take home with me.

A black cloud of depression surrounded me when I returned to my apartment.  How do you go back to the day-to-day knowing that you have no future, that someone else will take the space you once owned, undoing the things you did so precisely?  A hospice counselor told me that I would feel this way.  I had anti-depressants to help.  I contemplated taking the entire bottle to have some control over my own fate.  I remembered the card Dr. Singh had given me and decided to call him.  I assumed he was going to try to talk me into donating my organs, which I hadn’t yet thought about.

The phone rang once and he answered, “Yes?”

“It’s Amir.”

“I’m so happy you called.   I have something I would like to show you though it involves a rather long drive.  Are you feeling up to it? I think it would be worth your while.”

“A treatment center?”  I was suddenly hopeful.

“Well, in a way.” he answered.

I agreed to take the trip.  Dr. Singh asked me if I’d taken care of my will and any other personal matters. I told him that I was alone except for a brother, who lived some distance away.  I left everything of importance to him.  My attorney was aware of my wishes.

“Good.  There is a chance that you might not want to return to your home.   I can’t tell you much over the phone.  I just have to ask that you trust me. I must also ask that you keep the things we discuss in the strictest confidence.”

Two days later, I was in a car headed out-of-town.  He began the trip by asking me about my thoughts on death.

“I’ve never been afraid to die, yet now that I am about to begin the journey, I’m fearful about the unknown.  I don’t believe in hell, I’m fairly certain heaven isn’t in my future.  I hope there is something in-between the two.” 

“Would you consider that some other form of life might be an acceptable alternative to death?”

“Are you talking about reincarnation?”

“Well, let’s say reincarnation with a choice, not left to providence.  What if you could choose to be something other than human for a time, eventually reclaiming your humanity?  Would you do it?”

“So, is this where BIGENX comes in?” The secrecy made sense to me now.  “You have some sort of pre-fabricated form of reincarnation?”

“I think of it more as regeneration. I chose you for this program, because I think we are alike. I felt you would be open to the idea of a scientific experiment creating life from life.  At this point, we can’t create another human life for you. We want to regenerate life in stages and with different species.  The best I can offer you now is life in a garden, which is where some would argue that all organisms began.  Before the procedure, you would give us your life progression list.  As soon as we have completed that portion of our research, you would be brought back as your next choice.  Eventually, we would bring you back as a human, with a healthy body.”

If I agreed to be part of the experiment, they had a space for me in the arboretum. 

Dr. Singh warned that we had to act quickly, before cancer took too much more of my healthy tissue.   I had a choice to participate or go back home to my present situation. 

I had a choice…

There were so many forms to complete.  Finally, I was prepped and shaved, about pass on to unfamiliar ground.

“Will I feel any pain?”

“Yes Amir, there will be some initial discomfort, rather like growing pains.”

I smiled and bowed down to the earth to begin my transformation.

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Writers Bio

Nina lives in North Carolina.

She works as a paralegal and  writes for her own pleasure, though much to her amazement, she is sometimes published!  She loves all creatures great and small.

When I saw the photo, I wanted to create a story that combined  a religious belief with scientific experimentation.  What if science could control reincarnation? What if someone terminally ill could have a choice in their destiny?

 


Inspirational ImageBonsai by Stanislav Odyagailoby Stanislav Odyagailo

Pieces Inspired by this Image

'Phillip'
by J B

'Tree of Life'
by Ed Curley

'Generation'
by Kayleigh Ayn Bohémier


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