The hallway was splattered with holograms of constellations and nebulas. The stars were like small blips of light in the dark vacuum of space. An old woman sat alone, surrounded by piles of dusty old books, their topics ranging from science to philosophy. Her face was covered with wrinkles, her eyes accentuated by crows feet and laughter lines. She selected one leather bound book from the pile.
“Hospitals are thoroughly unpleasant,” thought the young man heading to room 104. He hated the white walls, the smell of antiseptic and the plastic smiles on the faces of the nurses. This hospital was specialised in caring for the elderly. The atmosphere was grim and boring. It was almost as if the occupants of the various rooms were beyond repair, the doctors and nurses wrote off the residents of this ward as hopeless cases. This was definitely not a place his grandmother would like to spend her last few years. She was a woman full of life and joy. He resented his father for putting her in this place. The young man took a deep breath and ran his fingers along the edge of the book he was carrying as if to calm himself.
The nurse let him into room 104. His heart was in his throat again, every single time he saw his grandma in that state his eyes grew moist. The image was wrong. The once lively woman was hooked up to machines silently humming to keep her alive, her life was like a flickering flame, something so transient and fragile that the doctors had given up all hope for recovery. The accident had reduced her to an empty husk, she was just a vegetable. His grandmother used to be an accomplished woman in her youth, her zest for knowledge and learning was boundless. She was his favourite storyteller as a child. Her stories ranged from dragons to Jedis, from epic battles fought in zero gravity to chivalrous knights clashing swords, her stories captured the essence of both the past and the future.
Now, it was his turn to return the favour.
He ran his finger along the spine of the book and took a deep breath. He was here to read to her again. His father had objected to his regular visits but the young man was adamant, “ she’s bound to get bored in her head all by herself”, he had protested in a pleading voice. His father didn’t have the heart to argue with that. Today he read her a book about black holes, the massive anomalies in space consuming light and matter. In a previous session, he had read her a passage on stars and their birth in fiery nebulas. Quakers and the radiation they emitted were for future visits. His grandmother had been a pioneer scientist in astronomy and he wanted to make sure she was up to date with all the new discoveries her colleagues at NASA were making, surely when she woke up she would go back to her work? The young man was stubborn, he refused to listen to the doctors and their ominous predictions about his grandmother’s ailment.
He opened the beautiful leather bound book and began reading.
The old woman laid back and reclined in her cosy armchair. This new book was about black holes. She smiled and began to read.