Late Night Treats
There was a barely working vending machine with all kinds of sweet and savoury goodies inside: KitKat and Snickers bars, chocolate peanuts and raisins, crisps of various flavours. Its light flickered in the dimness of the corridor at night, as though it were blinking or looking away as something else entirely was happening around it, or near it. Sometimes it stole people’s money, and no amount of violence in retaliation ever saw it back. But it was the only vending machine on the floor of that hospital. To get anywhere else the Dog needed to open doors. Not many dogs can open doors, this one certainly couldn’t.
It moved about freely around the floor, with many patients smiling as it passed them, tail waving, snout raised high up with its pink tongue out. Full dark mane of frizz all over, only the fur near its paws caked in dry mud, covered in specs of dust and who-knows what else. Yet its tail, as if made of feathers, wagged as its eyes met the eyes of people.
When the vending machine had nothing more to give for the rest of the day, the Dog looked throughout every open room of the floor, seeking boots to chew, laps to jump on, belly rubs, and some food for itself. Anything that fell to the floor was fair game—sometimes the grey and wrinkly people dropped little bits for it: a piece of bread here, a few crumbs of pie there. The Dog was never hungry… But it wouldn’t be so rude as to leave food lying on the floor.
There was a Nurse with her thin lips stuck in a permanent frown. Her glasses with wide rims almost fell off her nose whenever she looked at the Dog. And though she’d chase it down the hall, however good her legs might have been, they were no match to the Dog’s.
It passed by the Girl’s room often, usually going between one place and another. One day it saw people walk in. There was a man beside a woman, her eyes in a pinkish hue, with black bags beneath them. For a brief moment it saw the Girl in her room as the couple opened the door, but before it could get a good look, the door closed. So, when the people left, and it was night, and the corridor was well lit and no sound of talking was heard, that dog stood on its two hind legs and looked at the Girl through a window in the door. Her, lying on the bed strapped to about a dozen different machines. Blue night light from outside lit her room. It could see her face. She looked back. Smiled. A faint smile forced on her shivering lips. She raised her hand trying to wave, too weak it fell back down on the bed.
But the Dog knew what to do.
The Nurse’s mouth gaped aghast upon seeing the floor, the candy and crisps still inside wrappers and bags lying outside of the Girl’s door. She walked up to it with thunderous fury, perhaps with half a mind to kick the ruddy rascal away and to scream.
It barked, then whining, scratched at the bottom of the door to the Girl’s room with its paws. When the Nurse came close, she saw through the window that the Girl had fallen off the bed, the machines must’ve been disconnected in the process, they stopped pinging with her heartbeat and screeched in a monotonous tone. The Girl lied face down. The Nurse’s eyes widened; her own heart pounded as she burst into the room screaming for a doctor, pressing the emergency button.
Later, they looked all over the hospital for that dog. They never found it.