The Crash Call
by Patrick Cosgrove
The red plastic crash-call button had been built into the sink unit, into the actual enamel of the sink. I looked back at Jean. She still wasn't moving. It was a crash call, definitely a crash-call. I knew it was imperative that I start resuscitating her immediately. I hit the button, returned to the bed and prepared to position my hands over her sternum. Faintly, as if far off in the distance, I could just make out an electronic whirring, like tiny musical helicopter blades — the crash alarm. I hoped it sounded much louder to the people who needed to hear it. Jean suddenly opened her eyes.
"Oh… it's you. Why are you leaning over me like that?"
"I… I sensed you were dying," I said.
"You'll have to speak up" she said. "You know I'm a little deaf."
"I said I SENSED YOU WERE DYING," I shouted.
"What do you mean I'm dying?"
I couldn't answer her. It was a very difficult question to answer. Debbie and I had been stopping on the floor above. I had woken with the terrible premonition that her mother was dying. I ran out of the room, along the breeze block lined corridor, down the stairs, along another breeze block lined corridor and into her room. I was just about to attempt C.P.R. And that was it, there was no other justification or explanation I could give. But it wasn't that straight forward. All kinds of questions started to pop into my head: why did a room in a hall of residence have a crash call button? And why was it situated in the sink? And what precisely was my 74-year-old mother-in-law doing sleeping in student accommodation? What were any of us doing in that building? I was a grown man; our kids had already left college…
These musings were interrupted by the arrival of the crash team. All hell broke loose. The sound of the crash alarm became deafening. I watched as everyone disintegrated into thousands upon thousands of little photographs of themselves. By "everyone" I mean Jean, the whole crash team (four or five doctors and at least a couple of nurses) and Debbie. I don't know what Debbie was doing there, how she had found her way into that room, but somehow she had.
It was terrible. Postage stamp sized versions of every single photograph ever taken of each one of them fluttered to the floor. I caught hold of a handful — Jean on Westminster Bridge with Big Ben in the background; a boy I didn't recognise holding a monkey and one of Debbie. She was with her father and he was teaching her to bowl. I think it was her fourteenth birthday. I blacked out.
Gradually I became aware of the sound of a dripping tap. I was lying on the floor of the room. It was empty. There was no evidence of Jean, Debbie and the crash team, of the swarm of photographs they'd become. I stood up and stared down into the sink. My options were severely limited. I pressed the button.