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Sepia: Part V

Mohan is a family physician, film and TV aficionado, a keen bibliophile and an eclectic scribbler.


Hospital corridors have their own smell. Their sounds, their colours and the oppressive stale air that circulates within all reverberate and recycle like an endless loop of energy. Spending a few days walking down them is an experience. Working in one and spending everyday is a strange eternity.

I looked at the long walkway towards the Radiology department. The fluorescent ceiling lights cast no firm shadows but just a pale imitation of one, almost like a ghost of a shadow.

I wondered how many stories of hope and loss, birth and death, disease and healing these walls would speak. Sometimes I feel that the collective memory of thousands of such events soak into the walls every day and reach a critical point when they start to exude them back out.

I shivered.

David says it is the writer's prerogative to delay and defer the inevitable. He says I'm growing confident in my voice enough to invoke a scene with descriptions rather than rush right into the middle of the drama. 'Would they rather not know what happened? why would they be interested in the smell of the hospital corridor?' I message him back.

'That, dear Susan' he pinged back, rather loftily, 'Is the difference between an anecdote teller and a story teller'

On that day he was seeing Robert Miller in his clinic, David had arranged for me to meet them at his office. I clutched my phone in my hand and David’s message was still on the screen. ‘Come to the MRI office’. He had seen the man who could be my father that morning. Something must have made him change his plans.

I walked down the corridor towards the scanner department, nodding briefly to a harried porter who was rushing in the opposite direction. My shoes click clacked on the floor and the sound echoed back to me much like my memories.


I wondered what my Father would look like now. My own memory has faded like that sepia photograph of him from when I was little. Grainy, ill defined features populated my mind as my brain cells clawed at some tangible detail. I thought I knew him. His deep voice, the musky smell of him often tanged with some chemical that he used to develop his negatives, his large spatulate fingers that could be reassuring and threatening at the same time all came back in bits of memory. It was as if I was piecing together my own personal Frankenstein.

I never remember him raise his voice, even when my mother used to shout at him for some vague misdemeanour like forgetting to pick up milk from the grocers. He was always gently spoken.

I remember him being a tad absent minded, smoking a pipe and staring at a magazine or a newspaper nodding vaguely, his mind elsewhere. He was always kind to me, bringing me some little nic nac from his trips, brushing my hair absently as he sat smoking, letting me sit on his thigh and look at pictures in a National Geographic magazine that he was so fond of.

When he didn’t come back after that final trip, I felt a mighty hole somewhere in the region of my diaphragm that never filled up. I banked on the hope of his return. It faded day by day, oozing out of me like life itself.

The cruelty of this coincidence hit me hard. Why now? Why this rekindling of hope? What does this serve?

But then, I knew part of my pain was the not knowing. Where did he go? Why did he go? Why didn't he come back?

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I reached the frosted glass of the MRI offices and walked past a few empty chairs in the waiting area into the room. I smelt David before I saw him. He left a trail of that Hermes aftershave wherever he went. Not strong or cloying, but just enough to give a reassuring signal that he is around. I know I shouldn’t let this habit develop further. I shouldn’t feel reassured by his presence and ache in his absence. He is someone else’s now. I shouldn’t dare let him infliltrate my defences.

But here I am, letting him into the most intimate of my past, and letting him play a part in this absurd drama that sounds like a badly written screenplay for a Saturday TV show. A father who disappeared turns up to the same hospital where his grown up daughter works. Yeah, right!

The room was dark. I saw David sitting in front a twin flat screen monitors with images flickering through one after another. The bluish white light of the scanned images lit his face in ominous shades.

“Susan” he said without turning his head, staring at the screen. “ He came with .. “ he cleared his throat tentatively “daughter Julie. She was a bit upset they weren’t seeing you but I gave them some explanation that you will be involved but had to be pulled away for an emergency.”

I pulled a chair and sat close to him. “And?”


He half turned his head, still staring at the screen. “ Charming man. A bit on the quiet side. Has been having these headaches and getting forgetful lately. Julie says his behaviour has changed a bit. Cannot give me much of a medical history but the GP letter was quiet detailed. I quizzed Julie on the past history but she was a bit vague. Said there were no other siblings and that she was the only … “ he cleared his throat again, “daughter. Julie’s mum, his wife, died 3 years ago and he has been living on his own ever since.”

I leaned back on the chair and pinched the bridge of my nose with my thumb and index finger, my eyes closed. David says I do that when I am annoyed but am trying to stay calm. He says it is my 'counting to ten'. What he was telling me wasn’t what I expected, I wanted a linear, chronological tale. I wanted answers.

David picked up a bottle of water and drank deep. “Listen Susan, I know you are looking for some revelatory message here. I’m sure you’ll know one way or other when you meet him. When I took the history, I knew my priority here was to get a medical history and do the duty of a Doctor. Do what they are asking us to do first. I did some blood panels, a neuro exam and got an MRI done urgently. I am sure you agree on my plan.”

I nodded. He was right. Among all my curiosity and personal storyline, I shouldn't forget what they were here for. Maybe it was right that David was seeing them. He can keep the objectivity.

I felt his shoulder brush against mine as he leaned and replaced the bottle. He tapped on the keypad and the image on the screen changed again.

“Susan, Meet Mr Miller's brain.” He said.

I rubbed my eyes and stared at the screen. I couldn’t focus.



Headaches. Dizzy spells, forgetfulness. Now he is showing me an MRI. I reached into my handbag and brought my glasses out. I put them on and moved closer to the screen.

“ Look at this corner of the fronto-temporal area. What do you see?” David gestured.

“ Scarring? There is some calcification”

“Yes. … let me refresh the screen, it does get more clear in the next view.”

I watched as he rapidly moved from one to another as an image of a small area grew darker, like a coalescing cloud. There was an edge, an area of pressure where the sulci and gyri appeared pushed. An old contusion that has started to become something else.

“I am sorry to do this to you. But I think it is better you saw this and then made a decision about how you want to proceed.” He touched my elbow.

The final image left no room for doubt. Sitting there like some malicious imp, the space occupying lesion, the tumour, stared back at me. The awful emptiness in my diaphragm returned viciously. My brain, however, was making a million computations about the medical history, the scan and the plans for what comes next.

“Where is the patient and his daughter?” It felt odd to call him the patient. Robert Miller, the man who could be my long lost Dad.

David stood up, leaned over and rested his forearms on my chair. His hands looked like they were about to cup my face. I tilted my chin up in an unconscious movement and felt a blush creep up my neck. Idiot. He is not going to kiss you.

“They are in my office. I said you were coming in and they are waiting to see you. I said I will discuss all the results with your first. We need to make a decision about his prognosis. We need an MDT meeting.”

I looked at the screen and the dark coalescing shadow that would kill the man who could be my father. It looked back at me defiantly.

I stood up and smoothed a lock of hair that had drifted into my field of view.

"David, I agree we need a Multi Disciplinary Team meeting to dot the i's. Between you and me, we know what the MRI means."

David's eyes were fixed on my face as he cleared his throat again.

"That we do. I'm sorry."

To be continued...

Killing Me Softly

© 2012 Mohan Kumar


Jo_Goldsmith11 on January 23, 2014:

omg! Why can't David just kiss Susan already! geeze! And what heartbreak to find your dad, just to lose him just as quickly. Oh ! It is so not fair! This is awesome! It would make for a great screenplay!

A whole heck more interesting with rich characters, real life experiences that would really be worth watching as it is to read!

You definitly have my votes up and shared..all the way through this.

Cheers for you! and sending you hugs!, I hope David and Susan will end up with each other.

AE Williams from Atlanta, GA on March 30, 2013:

:) Very good work, Docmo. I'm engrossed in this story! Good prose as well, friend.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on December 17, 2012:

@Phyllis: Part VI is on its way: and hope the twists and turns sustain the story.

@Maria: I can always count on you for your support. thank you.

@Mary: thank you. part VI is on its way. I know it has been long and thanks for everyone's patience.

@femme: aww! thank you so much for your comments!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on December 17, 2012:

@Viji: thank you for reading this- it spurs me on to write the next chapter!

@suzette: appreciate the feedback. I feel privileged that readers not only follow my story but are curious as to what happens next. Its a great feeling.

@tammy: thank you very much for your comments!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on December 17, 2012:

@Gypsy- thank you coem coming along and reading this series. Really appreciate the support.

@drbj: what better compliment can I ask for? thank you 'Oliver'. More on its way.

@Blossom: thank you very much!

femmeflashpoint on November 11, 2012:


Ditto what Mar said!

This part has me choked up, so I'll have to cowgirl-up and brace myself for the next chapter. :)


Mary Craig from New York on October 19, 2012:

So right Maria, now we wait for Part VI.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on October 19, 2012:


This is a winner, with each chapter building off the last...making the reader impatient for the next installment. The combined pen of a physician and writer is fascinating.

Voted UP and ABI. Hugs, Maria

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on October 19, 2012:

Docmo, I am looking forward to part VI. Awesome story!

Tammy from North Carolina on October 19, 2012:

This is beautiful both visually and auditorially. You have a real gift at commanding language. I love you photos. Gives the hospital a haunted feel. I look forward to reading the rest of the installments.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on October 16, 2012:

You are building up the suspense. Will he or won't he be her father? This is very well written and I am so into this story. I am looking forward to the next part. I like your characters - they are very human and I care about them and I care what happens to them. Great story!

Vijayarani on October 16, 2012:

Waiting for the next episode.....

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on October 15, 2012:

This is so realistic that I got really involved and I'm waiting for more.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on October 15, 2012:

Well, you did it, friend Mohan. I am so deeply engrossed in your nail-biting, realistic scenario that I am actually more than a little angry that it ended too soon. More, more. Like Oliver, I want more!

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on October 15, 2012:

Voted up. Fantastic Docmo the tension keep building. Eagerly awaiting the next. Passing this on.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on October 15, 2012:

@denisemai- thank you so much. I hope to publish this after some more polish.

@Nithya: you are too kind. Thank you so much!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on October 15, 2012:

@Mary: I like stories that keep asking as many questions as it gives answers and sustains the pace. I am trying to write a 'proper' story, a story that I would like to read while paying some attention to the craft. I feel self conscious in a good way. Maybe I should say self-aware, as I'm writing this. I'm so delighted it evokes images and memories.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on October 15, 2012:

@Sir Bill: glad I can elicit such emotions by this story, Bill. I'm really pleased you are enjoying this.

@Sasha: happy to keep you gripped. It is a hard task to sustain some momentum and I'm glad its working.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on October 15, 2012:

@eHealer: thank you so much for your kind words. I'm glad you are enjoying this story.

@Becky.. it is tempting to put too much information in and I hope I've kept it measured and meaningful. Appreciate your visit and comments.

@Sha - thank you my friend!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on October 15, 2012:

Am truly wondering what is going to happen next. Your writings always hold me spell bound. Great song too.

Denise Mai from Idaho on October 14, 2012:

This is good writing, Docmo. I wonder--what are you planning to do with it?

Mary Craig from New York on October 14, 2012:

This chapter truly had my head spinning....memories of working in a hospital and walking those hallways....memories of trying to find my 'birth' mother....and then the 'situation'....did he hit his head when he left home that day? We know from what you've written he's a dying man but what will happen between Susan and Julie and of course, will David ever really wake up to Susan?

This chapter climbs higher and higher bringing us along with it! I can't wait till the next chapter. Thank you for taking us on this journey.

Voted up, awesome, and interesting. Shared with my followers in hopes they will come along on this exciting journey!

Aloe Kim on October 14, 2012:

Best chapter yet! I'm so exited to know what happens next! ^_^ Absolutely wonderful. voting a bunch and sharing!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2012:

You are such a talent my friend! You can illicit emotions using your powerful words, and that is a gift. It is a pleasure witnessing your talent, and I'm honored to be your follower.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 14, 2012:

Oh, you're killing me with suspense, Mohan! You are very gifted my friend!

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on October 14, 2012:

Beautiful chapter. I am totally engrossed in this story. It takes a physician to write with such detail of medical issues. It takes you to make these issues interesting and engrossing.

Deborah from Las Vegas on October 14, 2012:

Docmo, you are so gifted at dialogue, the universal, and the "I". Beautiful and inspirational. The talented are so intriguing, and interesting... what more to say?

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on October 14, 2012:

Paula: what better review does a writer need than that. You know exactly what to say. But its the way you say it that makes this heart pound. I feel humbled and honoured to receive such a comment. I'll try to stay worthy of such a generous compliment!

Suzie from Carson City on October 14, 2012:

killing me softly...such a beautiful song.....and perfect for such beautiful writing.....from our resident Master-Talent-Man, Mohan... My heart was pounding as though I was sitting there, looking at the screen...seeing inside myself...I don't know how you do that, Docmo, but you most definitely do it...........UP+++

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on October 14, 2012:

Martie: I love your objective, awesome analysis. It feels strange reading it back like that and makes me beam a bit. You are too kind to me, Baby Tjoklits, too kind. Now let me go and polish my perspective for tomorrow!

Martie Coetser from South Africa on October 14, 2012:

I have the same idea: "Sometimes I feel that the collective memory of thousands of such events soak into the walls every day and reach a critical point when they start to exude them back out."

Amazing phenomenon - the workings of human chemicals ~~ "I shouldn’t feel reassured by his presence and ache in his absence."

Brilliant writing, Docmo! Authentic all the way. Perfect characterizing and dialogue, perfect balance in dialogue and description, excellent plot- always a winner - a quest.... and and 100% in all aspects.

Voted up and engrossing!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on October 14, 2012:

Daisy- Thank you for your vote of confidence. appreciate your appreciation!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on October 14, 2012:

Janine- Thank you! I can always count on you for coming to read the next chapter... I'm delighted that it's still riveting and raw. The story in my head is like a movie and getting it down on 'paper' is a hard graft. But I love it!

Daisy Mariposa from Orange County (Southern California) on October 14, 2012:

Mohan (Docmo),

Wow! You're the only person I know who could have written this chapter of the story. I am impressed beyond belief.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on October 14, 2012:

Docmo, I am so happy to read your latest installment here and truly cannot wait for the next. This story is so riveting and so raw, I love it and you really keep outdoing yourself one part after the next. HAve shared and voted too!!

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