For those of you who missed or want to read The Wish Agent–Part One, click the link here. Enjoy part two (after, of course, you laugh at the picture I attempted to draw. I know I did!)
The Wish Agent–Part Two
Sunlight glinted through the car windows. The rays were an illusion of warmth, however. Outside, a rather brisk breeze chilled the air and carried fallen autumn leaves to new destinations.
The traffic light suspended above turned green, and I turned right and followed the busy road into a crowded parking lot in front of a huge white building: the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
I parked and stepped out of the car, rubbing my eyes. I had arrived at my hotel late last night, yet hadn’t slept a wink due to jet lag. Usually secret agents try to avoid jet lag when on top-secret missions, but I guess I was a genie now, not an agent, so it didn’t really matter if I was tired or not.
I was still rather bitter about my new assignment. I mean, I was one of the top agents at the WPA. I had recently crashed a plane behind enemy lines and had still managed to hack their system and stop them from destroying the universe. Usually this merits some kind of reward. I did not count granting children’s wishes as a reward.
Besides, the child I was visiting didn’t even have a wish I could really grant. I want to go to outer space before I die. Am I a miracle worker? No. It’s not like I just happen to have a rocket at my disposal. I can’t take this kid to space.
Maybe I should just leave, I thought. I’d passed a nice-looking coffee place on the way here. Maybe…
No. I couldn’t. As lame as the assignment was, I had to do it. With this thought in mind, I began walking towards the entrance.
Inside, I was greeted by a rush of warmth and bright colors. The walls were painted orange and yellow, and everywhere were painted handprints and potted plants and toys. It was the perfect place for a child; too bad all the children here were sick. A few people lingered in the front room, and I wondered vaguely where all the other people were.
“Can I help you?” the lady at the front desk asked me. I approached the front desk nervously, not sure exactly what to say. Hey there, I’m on a top secret mission to grant a child’s impossible wish. Take me to see him, will you? That would blow over well.
“Um, I’m here to see a-a patient,” I stammered.
The lady nodded. “And does this patient have a name?”
“Ye–uh, well…” I paused. I forgot to check the kid’s name! “Um…”
“Oh!” the desk lady exclaimed. “So silly of me! You must be with the charity group that’s visiting today. Of course you don’t know the patient’s name, you haven’t even met them yet. Sorry! You’ll be in the long-term ward, third floor.”
“Oh, uh, thanks,” I said, hardly believing my luck. I walked down the hall to the elevator and pressed the third-floor button. Once the doors closed, I pulled back my sleeve and turned on my watch. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten to check the information file! Every good spy knows you can’t walk onto a mission site without checking the information file.
I pulled up the message headquarters had sent me this morning. “Alex Johnson,” I mumbled, reading the words that appeared on the screen. “Ten years old. Leukemia patient. Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Third floor, room 409.”
The elevator stopped and the doors opened, revealing a long, colorful hallway. At the end of the hall, I could see a crowd gathered around a table. That must be where the charity group was, in room 420. I needed 409.
I turned to the left and followed the doors. 414, 413, 412, 411, 410. I stopped.
The door to room 409 was open. I inched forward and peered inside.
The room was an rather ugly pale yellow color, with white floors and no window. There was a small green couch on one side of the doorway. On the other side was a bed, and in that bed was the skinniest, palest boy I’d ever seen.
The flashbacks hit with such force that I actually stumbled backwards. Machines, white rooms, doctor after doctor. They all said she would get better, but she didn’t. Everything that made her her was taken away. Her long brown hair was gone. Her bright blue eyes were no longer bright. Her lovely cinnamon smell was replaced with the smell of medicine and machinery. She used to wake up every morning and tell us she was all right, but then one morning she didn’t wake up, and nothing was the same again.
I swallowed hard. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Besides, how was I going to take him to space? He looked fragile enough to be blown away with the leaves outside. It was better just to call it quits.
No! Was I really going to let the memories beat me? Besides, Mom didn’t have leukemia. Her cancer was something different. What was it? I couldn’t remember.
Once I had gathered my bearings, I stepped into the doorway again. The boy was facing the opposite wall, but I could see part of his face. It was as white as the floor, and his head, which should have been full of tousled hair, was bare.
“I said I didn’t want any visitors,” the boy said suddenly in a raspy voice, which startled me. I hadn’t made my presence known.
“Well, I, uh, just thought, you had maybe changed your mind,” I replied.
“Well, I haven’t. Go away.”
Instead of listening, I took another step into the room. The boy rolled over and faced me. “I said, go away.”
“Why don’t you want visitors?” I asked.
“Because they’re not gonna help. They always come and tell me everything’s gonna be okay, and that I’m gonna get better, but I know they’re lying. I’m never gonna get better.”
I bit my lip. “But they could cheer you up. You know, do fun things.”
“No they wouldn’t. The doctors don’t let me do anything fun.”
I glanced around the room, looking for something to change the subject. Oh, duh! “I hear you like outer space,” I said, remembering the wish.
The boy scowled, looking suspicious. “Yeeeaah,” he said slowly. “But how do you know that? And who are you anyway? You’ve never come with the other visitors before.”
“I-I’m James,” I said. “And I saw the poster on the wall.” I pointed to the poster hanging above the boy’s bed, which had a rocket ship on it.
The boy remained scowling. “Well, why are you in here with me? Why aren’t you with the others in the rec room?”
“I-uh,” I stammered, thinking up an excuse. “I, work for NASA, and–I heard you like space, so, I thought…”
I could tell Alex wasn’t buying it. “You work for NASA?” he repeated. “Isn’t NASA an American space organization? Then why are you talking in an Australian accent?”
“It’s British, actually,” I corrected him, walking towards the bed, “and last I checked, British and Australian people could still work for NASA.”
Alex rolled his eyes. “Well, unless you’ve come to whisk me off to space, I’m not interested.”
I felt bad for this kid. He seemed really depressed. “Well, I can’t do that,” I said slowly.
“And I know you don’t actually work for NASA.”
“Because NASA people don’t wear leather jackets and blue jeans, and they don’t come visit kid’s hospitals on weekends.”
“Okay, so the whole NASA thing was a lie,” I admitted. “But your idea of NASA people is wrong. I’ve met astronauts and space engineers before. They’re super cool.”
This was true. There’s a department in the WPA that handles space exploration, and the American government occasionally sent NASA workers to train in our facilities. They weren’t super-geeks or stuck-up like you’d think they would be. Actually, they were all super funny and one of them was even a really good cook. She made pies for everyone at the end of the training camp, and they were like little bites of the heavens she had dedicated her life to studying. But that’s another story.
I began telling Alex about the astronauts, and he pretended to be ignoring me, but I could tell he was listening. After a while, he even asked, “Did they ever show you any space shuttles?”
“No,” I said, “but we got to go to this big meeting where they went over plans to send another piece of a satellite into space. It was awesome. And then we got to do this simulation where we pretended we were in a space ship and we were trying to get into orbit.”
“Wow,” Alex breathed. His scowl was gone. He looked amazed, but then sad. “I wish I could do that before I die.”
“You’re not going to die,” I said gently.
“Yeah I am. The doctor said so.”
My stomach sank. “He did?”
“Yeah. I heard him talking to my parents in the hallway when they thought I was asleep. It was after my last round of cem-o stuff. He said my white blood cell count was back up–whatever that means–and that there was nothing left they could do. Mom was crying and stuff, and I think Dad punched the wall. That’s why there’s a hole there.” I followed his gaze and noticed a small dent in the wall across from the doorway.
“Oh. Well…I’m really sorry.”
“For you going to die. That stinks.”
Alex nodded. “I know. But you know what?”
“I’m not really afraid. I thought I would be. I thought it would be scary, when you’re about to die and you stop existing and everything. But now that it’s actually happening, I don’t think it’ll be too bad. It’s just…sad.” He pulled his blanket up to his chest.
Suddenly, I felt the most pity I’ve ever felt for anyone. My mission didn’t matter anymore. I began to wish I really was a NASA astronaut, so I could take this kid to space with me.
Then I got an idea. I remembered seeing a building on my way here, a big white building with a huge black dome in the middle. And suddenly I knew what to do.
“Come on,” I said. “We’re going somewhere.”
“It’s a surprise. Just come on.”
“But I’m not allowed to leave the hospital. The doctors will see me and send me back up here. Besides, there’s that whole stranger-danger thing where you’re not supposed to go anywhere with people you just met. I’m pretty sure my mom would go berserk if she realized I went anywhere with you–no offense.”
“None taken,” I assured him. “But we won’t be gone long. And you can trust me, I promise. No offense to you, but why would anyone want to kidnap someone who’s super sick?”
Alex shrugged. “Fair point. But what about the doctors?”
I pulled out my wallet and dug through it until I pulled out a fake ID. I held it up for Alex to see. “I’m a doctor here, and I say you can leave,” I said.
He looked confused for a second, but then Alex nodded slowly. “Ooooh, I get it,” he said. “But I’m gonna need my wheelchair.” He pointed towards a wheelchair by the couch.
A couple minutes later, we were in the car. It had taken a minute to figure out the whole wheelchair-in-the-car thing, but finally I had just taken the passenger seat out and put the wheelchair there instead, putting it on ‘lock’ so it wouldn’t roll.
“So, where are you taking me?” Alex asked, peering out the window.
Alex groaned. “A museum? You smuggled me out off one of the top chidlren’s hospitals in America so we could visit a museum?”
“Relax,” I said, “it’s a cool museum.”
“Really? ‘Cause last I checked, museum was a synonym of boring.”
“Just trust me.” I turned into another parking lot, this one in front of a different white building with a black dome in the middle.
I bought our tickets, and soon we were walking–and rolling–down a hall to a big room in the middle of the museum. “Where are we going?” Alex asked.
“To a show.”
“Like at a movie theater?”
“Sort of,” I said. “But this one is better.”
We took our seats in the room. There were only three other people there, so we could choose basically whatever seats we want. Alex chose right in the middle, where, by his logic, we would have the perfect view of whatever we were watching.
I was excited for Alex, and a bit pleased with myself for thinking up such a creative solution. I was completing my mission–taking Alex to space before he died. But something had changed. It wasn’t really about the mission anymore. It was about Alex, and giving him his dying wish.
Soon the lights dimmed, and a cool female voice sounded over some kind of speaker. “Welcome to the Chicago Planetarium,” it said. “Please silence any mobile devices and do not speak during the show. If you have any medical problems during the show, please exit using the doors on the right and left sides of the room. This show is not recommended for people with neck or back problems. Enjoy the show.”
The voice went away. Everything was dark and quiet for a minute, and then a small light appeared in the air–a projection. “The universe started as nothing but floating matter,” a deep male voice began. “But one day, that all changed when the matter came together to form the universe as we know it today.”
Slowly, planets and stars started forming. Galaxies materialized around the room, and nebulas clouded the air. Alex watched, awestruck, as the male voice said, “Welcome to outer space.”
The show lasted about an hour. Well, the featured show, anyway. On the way back to the hospital, and all the way back to his room, and even in his room, all Alex could talk about was the show. “Did you see that star?” he would say. “We got to watch its entire lifespan in just a few minutes!”
We talked until dark. Then I knew that my time with Alex was up. “Listen, man,” I said, “I have to go.”
Alex’s smile faded. “I know,” he said sadly.
“But I’m glad we got to go to the planetarium,” I offered.
“Me too,” Alex said. “That was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. You know, just a couple nights ago I told my mom, ‘I wish I could go to outer space before I die.’ It’s like my wish came true.”
I couldn’t help but grin at this. “You don’t say.”
“Can you come back and visit me again? You know, before…”
I stared at the floor. “Actually, Alex,” I said, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to.”
“What?” Alex croaked.
“I have–my job…” I began, but the look on his face told me that I had no excuse. “I promise–promise–that I’ll try, ” I said.
Alex smiled. “Thanks. So, I’ll see you soon?”
I nodded. “Yeah. See you later.”
As I walked out of the hospital, I wondered how I was going to make it back here before Alex died. What was I going to do? I’d promised. And it wouldn’t do to break such a fragile promise.
But I had to focus on my mission right now. I pulled out my watch and sent the completion code–‘frog’–to headquarters. Once I sent them the code, that meant I was ready for my next part.
Seconds later, a message popped up on the screen:
Good job. Next part ready. Plane ticket and hotel location to arrive in 12 hours. -WPA
I could hardly stay awake as I pulled up to my hotel. I stumbled into my room, flung my jacket onto the floor, and collapsed on the bed. Ugh. I hate jet-lag.
Sneak peek for next installment:
Thanks for reading! I’ll try to post the next installment soon.