16Sunsets – Sixteenth Sunset


“Where’re you going?”

Kristof looked out the window to see the beginning rays of the day. “The last two weeks have been a blast, hon.”

Krystal sat up on the bed. “Kristof?”

Kristof sat at the foot of the bed. He stared at the mirror attached to her vanity. “We both knew this day was coming.”

“You look fine,” she said quietly. She crawled to the foot of the bed and hugged her husband from behind.

He patted her arms and replied. “I felt fine before my last M.R.I. scan.”

Krystal squeezed one more time and released him.

“I’m gonna take a bus.”

As Kristof walked to the bus stop, he thought about he events of the last fifteen days. He refused to listen to the nagging voice in his head. So many questions, he thought. Where had his super strength come from? Would he really die today?

The bus rumbled up to the stop, belching dark smoke. Environmentally friendly, indeed, he thought crossly. He fed two dollars into the bill collector and as soon as he stepped past the yellow line on the floor, the bus pulled away from the stop.

* * *

“Where’re you going?”

“Shut your mouth.”

“Shut my mouth? You best check yo’self before ya wreck yo’self.”

Joaquin smiled. “The nineties called, they want their sayin’ back.”

“Puh-leeze.” The woman threw back her sheet and touched Joaquin’s bare back. “Nobody calls no one no more.”

Joaquin picked up a lava lamp on the night stand, shook his head and replaced it.

Joaquin sighed and flopped back onto the bed. I know if I was a hero, people would love me, he thought.

“Why you gotta be a hero?”

“Because, I…” Joaquin eyes got wide. “I didn’t fuckin’ say that out loud!”

The woman smiled. “You didn’t think Anne would just let you walk away, did you?”

Joaquin scoffed. “So… what? You’re a mind reader?”

She smiled seductively. “Not a mind reader. My talents are more persuasion.”

“The fuck does that mean?”

She ignored him. “It’s time for you to go.”

Joaquin paused at the door to the apartment and threw a crumpled up fifty-dollar bill at her. “Make sure Anne gets her cut,” he snarled before storming out the door.

* * *

“Isn’t this a huge waste of money?”

Doctor Flax shrugged. “Your insurance will take care of it.”

Kristof rolled his eyes. “How long until you get the results?”

“The scan is only fifteen or twenty minutes. The results usually take up to a day…”

“I don’t have a day, doc.” Kristof inturupted.

Flax gave Kristof a stern look. “But, I have a radiologist on staff. It shouldn’t take longer than an hour.” He paused. “Two at the most.”

Kristof lay on the table and Flax fastened the plastic shell over his forehead. Kristof yawned and fell asleep.

* * *

Kristof awoke to a commotion. He could hear people rushing about. He gripped the plastic shell and tried to remove it. It didn’t budge. He strained against it, but still nothing.

“We’ll get you out of there in a moment, Sir. Please be patient.”

Kristof took a deep breath and gave the thumbs up gesture.

The commotion faded away and the platform made whirring noise as it retracted from the machine.

A nurse removed the plastic and helped Kristof to a sitting position. “What happened?” he asked.

The nurse whispered, “The tech doing your scan died in the middle of it.”


“I know, right? She died a few minutes after your scan started.”

Kristof’s face lost its color.

The nurse helped him to his feet. “No worries, though. The scan is automated. How’re you feeling?”


“Let’s get you into a bed. I’ll let your doctor know what’s going on.”


The nurse walked Kristof to a room. As they passed a nurse’s station, he over heard their conversation.

“That’s some crazy stuff about Amber.”

“I’m not sure if she can be replaced. She could see blemishes on a scan better than anyone I’ve ever known.”

The nurses saw Kristof was listening and immediately the conversation ended.

The nurse helped him into a bed and handed him a television remote. “Hit the call button if you need anything.”

Kristof nodded and flipped through the channels. One daytime drama was as bad as the next.

* * *

“Your scan was peculiar.”

“You mean aside from the tech dying during it?”

Doctor Flax frowned. “Yes. Other than Amber dying.”

Kristof held his hands up in mock surrender.

Flax turned his computer monitor so Kristof could see it. “An M.R.I. works by taking pictures in slices.” Kristof nodded, so Flax continued. “As the scan progresses, each slice is assembled by a computer. This gives us a three-dimensional view of your melon.”

Flax tapped a few keys on his keyboard and Kristof’s scan popped on the screen. The tumor was obvious, but three quarters of the way down, it got smaller. The demarcation between the large and the small was a smooth line.

“You see it?”

“It’s not the right shape?”

“Yes.” Flax leaned forward. Between this” he pointed, “slice and this” he pointed again, “slice, your tumor reverted to the size it was sixteen days ago.”

“Some kind of data corruption? My scans got mixed up?”

Flax shook his head. “Your scans were on different machines.”

Kristof spread his hands.

“Take a look at this.” He tapped more keys on his keyboard and an image of Kristof appeared on the screen. “Each scan is recorded for insurance purposes.”


“Watch.” The video moved forward.

“What was that?” Kristof asked?

“Good, you saw it.” Flax looked at him. “Not many non-medical field people would’ve seen that.”

“What does it mean?”

“I suspect you have sleep apnea. I think you” Flax made quotation marks with his fingers, “died at the same time Amber did. The next slice is the one with the erroneous tumor.”

“What does this mean?”

“I don’t know,” Flax looked intently at Kristof, “but I’m a little freaked out.”

16Sunsets – Dead Coil

[998 words]I mashed together the Sunday Photo Fiction and Song Lyric Saturday prompts. As per usual, I’m heavy on the SPF word count.

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

2 responses to “16Sunsets – Sixteenth Sunset

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