Chapter Nine

The emergency room doctor paused momentarily outside the door of the examining room. Minutes earlier, he had been prepared to call social services to deal with the parents of his patient. The parents had arrived 45 minutes earlier, screeching up to the emergency room doors in a sleek new minivan, with the most unlikely story the doctor had heard in 23 years of medicine: their toddler had somehow developed a deep bass voice and proclaimed himself God during a church service.

The doctor’s initial examination showed that the boy definitely had a very raw and irritated throat, but that could be the result of a bad morning of screaming. He seemed like a happy little tike, and showed no signs of godliness or any other supernatural characteristics.

The boy’s nut-job parents claimed that the preacher at the church had witnessed the boy’s outburst, and had been the first to theorize divine implications. But the parents said they didn’t believe it themselves.

The doctor had been determined to get the kid out of harm’s way before a tragedy occurred in the mini-cult. After nonchalantly excusing himself from the examining room, he walked a straight line to the on-call physician’s office just off the waiting area. As he dialed the social services weekend contact number, the doctor happened to look up at the television, visible in the waiting room through the one-way office window. The TV was tuned to GNBNC, as usual.

The image on the tube froze the doctor mid-dial. There, on GNBNC, was the same sweet little boy that he’d just examined, wearing an odd expression and mouthing what looked to be a long combination of words.

The doctor could not hear the TV’s sound from the office, but the look on the faces of others on the screen and of the patients watching the TV in the waiting room told the story – something very frightening was coming out of that boy’s mouth. Suddenly, the child slumped backwards into his dad’s arms, and then seemed to wake up and look around, as if coming out of a trance.

One more quick movement of the boy’s mouth, and pandemonium broke loose in the church. The screen cut back to the anchor, and the doctor slammed down the phone. He scrambled through his office door and around the corner to the nurse station in the waiting room. The nurse was sitting silently, transfixed by the screen. In the seats of the waiting room, a half dozen other people sat in similar poses, starting at the screen, mouths agape.

“What’d that kid on television just say?” the doctor demanded.

“He--,” the nurse faltered, paused, and then looked the doctor in the eye. “He said he was God, and that he wants us all to love one another,” she told the shocked MD.

Now the doctor stood outside the examining room door, wondering what to say, what to think, what to do. He stepped inside. The toddler sat quietly in his father’s arms, playing with a little toy car. The mother and father looked with worried expectation at the doctor.

“Folks, I’m not sure what to tell you,” the doctor said began. “I’ve never seen a case like this, and I can’t honestly say I’ve ever heard of one either. About the best I can say is that we should watch him carefully. He looks completely healthy to me – no red flags of any kind, other than what you described, for which I think the term ‘red flag’ is something of an understatement.

“I’d like to check him in for a couple of days so we can watch for any signs of severe physical distress,” the doctor continued. “We would be looking for inconsolable crying, high fever, loss of appetite or a change in personality – apart from the most recent change, of course.”

“So you believe this happened?” Amy asked. “Do you think the preacher was right about God and all?”

The doctor looked into the frightened woman’s eyes for a long moment.

“I’ll level with you,” he replied at last. “I was just in my office, dialing the number to social services. Usually, when a parent comes in complaining that their child is God, it is a reasonably good sign that something’s wrong with this picture. But when I saw you on TV --”

“You saw us on TV?” Tom jumped in.

“WSSS,” said Amy in sudden realization.

“Aw, hell, that’s right!” Tom scowled. “That explains that maniac at our house, and the others who were showing up when we left! We’re gonna have to deal with every busybody and nut-job in Richmond!”

“Um, it wasn’t WSSS,” said the doctor. “It was national. GNBNC.”

“GNB¼?” Amy and Tom were wide-eyed.

The doctor described what he’d seen as Tom and Amy both slowly slid down in their chairs, eyes distant. A horrible comprehension of their situation was setting in.

“This is a news story made in heaven,” Tom said, putting words to Amy’s and the doctor’s thoughts. The air seemed to have left the room.

“We can’t stay here...” Tom said in realization. “We can’t go home, either. We’ve got to get completely out of sight.”

“I strongly recommend that you allow us to observe Billy, at least overnight,” the doctor urged.

“Doc, we can’t,” Amy replied, stride for stride with Tom’s reasoning. “We’ve got to hide somewhere until this blows over, and this would be a logical place for people to look for us.”

“We’ve got to,” Tom agreed. “We can’t risk it. Every trash reporter, con-man, nut-job and crook in Virginia – in the world – is gonna be banging down our door...”

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© Chuck Hansen - 2018