She couldn’t remember the first time she killed one of her new friends because she had never stayed in any one town long enough to make old friends.
Everyone was a new friend to her.
As a traveling nurse’s aide, she frequently moved from one community to another, her belongings easily fitting into the eight-passenger van that had been willed to her by a former homebound patient, the only time she allowed herself to be connected with a murder victim.
She didn’t think in terms of killing and murder. Those were just the words she knew that the law used to describe what she did.
She had renamed herself Chromcalsia in community college, a trick on the chrome calculator that her boyfriend at the time had, a relic of the presmartphone days that he proudly carried around with him.
But when people asked her where her name came from, she told them it was the name of an ancient queen in a videogame that her mother loved to play and no, she didn’t know the name of the videogame.
Chromcalsia looked at her schedule for the day — a roster of lonely old people virtually locked into solitary confinement in their homes, no visitors except for the occasional physical therapy assistant and nurse’s aides like Chromcalsia.
Her first few months on the job, in a small town outside Lincoln, Nebraska, had been the best and worst.
She loved the smile that beamed at her after she walked into a patient’s house, having used a hidden key in a fake shell or fake rock next to the backdoor as instructed because the patient was bedridden or confined to a special recliner.
She wished she was talented enough to write down the patients’ stories, tales about fighting in wars, raising children in strange environments, inventing new gadgets or their observations about world events that happened decades ago but the patients recalled as if it was still happening, their demented thought sets out of touch with reality, calling her names like Doris, Ann or Sylvia because that was their daughter’s name or their granddaughter’s name or a niece or the nice nurse who tended their wounds in a foreign war.
She saw a lot more women than men.
She enjoyed them all.
She didn’t enjoy the bad side of her job, realising through vital sign measurements and smells that the patient was dying a long, excruciating death, with no one to provide daily comfort to help ease the pain.
Chromcalsia was not allowed to visit patients for social visits.
So, she spent as much time as she could during her official visits to find out what each patient wanted most of all.
Besides companionship, the number one wish was a quick, painfree death because the world was falling to pieces and the patient couldn’t stand to see the local community so devastated by a global meltdown.
Chromcalsia had tried to convince her first patients that the world was a wonderful place but it didn’t work — either their thoughts were so fixed they couldn’t process her view or they just couldn’t accept that a wonderful world would put them in such miserable conditions.
Having come from humblest of humble conditions, what her community college boyfriend called the slums, Chromcalsia laughed to herself when her patients, with a telephone, a clean house, cable TV and home healthcare, would say the world was going to hell. She learned to nod her head and agree, providing verbal affirmation of what the patients wanted to hear.
As an experiement one day, she texted a note in a patient’s file that went straight to the physician assigned to the patient, requesting extra pain medication.
Chromcalsia could not pick up the prescriptions for the patient but she could administer the medication when she was in the patient’s house.
She arrived to see the patient in extreme pain, moaning and begging Chromcalsia to end her misery.
Chromcalsia was scheduled to visit the patient three times that week so the first day she doubled the patient’s pain meds, doubled that again the second day and on the third day she convinced the patient that the remaining pills in the bottle had to be taken the next day.
The patient was so delirious that Chromcalsia was surprised he remembered what she told him.
Back at the office the next week, Chromcalsia was informed that one of her patients had unexpectedly died of a drug overdose.
She smiled to herself, knowing she had helped a man do what he wouldn’t have done for himself, his body emaciated from multiple surgeries to repair gastrointestinal damage from a roadside bomb.
Chromcalsia talked to other nurse’s aides about what happened, feeling around to see if they had done anything similar.
One or two stated out loud that they wondered if their joking suggestion to a patient to end it all had led to a drug overdose.
In every case, none of the aides had been suspected of foul play, the overdose taking place days after their last visit.
That sealed the idea for Chromcalsia.
From then on, as she moved from one town to another, she decided which patients of hers were in the worst shape and assisted them in finding a peaceful way to die to prevent a more horrible ending that their medical conditions indicated was waiting for them.
To keep suspicion off of her, Chromcalsia planted the idea of assisted suicide in the thoughts of her coworkers, who in turn planted the idea in their patients’ thoughts, half-jokingly.
Enough patients understood in their delirium what they were being told that they followed the instructions told in jest, statistically taking the heat off Chromcalsia.
Chromcalsia made sure she never financially benefited from her patients, leaving town whenever a patient mentioned leaving her something.
The passenger van was the one exception because the patient made the statement in front of Chromcalsia’s supervisor on the day of Chromcalsia’s first visit with the patient. She thought he was joking. The supervisor later told Chromcalsia the patient told the supervisor that the next nurse to come help him was going to get the vehicle.
Chromcalsia did not fantasize about herself being an angel or anyone other than the kind of person she wanted to know when she was at death’s door without friends or family to quietly assist her comfortable exit from this world, no matter how wonderful it really was.
Dozens? Hundreds? Chromcalsia thought for a moment but wasn’t sure of the count. It wasn’t her goal to meet a number.
She parked the van in front of the office building. Two days off before she’d start looking for a new town, spreading the love and joy that had surrounded her from birth, her mother telling Chromcalsia as a toddler, while her mother was dying of stage four breast cancer, that she was a special child whose very presence was what dying people wished for, a magic elixir, a sedative that made dying worthwhile.
Chromcalsia was going to spend the rest of her life living out her mother’s image of her.