Michelle tossed and turned beneath the pristine white and somewhat scratchy blanket that completely enveloped her small form. Her fitful sleeping was filled with dreams of her father, none of which she would remember upon waking.

            "Father!" she cried out in her sleep, her eyelids fluttering wildly and her fragile-looking arms flailing around. "Father! Come back! Please, stop running away!"

            She vaguely heard noises, as the aides rushed inside her room to see what was wrong, but she was so deeply caught in her dream that she did not really register what was going on around her in the real world.

            He stopped running away from her and turned around, reaching for her with a peaceful smile on his face. "Come, child. Come visit me in the world of angels," he said softly, his voice filled with heavenly music.

            "Michelle, wake up! You're having a bad dream!" one of the aides shouted, shaking her shoulder, even as she quieted, a small smile forming on her face.

            She put her small, childish hand in his large, calloused one and smiled up at him...but his iron grip on my hand made her smile falter.  

            "Father?" she asked. He didn't respond, only tightened his grip on her hand, making it so tight that she felt one of her bones crack from the pressure. "Father! Let go!"

            "Let go! Let go!" Michelle yelled, a frightened snarl replacing the smile that had graced her lips. One of the aides held her violently thrashing arms down, trying to keep her from doing any damage to herself or to the now several aides surrounding her.

            He dragged her forward, his once shining white garments slowly changing into a deep, blood red color. His head suddenly sprouted two large horns and smoke loomed around him. "You're not my father!" she screamed. His head swiveled around at an ungodly angle. "Oh, but I am, child," he snarled, his eyes seeming to burn into hers.

            One of the aides placed a cool hand on her sweat-covered forehead. "Oh, my god." she said, her eyes widening slightly. "She's burning up! We need a nurse in here, stat!" she yelled. One of the aides jogged off to grab the hall nurse.

            "You're coming with me, child, to the deepest part of hell. I'll make sure you rot down there just like the rest of us," he sneered as he dragged Michelle along by her broken hand, causing red-hot pain to lace up her arm.

            "Hold her head steady," the same aide who called for the nurse commanded. One of the male aides stepped forward and placed two rather large hands on Michelle's head, one under her chin and the other on top of her head. The other aide carefully put an ear thermometer in her ear and waited for it to beep. Once it did, she pulled it out and stared at the results. "My god. She's running a hundred and four point five. This girl needs to go the E.R. and now."

            "Father, please let go! I'll be good. I promise!" she pleaded, hot tears running down her face. He abruptly let go of her hand and turned around, a searing look of hatred on his face. Michelle smiled up at him, thinking he had complied with her request, not noticing the intense look of abhorrence he was sending her way.

            "What's going on here?" an authoritative voice asked loudly, as the hall nurse strode in.

            "She's running a temperature of one hundred and four point five and we can't wake her up," the female aide told her. After a moment's pause, she asked, "Do you need me to call the E.R. and send for a gurney?"

            Out of nowhere, he sent her flying against a wall with a smack across the cheek that could be rivaled only by superman. Michelle sat against the wall, her head ringing and her eyes wide open in shock as he advanced toward her for another strike.

            "No, Father! Please don't!" she yelled, thrashing around uncontrollably.

            The nurse glanced at me, concern written on her face. "Go ahead and call the E.R.," she ordered one of the female aides. "And I need you to get her vitals right away," she commanded, pointing to one other of the aides. "In the meantime, we only need two more aides in here to hold her down. Everyone else needs to get back to work. We do have other patients here." With that, she quickly left the room to attend to other matters.

            The aides quickly complied with her demands. One female aide rushed out of the room towards the phone, while another aide scurried around getting the instruments he needed to get Michelle's stats. The other two aides that remained in my room held her down and kept her from doing any damage as best as they could.

            Michelle cowered up against the wall, feebly holding out her hands, desperately trying to protect her from him...and suddenly she was back home, in her room. She instinctively ran into her closet and dove into her toy chest, closing the wooden lid over her head. She knew he wouldn't be able to find her there; he never did. Michelle snuggled up against one of the few teddy bears her father had let her have and curled up to go to sleep, like she had done so many times before when he got into one of his moods...

            The aide assigned the task of getting my vitals approached Michelle's bed. He quietly wrapped a blood pressure cuff around her arm and slipped a stethoscope underneath of it. After a few seconds of pumping up the cuff, then waiting for it to deflate, he carefully wrote down her blood pressure on his clip board. Once he had that accomplished, he placed his stethoscope on her chest and listened to her heartbeat, moving the stethoscope around a couple of different times. Once again, he scribbled his findings on his clipboard. Next, he placed a hand on her chest and looked at his wrist watch for what seemed like forever. Finally, he wrote down her respiration rate and, being finished with taking all of Michelle's vitals, he quietly walked away to show them to the nurse.

            ...but suddenly the lid to the toy box was ripped off and her father stood towering above her. "You can run, but you can't hide," he announced snidely, smoke rolling out of his nostrils as he grabbed her by the back of her shirt and yanked her out of her beloved hiding place.

            "Let me go! Father, please! Just let me go!" she yelled, crying and kicking at him, frantically trying to get out of his grasp.

            "Ouch!" one of the aides muttered as Michelle's leg got out of her grasp long enough to deliver a solid kick to her chin. "Do you know how many bruises she's given me?" she grumbled, after she got her leg back under control.

            "Wimp," the other one said, a slight, slanted smile on his face.

            The first aide frowned at him. "Thanks a lot."

            "You're welcome," he said, winking at her.

            She shook her head, and then sighed. "When will the E.M.T.'s get here?"

            "You're going to join your mother in hell, child!" he exclaimed, baring his yellowed teeth.

            "Daddy, no! Please, no!" she screamed, struggling to get away from him.

            He froze in place, glaring at her. "What did you call me?" he demanded.

            Her eyes enlarged as she realized her mistake. "Father! I called you FATHER!"

            His eyes narrowed and he sent Michelle a dagger-filled look. "You did not and you know it," he said, smacking her across the face, leaving another hand-sized bruise on her cheek. "What did you call me, you horrible little snipe?"

            "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to call you Daddy!"

            "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Michelle yelled, trying to draw up her arms around her face to protect herself, but unable to do so since the aides had them firmly held down.

            "Thank god," the female aide proclaimed as she heard sirens filter in through the open door.

            "Yeah, it's about time," her companion announced.

            After a few minutes, two people wearing blue jackets that proudly displayed the letters E.M.T. walked in the room, wheeling a gurney. 

            "We'll take it from here, thanks," one of them stated quietly.

            The two aides gratefully let go of her and walked out of the room, leaving the two E.M.T.'s to their work.

            They quickly slid a plastic board underneath Michelle and fastened the restraints onto her. They then proceeded to swiftly hoist her on top of the gurney.

            A few minutes later, she was resting in the back of an ambulance, its sirens screaming around her.

            Well, resting as well as she could.