Ruby Red (A Short Story)

Ruby Red
by Erika Tafel

    She was eight years old, ashen grey, and dead? The medical team working on her refused to give up. After seven grueling minutes their expertise, resources, and medical equipment restored the spark that ignited her heart and she breathed air in to her lungs once again. The relief in the the hospital room was palatably jubilant, but the patient on the table might have protested the effort had she been able. She remained in coma for a number of days before chancing a peep at the life reinstated to her.
    Ruby Red Starr Onyx Salinski, the name her fifteen year old mother gave her three weeks after her birth because it came to her in a dream, started life just like any other baby, but her life was to diverge and force her into a category all its own. Before she was Ruby, she was simply called, It’s. It’s crying, It’s hungry, It’s dirty, but Ruby was loved and well cared for. She had toys, nice clothing, and food enough to grow. Her mother, Candice Salinski, was unprepared at such a young age to raise a baby, but luckily she didn’t think so. She had been caring for her alcoholic mother since her father had given up the position and left when she was ten. She was already cooking and cleaning and paying bills, so baby Ruby just added to her already premature adult responsibilities. At least Gloria, the most senior Salinski, continued to pay the property taxes on the house she had inherited from her own father. That at least assured them all a secure home.
    It was the only home Ruby had ever known, and it was there that she got sick. It started as a cold and progressed into a burning fever that boiled her insides for many days. It was the convulsions that finally brought her to the hospital. After a particularly violent eruption, and in utter protest, her eight year old heart stopped beating. She had been dead for 7 minutes and 39 seconds and that was all it took. She was irrevocably changed.
    The moment her heart stopped, Ruby found herself standing next to the bed that held her small lifeless body wondering what all the fuss was about. She recognized that the body was her’s, but she didn’t feel any real attachment to it. The longer she stared at it, the lighter she became. She felt herself lifting off the floor until she was looking down upon her own face. She couldn’t look away. She just studied it’s features and thought how peaceful she looked. She felt disconnected from all the people she saw working on her and knew somehow they could not see or hear her.
    Suddenly, she felt a presence in the room and dragged her eyes away from the scene below to seek out the energy she felt. At first she saw nothing but, slowly, like it originated from somewhere very far away, she saw a pin-prick of light growing bigger in the corner of the hospital room. She watched as it filled and dissolved the room around her. She was bathed in this light, cradled within it. It just got brighter and brighter and filled her with such a feeling of love and security, the likes of which she had never felt before in her young life. So intense was this feeling of love and contentment that she began to taste and hear it. She could smell it and it began to overwhelmed her. The sensations folded in on themselves till she felt she was part of this light, an integral component of it’s make up. She basked in it.
    She started to feel a dimming of this great luminescence till she was more able to focus on her surroundings, and there she perceived two beings made of this brilliant light. They bade her to come with them and she followed.
    It gave her a floating feeling at first as she drifted slowly after them, but they began to move faster till she felt herself rocketing through a tunnel of colored flashing light. She began to recognize images on the walls of her tubular cocoon. These were a collection of lives she had experienced before. She recognized herself as the sun dried spice seller in a busy Persian market, relived some of the pleasures of hunting the ancient forests of the americas, and experienced the extreme fatigue of a victorious mongol warrior. Finally she thought of her life as Ruby, the eight year old girl, and she immediately stopped moving through the tunnel and found herself standing at a lakeshore.
    The surface of the lake was mist covered and the sky above it marbled, as it is just before the morning sunrise breaks over the horizon and floods the earth with light. Across the lake Ruby saw the most inviting castle. Tall white stately walls and high turrets, housing beautiful stained glass windows. Flowering green vines climbed the bricks adding to it’s majesty. She stared at that place, seemingly so far away but knew she could simply will herself there and she could enter and explore it’s mysteries. For some reason she hesitated, unsure what held her back.
    She knelt down to the lake of mist and it was as if the mist itself reached out to her. She scooped it up in both hands and brought it to her lips to drink. The mist rolled like a wave into to her, over her, around her and she fell backwards into blackness.
    The first time Ruby became aware of something other than the blackness, she wasn’t able to make out what it was. A noise, a sight, did it brush up against her? She didn’t know for sure but she tried to ignore anything other than the blackness. She rested comfortably while the inkiness wrapped around her like a blanket. She thought nothing about her life, her body, or what was happening to her. She just slept.  
    A rhythmic pinging of an electrical machine was the magnet that pulled Ruby Red out of the void and returned her to this plane. She finally admitted to herself that she could hear the noise and then out of sheer youthful curiosity she began experiment with it. She began to try and speed it up or slow it down using only her will power. With practice she was able to slow the rhythm down but it created a sensation of dense pressure, forcing in on her from all sides and making her extremely uncomfortable. She refocused on speeding the sound up but the discomfort came again, so she receded back into the nothingness leaving the rhythmic pinging for another time.
    Once again Ruby’s ears were the first thing nudging her back to wakefulness. The constant beat of the machines feeling like the security of her mother in her struggle back to consciousness. She suddenly missed her mother and grandmother, not thinking about them till that very second. She tried to think of what they looked like. Where were they?
    She tried opening her eyes with an effort worthy of moving mountains, but when she finally managed to force the shutter doors of her soul open and focused on her surroundings she found herself in a dimly lit hospital room. All the electronic pinging were made by the gadgets attached to her. Her eyes followed some wires from her chest back to the machine and was shocked at what she saw.
    The device used to monitor her heart was floating inches above the hospital room floor. With mounting anxiety she looked around at everything in the room and realized that everything was hovering inches above the floor including the bed she was laying in.
    Her heart rate began to climb as she stared at the floating equipment and with every elevated beat the furniture rose higher until she was hovering at least two feet off the hospital floor. She was frightened and unsure what to do. She swung her eyes toward the glass wall at the end of her ICU room. It led out into the hall and there she saw a nurse standing at her door with a gaping mouth and bulging eyes.
    Their eyes locked and in that instance Ruby felt better, relieved to not be alone and reached out to the nurse looking for comfort. The shocked nurse, however, spun on her heels and left the doorway empty.
    Ruby looked around her room again, all the equipment that had moments earlier been suspended in mid-air sat innocently on the floor once again. She immediately tried to climb out of the bed but found that the electrical equipment attached to her impeded her efforts. She began peeling off the electrodes stuck to her chest and finally was able to throw her legs over the side of the hospital bed and slide down to the floor. There was an IV attached to a bag hanging on a metal pole near the head of her bed and as she studied it trying to figure out how to detach herself from it’s leash she heard people rushing into her room behind her.
    She turned to find a crowd of expectant faces standing at her doorway and was immediately filled with a cornucopia of different thoughts and emotions. It was as if the quiet of her own thoughts was filled with a stadium of other internal voices none of which were her own. She realized that what she was hearing was the thoughts of those she was looking at. The doctor and nurses who had rushed to her hospital room were like open books to her. She could by concentrating on any one individual know any of their private thoughts and was able to see their over all health in an instance. She knew their family histories and the secrets that they hid from each other.
    The doctor was the first to speak to her. “Ruby you shouldn’t be on your feet. Why don’t you just climb back into bed and we will check you out to see if you are alright.” said Dr. Amanda Cohen.
    “I’m feeling fine. I just want to go and see my mom Dr. Cohen. Where is she?”
    “How did you know my name?” asked the Doctor looking confused .
    “I know all your names. I know that Sarah Homes the nurse there is 12 weeks pregnant and will be having a baby boy in 27 more weeks and that he will have a big birth mark on his left shoulder. I know that the other nurse is Jim Hart and that he recently found out that there is a cancer growing in his stomach, you should make up with your sister Mr. Hart, she has finally kicked her drug habit. And that you doctor are about to ask your husband for a divorce after 22 years of marriage. I know the names of your children and parents and much more but I don’t really know why.”
    The medical staff stood stunned looking at each other. They felt naked standing there under Ruby’s gaze and had no explanations for the the child’s ability to know unknowable personal things about them. They couldn’t believe that Ruby after such a close brush with death was standing looking as healthy as a horse. The doctor moved farther into the room and laid her hand on Ruby’s arm. It was extremely warm to the touch and the doctor suspected she had a fever again. Could that be the reasoning behind these seemingly inexplicable statements.
    “Please Ruby just get back into bed and we will contact your mother. I’m sure she will come  immediately to see you. We need to make sure that you are alright and maybe we can find out why you know things about us that we haven’t told you.”
    “Why was the bed floating?” Ruby asked looking at Sarah who had been the nurse at the door earlier.
    “We don’t know that either Ruby but you have to get back in bed so we can do some tests and figure all this out. Please just lay down.” The doctor said with a mystified look helping the young girl back into her hospital bed.
    “Doctor you should go, Mr. Tellier in room 212, he is about to have a allergic reaction to the experimental drugs you gave him this morning. You have to save him.”
    Dr. Cohen opened her mouth to say something just as her pager went off at her belt. The code for a medical emergency blinked across the screen followed by the room number, room 212. The doctor paused for just a second looking at the small girl then turned to the staff in the room and said, “I want a full work up as soon as possible,” and left the room in no doubt of what the emergency was.
    The next days were spent doing every test available to the hospital staff. Heart rate, blood pressure, brain functions, blood work, whatever they tested gave them results they couldn’t interpret. Nothing but more questions came to the team of medical specialists. Ruby’s temperature remained constant at 94.6 degrees despite feeling feverish to the touch. Ruby awed every person she came in contact with after she woke up from her coma, but learnt quickly not to speak of the knowledge she had at her disposal. She began feeling the fear and suspicion her revelations seeded in people and became withdrawn. Ruby’s mother demanded she be allowed to take her daughter home.
    Eleven Days after Ruby rose from the dead she returned to her own home, but the life she had left there was nowhere to be found. She withdrew to her room and that is where she stayed. She was not immune to the thoughts and secrets of her mother and grandmother, she was not immune to the thoughts of anybody and became exhausted around other people. Ruby tried to use her abilities to help other people, meeting with them, answering their questions about missing loved ones, or health problems. Even the police came to her with unsolved crimes, but there was no damper on the conduit that gave Ruby unrestricted access to the universal mind. She began to age rapidly.
    Her grandmother died eight years after the resurrection. Ruby was 16 years old but looked decades older. She shocked her mother by attending the funeral where a small gathering of Gloria’s friends and acquaintances celebrated her life. It was the first time she had left the house since her returned from the hospital, but Candice suspected it would also be her daughter’s last until maybe her own funeral. Ruby quickly retreated back to the safety of her four walls after the service. A life of solitude cursed upon her yet peppered with the most intimate thoughts of the people drawn to her room by unanswered questions. Her solitary life continued unchanged for many years.
    One day in her thirty-fifth year, Ruby’s life again irrevocable changed. It started like any other day, but at 2: 42 pm on a Sunday in early May, there came a gentle knot at her door. Her mother announce that there was a gentleman asking for an audience with her. Rudy had already seen three other people that day but despite her weariness she asked her mother to show him in. Ruby recognized this visit as noteworthy immediately. She could hear the man stepping into the foyer but could only hear her mother’s familiar internal chatter. All other visitor’s thoughts could be heard as soon as they crossed the threshold of the door. This stranger offered nothing but delicious silence. She heard them make their way down the hallway and stop outside her room.
    “Come in.” Ruby called out before the knot at the door sounded. The stranger stepped into the room and smiled, extending his hand in greeting. Ruby didn’t often accept a hand offered because physical touch somehow enhanced her sight and made her uncomfortable, but this man… there was nothing. She didn’t know his name or why he was there. His hand was like a velvet glove caressing her fingers. Since she was eight years old, she had never looked at someone who she did not know something about, in fact everything about them. This man was an enigma.
    “My name is Gordon Silvers, Miss Salinski and I have a confession to make. I sent my father here six months ago to test you. You see I also have the ability to hear people’s thoughts. When I heard about you over two years ago, I started wondering if there were more people like us. I have found none except for you. I have come here to see if you are able to hear my inner thoughts because as I have hoped and dreamed, I am unable to hear yours, and I assure you, you are the first.”
    “Well sir you have astonished me because you are also the first person I have ever found impossible to read. Please sit down and stay awhile and tell me who was your father?” Gordon took a seat facing Ruby and told her the story he and his father had concocted. Ruby remembered the gentleman who had been there asking if she could help with his sick son. Ruby hadn’t believed his story and knew he was withholding information but for the first time couldn’t put her finger on why. She knew his name and that he had a son but there had been a a curtain of distortion she couldn’t see through. She hadn’t been able to bring his son into view, “this is very odd.” She had told him and sent him on his way with little or no information, but apparently it had been enough.
    The couple sat talking for a long time. Ruby laughing and enjoying herself like no other time she could remember. Together they shared a light dinner and later while drinking tea Ruby noticed the time in shock, 10:30 pm. She didn’t want the man to leave. His visit had sparked a longing for companionship that had never been there before. For the first time since the changing she loathed the idea of being alone. She actually wanted to make love and wake up in a lover’s embrace.
    “I can’t read your thoughts but I can see from your face your struggling with something. Will you share it?” He asked her.
    She sat staring at him for a long time wondering what to say. She had never been speechless before, but she knew that this man deserved nothing but honesty. She was embarrassed by her intimate thoughts of him. She threw caution to the wind and jumped into the void.
    “I would marry you if you asked me.” she whispered down to her shoes.
    Gordon Silvers sprang out of his chair and dropped to one knee in front of Ruby. Taking her hand in his own he looked deep into her eyes.    
    “I can’t express how happy you’ve made me. Over the last few months I have fantasied about this moment. The crushing loneliness that I have felt for years gave me the courage to come here today, and the chance that you might be the one I’ve been dreaming of. You are more beautiful than I could had ever hope for and these last few hours have been the most pleasant of my life. If you will have me, I promise to spend my life eager to learn your quirks and eccentricities, nursing you hurt feelings, and learning to love you a little more every day. Miss Ruby Salinski will you be my wife?”
    “Yes!” Answered Ruby drunk with the absents of any real assurances of the future.
       “With all my heart, yes.”

Thinking outside the box


 The objective of the club is to give the home schooling children of the Kettle Valley a place to gather in a learning environment, to share educational goals, and to build lasting friendships. With the help of a qualified teacher, along with parent volunteers, the children will receive individual-need-focused attention helping them to achieve a better understanding of any given topic.

Program Times:

I believe that the act of sharing food can’t be overstated in building social relationships, so I would like to see the program have an optional noon start. Kids who wanted to come and share food between noon and one would be encouraged to bring lunch for themselves along with a dish that others could share, with educational activities scheduled to run from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  
I believe Friday’s would be the most appropriate day for this one-day-a-week program so kids in school could attend if they wanted to and get help with subjects they are struggling with. If another day of the week is better f0r scheduling, an effort to have school kids come after classes from 4-5 could work too.


This would be a self directed learning group with a focus on core subjects like reading, writing, and math. Art, music, languages, geography, humanities, theater, permaculture, social responsibility, empathy, as well as, computer technology and the trades can be studied. Really the list is endless. When an interest in a certain subject is expressed, a study program can be developed to help the kids pursue their educational goals, while pointing out how the core subjects mentioned above are being used to achieve their objectives.  


The program would be offered to all ages, however if a child under 7 wants to attend, a caregiver would be required to stay and assist with the groups daily activities. A concerted effort to include teens right up to seniors as visitors, workshop facilitators, mentors and participants would be encouraged. (We never stop learning)


I have spoken to a couple of people about possible grants that could be used to pay a teacher one day week to lead the program. Possible funding sources. Regional District, Kettle River Rec, the Medical Society, The Lions, The WI,  just to name a few.
We could consider a small drop-in fee but have a no one is turned away policy.
Fund raising events organized by the group could raise the funds we need for field trips and other supply needs. Donations of supplies and financial support would always be sought.

Possible locations are the medical centre, Rec centre, or St. Mary’s church which has been offered for the cost of heating, of course I’m very open to suggestions on where the program can be run out of. A donation of the space would be preferable to renting but a funds could be sought to pay for rental of a space.

Length of Program:

On our first run I believe we should commit to a six month program running from the first week of October till the last week of March. Depending on the success of the program, a year round schedule could be explored.  


Program Coordinator
Erika Tafel

Cell:    250 528-1000 (text)
Res:     250 446-2156

Looking for suggestions and other groups with experience