Doctor David Marshal shook his head, the cold water had pushed back the fatigue, but failed to lift his mood.
The stranger in the mirror scowled. Thickening jowls matched the heavy bags below bloodshot and watery eyes. Nearly sixty, mortality was tapping him on the shoulder. Tearing paper from the dispenser, he smothered a muttered curse, dried his face and stalked back into the maelstrom that was the Hospital Emergency room.
‘Christ, what's the bloody point,' he muttered as he surveyed the dregs of humanity washed up on his shift.
‘You suddenly found religion, Dave?'
He turned and glared at a fresh-faced young Doctor alongside him.
‘Piss-off, Jim. Religion? Look around you, there's no God.'
‘You just gotta have faith. We're here for a reason.'
His scowl deepened. ‘Yeah, right. You're young Jim, you'll grow out of it.'
‘Like you, you mean?'
Marshal noted the contempt, the pity, and bit his tongue. He was too tired to argue.
‘Yeah Jim, just like me. Is everything ready?'
‘Just about. The ice bags are all here. You think it'll work?'
‘Well, like you said, you gotta have faith, Jim ...'
Before Jim could answer, the entrance doors to the hospital ER crashed open as paramedics rushed the body of the girl in. Doctor Marshal barked commands to his team, his tiredness forgotten as they began to attempt the impossible.
The girl was no older than six. As his team worked, he checked her eyes. Un-reactive pupils lost in a sea of blue that perversely matched the colour of her skin, stared back at him.
‘Marginal, still no pulse.'
‘We need more ice around her head.'
‘How long had she been in the lake?' Marshal demanded of a paramedic.
‘We're not sure, but it took us nearly thirty minutes to find the body under the ice. Must be 40, maybe 45 minutes. She's dead, Doc.'
‘Maybe,' Marshal said. ‘Nevertheless, I'm not giving up yet, start warming ... slowly.
As they worked in silence, water droplets from the packed melting ice exploded like bombs on the concrete floor around their feet. Six times the small body convulsed under resuscitation charges. Finally it was Jim, who spoke for the team.
‘It's no good, it's been too long ...'
Dr Marshal stared at him. Everyone, most of all Jim, knew he had no ‘Faith'. He shook his head, annoyed. No whispered prayer would bring this girl back to life. Science might have. Should have. But he'd done everything he could. What harm then, in a useless prayer?
With a sigh, he leaned close the face of the child and closed her eyes. As he did so, a wisp of condensation formed in the cold air above her lips.
‘No ... We're not giving up. Again! Shock her again! NOW!'
Once more the tiny body twisted as electricity surged. Nothing. Then, astonishingly, the small blue tinged lips of the girl's mouth opened. And she took a breath.
‘We have a pulse!' Someone shouted.
‘Keep warming her! Come on, bring her back,' Marshal said, his voice unusually raised. He turned to the dumbfounded paramedic alongside of him.
‘It's the cold,' Marshal told him. “It's just the cold. The ice is her real saviour. There's no miracle here, she'll be fine, you'll see.'
Behind the paramedic, Dr. Marshal saw that Jim was staring at him. Marshal turned away, muttered a silent thank you, and wondered why.