RUDE WAKE UP CALL
JENNA, RUDE WAKE UP CALL
99% of the time I absolutely love my job. Technology allows a book editor like me to work from home, while still working for a major publisher. I love to read, and discovering new authors only makes it better. But on days like today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep happy thoughts in my head.
I woke up with a pounding headache, something that never happens to me except after a night of drinking. My stomach has been in knots as well, threatening to bring up everything I’ve ever eaten in my lifetime - really not looking forward to that. Since neither of those are enough; the cherry on top of my shit sundae is one of the neighbours has a fucking alarm that has been going off for hours. They must not be home since they haven’t turned it off. It is very shrill and insistent, not like any alarm clock I’ve ever heard.
It is the nail in the coffin of my day.
When I bought my condo, I was reassured by the closeness of my neighbours. It is a concrete building; so there’s still enough quiet to be comfortable, but being 25 and on my own, having someone close by is reassuring. Except when their fucking alarm won’t stop! I don’t want to be ‘that neighbour’ and call in building management, so I take my fourth dose of Advil for the day and crawl into bed. It’s barely past 7:00pm, and I’m totally trashed. I must be coming down with the flu. Awesome.
When I wake up, my clock tells me it’s 10:42pm. Not believing it is possible, but I feel even worst. Christ, my head must weigh a million pounds, I’m sure. The pounding in my head is so loud, it is making the photos on the walls rattle. Wait.
That can’t be right.
It takes me a minute to come out of my headache-induced fog enough to realize that the pounding that woke me up isn’t in my head, but someone at my door. Who the hell would bother me at this time of the night? And how did they get in? I didn’t buzz anyone in! Oh shit. If it is Trent, my ex, I am going to lose my shit. How many times do you have to tell someone to get lost?
Using my anger to propel myself out of bed, I lunge into the hallway. The floor keeps tilting side to side, and I feel like I’m on a cruise ship in rocky waters. What the hell is wrong with me? I must be running a fever. Maybe I should call Jeff? No. My over-protective big brother will freak out and it’s just the flu. He’s more stress than I need.
The wall feels soft now. That’s weird. I don’t have carpet on my walls. I still hear pounding. I tell them I’m coming – at least I think I do. My tongue feels funny, and everything is swirling in my vision. I don’t think I have the flu.
That’s the last thought I have before I lose consciousness.
MITCHELL, SILENT KILLER
“So, what do we know?” I ask my best friend and lieutenant Trey. The sirens are blaring, we’re on our way to a 9-1-1 call. Condo complex is all I know – they’re the worst. You never know for sure how many people are inside.
“Caller said there has been a screaming alarm coming from a neighbour’s unit all day. No response from the neighbour when he knocks. He’s complaining of headache and nausea – sounds like carbon monoxide poisoning.” Trey’s voice sounds how I imagine my face looks. Fucking carbon monoxide – it kills people and they don’t even know they’re dying. Hopefully, we’re not too late. “There are four empty units in the building, otherwise someone should be in every other one. We have a long night ahead of us.”
With those last words, our engine pulls in front of the condo complex. Only three floors, looks like eight units per floor, less 4 empty ones. That is still 20 doors we need to knock on, and fast. The Captain on scene gives his orders, and everyone quickly hauls ass. Trey and I are sent to the third floor, along with several other firefighters. We believe one of these units is the source of the alarm.
It doesn’t take long to figure out which door is the one, and we quickly pry it open when no one responds to our knocks. Two of our team quickly remove the unconscious elderly man and woman we find inside. I hear Trey calling my name from further inside the unit, muffled because we’re all wearing our life support.
“The building has hot water baseboards for heat,” he grunts, pointing to them in case I’ve suddenly lost the ability to see for myself. Shit.
That means the gas has been travelling to the other units with ease.
TREY, SEARCH AND RESCUE
Being the senior man on the floor, I shout everyone to haul ass and check the rest of the suites - it is likely everyone is in trouble. I note in my periphery that some doors get answered, others are being kicked in. I radio for additional ambulances to be brought to the site. I have a bad feeling some people might not survive the night, especially once I see how many of the residents are elderly.
Mitchell and I get to the last door on the left, and I start pounding. I barely pause in my knocking; I want to ensure the residents wake up and get out. I’m not sure, but I think I hear something inside, yet no one opens the door. Fuck this, I’m done waiting. Someone could be dying in there!
I’m the bigger of the two of us, so I don’t need tools to break the flimsy deadbolt and door latch. One good kick with my boot and we’re in. The unit is dark, but we can both see the shape of someone laying on the floor. Turning our headlamps on so we can see clearly, we enter the unit. Checking quickly to ensure no one gets left behind, we both approach the victim. Whoa.
The fireman in me assesses her for any injuries and if she’s breathing. The man in me is unable to stop looking at her, and it is not to assess her injuries.
She’s the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.