A trip to the ER
The glass doors of the hospital slid open and Maurice, his makeshift bandage leaking profusely, stumbled inside. The stale sterile aroma of the waiting room hit him all at once, making him hesitate a little. It was all that he imagined a hospital would be, the overhead florescent lights all on, yet dimmed from years’ worth of dust, the smell of disinfectant permeating the air. He stared at the tiles on the floor, dingy yet glimmering. He laughed to himself as the voice of his mother played through his head, “don’t worry,” she would always say, “the floor is so clean you could eat off it!” Maurice thought it was a good thing he wasn’t hungry. Eyes still on the floor, he made his way toward the receptionist at the end of the room.
A cacophony of shrill noises assaulted his senses as he walked. To the left of him a baby cried and swung its tiny fists in the air, to the right a couple yelling at each other at the top of their lungs. His arm was still bleeding and now it burned as he staggered over to the receptionist window where a woman braced herself against a column and sobbed into her sleeve. A ragged and dirty homeless man sat in wait, mumbling as he rocked back and forth. The whole check-in process took only minutes and was relatively painless, but the waiting, Maurice told himself, was the hardest part.
Static and squawk of a policeman’s radio startled Maurice out of his thoughts. He instinctively clutched at the illicit drugs in a secret compartment inside his coat. It was just then he came to his senses and looked up, realizing he had stumbled into a hornet’s nest! A sea of blue for as far as Maurice could see spread out before him. Cops stood leaning against walls, chatting quietly to each other, writing on clipboards, and sitting with injured convicts.
“Dammit!” Maurice exclaimed, though only in his head, but in his paranoia felt that all of the officers in blue had heard him anyways.
Maybe he was distracted by the screaming baby. Maybe he was distracted by the incessant bickering of the couple in the back of the room. Whatever the case may be he saw them all now… baffled that he had been so oblivious when he first came in. He could see the homeless man in handcuffs, crimson glinting on steel as his blood slowly trickled down from his forearms. A woman that had been sobbing now wiped her wet eyes and runny nose, and then he heard her state to an officer writing on a clipboard that she didn’t know what had come over her boyfriend when he attacked her.
He had to get away from here. With an ounce worth of crack on his person, this was the last place he wanted to be besides the police department itself. He stood and slowly crept backwards toward the hospital doors, not daring to make eye contact with the half dozen or so police officers now walking into the waiting room to join the rest. They let the exam room doors clatter shut behind them and they all had a look of grim determination on their faces, all of them Maurice felt were stealing glances suspiciously at him.
An injured man, visibly angry argued with the receptionist his voice getting louder and louder. Until finally a nurse came out and calmly whispered unknown words to the irate man that quieted him. Snapping on her latex gloves the nurse rolled up the man’s sleeve preparing to examine the wound he was so upset over.
“Sir…” surprise visible on her face, “You don’t seem to be hurt at all, where is the blood coming from?” She studied the glazed look on his face for a moment before looking around for help. Maurice watched fixedly as his back hit the wall by the double doors to freedom.
After looking around for help for a moment, a doctor or even another nurse, she accidently twisted the crazed man’s arm as she turned back to him. She didn’t see it coming. Foam from his mouth violently spewed out toward her. The nurse, caught off guard, wasn’t quick enough to react. Nor did she imagine that the parasites were targeting her intentionally, as the projectile mixture of blood mixed with foamy sputum flew into her mouth making her gag as she reflexively swallowed to get a breath.
“I need security!” the nurse screeched as she doubled over gaging, “anybody!”
Maurice, shocked, watched in horror as all hell broke loose! His back to the exit doors and the commotion quickly escalating, he knew that if he were going to get away this was the opportune moment but he stood watching the surreal scene. In stunned silence, unable to move as several uniformed officers came to the aid of the nurse. The sick lunatic fell out of his chair and down on top of her, she yelled out helplessly, as she fell backwards, the two cops closest to her reaching out as if to catch her. A scuffle ensued as the uniformed men tried to subdue the crazy man, their backs to Maurice as they wrestled him, trying to pull him away from the nurse who was scrambling away on the floor.
The click, click, buzz and the smell of something reminiscent of bumper cars at play told Maurice the officers had just stunned the man. But he pushed up to his feet, as a soft growl intensified to warn the officers to stay back, apparently the shock had not affected him whatsoever. Wide-eyed and scared he couldn’t help but watch, Maurice saw the men advance as they used the Taser again. The guy bent forward as if in pain, but when they finally moved in, he violently wrenched past their arms, keeping low and pushing one of the men out of his way as he charged forward. Mace arced after the man as he tried to flee.
Maurice realized in horror that the vacant eyed man had his sights now set on him! At the last minute of his charge, the man inexplicably hesitated, and that gave the cops more than enough time to regroup, circle around and tackle him. Finally subdued, six policemen each held down part of the lunatic, and the other officers stood protectively in a circle around them.
Locked doors to the interior swung open. Two men in white coats, presumably doctors, came running to the aid of the struggling officers. They quickly gave the restrained man a heavy dose of what Maurice assumed was a tranquilizer, maybe anxiety medication or a mixture of both, which they shot into his hip. As the man started to go limp, the doctors turned their attentions to the attacked nurse who was currently shaking and moaning on the floor.
In the other side of the waiting room the reception door swung open, “Maurice Jackson?”
As the scene began to calm down an elderly salt-and-pepper haired, caramel skinned woman with clipboard in hand called out his name. Seemingly unaffected by the melee, she pushed her bifocals back on her bulbous nose and looked around the room, searching for her next patient.
“Maurice Jackson? M. Jackson?” Her loud and monotone yells turned to a piercing annoyance as she called out for a third time, “Maurice Jackson!”
Ignoring the situation just wrapping up before her eyes, the nurse impatiently tapped her pen against the charts and then looked around the room until her eyes found Maurice. She walked up and laid a wrinkled but delicately soft hand on his shoulder and startled him.
“Excuse me, honey, I didn’t mean to startle you,” Her tone reminding Maurice of an elderly aunt or grandmother, and instantly calming him, “Sweetie is you Maurice Jackson?”
He quickly nodded.
“Great, come with me sweetie and now that I found you in this crazy waiting room you get to go in and wait for the Doctor.” The nurse laughed.
Glad to be out of the unusually large police presence and the patients seemingly out of their minds. Maurice followed the woman with the soothing voice as she headed toward the examination rooms, unlocking doors with her ID badge as she walked, clutching his still bleeding wound.
As he walked past the numbered rooms, each with curtains half open he couldn’t help but notice the patients who waited there. All of them had vacant, hollow eyes and a lot of them had some form of what looked like a scratch or wound somewhere on an extremity.
“What’s wrong with them?” He muttered the question to no one in particular; his eyes were transfixed he staring in at the patients as he walked.
Maurice overheard a female patient with a mousy voice from one exam room muttering, “Huge white wolf... Red eyes, white Wolf, red eyes watching... white Wolf.”
The pleasant nurse with the glasses slid open the curtains to exam room five, she answered Maurice’s earlier question, “I can’t talk about any patient and their injuries, privacy policies and all that, sweetie, but we are uncharacteristically swamped tonight. There must be a rabid boar or even a feral dog out there somewhere, all the injuries we got comin’ in tonight, people torn up and scared to death.”
Silence permeated the air, the occasional rustling of curtains or ringing phone being the only sounds. It was a far cry from the noisy and chaotic waiting room. The nurse said nothing for a moment as she finished checking Maurice’s vitals and she began nervously talking again, almost to herself.
“Some of the patients complained they were bit by some kind of huge feral dog with brown fur looking like dreadlocks! If you ask me, dreadlocks or matted fur is the same thing!” She smiled and winked as Maurice unconsciously smoothed back his own hair, all in dreadlocks.
“I been workin’ at this hospital for the last thirty years and believe you me, I have seen worse than this,” The woman gestured out toward the other rooms.
She then began telling the story of the alligator preserve and how over a dozen gators got loose and took off all over the city. She told him about the loss of limbs and the deaths that ensued, a nightmarish bloodbath that lasted over a week until all the beasts were found and killed. He leaned back on his good elbow as she continued talking.
“And then there was Hurricane Katrina! Nothing compares to that.” The nurse went silent for a moment, lost in thought as the horrors came flooding back to her, “I survived Katrina; I can surely survive this comparatively mild weekend of crazies!”
“147 over 91, hon.” The nurse said as she removed his blood pressure cuff. She said aloud in a compassionate yet clinical tone, “Pulse is 126.”
The nurse, named Maggie Futunan, took the bandages off and began to inspect his festering wound until a disruption coming from the nurse’s station made them both swivel their heads around simultaneously.
It was the muttering woman from exam room one, arguing with a Doctor. She had grown inpatient and strangely enough, her wounds no longer seemed to warrant an emergency room visit as she showed the confused Doctor.
Her ears not being what they used to be, but her curiosity increasing with age, Nurse Maggie quickly finished her examination of Maurice’s open wounds and scurried over to the door to listen more to the quarreling.
Maurice’s hearing, however, had always been outstanding. He regarded it as his saving grace on the streets hustling. He had a quicker warning when danger was near. He stayed put on the crinkled paper sheet, swinging his legs to and fro, on the examining room table he could easily hear everything. It was the mousy voiced woman arguing with an orderly. Panicking, she must have made a mistake, the wounds were far less serious and she was desperately looking to the Doctor for confirmation.
She wanted them to sign off on her discharge papers. Before she could say a thing the Doctor interrupted her talking in an almost unintelligible foreign accent. He gestured to her mumbling something about being busy but that there was room on the second floor for her to get a psychological evaluation before the doctor left the room to see if the bed had been readied leaving her to her own devices.
The argument no longer interested Nurse Maggie as she turned from the curtained doorway and proceeded to open Maurice’s file. Checking everything over and signing the bottom of the top form, she closed the folder and said, “You would be surprised how often that happens here, people with no insurance come here claiming they’re on their deathbed and the next minute they’re just fine or there’s the people that come in under the influence and are afraid of taking a piss test, so they end up signing out and not getting seen by the doctors.”
It had never occurred to him that he might have to submit to a drug test. After all, he came in because he had a massive wound. He didn’t come in with gang related gunshot nor was he wheeled into the emergency room for a suspected overdose. Maurice was nervous now and he couldn’t seem to make eye contact with the nurse anymore.
“So...” Maurice tried to sound casual and even a little bored, “when do you think I will get to see a Doctor?” He asked, eyeing the door nervously.
Nurse Maggie smiled knowingly as she touched his leg and said, “Don’t worry sweetie, I took one look into your dilated, and bloodshot eyes, checked your pulse which is quite high, and I can tell you, we’re not going to drug test you.”
Maurice felt like the nurse was reading his mind as she commented further, “We need to stitch up your arm first hon, so don’t be nervous, and the Doctor will be in real soon to see about it, okay?” “Okay.” Maurice nodded sheepishly.
“Besides, the lab is so backed up testing earlier blood work; I don’t even think we’d have the time to check everyone tonight. We were afraid of an outbreak of some sort earlier tonight, but so far all our test results have come back negative. No form of smallpox, anthrax, bubonic plague, a super staph, flesh eating bacteria, or rare fungi has been detected, so that’s good. Some cultures could take days or weeks to form but the doctors here are confident we’re not looking at a deadly disease that might spread.”
The mere mention of anthrax or some form of synthetic nasties made Maurice’s hair on his neck stand on end. If this was the starting of a new form of disease, instead of running away from the scene of death and doom, he had fallen face first into Ground Zero.
Maggie left the room to collect and check on more patients, Maurice high on crack cocaine and alone with his thoughts, paced back and forth awaiting the doctor’s entrance. Startled when he peeked out the curtains and a petite blonde haired girl stood motionless before him. The one with the mousy voice Maurice guessed. Her eyes were vacant but she seemed to be staring daggers right through him. She sniffed at him, her neck and head moving about in such a way that reminded Maurice of a cautious dog. Shivers coursed down his spine.
Is this actually happening? Maurice thought stepping back into his exam room. Her platinum blonde dirty bangs fell down in her face as she moved ever so slightly, still sniffing toward him. Is she growling at me? Maurice looked down at her thin pierced lips, saw her jaw line reverberating, yes she was! He backed up as far as he could go before he hit the examination bed, making the paper crinkle loudly.
Looking at her more closely, she was a short, stick figured stature of a girl, no more than fourteen or fifteen years old! Maurice with red-faced embarrassment gathered his wits. How could such a girl fray his nerves so badly? Then her head twisted again, as she sniffed the air around him once again. The blonde girl stepped closer to the exam room that held a trapped Maurice. He focused on those eyes. Her vacant, expressionless, almost animalistic eyes fixated on him. She took another step. Maurice frantically searched for any form of makeshift weapon to defend himself from the blonde haired girl but she abruptly stopped in her tracks. Once again she took in the air around him. This time a confused expression appeared upon her face as she crinkled her nose before running off further and hiding in the shadows like a scared stray dog.
From either side of the hallway a loud buzzer blared, signifying the open door to the waiting room. The shrill sounding alarm made Maurice cover his ears in shock his hearing strangely sensitive to the high-pitched sounds. Further aggravating the sharp noise, a policeman burst through the double doors his radio shrill, one hand gripping a gurney with a loose wheel. It wobbled and squeaked at every rotation.
Just behind the first gurney, riding the coattails, another gurney appeared. This one had a man in the midst of a full blown seizure. Two paramedics were impatiently waiting for the gurney with the loose wheel to get out of their way as they each held a hand on the man to keep him from falling off the bed.
In the midst of all of this the blonde girl who had faltered, confused somehow by Maurice’s scent, come out of the shadows and managed to slip away through the open door. Maurice slowly stepped out into the hallway not yet aware of the strange blonde girl’s exit to survey the scene.
“David Tambo, twenty-six years old, blood pressure is 133 over 50,” Cody wiped the sweat from his forehead with his arm and continued, “on arrival he was active and alert then went into a seizure on scene.”
The two paramedics grunted as they transferred David from the gurney to a bed. Cody faltered in the transfer for just one second, but that was all it took get the attention of the other linebacker paramedic. After stabilizing David and watching him sleep peacefully for a minute the pair walked out of the room.
“Are you all right man?” The EMT patted Cody’s shoulder, “you should really get your hand checked out now, Cody.”
“No I feel fine. In fact,” Cody said in uncharacteristic excitement, “I feel exhilarated!”
Cody returned the pat on the EMT’s shoulder, harder this time, not realizing his own strength had increased. “My pulse is a little high but I had two of those energy drinks that I am addicted to. I feel healthy and strong!”
“It’s a scratch; I’ll be fine,” Cody beamed, pulling off his bandage he flexed his hand and was grinning broadly.
“I’m glad you feel fine but all in all it would make me feel better if you clocked out tonight to get yourself checked out.” The paramedic deliberately tried to refrain from eye contact with Cody.
The paramedic had been friends with Cody their entire lives so Cody’s dilated eyes and overly dramatic emotions worried him immensely. He knew he wasn’t on drugs so he wasn’t going to rat out his lifelong friend for this, but the strange scene at Steve’s cabin worried him to his core.
“All right friend,” Cody slapped his friend’s already bruising back.
“Maybe when you get off work you can come over.”
The paramedic grinned nervously, “Yeah buddy that sounds great.”
Cody entered the hallway and looked around to see Maurice curiously looking out of the curtains from his exam room locking eyes. Embarrassed that he had been caught staring; he quickly looked away as Cody headed toward the doors.
Cody stopped midstride. He had a strange feeling suddenly come over him. He felt as if he knew the dreadlocked man that stared at him just across the hall. With one nimble turn with the balls of his feet he walked up to Maurice, looking down into his eyes.
“Do I know you?” Cody asked.
“Me? No man, I don’t, you don’t know me.” Maurice stuttered; he would give his right leg to get out of this situation. He just wanted to get his arm looked at, stitched up and go home.
Cody cocked his head to one side confused and uncertain. He knew he knew him in some way!
Maurice took a step back when Cody stepped forward again. Maurice turned his head from side to side looking for anybody who might have noticed this odd exchange. Maurice had been mistaken about this whole strange interaction. He lived his whole life in the projects and he suspected he would die there too. Any interactions with white men had always been negative and he sure didn’t have any white friends! He made up his mind in an instant that if this paramedic came any closer he would knock him out. Maurice felt his fists clench up and his breath quicken.
Cody shook off his thoughts, shrugged and turned toward the door again much to the relief of Maurice. Letting his guard down and taking a deep breath in, relief flooded through his body, then he let it out with a whoosh of air.
As he turned a cold hand touched his shoulder and he felt as if he jumped toward the ceiling.
“Excuse me, are you Maurice?” Voice calm, a reassuring and foreign man asked behind him, the emergency room doctor on call for the night.
“Umm…,” Maurice forgot all about his wound, although the wound had steadily bled since arriving at the hospital. “Yes, yes I am.”
The Doctor with the short stature and pleasant disposition motioned for Maurice to follow him. He lay down on the paper sheets again while the Doctor proceeded to examine him. Nurse Maggie brought in a sterile tray for the Doctor and smiled encouragingly while the man began the process of sterilizing, anesthetizing and stitching up his bleeding wound.
Unbeknownst to anybody a sleeping David awoke from his drugged slumber. Earlier than the anesthesiologist had estimated, his new metabolism working overtime to clear the combination of drugs from his system at an exponential rate, he sat up. An alert and awake David looked around. Confusion set in and followed by anxiety which quickly turned into rage, the instinct to survive taking over as he lurched forward and quickly jumped up from his bed, attached IVs ripped out of David’s body. His logic and reasoning clouded, only the simple brainstem and his primal instinct were functioning now.
David quietly snuck up on his prey, a male orderly oblivious to the danger behind him. Busy amongst piles of paperwork, the orderly felt the hot breath against his neck before turning around. His blood ran cold from the horror that he saw. The orderly was looking at a human, he was sure of that, but this man’s form had mutated somehow. As if out of one of HG Lovecraft’s nightmares David was a sight to behold. Slumped and dislocated shoulders leading to his elongated arms. He had IV tubes sticking out of his inner elbows leading off to nowhere in particular. It made him look like a squid demon. Black and blue bruises covered him from head to toe.
The orderly’s eyes widened focusing in on David’s enormous hands elongated stretched and flattened out like silly putty, fingernails grown into daggers. He had no time to scream, lethal daggers thrust into soft eyes blinding him. Then a dagger-like claw plunged into the man’s mouth like a human bowling ball. The orderly’s last coherent thought before he died, this guy’s hands were bigger than his entire head.
With just one hand David hoisted the orderly up off the ground and exerting little effort smashed him against the wall. A cracking sound something akin to an egg splitting open could be heard. An angry growl started from the mutated voice box of the thing that used to be David. He hefted up the mortally injured orderly and smashed his misshapen head against the wall yet again. The head crumpled like a soggy cardboard box getting stepped on. The orderly twitched, prompting David to smash the broken and shattered head into concrete again and again until his twitching legs went still. David discarded the lifeless body to the ground in a heap, like a pile of dirty clothes.
In this strange place he had done away with the threat. Sniffing the air he decided only fifty feet stood between him and freedom. His head swiveled from side to side, cautiously gaging for hidden dangers, ears at alert, sniffing a curious smell. An emergency beacon of sorts, distress pheromones…A compelling sense of duty washed over him.
On all four limbs, a trick made easy by his lengthened arms; he prudently moved past Maurice, the doctor and four other patients asleep in their beds until he made it to the end of the hallway. He could smell the over powering scent of aftershave coming from two men in the exam room. The curtains were closed but he could smell the odor of a third, the origin of the distress pheromones.
Close enough to touch his forehead to the curtain he could now hear the low rumbling growl of a trapped animalistic human being. He felt an overwhelming obligation to help him in some way. Closing his eyes he could sense a sort of sonar that he didn’t have before. Both men were on the right side of the bed at the end of the room. The men were facing away from him, one stuffing his mouth with food the other lost in a world of imagination reading an e-book.
First his head, then his whole torso, seemed to materialize like an unholy phantasm through the curtains. The rings of the curtain quickly smashed together like linking magnets. A melody filled the air, rings chiming to an unknown conductor. The curtain ripping off the rings one by one until it fell, covering him in a paisley print shroud. Both of his hands stretched out to find the unsuspecting policemen who had no time to defend their selves.
Both officers reached for their side arms and both the dinner and the book fell to the floor. One man gasped as David’s arm hit him with such force as to knock him off his feet. Spinning around his head hit the wall in such a way that his neck popped loudly. A limp and lifeless body crumpled to the floor. Simultaneously David had a hold of the second man’s neck taking him up like a rag doll and slamming him down against the floor. The officer’s last thought as David’s hand steadily tightened around his throat until his windpipe collapsed inward; it had to be the most ridiculous costume he had ever seen, a ghost made up of sheets!
David proceeded to tear the binding curtains to shreds. Breathing heavily David froze for just one moment, worried the commotion had brought on unwanted attention. The hospital intercom squawked, “Code red, room 310 … Code red, room 310.” Somewhere in the hall the distinctive hum of an elevator, its doors were opening a moment before closing, then moving on the way up to whoever pressed the button. A telephone rang incessantly at the nurses’ station and nobody answered the call.
Confident that he didn’t draw any undue attention to himself, David looked over to the source of the distress call. Hand cuffs rattling, the man in the bed immediately sat up. His excitement was short lived; however, when he tried to get up out of the bed, like a rubber band snapping back, he was immediately forced back down on the bed again by his restraints. He was a short man in his mid-50s, with brown scruffy hair and graying stubble on his cleft chin, his brown eyes were glowing red in the ambient light. Nothing about him screamed remarkable, just an average man in a hospital bed. Except the glowing eyes and a blood stained shirt torn open where once a laceration had been, he could have passed for anyone normal.
All David’s heightened senses screamed that somehow, in some way he was a blood kin to the man handcuffed to the bed. Instinct compelling him to do something, anything to release him from his bondage, he yanked at the side rails of the hospital bed. The bars did not give. Though most logical thought had gone to the way side, complex thoughts struggled to creep in. He knew somehow that the men with the blue shirts and the shiny badges held the key to his kin’s shiny bracelets. Rummaging through the dead men’s pockets and eventually finding the key, despite his diminished dexterity he unlocked the hand cuffs, freeing the captive man.
Free from his captors and shackles the grateful man yowled; unintelligible to human ears, but David heard a loud and clear, “thank you!” Instead of running toward the exit the infected man, now free from his shackles, ran toward the stairs into the hospital itself. He had an overwhelming sense that there were others of its kind in the hospital too. In fact he took in all of his extremely enhanced senses, his hearing, taste and now a strange sixth sense told him that there were a lot of people in the hospital that were now brothers and sisters of sorts to him.
David reasoned that he had saved one brother and right now he had no time to see the others. He had to get out in the open crisp night air and run off this amazing energy that had suddenly come upon him. David turned from the corpses on the floor before him and stepped out into the hallway.