“Can we help you miss?”
She was so focused on the lotus she didn’t hear him. The officer wore a weary road map of wrinkles. A happy dollop of grape filling crusted over his tie pin. Calloused hands sauntered up his equatorial belt then hesitated as Officer Holmann recognized Andrea Grey, one of the two people on the allowed list.
“Sorry. You know. Just checking.” He offered.
Andrea’s eyes accepted the apology. Holmann passed the sports section to his young partner. The old man grunted subconsciously as he waded through a sea of keys. Andrea’s glasses hid the confused, unsettled look on her dour face. A thick blanket of saline, sanitizer, and sounds of centrifuges smothered her. Andrea winced against the full frontal assault as she placed the predictably ornate vase on the far corner table top. Lean walls leered while she stood reflective, longing to lunch on its’ newest inhabitant. The rooms’ eyes focused on the robust city; here in the ever-famished night, it was getting a second wind. Statue still, Andrea looked upon the world through those eyes; her posture slowly resembled zombies and needle boys fresh off the nod.
“Um, miss…” Eyes pounced on the clipboard. “…Grey?”
The officer was halfway through her name take three before she acknowledged him. Her frame turned and trembled.
“Docs says gotta make sure he gets his rest, so only twenty minutes, ok?”
She makes no response. Victor lay slumped and defeated amid a symphony of whirs, whistles, and bleeps. Transparent tubes slithering from every visible orifice transported the required cocktails to maintain his medically-induced coma.
Victor was dead for thirty seven minutes.
Most of the trauma team had given up after twenty. The remaining battled diligently, although they had become resigned to this apparent reality some time ago. There were very few survivors, let alone whole bodies for the entire six block radius. Legions of lacerations were almost tapped dry when the rookie cop struggled, strained, then finally lifted the cement slab off Victor’s inert frame. For all his power, he didn’t have nearly enough strength to handle seeing what was left of Victor. They were separated before the incident, she in a park twenty five miles north; he in a nightmare. Didn’t matter, docs were sure Victor wouldn’t talk again. Andrea wasn’t so sure; after Avalon, nothing could be assumed ever again.
The worst night of Andrea Grey’s young life began with a pathetic tiny little pop! Well, it actually began with Raisin Bran, but who’s counting? The angry fluorescents disappeared like a scent, leaving the room awash in inky blackness before generators activated. The gaggle of monitors hiccupped and burped high pitched sounds. When the air flowed again it was warm and sour like beer breath. And something
Her mind screamed and scrambled to a dark corner. Her thoughts seized up like a bone dry car engine. She blinked herself back. HE must be desperate to try again so soon, so obviously. She looked back at Victor, the physical shell of Victor, and bundled up all her courage. Andrea dashed to the rolling tray and snatched the lotus plant. Open, long blooms revealed a dotted pattern on the pale side of the lavender fronds. She looked at the strong plant for a long second. Next she ripped off most of the soft petals and made a pile on the table surface. The bulbs with a few remaining petals went into the water-filled vase which tinted the liquid light purple. She scooped up as many loose petals as her petite hands could hold and rubbed them all over their bodies. She dipped her hands into the vase and rubbed as much of it on her body as possible. Satisfied, she did the same for Victor. His calm face was slick with lotus tainted tap water. Andrea grabbed her purse and went for
The sound stopped her long before she knew she wasn’t moving; or breathing. It was a dirty mix of death and something that didn’t belong on Earth. HE was here.
HEknew they were here too.
Andrea pulled open the door to the hallway and peeked around. No cops. I don’t blame them. Hopefully they know to run away. She sneaked across to the nurses’ station and maneuvered a wheeled bed back to the room. Victor was surprisingly light, like yanking on empty luggage you thought was stuffed.
It must be the crystal. She bullied that thought away. It didn’t matter now.
Andrea was at a complete loss when she looked at the complex group of gadgets hooked to him. She tried one and a loud BBBBBBEEEEEEEEEPPPPP!!!! called out. Victor stopped breathing and became a sad kiddy pool slowly losing air. Andrea freaked and shoved the plug back. She took the vase with one hand and opened Victor’s mouth with the other. A trickle of purple water fell and pooled on his tongue. She pinched his nose; it went down like a clogged toilet. She didn’t know why she did it, just knew she should. She tried the plug again. The same beep! filled the room. Victor lay across the new bed, his body now rhythmically rising and falling. She paused then doused them both with the remaining vase water.
Words are easy, comfortable symbols. What Andrea saw as she struggled with the awkward bed has no relation to words. Andrea squeezed her soaked collar until it was damp with the enchanted water, then put her open palm on the blood streaked elevator doors. It would only work for one floor before she had to pry it open and find the next set. The four floors below Victor’s room were coated full of the wet evil things that nightmares run from. She couldn’t walk five feet before tripping over appendages or slipping in puddles of solid/liquid fluids. Nurses were splayed all over stations, most resembled barber poles made of meat. Every door in the halls were blown wide, some had pools of creeping blood at the base where someone happened to be behind them. Andrea had never seen so much death. Her mind made convenient little holes for the most horrible details to fall through. The memory of the nursery wouldn’t fit. Every few seconds she was forced to take that journey again in her mind. She couldn’t see in, but that was the problem. The tempered windows were wallpapered with thick, loud blood.
As they crept out of the first floor elevator Andrea had to fight with her throat and her bladder to prevent them from both releasing. Four security officers were scanning the area. The animated bags of flesh dragged from shadow to shadow. Their faces were tensed like a pilot in a wind tunnel. Nasty white columns of light burst from their eye sockets and hanging jaws. Andrea was sure they were sweating blood.
The water the water the water…trust.
The fear was pure, it poured out with the tears. She squeezed the bed railing and slowly pushed into the gauntlet of ghouls. Every step was a lifetime. She felt like a glacier crawling across land. The uniformed things swiveled their searchlight skulls. Andrea knew she would vomit when she threaded the two mindless threats in the narrow side exit hall. One of the things reached out for the bed rail. The sudden movement was punctuated by the clear clink! when the things’ wedding ring hit the metal bar. It looked over victor’s body. Some opaque drool flopped from its scarred lip. It moved. Andrea suddenly felt exhausted with fear. She saw one other guard thing before she made it to a supply van.
After loading Victor, Andrea took a breath. The keys were strung around the radio dial. She heard the rough reassurance of the engine, then pull out of the exit. She knew they had dodged a bullet back there. She knew they would have to keep running, maybe all the way to Jim. She would have loved to know that HE sat patiently in the back of the dark van.