Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tales of the Dead Tropics - chapter 4

A gurgled cry drew my attention.  The older guard was lying against the wall.  The nurse in me kicked in. I grabbed a kit from the nearby counter and hurried over to examine them.
"Call for help"  I snapped at Biggs as I ran by.  Kneeling by the older man, I struggled to stem the flow of blood from his neck but I saw the light of life already fading from his eyes.  Within a minute, he was gone.  I stood up.  "I'm sorry.  He's gone." I quickly moved over to the young man.  His wounds were more serious but not immediately life threatening.  I worried that he was going into shock.   

As I knelt beside the lad, Emma moved to join me, her red hair falling over her face.  "You saved my life, Lori.  I can't believe that you risked your life like that!"
I shrugged, embarassed, as I worked on the boy.  "Momentary madness."
Emma grinned, and with a professional eye, quickly assessed the situation in the room.  Her smile faded as her eyes settled on the dead guard.
"How long has he been dead?" She pointed.
I frowned, puzzled.  "A few minutes.  Why?"

Emma stood up, agitated.  "You've got to get him out of here.  Now!"  Her blue eyes appealed to the other  guards. "The ones who have been bitten turn quickly when they die.  Hurry, we don't have long!"

Even as she spoke, I saw the dead man's eyes snap open.  His lips peeled back and he lunged at a guard near him, sinking his teeth into the man's calf.
"Get him off, get him off!"  The guard screamed, fumbling with his gun.  Biggs stepped forward, coolly pressed his gun against the side of the dead man's head and pulled the trigger.

Biggs turned an icy blue eye on me.  "Either you are a shitty nurse who can't tell when a man is dead, ma'am, or I just iced a corpse. " He closed his eyes briefly.  "I don't suppose there's much chance you're a shitty nurse, is there?"
I shook my head wordlessly, pushing myself to my feet.  "He was gone."
Biggs sighed and turned away.  "Not sure how I am going to explain this away if there is an inquiry.  Then again, not sure there's any way to explain any of this..."
He passed Ken as he gathered his remaining able officers for a conference.
"Thanks."  Ken's sensitive face was drawn and pale.  "That stick allowed me to hold off Jan...those creatures until the officers arrived."
I accepted his thanks with an awkward nod.  It was hard to feel proud when I had abandoned them and run like hell.

The stocky blonde guard (I privately nicknamed him B1, with his pointy head and spiky hair) sent to make a call trotted back from the nurses' station, looking unsettled.  "I can't raise anyone in admin, or down in Emergency, the office..."
Biggs scowled.  "Everyone's spread so damned thin today.  We've been dealing with outbreaks of aggression all over the hospital in the last hour -"  He stopped abruptly as the same appalling thought occurred to all of us.  What if this was happening all over the hospital?
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves here, folks."  He turned to a bald man calmly chewing gum.  "Jim, go get a visual on what's happening downstairs in ER."
Jim nodded and turned to go.
"And make it quick."
Jim snorted. "Count on it."

My head was spinning. Surely we were overreacting.  There was no way this craziness could be happening all over the hospital?!  Emma looked pale.  Ken murmured, "Just a few of those creatures took out our whole staff and security guards.  If this disease has spread..."
"We don't even know if it is  a disease."  Emma said without conviction.
"Disease,  mass hallucination, act of God. Whatever it is, it kills people and then brings them back with an addiction for human flesh."Ken said dryly.  "I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it would be bad if it has spread."
 Emma shuddered.  I wrapped a protective arm around her.  "We are all aware of what's at stake here, Ken."  My thoughts raced.  What about the children's ward? ICU? Most of the patients in this hospital would be unable to defend themselves! 
Ken deflated and looked sheepish.  "Sorry.  Bit stressed."
I couldn't help myself.  I laughed out loud.  "That's seems the understatement of the day."
Ken grinned and Emma giggled nervously.

The sound of moans filtered through the doors.  We sprang up nervously.  "We need to move."  Emma's voice trembled.  "There are so many of them.  What if they get through?"
"We need to know what we are dealing with before we go anywhere."  Biggs came over to stand in front of Ken and Emma.  "Fill me in on what happened up here.  The more I know, the better I can deal with the situation."

Emma nodded and took a deep breath, watching the doors anxiously.
"I was lucky." She smiled a little, aware of the irony of that statement.  "The miners died within minutes of each other.  We left them on the trolleys while we cleaned up.  I was in the next room getting supplies, but Allana and Jan were in the room with the bodies..." She swallowed and looked away. "I heard them screaming and when I ran in, Jan and Allana were on the ground and two of those monsters were eating them, chewing on their faces, their stomachs."

Emma squeezed her eyes shut as the memories slid over her.  "I ran back into the supply room and locked the door.  They came after me and banged on the door for a while.  I just prayed and prayed and then I heard them move away.  They were making grunting sounds, like they'd gone back to ...eating. And then the screams from the other rooms started."  She shuddered. " I hid in the cupboard until I heard Ken calling my name."

Ken's mouth tightened.  "I was in the men's when it started.  When I came out, the others were already dead or dying.  That's how quickly it happened.  When I trying to get out, I saw Jan and Allana dead on the floor and the supply room door shut; I thought maybe, just maybe, Emma was still alive." He looked at her with a half smile.  "I had to know for sure."
She returned his smile.  "I've never been so happy to see anyone in my life.  I might never have let you go if I hadn't seen... "
"What?"  Biggs tried to urge gently.
"Jan and Allana.  They sat up."  Tears filled her sapphire eyes.  "No noses, lips, cheeks, stomach but they got up without any sign of pain."  She bit her lip. "I knew that they were dead.  Yet there they were...walking."

Ken continued. "When I felt her body tense, I turned around, and they were coming at us."  He shook his head at the memory.  "Thank God their faces were so messed up that they couldn't see very well 'cos they tripped over some boxes.  I just grabbed Emma's hand and ran right past them."

Biggs frowned.  "So your walking dead theory is all based on those nurses having more resistance to pain than you? Jesus."
"No!" Ken exclaimed. "We saw others - hell, Brian was dragging himself along the floor - and he'd been torn in half."  Ken choked and looked away.
"Go look through the door window, Biggs, if you didn't get a good look earlier." I said steadily.  "But I think you already know the truth in your gut."
For a long moment, no one said anything. 
"Yeah." Biggs answered heavily.  "Okay, then."  He turned to leave.
"Biggs." I said, unsure of what to say but knowing I had to say something.  "One of the paramedics was bitten this morning.  He began showing all the same symptoms as these things, shortly after.  It's probably nothing to worry about." I hastened to say.  "The majority of people who are exposed to an encephalitis virus never go on to develop any symptoms but we really need to get these guys treated.  Just in case."
He absorbed this new information silently and then shook his head.  I heard him mutter as he strode away, "I knew I shouldn't have got out of bed this morning."

It seemed to take forever but it was probably only five minutes later when Jim returned.  He entered the room at a trot, which immediately sent my alarm bells ringing.  I sat up, heart beating faster.  "Time to relocate, folks." He said, in his deadpan way.  "We've got dead people heading our way.  Most of the ER, if I am not mistaken."

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