Saturday, October 16, 2010
Posted by Jonathan Martin
Two days after the fire, they struck out, heading south, towards Plano and the road that would take them past the hospital where Amy used to work.
Highway 75 was full of holes and was not walk-able, especially not with all of the wheels the group was rolling with. The eight companions instead walked along the service road, with Rocky trailing, running from one side of the street to the other, enjoying the freedom and smelling the smells. After a couple of hours, they reached 15th Street which they took west, stopping once they reached the hospital that sat where 15th met Coit Road.
The hospital’s campus sprawled and medical offices surrounded it on both sides of 15th Street. Where the Emergency Room sign once pointed now contained a pile of rubble, as what appeared to have once been an overhang had collapsed where some explosion, probably an ambulance, had rocked it. The glass windows and doors of the hospital were all shattered, the frames twisted by the impact of bricks that had hit them.
“Let’s look around outside first, see if there’s anyone around.” Peter said, trying to read Amy’s reaction.
“OK, let’s. ” She replied. Calm, cool, collected.
They walked around to the rear of the main building, where the loading dock would have been. There was a large crater filled with the first three stories of the hospital.
“That’s where the generators were, we had two. Both were gas.” Peter thought he could see a quiver in Amy’s lips, but could not be certain because she started walking around the other side of the building, back toward its front.
As they rounded the corner, Rocky ran off toward a stack of trash cans behind a nearby building, barking and the next thing they knew, a cat shot out of the top of one of the cans and bolted passed them, Rocky in close pursuit.
“Julie, can you, Brian, Kyle and Zach stay out here and try to get Rocky back? The
rest of us are going to go inside and see what Amy wants us to pick up.” Peter said, pleadingly. Rocky had become a part of their makeshift family, and losing him would not be good for morale.
They had made it back around to the front of the hospital, where the emergency room doors had once been. “Chris, you and I are going down the hallway to the right, there should be a pharmacy over there. Sarah, you and Peter go straight in and to the left, you should see a couple of O.R.s, grab tools and anything else you think might be helpful,” Amy began directing traffic.
Peter and Sarah walked into the building silently through one of the broken windows. Inside, they found that most of the cabinets had already been rifled through. There were papers all over the floor in the waiting room, and as Sarah followed Peter, she slipped on some, falling on her back and knocking the wind out of her.
Peter saw Sarah go down out of the corner of his eye, and as he was turning to help her, he slipped as well and landed on his stomach next to her. He was laughing before he landed, and after Sarah recovered enough to see Peter lying on the ground next to her, she was laughing too. After they both managed to stand up, the pair made it past the reception area and back to the individual rooms. These too, appeared to have been looted.
“Well, I guess we look through all of these drawers, eh Peter?”
“Yeah, look for any unopened needles, scalpels, if you see any boxes of gloves grab them too. Let’s let Amy decide what’s worth keeping. I’m going to go into the next room. Make a pile at the door and then move on. We’ll collect it all on our way out.”
Chris and Amy followed Peter and Sarah into the building and, after giggling at the sight of those two falling in the foyer, headed off down the hall toward where the pharmacy hopefully still stood.
The pair picked their way along the passage, dancing around the acoustic ceiling tiles that lined the floor where they had fallen. Twice, they passed rats scurrying along the same corridor, making Amy wonder if the rats had always been there, or if they were a new edition to her once pristine place of employment.
They had almost reached the room marked “Pharmacy” with a small sign next to the doorway when they heard a thumping noise coming from the floor above them.
Amy glanced over toward Chris, a brief look of panic crossing her face. He shrugged and turned back towards the pharmacy, but a thought was nagging at Amy.
“Chris, wait. What if that’s one of my patients?”
Chris could tell that the thought was troubling Amy, but he was not prepared to explore the entire hospital. “All I have is this pistol,” he protested.
“I have to look, you don’t have to go. I do.” She took off down the hallway, passing the door to the pharmacy.
Chris had to run to keep up, “Where are we going?”
“There should be stairs around the corner.”
“Amy, look.” They were passing a wall of what used to be glass windows, the fragments scattered on the inside of a small shop, with big letters “Pharmacy” on a wall in the back.
“Yeah, that other door was the back entrance. That doesn’t look promising, we’ll get to it on our way back,”
As they rounded the corner, the stairwell that Amy had been looking for loomed before them, seemingly undamaged. She bounded up the steps two at a time, leaving Chris little choice but to follow.
As he clambered up the steps, Chris made sure that the safety on the gun he was holding was off. He hoped it was as easy as point and pull the trigger. He had never fired a gun before.
Amy reached the top of the steps and made it to the first set of rooms a full five steps before Chris did. It seemed a lifetime before he made it into the room after Amy had screamed, and when he did, he felt his stomach turn.
Gore coated the wall where a bed sat, the headless body lying motionless, a dark congealed mess where the neck ended.
Amy went to the bed and pulled the chart, confirming the identity of the body. “It was Mrs. Cosgrove, she was recovering from breast cancer. We had just taken out the tumor the day before it…” Amy stared in disbelief.
Chris rested a hand on her shoulder, “Come on Amy, something is still alive up here.”
They passed three more similar rooms, and at the sight of each, Amy looked as if she was going to cry, but to her credit, she did not. They were entering a fifth room, Chris in the lead, when he heard the tell-tale click of a shotgun cocking. He threw himself to the floor, pulling Amy with him. The shot went off, but in the direction of the bed that occupied the room. Steadying himself, Chris peered into the room and saw a man standing silently, his back to them, over the bed and its occupant, a shotgun hanging loosely at his side. The man gave no indication that he had heard Amy or Chris.
Holding the pistol at arms length, he aimed it at the figure. “Drop the weapon,” he demanded.
The figure turned around, and for a moment, Chris thought he was going to raise the shotgun.
“Ok, drop the shotgun, now.”
The man finally looked down at where Chris was still lying on the ground, and began to fumble in his pocket, pulling a shotgun shell out.
“Shoot him! Look at his eyes.” Amy growled at Chris.
Chris looked from the shotgun momentarily and stared into the man’s eyes. He quickly felt like he was lost in their hollowness, the depths to which he could see was dizzying. He managed to pull himself out of the emptiness. Focusing again, Chris saw the man grin, and move his mouth as if he were chuckling, but no sound escaped his lips.
The recoil sent a bolt of pain up Chris’ arm after he pulled the trigger. He did not even remember firing the gun, having to rely later on Amy’s recounting of how brave he had been to the rest of their friends.
Downstairs, after Amy had finished searching the rest of the floor, finding no other survivors, they made their way back to the front entrance of the small gift shop and pharmacy.
“Look through that aisle over there.” Amy said, pointing to where the over-the-counter stuff was kept. “Grab anything you think we could use.”
Chris had found a box of Benadryl, and a couple of bottles of pain relievers when he heard Amy shriek. Running to the back, where the prescriptions were kept, he found her sitting against the wall, sobbing, her shoulders shaking, his footsteps crunching as he went to her.
“Are you okay?”
“Look, they’re not labeled, this is futile” she flung out her arms.
It took Chris a moment to realize that the shelves were empty. Looking down, he saw that the crunching sound had been his feet crushing hundreds of pills. The floor was littered with them and the opened bottles tossed haphazardly about the room.
After sitting with Amy for a few minutes, until her tears had subsided, he went back, grabbed the few things he had found, and the pair returned to where the rest of the group was waiting outside the hospital. Rocky bolted up to them and pounced upon Amy, licking her face.
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Labels: Hollow World