Of course not.
The euphoria is wearing off, the scene is retreating, and the machine of light is moving again. Of course she can’t actually see anything, though the IV still pinches, and
can still feel the plastic mattress at
her back. Tracy
Dikko’s leathered face, with his wise black eyes studies her. His head doesn’t move, and she can’t really tell if he has arms, or any other presence.
The machine is blinding.
"So, I've died twice, and now I've died again, and this is my borrowed life,"
repeats, confirming what she's learned,
while trying to accept the impossible as truth. It doesn’t make sense as the
words tumble out, and the last few moments don’t feel real. Tracy
Nothing is real.
"You've died more, many more times than this
Dikko replies with the same mesmerizing expression on his face. Tracy
"I can't watch another, I can't see another time,"
says, suddenly exhausted. She wants to turn her head, throw her hand over her
eyes, but nothing she perceives changes. She's sore and tired, her shoulder is
throbbing again, pulsing and sticky. She feels weak, like she isn't dead, but
dead tired. Tracy
"I know this is a great deal of unexpected news. It will take you some time to accept what has happened. Take some time, recover from your injury, the hospital will treat you and release you today."
He places his almost hand on her on the verge of arm, she just senses the presence, the pressure of his grip. "It would be a bad idea to tell anyone about our little adventure. They most surely will think you insane, and I don't want to visit you in a psychiatric ward... that's no way to spend your borrowed life. When you figure out the rest, I'll visit you again."
And he's gone. And
doesn't think he was ever really here. Tracy
The machine of light that she's in, that she is, comes into presence and finally has shape and mass.
It is an ambulance, and it is exactly like she perceived it. Her shoulder hurts more than ever, a blinding, searing agony spreading through her whole chest. She can smell the blood, can almost taste it, metal and acrid in her mouth and nose.
She gags from it, but the pain is soon distracting.
Looking down she sees that the wound is actually more towards her breast than her shoulder, and realizing this, her first thought is that a scar will make her already flat and uninspired breasts look even worse. Immediately realizing that no one but herself ever sees her breast to causes her to sigh and look away.
She is strapped to a gurney, but there isn't just one IV in her hand. There are two, and wires stuck to her body attached to beeping machines as well.
The ambulance isn't moving, but she feels a small stir of air, and notices the double doors hanging open.
There is a view of the street, outside, the scene. What happened? By straining, ignoring the pain, but causing another waft of urine smell to briefly register, she looks down as far as the can pull her head against the straps that are, in fact, holding her body down.
People are milling about. Someone is shouting. Sobs. A voice crackles indistinguishably over a speaker. She can see a lump on the sidewalk. It is glittering and shiny, but red. There is blood, a puddle of it, spreading across the concrete.
In the movies someone covers up a publicly dead body with a pristine white sheet, and telling blood stains are somehow never there. Blood is always spattered, stagnant. It never pools and shimmers, vermillion mercury reflecting the sky, telling of death. Another death.
In real life a dead body is avoided unless someone happens upon a suitable shroud.
The back doors of her machine, the ambulance now, slam shut, and
feels a jerking motion as the vehicle leans, swinging around into traffic. She
hears sirens pop and wail briefly. Tracy
With the doors shut, and the natural light gone, all she can see is dark. It feels like thick swirling black, that seems almost as consuming as the machine of light... exactly opposite of that machine.
As her eyes adjust she realizes that someone entered the back of the ambulance with her.
The uniformed woman next to her is fiddling with everything, buckling her harness, bending down to check something below the gurney, flipping her ponytail over her shoulder.
Tasha Young is in the 28th hour of a 24 hour shift. She knows that this patient is dead. Just like the one in the street. It’s unfortunate, but compassion is brief.
She doesn't see
's eyes open briefly, or her head roll
slightly, any movement would be attributed to the motion of the vehicle anyway.
Tasha uses her fine Sharpie to check boxes on the paperwork that she will have to turn over with the body. It’s tedious, and she’s condensed her narrative to the shortest sentences possible. Just the basics. Just the facts. They can use the police report to jive everything together later.
By the time she looks at the patient again
eyes are closed, her jaw slack. If she wasn't strapped in her head would
languish to the side. Tracy
The paramedic shakes her head and takes a deep breath. It’s not the first dead body she's transported, and it won’t be the last. The woman is only in the ambulance because she clung to life for several minutes after they arrived on scene.
The chaos of the bank robbery had died down by the time Tasha and her partner had arrived on the scene to treat the victims. Shots fired. At least four wounded.
One female, mid 30’s, shot. Body found near entrance to the bank vault. Tasha drew a quick diagram indicating where they had first attempted treatment on the unfortunate woman. Screams, panic, and tension fell to the background as she attempted to find a pulse, popped in an IV and pushed adrenaline. They tried CPR, chest compressions, only taking a moment to heave the woman onto the gurney and push her across the floor, only trailing a small amount of rapidly drying blood. Most of it had seeped into the carpet. It would be in the hardwood flooring underneath forever.
In the ambulance Tasha and Melissa kept up CPR, pumping rhythmically and switching off, until both were exhausted and realized that they just weren’t going to get a pulse.
Their hands were bloody, with the sticky substance seeping through the wrist opening of their gloves. Tasha still had some dried and flaky blood on her wrist. It felt like she always had someone’s blood, shit, or vomit on her. After a while it was hard to ever feel clean
As she feels the ambulance turn and bump into the driveway of the hospital’s emergency entrance she wonders if they can get away with just dumping the victim in the ER. The ER would be better. Quicker.
She’s ready to get home. Maybe watch the news and see if they are in the background of any shots. That’s always fun.
Antiseptic, pungent but dirty smelling. The smell of commercial cleaners, liquid poison, swirled about with mildewed mops, lackadaisically at best. Blood, urine. She has always thought that hospitals smelled like freshly cleaned outhouses.
Then sounds register. Indistinct, far off. Beeps, laughter, wheels on a tile floor. Nothing close though. It’s quiet as a cocoon right here.
It feels like a dream as
opens her eyes
again. It seems like it's only been minutes, but since she's no longer in the
machine of light, or the ambulance, or the oily dark, she knows that enough
time has passed that she's been transported somewhere. Where? Tracy
Looking around it's almost as bright as the machine. But it’s different too. Here things have mass. There's a curtain with cheerful stripes surrounding her bed. It's not a bed. It's the same gurney. And there's blood everywhere.
covered in the sticky substance, that's now gooey and mostly dried. She smells
stale urine, looking down at her legs she confirms what she fleetingly wondered
before. She did lose control of her bladder at some point in the chaos. Tracy
The performers, the bank, the shooting. Flashes return, along with the memory of crushing pain. The memory nearly takes her breath away, until she realizes that nothing hurts anymore.
Surprisingly she can pull herself into a sitting position. Her clothes have been cut away, in jagged chops. They lie in rags underneath her naked body.
She lifts her arm, surprised at its lightness. Lifts the other. It still has an IV, but it feels like it’s just taped in place. It comes out easily, there is no blood from the small pinhole where the catheter had been inserted.
Glancing around she sees a rolling cart with pristine white blankets or sheets stacked.
grabs one, and she's happy to discover
that it's a blanket. Wrapping it around her naked shoulders she discovers that
she's cold. Freezing and shivering. Tracy 's
teeth start to chatter as her feet register the icy hard floor. She pulls them
up. It’s the tile that is cold. Tracy
Should she stay on the gurney? Is someone coming for her?
realizes that she needs to go to the bathroom again, and if she finds a nurse,
maybe they'll help her clean up. Maybe they can tell her where she is and why
she's here. Tracy
There's no one. This looks like a deserted hallway. Perhaps it is a horror movie after all, but instead of an unsuspecting neighbor it's Tracy herself who has wandered into the belly of the beast.
"Hello?" she calls, softly. After a moment she’s louder, "Hello!"
Nothing. She takes a few steps and sees that she has been wheeled into, and abandoned in a row of cordoned off slots that are ready for various patients. Some curtains are pulled up like hers, and some are thrown back. The empty stalls appear to be a catch all for random equipment. A couple of wheelchairs are parked haphazardly in one. Another has a gurney stacked with medical equipment. Important boxes, their lights silent and electrical tails wrapped around them.
To the left the stalls continue, and the lights are out. There is just a faint glow from under the baseboard, emergency lights and emptiness.
To the right, several yards down there are more stalls, and she can just make out a counter or desk sticking out. There are lights on, perhaps someone is down there.
As she approaches the desk, she clears her throat softly, to warn the green clad nurse of her presence. “Excuse me, I need some hel….”
"WHATTHEFUCK?!" he screams, jumping and rolling back in his chair.