#2: Nick’s Run
This had been almost a double shift in the ER.
Ten p.m. until one p.m. is enough, thank you very much.
As it was it was 1:43 p.m. and his bus pulled through Hospital Drive in two minutes. It would take him fifteen minutes to get home on the bus. Then he had to get a shower, so that he wouldn’t reek in class. Class was across town at 4:00 p.m., and would take two hours to get to with the Sunday bus schedule. Sensei Hawkins brought Nick in on Sunday afternoon to teach Wing Chun to the poor city kids. He had stayed as long as he could; had made eight casts assisting the orthopedic surgeon, Doctor Silverberg.
You’ve done your part Man. It’s not your fault that all of these stupid rednecks, homeboys and Mexicans around here get drunked up and break their bones on Saturday night.
I know Man, but Doctor Silverberg is still in there cutting and pasting with that sped Theresa for an orthopedic tech.
He understands you have other responsibilities. Don’t sweat it Man. Find your center, relax.
He was in such a hurry he was still in his scrubs. Hell, he still had his mask on. Nick was a little on the compulsive side. They had told his parents that he had ADHD and had wanted to drug him up. Dad had put him in martial arts class instead. Ever since, as long as he trained, taught or fought, he didn’t need any drug to focus. Nick was a drug-free person who worked in a drug-dispensing hospital, lived in a neighborhood full of drunks, and taught in a ghetto awash in crack and heroin.
He liked the contradiction—savored it, liked being the lone wolf among the dogs and sheep.
He was walking fast down the hallway toward the ER entrance. He would just step out the same door that his patients got wheeled in through. He liked that contradiction too. He was still pumped up. It had been a crazy night. Some big fat SOB had taken a swing at Doctor Silverberg. Nick just blasted him with a palm to the chest, speared his throat, and put a compliance hold on the broken arm, saying, “Oh, I’m sorry sir, is this the arm that hurts? Well then, maybe you should apologize to Doctor Silverberg so he will fix your fat ass up!”
As usual Doctor Silverberg gave him that calming nod, that set him at ease, and Nick let the filthy biker scum lay back and apologize. Such was the stuff that Nick Lemonakus’ reveries were made of. He had adjusted to society as much as he might. The ER, the gym, and the school were good places for him. He had never been able to hold down a steady bouncing or security job—excessive this, excessive that—whatever people!
He smiled at how far he had managed to evolve in this messed up society and then realized that he was looking like he was headed to, not from, work, when the mask hugged his grinning cheeks. Big Sam, the daylight security guard, then waved him off toward admittance. This put Nick’s mind on edge, and he shouted through the cottony mesh of the mask, “You need help brother, you good?”
Big Sam rumbled in his baritone, “Yeah brother, I’m good. It’s jus’ I know you gots class ta teach, en dare all kinda crazyness outside the entrance here. Bes’ go aroun trough admittance if yah wanna catch that numba tirty-five downtown!”
Nick had been adopted as the tactical instructor by the hospital security staff—he taught on his break in the hallway outside the video room—so they all looked out for Nick in their own way. He smiled under his mask, “Thanks for lookin’ out brother. Catch you tonight!”
With that Nick scooted out through admittance and slid out the single glass door on the side, just as the #35 was pulling through the drive. He began to run, knowing that he would catch it easily. The handful of people at the stop were acting strange, and up by the woman’s pavilion some females were screaming.
What the heck? Is this a terrorist attack or something?
Just then, he noticed that an ambulance, a fire ambulance, had stopped in the middle of the drive, stalled diagonally over the median. The driver was getting out and running back around to open the rear doors.
Heck man, it looks like you’re missing that bus after all!
As people hurriedly boarded the bus he veered toward the back of the ambulance. As he approached the female EMT looked at him, “We have a situation!”
He stopped just short of her worried face as she shook and shivered behind the ambo; could see she was melting down—a pretty blonde fire woman. This could lead to something nice.
Wanting to impress this cute chick, he yanked open the doors and saw a scene of chaos that was beginning to take on a horrific aspect. Some poor little wetback was on the gurney coughing up gobs of congealed blood like he had pneumonic plague. The EMT in the back had just taken off the oxygen mask to clear it and something was sticking to his face. No, it was a big gross spider with a white X on its back prying the EMT’s mouth open while the man cried and shook in terror!
“What the hell!”
Something darted—a red rubber band with a red spider on the end of it—at his face and he slipped it like a punch, just like he had slipped Eddie Butcher’s jabs. He heard a smacking sound behind him and turned. To his horror, a big nasty spider was on the pretty blonde EMT’s forehead, laying eggs that were dropping into her mouth as she screamed!
Something hit the back of his head and little claws locked into his skull. He instinctively slapped the back of his head and smashed something heavy and gooey, an insect that felt somewhat metallic. As he looked at the mess on his hand, and stripped off the surgical glove, that he had neglected to take off, he noticed people running in the employee parking area. Someone was gurgling. It was the blonde EMT choking on something as she fell to the ground. There were even more hideous sounds behind him in the ambulance.
He looked down at the woman whom he had briefly considered dating, and saw her look up with a look of abject dread on her face, pleading for mercy. Even as she choked and gurgled and cried and gasped and beseeched him through glassy eyes, the head of the six-legged spider with the white X on its back swiveled to regard him with alternately flashing multifaceted eyes, like those of a fly, but like a disco globe too.
Without thinking he screamed and punched the spider with his gloved left hand. The force of the blow splattered the thing on her forehead and knocked her mercifully out. He kicked her in the throat, killing her immediately. He then knew why he was hyper, why he was a fanatic, why he had been born—for this! For this!
Nick darted up into the ambulance and ripped the mask and glove dispensers off the walls and bounded back out onto the median above her dead body even as the poor wetback and the paralyzed male EMT gurgled and gasped out their lives behind him.
He looked to his right and saw the #55 bus rolling up the drive. He looked to his left and saw the admittance lady with her walker, waiting for the bus curbside, as the homeless man and woman behind her swatted at a swarm of insects—no, the X-spiders!
“On it!”, he shouted to himself, and ran over to the two-hundred-pound middle-aged woman, heaved her across his shoulders in a fireman’s carry as she yelped, and stepped out in front of the bus, waving it down. The bus driver was the big biker bus driver, one of the only white dudes in town who drove a bus. The guy had never liked Nick. He pulled up short though and opened the door. There was hardly anyone on the bus, just the Sunday afternoon regulars.
Nick dumped the lady in the first seat and yelled, “Shut the door!”
Just then the homeless man was reaching up into the bus as something—one of the red X-backed spiders—crawled into his mouth. Nick kicked the man in the face and yanked at the doors manually while the bus patrons murmured and the driver yelled, “What the hell man!”
Nick turned, pounced, and grabbed the back talking driver’s windpipe and squeezed as he snarled into his face through the mask, “Drive or die Big Boy!”
The man nodded in a paralytic fashion and did something that caused the door to shut and then pulled off as someone ran up beside the bus banging on the side. The man looked at him with a worried look, just as Nick saw a woman collapse on the stairs leading up to the Women’s Pavilion, screaming in agony.
Nick pointed to the woman, “All of you; look, look at that! That will be us if we get off this bus!”
He looked to his right and was relieved to see that he had somehow brought the glove and mask dispensers onto the bus and laid them on the fire extinguisher box.
The bus rocked to a stop, people banging on the side, the homeless man writhing on the pavement, his homeless hag of a girlfriend running around screaming.
Nick had been surprised at the commanding timbre of his voice. The woman he had hoisted on the bus cried behind him, as the other passengers murmured in disgust and amazement. He then looked in Big Boy’s eyes, not able to recall when he had let go of his throat, and softened his tone, “We need you Big Boy, need you to live. Drive us out of here.”
Big Boy then seemed to experience a shivering chill, and regarded Nick, looking him up and down, as if he had just seen him for the first time, “You got it, Pal!”
With those words the driver hunched over the wheel and put it in drive, taking them up out of the nightmare world that had once been Hospital Drive.