The Ward – Part Four

Hes coming

Statement of Arnold Ezekiel Warburton, Second Mate,
The Devilfish (lost at sea, June 21, 1921, Cape Hatteras)

I woke as if dropped from the sky, clinging to a piece of wreckage on the flat, still seas.  Panic set in immediately and I let go and slipped into the sea.  Being a seaman of numerous years I regained my senses and swam for the surface, again gripping the section of hull and pulling myself as far up upon it as I dared with fear of it capsizing under my weight.  I choked and sputtered and spat out the seawater that had found its way in and looked about me.  Nary a soul to be seen, nary a sign of the Devilfish or its crew, nary a sign of the storm that had rose up or the great beast that had crushed it in its angry grip.

I was hung up a but from below and reaching down to my chest with my left hand to see what was hampering my movement found the amulet suspended around my neck on its leather thongs.  It was no longer hot to the touch, but cold, cold as ice.  I looked toward the west and could see dim lights of shore and port.  I began to kick with my feet and push myself and my bit of ship to shore, hoping the cross currents wouldn’t be too much trouble.  I was dead tired, wet, cold  but happy to not be deep in the sea.  

My movement became slower as I tired.  The moon crept higher and higher into the sky and after time I saw in the light what I feared most,  fins breaking the surface. I hung still, pulling my legs up under the wood, folding myself against it in hopes of hiding from the sharks now circling my motionless craft.  After what seemed like an hour, they ceased their circling, distracted I thought by one of their brethren having found the remaining crew of the Devilfish as that was the direction they seemed to go.  Counting to  sixty a good ten times, I decided to continue my shoreward motion, steering by the light of the moon toward the glow of safety but all was not as it appeared.  One of the foul beasts, a blue by the look of its tail and snout, rose up and struck, worrying my legs and dragging me one way then another as I beat on his face.  I was done.  I sunk beneath the dark and wet and  knew all was over for me, to die beneath the sea like all sailors know may be their fate.  I was dragged deep, the pressure on my ears greater and greater, pain in my legs now giving way to a feeling of blessed sleep as blood rushed from my body.  I thought of old songs and seaman’s prayers and unconsciously found myself  gripping the amulet around my neck and praying to no one in particular for a fast death and a long restful sleep.

With a rush of bubbles and movement and a flash of moonlight I was released.  Slung up into the air and smashed down upon yet another piece of wreckage, I gasped for breath and gurgled  and again spat water out of my lungs.  I drifted into darkness as from afar I could see a searchlight casting back and forth and finally into my eyes.  I was found.

When next I woke, I was in a curtained hospital room.  Nurses came and went, most with fear in their eyes or disgust or both.  A man, another patient came to my side and I grasped at his arm to warn him but he rushed away with a look that mirrored that of the nurses before him.

Over the next day I went in and out of sleep, dark, fitful sleep, unable to explain what I wanted  to the nurses and doctors that gave me only a passing glance, and  an injection to shut me up.  I could hear the man across the room.  A vile little reporter we would have dunked overboard had we found him poking around the docks at night.  He was dodgy and full of fancy words and slick speech that he used to work the nurses and others that came to see him.  I caught him again poking in my drawer but he found nothing apart from some medicines they had stored there out of my reach.  Thankfully, he didn’t look under my pillow where a sympathetic young lady had stored my meager belongings, including it.

As night approached, I knew my time on this earth was over.  A storm started brewing and winds whipped up and leaves and spray found their way up into the air and onto the nearby windows.  I could smell the sea and the death it brought with it.  With a crash and splintering sound, I knew it had come.  The Great One had found me.  I reached and twisted in my befuddled state, under my head, and pulled out Old Tom’s amulet.. draping it around my heathen neck and through the gauze and bandages said my goodbyes to this world and my family far away and never to be seen again…

Death

Death

Not to get overly personal, but a new pet peeve of mine as of thirty-one hours ago is choking. It sucks. Okay, literally, it sucks. If you are choking, you are sucking and wheezing to get air as your body is trying to do the exact opposite things with whatever is causing you to choke. Luckily for me, I can control whatever panic region exists in my brain and hold my breath. I didn’t die a rock star death, which under any circumstances is not my preferred method of expiring.

For future reference, here are in my mind some acceptable ways to die:

* Being hit by a meteor chip as you are standing on stage about to present to a TED conference

* Being shot as you successfully fight off a would be bad-guy trying to do harm to your family

* Nuclear explosion

* Falling into a volcano gripping onto a super-villain or your nemesis who also expires as you scream expletives smiling into their melting face

* Bear Attack (if you also mortally wound said bear)

* Boxing match with your nemesis who also expires

* Space launch accident

* Test driving/flying a supersonic jet, supersonic car, time machine, transporter etc.

* Alien attack

However, given my lifestyle none of the above are likely to occur. Therefore, in all imagined outcomes, I don’t see my death being acceptable. I try to eat healthy, be healthy, stay healthy. I have no family history of cancers or diseases apart from heart disease which in most cases I have seen in my family are caused by a sedentary lifestyle choice (which I do not choose). That all being said, the ancient shillelagh gripping grandmother of one of my best friends walked into a room in which we were playing Dungeons and Dragons one night, looked at me and said “you Sean Liddle, I saw it in the cards, you will die at the hands of others” waved her gnarled finger at me and walked away. It was creepy and odd and we went back to playing and as much as I ignored her prediction being one who believes in science, but it lingers.

Back to my near rock star death. It was my youngest’s birthday last week. We decided that we would attend a movie bringing his brothers and his best friend. Part way in, I was starving. My protein shake didn’t cut it. My ostrich meat backup protein stick didn’t cut it. I started eating popcorn. By the time movie was over I was ravenous. Not being home I couldn’t chow down on the usual veggies and fruit I eat so I snapped and ate burger and fries with the kids at a local fast food place. We got home and it was time for Doctor Who and I was off the wagon, eating mango pie then later a piece of cake. Woke up at 1:30 am and thought I needed a piece of bread to settle my notoriously picky and now rumbling stomach. Instead, I had a thick piece of raisin bread, my feeble sleep addled mind thinking that raisins, being grapes, made the choice better.

I went back to sleep.

I woke at 3:38 am unable to breathe. I was wheezing, I could taste reflux. I leapt out of bed, my wife yelling at me to tell her what was wrong. I kept panic from my mind (even though panic was thirty feet behind me yelling) and went to bathroom and stared death in the face. Okay, in honestly I stared myself in the face I the mirror. I closed my mouth and tried to breath in through my nose. It worked. I tried my mouth. Didn’t work. Nose, yes, mouth no, nose yes, mouth partially, stare, stare, nose, mouth YES. I told my wife I was okay.

I returned to bed. Sat. I calmed myself till my heartbeat was slow and reasonable (it never was crazy high) and after an hour, was back asleep.

What happened was essentially a larynx spasm brought on my acid reflux. Not entirely uncommon. Not fun.

Add crappy food to the list thank you. I am back eating healthy food only.

And just to complete the circle here are in my mind some UNacceptable ways to die:

* Choking to death

* Barracuda attack while on vacation

* Being crushed almost to death in an avalanche then dying days later due to exposure

* Low yield explosion that leaves you maimed

* A thousand cuts

* Televised decapitation

* Drowning

* Embarrassment

* Spider monkey attack

* Go-cart incident

* Falling off of a ladder onto a Lego structure

* Professional eating contest gone badly (unless you win first)

* Breaking your neck on the ice with no one around on a really cold day but not cold enough to allow hypothermia to set in quickly so you just lie there, your face freezing to the sidewalk or a tree stump and your body slowly freezes as you watch crows start to show up and peck at your head, your only defence being your ability to blink REALLY hard and make faces at them.

* Your nemesis getting the better of you

Now back to the funny stuff!

The Ward – Part 3

nurse

3.

He lay as still as possible, controlling his breathing, trying his best to appear to not only be asleep but be in a deep relaxed sleep.  The old woman’s gnarled hand stroked his hair as one would a cat, occasionally twirling his forelock, as she spoke to the nurse.

“No matter the cost, I, we, will cover it.  Please see he is treated with the best care.  One cannot have a dear guest to ones home become ill and not do ones part.  You understand?”

The nurse nodded and escorted the old woman and the eau de toilet she had apparently bathed in to the wardroom door.

“Are you positive there is no private room we can put dear Mister Holmes in?” As if on cue, the mangled sailor let slip another low gurgling howl.  “Dear lord…”

“No ma’am.  I’m very sorry but due to the influenza a large portion of the hospital is segregated. Maybe, if some of the unwell, um…”

“Die, yes I  understand Nurse.  If some of them shall we say make space, please consider moving him if you would.”

The nurse nodded in acquiescence and both sets moved out into the hallway.  Winston smiled to himself as he opened his eyes a few minutes later and looked to his left to see if yet another fabulous lunch had been left for him.  A silver tray beneath which something wonderful was emitting a narcotic odorous steam, sat beside him.  Also, to his surprise, the private doctor he had bribed the evening before sat, lighting a cigarette and lifting the tray to then extract a spear of asparagus which he ate as he spoke.

“Good day my boy.  I see you have worked your magic and my employer is swooning to your care.  He helped himself to a sip of orange juice as he looked distractedly, eyes only, only briefly, toward the curtained off roommate of Winston Holmes. “Maybe you’ll catch some more luck and that bastard will give up the ghost by this evening.”  He again turned his attentions to Winston. “So my friend, I am not against a little usage of what little remaining funds my employer has squirreled away to make life a little more entertaining, but be aware it is a meager amount.  I suggest you take today, enjoy, relax and sleep away the night then skip the premises.  I don’t mind keeping up the charade for today but one must take care of ones own gravy train.  Understand?”

“Of course old bean, of course.  I have to get back to Boston anyway, work, friends, weekend looming, all that.  Don’t suppose you’d be willing to help me out a bit further?  Paid of course.  I am a reporter, looking into her husband’s doings..”

“I suspected so much but again I need to watch out for my own well-being.” He sat back after replacing the now half full orange juice glass. “I’m skedaddling this week myself.  Their ability to pay my bills has become less and less quick.  I have a lead on another family in need of in-house medical care in about your neck of New England.  How say we get together next week and share stories.  For a fee of course.”

“Of course.” They shook hands and the Doctor began to walk away. He paused to peer in behind the curtained enclosure across the brightly sunlit room.  He shut them rapidly and walked to the end of Winston’s bed. “Bet you a ten spot that you have the room to yourself by ten pm.” he smiled grimly and took a deep drag on his cigarette, the smoke briefly blinding his left eye, giving him the appearance of winking.

“I say eight.”

“You are on my friend.  I have left you my card on the tray.  Slip it somewhere safe, call me next week.  Perhaps we can turn this into an arrangement for future work.” He turned to his left and walked out then down the hallway in the direction of the front desk.

Winston Holmes sat up at the edge of his bed and shuffled himself into a pair of over-sized slippers that awaited his feet.  He stood, looked out through the window at the sparkling sea beyond and breathed deeply the salt flavored air that slid into the room from the tiny opening at base.  Raising the window to its full open height, he took his seat and began to nosh on the steak and eggs that awaited him beneath the silver dome.

From behind, a gurgling rose and fell with the labored breathing of his roommate.

The Portal

The door was held ajar by a small stone, round and polished by the sea, black and unassuming. Steve grasped the cold metal handle and pulled open, releasing from within the thumping bass and smells of spilled beer, cigarettes and hope. A lone doorman stood to one side, in the shadows, black jacket, shirt, pants and oddly, bare feet.  Steve handed him five dollars as the other arm riddled with tattoos and needle tracks pointed at a huge pile of shoes.

“..tie em together..” the raspy voice spat “..tie em tight.  People get a little hasty round closing and start digging.  Losin’ a shoe sucks…”

Steve complied and worked his way down the cold stone stairs in semi-darkness.  At the bottom, a sharp turn past an actual, real hole in the wall wherein stood a pale deathly quiet goth girl took his coat and hissed a thanks as he slipped her another five from his pocket. He put the tag in his wallet and continued down the now red painted hallway. Tiny alcoves here and there contained gyrating would-be vampiresses smiling at the ceiling and sullen couples smoking, sniffing, staring… The noise grew and grew and finally, beyond a stereotypical curtain of beads, he found the source. Carved out from the limestone beneath the abandoned mall, Steve entered a grotto, a cavern, full of dancing sexy young undead wanna be’s. It was just like that terrible movie in the Matrix series with sweaty leather clad…

With a thump, Steve awoke, cold beery wetness creeping down into his crotch.

Trevor looked at his best male friend and shook his head handing over some napkins. “Told you you’d spill that if you fell asleep.”

Visions of vampires and sexy underground nightclubs swam away from Steve’s head like fish from a stone dropped into a pond.

“We’re landing in a few minutes.  I’ll call the air hostess.or whatever they are called…”

“..yeah thanks..” Steve sputtered as he mopped up the Heineken from his groin.

Jules shook her head and turned back around in her seat…

“Boys…” She muttered as she sipper her daquiri.