He walks through the wall, unimpeded. A huge blocky slab of ice forms in an instant and he is gone.
The near-dark he leaves you in is fogging up from the ice melting and the hospital’s industrialized environmental heat control kicks on and ramps up.
Hell for you begins in the here and now, in your sickbed. You don’t need some snarky visiting Dark Deity to clue you in on this golden nugget. You know how you got here, that’s for sure.
It is here you started planting your sins. It is right in this spot where you have watched with joy, in the bits of clarity, their budding fruits. You looking down and smiling as they piled high. The silent cries and screams and pleading troubled you not. You enthralled at restraint, too weak to fight back, aware of how wrong it was. She could not understand why you were doing that to her.
Now the dharmic spill has covered you, laying still and unmoving yourself. Chemical restraints they call it, keeping you drifting in and out of consciousness, fleeting as a swirling passing breeze, then back down to the deep dark warm nothingness.
Because you cannot be baby-sat 24/7, strong leathers make sure you stay put, if you accidentally throw off the chemical shackles. If you ever try to heave yourself over the safety rails and truck right on out of this place. No way, Jorge, just forget about it; ain’t happening. You are here, my friend, for the duration. The Big Man says so.
This is why you are wrapped in your sick bed, dying slow, perfectly still, alert in this moment. Not surprisingly, you seek your only form of comfort. You search for the dark cloth to pull over this pesky alertness, but then you feel something under the covers with you.
Through the foggy dim light, cold drizzle falling soft on your bits of exposed skin, you see her.
The hand grasps up your leg, dark blue and crawling. The night-light glow, showing through the growing fog of melting ice, illuminated the bone-thin and veiny dead hand. Her old face comes into view. Her mouth is screaming silent. Her eyes are red and leaking, reeling you in, you stare hard at her as she grabs your crotch with her other hand. She tugs and pulls her way up, the tired green covers slipping past her wigless, spotted scalp, blue with death, hands icy on your bare stomach. You screaming noiselessly, the breathing tube keeping you alive placed through useless vocal cords. She uses the hair and loose skin on your withered chest for purchase. Your head is rigid and your neck too drugged and heavy to move. Her horrid breath is leaking out of the great black hole of her dead mouth as she reaches your face. She grabs hold of your life support connection and pulls the circuit from your breathing tube. She drags her dead, decaying self, one more tug and she clamps her hole of a mouth onto your breathing tube. She begins to suck on it, aspirating the life right out of your lungs.
The breathing machine alarms shrilly, but no one comes. You crash inside, darkening your peripheral vision, narrowing, closing down. Your heart thuds crazily in your chest. You lose your hold on consciousness and you lose, are lost.
Finally, as the only thing left of This is the faraway alarm of a cardiac arrest and the only thing so far of That is the scent of sulfur and sugar, the code team arrives.
They come wading in and save your sorry ass, again. They pull you away from That and back into Hell’s waiting room. Back to your bed, back to being resuscitated by a whole fucking squadron of scrub-clad heroes. Fifty bills an hour times twenty of these motherfuckers and you ain’t worth the scratch, brother, not by half.
The heroes bring you back, successful, slowing down. Just now noticing the cold water puddling their clever-stupid multi-colored crocs on their sore wet feet, wondering from whence this shit came.
Fuck fuck, dumb-ass donkey fuck, you think. I’m still here. Show some mercy and gives us some morphine, you fuckers, you yell in your mind. You need to go under, rest. Because you know they’ll be back. And so must she.
Westphal pulled into the parking lot of Harborside District Hospital. He selected a spot near the exit and killed the motor. He sat a moment, using the corner of his driver’s license to snorkel up a bump of the white lady, and yet again. He put the cola away and sat, reflecting on his chances. Really of how he didn’t have any more, how he’d let them all run out. Too many missed shifts, too many doctored piss tests, too many pleading visits to the licensing board. Too many iced vodkas and baseball chalk lines of MDMA and cocaine to go high and wide. Too many muscle relaxers and sedatives, more vodka to come down, just too many.
Westphal’s eyes hurt as bad as his head. His shift began at 7pm and ran unrelenting until 7am. Working graves at the end of his career in a Skilled Nursing Facility. It was pretty fucking pathetic. Westphal can’t even see forty yet, but instinctively knew the score. That this glorified nursing home, working only as needed, with no benefit package on night shift gig is the only work left for the likes of him.
Westphal checked his reflection, interested not in appearance but survival. He needed to see how red his eyes were. They were pink and shiny from the bud he smoked on the way to work, having already panicked from being too fucking high to think straight. He smoked the joint on the way in hopes of coming down at least a little.
With the shaking hands Westphal also had to hide, he squirted liberal splashes of eye drops. He wiped the streaming extras as they sloshed his cheeks. The burst capillaries as gin blossomed memories of what he’d become.
Westphal dry-swallowed an acetaminophen and codeine tablet. He dropped in his mouth some tongue-numbing mint gum. He chewed on it, hoping to obliterate the smell of weed, liquor, and an unchecked fungus. It grew on his gums and tongue and was making his teeth hurt constantly. All of this done in preparation to go in and baby sit a veggie or two for the night.
Westphal was the only member of his department on the graveyard shift for that part of the hospital. His only true responsibility, besides an occasional life-threatening emergency, was to maintain the life support breathing machines for the elderly who aren’t yet ready to, or are not allowed to die. Federal laws made it mandatory to have a Westphal standing by. And you can bet his paycheck reflected this bottom of the pudding cup status.
He’d fallen so far from doing research trials and honing his craft in the labs and Intensive Care Units he’d spent his early career. It showed just how far he’d slipped in that Westphal was grateful for the easy cake.
He exited his three cylinder pop can, shut and locked the door. Westphal dropped a checking hand into a Velcro-ed pocket, assuring himself of tonight’s refreshment. He eyed the entrance to Harborside District Hospital and walked through, trying his damnedest to stay straight enough to begin another shift.
Taking care of Mrs. Fussbudget was Westphal’s main responsibility for the shift. She was on the sunny side of eighty and was in the ‘SNiFf’ to recover from her knee replacement.
She contracted a nasty pneumonia which required the placement of a trachea tube for easier breathing. It sat secured in the center of her throat, down by the notch. Now that she was feeling a wee bit better, Mrs. Fussbudget decided she hated the trachea tube. It made everyone who came to visit stare at her like she had a neon sign flashing below her chin.
She battled also a blood born infection. The sepsis almost did the old girl in. She was in a coma for a month. The antibiotics had finally worked all their man-made magic on Mrs. Fussbudget. She awoke to feeling weak, but hungry, always a good sign.
The mechanically softened food was wretched: cold and devoid of flavor. The texture always reminded her of just how sick she’d become. But now, she’s so much better. Well enough to allow her family to begin plans on finishing her recovery with home health.
The family cherished Mrs. Fussbudget and they were anxious for her return. They were delighted to have her off the breathing machine and home, they were told, in only a few days.
They were all disappointed.
She awoke to no family visiting, but there was a lone man standing by her bed. He looked down at her. His lecherous smile lingered on her, roving with his twitchy eyes, long after her smile faded like winter warmth. It made Mrs. Fussbudget uncomfortable.
He reached out to her.
Morbid waited until Westphal vanished down the hall before seeking out his quarry. He looked carefully all around, making sure the coast was clear. Morbid crept down the long empty hospital corridor, stopping at her door. After spying no one about, he spun into her room. Mrs. Fussbudget lay sleeping.
Morbid saw the old woman, lying still and unmoving in her hospital bed. She had eyes closed, a tube in her throat. Mrs. Fussbudget’s face was soft, sleeping peacefully. She was recovering marvelously now, her breathing triggering the machine, augmenting her placid flow of air.
The vast network of deep wrinkles attested to her longevity, her hard fought time on this Earth. They ran from under salt and pepper wig. Morbid longed to touch them, to run his fingertips down through the grooves. He wanted to trace them down from her eyes to her cheeks and further to the jowls. Follow them down to her blow-hole and circle it around, around again and around.
Instead, he just stared at her. Morbid thought she was just lovely. He was tempted to rush in, but not yet. Not before it is perfect. Morbid must first ready himself.
He went quickly out, while Mrs. Fussbudget was still snoozing peacefully, and checked the hallway one more time. It was quiet, none about. He re-shut the door to her room and made a bee-line for the bathroom. Morbid shut and locked the door.
The light was so harsh and the mirror unbecoming, but both were necessary. Morbid brought out his small kit. He laid out the vials of powders, his multi-dose bottle of normal saline and a short syringe with its tiny, ultra-sharp needle. Morbid knocked out a bit of both white powders, added a third bit of finely ground blue powder, and put them all in a wide-mouthed empty vial. He squirted a couple milliliters of saline onto the three powders, prepping two, maybe even three doses. Morbid sealed the top and shook the holy hell out of it.
Morbid knew the potent mixture would not completely dissolve and there was no time or opportunity to provide the melting powers of heat. Instead, he rolled up a ‘two-by-two’ clean gauze pad and stuffed it into the opening of the mixture vial. Morbid removed the cap and stuck the needle into the impromptu filter. He pulled back on the plunger, sucking up light blue liquid into the syringe. Then he turned back to face the mirror and the bright light.
Morbid shook with longing. He knew Mrs. Fussbudget lay sleeping and waiting. He needed to step it up a bit. He opened up his mouth wide, lifted the furry fungoid tongue. Morbid saw the blue veins, leaning into the mirror. Morbid slid the sharp needle under his tongue, through the pink flesh and into a waiting vein. Morbid pushed in his medicine. He pulled out the needle, held his head back.
“Here comes the train…” says he.
With ears ringing and doll eyes growing, Morbid packed up his goody bag. He worked through the rush, humming through his noise, happily swallowing blood, the horrible pain fading, crawling back under its rock. He put all the necessaries neatly away and was ready to do the light fandango, takes two to tango, dance of morbid love.
He turned off the light and left the bathroom, closed the door.
She was still sleeping as he came to her.
“Mrs. Fussbudget,” Morbid whispers in quiet honey croon. His jingling fingers a-tingly, “I just want you to taste me.”
She awoke and blessed Morbid with a quickly fading smile.
The sound of Westphal’s two-way snapped him back to center. He was outside by the flagpole, staring up at the night. He watched the tops of the big palms sway. The two-way called his name again. He held it in his hand and stared at it. He answered. The voice was male, felt familiar.
“Westphal, you there?” asked the voice.
“Yeah, I’m here,” he responded. “Who is this?”
“Aw, c’mon Westphal,” chided the voice, “has it been so long?”
Westphal’s mouth went dry. He tried to swallow, nothing there. His heart began trippin’ on him. It was hard to speak, Westphal weakened with the effort.
“Who – what do you want?” he managed.
“He needs you, man,” the voice responded.
“Who needs me?” he asked, as forceful as he could. It came out a squeak. But the voice didn’t laugh, he told him the patient. “You’re kidding, right? Is this a joke?” wondered Westphal.
“No joke,” the voice assured. “And he will die if you don’t get here.”
“No way,” Westphal replied, strengthening with indignation now, puffing up; vigorously shaking his head. “You know that disgraced junkie-fuck is no patient of mine.”
“You’re the only one that can save him, though. That’s what the fuck I know,” from the voice. “He’s dying right now.”
“That’s not my concern, call the one assigned.”
“You also know the patient is never assigned to anyone,” the voice scolded, “he’s just monitored, on life support, and wishes to be fully resuscitated in the event of an actual emergency.”
“Then what’s the problem, sounds like he’s shittin’ in tall cotton.”
“He can’t breathe.”
“Bullshit, you just told me he’s on life support; a machine is breathing for him. I hear no alarms.”
“That’s because after I disconnected his circuit, I turned them off,” Morbid informed Westphal. “We don’t need any assistance from the rest of the staff. Let’s not bother them,” he suggested sweetly. “We require only ourselves.”
“Yeah, but I’m way too -”
“You’re not busy at all,” Morbid continued, “And poor Mrs. Fussbudget has had enough.”
“You really think I need to come?”
“Just quit dicking around and get here before everyone else does. Hike up your skirt, you dog-fucking coward, it’s time to face the music. His sats are dropping pretty fast.”
“What are they?”
“76%, cupcake,” Morbid stated, “and it’s a quickening snowball. You know how fast it’s going to slide now, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Westphal said, “I can’t get there in time, please stop it.”
“If I do, will you still come?”
“Yes. I pretty much have to, don’t I?”
“But I can’t come, you know, right this second.”
“I know,” Morbid assured him. “We will wait, I’ll re-connect him. He will stay on until you arrive, but don’t fuck around.”
“I – I know, I won’t but I need some time,” pleaded Westphal.
“He will be fine if you get here in twenty,” said Morbid.
“Yes, Westphal, twenty minutes and that’s not a lot to get where you need to be. It’s time to break out the sterile needle and quit fucking around. You know what I mean, jelly bean? We don’t need to hide it anymore. We are way past that. Shoot yourself up and arrive high, Westphal.”
“We don’t mind. It’s better this way, if you think about it.”
“And don’t forget the scalpel and 4.0 silk.”
“Of course, I’ll bring them.” Westphal was silent a moment and then: “I have to come,” Westphal stated, resigned. “I mean, I made it, right?”
“That’s right, genius, welcome to the fucking parade,” Morbid angrily replied. “It is all your fault and you need to get down here, so all three of us can lay in it,” he finished, the two-way going silent.
Westphal dropped his two-way into a garbage can and walked quickly inside. He needed a private bathroom.
He was rolling up his sleeve before he hit the door.
You see now the one Westphal calls Morbid put the two-way down on the table beside your bed. He looks down at you and smiles. He glances up at the clock on the wall.
“Watch this, junkie-fuck,” he tells you and points up to the clock. He straightens his finger at the minute hand, high up across the room. The minute hand moves in an instant to twenty minutes later.
Morbid smiles brightly as Westphal stumbles in: mumbling incoherently. He makes it to the bedside and looks down at you, side by side with Morbid. It’s looking up at a frameless mirror, seeing those two together.
“We’re all here,” Morbid replies. He immediately cocks back an elbow and just straight shoots out with his clenched fist, right into your waiting face. Stars as fireworks are detonating behind your tearing eyes.
You blink through the pain, staring in revulsion and hate at yourself, standing there at your sick bed.
Morbid winks once at you. He then spins clockwise and folds himself into Westphal, who’s stoned ass jerks and warbles with the possession of Morbid.
Westphal’s trouncey-bouncey eyeballs snap forward, and then right down at you. He reaches into a pocket, retrieves a super-sharp scalpel, an O.R. swing-hook and some 4.0 silk stitching thread.
“Time to go home,” he says and stabs you in the supra-sternal notch with the scalpel. He slices speedily distal downward, through hard sternum and thin flesh, to just above the navel. He guts you from stem to stern.
You cry out, soundless, alarms silenced, as Westphal pulls you open wide, cracking your ribs. He shoves his head inside of you, followed by shoulders, arms, torso and on and on until he is all the way in.
Through the violation and searing pain, you feel Westphal turning over, closing the busted ribs like a coffin lid. Facing up, you feel him sewing you closed from the inside. The surgeon’s thread slides out through flesh and back in. Westphal sewing your gaping wound shut, as quick as a goose shits.
Your heart, beating crazily, now gets the sharp point of Westphal’s internal scalpel. Fresh blood squirts full from your stabbed and torn cardiac muscle. You can feel and hear Westphal’s suckling sounds as he sups on the blood spilling out unimpeded from your broken heart.
Your hold on sanity snaps completely as your blood pressure bottoms out. The alarm shrills again, the heroes summoned once more. They won’t make it. Not in time, anyways, and that is fine as a finger-fuckin’ to you.
You lose your hold on life. As things go fast black and mute, you could swear you smell the sick twins of sulfur and sugar welcoming you to That.
You awake and the room is cold and dank. The night-light still glowed, but less, more diffuse, making the shadows dance. You reach up, no more restraints, feel for the breathing tube. In a panic, you pull it out, lean over the side-rail and vomit on the floor. You drop the cuff-inflated tube on top of the mess you left. You breathe deeply, smelling the foul odor change in the hospital room. It seems long past rotten to you. You climb over the rail, standing for the first time in who knows. The dizziness decreases as you slow your breathing, afraid of what sure as fuck seems like toxic fumes. You begin for the door, but are stopped.
A gnarled, leathery hand comes from behind, slides sharp talons down your chest. The horrible stench getting worse, a smell of sickeningly sweet decay, gas bubbled popping out of the colon-ass of a carcass. The adrenaline is an incendiary in your heart as the beast’s mouth clamps on your neck. Pain, great and sure, wrestles with fear for domain. You suck in a big breath as the claws dig in.
The creature begins to feed on you while you stand rooted, motionless. You can’t escape its grip and even if you could, there’s nowhere to go.
Another pair of hands and another mouth slides up your legs; feeling, tasting. A growling mouth bites your groin, where the blood runs deep and candied. You shriek so hard it is silent, save a highly pitched squeak that escapes as an afterthought.
As the first two feed, they wrap their scaly demon tails tight about your ankles and waist. A third comes then from behind, cackling evil mirth in your ear. Her tongue darts outward, flicking your terror-quivered cheek like a snake’s fork. With foul spittle staining your face, she moans and gargles around a mouth full of mess: “I just wanna taste you…”
Her hand pierces your back like perfectly honed surgical steel. The hand splits flesh and grabs hold your spine, gripping tight. You feel an iron fist around bone. Then, without hesitation, you are tugged back into the black and through a wall with a deafening crash. Where there awaits bitter cold, wailing and much gnashing of teeth.
You land hard and settle on your bottom. You look up and see, with swelling dread, the myriad of the doomed and damned. They dance perfectly Chaotic to the endless soundtrack of their eternal agony.
You are horrified and glance quickly about for any means of egress. And at your presumption, Mrs. Fussbudget is merely amused.