Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why I love my SUV

Cray and I sped through the streets of our neighborhood like never before. It was already midday Monday. The sun was bright and the air chilled. The buzz of life normally associated with this hour seemed to be low, but I chalked it up to it being New Year’s Eve, eve. Many houses we passed by seemed vacant, or had their owners in their driveways loading vehicles. Again, I just correlated what I was witnessing to holiday travel. The silence in the car started to bug Cray, so she turned on the radio. I have come to hate the radio - always the same playlist and way too many commercials. The radio jockey came on for a brief news update, and of course Cray took this opportunity to start talking. “So, that was really weird! When I spoke with Edie she said that those”, she swallowed hard, “people we just encountered may have to do with the recent rabies outbreak in the city”. In the past two weeks, the news was littered with random “rabies” attacks. At first, the reports were only animals getting savagely attacked; and then slowly reports started to come in that people were attacking people, biting people, to be more specific, at an alarming rate. “Cray, last time I checked, rabies didn’t do what we just saw. For God’s sake, her head was backwards!" Cray sat further down in the passenger’s seat, “Yea, true… hope Edie has some good news…” The rest of the ride was pretty silent. Heading toward Columbia University Medical Center seemed normal enough, but as we parked and approached the entrance, madness seemed to be draped around the building. Ambulances were racing in and out, people seemed to be flooding out from the ER and pouring into other departments. Cray and I tried to keep composed and bee-lined to find our friend Edie, who worked in the Neuro center.
“Guys! Over here!” Edie waved us over to where she was standing amid the typical office chaos. “Hi!” she squealed. Edie had been working a double shift and it showed. Tired eyes, but wired with whatever she was hopped up on this time around. That seemed to be Edie all the time though - constant energy. “Hey!” I responded warmly. We hugged briefly, and as I pulled away, she gasped and yanked me into a free room, leaving Cray nervously shifting against the wall as she tried to avoid all personal contact with those filling the hallways. Edie locked the door. “Why do you have a blood speck on your chin?” She said this while getting closer to my face, inspecting every inch. “Well, I thought Cray brought you up to speed…” I felt a finger on my mouth and she unzipped my coat. "Take off that shirt, now. I will need to run labs ASAP. This is, I am assuming, the dead guy's blood?” “Ugh, yeah, with mix parts of Charlie, I guess?” She was engrossed with the stains on my shirt. “Well, hand over the shirt.”
Two hours later, I was in the same room in fresh clothing that Cray had packed. Edie had left us in here as she went off to test the shirt, as well as residue from under my fingernails. I shuddered to think of what the test would yield. As my thoughts started turning over what her findings might be, she burst through the door. "We've got to go!" As soon as she had popped in, she popped out… Cray and I just looked at each other, grabbed our belongings, and quickly caught up to Edie. She was walking with a purpose, and given the situation, that really scared the crap out of me. We followed her into an empty OR - well almost empty; there was a cadaver on the table with a sheet over it; just the feet and toe-tag visible. Not what I wanted to see after what I had just been through. She caught my eye and gave a nervous smile. "It’s OK; dead, see.” She tapped it’s forehead to backup her words. With no response from the dead body, she laid a folder on its abdomen, as if it were the cold steel table. “Alright, so I got some of the test results back.” She took some film and placed them on the film illuminator. We quietly gathered around as she started pointing out anomalies. “These scans are actually of this specimen...guy right here”. She pointed to the body, and then back to the screen. “The tissue I was able to salvage from your shirt was definitely dead tissue, and very closely resembled the tissue samples I took from him" - again, she pointed back to the body behind us - “before he was 'dead'" - she made the bunny ears with her fingers. This made me even more uneasy, being in the room with this guy. She continued on, as if she had said nothing out of the ordinary. “ The blood results, well… I’m still waiting on some..." Her sentence was cut short, as the electricity went out. In the seconds that the lights went out, so did the hope that what we were encountering was going to be easily explained. We heard the folder hit the floor, yet none of us had moved since the lights went out. Before I even heard the hum of the backup generator, I bolted for the door. All I could hear were our footfalls as we ran out of the OR. Well, I thought it was all of our feet... fucking Edie.

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