So yeah, this is the beginning of this week's story, and when I say beginning I mean there's more, and will be more still. Yeah, I keep writing stories that turn into 'beginnings'! Gahhh!
Just Another Day at the Office
One of these days, my life will suck less than a two dollar street whore.
That's what I tell myself every day at the crack of dawn—no, before the damn crack, it's always pitch-black when I step out the door—as I head off to work in my battered car, wondering if it's going to break down around the next bend. Part of me always hopes it will. Not that my bosses'd take that as an excuse. Well, they'd take it as an excuse to fire me. And as much as I'd love to be fired, I need this job.
I need the money.
Just not sure if it's worth the suicidal depression.
Maybe I'm better off starving on the streets, shivering my bones into dust?
It's just, it's not only about me, you know? I've got other mouths to feed.
So I stay, and I watch the white teeth flashing as they fly towards me, intent on sinking into flesh. Those creatures aren't human anymore; not really. But they're under the care of the state, and I work for the state, and it's my job to care for those creatures.
To make sure they don't kill themselves, or anyone else.
I guess that includes me.
Got to stop them from killing me.
Easier said than done, though. 'Cause they've got really sharp teeth.
"We're in lockdown," Marisa tells me needlessly as I walk in the entrance to the hospital. Needlessly because the sirens are blaring and I kind of got the memo already. Still, Marisa likes to state the facts, whether or not they're obvious.
She sounds bored, but then that's usual for her. Even patient rioting can't get her energised. The sirens are an annoyance to her, not a concern. I'm still not sure that anything concerns her.
Fact is, Marisa is a veteran on this ward.
She's seen it all.
She's even seen the teeth sinking in, redness welling all around, dribbling down, tap tap tapping as it drips on the linoleum floor.
I guess she's learned the most valuable lesson any of us can learn:
Don't assume you know what's going to happen on any given day. You don't.
"Good morning to you too," I respond to Marisa, nodding to her as I approach.
"Report to Lazar," she calls gruffly from behind me as I move past. I know it's all I'm going to get. Marisa doesn't do greetings. She does business.
Report to Lazar, though? Really? It must be pretty serious if I've got to report to Lazar this early on in the shift. Usually I'd go to my shift manager and get a list of duties for the first few rounds. They change daily 'round these parts. But…report to Lazar. Got to be serious for that.
I knock on the brown wooden door that bears Lazar's name in gold letters. Stencilled gold letters. And more bronze than gold, I guess. Or maybe it's just that they're faded. Flaking a little, around the edges. Even smudged on the R. I read LAZAR MONTAGUE, M.D. Except that's so last decade. Lazar's done a lot since he got his M.D.
"Come," he calls from inside the office, his voice muffled by wood and distance. I open the door and step inside, surveying my surroundings as I go. His office is…well, let's just say cluttered. If you don't take everything in, you're bound to trip over some of it. I always plan out my path to his desk before approaching it, lest some unfortunate accident happen.
I've got enough trouble as it is without breaking my ankle or something.
"Ah, good morning Mr. Mason," Lazar intones, his voice rich like golden syrup. Or hell, why not just go with honey? Why, because that's unmanly, of course. You can't call another guy's voice honey. Then again, golden syrup's probably worse…
I'd call it gravel—that sounds more manly—but it doesn't really fit.
"Morning, Sir." I stop in front of his desk, peering down at him with arms clasped behind my back. "You needed to see me?"
Lazar removes his spectacles and rubs at his eyes. He's tired, but who isn't? Still, I don't envy him his job. I don't envy him anything.
That's how he begins. I wait patiently, knowing there's more.
A sigh gusts out of him and his shoulders slump for a moment. Then he squares them, sits up straight, regards me with bright, if bloodshot, eyes. "It's a little more serious this time… We've had outbreaks on floor three, I think those are subdued for the most part. But level 5…"
My heart sinks, and I feel cold. Level 5? That can't be good.
He shakes his head. "It's more…what's happening in the rooms." A frown appears on his forehead, knitting his brows together. "To the patients."
Moments pass, and the silence is loud. I can still hear the sirens, of course—they won't switch off until the situation is contained. Whenever the hell that'll be. But there's a reason Lazar called me in here. I'm one of twenty-plus staff members starting a shift at this time of day. I'm just one of many.
But he's singled me out.
Can't be good.
"You want me up there, Sir?"
"If you don't mind, Mason."
If I don't mind? Yes, I damn well mind. I don't want to get infected! But I can't say that. It's my job to not say that. It's my job to nod and murmur, "Yes, Sir, right away," and then turn away and walk calmly to the door, unclasping my hands only at the last moment. Any sooner and I'd look desperate, like I'm already envisioning gripping the door handle and throwing the door open, leaping out into the corridor and turning left—toward the exit—instead of right—toward the lift.
No desperation here. Or rather, none permitted on the outside. I can feel as desperate as I like within, as long as I don't do anything with it.
Beyond bury it as far down as it will go.
Bury it, and forget it.
Forget about having any semblance of a life.
It's not my job to have a life.
It's my job to risk my life, every day of the week.
I punch the lift button for level 5 and wait, trying not to chew my lip hard enough to draw blood.
Not a good place to be.