I’ve been nominated for two awards in the 2005 Medgadget Medical Blog awards. Go figure. So the other nominees in the Literary award decided that we should all write something interesting. My arm was twisted and I agreed. We were given the first section of the story, and had to continue it in under 999 words, and had to contain at least one lyric from a Christmas song.
I wrote my story, counted my words and found that I’d brought the word count up to 1,425. A bit too long. So what you see here is the edited version. I’ll stick my first draft in the comments of this post.
And no, I have no idea what I’m doing in a Literary award either.
It was a dark and stormy night.
I struck the match and the flame burst into bright orange-blue life. It danced on the end of the matchstick as it neared the ragged edge of the cigarette dangling between my chapped lips. Soon, the smoke that lazily trailed from the glowing end of the cancer stick filled the entire elevator. My fingers plucked it from my mouth and I exhaled, mindlessly watching the plume of wispy grey ash travel towards the cylindrical fluorescent bulb that poured antiseptic yellow light onto us.
The elevator ungracefully jolted to a halt and the doors swished open. The man with a goatee in a long white coat and black patent leather shoes shot me a dirty look as he stepped off.
“We’re in an elevator in a hospital,” he derisively muttered, enunciating “hospital” as if he was introducing a new word into my vocabulary. “What kind of idiot smokes in the hospital?”
The elevator doors swished shut, but not before he noticed the solitary third finger of my right hand poised in the air. At him.
He looked offended. I didn’t care.
The elevator lurched back into motion as I chuckled to myself. His expression was certainly more amusing than the duties that awaited me.
Reluctant to acknowledge that I was near my destination, my tired fingers apathetically dropped the cigarette and I watched the sole of my left shoe squash it, along with its orange flame.
The elevators doors swished open. I then looked up.
Before me was one of those hospital signs, arrows pointing in different directions, leading the sick, the dying and the hopeful to their often final places of rest. Turning left I stalked towards the intensive care unit.
My quarry had led me on a merry dance this year, I'd chased him through
I’d finally nailed him tonight in
So I found myself in the hospital, charming the receptionist into telling me that their only trauma case was indeed still alive, and had been taken to intensive care. It was nearly midnight, so gaining access to ITU would be a little trickier than I would have hoped. Sometimes my job is just an absolute nightmare, I mean, what kind of psycho enjoys killing things? Still it would be nice if just for once my target didn't make such a fuss. That’s the problem, none of them want to 'go gentle into that good night'. But they all die, eventually.
I pushed open the door to the ITU, ignoring the 'All visitors must remove their coats' sign with '…even doctors' scrawled underneath it. The lights were dim, and I could see two people in scrubs sitting at the nurses station, faces cast in sickly screen from the numerous monitors positioned there. Somewhere a radio quietly droned, “Silent night, Holy night. All was still, all was quiet…”.
“Detective Alan Trophos”, I whispered putting on my best 'I'm the authority figure here' expression, “I understand you have a patient hit by a car tonight?”.
“Bed four”, replied the plump woman reading a frayed paperback book, “but he's sedated and intubated, you won't be able to talk to him”.
“The body”, I replied with a grin, “can give evidence without speaking”. I lifted up what I hoped looked like the sort of suitcase that detectives use to gather forensic evidence.
“I'll just need a few moments alone with him. Nail scrapings, that sort of thing”, I smiled what I hoped was my best attempt at flirting.
“Go right ahead”, the other woman said, “He won't mind, and he'll probably be dead by tomorrow”.
I crept past the two women, the ITU seemed to inspire me into the same silent reverence that churches do. The desire to speak only in a whisper and to walk softly was a strong one. I pulled the curtains around bed floor and finally took a long look at my quarry. I pulled over a plastic chair and took hold of his hand.
“I know you can't hear me”, I whispered, barely above the sound of the machine that was breathing for him, “but I'm hoping you can <i>feel</i> me”.
Was that a flicker under the taped closed eyes?
“Your time is limited”, I continued, “we can't leave you floating around like a loose end. You are put here to do your job, and then leave. Much like me”.
The machine kept up the steady rhythm, breathing in, breathing out, keeping the oxygen passing into the lungs, keeping the body alive.
“That's why they have me, someone to make sure that you don't run on past your time. In a year I'll come for your successor, and the year after, and the year after that, as I have since they started worshipping you”.
I turned off the monitoring machine, I didn't need any alarms going off.
“Imagine what would happen if the Spirit of Christmas continued throughout the year? Imagine humans being nice to each other all year round? The Gods of Strife would have a fit. A couple of days a year, that’s the deal”.
I slipped the dagger under his breastbone into the heart.
“I wish that goodwill for all men could last forever, but that's not what The Rules say”.
I felt for a pulse, so weak…
The pulse stopped.
Suddenly the tinsel around the bed seemed to lose the glitter, the radio started playing an R&B number, and far away I heard a clock strike midnight. Midnight of Christmas day.
Christmas was over.
Yes, I know, I’m sorry, but I don’t ‘do’ fiction.