It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

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.

Other nominees, who will probably show me up for the hack I am can be found at Barbados Butterfly, Bloodletting, The Cheerful Oncologist, The Examining Room Of Dr Charles, Simonscapes and Intueri.

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 Tokyo, but he'd given me the slip in the Odaiba district.  I'd traced him to Toronto where I saw him descending in a glass lift, unfortunately I was rising in the adjacent lift.

 

I’d finally nailed him tonight in New York.  I’d hit him with the car I was driving, but the crowd of people who appeared seemingly from nowhere stopped me from finishing the job.  He was wounded, probably soon to be dead, but I needed to be sure.

 

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.

23 thoughts on “It Was A Dark And Stormy Night”

  1. ((hugs batty)) there there dear its only a story….Gosh, was rather good though, Hope you do well with it. Could you do another version for us whimpy types where he escapes to wreak more joy and happiness?

  2. If you are interested, here is the longer first draft…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.

    Were 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 didnt 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. Of course, the thing that drew my eye was the tiny flakes of rust around one of the screws, force of habit I suppose. 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 Tokyo, but he'd given me the slip in the Odaiba district. I'd traced him to Toronto where I saw him descending in a glass lift, unfortunately I was rising in the adjacent lift.

    I finally nailed him last night in London. I was trying to find my way out of a one way system, it was cold and wet and dark, one of those awful cover versions of a Christmas song playing on the radio. I nearly drove past him, I didn't expect him to be just strolling down the street as if he were some anonymous member of humanity. He was crossing the street and hadn't noticed me bearing down on him at 50 mph, “I'm dreaming of a white Christmas” blaring out of the radio. He was halfway across the road when he realised that I was aiming the car at him. My headlights caught his face and I could see the look of shock on his face. For a brief second I saw what I took to be an expression of resignation pass over him.

    Then I struck him.

    I felt, rather than saw him, bounce over the car, but I heard him hitting the street behind me. Slamming on the brakes I brought the car to a halt. I needed to check my handiwork. After all I am a professional.

    I opened the door and stepped out into the night, lighting up a cigarette, one of the few pleasures I allow myself, and walked back to look at what was left of him. Already a crowd had gathered around him, an instant assessment and I could see that they weren't happy with me. Like I gave a damn. I could see him still moving, it wasn't the twitching I've seen that is the unconscious action of a dying brain. Nope, this one was trying to crawl away. I needed to finish him, and I needed to finish him quick. I watched the orange streetlight glint off my dagger as I pulled it from the sheathe.

    The crowd were starting to come towards me, angry voices telling me to stay where I was, that the police should be called, that an ambulance was already being called. This mob of angry people were going to get in the way, I didn't need any civilian deaths on my conscience. There was no way I would reach him now, it was on jobs like this that I swore, once more, that traditional methods be damned, next job I'm taking a pistol.

    “Fuck it”, I mumbled as I turned and jogged for my car. I still had time, and I knew that my target wouldn't be going too far.

    —–

    So I found myself in a prestigious 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 people, but it would be nice if just once in a while my target didn't make such a fuss. Thats 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 feel 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.

    “I'll give you one thing though, you lead me a merry dance. I haven't had such a chase since 1971 tried hiding out in a hippy commune”.

    I slipped the dagger under his breastbone into the heart.

    “Imagine what would happen if the Spirit of Christmas continued throughout the year? Imagine the uproar amongst the small gods? To each their own time, and then to return back to where you came. No shorter, no longer, the way it has been since humans first started revering the spirits”.

    I felt for a pulse, so weak…

    “I wish that goodwill for all men could last forever, but that's not what the rules say”.

    The pulse stopped.

    Suddenly the tinsel around the bed seemed to lose it's 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.

  3. I've read them all, and yours Mr. Reynolds, is by far the best. I was very cross with you as I like happy endings, but as you do so much good elsewhere in the world (well East London anyway) then I will forgive you the ending and still think you should win.Do you think William Hill or Ladbrokes will give me odds on you having a best seller in print in the next five years?

  4. I'm fairly sure it's William Hill who are more inclined to take “unusual” or personal bets – “I bet 50 my newborn son will be a professional footballer by the time he's 25” and that sort of thing.

  5. hehehe if the spirit stayed around all year no-one would accept it and whole crops would be wasted. thats why the matrix is imperfect because thats our perfect world. people are horrible people a lot.

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