Authors: Matthew Kinney,Lesa Anders
Eric turned around, thinking of his training. He knew the first step was to gain control of
the situation. The color drained from his face as he saw a man in a
blood-stained gown hunched over what was left of an obviously dead body. The
chest cavity was filleted to expose an array of organs and a look of horror was
chiseled into the man’s dead face. Eric let out a gasp, which caused the
patient to turn toward him, holding a mostly-eaten heart cupped in his
gore-covered hands. Reaching for his radio to call for backup, Eric tried to
speak, but he could only squeak out, “Mayday, Mayday!”
The macabre sight mixed with the putrid stench of punctured intestines made the mixture of
pancakes, soda, and chocolate begin to churn in his stomach. He shot for the door
and opened it just in time to spew the contents of his guts onto a very surprised Keith.
“Shit, man!” Keith said, stepping back quickly.
Eric collapsed into a fetal position in the hall and started to whimper.
“So, I take it everything is under control in there?” Keith asked, unable to keep the sarcasm
out of his voice. “You’ve got the situation handled, Wapowski?”
Eric couldn’t respond. He lay curled on the floor, sobbing.
Keith was doing his best to appear calm, but it took most of his effort. He’d had patients do
some strange things before, but what was happening inside the room was almost
beyond comprehension. He stepped over the prone guard to look inside the room
again. The patient seemed to lose interest in his meal as his eyes lit on
Keith. Stuffing the last bit of heart into his mouth, the man got to his feet,
shuffling slowly toward the door as a low moan rose from his throat.
Keith had seen his share of violence over the years, both in the ER and during his time in
Iraq. He’d seen enough to give him nightmares for the rest of his life, but
never, ever had he seen anything like this. When the man in the bloodied blue
gown shoved a chair aside and kept on coming for the door, Keith quickly pulled
it closed, yelling for help.
“Come on, Wapowski! Give me a hand!”
The victim’s wife chose that moment to show up again and immediately asked about her husband.
“Just a moment, Ma’am,” Keith said. He reached down and picked up the radio that had been
dropped. When the pounding started on the other side of the door, he grabbed
the handle and pulled it to keep it closed from the outside. Keeping one hand
on the door handle, he looked the radio over, punching a couple different
buttons until he got the right one.
“This is Keith Corbin,” he said quickly into the radio as he continued to hold the door shut. “We
need some backup here on the third floor, room 329, stat, code blue, hurry.”
He tossed the radio to the security guard, who didn’t even make an attempt to catch it. The
man on the other side of the door didn’t seem to be trying to open it; instead
he just kept pounding but Keith didn’t want to take a chance so he held the handle tightly with both hands.
“But my husband is in there,” the woman began again.
“Ma’am, the patient inside is violent and we can’t let him out until we get more help,”
Keith said, trying to be heard over the loud pounding on the door.
“But my husband is in there with him!”
“I know and we’ll do what we can as soon as help arrives,” Keith said, not sure how much to
Jack’s voice came over the radio, snapping Eric out of his haze.
“Eric? Are you anywhere near the third floor? I got a call from Keith in 329. We need to check
it out, but I’m still a few minutes from getting there.”
The sight of Keith holding the door gave Eric some comfort. Taking a couple calming breaths,
he grabbed the radio and answered, “I’m there now. I’ve got the situation under
control, but we could use some backup, just in case.”
“You do?” Keith looked at him in disbelief.
Eric looked at the confused old lady, who kept asking about her husband, then at Keith.
Standing up on wobbly knees, he said, “My blood sugar is acting up. If I don’t
get to the nurses’ station, I could go into a coma.”
He turned and ran down the hall.
“What the hell?” Keith said, watching the guard take off at a run. It was the fastest Keith
had ever seen him move. “Hey! Hey! Get back here, Wapowski!”
“Perhaps I should go in and check on my husband,” the woman said, stepping closer to the
door. “It sounds as though he wants out.”
“Ma’am, you do not want to go into that room right now,” Keith said. “It’s dangerous. I would
appreciate it if you could go find that fat security guard and tell him to get
back here. Better yet, find a different security guard.”
Eric reached the nurses’ station at about the same time as Jack.
“Eric, do you mind telling me what the . . .”
Eric interrupted his boss. “We’ve got a 1327, Jack, in room 325,” he said, forgetting the room number.
Jack looked perplexed. “1327? What the hell is a 1327?”
Eric smiled at the nurse. “Very few people know that a 1327 . . .”
“Get to the point, Eric!” Jack yelled.
“Cannibalism,” Eric answered sheepishly.
“Let’s go,” Jack demanded as he started toward the room. He turned to see that Eric wasn’t in
tow. “You coming?”
“Blood sugar has me on the edge of a coma, boss. Already had one seizure. It’s all right. I
locked the perp in his room and I have that male nurse guarding the door.”
“I don’t have time for this,” Jack waved him off in disgust and ran down the hall, passing
the old lady along the way.
The old woman approached Eric and started to address him.
Eric pointed to Jack. “You’d better follow him.”
She watched Jack disappear around the corner and turned to scowl at Eric. “I’m going to sue
everyone in this hospital,” she said, turning to follow Jack.
Eric leaned on the counter and addressed the nurse. “I guess we’d better take care of me now,
Keith was relieved to see Jack come around the corner.
“Jack, we’ve got some major shit going down here,” he said, explaining everything that had
happened, or at least as much as he knew about it.
The pounding started again, the door shaking each time it happened. Moans could now be heard
on the other side and Keith could swear there were two different voices.
“How do you want to do this?” he asked. “I can open the door and let him out but it may take a
few men to restrain him. The guy must be on something. Do you have more guards that can be called in? I mean real guards, not Wapowski.”
Back at the nurses’ station, Eric winced as the nurse pressed the glucose meter to his arm.
“That always gets me a little,” Eric admitted. “A doctor once told me that I must have more
pain receptors than the average human. It’s not like I’m like a wimp, or anything.”
The nurse paused her activities and stared for a second at the ceiling. “This isn’t one of those
meters, Eric. It barely breaks the skin.”
Eric quickly changed the subject.
“Yeah, I think your male nurse peed himself back there. Can’t blame him though, I haven’t seen
crap that nasty since Panama.” Eric leaned back and folded his hands behind his
head. “I was on the team chasing Batista when . . .”
The nurse interrupted him, “Noriega.”
“Huh?” Eric looked confused.
“Batista was in Cuba, you putz and your glucose level is fine.”
Eric let out a nervous chuckle.
“Yeah but we’re the ones that chased him to Cuba! Guess I’d better check on my men.”
He rubbed his arm and started down the hall, stopping at the vending machine, hoping to give
Jack and Keith a little more time to get things under control.
“You think I’d be working Wapowski if I had someone else?” Jack shot back.
“Good point,” Keith said.
“Sorry,” Jack said with a sigh. “Juarez got mugged or attacked or something on the way to
work today and called in. I’ve been running my ass off on calls all morning and
Wapowski is busy buying candy and flirting with the nurses. I think I’ve had
twenty calls this morning already and the day’s barely started.”
“This isn’t going to make it any better, I’m afraid,” Keith said, nodding toward the door.
The door shook along with the pounding, letting the two men know that the patient on the other
side wasn’t calming down at all.
“I’ll go find someone to help,” Jack said.
As he disappeared, the old lady rounded the corner again, panting from her brisk walk
down the hall. The pounding had stopped for the moment, so Keith turned toward
the woman, intending to send her to the waiting area.
“Ma’am, please,” he started.
“I’m going to see my husband and you clowns aren’t going to stop me!” she said, trying to
squeeze her way between Keith and the door.
“Ma’am, the man that attacked your husband is dangerous. I can’t let you go in,” Keith said,
blocking her from entering the room.
She swung her purse at his groin with all her strength.
Keith instinctively let go of the door handle and doubled over in pain,
wondering if the woman carried lead weights in her purse. While he had his
eyes closed, trying to catch his breath, she slipped past him, shoving the door open.
“No!” Keith said through clenched teeth, straightening up again as he limped into the room. The
patient was now crawling across the floor, covered in blood and gore, and the
body that had been on the floor had disappeared. Keith stared for a moment
until the truth of what he was seeing finally hit him. The crawler wasn’t the
patient. It was the woman’s husband. The fact that the man was missing several
body parts including at least one vital organ didn’t slow him down much.
“What did they do to you?” the woman yelled as she made her way over to her husband.
Keith stepped toward them but he suddenly found his path blocked. The patient lurched toward Keith with a loud moan.
“Lady, get out of the room!” Keith yelled as he backed his way into the hall toward a supply
cart with the patient following. He grabbed a pile of gauze bandages, wrappings
and all, and stuffed them into the man’s mouth, careful to avoid the chomping
teeth. Struggling to hold his attacker back as he tore off some tape, he
managed to get it wrapped it around the patient’s head to hold the gauze in place.
Eric sauntered down the hall with a soda in hand. He hesitated when he saw that the door was
open and Keith was trying to restrain the patient in the hall. He could also
hear some sort of commotion coming from the room.
“Everything okay now?”
As Keith struggled to hold the squirming patient against the wall, a shriek from inside
the room told him that the woman had reunited with her husband.
“Yeah, Eric, everything’s great!” Keith told him through gritted teeth. He pulled some more
tape out and wrapped it around the struggling man to restrain him.
“Why don’t you see if that old woman is all right? She went back into the room to check on her
husband. He’s moving around in there, missing heart and all.” He looked at the
tape-wrapped patient and tried to figure out what to do with him.
Eric turned to run, but Keith growled, “Don’t even think about it.”
The security guard reached into his pocket and pulled out a can of pepper spray and
cautiously entered the room. The gutted man that had once been the woman’s
husband had somehow pulled himself up to a standing position. The old lady’s
arm was in his mouth and she was trying in vain to remove it, hitting what was
left of her husband on the head with her purse. Eric lifted the canister toward
the man, closed his eyes, and sprayed. His aim was a little off and he managed
to squirt the old lady directly in the face, which, not surprisingly, gave her
the motivation to jerk her arm loose from the mouth of her husband. Before Eric
could adjust his aim, the half-eaten man turned and lunged at him. In an
instant, the old man’s mouth was firmly clamped onto Eric’s throat.
Jack and a male CNA arrived to see the man gnawing on Eric’s neck and to hear Eric’s
bloodcurdling screams. They pulled the man off and promptly cuffed him,
avoiding his snapping jaws. The CNA held him to the ground, with a knee to the back, as Jack checked on Eric.
Keith left the taped-up patient in the hallway and returned to the room.
“Eric!” Jack shouted. “How bad are you hurt?”
“He tore my jugular out!” the guard moaned.
Jack checked Eric’s throat. “There’s some blood, but I don’t see a puncture.”
“I think I can explain that,” the CNA said, pointing at the set of dentures embedded in the
old lady’s arm.
Keith swore quietly when he realized that the guard’s throat hadn’t been ripped out. He
turned to check on the old woman. Considering that the teeth weren’t real, they
had still broken the skin and had done some serious damage. He pulled the dentures loose
and cleaned the wound before applying some gauze and a bandage to the bite.
“Ma’am, you’re going to need stitches,” he told her.
Eric stood up, revealing a wet spot in his crotch.
“Take her down to emergency, Eric,” Jack ordered, reasoning they’d be safer with Wapowski out
of the way. “We’ve got our hands full here. And don’t let her leave your sight!”
Keith lowered his voice and told the guard, “You need to hurry. She’s bleeding badly. Don’t
forget to use a wheelchair.”
Across the room, the CNA started to pull the cuffed man to his feet and finally got a close look
at him for the first time. He let go and backed away quickly, eyes darting up
and down as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. The cloudy white eyes
looked like they belonged to a corpse and the man’s torso appeared to be almost
hollow. The flesh was missing from his ribs and beyond it was a dark void.
“How can he be alive?” the CNA asked, the words coming out in a panicked rush.