Paging Dr. Clooney
The hospital on a Thursday night in sleeply little Cognerville wasn’t exactly hopping. At sixty miles outside of Seattle, they avoided most of the big city problems and excitements. Honestly, the biggest news here was a cow roaming off or a drunken pushing match at the Ripe Apple Bar on Main Street.
Dr. Brandon Hudson hadn’t meant to land here. He’d had the same “ER” or “Gray’s Anatomy” kind of dreams as anyone else in medical school. He’d always seen himself as the McHottie kind of guy nurses and hot female doctors would drool over.
But shit happened. Now he was working in this small town both as a General Practitioner and trading off with another local doctor in the ER three nights a week. That was something a little closer to the whole fantasy. Because the new doctor in town was… well, she was kinda hot. Dr. Sadie Ryan. Hot.
He blinked as the doors to the ER opened and a man and woman entered. The man had a cloth wrapped around his hand and there was blood spotted on the white fabric. Brandon had been leaning against the nurse’s station desk in the back part of the ER and straightened up.
He met the eyes of the nurse behind the desk as the couple moved to the admitting desk.
“Drunken fight or accident while remodeling?” Frannie, the head nurse asked. “Want to place bets?”
Brandon grinned. This was a little game they played since life was so slow here in Cognerville. He liked Frannie. She’d been a nurse in town for twenty years and she knew everyone and everything!
“I’ll take remodeling,” he said as he leaned back to look through the window pass-through to the waiting area of the little ER. The couple was talking calmly to Marsha, the admitting admin. “They look pretty grown-up and stuff.”
“Yes, we have a lot of ‘grown-ups’ right here,” Frannie said with a roll of her eyes. “I’ll get a room prepped.”
He grinned as she walked off to do that. He checked his watch. In about an hour, he’d get to go home and they’d just page him if anyone else rolled in. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time, he didn’t have to come. And he was ready to go home, watch a pre-season game of football and call it a night with the dog.
Exciting times, man.
He sighed as he signed a couple of papers from earlier in the day. The couple walked past the nurse’s desk with the admitting admin and into the room that Frannie was setting up. He’d give her a minute to get the vitals and info and then join them to stitch the injury (and to figure out if he’d won the bet with Frannie).
He moved toward admitting to gather a pen for his pocket when the doors to the emergency room burst open again. A woman carrying a child burst through and collapsed onto the cracked linoleum.
Brandon bolted into the front area and around the desk.
“Help,” the woman called as he ran to her, crouching down beside her. “Help us, please.”
“I’m Dr. Hudson,” Brandon said as he urged her to lay the child, a little girl, down on the floor. Her face was pale, her lips almost gray and she was shivering even though the August night was warm. “What happened?”
“She was playing out in the yard. This man just rushed up out of nowhere and he… he bit her.”
Brandon’s eyes went wide, though he had been trained too well to react more than that. “Bit her? Where?”
The woman sobbed as she pulled the child’s sleeve up to reveal a huge, ragged gash.
“Frannie!” Brandon called out at the top of his lungs. “Frannie, get in here!”
The nurse shuffled through the door. “Okay, okay, I’m-” She stopped as she saw what he was dealing with and then grabbed the nearest gurney. She rushed toward him and helped Brandon get the little girl onto it.
“Bitten by a vagrant,” he explained, but before he could say more, the doors to the emergency room flew open again. This time a man dragged in. Literally. He was dragging his leg behind him and moaning up a storm about being hit or hurt.
“Marsha!” Brandon called as they burst through the swinging doors into the treatment area. “Get out there. And call Dr. Ryan in.”
Marsha bolted out of the room where their first patients of the night had been placed, questions on her vapid, empty face. She was a nice woman, but dumb as a pile of bricks. “Dr. Ryan? She’s not on call.”
“She is now. We have some kind of situation on our hands and we’re going to need help,” Brandon barked. “Do it.”
Marsha nodded and rushed to her desk while Brandon hustled the little girl and her mother into a treatment area. They moved the child onto a more comfortable bed and Brandon scrubbed and gloved quickly while Frannie began prepping instruments.
“What’s the little girl’s name?” she asked.
The mother smoothed the child’s dark hair away from her forehead and stammered, “J-Julia.”
Brandon sat down and began to examine the wound. He was troubled by how deep and ragged it was. Also by the fact that the little girl hardly reacted as he probed it with a fingertip. She should have been screaming bloody murder, but she was probably in shock.
“Does she have any allergies?” he asked.
“No. Nothing,” the mother said, her voice stronger as she moved into Mommy Mode and out of shock, herself.
“Frannie, start pushing fluids and let’s start her on antibiotic for the wound,” he said.
Of course, she was already ahead of him, prepping the IV and placing it. Damn, but she was good at that. Always so gentle about it, she hardly ever had a complaint.
Meanwhile, she handed him a syringe of sterile water, which he used to flood and clean the wound. He kept watching the child, Julia, for her to react to the pain, react to the fear. Nothing.
“Hook her up to a heart monitor,” he ordered as he looked at the skin. “And call in for Seattle, I think they may have to do a graft. There’s too much skin missing.”
Frannie’s gaze slipped briefly to the wound and he saw a flutter of emotion there, but then she was back to business. “I’ll do that.”
She stepped from the room to get the equipment and to make the call for transfer. He drew in a quick breath and smiled at the mother.
“She’s going to be fine.”
The woman’s eyes were filled with tears, but she nodded.
“What’s your name?” he asked, turning back to the wound and doing what he could to minimize the damage before he dressed it in preparation for the girl’s transfer.
“Becky,” the mother whispered.
“So someone came into your yard and attacked the girl,” he said so she wouldn’t have to repeat it. She nodded and he continued, “Did you call 911?”
She bit back a sob. “Yes, but we live outside of town. It’s faster to drive ourselves than wait for an ambulance, you know how it is, doctor.”
“They said they’d send someone out to look for the attacker and the sheriff would come here to talk to me.”
Brandon looked over his shoulder. Where was Frannie?
“Okay, Becky I’m going to go check on something.”
He touched her arm. “I’ll come back, I swear.”
She met his eyes and then nodded. “Okay. Okay.”
He moved out of the room and as he pulled the curtain behind him, he skidded to a stop. From the hall, he could see at least twenty people in the waiting room. Even more had been moved to the back and there was crying and moaning from the rooms around him. Frannie was yelling into the phone at the nurse’s station.
“What the hell are you talking about?” she screamed. “You’ve got to be kidd-” Her lips pursed and she slammed the phone down. Looking up, she saw him there and shook her head. “Something is happening.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Something in Seattle, something, I don’t know. Nothing they’re saying is making sense.”
There was a television mounted over the nurse’s station and she clicked it on. They both looked up and Brandon felt his face fall. There were images on the television that he couldn’t believe were real. Images that fit in an action movie, not a television screen with a CNN logo in the corner. People in the streets attacking each other, reporters running screaming from rabid men and women.
“What the hell?” Frannie whispered.
He shook his head. “Go in and take care of that kid,” he said. “Is Sadie here yet?”
He turned as Sadie pushing through the swinging doors. She was wearing a hoodie over a white t-shirt and grey scrubs. Her red hair was swept back in a sleek ponytail, she wasn’t wearing makeup. She was hot.
But that wasn’t important.
“What is going on? Why do we have thirty people in our waiting room?” she asked as she scrubbed up in the hallway sink and pulled on gloves.
He grabbed her by the shoulders and dragged her over to look up at the television screen.
“Does it say Zombies in Seattle on that graphic?” she asked, her tone very flat.
He nodded. “It appears so.”
“Is it a joke?” she asked, looking up at him.
He sighed. “There are thirty people in our waiting room. What do you think?”
“Right. Okay, I assume you’ve got Room 1, so I’ll take Room 2.”
She patted his arm and took off into the second room where their first patient of the night had gone over half an hour before.
Brandon grabbed the heart monitor from the hall and wheeled it back to Room 1 where Becky and Julia were waiting. He wanted to feel better now that Sadie was here to help. He didn’t. Shit was hitting the fan and there were two of them in a hospital while the television was talking about zombies.
He returned to the room and found Becky was draped over the bed, sobbing hysterically as she stroked Julia’s hair. He let go of the monitor and rushed over.
“What is it?”
She lifted her head. “She’s dead. She died,” she sobbed. “She just stopped breathing.”
He shoved the mother out of the way and started compressions on the little girl’s chest. He was about to lean forward and start giving oxygen when her eyes flew open. They were almost black the pupils were so dilated.
“Oh shit,” he muttered, thinking of the television. Thinking of every zombie movie he’d ever watched. This was the part where things got really shitty, right?
She growled and lunged at him. Out of instinct, he flailed back, hitting the counter and sending gauze orange liquid from an iodine bottle everywhere.
“She’s alive!” Becky sobbed.
“Stay away from her,” Brandon warned, reaching for her.
She shook him off and flopped her body over her daughter’s. “Julia! Julia! Jul-” her joyful cries suddenly dissolved into screams of horror as her little girl grabbed her mother’s hair and sank her teeth deep into Becky’s throat. Blood spurted everywhere, mixing with the spilled iodine.
The ‘first do no harm’ doctor in Brandon told him to help. To save. But the guy who watched zombie movies inside of him told him something different.
He backed out of the room, leaving Julia to devour her mother and bumped into Sadie. He jerked toward her. “We have a problem,” he whispered.
She motioned toward the entrance to the emergency room. “You think?”
He followed her motion and nearly screamed out loud. Out in the waiting room it was utter chaos. People were attacking other people, fighting, screaming, eating the bodies of the dead and even re-animating.
“Yeah, that’s a problem,” he said. “Where’s Frannie?”
Sadie’s eyes welled with tears and she pointed out into the entryway again. Frannie was roaming around in a circle, skin grey, arm hanging useless at her side. She was a zombie.
“And Marsha?” he asked, almost not wanting to know where the admissions admin was.
“She bolted about three minutes ago,” Sadie said. She grabbed his arm and dragged him to the supply closet. She dug through the supplies and tossed him a heavy metal rod that was part of a bed. She took the fire extinguisher and turned toward him.
“Personally, I’ve watched enough zombie movies to know that Marsha’s got it right. If what’s on TV is true, and it’s pretty obvious that it is, then we’ve got to run.”
Brandon took a breath. “We’re doctors.”
“And we can help people who aren’t turning into zombies and eating each other.” She shook her head. “Trust me, I bet there are people out there who’ll need us. Are you in?”
Brandon stared at her for a moment. “You know, I have wanted to ask you out since you moved here.”
Her brow wrinkled. “Um, are you doing this now?”
“Yeah, we’re probably going to die.”
She seemed to think about that for a minute, then shrugged. “Okay. If we live, you can buy me dinner.”
“Great.” He sighed. “So I guess let’s go.”
With a grunt, she kicked the swinging door out into the lobby and they began to run.
Pre-Order Club Monstrosity (April 30, 2013)
Copyright Jesse Petersen 2012
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