27 years of age
Published Journalist working for NEWS 10
1:10:am – 2:25am
The first day on the job, they teach you three things. The first thing, being what Juice is. Juice, in the biz, is not a liquid beverage. Its the simple lingo code which lines every fabric of the industrial beast that is show biz. Juice is the goods, the quick relief and fast pleasure. It hits hard, gets the audience excited, but fades faster. That’s why its juice. That’s why you always start... with the juice.
The phone goes off at a little past midnight, the work phone.
God dammit, million dollars please be a million dollars. Is all I’m thinking as I roll over and squint at the little bright screen. It’s my boss Wendy, of course its Wendy why would it ever be anyone else, with a text message. I open the message and it reads…
“ST. WALLACE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM go now!”
I don’t even attempt to argue, all I’m hoping is that she lets me go home at ten today because of this. I get dressed, wash my hair in the sink, fasten a shitty tie, and kiss Rebecca goodbye. Then I’m out the door in my freezing Chrysler Lebaron hoping the defroster works fast.
St. Wallace is far. At least a twenty-minute drive from my home, but with the billowing snow you can easily chalk that up to forty-five minutes. There’s no traffic and no cops on the main roads. I’m texting Scott, my photographer, and of course he’s not answering. Unlike me he’s smart and turns his phone off. So I drop my phone in the passenger seat and turn up the radio. My station, the pop station, is having some crappy talk show about Women’s hair products as they try to pitch their “movement for awareness” to absolutely no body. My second in line is the same thing, only this one is a guy as well whose making false attempts at backing up the women’s statements with poor facts. My mood goes downhill quickly, soon I’m cursing under my breath and even sooner I’m snapping at the McDonald’s drive thru teenager that it’s a McCafe Large Hot not McCafe Large Iced.
I’m back on the road within a few minutes sipping my smoldering beverage when the hospital comes into view. The thick billowing waves of snow and ice had blocked off the upper sections of the building, the lower being illuminated by bright lights. I turn through the roundabout after the main road intersection and pull down the winding path towards the ER.
I start to peak interest only when I find myself having to drive in the center of the road to avoid the parked cars on either side. The place is completely packed, people walking around some even waiting in their cars. I see a mother on the cell phone walking out in the blizzard wearing her “FALL RISK” bracelet, her other hand holding herself up on each vehicle. Then as I get to the express lane and force the car to stop in the blockage I see the plethora of bodies packed into the entrance room. Yet still there’s at least five people stuck outside in the cold.
All I can think is, alright Wendy looks like you got me. Before I turn off my car and jump out with my notebook.
I’m forced to take a STAFF ONLY door off to the side, moving my way quickly and as quietly as I can muster before breaking out into the inner portions of the ER. The circular rooms reminding almost anyone of the interior space ship in the movie ALIEN only assist a raise in heartbeats as people scream from the patient rooms. I have my pad out and I’m writing, writing so fast it hurts my frozen fingers, but then I start to slow when I notice it. Absolutely no one is paying attention to the strange man in a tan coat writing everything he sees on a brown pad. In fact, I am eventually shoved and pressured off to the side by frantic nurses and ER staff. They all try to stay calm, speaking quietly, but their bodies scream and panic. It’s a hustling bustling room of organized terror as whatever happened to all these people frightens every doctor in the room. I watch them, gray hair and old eyes floating affront computers within two inches from each other. The nurses trying to communicate with them being completely and totally ignored as they type violently to whomever they think can save the day.
Suddenly, I start to hear the patients more clearly. Most scream in pain, crying out that they are burning or their bones are breaking or they can’t feel certain limbs. Others vomiting, gurgling, even coughing out wet splatters of presumably blood. A few have seizures in their beds, shaking the plastic hard and fast as their bodies fight the restraints holding them in.
They pull in a girl on a stretcher, two fire fighters with wide eyes and pale faces. Moving directly in front of me one man looks dead in my eyes.
“Are you a doctor!” he yells.
I shake my head and he starts yelling for a doctor. No one is listening, one of the loudest voices in the room is not any more noticeable than the quietest mouse. He then grabs a male nurse and the man snaps on him.
“DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME! DO NOT FUCKING TOUCH ME!” He screams into his face throwing him back. His large pack then hits the young girl in the face. Her hand comes up to her cheek as he pushes himself off her and she screams this electric, static scream.
The lights go fucking wild. Everything tuning in and out, the monitors shutting off and even frying. As everyone including myself grabs their ears, the other firefighter lunges forward grabbing hers. She stops as his hands touch, and like an off button she passes out. The man then looks up to an older gentleman across the room.
“We need a god damn doctor…. Now.” He says softly.
The monitors come back on and alarms explode noise all over the room. Now it becomes a frenzy as everyone yells at each other and rushes to fix the problem. Doctors in bulk move over to the little girl helping to guide her over to a room. They pull out the original patient, a man covered in massive oozing blisters and set him off to the side. He sobs while they shut the curtain.
“I’m Police Office Harker! Do you hear me! My name is Officer Harker! What the hell just happened! HEY!” An officer, older around his late thirties with a short-cropped beard and decently grown blonde hair, and a large 6-foot-tall stock body, storms around trying to get some form of control. His eyes a dark green scatter around the room and lock onto mine, the only eyes looking back at him.
He then points to me and motions me towards him.
I find myself walking without giving my legs the command to do so.
Once I get within reach of him I am taken into reality by his grip on my arm. Before I know it we’re off to the side in an open supply closet.
“What the hell just happened to the lights doc?” He asked frantic. His eyes are red around the edges, a little bloodshot. His breath hot and stinky, and his body shaking ever so slightly as the fear or adrenaline or both coursed through his veins.
“Doc? I’m not a doc, I’m a journalist for News 10 I…” I start to explain myself, my eyes shifting at the movement to my left as the people rush by like white and blue colored blood cells.
“Oh jesus.” He says starting to turn away.
I grab him.
“Wait! Wait!” He stops for a moment, so I let my journalist mouth do the talking and reel him in, “listen pal, I understand. I’m in the same god damn place as you, I have no clue what the hell is going on around here but I got orders and I gotta figure it all out. And if I don’t… it’s my freakin’ ass.”
The officer gives me a look up and down, then takes a deep breath.
“Alright. What do you know?” He asks.
“I need some collateral first.” I make my demand.
He scoffs, “collateral. Guy are you serious?”
“If you can’t agree to work with me, information for information, then I can’t give you shit. Next thing I know I’m gonna be out in the street with you ordering me to stay on my side of the yellow tape far from the shit. I need the shit. Otherwise I’m in trouble.” I make my stand, he notes I won’t budge on it.
“Fine, I give you my word that no matter what, you can stay in the vicinity and get whatever information you want with regards to staying out of my way.” He gives his agreement at the tip of his waving finger affront serious eyes.
“You prepared to put that in writing Officer… Harker?”
He leans in close, “That is me putting it in writing. Now what… the fuck… do you know?”
That’s... the juice.