3242 words (12 minute read)

Time line


33 years of age

Senior Emergency Room MD

11:00pm – 1:30am

Dr. Robinson had ordered the child to be sedated long before I reached the hospital.

Long before I had even been paged at eleven, that night the boy had been going into a downhill spiral. And as I read the reports I started to see that, almost before the strange parts came into play.

At 9:30pm on December 25, 2016 a young twelve-year-old boy had been found screaming in the backyard. Allegedly he had jumped from the one-story porch and thus had completely shattered both of his legs. The mother, Miss Thompson, had arrived at the ER as the first patient of the night that linked to the other patients, at around 10:00pm. The boy had been taken in almost immediately and was given Norco, a form of Vicodin. At that point Dr. Robinson had looked over X-rays and found something strange in the child’s spine.

I had to change reports at this moment to continue…

What Dr. Robinson had found was a liquid residing within the spine producing an insane number of electrons. This was then combining with the X-ray which explained why the patient had been screaming when the laser hit. At that point Dr. Robinson was going into the patient’s room, all the while other patients started to funnel in mass, and ask his deeper questions around 11:15pm right around the time I had arrived. At this point the boy began yelling and… levitating.

I had to search through the poorly scribbled notes, feeling like a detective as I pieced the puzzle together. Levitating? What do they mean levitating? Then I found it, a nurse’s page describing the situation on a crumpled sheet of paper.

This explained that Dr. Robinson had ordered her to record what was going on for me once I came in. The boy had started to float in the air all the while having a ferocious seizure spewing a strange discolored, but watered-down black liquid from his mouth and eyes. As recorded the liquid had practically sprayed out then stopped completely, to which the boy began screaming in pain. Security, Dr. Robinson, and several nurses, struggled to hold the child down into the bed just long enough to restrain him. It was noted that Miss Thompson was not in the room at this moment. For when she had come into the room she had attacked one of the security guards and was escorted out immediately by a police officer watching a patient down the hall.

The child was strapped to the bed, though still levitating it was found that his body was pulling too hard against the restraints. The evidence of that being that his arms and legs were dislocating from the pressure. So, Dr. Robinson chose to sedate the boy for his own safety.

“That’s it?”

Was all I could say.

And this is so fucked, was all I could think.

I had to return to protocol, when in doubt go to the books, that was the playbook. But what was the playbook for any of this? I had patients everywhere changing colors, breaking body parts internally, screaming and shutting down power in a multi room radius, and other problems I couldn’t even describe. The worst part was that it was all coming down at the exact same time, and it was only me. I was the only senior MD here, I was going to be expected to fix it.

“Timeline.” I said grabbing markers while moving to the whiteboard.

When in doubt, go to the basics. Timeline was always the starting point when in a possible contagion situation such as this. Gathering the basic data of who, when, what, where, and in what order was critical information for the CDC when they showed up. Which, as I looked out the window into the massive snow hurricane I realized, could take some serious time.

Who… What… And what order…

The first patient was the boy, Randel Thompson age eight, broken legs and levitating. The second was Eli Jones a forty-seven-year-old man weighing two-hundred and forty pounds, coming in the discolored eyes and scales growing over his body at a twelve-inch rate to every hour. Third was Alice Mitchell, twenty-seven years old weighing one hundred and thirty-two pounds who came in recently with her veins hanging from every open orifice on her body (eyes, fingernails, nose, mouth, ears, toes, cuts, areolas, and moles). Fourth was Scott Masson, thirty-three years old coming in with numerous seizures leaving his eyes flashing like a television screen. Then the young girl Rachel Forrest, nine years old, with every time she opens her mouth electronic equipment is shut down. The other patients as were vomiting strange neon colors, growing hair rapidly, breaking bones internally, and reporting to be “seeing” things were all coming in half as fast as my every marker swipe.

When… where…

These were all coming from a twenty-five-mile radius of the hospital itself. People were home from dinner with family, or a fun trip, or even sledding before they started having symptoms. But it was all jumbled. Scott Masson said he had just got home from his son and daughter in laws home when he started to feel sharp pain run up and down his spine. While Alice Mitchell didn’t feel any symptoms, it was her family who noticed and took her straight to the ER. Randel had fallen and broken his legs, not really having time to feel anything besides that. And Eli had been driving when his skin started to ache and burn. They all were at different times, most not even sure when the symptoms actually began.

The only thing that truly connected any of them besides the strangeness, was the pain.

Every single person was in excruciating amounts of pain.

I needed to get more information, to see these for myself. My timeline was started, but it needed a few more pieces, maybe there was just a little more that might paint something for me. So, I left my small corner office with a notepad and a cell-phone picture of my whiteboard and went straight to the young boy’s room 223.

With every step around the circular speedway acting as a highway from room to room I felt more and more panicked. The people were everywhere, at least fifteen outside of the rooms in the hallway. This place was completely packed. Staff coming in almost as much as the patients from all hospitals in the state to assist in the workload. It was getting way past capacity but there was no other way, this had to be contained by whatever means necessary.

Contain… that would be the first step, but nobody liked to talk about that.

“Miss Thompson?” I asked rapping on the wall lightly before cranking my neck around the curtain.

She looked up in a quick jerking motion with her face caked in tear-stricken make up. Her fingers quickly coming up to wipe them away as she sunk deeper into the crappy little chair at her son’s bedside. I moved in and towards the small roll-out seat.

“My name is Dr. Russo, I’ll be taking over for Dr. Robinson.” I began to explain, “I just need to… ask a couple questions just to help clear things up.” I rolled closer, “What exactly happened when everything started?”

She replies almost weakly, the exhaustion setting deeply in her lightly wrinkled face, “It was… it wasn’t that late. I had just sent him up to bed like an hour or so before… and I… I was talking on the phone with my sister cleaning up wrapping paper and dishes and stuff and… Then I heard this loud… THUD… and he started screaming from the backyard.” She takes a deep breath gripping her pants while closing her eyes, “I ran outside immediately…” Her eyes open again, “And he was lying on the ground with his legs bent in different angles. He was screaming and crying so I picked him up and we came straight here as fast as we could. Fast as the storm would let us and...”

“Did he at all say how he fell or why?” I question, writing my notes to add to my timeline.

“He said that he needed to try something and that he thought he could he do it.” Her face wraps itself in confusion, much like my own.

“Do what?”

She shrugs, then gives an almost panicked chuckle while wiping her eyes, “I have no idea. Anytime I tried to ask him or get any real information at all he… he would like lose himself in the pain. I was just trying to be a good mother and focus on getting him feeling better and stopping the pain but…”

“It’s alright, I understand. What happened once he was medicated?” I move deeper in, thinking only about the amount of time I’ll have to spend doing this.

“He had passed out twice before he even was able to get pain medication, I don’t know but Dr. Robinson was really… really hard to nail down. But… but once he did get medicine he seemed to be feeling better, dopey but better. He kept saying his back hurt from the laser but I didn’t pay close attention to that. I’m just, I’m just glad he’s actually feeling in his back.” She was calming down. To the point she was actually leaning back in her chair.

“Do you know anything about when he started to levitate?”

She took a moment.

“Well, I couldn’t see really anything when it first happened, Dr. Robinson made sure of that. But when I was finally allowed in all that I know was that he was floating against his restraints so… so hard that his shoulders and hips dislocated. The bones in his legs are heavily damaged from that because they, well they shifted in the splints and that he may have much more severe damage that could be permanent because of it. And now he’s sedated, because Dr. Robinson thinks that’s the only way to stop it.” She was starting to lose the sad feeling, and replace it with anger. I really, really needed to move on.

“I see, well. Miss Thompson, I can assure you that I am going to make this right and I’m going to help your son. No matter what it takes, he is going to be okay.” I’m hopefully not lying.

As I stand slowly I let her know that if she needs anything she can call one of the nurses and tell them to get me and I’ll come immediately. I also tell her a watered-down version of my plan to gather information from the other patients and work out the link. And I insure her again that I will find the solution. But as I’m turning and leaving the curtain she stops me…

“What is this?” Is her only question, but so much rides upon it.

I try to search for some type of bullshit explanation, anything that might make her feel better or even make me feel better. But I can only say, “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”

Then I’m back out into the mess. The people seeming even more frantic as the workload builds and the work team dwindles. I go straight to the board looking for the next patient room number after checking the picture on the phone. Eli Jones was in 226. I turn and move around, he’s just a few feet down before I’m over at his open curtain. His head comes up from his kneeling teenage daughter and gives a weak smile.

“Mr. Jones? My name is Dr. Russo I’ll be taking over for Dr. Robinson, how are you feeling?” I ask moving to the next identical rolling stool and sitting down.

“I’m… itchy, but okay.” He says nicely. Mr. Jones is tall and long black man, with graying hair on his head and face, looking like a sweet and caring father to a sweet family. His daughter and wife both move off to the side, nodding their heads to me.

“Itchy where?” I asked moving up closer.

“My back and my chest and…” He seems a bit embarrassed as he says, “and my groin area.”

“Could I see the scales Mr. Jones? The ones that have formed?” He nods and rolls to his side exposing his back. I see them and have to fight the urge to gasp. They look formed to his skin, like a perfect display of art from an expert artist. The color of his dark skin blending into the green which lifts the scales up from the flesh looking like the most common lizard at any pet-store. I touch them softly, and slowly, “Do you feel this?”

“Yes.” He responds.

I pinch him while saying, “and this?”

“Ah!” He yelps jumping forward, the mother and daughter snap their heads to me.

“I’m sorry,” I say rubbing his arm and guiding him back flat.

“Could you tell me what happened, from the start?” I ask.

“Well, I was driving home from the store cause we had ran out of milk and they wanted to make…” He snaps his fingers to his wife.

“Pie.” His wife responds.

“Yup, pie. And I… well I stopped at this gas station on the way back just to top of the tank, maybe grab a soda or something. And I got this drink there and got back on the road. I say I was probably driving for like ten, twenty minutes before my skin started to ache like a… like a bad sunburn kinda. Then it started getting deeper like muscle pain and so I ended up pulling over and it was burning hot. So I called Audrey and she told me to turn around and meet her at the hospital. And as I was driving I started getting this popping sounds comin’ from…” He points to his spine, “from my back. And once I got here I was getting out the car and I reached back to touch it and just… just see what that poppin’ sound was and… well, that’s how I found out about the scales. So, I came in and they had me wait for a while and Audrey and Sabrina came in. And they brought me back to this room and it… it spreads about every hour or so. I hear the popping.”

“The popping?” I ask looking then at his arms as he points to the various spots around his body where the scales have started surfacing.

“Yeah they make this popping sound like them… ah hell them…” He snaps his fingers again.

“Pop rocks dad.” Sabrina says.

He then nods and points to her, “yep that’s them.”

I again start examining the scales.

“And when they surface, are they small areas scattered around or one?”

“They start out like a raindrop and spread out like that. So, so at first its…” He tries to explain.

“I get it, um okay. Well is there anything else you feel beside that? Maybe any pain?” I try to find the connection between patients.

He pauses and looks to his family, Audrey nods.

Then he points to his mouth.

“Its my teeth.” He says. I feel them all note my face’s reaction as I’m leaning forward.

“Could I see them?” I ask, and he opens his mouth. I then, after gloving my left hand, spread his lips and examine his teeth, “Oh.” Is what comes from my mouth.

“What is it?” Audrey asks.

“Um, well your teeth are… not your teeth growing there are… there are…” I try to explain. Eli then closes his mouth slowly and looks down at me.

“What do you see?” He asks stonily.

I take a second, then give my answer.

“Your teeth are being punctured through by what appears to be, fang-like.” I say.

“Oh.” He responds looking to his family, “looks like raw steaks for me then baby.”

He gives a laugh, his daughter breaks after a moment chuckling herself. Audrey however just looks at me, waiting for the golden answer. I stand slowly and push the stool back under the desk. Then I give him my plan just like I did to Miss Thompson. I explain that I need to connect all the pieces, and that in doing that I can find something that may bring light on the solution. They ask me a few more questions about what’s going on, all I can do is fight to keep from telling anything that might scare them more. And as I’m leaving them I thank God that he’s there with them, just to make things easier.

I’m off to 225, Alice Mitchell.

And when I move past the curtain I’m shocked to see her sitting alone. Her long blonde hair lies completely splayed over the hospital pillow, and her eyes stay closed as the red and blue veins wriggle on her wet cheeks. She looks almost alien, as her ears and fingers, and toes have even longer ones moving around. It’s a spectacle to see, yet also a complete nightmare.

I come up slowly and open my mouth to speak…

“Miss Mitch…” Suddenly I’m grabbed by the veins like tentacles and thrown to the ground. My voice comes out gnarled and screeching as my body is slammed into the equipment. Then within seconds, her scream is all I can hear.

“GET OFF THEM! GET THE FUCK OFF THEM!” She screams over and over again. People rush through the curtain and grab me, pulling me free as the veins start to snap one by one. The blood squirting and spraying out till I hit the ground and push off and out into the hallway. Dr. Robinson pushes a nurse out of the room and closes the curtain behind him before kneeling down to me.

“Its okay. Its okay.” He says wiping off my face, “Just breath.”

I breath.

I breath and only breath, my mind almost completely blank.

My heart banging hard against my chest.

Then he says it.

“Time line right?” I look at him, “I tried that one too.”

Then he lifts up his hand.

And he’s missing three fingers…

Next Chapter: Prayer