The Malevolent One – Part Five
Serial Fiction Story
Joe sat chained to his hospital bed. His wrist already beginning to chafe against the plastic zip tie that held his stiff body in the bed. When the alarm first went off he made a desperate attempt to escape; he thought that with all of the confusion no one would care to notice one kid shuffling through the corridors and leaving out the front entrance. But he didn’t get nearly as far as he expected to — the moment he left his bed, he came crashing to the floor in agony. Even Joe was smart enough to realize he wouldn’t leave the hospital on his two legs but he wasn’t about to quit.
He only got to the doorway when a well-meaning nurse with a hideous face nearly crushed his face against the tile. She motioned to others around them and picked up his fragile body and put him back lying on his uncomfortable hospital bed. The nurse explained to the then nearly delirious Joe as to why they had to chain him down.
“For your own safety,” she said. “There’s a lot of commotion going on. We can’t afford you to be crushed trying to get away. We’re working to get everyone to safety; the shuttle buses are on their way. You’re too hurt to be walking around on your own — even if you avoided everyone’s feet, how do you expect to make it down the stairs? The elevator is all dead — actually, the entire city block is dead. What do you plan on doing? You want to fling yourself down the stairs? Because, buddy, I’ll tell you what, that wouldn’t end well for you and it would mean extra work for me; we already have enough injured as is. We can’t afford to care for any more patients. And anyway, you’re obviously emotionally drained about right now considering what happened to your dad and all. Listen, I’ll come back for you; we just have to get some of the more in need patients out before anybody else. With those broken ribs of yours you should be around the end of the list to get on the buses.”
They never came back for him.
Joe was forced into isolation all alone the only form of entertainment was listening to the ringing alarm and watching the clock as it ticked ever closer to his imminent death. Joe kept his eyes open at all costs because whenever they were closed even for a millisecond to blink he saw William. William stole into Joe’s very essence with the ever-penetrating gaze he gave him. The amount of torture and sadness in those eyes could send an average person into a fit of madness; they could cause someone to beg for their demise.
And then there was the General; the way he cried out to me. He must have known what was about to happen; I should have stopped or told him what I was doing. What were his last words? I can’t even recall … were they shouted out in anger for my foolish actions, or were they meant to bring comfort before the end? More than likely the former. It’s all my fault, Father; I should have asked your permission, made sure you were buckled in properly. And now you’re dead, and because you’re dead that means Mom’s dead and so is Marge. It was you that was going to save them. I killed you killing them. I ruined everything. I didn’t want to go into the vault but at least you guys would have made it. At the beginning, when things looked bleak about the nurse coming back to him, he had made a second escape attempt. But the medicine being pumped into his body must have gone dry or worn off because he could feel his injuries more clearly. The slightest bump or repositioning in his overly spring cushioned bed sparked the pain to flare in his chest, he became heavy of breathing and he began to sweat heavily. I deserve this, this is the torture that I must now face…
As the hours passed and the tears flowed, Joe couldn’t help but notice that the alarm had quit its hollering; he expected the fire to take him but it never came. He continued to live. It wasn’t long after the sky outside must have became dark and the moon shone through the wisp of clouds still floating in the sky.
I wish I could see clouds again just one last time. Please, God, give me something to help my passing less severe. I single-handedly killed my entire family — I know that — but please give me something. Don’t let me die here like some dog tied to a post — starving and covered in my own feces. I know I’m a rotten kid and I’m going to pay for my sins but just let me see them once more. Joe never once thought that clouds looked real; they were always so cartoonish. He loved the way that they floated — suspended in the beautiful blue sky of a summer day, or the dark foreboding one in a electricity filled black backdrop. He knew that they consisted of water and would hold zero amount of weight but that wasn’t what he cared to imagine they would be like.
Joe used to dream of jumping on the brilliant white pillows and look down at the world and its puniness. He — of course — would never ever tell any of his friends about his longing to the clouds. He was taught very quickly that, that type of conversation got someone’s teeth kicked in and bullied for their rest of their lives. It was while Joe was thinking of the clouds and trying to stay awake defiantly fighting the weariness he felt in his brain when he heard a loud crash from somewhere in the hospital. Looters? Why would someone bother to loot a hospital before the apocalypse? What’s the point? Sure, you can have whatever you want, but you only get to keep it a few moments before you’re dead. The commotion in the lower levels of the building grew in its intensity, the faint blurb of people speaking was heard but they were nothing but white noise.
Joe didn’t feel afraid until he heard a loud pop that could only mean one thing. Guns — why do they have guns, and what are they shooting at? He pulled against the plastic strapping against his wrist but it only further dug into his skin and caused him to bleed.
I can’t get out of here; there’s nothing around to cut this zip tie off and I can’t squirm my way out of it. Besides, I’m fooling myself if I actually believe I could do anything once free. I’m a dead man if those thugs downstairs decide to kill me; I wouldn’t be able to do a thing about it. Well … hopefully they are quick and don’t decide to rape me. That last thought scared him more than death did because he didn’t know if he would still be all together after a traumatizing situation like that. I don’t think I would be able to live with myself; it would be worse than then plunging a knife in my heart or a bullet in my chest. I need to escape … people have walked around with broken ribs before right. What makes them so much stronger than myself? With only Joe’s right hand tied to the top of the bed, his left one was still free to whatever he wanted it to do. Very slowly, Joe led his right foot to the side of the bed so that it dangled off of it, he didn’t feel it in his chest until he brought his left leg after it. It was the worst pain imaginable — definitely the most he had hurt in his entire life.
Just breathe, Joe; the worst is yet to come. You have to get out of here now … maybe it wouldn’t be too late to save mom and my little sister. When Joe allowed both of his feet to make contact with the ground — lifting his torso — from the bed he couldn’t have expected the resulting sensation. He now knew what it must have felt like for the characters in the Alien movies; to have a xenomorph hiding in your chest cavity and dig its way through bone and flesh. He almost fell to the floor again but he kept himself up by holding onto the bed with his right hand. If I fall now, I’m never going to get up again and for sure, Marge and Mom are going to be dead.
Standing up straight was off the table the first moment he tried, the agony he felt was too much to bear. Joe stood his chest hunched over turning around facing the head of the bed. I’m going to have to pull a Don Corleone if I’m going to survive long enough to rescue the rest of my family. The bed he was plugged into was a simple twin-sized rectangle; he held onto the front head of it and pushed. The cords still connected and the dripper was ripped from the wall and crashed to the ground. Joe used the bed as a crutch leaning against it while pushing it out the door. I need to find someway to get myself free from this bed. The ring of gunfire was blaring — whoever it is, they are in trouble.
Joe made his way entirely into the dim hallway; supplies and garbage were all over the place. He waded himself and the bed though the debris and choose the very last room on the left to hid inside. And it couldn’t have been closer timing — just as he limped his way through the doorway, the might-be looters clomped the stairs to his floor.
“BILL…..BILLL….ARE YOU STILL ALI…?”
Joe heard a smack.
“Whisper or shut up the hell up, you idiot! Do you want them to follow us up here? Bill is dead — didn’t you see that those freaks cornered him? He didn’t follow the rules we made and he was killed because of it. Now come on, you fool; reload and let’s find a room to hide in. Maybe they will go away if they can’t find us. But wait — Slug, you know what? Pick another room than the one I’m in — I don’t want your dumb ass to get me killed.”
“Well alright, Bob, if ya say so … I just don’t want Bill to be dead Bob … Huh — Bob, maybe we could go down to save him … How’d ya feel about that, Bob?”
“Listen, Slug, you’ve always been a little slow; I’m not sure you even fully understand what’s going on right now, man. The government is trying to kill us, bud — you saw how they fired against all of those people, right? And now they’ve sent those monsters after us. I’m telling ya, man, they must have sided with those damned commies and made a deal to save their own skins. Were nothing but trash to them now, so pick a room, load up and stay in their until I tell you the coast is clear.”
“Ok, Bob, ya knowsest best.”
What in the world are those people going on about? Monsters. The government trying to kill everybody — what’s going on? I need to get out of here and figure out what’s happened since I’ve been out. “Hey, Bob” spoken in a whispered tone yet still rather loud, “I’m gonna choose this one at the end of the hall, ok Bob … Bob is that ok?”
“Whatever,” was the retort by an angry voice.
Wait a second — which room, Joe thought, his heart pulsing with the speed of a train just as the lanky figure stepped into the near completely dark room. Joe had been sitting behind the bed in the far-off corner crouched low breathing and sweating heavily as he tried to hold the position with the pain he was in. The man Joe assumed was named Slug took a few steps into the room; he didn’t put a lot of effort toward looking around. Just go away, please, Joe thought.
Things took a turn for the worst as Slug began to step toward the place where Joe was hiding. He sees me, Joe thought. What am I going to do? He has a gun and I can barely move. What does it matter I deserve this, uuuuh I deserve this…
As Slug made his way into the corner Joe prepared himself. He imagined his father’s mustached face smiling at him, a sight that was rarely seen while he was still living.
The bed moved slightly as Slug took his bony body and sat right on top of it.
This man is some type of idiot, thought Joe. How does he not notice me? My arm is only a fear inches away from his butt.
It was then that the man named Slug began to mumble silently to himself.
“Oh, Bill, imma so sorry, ain’t nobody deserve the way that ya went out. But why’d ya do it, Bill,? Didn’t ya remember that Bob said we needed to stick togetha. Ya shoulda not ran off the way ya did, maybe ya still coulda been alive. Ohhhh, Slug, whatcha gonna do now? I don’t wanna be eaten by no monsters and Bob is so hellish. He doesn’t care about nobody, how long he gonna keep me along for? I should just shove this gun barrel down mah throat.”
Above him Joe heard the sound of the gun cocking and Slug whimpering quietly.
“Nah, Slug, you can’t be doing this now. Cause the ‘splosion would be too loud, I’d just attract them monsters and they might find Bob. Maybe later Slug, maybe later, I’ll just wait till Bob calls me and we reach some safety. Then I’ll do it.”
This had been an odd turn of events, Joe thought. I have this hillbilly maniac prepared to blow his brains all over the walls. And me — the world has gone to shit, and here I am — broken rib and all — sitting with this redneck Norman Bates psycho. Joe was forced to hold his position for many hours and had to stay in the dark room alone with Slug as he began to fall asleep. Slug snored so loudly that Joe thought that Bob — or worse, the monsters they spoke of — would rush right in, taking Joe out along with Slug. But they never came and Slug just went of wheezing out of his mouth.
Sitting in his spot, the pain began to dissipate as Joe worked his body out of the crouch and planted his butt on the ground. He couldn’t move any further because if he did the bed would have to come along with him and that might alert Slug — and Slug didn’t seem like the kind of person who you could properly reason with. He smelled of whisky and had a red, white and blue bandanna over his patchy, dirty blonde hair. Considering the fact he was about to shoot himself, he was obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed. So Joe just sat held captive by his oblivious jailer. Joe could feel the drowsiness beginning to take over his eyes but he couldn’t allow himself to have even a moments of rest. Joe’s eyes hunted and probed the dark room, he needed a weapon. What would Slug and Bob would do if they discovered him hiding like a rat in the corner.
previous: The Malevolent One – Part Four
more by FRANCISCO LEYVA
photograph by Layton Diament