Disclaimer: No needed, really. It is kinda gory and there is the mention of maggots and spew, so if you have a light stomach you may not like this one. But if you do, don't hesitate to let me know. <g> You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks: to the Academy and all the munchins that make everything work so well. You all rock!!
"Cut it out! Cut it out of me, I'm dying!" The man pushed against the underside of his chin. With each breath he spewed yellowish pus. "I can't breathe!" He screamed through clenched teeth and began to flail his arms about.
Caty Anson, a paramedic with nearly two decades of experience had never seen anything like this. Nor had she ever smelled anything like it. The stench was like rotten flesh and the first whiff of it she got nearly caused her to lose the lunch she had yet to eat. She swallowed back in reflex and moved closer to see what the man's problem was.
"What's going on?" Caty asked, staying just out of reach of the spew.
"Breathe! Cut it out!" The man, dressed in coveralls that were nearly black from grease, kept shaking his head and motioning wildly with his arms. "I had this before...cut it out!"
"We can't cut anything out, sir." Caty tried to reason with him.
Her partner, Jim Sanders, came into the tire shop with their stretcher. "Ready?"
"Yeah," Caty said. "Sir we need to get you onto our stretcher so we can get you to the hospital."
"Cut it out!" The man reached into his the pocket of his coveralls.
"I think he's going for a knife." Caty stepped back.
"No, no, no." Jim lunged forward and pulled the man's hand from the pocket. "We're not cutting anything. Just get on the stretcher so we can help you."
The man continued to fight with the paramedics, but his strength was waning and eventually they were able to get him on the stretcher and strapped in. It was less than a minute after getting him into the ambulance that the man went into a seizure.
Twelve minute ride to the hospital and as Caty and Jim were bringing their patient into the emergency room he stopped breathing.
The ER doctor and nurses worked on him for nearly forty-five minutes, but there was nothing they could do. The man was dead.
The ride back to the firehouse was a quiet one. None of the rescuers could forget what they had seen in the emergency room. But none of them wanted to speak of it either.
Caty took a shower as soon as she got back to the station. No matter how much she scrubbed or how long she stood under the hot water she could still smell the rotting flesh. Her own flesh seemed to crawl at the thought and despite putting on a fresh uniform she still felt dirty.
There was only an hour left to her shift so Caty sat down to finish reading the latest novel in the "Gun" series by Lori Lake.
"Hey partner." Jim poked his head into the kitchen where Caty had chosen to hide. "Got a minute?"
"For you? No. But I guess I can make do." She smiled at her lighthearted joke, but the smile didn't reach her eyes. Jim sat down in front of her and folded his hands on the table. "What's up?"
"I don't know if I can put it into words. Just this creepy feeling...I'm not sure." His deep blue eyes tracked to hers. "Was there a full moon last night?"
Caty shrugged and avoided his gaze, chosing to look out the window as the sun began to rise. "I think so. Night before Halloween. Full moon. Maybe that's why we had a crazy run."
"Except the run was more than just crazy. It was down-right scary as hell." David Aspen, who had driven the ambulance for Caty and Jim earlier joined them at the table. "I may be new at this, but I got a feeling shit like that don't happen every day."
"No. Not ever." Jim pointed to Caty. "She's been her twenty years and I've been here eighteen. Neither of us has ever seen that before."
"Like something out of the fucking X-Files." David turned his back on both of them. "I don't think I'm gonna stick around."
"Hell yeah. Soon as I get another job." He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket and walked outside to smoke.
"Wish I could quit sometimes."
Caty took a drink of her coffee and finally met Jim's gaze. "No you don't. You're a lifer, same as me. In it until they haul us away on the stretcher in the ambulance."
Jim smiled. "Yeah, probably."
"Still can't believe it, though. All that pus and blood...the freakin' smell."
"So much for dinner." Jim stood up and winked at her. "Look, I ain't no rocket scientist and I sure ain't the best medic there is, but I know when somethin' isn't right. That guy...there was something wrong there. Something beyond the medical side of it."
"What are you saying, Jim? You think he was spewing pus because he's got an alien in his belly?" Caty raised an eyebrow at her long-time partner, but lowered it when she realized he was serious. "Jim, buddy, Signorney Weaver isn't going to come popping in to tell us to kill that guy because he's going to have an alien baby. It was an infection that got out of control. If he'd gone to the doctor a few weeks ago he wouldn't have gotten this bad...his airway wouldn't have been cut off by the swelling and he wouldn't have been spewing nasty pus at us."
Jim shook his head. "You really don't get it, Caty. That's so not it at all. I'm not expecting aliens or Scully and Mulder, but I wouldn't be surprised if something isn't said about this call. It's all wrong. You're right about one thing...he shoulda gone to the doctor a few weeks ago for anti-biotics or something.
"But what if it's more than that? What if--" Jim leaned forward on the table. "What if he got exposed to something? A toxin—maybe some kind of weapon of mass destruction. Then what?"
"A WMD? Here? In Podunk, Ohio? Jim be serious."
"I am serious." Jim stood up and headed for the doorway, but stopped before going through it. "I'm dead serious, Caty. Just watch yourself, okay?"
Caty rolled onto her right side and stared at her clock radio. The blood red numbers blurred for a second, then came into focus. 3:45 am. Last night she had awaked at the same time.
Caty sighed and closed her eyes. She could still see the burn of those red numbers on her eyelids. Angry red numbers. She opened her eyes with a start. Angry red? That was a weird choice of words. Caty shook off a creepy sense of deja vu and sat up.
It was obvious that she would not be getting any more sleep tonight so she made her way to the kitchen. Leftover chicken fingers suddenly sounded like a great snack. Her stomach rumbled its approval. In a few moments the chicken fingers were in the microwave.
She lened against her kitchen counter and absently watched the food spin slowly as it cooked. The motion was almost hypnotic and when the bell ringed to signal the food was ready, Caty jumped.
She leaned forward and popped the microwave door open and stopped. The smell of rotting flesh was overpowering and for a moment Caty thought she would vomit. She turned back to lean against the counter, taking slow, deep breaths to calm herself. It took a moment for her balance to return and for her roiling stomach to settle.
The smell, like that of the man from the tire shop earlier in the day, was so strong it almost was like the man was standing next to her. Caty closed her eyes, took another deep breath and went to the sink to splash cold water on her face.
"Damn," she muttered, then headed back to her bedroom, her snack completely forgotten.
"Cut it out."
Caty froze. The voice was low, definitely male, and right behind her. Fight or flight response too over and she spun around to face whoever was there. Fight had always been her first reaction, but when she turned no one was there. For a second she felt a cold breeze, caught a whiff of the familiar rotting flesh smell, then it was gone.
Cold chills ran down her spine and Caty hurried to her bed. She buried herslef in her thick quilt, feeling warm and somehow a little safer from the world. At least for the moment.
It did not take long for Caty to resume her sleep and soon she was back in a dreamless state. When she awoke her body felt refresh and relaxed, bringing a smile to her face. She slowly turned to her right side to check out the time.
Angry red numbers stared back at her. 3:45 am. "Damn thing must have stopped," she grumbled, reaching for her watch. The green light cast an eerie glow over her night stand. 3:45 am. She checked the date—October 31st. Her mind raced to remember the previous day's date. Had she gone to bed on the 30th?
Caty grabbed her pager and hit the light button. It also read October 31st, 3:45 am. "I must have been tired. I can't believe I slept 24 hours."
She got up and headed for the kitchen, glancing at the calendar as she did. Fortunatly it was marked as a day off and she sighed, relieved she hadn't slept through a work day. "Hmm, Happy Halloween." Caty headed for the microwave to toss out her late-night snack, but found the microwave empty.
"I don't remember putting that up." She opened the fridge and found her leftovers still in the styrofoam container. Caty removed it and opened the box. It smelled very fresh and very appetizing. "Well, I must have been dreaming." She shrugged, a little relieved that she had only imagined last night's event. She placed her leftovers on a plate and put it into the microwave.
The ding of the microwave startled her. "Shit." Caty could feel her heart beat quicked as she reached for the door—it was as if she knew what she was about to find. The moment the door popped open she could smell it and turned away when she felt the bile rise in her throat.
Caty leaned over the sink and dry heaved a few times before splashing some cool water over her face. The smell was still there and still just as strong as it had been in her dream. She forced herself to go to the microwave and open the door wide enough to remove her food.
The plate was still warm and had what appeared to be rotting chicken in the center. There was a yellowish ooze coming from the meat and maggots writhing on the plate.
She dumped the plate and contents into her garbage can and shoved the lid in place. Another wave of nausea hit her and she turned to the sink again. Nothing came up and she doused her face with more cold water. "What the hell was that?"
"Cut it out." It was the same male voice. Caty wheeled around but no one was behind her.There was that cold chill again and she did her best to shake off the eerie feeling.
"Maybe I'm still dreaming," she thought aloud and headed for her bedroom.
"Breathe!" The voice declared. "Breathe!"
"Where the hell are you?" she demanded, wheeling around in a vain attempt to find whoever was in her house.
"I can't breathe!"
Caty felt someone shove her toward her bedroom, but the moment she tried to fight back the feeling was gone. "What is going on around here?" She shouted to an empty room, closing her eyes and leaning against the kitchen counter when no one replied. "I've got to be loosing it."
She stood there for a few more minutes, certain that the voice in her head was now silent, then started for her room. "Maybe I just need some sleep."
"I need to breathe!"
Caty felt herself run directly into a solid wall of human flesh and scrambled backwards, nearly falling as she did. Wide eyes locked on a faded image before her. "Who are you?"
"Cut it out!" He kept saying the same things, repeating them as though they were the only words he knew....Cut it out....I can't breathe....I need to breathe....over and over like a chant.
The longer his chanting went the more cohesive his form became. C
Crazy as she knew she would sound, Caty dashed out of the kitchen and into her living room, searching for the phone. She cradled the cordless handset against her ear, but heard nothing. She dialed 9-1-1 again. Still nothing. There was no dial tone, even though the phone was on and properly charged.
Caty set the handset on the coffee table and examined the base of the phone. Everything was plugged in.
"Cut it out!" The man was coming closer to her now. Caty could see his shadow moving along her walls, heading toward the living room.
She tossed the handset down and searched for her cell phone. Fortunately she had left it in her coat pocket. It still had a charge and a good signal, so she dialed 9-1-1 again.
There was a pause for a few seconds, then nothing. Expecting the phone to ring any second, Caty started backing up towards her front door. The cell phone was silent for too long. The display read, "dialing 9-1-1." It wasn't going to work either.
"You didn't save me." The man appeared behind her, his mouth spewing drops of yellow ooze as he spoke. "You said you would save me. You said I'd be okay."
"Look," Caty put her hands up to ward him off and took a few steps backward, "I did try to save you. I did everything humanly possible."
"But it wasn't good enough." The man stepped into the beam of light that was shining into the room from the hallway. When his face became visible, Caty gasped. "Yes. You recognize me."
"They guy in the tire shop...Henry. Right? You're Henry?"
"I am—was. Until you killed me."
"What? I didn't kill anyone." Caty felt herself back into a wall and her mind wheeled with possible escape routes. "I couldn't save you. No one could."
"You didn't even try."
"Like hell! I gave you every chance in the world." Caty felt her temper flare, her fear now forgotten.
"I told you to cut it out. You should have cut it out."
"There was nothing to cut." Instead of looking for an escape route, Caty was now looking for a weapon. "Get the hell out of my house."
"Not until I'm finished." Henry lunged toward her and knocked Caty to the ground.
His body weight kept her pinned, despite her struggles. She couldn't breathe...he was crushing her chest...she clawed at his eyes....
And woke up in her bed. Caty's heart was pounding so hard she thought it would come through her chest wall. She took several deep breaths, wiped a sheen of sweat from her forehead, pulled her knees close to her body and hugged herself.
It took her a few moments to calm down enough to glance over at her alarm clock. She was not surprised to find it was 3:45 am. "What the hell is going on with me? Am I just having a bunch of crazy assed dreams?"
She slid from her bed and headed for the bathroom to wash her face. Staring at herself in the mirror she chuckled out loud. "I'm friggin' living in a real ground hog day. Nice."
Caty splashed her face with some cool water and dried herself before heading for the kitchen.
Not surprising to her, the chicken from the night before was still in the fridge. She stuck it in the mircrowave and tried to let the events of the evening...or was it evenings...run through her mind.
As far as she could tell—in her dream—she had awakened three, maybe four, times. There was no way to be sure, but each time she'd been able to smell the rotting flesh of her patient from earlier in the day. The sense of smell is one of the most powerful memory senses. Anything could trigger it and she'd think she was smelling the rotted flesh again.
But the dreams had been so real...the feel of Henry on top of her...not being able to breathe.
She was startled again by the mircrowave ending its cycle. Caty popped open the door and was hit so hard by the smell that it was almost a physical force, causing her to stumble backward until she felt the sink at her back. She quickly turned around and vomitted the few contents still in her stomach.
A few moments of dry heaving and she felt as though she could stand without leaning on the sink. She wiped her face clean with a towel and turned to the microwave. The door was swinging and helping to keep the stench moving in her direction.
Caty reached inside and pulled out the now cooled plate of food. Yellowish pus bubbled in the center of the plate and more maggots wriggled in and around it, devouring what was left of the meat.
She swallowed back the urge to vomit again and tossed the plate into the garbage can and froze. It was the eerie deja vu again. Caty closed her eyes and considered what her next move should be.
Every time she'd had this dream she had headed back to her bedroom and heard Henry talking behind her. Maybe if she did something different, it would break the cycle.
She washed her face off again in the sink and headed into her living room.
"So far so good," she mumbled and picked up the remote for her TV. She clicked the on button, but nothing happened.
"Cut it out of me."
"Shit!" Caty jumped to her feet and looked frantically around the house. No one was near her, but she could smell the rotting flesh. Henry was close by.
No, Henry was dead. She watched him die in the emergency room less than 12 hours ago. He could not possibly be in her house.
Then why am I so freaked out? She wondered.
She stood in the living room for a few moments, but no one appeared. Caty waited and when he did not speak or show up again, she went directly to her bedroom.
She was sweating again, but pulled the covers over herself anyway. It was safer that way. Even though she knew the blankets could never protect her, Caty still felt safer.
Her eyes were wide open for a while, but the fatigue got to her and eventually her eyes began to close. The darkness was about to take over her conscious mind when Caty smelled it. The rotten flesh..the sound of Henry's voice above her...
"Cut it out."
She wanted to wake up and run, but her body was limp. She couldn't move, nor could she speak. Eyes opened wide to find she was looking directly into a bright light.
A man moved to her side and blocked the light for just a few seconds. He was dressed in green scrubs and a white lab coat. He name tag flapped against his chest as he moved around, calling for orders that she didn't understand and staying close to Caty's side.
There was a scream to her right and she turned to find her medic partner, Jim Sanders, lying on a bed not far from her. His eyes were wide and he was clawing at his throat. "Cut it out!" he screamed.
pus streamed from his mouth and spewed over the doctor and nurses that were working on him. They tried to restrain him, but Jim continued to fight them. He was breathing heavily, gasping for every breath.
"We've got to make an incision." Caty now turned to the doctor above her. He had a scapel in his hand and he was making and mark on her chin with the other hand.
Caty gasped for breath in a sudden panic. She was already restrained and could do nothing as the doctor leaned in closer, scapel in hand. A thick liquid flowed from her lips and when Caty tried to scream she gagged. She tossed her head side to side, but someone came in behind her and held her steady. When the doctor made the first cut, Caty gurgled a scream and passed out.
Caty awoke with a start. Her entire body was covered in sweat and her heart was beating wildly again. She reached for her throat to discover it was normal and smooth. No marks or lacerations.
She'd had another dream.
Or had she?
Was she even awake now?
Caty turned to her clock. 346 am. One minute later than the previous times. That had to be a good thing, right?
She moved the covers from across her body and made her way to the kitchen. Two steps into the room she smelled the rotting flesh and screamed.
The screams were more like gurgles as the woman was drowning in her own fluids. Doctor Henry Wilson used a suction catheter to get as much out of her as he could, but there seemed to be no end to the nasty fluid.
"We can't get her intubated because the trachea is pressed shut by the infection."
Henry was barely listening to the respiratory tech that was standing beside him. He didn't want to see this young woman die, but knew he had no choice. It was out of his hands.
She gasped for air one last time and stopped breathing. Henry and his team worked on her for nearly an hour, but without an airway there was little they could do. He called the code at 345 am and covered the body, walking out of the emergency room with the rest of his team. He needed to find the girl's parents to tell them the news.
Caty watched the doctor leave, grabbing hold of her neck. The swelling was gone now and she could no longer feel the cuts made by the scapel. "They cut it out." She said, surprised by the eerie sound of her own voice.
She moved closer to the bed, curious as to who they had been working on. She pulled back the sheet and screamed. Her own face looked back at her, her mouth open in a silent scream with a yellowish pus coming from her throat and the smell of rotting flesh filling the room.
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