Chapter 2: Infection
Lucia Obragonte was hunched over a countertop, delicately picking through the shredded remains of what was once a chicken enchilada she had gotten for lunch. As her chin rest on her right palm, her elbow and arm supporting her head Lucia yawned exhaustedly. She had pulled a double shift and had seen more than her share of blood for the day. Her light blue scrub pants still showing small spots of blood from earlier patients attested to this. Lucia looked at the clock impatiently. “Thank you Jesus. Only one more hour.” Lucia thought to herself as she breathed a huge sigh of relief. With the addition of all the snowbird tourists added to the population, nurses here rarely get the chance for a break during the winter months.
Lucia was very happy that things had calmed down enough that she could relax for a few minutes, and was equally thrilled that she had been given enough time to eat as well. Finishing her enchilada she stood upright placing her hands on the back of her hips and bent backward cracking her aching back in several places. “Oh, ay Dios mio. I’m getting to old for this.” Lucia said to herself, fully aware of the fact that she was only thirty four and would have to endure much, much more pain before the end of her life. As she finished cracking the bones in her neck she scooped up the wrapper the torn remains of her lunch lay on. She clumped it into a ball and shot it into a nearby waste basket as she meandered out of the break room and headed towards the emergency room floor.
She was taking her time getting back to the ER, swaggering slowly down the hall enjoying the precious little time she had left to herself. She knew someone would be waiting to put her right back to the work she was so absolutely ready to be done with the very moment she got back to the ER. Unfortunately for Lucia, that work was not about to wait for her. As she walked the final stretch towards the ER she began to hear shouting coming from the end of the corridor. Suddenly she saw a gurney surrounded by nurses and doctors fly by the intersection at the end of the hallway, a young man and woman following closely behind. Lucia’s heart sank. She was one of the senior nurses on staff that day and knew that anyone being moved that quickly on a gurney would be needing her help as well.
Lucia started a flat out run down the corridor, taking a quick right turn at the end of the hall. She looked to a large glass trauma room in the center of the ER and could tell by the heightened amount of activity, that was where she needed to be. As Lucia was opening the door to the glass enclosed room she felt a hand grab tightly onto her left wrist. She scowled as she looked at the hand keeping her from entering the trauma room, then up to the face of the owner of the five fingered restraint. Lucia found herself looking up into the face of a young man no older than twenty two, it was Robert. “Is he going to be ok?” asked the young man. “I need to know is he going to be ok?” Robert asked again more forcefully. “Look kid I just got here, I don’t even know what’s going on yet. You need to go sit down and let me get in there and help this man.” Lucia said with a firm look. The grip Robert had on Lucia remained just as tight as when he first took hold. She was slightly stunned by this, as the look she had given him had always worked on her two sons who were not much younger than the man standing in front of her now. She didn’t know the young man’s relationship to the man on the trauma room table but she could tell that the patient’s condition was very important to him. “Look I don’t know what’s going on with this man and if you don’t let me go then I can’t do anything to help him.” Lucia said anxiously with a glare. “Look take a seat over there and I will make sure someone notifies you as soon as there’s any news, now please… let me go so I can help your friend.” She said as she motioned with her free hand over to a row of seats along a nearby wall. “He’s my brother, not my friend, and his fiancé is with me I’d like to keep her updated if that’s not to much trouble.” Robert sneered, returning a glaring look back at the nurse as he released his grip and gently threw her hand back to her side. Lucia watched as the young man walked towards a different row of seats than she had pointed to and sat down next to a young woman that she could tell was trying her best to refrain from sobbing intensely, although not always succeeding. Lucia shook her head in disbelief recalling the incident that had just transpired and quickly started back into the trauma room. As she entered she turned her body from side to side weaving herself in between medical personnel and machinery. “His breathing is slowing we may have to intubate” a female nurse called out. “Heart rate’s slowing get a crash cart in hear!” a louder male voice yelled. “Lucia, patient has some sort of foreign debris in his upper thigh, believed to be poisonous. We need to remove it and run a tox screen asap!” one of the doctors shouted to Lucia, as she snapped a second glove on her hand. “Si, doctor.” She replied as she quickly positioned herself near the man’s upper left thigh, pulling a tray with various medical tools to rest by her side. Lucia worked hurriedly using a pair of scissors to cut away the swim trunks where the doctor had indicated the foreign object to be. As she pulled the material away she felt her stomach wrench as she fought to keep from vomiting. The man’s leg around the protruding barb had gone from an infectious red to a pale pasty white. His veins show through his skin as clear as day, a black and greenish web almost seemed to jut out from under his skin. Lucia turned her attention to the point of entry. A large brown, smooth, hollow object about two inches long stuck out from a gaping wound on the man’s leg. The wound was pulsating and spewing small bits of yellowish white puss from around the sides of the object moving the object slightly as it pulsed. Lucia attempted to grip the barb with a set of forceps but the jaws would not open wide enough. She eyed the other utensils on the tray and scowled. “Damn it none of these are going to work, nothing’s big enough.” Lucia thought annoyed by the lack of practical tools. “Hold him down! I’m going to have to pull this thing out by hand!” She yelled to the other medical personnel. The other nurses and doctors moved in to brace the man as Lucia moved in ready to pull the barb from the man’s leg.
Duane had been mostly still during the entire event, drifting in and out of consciousness. He had opened his eyes when they had first started tearing his shirt off, and clutched the side of one of the nurses but that had been it. The pain he was already in was unbearable and that was evident. The doctors and nurses weren’t sure how much worse the pain could get or if he would even feel it when they removed the object, but they weren’t taking any chances. Everyone got into position pressing down on a part of Duane’s body. Lucia reached almost into the would seizing the barb as far down of the exposed area as possible. Duane’s face grimaced and a moan escaped his lips. “Ok. Everybody ready? Hold him down, uno…dos…tres!” Lucia shouted as she wrenched backward with all her might, dislodging the object and pulling it free of Duane’s leg. Puss followed quickly behind it in the now open wound, oozing and bubbling out in thick waves of yellowish white with hints of black curdled blood now mingling with the grotesque concoction.
Lucia was almost entranced as she stared at the object in her hand. The object that could only be described as a stinger was indeed huge. It was around six inches long from the tip to where it had ended outside Duane’s leg, and at least two inches around at its’ widest point. It was a dark brownish color with evidence of puss still glistening on the sides. A dark tan liquid formed a droplet at the smallest point, or the tip of the stinger. “Lets get this to tox.” Lucia said to another nurse as she placed the stinger in a clear plastic specimen container and sealed the lid tightly. As she was handing it over to the nurse Lucia could see the dark tan liquid forming a small ring in the bottom of the plastic cup. “What the hell is this shit?” she mused forming a disgusted look on her face. “Well, its tox’s problem now they’ll have to figure it out.” She thought to herself as she completed the transaction with the other nurse. The nurse took the jar and quickly exited the trauma room and headed for the toxicology labs. Lucia looked around the machines to take an assessment of the man’s situation. EKG, slow but steady, his breathing followed suit, blood pressure also low but steady. The only thing above normal was the man’s temperature, he was burning up running a high fever. Lucia waved her hand to a nurse motioning her attention to the open wound “Clean this up I’m going to give his family an update.” She said to the nurse as she started towards the door.
Lucia walked over to where Robert and Beth were seated, both visibly shaken, Robert’s arm around Beth attempting to comfort her. “Ok.” Lucia said with a large sigh as she came to rest in front of the two. “We removed a large object that looks like a stinger of some sort and we’re sending it to toxicology for analysis. We are fairly certain it’s poisonous, but we’ll have to wait for the results before we can start a proper treatment. His vitals right now aren’t great but as of right now he’s…” A blood curdling scream cut Lucia short. She spun around and looked through the glass of the trauma room. Inside she could see Duane had sat upright and his face was drenched in pain. It had been he who had screamed. Lucia wasted no time and bolted back for the trauma room. She got there just in time to see Duane’s body go limp and fall back onto the table. Simultaneously the readout machines lost the rhythmic noises they had been making replaced now with a single high pitched monotone note. Duane was at that moment dead.
Seeing the flurry of activity and hearing the ominous sounds of the machines Robert and Beth quickly made their way over to one of the glass walls that made up the room. The pair were banging and crying on the glass, begging and pleading for Duane to be alright. Lucia who was trying to get a defibrillator set up next to the table finally snapped out “Someone get them under control now!” A much younger nurse obeyed and left the room quickly trying to get the two young onlookers to settle down. “CLEAR!” Lucia cried as she brought the defib paddles down onto Duanes exposed chest. A loud thump echoed off the glass walls, as Duane’s torso jumped off the table his back arching. Lucia watched the heart monitor for a moment, nothing. “CLEAR!” she yelled, again bringing the paddles to his chest. Thump. Duane’s torso jumped once more and Lucia’s eyes locked onto the heart monitor. Still nothing. “Ok 50mg epinephrine stat, I’m recharging.” Lucia said to another nurse as she hung the paddles on a rack next to the defibrillator. A second later the nurse was handing Lucia a large filled needle. After retrieving it from the nurse Lucia hastily drove the needle directly into Duane’s unmoving heart. She pushed the plunger of the needle, quickly emptying the contents into Duane’s heart. She removed the needle, tossed it on a nearby tray and again quickly gripped the handles of the defib paddles. “CLEAR!” THUMP. Lucia looked up at the machines disheartened. A look of sorrow crept onto her face as she look on at the blank machines and then down at the man’s lifeless body, the color already starting to retreat from his skin.
Lucia turned around slowly to face the patient’s two companions on the other side of the glass. Her eyes had been fixed waist high as she turned, when she saw the young man’s swim trunks on the other side of the glass she raised her head to meet his gaze. With a desolate look on her face she simple frowned and shook her head at the pair. Beth could no longer hold back her emotions after seeing this. She wailed letting loose a torrent of sobs and moans. Robert’s face puckered and his eyes winced as he tried to hold back his own tears from pouring out. The nurse that had been trying to calm them down while the others worked on Duane, quickly made an attempt to comfort the pair. Seeing this Lucia turned back around to the rest of the medical personnel in the room, staring at the doctor on duty. “Let’s call it.” The doctor said in a low fleeting voice. Lucia looked at the clock on the wall, “Time of death five twenty one PM.” She said mournfully.
Several medical staff had made their way out of the trauma room leaving only Lucia and the doctor behind with the body. Robert and Beth still sobbing seemed to be glued in place, steadily looking back at Duane’s lifeless body then to each other as if getting permission from the other to believe and accept what had just happened. Lucia still stood next to the table her eyes watching the doctor as he prepared a sheet to drape over the body. Suddenly the heart monitor snapped alive beeping so fast it sounded like another flat line. Lucia’s eyebrows raised. Resting her left hand on the table she leaned in to get a better look at the machine’s readout panel. “What the hell?” she thought to herself as she leaned closer. A second later she felt a tight grip on her left arm that almost made her fall onto Duane’s body. She looked down and was mortified to see it was Duane’s hands gripping her wrist. She looked upward and saw Duane’s face moving, his mouth opening and snarling. She was so taken back by all this she never noticed Duane had pulled her hand directly to his mouth. Lucia felt pain shoot through her hand and a warm wet feeling started to wash over her palm as Duane sank his teeth into the center of her hand between her thumb and forefinger. Lucia let out a loud shriek as she wrenched on her hand trying to pull it free. The sound of Lucia’s cry penetrated the glass walls of the trauma room, immediately getting the attention of Robert and Beth who were still standing just on the other side. Beth pressed herself against the glass her eyes wide, her breath forming small bursts of fog as she exhaled excitedly. “He’s Alive!” she cried as she started beating on the glass with her palms. She had been so thrilled by this miracle she had paid no attention to the event unfolding within the room. Robert had also pressed himself against the glass. Although he was equally delighted by the fact that Duane was now kicking his feet and his body quickly moving from side to side, he was baffled at the sight of the struggling nurse inside the room. “Hey! Hey! What’s going on in there?” Robert yelled as he furrowed his brow and lifted his right hand to give the glass several loud bangs.
Lucia was not having much luck dislodging her hand from Duane’s mouth. Finally she stopped tugging on the hand firmly clamped by Duane’s jaws. She lifted her right arm pulled back and slugged Duane as hard as she could in his eye socket. She could feel the cracking of bone as she made contact, and felt Duane’s head slam back onto the table. His grip on her hand released as he let loose a rabid growl, not one of pain but of violent frustration almost feral. Lucia instantly felt his jaw unclench, and she recoiled her hand and quickly took several steps backward. “Hey what the fuck are you doing you bitch?” Beth yelled angrily from the other side of the glass. “I’m gonna kick your ass bitch, you don’t…” Robert cut her off. “Shut up Beth. Something’s not right in there. He bit her. He bit her right on the hand and wasn’t letting go. Didn’t you see, weren’t you watching?” He asked sharply glancing down at her. A confused look washed over Beth’s face as she turned her head from Robert back to the happenings inside the room.
Lucia was steadily backing away from the table. Duane wasn’t affected by the punch for long. His body shot upright, quickly getting to his feet on top of the table. His body twitched as he stood, his face contorted with fury. His eyes were so bloodshot they were almost red. He snarled as he looked at Lucia who was slowly trying to back up towards the door. He pulled his lips back exposing his blood covered teeth and let out a loud roar. “Lucia get out!” the doctor yelled from behind Duane. He had been standing on the far side of the room as Lucia had fought to get free of Duane’s bite, now he was almost right behind Duane standing only a few feet from the table holding a small scalpel. Lucia’s attention quickly fled from Duane and turned to the doctor as he motioned to her to leave. Duane’s attention also turned from Lucia to the new voice. He quickly spun around, locked eyes on the doctor and lunged off the table.
He tackled the doctor and started clawing at his face and snapping his teeth. Lucia knew this was her chance she quickly turned pulled the door open and fled the room. She yelled to another nurse. “Security! Go get security now! He’s crazy!” Inside the doctor did his best to protect himself his forearm was lodged under Duane’s neck keeping his mouth at bay. Duane’s arms remained free however clawing at the doctor’s face and head lacerating him all over as his nails pulled large strips of flesh away from the doctor’s face. The doctor held his arm outward gripping the scalpel tightly. He thrust the instrument hard into Duane’s neck directly into his Jugular vein. He could feel Duane’s blood running down his hand he knew it had struck home. Duane however did not react normally to this. To much the doctor’s horror, instead of toppling over holding his neck in pain Duane grew a disdained look on his face and a gurgled blood filled roar once again bellowed out. “El Diablo” the doctor whispered to himself in disbelief. The doctor’s arm, now covered in blood, became slick with the crimson liquid pouring from Duane’s neck. This was all Duane needed. He lurched and the doctor’s arm fell from Duane’s neck to his chest. Duane lurched again and engulfed the doctor’s neck with his mouth. He bit down hard, attacking the very same place the doctor had attacked him moments earlier. Duane’s head shook violently from side to side as he bit, looking very much like a vicious dog attacking a tire. He wrenched his back and pulled his head upward, tearing a huge chunk of flesh away from the doctor’s neck and shoulder. The doctor’s body twitched and his feet kicked several times then came to rest. His eyes still open and wide, a look of terror and pain still etched on his face. Duane sat on his haunches chewing on the huge chunk of flesh still dripping blood, at his feet the doctor was dead.
Beth shrieked at seeing her fiancé tear apart the doctor’s neck and start eating it. It was loud and it caught Duane’s attention inside the room. He turned looked up and snarled. His face was covered in blood but the look of pure anger and hate was clearly visible. Again Duane leapt to his feet and looked in the direction of Beth on the other side of the glass, the blood from his neck wound still flowing freely. “Oh baby. What’s wrong with you?” Beth moaned leaning on the glass as the tears poured down her cheeks. Duane simply snarled showed his teeth and again let out the gurgled roar. He charged the glass where Beth was standing. Beth moved away just in time to keep from feeling the recoil as he slammed head first into the glass. “NO!” she screamed “What are you…” BANG! Again Duane crashed into the glass. “Stop it baby please Sto…” BANG! “STOP IT!” Beth shouted, completely balling now. Inside Duane had backed up as far as he could go. He started into a full out sprint, lowered his head and “ BANG!” crashed into the glass. Duane’s body fell to the floor, lifeless. A large smear of blood on the glass showed his point of impact, and a large gash in his forehead revealed where the blood had come from.
Beth stood weeping, Robert next to her aghast at what had just transpired. “What the fuck was that? Was he on drugs or something?” Lucia asked the pair angrily. “No, I don’t know what just happened either. I…I can’t believe what just happened.” Robert responded. “You better not be lying kid. Your brother just killed a good doctor…One of my friends pendejo!” Lucia snapped back. “Look I don’t know what’s going on he just tried to attack his own fiancé through a glass wall. It was like he wasn’t even human anymore.” Robert replied in a shaky voice, still beside himself.
Lucia walked over to a desk and picked up a phone. “Hola? Si. I need some personnel down here to remove some bodies bring security and two body bags. Oh and call the police.” She hung up the phone. Turned around and walked over to a nurse. “Get these kids out of here but don’t let them leave until the police get here I’m sure they will want to ask them some questions.” She whispered to the nurse. The nurse nodded and quickly approached Robert and Beth. A few moments later Lucia was watching the nurse usher the two young people away. “So much for getting to go home any time soon.” She thought to herself as she fell into a chair at a nearby desk, letting her head fall back and her eyes close as the events of the night still played over and over in her mind.