Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson.
Thirty – Eighty
“I’m going to go check it out,” Lori said, looking towards the stairs. She headed across the room. I noticed cousin Angie was not only oblivious to us, but she hadn’t heard the thud overhead either. She was still bobbing her head to her teen pop.
“Hold up, “ I called out to Lori. “I’m coming with.”
I followed her up, looking back towards Angie and the television. The news report was still going on, except now the footage was an image of Kev, the killer. I couldn’t tell what they were saying, because up on the landing the only thing I could hear was that damn Cutting Crew song still playing. Someone must have put it on repeat because it was back to its opening lines of “I just died in your arms tonight.”
I didn’t have time to think of this any further, because Lori had already surged ahead to check the bedrooms. The hallway was empty, but for a moment I felt that someone else was in the house besides us. I looked over the railing to the first floor to see if I detected any movement down there, but Angie hadn’t budged.
Lori’s scream erupted from one of the bedrooms. I bolted down the hall, following her cries of “no,no,no!” and found her in her sister’s room. Dawn was laying prone on the floor, motionless. Eyes closed, I couldn’t tell if she was sleeping, unconscious, or dead, but I feared the worst.
Lori was shaking her. “Wake up, Dawn, please wake up.”
I knelt beside her. “Check her pulse.” I would have done it myself but I didn’t think I had the emotional connection required to make physical contact.
She put her fingers on her sister’s wrist. “It’s very light.” She leaned down and put her cheek to her nose. “Breathing is shallow.” She shook the girl again. “Dawn, come on, open your eyes and look at me.”
I got up and walked over to a bedside table. A small boombox sat upon it and I was getting tired of the song that was playing, so I shut it off. An empty bottle of sleeping pills sat next to it, along with a note that read: “I can’t stop the voices. This is the only way.”
I picked up the empty bottle, realizing this was our fault. In trying to interact with her, we caused all this. She thinks she’s gone crazy. I returned to Lori , who was getting more desperate in trying to get her to open her eyes.
“We have to get Angie to call 911,“ I said. “She took a bunch of pills.”
“How many?” Lori asked, the worry in her voice.
“I don’t know. I’ll be right back.”
I ran out of the bedroom, and down the hallway. Heading down the stairs several steps at a time, I banged my hand on the balustrade to try and make some noise, but Angie was oblivious. Coming into the living room , I could hear she was now listening to “I think we’re alone now” at full volume. I thought to myself, “like hell you are,” and brought my fist down on top of her Discman. The portable player nearly exploded from the force, pieces of plastic cracking and shooting into the air beside her.
Angie sprang from the couch as if someone had just walked in and opened fire. She threw herself to the floor, pulling her headphones off her head and throwing them as far away as possible. I couldn’t allow her to just lay there cowering in the floor, so I grabbed the damaged Discman and threw it at her. She screamed and sprang to her feet, running for the front door to escape.
“Wrong way, “ I muttered, and got ahead of her. I banged my fists hard against the door, and it almost seemed to echo in the house like thunder. She stopped short, and looked around herself for another avenue of escape. Then it finally hit her. Dawn. She had to get her out, too.
She bolted for the stairs, yelling her cousin’s name. I ran behind her, helping to herd her up the steps by stomping my feet on the stairs as we went. Any other time it may have seemed comical, her running up and glancing over her shoulder with fear, with goofy me stomping behind like I was auditioning for Monty Python’s silly walks sketch. But this was not any other time. This was now. And it was serious.
She ran into Dawn’s room and screamed. Though she couldn’t see Lori, the shock of Dawn’s still body on the floor was enough to bring a fresh round of hysterics. Despite this, I had to hand it to her, she was a quick thinker, and without even checking Dawn’s body, she went to the girl’s dresser to retrieve the phone. Lifting the receiver off the cradle, she quickly dialed 911. She twirled her fingers through the spiral cord nervously as she waited for the connection.
I walked over to Lori, who still sat there by her sister, trying to talk her back awake. “Any change?” I asked.
“No,” Lori mumbled, defeated. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes. “We’re going to lose her.”
“No, we’re not. Angie’s calling 911. They’ll be here soon.” As if to confirm this for myself, I looked back to her cousin who was now speaking with someone on the other end. Then, I turned back to Lori. “Open her mouth and stick your fingers down her throat.”
“We don’t know how much she took. If it’s still on her stomach, we might be able to get her to throw it back up. If anything, maybe it will wake her up.” She looked at me, unsure. “I know, it’s dangerous. But we cant let her fall asleep for long or she might not wake up.”
Lori lifted Dawn’s head and mumbled an apology to her, before following my advice. At first the girl just gagged against the intrusion, her eyes not opening. But at the second attempt, she retched, and Lori twisted her onto her side so she could eject the contents of her stomach onto the carpet. Her eyes fluttered open, glazed over and confused.
“Lori?” She groaned in a lethargic voice. “What are you doing here?”
I’m not sure what bothered me most, the thought she could see her sister, or that Angie, having hung up the phone, was now standing there slack jawed. I guess it looked freaky with Dawn on her side, elevated by something she could not see, throwing up onto the carpet. Again though, she regained her composure, and ran to Dawn, kneeling in the same space occupied by Lori.
“No, honey, it’s not Lori,” she corrected her. “It’s Angie, your cousin. Hang in there, help is on the way.”
The little girl frowned, obviously disappointed it wasn’t her sister, and laid her head on the floor. She closed her eyes. “I just wanted the voices to stop,” she mumbled.
Lori looked at me. “What voices?”
I shook my head sadly. “I think we might have started this.”
The realization showed up in her eyes, and she frowned. “I didn’t mean any harm. I just wanted to let her know I was there.”
She got up from the floor and I put my arm around her. “I know you didn’t mean it.” I heard the sound of the approaching sirens and smiled. “Sounds like help got here pretty quick.”
Angie heard them too. She patted her cousin on the head and got up. “I’ll be right back, Dawn. Don’t go to sleep. I have to let the paramedics in.”
She ran out of the room and I heard her bounding down the stairs to let the rescue squad in. I could hear her heightened voice telling them to follow her, and then they were all coming up the steps. I ushered Lori out of their way to the back of the room. I knew we could all share the same space, but I felt it was best to just get out of the way and let them work.
The paramedics knelt over Dawn and tried to wake her back up, but she apparently had sunk into unconsciousness again. It all started to hit Angie now and she began to cry.
“Where’s her mother?” One of the emergency guys asked.
“I…I don’t know. She left, said she would be back in a few hours. She didn’t leave a number or anything.”
“I’m not sure. I think he moved out. There’s a number for him on the fridge, but I think it’s a motel.”
“Well, we can take care of her here. Why don’t you get some fresh air and maybe call that number, see if you can find at least one of her parent’s.”
“Okay,“ she sniffled.
We watched her leave the room, and the paramedics returned their full focus to the unconscious Dawn. One of them broke open a packet of smelling salts and placed it under her nose. Her body jerked and her eyes opened. She spasmed and tried to throw up, but nothing came. She lay her head against the floor and moaned.
“Do you know your name?” One of the guys asked.
“Yes,” she mumbled.
“What is it?”
“Lori,” she sighed.
The two paramedics looked at each other, as if they knew that wasn’t right.
“Don’t go,” Dawn sighed. “Please Lori, don’t go.”
Lori pulled away from me, and was at her sister’s side in an instant. “I’m not going anywhere, Dawn. I’m right here.” She put her hand on her forehead. “I’ll always be with you. But you have to live.”
“So do you,” she replied, faint and confused.
“I’m sorry Dawn. I can’t. I’m ….” She wiped a tear from her face. I could tell she didn’t want to say it, as if it would give death that final power to come take us, but there was no way around it. “I’ve died. I’m gone. But I’ll always be your sister, whether I’m here or not. You have to be strong for mom and dad. You can’t follow me. Not yet. Okay?”
“Uh oh,” one of the paramedics said. “We keep losing her. She’s out. We need to get her to the hospital now and get this stuff out of her system.”
The other paramedic stood up. “Okay, I’ll get the gurney and radio it in.”
“See if the girl got ahold of her parents, too. They need to be there when we arrive.”
Lori looked up at me, worried. Then she looked back at Dawn , who had slipped into an unconscious state again. “We have to help,” she cried.
“I don’t know what to do, “ I confessed.
Just then Angie came back into the room. “I couldn’t get an answer,” she said. “The phone just rang and rang.”
The paramedic nodded, cracking open another packet of salts. “Okay, we’ll try again once we’re at the hospital. Are you going to ride with?”
“Yes. Yes I can.”
“Do you know if she has any known allergies or medical conditions?”
“Not that I know of.”
The other paramedic arrived with the gurney. “We may have a problem,” he said.
“What is it?”
“Hospital is packed. Halloween night. We may have to go to county.”
The other guy shook his head. “She may not make it to county. I’m having a hard time keeping her conscious as it is. Whatever she took is working its way through her system pretty fast. She needs a doctor now.”
“Well shit, don’t just talk about it,” I said, exasperated. I ran over and started to scoop Dawn up. In my concern and desperation, the emotional connection was made, and she came up easily in my arms. Lori put her arms under her sister and helped me lift her onto the gurney.
The paramedics stumbled backwards in alarm and Angie screamed. We didn’t wait. We started rolling the gurney for the door.