Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson.
The rescue squad guys regained their composure fast and ran after the gurney. They grabbed it and started rolling it for the stairs, where they lifted it and began to carry it down the flight.
“Did you see that shit?” One of them asked.
“No I didn’t. You didn’t either, so don’t say a word about it.”
“What the hell would I say? An unconscious body lifted itself onto the gurney and began to roll itself across the floor?”
“I’ve decided I don’t like Halloween.”
They reached the bottom of the stairs, set the gurney down and rolled it so fast towards the door they almost looked like a movie reel that had been sped up. Angie followed behind them. She was visibly shaken and kept looking over her shoulder as if expecting to see angels or demons on their tail. She didn’t see us of course, and even if she could, she wouldn’t have spotted us behind her because we were right alongside the paramedics helping to move the gurney along.
Rolling across the foyer, we all went out the door, which they had left open, knowing they’d need quick access to the ambulance. They didn’t, however, leave the rear door of the ambulance open, but I took care of that quickly. I sprinted ahead and pulled it open. They stopped for a moment, seeing it swing open on its own. They looked at each other, and then at Angie, who looked like you couldn’t even shove her onto the ambulance now.
I returned to my spot, and together Lori and I got them moving again by pulling the gurney to the open door. Though they were clearly bewildered, and maybe a bit afraid, they went with the pull and lifted the gurney into the ambulance. The two paramedics took a moment and looked back at the house with fear as if they’d see a pig with glowing red eyes in the window like in that Amityville movie. Then one of them began to work on Dawn, while the other came back out and helped Angie climb aboard. She too was looking back at the house afraid. Something told me that after this, you’d never be able to get her to go inside it again. I felt bad about that, but it couldn’t be helped.
The EMT shut the doors behind her, ran around to the front of the ambulance and jumped in. Immediately he started the engine. Lori and I jumped through the closed rear doors as the emergency vehicle pulled off and we headed for the hospital.
The paramedic who worked over Dawn was having problems. It seemed he could wake her up, but when he did, within a few minutes her eyes would close again and she would sink into sleep or unconsciousness. In an attempt to help, Angie held her cousin’s hand and talked to her about whatever came to mind. She told her how she couldn’t wait until they were both going to the same school next year, and about one of her neighbors Mrs Shelton, who it was rumored was a little too sweet on Jamie Botts, the college age paper boy. Anything to try and keep Dawn awake and focused.
“It’s not helping, is it?” She asked the paramedic.
He gave her a reassuring smile. “Everything helps, miss. Keep talking to her. Give her something to focus on.”
So, she began telling Dawn a story that she obviously was making up on the fly. It was about a girl who had a crush on a fairy prince who lived in her garden. I was impressed with her natural abilities and thought to myself one day she’s going to be a writer. I turned to look out the back window and saw something that brought me a small measure of concern. The sky behind us didn’t look right. Darkness had fallen by now, with trick or treaters still visible doing their rounds, but the sky had an eerie blue finger running through it. I say it was a finger, but it was more like a flashing streak, lightning that glowed a beautiful blue as it struck its way to earth like a skeletal digit.
I tapped Lori on the shoulder. “Look at that,” I said.
“Oh my god,” she said. “What is it?”
I didn’t have the answer to that one. Though we were moving away from the blue streak, it almost seemed to be following us. The blue shade was not constant either. It changed its shade like a lava lamp in the sky, swirling in color within the confines of its shape. Aqua, sky, neon, baby. Every shade of blue you could think of, it morphed into, while following some distance behind us. And then I felt the crackle, an electrical charge that seemed to be building up in the air outside. So far it hadn’t entered the ambulance, but it wouldn’t stay outside for long.
“Oh no,” I said, looking at Lori with fear on my face. “They must have brought our bodies up.”
In a display of courage and nerves, she shook her head. “We haven’t seen them yet. Everyone else had to visibly see their bodies.”
I nodded, agreeing with her, but the sky and its faint hissing of electrical activity bothered me. It was as if death were chasing us, telling us there was no escape, it’s time now. I looked at Dawn on the gurney, fading in and out of consciousness, and then it occurred to me. Yes, Lori was right. In our ghostly state we had to see our bodies before the final claiming , but maybe it wasn’t coming for us in this instant. Perhaps it was after Dawn.
Lori seemed to think the same thing. “Oh no,” she moaned. “No, you can’t have her.”
She got up and planted herself between the rear door and her sister. Angie was still telling the semi conscious girl the story of the cute fairy prince, while the paramedic kept her vitals stable. I don’t know what Lori thought she was going to be able to do, but her sheer defiance made me love her even more, and so I stood by her side in an attempt to block death from seeing Dawn.
“How’s she doing?” The driver called out to his partner.
“She’s holding, but I don’t think she’s going to make it to county. That’s a hell of a drive.”
“We don’t have a choice. They are at full capacity everywhere else.”
“Your decision. You’re the driver.”
“Oh to hell with this,” I said. “She needs the nearest hospital, you guys.” I went through to the front of the ambulance and into the cab. I didn’t know how to tell the driver to make the turn to the nearest medical facility, Murray General Hospital, so I did it for him.
“Holy shit!” He yelled. “What the Christ is going on?”
He struggled with the wheel, but I had already done this once before with Kev, so I was experienced at taking over.
We swerved into the other lane and the paramedic in the back yelled out. “What the hell is going on up there!?”
“I’ve lost control of the steering! It’s like it has a freaking mind of its own!”
As if to convince him that it did, I made another turn, putting us on a direct path to the overcrowded, yet closest hospital. At first the guy fought me, but then he relented and relaxed. He didn’t let go of the wheel, but instead just held it loosely and let the thing steer itself, which it did with my help.
“It’s taking us to Murray General,” he yelled to his co-worker. Then he lowered his voice so only I could hear. “Hey look, I know it’s Halloween, All Hallows’, ghosts walk the earth, or whatever, but whoever you are I would feel much safer if you’d let me drive. I promise to take the girl to Murray, ok?”
I let him have the wheel back, and he breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you,” he said. He picked up the radio off the dash and called in, telling his dispatch or whomever they were going to the local hospital, as there was no way the patient would make it anywhere else. The person on the other end protested, but he was firm about it. “Hey look, we’re almost there. Just make room.” He threw the radio back on its cradle. “How is everyone doing back there?” He called to his passengers.
“We’re holding,” the other paramedic replied. “But her vitals are all over the place. We need to hurry.”
The driver nodded and pressed his foot to the gas. He honked the horn a few times to let the traffic ahead know we were barreling through. “You know,” he said softly. “When I was a boy my grandmother died. I loved grandma so much, I wished she would come back as a ghost or something just to let me she was alright and safe. I used to sit in my room and wait for some kind of sign from her. But nothing came. A few times freaky things happened in my room or the house, but I knew it wasn’t her. Maybe another spirit, but not her.”
He turned in his seat, as if trying to see where I was. When he didn’t see anything, he returned his focus on the road and shook his head. “I guess I’m just crazy. I don’t even know if you’re there. But if you are, and if you’re able to, could you let my grandma know that I’ve missed her. Her name is Alva Mably. My name is Greg.”
I felt bad for the guy. He had been carrying this grief with him his whole life. He was just seeking some kind of closure, a reassurance that everything was alright in this world and the next. I knew how he felt; I’d lost my grandmother at an early age as well. I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder. I could feel him tense just slightly, but I knew our common ground made the connection possible. I patted him on the back a few times to try and let him know I heard him and his request. I felt it would probably be impossible to fulfill his request, but it is far better to give someone hope than to dash their spirit. To some this would be the same as lying, but from my new perspective I considered it healing, and a necessary need of the human condition.
“Thank you,” he said, his voice near to cracking. Then he took a deep breath and pulled us into the emergency entrance of the hospital.
“Shit,” the other paramedic said from the back. “We just lost her.”
“No!” Lori screamed. “Bring her back, damn you!”
I went through the cab wall and was at Dawn’s body in an instant. If she was gone , I wanted us to be the first ones she saw when she became spirit. But nothing happened. She wasn’t leaving her mortal frame, not that we could see anyway. The back doors of the ambulance was opened and a couple more medical people were climbing in to help rush the gurney inside. Beyond the doorway, the skies had changed from its myriad of blues to a whole multitude of colors that swirled in the sky like watercolors thrown against an electrified canvas that sizzled and sparked.
“Give her back,” I pleaded. “Don’t take her.”
As the technicians wheeled the gurney out the back and onto the pavement, Lori was nearly throwing herself across her sister’s body, while Angie, tears streaming down her face, followed behind. I got out of the ambulance and looked up at the colors. Any other time they would have been beautiful, but now they were nothing less than menacing. Mesmerized, I stood there staring, transfixed by the sight. There was a buzz rising in my ears like radio static coming through headphones. The very air was starting to sizzle around me.
I ran for the hospital entrance. The others were already inside ushering the gurney down a hallway to the emergency room. I passed through the solid entrance doors and looked back. The sky and its colors seemed to just be waiting there outside, biding the time while it swirled in different shades of its ever changing energy.