This week brought another random title challenge from Chuck Wendig, and while this particular post is a bit late for that challenge’s schedule, it’s still done. It turns out that my Nonsense Literature class is awesome and also takes up more time than I’d first anticipated. It’s nothing unmanageable, though some of my poor poor friends are taking Nonsense along with another class that has an absurd reading load (and I say that as a Reedie).
This is another experiment in not really knowing where things are going until I start writing, and I think I like it. Enjoy!
“No, not that one,” Sam sits back on their heels, blood up to their forearms, “he’s not going to make it. Next.”
The interminable column of wounded winds back out of the vast meeting hall. Rows of rickety cots line the sides of the huge space, with what Sam has come to think of as their “operating theater” in the middle, a little ways back from the door. They rub their forehead with the crook of their arm, trying to wipe away the sweat dripping into their eyes. They’re afraid they’ve only managed to wipe more blood on their face. Sam would kill right now for a hand washing station, or even good package of vinyl gloves, and the irony isn’t lost on them.
The next body comes up, carried by friends on a stretcher made of two broomsticks and several jackets. It doesn’t take more than a glance for Sam to send this one off to one of the nurses they’ve been working so hard to train. Simple laceration and avulsion of the lower left leg, operable and likely to become infected. An orderly can handle that one.
Through the haze of sleep deprivation, Sam wonders why they’re still in charge of triage. The woman they’d told to handle this should have been back a while ago. Sam glances at the clock above the hall’s door, forgetting for a moment that it’s been broken since the fighting started. It still reads 2:33, AM since Sam remembered the first bombs bursting and burning in the dark like grotesque orange mushrooms, buildings collapsing or blown apart in greasy pillars of fire.
Sam blinks, feeling grit behind their eyelids, and realizes that the latest group has been waiting for an unmeasurable amount of time. They glance down at the patient, feeling recognition before they can place who it is. It’s the woman who’d been in charge of triage. She’s bleeding out on the floor. Sam looks up at the group in confusion. Why hadn’t they done anything about it?
The group looks back at Sam. They’re carrying guns. Sam stands up slowly, feeling their knees crack as they straighten their legs. Soldiers? Why soldiers now?
One of the gunmen speaks up. “We’re here to do a quick check of the people here. Some of them are enemy combatants.”
Sam shakes their head to clear it, and wishes they hadn’t. They’re so tired that everything hurts. “Why aren’t you helping my triage nurse?”
The spokesman looks confused. Sam points a bloody finger at the woman bleeding out on the floor. Something clicks. Those are gunshot wounds.
The spokesman’s face hardens. “She was aiding and abetting enemies of the state. We brought her back here to let you know that some people working for you,” he gestures casually at the blood-smeared clinician’s smock, the armband stenciled MEDIC, “aren’t trustworthy.”
“You,” Sam starts, struggling for words, “just killed someone who was saving lives. What — what the fuck?!”
The gunman looks indignant, tries to speak, but Sam cuts him off.
“No, shut up. Get out of my hospital. I’m here trying to save lives, and all you do is end them.” Sam turns on their heel and strides back towards the mass of wounded being treated further inside. “Moe,” Sam waves to a man looking up from tying on a bandage, “you’re on triage now.”
Sam picks up one of the bloody rags lying around and does their best to wipe down their hands. They have to be able to hold their tools without slipping. Its an unsanitary disaster. Sam knows that more people will die because of unclean conditions, but what are you supposed to do when you get your own private little tour of hell in your own hometown? There’s no way that they could sit back without trying to help.
Sam feels someone tap them on the shoulder, and looks back. It’s the spokesman again, with a hard look on his face.
“Look, you might be in charge here, but we’ve got to conduct this search. If you don’t let us, then you’re obstructing military personnel in their duties.”
“Ok, fine.” Sam crosses their arms, “I’m obstructing you then.” The first adrenaline of bloody crisis has faded by now, but they can feel a new surge building. Their pain recedes, unimportant in the face of their new urgency. The dim meeting hall, filled to the brim with the people struggling for life, seems clearer and harder in their eyes. “If you want to shoot me, go ahead.”
The spokesman looks uncertain. This wasn’t the response he’d expected.
“Look,” Sam continues, “how the fuck do you think you’re going to do your job here?” They point at the shattered smartphone sitting in the gunman’s breast pocket. “You had pictures on there? You know what the people you need to kill look like? How many dying folks are you going to terrorize just because you can’t remember who’s on whose side?”
“No. You can either kill as many of us as you like, civilians and doctors and healers and whatever, people you’re supposed to protect, or you can go do some real good and keep watch outside. Or help us in here if any of you,” Sam waves a hand at the other gunmen, “have any relevant training. Got it?”
The man closes his mouth, blinking.
“Good.” Sam looks past the gunman towards where Moe is waving another stretcher towards the operating theater. “Now please, get your people out of the way. We have another life to save.”