Shadow Stabbing

Emma looks nervous. She's been looking like that a lot, lately. Now her eyes are pinched and red, constantly flicking around her landscape in search of another assault. Her hands grip the steering wheel in a wad of knuckles and I wonder if her nails are cutting into her hands. She peers around at me and I smile. I think I'm being reassuring, but she still looks as nervous as ever.

I motion her to park and wriggle down from my seat. The moonlight weighs heavy over the old aquarium, pouring like milk and pooling in the cracks of the shattered windows. I grip the loading bay door handle and its spongy growths crumble into my palm. The door ratchets up. I bounce on my toes to push it as far as I can.

The ambulance lights paint hectic rainbows over the bay interior. The lights are red, like blood, and blue, like wrist veins, and flash over twisted metal limbs that claw up at the walls as if pleading for escape. Emma cuts the engine and I tense. She swings the back doors out from inside and stands stark in the white light. Her mouth forms a dark, wet O.

A hand smacks my shoulder. It swings me back into a warm weight and holds me there.

"State your name and purpose." I can see the filigree glint from his gun as he motions Emma to answer.

She raises her palms. "Emma MacKenzie," she calls, "and this is Jeremy and Jim. They're hurt. Please, don't shoot."

His chuckle rattles my head against his stomach. He hisses something from the side of his mouth and the words are tufted with accent. The sound of my name makes my heart twitch. "Are you allies of this girl?" he has returned to speaking with Emma.

She nods, slowly lowering her hands. Perhaps she sees a friendly slackness in the man's face. Red is attempting to prop himself up to see and the wired man is desperately thwacking his computer with his palm.

The man wraps an arm like a bear's across my shoulders and I buckle a little. I squeak up at him and he tucks the gun into an anonymous holster.

"Welcome, comrades," he says, "I am Dietrich Lobotov."

Dietrich assists in lowering Red and the wired man from the ambulance, though Emma hovers over them like a matronly robin, alighting tenderly on the men's arms as they are wheeled out of the bay. I try to push the wired man myself, but Dietrich leads both of the carts in his huge hands. His knuckles are thick and round, like marbles under the skin, and the flesh is scarred in arcs of irritated red. I try to hold onto his thumb, like I used to do, but he waves me off.

Emma is wringing her hands in desperation. When one of them swings down to straighten her pant-leg, I grip it. I squeeze her hand in both of mine and smile at her again. I don't see why she's gone and gotten all nervous, again.

"I will set you up in the diving room," Dietrich rumbles from up ahead. "It is the cleanest room. Tile and white paint just like a hospital, as well." He has the two gurneys pressed together, pushing them as one, and the wheels clatter against eachother with the sound of shopping carts: a squall that rings against the mottled glass walls.

I think I hear Red say "alright", as if he has a choice.

The diving room is up a ramp and through plastic doors that close with the sound of a kiss. Dietrich pushes the gurneys next to a row of flaking lockers and begins hanging sloshing intravenous bags on the coat hooks. Emma mutters something about more supplies being in the ambulance. Dietrich nods. She flushes and mutters something else about how she'll just be getting those, then.

The wired man is beating his computer again. I go over and he waves at the screen. There's some very naughty words on it. I frown and turn the computer towards me, lifting myself up onto the edge of the gurney. His eyes go wide and he grunts. It's not like I'm sitting on him or anything.

By the time Emma returns, arms hefting various tubs and vials, I've found the program:

"You have chosen Microsoft Sam as the computer's default voice," it whirs. "Booger."

The End

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