The waiting room was a pristine, almost blinding shade of white and immaculately clean from wall to wall. Blue plastic chairs stood at attention, bolted to the ground in rows, looking vacant and desolate. At the far side of the room were an empty nurse's desk and a pair of doors that led to the emergency rooms. A strange shutter passed through Helen the moment they entered and she knew immediately that something was wrong. It was too clean and too quiet, no noise except the hum of the florescent lights.
"Leave," the strange man commanded, "Leave right now. Go."
Before she could even respond, a short blonde nurse bustled in, pushing a gurney. Her light blue scrubs hung loosely off her boney frame and were covered in small dark speckles that weren't a part of the design, Helen suspected. Her bone white hands flashed like lightning, undoing the straps on the gurney and pushing the man onto it, all the while talking at an astounding pace. Helen noticed with growing unease that she also completely avoided all eye contact with anyone.
"Quickly," she said in a high, soprano voice, "Your injuries are too severe. You need to see the doctor. You need x-rays. Give me your wallet and I'll fill out your paperwork for you. We have to get you back to see the doctor right away."
At this point she had already managed to strap him to the gurney, pull his wallet out of his pocket and push him half way to the ER doors. And, despite the man's command that she leave, Helen had to speak up.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down there lady. You can't just-"
She turned and glared at Helen with a shockingly cruel expression. Her eyes glinted pitch black as she spoke with venom, "Who are you? You're not supposed to be here. Get out."
"I'm his sister. He was in a car accident. I already called our parents and they're on their way and so is the other driver he stupidly hit," she snatched the wallet out of the evil nurse's hand, "I can fill out his paperwork for him."
The evil nurse snarled at her and her glare increased to a level that might have melted Helen's face off if she was not distracted by a doctor entering the scene from the ER. Helen breathed a sigh of relief. This man would recognize the nurse as a fraud and throw her out.
"What have we got here?" the doctor asked.
"A man with severe injuries from a car wreck and a sister who won't let me treat him," the nurse snapped.
"I never said I wouldn't let you treat him. I just said that I wouldn't let you take his wallet."
"Well," the doctor said slowly, turning to Helen, "We are medical professionals. If the nurse said she has to fill out his paperwork, then she does."
"No, that's . . ." Helen trailed off as she watched the doctor and nurse exchange knowing glances. They were in cahoots. As she looked closer, she noticed that the doctor's scrubs were also covered in rust colored speckles and that he was also pale and gaunt. They were probably related. But why were they trying to scam people at a hospital? This situation had much more to it than just paperwork and Helen abruptly realized the danger she was in.
"It's fine," the doctor suddenly said, "You can fill out the paperwork if you want. Just wait right here for a moment."
Helen sunk slowly into a chair and watched the nurse and doctor leave with the man on the stretcher, feeling her stomach sink at the same time. Something was up and it wasn't good. Nervously, she flipped open the worn out, plain black wallet in her hands and glanced at the driver's license. The stranger was there, looking surprising handsome with a broad grin on his face. Eliot Sykes. So that was his name, she thought, that's one mystery solved. Taking a greater interest now, she noticed his wallet was fat with strange pieces of paper and cards. The back pocket contained at least four different kinds of currency and Helen only recognized the American ten-dollar bill. She saw a few bills that were perfectly square with pictures of trees on them and another that seemed to be a small, round, flat stone. The majority of it looked like monopoly money, small and of varying colors.
"How unusual," she muttered to herself. Next she pulled out one of the many cards behind his driver's license. It was black with white writing and sealed with a crest Helen had never seen before. Although the card looked very official, it was issued by an organization called The Order of the Black Dragon. Under the title of the issuer was a single sentence in fine print that read ‘By the power invested in the Order of the Black Dragon, a Mr. Eliot Sykes is hereby granted a license to kill whoever or whatever is necessary to maintain peace and stability on the planet Earth in the third, fourth and fifth dimensions only.' Helen almost laughed out loud. It had to be a joke; something completely made up to freak people out. But the next card was almost identical except that it ‘granted the power to search for any and all missing magical objects and/or people.'
This was getting weird. Helen frowned at the cards. She could see several more of the same kind of card throughout the wallet, making a total of maybe eight licenses for things that weren't even possible. Just what kind of a man was this Eliot Sykes? Before she could go through the rest of his wallet and the seemingly endless amount of mysterious licenses and papers, the doctor came back, clipboard of paperwork in hand.
"Here you go," he handed her the clipboard with a smile that seemed vicious to
Helen, "I just need to ask you a few questions. Would you mind if I talk as you write?"
"No, of course not," she responded, no need to tell him that this is checking out paperwork, not checking in, she thought. She started to write bogus information on the lines and look completely serious while doing it.
"So, have you and your family lived here long?" the doctor started.
"All our lives."
"And they're on their way, you said. When do you think they'll be here?"
"Any minute now," Helen chanced a look up at the doctor, whose dark hair was almost covering his eyes, something she hadn't noticed before.
"You know, you and your brother look nothing alike. If I hadn't heard you say it, I wouldn't believe you were related."
It was a challenge and Helen knew that she had to challenge back. "That's funny because I didn't say it in front of you."
He paused for a moment and an eerie silence hung in the too bright room. When he spoke again his voice was full of accusation and anger, "You're not really related."
"Why does it matter?" she snapped, "You're a doctor, you should treat him regardless."
"Did you call the boy's parents? Did you call your parents? Who else is coming to this hospital tonight?" He was now trembling with rage and spoke at a volume that was almost a roar.
Before Helen could answer, the nurse burst back into the room looking scared and upset. A large cut now ran along her cheekbone and thick blood flowed out of it, dyeing her scrubs purple.
"Doctor," she panted breathlessly, then she saw Helen and composed herself a little, "The patient is dead. I need you to take care of the remains. Please come with me."
"Wait. He's dead? I don't believe it. He wasn't that badly injured." Helen broke in again.
Another meaningful look passed between the doctor and the nurse and Helen was sure that weren't communicating about medical evaluations.
"Take her to see the remains. Then come back and give me a full report. Am I understood?"
The nurse nodded curtly and grabbed Helen by the wrist, all but dragging her down the hall. The noise of the bright lights buzzing overhead was broken only by the harsh, staccato sound of their feet slapping the white tile floor. Bland white and pale green walls were interrupted only by vacant rooms that flew by as the nurse marched her faster and faster. She stopped abruptly in front of a nondescript wood door with the number 109. Without a word, the nurse flung open the door and shoved Helen inside hard enough to make her fall. The door slam shut behind her and the sharp click of the lock turning told her that she was now trapped.
The room was small, white and green all the way around with a white tiled floor. No windows, one door and one bed in the center of the room with a bed stand to one side and a whole set of medical apparatus to the other. The stranger, although strapped to the bed, was still perfectly alive. Eliot, she thought as she looked down at the wallet still clutched in her hand.
"Good, you're here. Untie me, we've got to get out of here before they come back for us," he said.
"How is it that you know what's going on here? And what is going on here?"
"There's no time to explain now. Just help me out."
"I don't know why I should trust you," she said but then she got up and started to undo the straps. As soon as he was free, Eliot swung his feet off the bed and jumped down only to be reminded of his injured leg. He flinched and quickly shifted his weight to his other foot.
"Come on," he said, "We don't have much time. We have to move fast and cover our tracks."
"Whatever you say, Eliot. I'm Helen, by the way," she replied, handing him his wallet. He looked shocked to hear his own name and paused for a moment to stare, wide eyed, at her. Then he slipped the wallet into his back pocket.
Finally, he stammered out, "Um, right. I'll just . . ." then trailed off.
Helen watched as Eliot knelt in front of the door and started working on the lock with something small and silver that he had taken from his pocket. Escaping the room was a start but they needed a way to get past the evil nurse and doctor once they were free. What they needed was a distraction. She looked around the room again, this time searching for something that might be useful in that department. Her eyes alit on the old bed stand that looked like it had been in the hospital since the dawn of time. Opening the tiny drawer, Helen discovered a veritable treasure trove of old wrappers and dirty tissues. Obviously, the drawer hadn't been cleaned in a few centuries. But that thought struck her with a sudden inspiration. Tossing the trash on the ground, she dug to the back of the drawer where she found an old ashtray from when smoking was allowed in hospitals and a book of matches.
Without a second to lose, Helen pushed the bed across the room, under the smoke detector. She climbed on the bed and tried the first match, which wouldn't light and, after four tries, Helen threw it away. The next one lit but burnt out before she got it near the alarm. There was only one match left in the book and she prayed it would work. She struck it, it lit and she got it up to the smoke detector but nothing happened.
"Blow it out so that it smokes. The sensor detects smoke, not fire."
Helen turned around to see Eliot watching her now from the door. She followed his instructions and the alarm blared. When she looked again, he was grinning at her and she couldn't help but grin back. She leapt off the bed and followed him out the door, he with a slight limp, clutching his shoulder. The hall was now a tornado of activity with doctors and patients running every which way pushing and pulling all forms of medical equipment. A supply cart had been left right outside their door with a tub of rubbing alcohol perched on top.
"Prefect," said Eliot with a quick smile as he grabbed the massive container, "Here, I need you to pour this on the floor behind us as we go. Can you do that?"
"Why would I want to? Isn't that a fire hazard or something?"
"Said the girl who just set off the fire alarm. Now follow me."
"It isn't like I started an actual fire," Helen murmured but he wasn't listening. Eliot limped off down the hall and she followed, dumping out large quantities of the rubbing alcohol at regular intervals. They turned a corner and sped down a different corridor that Helen didn't recognize. It was then that she realized that they were heading farther into the hospital rather than towards the main entrance. This made a certain amount of sense, as the main entrance would be full of people including the nurse and doctor. She just hoped that he knew of a back exit somewhere.
"We're out of rubbing alcohol," she informed him as they turned another corner.
"That's alright. There's our exit." He pointed to a solid concrete wall at the end of the corridor.
"Um . . . where?" She checked the ceiling for an emergency exit sign but didn't see one. If there was an exit in this hallway, then why wasn't there anyone trying to get out through it? Helen glanced over at the man she had helped save and wondered, not for the first time, if he was clinically insane.
"Listen to me," he said, "There's no time to explain anything and you probably don't want to know anyway. This is the way it is: our lives are in danger. I need you to just do what I say and not ask any questions for next," he looked at his wrist like there was a watch there, "thirty minutes or so. Is that possible?"
"I guess so but-"
"Good," he continued, cutting off her next question, "Now cover your eyes and don't look until I tell you it's safe."
She covered her face with her hands and turned her back on him. Before she could even think about what an unusual night she was having, a small popping noise reached her ears, followed by Eliot saying, "You can look now."
When she turned around the hall still looked exactly the same except this time, there was a door at the end that was labeled emergency exit. Helen felt her jaw drop but couldn't find any words for what she was seeing so she simply closed it again and followed Eliot down the empty, echoing corridor and through the newly created door.
They stepped out into a hedge and had to fight their way free of its sharp branches. Just before Helen escaped the bush, she heard another small popping sound and turned to see that the door was now gone. Collecting herself, she decided not to comment on this strange occurrence. The parking lot in front of them was bustling with activity. Three huge, red fire engines drove into the lot, sirens wailing as doctors herded patients away from the building.
"We have to get to your car and get out of here before they notice us. Give me your keys, I'm driving," he said authoritatively, like there was no other option.
"Can you even drive in the condition you're in?"
"I've driven in worse condition, just trust me."
"You keep saying that without giving me any real foundation to base it on," she responded but she handed over her keys anyway. After all, she still had no idea what was going on and Eliot was her best bet at survival. For the time being, it was probably best to listen to him.
Crouching low and ducking behind other cars, the two escapees made it to Helen's car and almost had the doors open before they were spotted. Helen was the first to see the doctor's cruel face through the panicked crowd, looking like a wolf in sheep's clothing in the herd of patients. He looked almost predatory and so did the nurse who emerged from behind him seconds later. The pitch black eyes of the doctor locked with Helen's soft green ones. He began to stalk towards them, minion trailing not far behind. Helen and Eliot clambered into the car.
"Eliot, we've been spotted. They're coming," she told him in a breathless voice.
"I know." He looked grave but not scared, which gave Helen some confidence. The car's engine revved and he peeled out of the parking lot at a speed that Helen was unaware her old car could travel at. He pulled out onto the street without looking and slammed down on the accelerator. Over the whine of the engine, she suddenly heard several loud bangs followed by metallic clicks. Twisting around in her seat, Helen saw another car on their bumper with a person hanging out of the passenger window. The figure twitched as another loud bang erupted from it. Seemingly simultaneously, the back windshield exploded and glass showered throughout the car.
"They're shooting at us!?" Helen screamed, turning to look at Eliot with eyes the size of saucers.
"So it would appear," he said pensively.
"How are you so calm about this? We could die!"
"We could have died from the moment we entered that hospital. We've been lucky to survive this long."
A jolt shuttered through the car as their pursuers rammed into their bumper.
"It's no good," Eliot said irritably, "We're going to have to pull over and fight them."
"Won't they just shoot us?"
"No, that would defeat their purpose."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I can't tell you. Now, when we stop, don't run. It will only make things worse for us. Try not to move or draw attention to yourself. Okay?"
They must have been near the industrial part of town because Eliot pulled into a small, dark alley between two warehouses and screeched to a stop. The other car pulled in right behind them and stopped inches short of hitting Helen's car again. Two loud bangs told her that their pursuers had gotten out of their car. Eliot let out a breath that he seemed to be holding in and got out of the car as well. Automatically, Helen followed suit and soon found herself facing the doctor and nurse, who somehow looked even more sinister silhouetted by the dim, yellow street lights that glared down on the sidewalk behind them. A loud hiss, like air being let out of a tire, broke the silence and it took Helen a moment to realize that the noise was coming from the people and not the car. The doctor and nurse began to advance, the hissing growing louder. Helen looked to Eliot, who had taken the same silver instrument that had unlocked the door out of his pocket again, looking very calm and determined until another hiss sounded from behind them.
Three more people, two men and a woman, dressed in tattered and dirty clothes emerged from behind a dumpster in the alley and began to move in. They were all tall, thin and pale and they moved in a crouched, almost defensive position. But that was all Helen had time to register because then several things seemed to happen at once. First, the three people who had come from behind the dumpster disappeared and reappeared between Helen's car and the doctor's car. The doctor, nurse and three strangers became blurs from which a lot of hissing and growling was emitted and Eliot suddenly appeared at her side.
"Should I know what's going on right now?" Helen asked, glancing over at Eliot. He still looked serious but now he almost looked like he was going to be sick. He kept his eyes locked on the blurs of color as he spoke.
"No," he replied curtly.
"Well, should we run for it?" she asked uncertainly.
"No, we'd never make it. Do you have any weapons in your car? We'll have to fight the winner . . ."
"No. Wait, they're fighting? That's fighting?" Helen asked in disbelief, pointing to the insane fury of motion between the two cars.
"Yes, vampires are very territorial," he said distractedly, digging small instruments out of his jean pockets as he spoke. Some of them he determined to be useless and threw over his shoulder, others he cradled against his side with his wounded arm but none of them were like anything Helen had ever seen before.
"Vampires?" Helen took a moment to reflect on everything that had happened that night. Sadly, she realized that vampires were a far more reasonable explanation than anything else she could come up with. "What are we going to do? How do we beat them?"
"There's no ‘we,' just ‘I' and I won't if I don't find a weapon soon."
"A weapon like this?" Helen said as she pulled out the Swiss army knife she had put in her pocket at the beginning of the night.
A wide grin broke out across Eliot's face, "You're something else."
He took the knife and began to wrap the silver colored instrument around it like a wire. The wiry silver soon engulfed the knife, glowed faintly and then disappeared. As Helen watched this process, she remembered the appearance of the door at the hospital and reminded herself that Eliot was also not as he seemed. But before she got the chance to ask him about it, he pulled a very small vile of a strange, glowing purple liquid out of his pocket and handed it to her.
"Take this. If one of them comes after you, smash it on them," he paused and looked at her very seriously, "We'll make it out of here, I promise. Now don't move."
With those words of encouragement, he limped in front of her, modified knife at the ready. The vampire fight seemed to have ended because they were alone in the alley with the doctor and nurse again except this time the nurse was missing an arm. Helen watched, mouth slightly agape, as thick black blood oozed out of her wound, coating her right side and making a puddle on the ground. The other three vampires from behind the dumpster were nowhere to be seen. The two remaining made low, guttural noises at each other, communicating something Helen couldn't quite make out.
Then, without warning, they sprang. The nurse lunged at Eliot first and he was forced to roll back on his bad foot, barely managing to sidestep her assault. She swung at him with her remaining arm. He parried with the knife but was knocked off balance and fell backwards. The nurse, fangs bared, dove down on top of him. Helen picked up a rock and pegged the nurse right in the head, distracting her for a moment. It looked as though Eliot was about to throw her off but, Helen's view of the battle was suddenly obscured as the doctor materialized in front of her and, with one swing of his arm, sent her flying over her car and into the brick wall beyond.
She slid to the ground, feeling the pain radiate from her back and head. Quick as a flash, the doctor was on top of her. He grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against the wall again, her feet daggling a foot above the ground. As her vision began to narrow into tunnel vision, all she could see was the doctor. His face now had a malicious, evil aspect to it that had not been present before. Long fangs protruded from his warped and snarling mouth, his eyes had turned completely white except for two black pinpricks that darted around furiously and his wild dark hair seemed to be standing on end. Without thinking, Helen's hand tightened around the vial and she smashed it right against the side of his face. Then her vision went completely black.