Angela and I stood by the front desk busying ourselves with meager conversation and dad jokes as the clock crept slowly onward as if it were coated in tar. I’ve suffered many long shifts without much in the way of dynamic tasks to attend, but that night in particular seemed especially drawn out. At least I had Angela to keep me company.
She had just reached the climax of reiterating her comedic tale on how she dealt with the squirrel in her apartment, when I heard the automatic doors slide open behind me. Her laughing subsided and she began to speak again when she froze mid-sentence. Her jovial smile contorted into a look of sudden surprise and her cheeks seemed to drain of all color. I felt a cold chill slither down my spine and I turned to see what had her so suddenly startled.
A woman walked solemnly inside the front sliding doors. Inky black hair partially obscured her features and flowed gently with each step. Her alabaster skin radiated beads of sweat in the faux LED lightning. Her stomach bulged out from her tight black gown and droplets of blood and bodily fluids dripped down her legs forming a glistening sanguine trail behind her.
She stopped several feet from us and lifted her head. Her face was devoid of any sort of expression, and eyes appeared entirely vacant of emotion. Her gaze fell upon Angela first, and then slowly turned to lock with me. I felt goosebumps pop up all over my skin, and my pace begin to quicken.
“Ma’am… are you okay?” Angela asked in an apprehensive tone. The woman remained silent for a moment, blood continuing to flow freely from her pelvic region.
“My baby…” She responded. Her voice flat, and almost unconcerned with hear clearly compromised condition. Angela and I exchanged a terrified glance.
“Are you in labor?” I asked, unable to conjure a better question in the moment. Her head slowly turned to meet me, and her soulless eyes drilled holes directly through my skull. Angela grabbed the phone and began dialing as I hesitantly approached the woman.
“We’re gonna help you ma’am… okay?” I ask, heart thundering in my chest as I approached her. She stared at me the entire way with wide unblinking eyes. Her irises appeared so dark I would’ve sworn they were black. I grabbed a wheelchair and coaxed the woman to take a seat. To my surprise and incredible relief, she abided and sat immediately without protest. All the while showing zero signs of discomfort despite her condition.
I got her back to birthing center and began the usual routine. I got her synched with the heartrate monitor, installed the IV and readied an epidural. All the while the nameless woman laid motionless on the bed.
“What’s your name?” I asked her. She gave no response, in fact she didn’t even seem to acknowledge my question. Dr. Avery finally arrived several minutes later escorted by two other nurses.
“Okay, good evening ma’am. I am Doctor Avery and we’re gonna help you okay? How are you feeling?” The woman did not respond, only looked to the doctor with something akin to disdain. A moment of awkward silence and uncertainty filled the room as the doctor readied for the procedure. In the eyes of the other nurses I began to see a twinkle of fear. Both of them turned to me individually, and the gleam seemed to increase when they noticed my own expression. The sentiment did not seem to be shared by Dr. Avery however who busied himself with preparation for the childbirth.
“My baby…” The woman echoed her words from earlier, almost in a whisper this time. Avery paused and glanced over to her. He hesitated a moment, before a smile formed on his face.
“Yes ma’am, you’ve gone into labor so we will deliver your baby now. What’s your name?” He asked filling a syringe with a saline solution. The woman again did not respond. The other two nurses began their tasks and Avery glanced to me. He must’ve sensed the unnerve within me, because he suddenly appeared slightly on edge as well.
The four of us finalized the preparations, and the woman was placed into the birthing apparatus. I administered the epidural, and still the woman had no discernible reaction of any kind. Dr. Avery moved in as the woman’s abdominal contractions continued, all the while she neglected to convey any palpable signs of discomfort. It was the most unnervingly silent delivery I have ever been a part of. You come to expect the standard blurbs of pain from the mother, and the crying that ensues. What you never expect is complete silence. The head of the child began to crown several minutes later.
“Okay give me a big push now and… there we go.” Dr. Avery instructed while pulling the newborn out from the womb and into the world.
“And here we go… congratulations ma’am it’s a…” Dr. Avery paused, cradling the newborn in his arms. His expression twisted to a confused grimace. The other two nurses quickly turned to mimic his display. The air in the room siphoned out in an instant like the draining of a bath tub, and only the beeping of medical equipment droned onward.
“Boy…” The word fell like broken glass from Avery’s lips as he stared infatuated at the newborn in his arms. I expected crying, but the child too was silent.
I rounded the bed side in order to get a better view of the child. I wish I hadn’t. The first thing I noticed were it’s eyes, wide, obsidian and beaming. At least twice the size of any infant’s eyes that I’ve ever seen. Most newborn’s eyes don’t even open for several days, but this one, stared with unnatural curiosity at the world around him. His head was distended and oblong as if some device was used to funnel the skull into a cone like shape. His skin was matt grey, like the color of wet concrete. A pigmentation I have never seen on any human being. He didn’t cry, didn’t squirm, in fact had it not been for the slow rhythmic fluctuating of his little chest, I would’ve thought he was a stillbirth.
Dr. Avery quickly composed himself and wiped away his unkempt grimace. He handed the baby over to the nurse whose face was still frozen in look of uncertainty. Hesitantly she took the child, and wrapped him in a baby blanket. Dr. Avery then turned to me, giving an incredulous look.
The heartrate monitor suddenly dropped and flatlined. Our collective gaze immediately shot to the woman, who lay eyes wide and mouth agape in a lifeless stare. Dr. Avery sprang into action.
“Defib!” He yelled while rushing to stabilize the woman. I ready the defibrillator and look on as the high-pitched electrical surge began. He began heart compression and I approached him with the paddles. Avery retracted from the woman and nodded.
“Do it!” He commanded. I moved in and pressed the paddles against the woman’s skin.
“Clear!” The electricity surged into the woman’s chest, causing her muscles to spasm and body to jolt upwards. The monitor did not sway. Again, I charged the paddles and reapplied the jump. Still nothing. Dr. Avery moved in and took over, repeating my attempt, but to no avail. She was gone.
Her death was marked officially at 2:13AM. Dr. Avery covered her with a sheet and we all filed out to await the coroners. I got one last glimpse as I exited, and saw as the blanket was drawn over her body.
The newborn boy was placed in the nursery. He lay there silent, motherless and with an uncanny sheen in methodically blinking eyes. With other infants for comparison, I saw the baby boy and his abnormalities in stark contrast to the others. His wide onyx eyes with convex ocular lids. His head bulbous and elongated. His limbs were shortened and shriveled, as if they had not yet grown to full capacity. His nose was flat, almost pancaked on his face with a mouth shrunken to the size of a quarter. Part of me took pity on the poor child and his deformities coupled with unnerving birth and sudden orphaning, but another greater part of me was terrified by his appearance.
“Doing okay Cassandra?” I jumped a bit from the sudden intrusion, and turned to see Dr. Avery stroll up behind me cloth in hand. I nodded to him and tried to appear more confident than I felt. Dr. Avery sighed and wiped his glasses with a rag.
“It’s always hard when you lose a mother during birth… or anyone at all for that matter…” He said. I know he was trying to break through the sort of socially awkward cloud which has always clung to him, but still his words seem a bit callous in the moment.
“I just don’t get it… She was fine. How does that happen?” Dr. Avery shrugged.
“Could be a number of things, stress, traumatic brain edema, pulmonary embolism, aneurysm. Hard to say for sure until the autopsy…” His words did little to numb the stinging sensation in my mind. All of the sudden madness had just transpired so quickly. One second, I was nonchalantly shooting the breeze with Angela and the next, watching a mother give birth to… a boy. He is still just a child, and I need to remember that, despite how much it made my skin crawl to look at him.
“What’s wrong with him?” My words finally manifested with the strength of a rotting wooden monument. Dr. Avery stared at the boy through the glass of the nursery, his face unwavering and reserved.
“I’m not entirely sure. My first thought was plagiocephaly, but this would be by far the most severe case I have ever seen. Doesn’t really account for the solid black sclera and iris either.” Avery stood silent and his grey eyes lingered on the infants.
“Poor baby…” I say, heart in knots as I saw the condition the boy was brought into this world. Deformed both physically and likely mentally as well. He has a tough road ahead of him, and the fact he now has no mother to comfort him is all the more heartbreaking.
“Any news on who the she was?” Dr. Avery shook his head.
“Still waiting on the results of the blood test. We should know by morning.” He lifted his arm and snuck a peak at his watch beneath his lab coat sleeve.
“I should probably get to the paperwork…” Avery paused and put his hand on my shoulder, eyes appearing empathetic in the most genuine way he was able to muster.
“You gonna be okay?” He asked. I nodded, doing my best to stifle the nervous feeling in my gut and permeating sorrow for the young boy.
“Good. Let me know if there’s anything you need, or if anything else happens.” Dr. Avery turned and walked away, leaving me alone once again. I turned my attention one last time to the boy, and found his eyes already locked on me. He still had not uttered so much as a peep, and his little shriveled body barely moved. I hope he’ll be okay.
I returned to the lobby, to find an anxious Angela waiting at the front desk. She perks up as she sees me meander around the corner, but her nervous demeanor remains.
“You okay Cass?” She asked approaching me. I nodded and took a deep sigh.
“Yeah I’m fine, we lost her though.” The words appear to strike Angela like a fist, causing her to visibly wince
“And the baby?” I wiped my eyes and exhaled deeply.
“He’s alive but…” I trailed off and shook my head.
“He’s not alright…” Angela stared back in confusion.
“What do you mean?” I paused for a moment to consider the situation. What did I mean? I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of dread that was injected into me each time I looked at him. I feel all the more terrible for admitting it, as he is just a child, but I can’t ignore the feeling.
“You just need to see for yourself…” Angela gave a small comforting smile and pulled me in for a hug. She held me tight for a moment, and I took the well-needed embrace to try and collect my thoughts.
As we held one another, a commotion suddenly erupted from outside. It began as a dull rumble but in seconds it escalated to a loud whooshing noise, like a train flying past at an incredible velocity. An immensely bright light then began to shine through the window. Angela withdrew from the hug.
“What the hell is…” Her voice was cut off by the unexpected bursting of the lightbulb above us. A symphony of popping noises began as hundreds of lightbulbs on our floor shatter in sequence. Angela and I ducked as the sudden crescendo ensued and the bulbs annihilated themselves by the dozens. The event finally culminated as the last bulb ruptured, leaving us blanketed by an oppressive veil of darkness.
Angela and I shuddered from the event, and I heard a miniscule moan of fear escape her lips.
“You okay Ange?” I ask.
“Yeah! But what the hell just happened?” Cautiously the two of us rose from the floor and tried to refocus our bearings. All the light was gone, with even the little operator lights on the computer being doused. The power still seemed to be functional though as in the darkness the sounds of various medical machinery could still be heard producing their normal audible hums and whirring of fans.
A light suddenly drew our attention down the hall. The pitter-patter of rushed footsteps emanated soon after. I pulled out my phone and activated the flashlight to better acclimate to the environment.
“Angela? Cassandra? You guys okay?” The voice was that of Armand; the maintenance guy and janitor at night.
“Yeah we’re good. What happened?” Angela called back as Armand came into view holding a sort of lantern.
“Not sure. Must’ve been a power surge of some kind. Pretty weird.” Beads of sweat glisten on Armand’s cheeks, and labored breaths fall from his lips.
“I gotta check on the patients.” I proclaim remembering my first and foremost of duties. Armand nodded and glanced around the vicinity.
“Okay yeah you guys do what you gotta do. I’m gonna go see if I can get some lights back up.” Armand disappeared from the lobby without another word. Angela and I briskly made our way to the second floor to evaluate the situation.
We reached the second floor via the stairwell and I rushed to check on each of the five patients we had housed in our care. Three of them were still somehow peacefully sleeping as if nothing was amiss whatsoever. The other two, an elderly man by the name of Hugh and a middle-aged woman named Charlotte appeared understandably distressed. I tended to Hugh while Angela tended to Charlotte. I did my best to comfort the elderly man, and assured him that a simple electrical issue was to blame for the ruckus. He seemed to calm after a few minutes, and I took my leave, promising to return shortly and have things back to normal.
I rejoined Angela in the hall when something tore through the veil of silence. A scream. From the floor beneath us the horrified scream of a man reverberated throughout the empty placid corridors. I felt ice form in my veins, and my heart sunk like an anchor. Angela and I exchanged a terrified glance as several other blurbs of terror from the same voice echoed throughout the building. The last one was cut short mid-scream, as if something had physically prevented the man from continuing the outburst.
“What the hell?” Angela asked, face now a ghostly pale. Before I had a chance to answer, something caught my eye. The handle on the stairwell door at the other end of the lobby began to slowly turn causing a creaking noise. Out of sheer terror, I ended up dropping my phone as Angela and I quickly scrambled beneath the front desk. My phone landed face down, causing the flashlight to beam upwards against the pale tiles.
From down the corridor we heard the door slowly creep open and bump against the stop on the wall. A set of squelching, wet footsteps then ventured slowly from it’s depths. Angela and I held each other tightly in our hiding place, whimpering quietly as the footsteps drew nearer. The steps were bizarre, not fumbling or rushed in any way, but slow, methodic and sure-footed. I felt cold tears begin to sting my eyes as the dreadful sound loomed ever closer.
I heard it saunter all the way up to us, and linger just mere feet away. The scent of what I can only describe as strong mildew began to swirl in my nostrils. Suddenly the light from my overturned cellphone vanished with a strange whisking noise, leaving us once again in complete darkness. We both held our mouths shut, desperate to prevent any noise from leaking out and giving away our position. It felt like we sat there frozen for hours, but it must’ve only been a minute or two.
Eventually the sounds of crying began to fill the vicinity, but they weren’t coming from us. My heart lurched as I recognized it as the distinctive wail of the infants from down the hall. The footfalls started up again, venturing away from us now. Carefully I withdrew from Angela’s embrace and poked my head from beneath the desk as the footsteps drew further away.
I glanced up to the reflective half-dome mirror and saw something I initially failed to comprehend. It was dark, with the only light being a conglomerate of the streetlights outside and the moon above. But what I saw there made me shudder. A tall, narrowly-built man strode confidently through the corridors without an ounce of trepidation. His skin was dark and he was entirely naked, and his head… there was something off about his head.
Suddenly a most horrible realization occurred to me as the sounds of infantile cries rose in volume. He was going for the babies. He disappeared from the mirror’s reflection, and I knew I had to do something. Their cries and innocent pleas for help drove nails into my heart. I couldn’t just abandon them.
My conscience was all but screaming at me to take action but my mind countered by flooding with terror. The conscience ending up winning out, and before I could truly ponder the situation properly I found my body rise on wobbly, jello legs. The blood was cement in my veins, and each trembling step I took was as if wading through an ocean. I had to help them, I would’ve never forgiven myself.
“What are you doing?!” Angela yelled in a whisper as I exited our hiding spot. I said nothing as my dilated eyes scanned the lobby, only to see no signs of the fiend anywhere. Quickly I grabbed the fire extinguisher off the wall. Without a word I pursued the man as Angela yelled whispered pleas behind me. I skirted around the corner and approached the nursery, fire extinguisher in hand and mind stampeding a million miles a minute. I halted as my legs carried me to the window of the nursery. Inside I saw nothing, only the infants crying away. Then I saw him.
At the end of the hall I saw the man pause mid stride and turn as he heard me approach. The thing was tall, impossibly so. So tall it’s head nearly scraped along the foam tiles on the ceiling. It’s arms were lanky and looked almost frail due to their skeletal appearance. It’s right arm nestled a bundle of something in its grip, but the darkness did not permit me to see it. It’s head was unlike anything I have ever seen. It was oblong and looked almost as an inverted spade, like someone had molded it to unnatural proportions. Something clicked within me, and I realized the newest infant shared those similarities to a lesser extent. It’s eyes were enormous and terrifying, magnified pools of black that sat unblinking on its granite maw. I knew then, it was not a man.
We just stood, motionless in a dead-locked stare for several seconds. I felt my bladder threaten to give out on me, as a sense of fear I had never known to exist filled my soul to the brim. Never have I experienced a fear so primal, so indescribable. I was not meant to see it.
A sudden silvery flash of bioluminescent sheen glistened across it’s eyes. I became light-headed almost immediately, and felt blood drip my nose and onto my upper lip. I collapsed as all the energy seemed to be vacuumed straight from my body. A surge of emotions, memories and visions accosted me then.
I saw a world, a different world. An alien landscape dotted by crumbling gargantuan obelisks and filled with flocks of hideous winged creatures. A torrential rain pelted the fields of glass and metal as millions writhed about in abstract torment. Some looked human, but others did not. Some tiny, some enormous, all in absolute agony. They cried out as a behemoth creature bombarded them with a massive slam of it’s arm. I saw dozens panic and scream as the enormous digit constricted it’s bloated fingers around them. Heads popped like zits, and bodily fluid trickled like a waterfall beneath them.
The thing reared back into the awaiting toothy orifice which commanded it. The grip released, sending a cluster of mangled people plummeting into it’s awaiting gullet. Others scrambled to escape the thing, trampling one another and crushing bone and viscera beneath them as the frenzy reached genocidal proportions. I watched them die in the hundreds, torn asunder by the wretched abomination.
I don’t know what it was supposed to mean. Whether it was memory, or vision or warning I couldn’t and still can’t say. I finally broke from the trance, and lifted my head from the cold linoleum. Blood had trickled down from my nose and stained my scrubs. My head throbbed as if it were in a vice, and heart clamored away. But there was no sign of thing. The unknown intruder had vanished entirely.
From outside a light began to emerge, growing in luminosity to the point in which I found myself momentarily blinded. The light was so intense It was as if the sun itself had descended into the parking lot. The frame of the building began to shake wildly, as pictures and paintings fell from the walls. One last ferocious blast emitted from outside, and the subsequent concussion rattled through the building as the light disappeared. As soon as it had arrived, the light and the rumbling were gone.
I hobbled to my feet, confused with a pounding migraine threatening to rupture my skull. I pressed onward though, knowing my task was not yet completed. I reached the nursery and the shrieking orchestra produced by the petrified newborn’s. After some time, I was able to quell their screams, but not the unnerve in my gut.
Thanking my sweet stars, I soon realized that all the children were accounted for. All except for one that is. The newest one, whose mother had died to give him life. He was gone. Armand too. They found him sprawled upon the hospital floor, eyes bulging and face frozen in a look of absolute terror. So far, they have found no official cause of death, but it was discovered sometime after that his body appears coated with trace amounts of radiation.
Things have been hectic for me lately, minimal sleep and when I do I see dreams unlike anything I have ever experienced. Horrible dreams, apocalyptic and monstrous things. I don’t know what it all means, but after that night, I’m seriously considering a change in career.