I have never wanted to become a nurse.
But, somehow, because of the twists and turns of fate, that despised occupation became compulsory for me to take. The harshness of life made it necessary for me to pursue a nursing course in college, and made me stick to my choice even though the clinical subjects and the difficult internships always made me want to break down and quit.
My family wasn’t poor, we were upper-middle-class, but my extravagant lifestyle and mounting credit card bills made me realize that I wasn’t helping my parents in any way. I was excited to break free, to live alone, but I also wanted to support myself and not come crawling back to my parents.
After I graduated from university and passed the nursing board exam, I aced my first job interview and I moved out of the house.
So, I became a nurse.
Suddenly, my comfortable, ho-hum existence became fast-paced and unpredictable.
Every day, I would wake up at five in the morning and rush off to work in the hospital, getting off at four in the afternoon. I’d be too tired by then to go clubbing with my friends. Before, I’d go shopping or bar-hopping with them, but now all I wanted to do was head to my condominium unit, eat an early supper, soak in a hot bath to scrub off all the memories of the ER from my mind, and collapse in bed.
A lot of things changed, too—now, my parents were proud of me. My sisters envied me and my salary, I felt confident of myself. But I was morphing into a different person. Now, I didn’t have time to apply make-up or dress up in the latest fashions. I seldom watched television, seldom went online, and I even forgot to check my cell phone sometimes. My social life was a perfect zero, as dating seemed like a waste of time. My life was revolving around different things now.
I gently massaged my aching nape as I walked out of the hospital. I had been on night shift for almost a week, and I don’t deny that I prefer my old shift. I was terribly sleepy, and the ground seemed to be moving in circles. It took five tries to get the car keys inside their slot. Seated on the driver’s seat, I leaned my head on the steering wheel and tried to calm myself, closing my eyes and breathing deeply until the dizziness faded.
I made it home before I fell completely asleep.
I woke up at about one o’clock in the afternoon. My stomach was complaining of its emptiness and I staggered up, dusting off the cobwebs of sleep that still held me captive. My condo seemed deathly silent. I went over to my living room, plugged in my iTouch to the iPod dock, and put on music before heading to the kitchen in search of something to eat.
I pulled the refrigerator door open and gazed inside, contemplating what to prepare. My mom always made it a point to drop by my condo once a week and restock my food supply. She always saw to it that my cupboards were full of canned goods, my refrigerator filled to the brim with vegetables, fruits, juice, and milk. Thanks to her, I almost never did any grocery-shopping.
I decided on a veggie salad, tuna sandwich, and a glass of milk.
After eating, I paced around, feeling restless. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like going back to sleep, so I tried checking my emails and my Facebook account. After a few minutes, a smiley icon popped up, indicating that someone wanted to start a YM conversation with me.
Shinigami09: hey Sheryn.
It was my fellow nurse, Keil. He had been posted on the same floor for the same shift. We had been friends since.
GlassBallerina: hi Keil!
Shinigami09: hav u heard?
GlassBallerina: abt wat? Tel me alrdy.
Shinigami09: 3 nurses & 2 interns resigned ths wk.
Shinigami09: they all claim 2 hav been attacked by a patient. a kid.
GlassBallerina: oh! (Oo)
That was a surprise. A very disturbing one.
Shinigami09: u knw wat’s more disturbing? the patient’s alrdy listed as dead!
GlassBallerina: omg thaz crazy! pls tell me ur just tryn 2 creep me out
Shinigami09: don’t want 2 scare u, Sheryn, but it’s true. all of the guys hu resigned were assigned in the night shift. same as the 2 of us.
GlassBallerina: can we resign 2? :p
Shinigami09: shut up. Evry1’s running scared now. i stil don’t know whether 2 believe it or not.
GlassBallerina: guess I nid 2 wear my silver cross to work 2nyt.
Shinigami09: don’t ya worry. I’ll watch out 4 ya. 😀
GlassBallerina: tnx Keil. that’s very nice of u.
Shinigami09: aww I get my kicks frm rescuing damsels in distress. Esp the pretty ones! ;p
I went to work as usual, the YM conversation entirely off my mind. When I arrived at the hospital, it was quiet and lethargic as usual, as had been for a few days now. I went straight to the third floor, to one of the paediatric wards, after I had reported to the nurses’ station.
Keil was already in the children’s ward, checking the patients one by one. They were all asleep. He looked up when I entered and gave me a wink. “Hey Sheryn. Been here a while now?”
I shook my head. “No, just arrived. Been keeping busy?”
“As you can see.”
We laughed. It seemed as if it was going to be another long night.
All of a sudden, Keil was summoned to the nurses’ station and I was left alone. He was requested to assist the EMTs in a roadside accident. According to what I heard, the freak vehicular accident cost more than thirty people their lives. Because of that, I was left alone.
I was moping because of boredom when the head nurse called my attention. She wanted me to take care of one of the dead bodies in the morgue because it was going to be picked up the following morning.
So I went, heavy-hearted. I didn’t want to see dead children because somehow, they made me feel like a failure. Even though it wasn’t my fault that they died, I had a feeling that somehow, I could have done something to make things turn out differently.
I was already tagging the dead little boy, when a sudden noise made me straighten up nervously. “What was that?” I asked aloud. My hands were shaking.
Of course no one could answer me. I carefully picked up my clipboard and walked outside the morgue. Eyes seemed to be following me. I was scared, and I made it a point not to look the dead bodies in the face. If I did, their images would haunt me for weeks.
I quickly ran to the elevator and pressed for the third floor. But before I could close the door, I saw something reflected on the metal wall. I wasn’t alone in the elevator after all.
The doors closed.
“Hello,” a voice said.
I turned around, and came face-to-face with a little boy, wearing a white hospital gown. He was cute, with curly brown hair and dark eyes.
And he had a tag on his wrist.
I suppressed a scream, then pressed the emergency exit button on the elevator. It wouldn’t respond. I stabbed it with my forefinger desperately, cringing against the wall. My eyes filled with hot tears and my breath came in quick spurts. As I stood there, trembling, I heard a quiet, chilling, little laugh.
The boy smirked at me openly, then said sweetly, “You can’t get out, can you?”
I sobbed. “Wh-what do you want?”
In response, he clutched at his chest, then coughed. A spray of bright crimson blood spattered on my white uniform. He looked up again, his eyes white with fury and his teeth stained with blood. “You. I hate all of you for not making me better.”
The elevator lights faltered and the boy advanced towards me.
Then came darkness.
Presently I woke up, clutching my aching head. I was on the paediatric ward, sitting on one of the couches by the wall. I glanced at the clock.
Have I dreamed everything?
No. There were the bloodstains on my clothes to prove otherwise.
Suddenly, all I wanted to do was get out of the hospital. Unseeingly, I ran to the emergency exit but my knees buckled halfway. So I stepped into the elevator, which had another passenger. This time it was a teenage boy dressed in jeans and a black sweatshirt, with cuts and bruises on his face and neck.
“Going down?” He asked politely, finger poised on the ground floor button.
“Yes, please.” I leaned on the wall in fatigue.
The doors began to slide close. But before they completely blocked everything out, I saw a patient pass by. At that exact moment, he looked at me and smiled mockingly.
It was the little boy!
“Shit,” I said weakly, breaking out in cold perspiration.
The teenage boy looked at me curiously. “What’s wrong, nurse? Are you all right?”
I shook my heard. “No. Are you?”
He laughed pleasantly. “I got banged up in an accident a while ago. But what about you? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I began to tremble. “I have. That—that little boy awhile ago..? He was dead, you know. I was the one who dressed him up. I was the one who tagged him, he had a tag like all the dead bodies have…”
The boy gazed at me in amusement. “Oh?”
I stared at him, realization hitting me like a sledgehammer. His eyes didn’t seem so friendly anymore. Not knowing what to do, I repeated, “He had a dead-body tag on his wrist…”
“Oh,” he repeated, pulling up his sweater sleeve and showing me his wrist. “Like this one?”