“Mommy, it’s sprinkling!” A child cried joyfully from a nearby park bench. I looked up, feeling it hit my face gently. I let out a small laugh, watching the other people around me celebrate. “We’ve waited so long for this,” Leo spoke softly, without even looking at him I could hear him smile. “I guess the drought is over,” He paused for a second, looking back up the the cloudy sky. “Well, that is if this rain picks up and stays for a little while.” I nodded, watching the child jump off the bench into a small, newly formed puddle. I watched a sleek black jet speed through the sky. Military must be testing today, maybe it’s a good day for everyone then. I thought and I felt a slight smile tugging at the edges of my lips. “Time for work then. Let’s hope we make progress today.” Thinking of work put me in a slightly worse mood, but I tried my best not to show it.
I retrieved my coffee off the picnic table and started walking toward the gloomy office building we spent almost all of our time at. Leo tagged along as quick as he could, attempting to use anything he could to avoid getting his favorite shirt wet. He wore it at least once a week, I remember him telling me how lucky it made him feel. Stepping into the building, my heels made their signature click and the security guard looked up instantly, giving me a small nod.
“Morning, ma’am.” He smiled confidently.
“Good Morning, Sam. Have a good day!” Looking over I found that Leo had already ran past me and up to the elevator ahead. We piled ourselves into the ridiculously small elevator and listened to the soft whirring of the old gears pull us upward to the lab floor. The building served many purposes, a doctor’s office, a pharmacy, a few smaller apartments and other various things that I never really paid much attention to. As I entered the room, I could instantly feel the disappointment and frustration in the air.
“Let me guess,” I placed my hand on my hip and glared around at everyone. “Someone messed something up and now we have nothing. That’s how it always happens isn’t it?” I sighed and waved off the eyes of my fellow scientists. Leo and I marched into the back room, all the data that the night workers sat on the table ahead, waiting to be read and analyzed.
“Why does this never work? I swear we’ve tried everything…” Leo tapped a dull pencil against his bottom lip looking deep in thought. I shook my head, he doesn’t get it, I thought.
“It’s because our co-workers are a bunch of amateurs who don’t know how to properly take care of a lab while we’re away for a few hours.” I purposely announced this a bit too loudly, causing most of the people in the other room to glance our way. Looking through one of the smaller stacks of files, I instantly spotted their error. Picking up a marker I began drawing all over the giant whiteboard that sat at the front of the room.
“Now, I understand that our stem cell research is tedious and you all would rather be doing something else,” I started my small improv presentation, hoping everyone was paying attention. “But here is where I believe you all went wrong last night.” I went on, pointing out things on the board, explaining the error of their ways. “And to conclude, I’ll repeat myself. When treating the cell, remember to the to check how long they have been sitting with AZA and PDGF-AB, and never repeat a dosage amount!” Everyone nodded, going back to their duties but looking extra focused. Awesome. Maybe we’ll get somewhere this time. I thought, smirking.
It felt like my chest was closing in, I couldn’t breath as I awoke in a panic. I flung my hand around on the other side of my bed searching for the one thing that could help me. Yeah, living alone was always your best idea. Roommates are terrible! I yelled at myself in my head before I felt the warm glass of my phone screen. My fingers instantly dialled 911, something I was all too familiar doing from my childhood.
“911, what’s your emergency?” A kind, but tired sounding lady answered on the other end.
“I, I can’t…” I managed to get out through a few short breaths. “...breath.” I could hear the sound of keyboard clicks coming from the phone.
“Alright hun, I’ve got an ambulance coming to your location.” She sighed quietly. “It seems like we’re getting a lot of calls like this tonight..” I listened carefully, barely being able to hear her say this. It felt like only seconds later I heard sirens, my previously dark room was painted in red lights. It all happened in a blur, paramedics came, lifting me onto the stretcher, attempting to give me oxygen. The whole ride to the hospital I felt every little bump underneath us. After awhile, it was getting easier to breath but not completely and I was starting to feel sick.
“Feeling okay Ms…?” The paramedic paused for a moment to look at the chart that sat on the seat next to him. “Ms. Benjamin?” I considered lying, telling him that I felt fine so that they could get me in and out of the hospital as quickly as possible. I can’t leave those idiots in charge of the labs for a whole day! But lying didn’t feel like the best idea at the moment so I just shook my head.
“No?” His face looked a little distressed. “You were starting to look a little pale. We’ll have you on fluids as soon as we’re there.” The paramedic looked up and out the front window. “Which lucky for us is right now!” The other few stood up, all prepared to leave the small, shaky space as soon as possible. They all look kinda sick. The thought sent me into a small panic. They can’t have sick people working can they? Before I knew it we were sitting in the trauma bay, it almost seemed as if almost everyone else was having the same issue as myself.
“What’s wrong with them?” I pointed around the room, questioning the nurse that was currently stabbing me with an IV needle. She sighed and continued working.
“They all came in having breathing issues and most of them have just gotten sick for some reason. None of the doctors are really sure what’s going on but they’ll figure it out. They don’t believe it is contagious considering everyone was already sick when they got here.” I replied with a simple, “Oh.” She nodded and got up from her chair, cleary done caring for me at the moment.
Hours passed before they ended up putting me in my own room, away from all the extremely sick and dying patients, even though I had to ask about 500,000 times. I have to get back to the lab, I never really prepared them for what to if I was gone. My panic rose even more and I continuously pressed the call button for a nurse. A smaller women entered the room at a fast pace, she looked tired and clearly overworked. What’s with everyone and looking so sick and tired? She looked disappointed that I wasn’t in any immediate emergency and let out a long, slightly dramatic sigh. I rose an eyebrow at her obvious disconcern.
“Do you think I would get out of here?” She didn’t seem to hear me so I tried raising my voice a bit. “Now? Please?” She rolled her eyes and have me a small nod, it was barely noticable. Rude. I thought and tried my best to prepare myself to leave, I didn’t really have anything of my own except my clothes so it was pretty easy.
“Hey there.” I looked up and saw Leo peering in at me from the doorway.
“You look like shit.” I laughed a bit, knowing he wouldn’t take the insult to heart if I did. Leo walked into the room and stood next to the hospital bed, checking out my current condition.
“So do you! What happened?” He asked, looking genuinely concerned.
“I’m not sure, I woke up and I couldn’t breath. I almost felt like one of those really bad anxiety attacks I got when I was a kid. I called 911, and by the time we got here, I felt sick like I had the stomach flu or something. Apparently a lot of other people have been coming in with it too.” I looked around before noticing a pained look on his face. “Was it something I said?” I asked him before watching in dismay as he doubled over, violently vomiting at the foot of the bed next to mine. I looked away instantly, not wanting to throw up too. Once again I started beating up the call button, not stopping until there was more than one nurse coming to aid Leo. They tucked him into the bed next to mine, calling a janitor and making sure he had fluids and a bedpan to throw up into. After about 15 minutes, a doctor came in the room and gave Leo a thorough workup. He asked me questions about him and gave me medical forms to fill out because I was the only one that knew him and the most noise he was making was an occasional moan or groan from the pain in his abdomen.
“Will he be alright?” I questioned the doctor, placing the pen onto the bedside table and reaching my arm in his direction, attempting to give him back the papers. At first he didn’t noticed so I waved them around a bit. “Hey..” I called quietly. He turned around looking a little pale himself and grabbed the papers out of my hand. This time I was prepared, slamming down the call button and shouting for a nurse, yet again. The doctor stumbled a bit as he was making his way to the door. He slowly lowered himself down to the floor and slumped forward, gagging. Panicked yelling began as more nurses entered the room, all of them looking only less sickly than Leo and the doctor. I decided that enough was enough and I needed to find out what was going on. I kicked the blankets to the end of the bed and dangled my legs off the edge. A nurse nearby noticed and tried to tell me no but I waved her away and got to my feet. Just the simple movement of standing started to make me nauseous. This is probably gonna be a horrible idea. I pushed myself off the bed with one hand and grabbed onto my IV pole, leaving myself short of breath once again.
“Damnit!” I sighed as I lost my footing. You’d think I hadn’t walked in year if this was all that you saw. I said to myself, knowing that even if I said this out loud, nobody would hear me over the chaos that was developing outside. I decided to switch on the TV to keep Leo company while I was away, he loved just about everything that was playing.