And Then There Was None

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

One of the few non-fantasy, non-romance stories that I've written. This one, I made around four years ago, one night while riding a jeepney, staring at a young-looking nursing student. I never really got to proofread the whole thing, so yeah.

It was ten in the evening.

For Alyanna, the night couldn’t possibly get any worse.

The bus she was riding to her graveyard shift duty at the emergency room had broken down beside the nondescript highway and there was notably no public transportation passing by. No taxis, no buses, no jeepneys - not even the stereotypically creepy cars that accept hitchhikers unconditionally.

After a few minutes of hopeless waiting and knowing that she’s already late, she finally decided to walk it out. Sure, it wasn’t the smartest thing to do but she was bound to arrive at the hospital sooner or later. It shouldn’t be too far anyway.

Or was it?

The darkness of the moonless night and the seemingly sabotaged array of streetsigns took their toll on Allie’s little expedition. After a few minutes of walking she felt already lost in limbo, as though she had been wandering in circles since forever.

Then, a voice shot out of the dark.

“Are you lost?”

Allie just kept on trudging without bothering to see who said that or for whom it was intended. She did not forget that where she was walking was a notorious place filled with no-good wanderers and all the caboodle of the proverbially evil.

“You look like a nurse from San Pablo GH. Are you sure you know where you’re going? This place can get quite confusing at night.”

She could no longer ignore whoever was talking to her. It was true that she was new to the place. It had only been a week since she was deployed as an intern nurse at San Pablo. She realized that walking around without any assistance would be pointless.


She turned and saw a man a few paces away from her. He looked trustworthy enough. He was at his mid-twenties with a newly trimmed hair with slight traces of waviness towards the ends. She couldn’t make out the face properly but he had a rather wide facial build.

“I was riding the same bus that broke down and I just happen to be going there too. It’s not too far but the way isn’t as straight as you might think. You want to join me in walking?”

Allie wanted to already but most childishly replied, “I don’t go with strangers.”

“Well then,” challenged the stranger, “I’m Vincent Martinez. But you can call me Vince. Strangers don’t have names so I’m no longer one of them right?”

What a lame thing to say, thought Allie but she really had not much of a choice.

“I’m Allie, an intern at San Pablo,” she replied as she aligned her walking beside Vincent.

“To tell you the truth I was going to ask you to come with me earlier when I saw your uniform but you disappeared all of a sudden after you crossed the highway.”

Allie just smiled at her first good fortune that night. But the walk didn’t look like it was going to get any shorter.

To break the silence, Vince finally asked something probably out of intrigue. “How does it feel to work around such a place filled with sickness and death?”

Allie has heard the question countless of times. It was all too true after all – all desensitized truth.

“You get used to it. You learn to understand that we don’t have power over everything and then that’s when the attachment towards your patients end,” replied Allie in a boilerplate manner.

A standardized answer for a common question.

“Heh. I wanted to work in a hospital when I was a kid. But since my mother died, I knew I couldn’t stomach the sick and dying. My emotions will get ahead of me,” replied Vincent.

Allie looked at her companion. He didn’t really look like a guy who had weak knees. “Like I said, you just get used to it. We’re bound to experience it one way or another during our lives.”

My turn, Allie thought.

“So why are you going to the hospital at this time of night? Isn’t visiting hours over?”

Vincent laughed a bit and scratched his head. “I’m going to pickup a friend nurse as a favor. But I guess I’m a bit late too.”

Allie remembered her lateness and didn’t reply. Instead, she concentrated on walking faster to wherever they were really heading.

Silence filled the short walk that almost lasted for an eternity. After a while, the scenery turned from the strange to the more familiar. They were finally getting close. Allie noticed that as they went nearer the hospital, Vincent walked slower. After sometime, he finally spoke again.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be of much help, Allie.”

Allie stopped on her tracks and looked at Vincent. “Are you kidding me? Here you are, helping me get to where I’m supposed to go and you’re saying sorry?”

Vincent changed his mood to laidback once more. “Nevermind.”

“Well, we’re finally here - San Pablo General Hospital,” said Vince as he yawned and stretched his arms. “That was quite a walk wouldn’t you say so? I feel bushed!”

Allie nodded in agreement.

“Thanks for all your help,” said Allie with a slight bow of gratitude.

Vincent quietly requited the gratitude with a proud smile.

“Oh!” shouted the nurse, “I’m late for my shift already! I have to go now, Vincent. Thanks for escorting me here! Come visit me again sometime!”

Vince stood by and watched Allie disappeared towards the entrance of the ER just outside the west wing of the contemporarily designed hospital.

“Always glad to be of service. I guess I better get going too,” replied Vincent in a slow, muffled voice - almost speaking to himself as he walked towards the other end of the hospital.

The resident ER doctor was talking to one of the nightshift nurses when Allie came inside. They were conversing beside a patient covered with a white cloth from head to toe while the somber hum of the electrocardiograph echoed across the critical section of the emergency ward.

“So he finally crossed it, huh?” calmly asked the doctor as he put both his hands inside the pockets of his jacket. Beside him was a disconnected dextrose apparatus and a respirator.

Another one bit the dust too soon, thought Allie. She walked towards the body outlined only by its death cover; fresh blood was nowhere to be found but the banal scent of it lingered all over the place, indicating that whoever was beneath the sheets had died a little after he had been brought in not too long ago.

Allie asked her colleague out of curiosity, “What happened to this one?”

The other nurse flipped her rap sheet.

“Died of trauma complications after being in a state of comatose. Looks like he finally found the way out.”

Allie listened carefully. Doctors and nurses alike have been around a world where death is as routinized as the morning coffee that they’ve learned to see it from another level of indifference. The last sentence the nurse had said meant that the man was a hopeless case and had just been waiting for his time – as though he was wandering to find the exit
towards the afterlife.

A chill ran through the spine of Allie. She couldn’t explain it but it was one of those things in life that need not really be rational to be plausible.

The doctor approached the covers and unfurled it to expose the visage of the demised.

“Vincent Martinez… He was a brave man to have struggled for that long a time. I only wish we had more heroes like him.”

A tower of ice and fear encased Allie as she stared at the exposed cadaver.

The name.

The face.

It was the same person she had been conversing to for the last hour walking towards the hospital. It just had to be coincidence, she thought. It couldn’t make sense from any angle.

“How could this have happened? I went into this hospital with this man! How could this have happened??” barked Allie, not really asking anyone in particular. Frustration brewed inside her.

Was this a joke? A ghost story? Allie couldn’t begin to think of any logic.

She glanced once more at the patient. I couldn’t have been anybody else.

Just then, another wheeled stretcher came from the other section. It too was covered with a white sheet. There was a clear mark of sadness on the face of those who would have been otherwise indifferent inside the emergency room as the morticians wheeled away from the ward.

“A sacrificed life for naught,” said the doctor in a raspy voice. “He actually thought he could rescue her from that rampaging truck.”

The colleague nurse intercepted the mortician before heading for the exit.

“Wait up. I need one final confirmation before you head her up the morgue.”

The seemingly undaunted mortician turned to the nurse and flipped the sheets, exposing a badly contorted face of a woman whose facial frame had collapsed inward due some external trauma.

There were tears welling in the nurse’s eyes as she once again opened her records and scribbled a few letters along the brown paper filled with grids of patient information.

“That’s Alyanna Raymundo alright. Please, take Allie… her away,” shakily instructed the nightshifter. The doctor approached the nurse and held her close with his arms so as to console.

A singular tear formed across Allie’s left eye and streaked down her pale cheeks.

And then there was none.

The end.

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