O, Death: Part XI

by Matt P.

Siobhan had been called many things in her young life, but slow had never been one of them. She moved less gracefully in a run than Antigone, but no less slowly—and with her shoulders more tight and muscles more coiled, like a compressed spring ready to leap out at danger. And that was another thing that she knew to be true about herself, and that she knew her father worried about—her tendency to immediately leap toward danger.

The emergency lights proved to be more than just in the stairwell, as Siobhan burst out in to a basement hallway similarly wreathed in the dark red lights. It was disorienting at first, unable to tell for a moment what was a shadow and what was another hallway. The lighting gave everything the garish color scheme of the underworld, and every patch of blackness could have been just another maw reaching out to swallow her.

She had a flash of thought, in her head, a searing light that brought with it the sudden pain and skin prickling flush of a migraine. She saw herself walking through dark hallways drenched in blood, and heard people screaming at her coming. It was gone in a second, leaving only afterimages and a feeling of heat on her skin. Her father caught up with her a moment later and reached out to put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you alright?”

She swallowed, forcing down the feeling and steadying her legs as she began to move down the hallway again. “Yeah, just…adrenalin I guess, left me a little dizzy.” Walter never took his eyes off of her as she said it, nd she knew he didn’t quite believe her—but then the scream sounded again and they both apparently decided to put off discussion until later.

“Down that hallway,” Ryan said as he came up to them, pointing down a hallway and putting action to words aas he moved to follow down it. “I’ll take point,” he called back as he started to advance down it. Siobhan saw her father give him a grateful look, although Ryan didn’t see it as he disappeared from view.

“Come on,” Walter said, beginning to lead again. “Keep your eyes open and don’t forget to cover behind us, Bug,” Walter told her. “If something comes from behind get on the other side of us and run.” For once, Siobhan didn’t argue. Se began keeping a surreptitious watch behind her and Antigone as they brought up the rear, and noted their father did as well to make sure they were alright.

“I got something!” Ryan called back, and then grunted. Once again all three broke in to a run and come around first one corner and then another. They came out just in time to duck back to avoid Ryan skidding on the ground past them, grunting in pain and cursing. By the time they leaned back out in to the corridor whatever had caused that spectacular display was gone, revealing only a screaming woman clutching a young girl in her arms.

“Help me please, something…I don’t know what happened, but my daughter fainted!” The woman had tears rolling down her cheeks as all three of them ran to her side. She seemed pretty and a relatively young mother to Siobhan, although the lighting robbed a great deal of fine detail from her assessment. The young woman was clearly related to her, both of them with apparently dark hair and skin and fine boned features. The only emotion written on the woman’s face was terror. “Are you a doctor?” She asked, desperately, to Walter.

“I’m not, but I’m CPR and First Aid certified, and we can all help you get your daughter out of here. My name is Walter, and I’m a cop,” he told her. Siobhan recognized it as the voice he used when he needed to be reassuring—and it was reassuring. Deep and calm and steady as a rock in the waves; the voice said that it might get licked by the sea but it was never going to be moved, and anyone who rested on it would be safe so long as they did. Of all his Cop Voices it was the Cop-est, and it was one reason Siobhan never doubted he was good at what he did.

“I thought,” the woman said, suppressing a sob as she cradled her daughter, “that you weren’t supposed to move someone who was hurt.”

Walter gave her a soft smile. “Normally no, but we’re not in a place where she can exactly be helped right now. She is breathing fine, and we can’t do anything in this hallway. Ryan, we passed a room with some gurneys in it. Go get one and bring it back. Siobhan, you’re the fastest, run back upstairs and tell the doctors we have a patient coming up to them ASAP.” His voice was gentle but commanding, no room in it to disagree or dilly-dally. Siobhan nodded, swallowing as she took her feet again and began running back to the stairwell. She heard her father getting the names of the woman and her daughter before she was through the swinging doors and on to the stairs, and then up on to the landing and out in to the hallway once again.

She almost immediately ran in to a man, and stumbled across the hall in a few big steps until she braced herself on the wall to keep from falling. She turned, to tell the person to get help, only to freeze in shock when she found no one in the hallway. The sweat on her skin turned ice cold as she quickly looked around to find him, and she swallowed heavily when she couldn’t. “Damn it this is getting weirder and worse. Worser.” Siobhan commented to herself before she pushed off the wall again and began to run down the hall, shouting for a doctor the whole way.