William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Thirty-Six

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“What do you mean she’s already dead?”  Julia couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Karen died,” Marea Raley told her.  “I know this is hard for you to accept.  She’s not yet alive again.”

“She’s not yet alive again,” Julia repeated.  She held the two buttons on the side of her phone simultaneously, then hit the SEND button, the way Rocky told her to do it if she ever needed help fast.

“There’s no cell service here,” Marea said.  “Karen is going through a period of transition.  Normally, they pass through easily, but she is having a difficult time.”

“Look, I don’t know what the hell you’ve been giving her, but she’s clearly not dead.”

“Check her pulse.”

She did; found nothing.  “She’s in cardiac arrest.”

“No,” said Marea.  “She’s still breathing.”

Julia placed her hand on Karen’s chest, felt the inhalation and exhalation.  “No way,” she said.

Marea put her hand on Julia’s shoulder. “She died two days ago.  She’s going through the transition.”

Julia shook her head.

“It’s natural.  It’s just not often talked about.  She would be fine except that something about her cancer is interfering with her treatment.”

“What kind of treatment?”

“I don’t know how to answer that,” Marea said, massaging Karen’s forehead.  “Ruth Black too care of her.”

Julia found a lancet in her bag, swabbed Karen’s arm with alcohol and took a blood sample.  “She doesn’t have a pulse,” she said, half to herself.

“She has no pulse,” Marea said.  “So let’s agree that there is a place between life and death.”

Julia inserted the lancet into a glucose meter and waited for the results. “She’s in diabetic shock.”  She reached into her back for an insulin pack and a saline drip.  “You’re going to need to hold this or find some hat rack or something.”  She found a clear place on Karen’s thigh and slowly injected five milliliters of insulin.

“She needs fluid in her veins but I can’t do that without a pulse,” she said, unsure.  “I’ve never done this without a pulse, without a heartbeat.  If she doesn’t have any noticeable blood flow, I can’t very well give her an IV.”

Marea nodded and two women in tunics fitted Karen with a respirator and began pumping her chest.

Julia held Karen’s wrist and listened on her stethoscope.  When she found a vein, she inserted a needle quickly.  She stepped back and told Marea to hold the drip bag over her head. “She needs to be in a hospital.”

“If she was in a hospital,” Marea said calmly, “she would be in a morgue by now.”

Julia remembered the zombie.  Was this the same sort of thing? “Has she been on any methamphetamines?”

Marea shook her head.  “The treatment is entirely organic.  Natural proteins and hormones.”

Julia scrambled to think of something, anything to do in this situation, but nothing jumped to mind.  “Natural proteins include some of the most poisonous substances known to medicine.  I need you to bring me a list of everything that you’ve given her.”

Marea lowered her head.  “I can’t.  I don’t know what she’s been given.  Only Ruth Black knows.”

“Then get Ruth Black.”

“She’s in meditation.”

“For Christ’s sake,” Julia placed her stethoscope on the girl’s wrist and found a faint pulse.  She stuck a thermometer in Karen’s ear – 93.6.

“We’ll need you to stay with her for a week or two,” Marea said.

“I don’t think I can do that.  I’ll help her but I can’t stay here.  Elevate her head, and put some pillows under her chest and head.  I’m going to need to take some blood and run a few tests.”

“No,” Marea said firmly.  “No tests.  You have no idea what you’re involved in.  You need to stay.”

Julia shook her head. “My husband will be here in about forty-five minutes.”

“He might come looking, but he won’t get in.  We’ll tell him you left.”

“He’ll get in,” she said.  She turned when Karen Sorrows gasped.

“Is that a good sign?” Marea asked.

“I have no idea.”  Julia held the stethoscope on Karen’s chest and sat next to her, saying nothing for almost an hour.  Temperature was up to 96.  The drip bag was almost empty.  Julia got up to change it when the sirens rang out.

Then the lights cut out.  Julia heard an explosion outside and the snap of gunfire.  She dropped to the floor and pulled the IV from Karen’s wrist.  It was time to leave.

She ducked her head when the window blew into fragments and a man in gray sweats stepped into the room.  “Stay low, Mrs. Shannon.”  He pushed Marea to the floor and bound her wrists with a plastic cuff.

“Who are you?” Julia demanded.

“Tim Murphy,” he said, moving to the window.  “Little Tim.  We’ve met a few times but you never remember me.  Rocky got your signal.”  He turned on his flashlight and a moment later, Billy St. Clair climbed through the window.

“Are you OK?”

Julia nodded.

“We need to go.”  He pushed her toward the window.

She pulled away and moved back to the bed.  “She’s coming with us,” she said.

Billy shook his head.  “No.  We’re timed out here. Need to go.”

“She’s coming with us,” Julia repeated.

Marea stood up awkwardly.  “This isn’t possible.  We have all communications blocked.”

“Get yourself a rich husband with some fancy toys,” Julia said, as Tim Murphy carried Karen through the window.

Outside, a guard appeared.  She wore black leather and bulletproof body armor and carried a large machine-pistol.  Billy moved in front of Julia and pointed a taser at the guard’s head.  “Put the gun down,” he said.

“No way.”

“I don’t have time for you.”

“Make time for me. ” She came forward.

“I’m cool with shooting.” Billy lined up the headshot. “This time last year I was in Afghanistan.”

“Me too.  Third Light Armored Recon, outside of Kabul.”

“Third Light Armored,” Billy repeated.  “I had a buddy in that unit.  Mitchell Robles.  Did you know him?”

She nodded.  “Little hairy guy.  Mustache.  Thought break dancing was still cool, which it isn’t.”

“That’s him,” said Billy.  “Did he get back?  I heard he got shot bad.”

“Twelve seconds,” Tim Murphy said.

“Not shot.  He was fucking around on a tank and fell off, broke both legs.  He got sent home.”

“That’s great,” said Billy, “but listen, I don’t have time for this.”  He shot her in the neck with the taser.

She jumped back involuntarily and fell to the ground.

Tim Murphy had Karen over one shoulder.  He grabbed Julia and pushed her toward the edge of the compound as Billy covered them.  Rocky drove the Land Rover through the fence and jumped out holding a shotgun.  “You OK, baby?”

Julia nodded.  “You got my message.”

“I got your message,” he said, when they were all inside the vehicle.

“We’re clear,” Billy said, and they sped away.


Written by williamdoonan

May 23, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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