Bane of DeathA woman whose presence prevents Death from taking a person. She also can pass on the ability to see Death to others if she touches another while in the presence of Death.
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About the Story
Late one afternoon at work, Alicia's phone rang. When she answered it, Melinda was on the other end.
"It's the hospital," Melinda said.
"Thanks," Alicia replied, indicating she'd take it. Melinda transferred the call. "This is Alicia," she said to tell the caller the call had been answered.
A male voice Alicia recognized but couldn't quite place the name for spoke, "Alicia, we were wondering if you could come in today," the man asked.
"Uh...," Alicia replied, partially surprised by the request and partially stalling as she looked around for her date book. "Let me check." She pulled out the date book and began flipping through it. "Why?" she asked as she did so, wondering what was going on that would make them call her.
"We've had a lot more patients than normal show up, all day long, and the influx isn't slowing down. It's that news report they ran last night," he grumbled. "Now everyone wants to be treated here. Emergency's been overflowing so much they started simply passing on serious cases to the rest of the hospital, and have been admitting many others without examination. Basically, we're very understaffed and are calling all the volunteers to see if we can get enough people to pitch in until we get through it all."
"Ah," Alicia replied. She hadn't seen the news report on the hospital, so it must have been on a station other than the one she normally watched for news.
Her schedule told her she was all clear for the day after work ended. "Yeah, I can be there. I work until five, I'll grab dinner on the way, so how is six?"
"That will be fine. Thanks," the man answered.
"You're welcome," Alicia responded. Then they both hung up.
That evening Alicia worked almost as much as she had at the office, except at the hospital she was on her feet pretty much the entire time. Things got so cramped full of patients, the hospital starting diverting some to other nearby hospitals. But most of the patients refused to go, deciding instead to wait their turn to be seen and treated here. Of course priority at a hospital is not first come, first served. It's worst case handled first. Some patients had been waiting since the afternoon. With so many people coming in still, a request was made by the emergency department for someone from each of the other departments to come down and help filter through them all. Alicia offered to go.
By midnight things had only calmed down to what was normal for the early evening, but Alicia was beat and she knew she had to be at work the next morning. With an apology, she called it a night. Following her head, so did a few of the other volunteers. The hospital staff on duty thanked them all for their help anyway, and faced the remaining sea of waiting patients with as much good manners as they could muster.
At work the next day and the day after, people were talking about the hospital. By lunch time the second day Alicia was curious. "What's going on?" she asked a group standing around the lab's small kitchen.
"We're talking about the hospital," Marion informed Alicia. "Did you see the news last night?"
"Oh, about the success rate?" Alicia asked, a bit disinterested. She'd heard all she'd wanted to two days before while actually at the hospital.
"No, no," Mark replied with enthusiasm. "Last night's report. It turns out the," he mage quote mark gestures with his fingers, "Dream Team, isn't doing any better than any other hospital staff in the state."
"Yeah, they were debunked on ABC and CBS," Joan confirmed with a swish of the water in her cup. "But only the supposed Fab Five, the hospital itself still has the same stats."
"NBC's report said there are miracles going on in that hospital," Marion added. "If you believe in such things."
"I do," Joan replied. "And why not?"
At that point the conversation plunged into a religious debate. Alicia quickly excused herself from it, not feeling in the right mood to be in such a discussion. She made a mental note to watch, or at least record the news that night since she was helping out again at the hospital after work, to see what else was being said. It would be better to be prepared than surprised the next time she showed up for her normal shift.
That night things were again very busy, but otherwise not very notable. Alicia went home exhausted, debating whether to call in to work the next day or not as she fell sleep.
It wasn't until she showed up for her standard volunteer shift that things took a turn. There were reporters galore outside the hospital when she drove up. From the looks of things, most of them had also just arrived. Part of her wanted to ask why, to see what was going on. But something in her stomach told her she should just walk right on by, that she already knew what they were looking for and she didn't want to tell them the answer.
Alicia managed to navigate through the crowd of curiosity that all the news vans had drawn. But once inside the level of curiosity didn't ease. All the patients had questions. Some of the nurses wondered if any of the doctors would get interviewed, and not so secretly hoped they would be interviewed themselves. Soon the chief resident came around and told all the staff there were under no circumstances to speak to the media, unless the hospital's liaison was with them and gave them the okay. Otherwise the only response they were to give was "No comment". The volunteers were asked to follow the same, or to go home.
Alicia did her best to put the news crews out of her mind and not let them hinder her work. Most of the others did the same, they were professionals after all. Eventually the reporters grew tired of the run around and dead ends they were getting, or were called off to other stories.
A few minutes after Alicia's time was up, Justin, one of the other volunteers who worked the same shift, returned from having headed out with a frown on his face.
"I wanted to warn you, there's some guy with a microphone out there," Justin said. "He was pretty aggressive with me too."
"Thanks," Alicia replied, her face darkening slightly.
"If you want, I'll walk out with you," he offered.
"Was he that bad?" Alicia asked. Justin nodded. Alicia nodded in return. "Then that's probably a good idea."
On their way out to the parking lot, the reporter was still there and shoved his microphone in their faces as he started to ask questions. Justin grabbed the microphone and shoved it out of the way. "Look man," he said to the reporter with anger, "I already told you once to get out of my face. Don't make me tell you again," he threatened, intent heavy in his voice.
The reporter backed off, though not sounding happy about it. Justin made sure Alicia got to her car fine, then Alicia drove him to his.