Take My Pulse

Entry by: JC

2nd September 2015
Take my Pulse

‘Take my pulse. Please! Here’s my wrist. Why won’t you take it? I’m alive – as alive as you. Don’t take my word for it. Take my pulse.’

The woman’s face twisted in anguish as the white-coated interns backed towards the door. It swung inward, pushed by a big man carrying a hammer. He took in the scene at a glance and raised his weapon.

‘Stay where you are.’

His command, directed at the woman, barely seemed to register with her. She was covered in blood.

‘My daughter. I need to pick up my daughter. Please, there’s been a terrible mistake. I’m not dead. I can prove it. Just take my pulse.’

She moved towards him, stretching out an arm. She wasn’t old – perhaps early thirties, yet her dark hair held streaks of white. Still, streaks like that had been fashionable until recently.

He glanced at the three cowering interns. ‘Where did she come from?’

‘The morgue,’ said the female. ‘I saw her climb off the slab! I ran and got Eric and we followed her bloody trail. She’s…’

‘A mistake,’ cried the woman piteously, still edging forward. ‘I was working in the diner when they attacked but I hid under the counter. They never found me. Then the army arrived. They threw in knockout grenades and I woke up in the morgue. Someone must have put me there but I wasn’t dead. Look.’ She stopped and spread her thin arms wide. ‘This blood is someone else’s. I don’t have a mark on me. I’m alive. Take my pulse.’

Dropping one arm she swung the other towards him.

‘Back up,’ said the man, raising the hammer. ‘Or you’ll soon have plenty of marks on you.’

The woman stopped. Behind him the female intern and her boyfriend clasped hands and ran out. The third yelled, ‘Cowards!’ but he craned his neck to look longingly around the big man who’d stepped to block any more exits through the swinging door.

‘Is she really what they think?’ the man growled at him.

The intern shrugged. ‘They were all in this room when I arrived. The two who just ran were terrified…’

‘I was looking for help,’ cried the woman, tears welling in her eyes. ‘I got lost in the corridors. Please! I _have_ to clean up and get to my daughter. She’s only four and I’m so late to pick her up from childcare. She’ll be crying for me.’

The man lowered his hammer a little but held it ready all the same. His eyes never left her as he addressed the intern. ‘What made the others so sure?’

‘You heard Sarah saying she walked out of the morgue. Look at the blood on her, and her hair!’

‘All of which can be explained. Is there any other evidence?’

‘I don’t know!’ The intern’s voice cracked. ‘But why take chances?’

‘Please.’ The woman’s tears washed tracks down her cheeks. ‘My little girl.’

The man let the hammer rest on his shoulder. ‘Sorry Ma’am. We can’t let you go till we’re sure.’

‘Then _be_ sure.’ Again she extended her arm. ‘All you have to do is take my pulse.’

The man glanced at the intern. ‘Do it. I’m ready with the hammer if she tries anything.’

‘Are you out of your mind?’ The intern’s voice was a squeak. ‘You know how strong those things are? Don’t let her feeble appearance fool you!’

‘You’re young,’ the man growled. ‘I don’t suppose you have little ones yet. You can’t imagine how distressed her daughter will be.’

The intern’s tone became resentful. ‘I _can_. I may not have kids but I’ll never forget how I felt the day my dad forgot to collect me from kindergarten when I was around four.’

‘Then give the lady a break.’

The woman stood unmoving, her arm outstretched. The intern took a reluctant step forward and then turned towards the man.

‘_You_ do it. I’ll take the hammer and stand by.’

The big guy gave a derisive laugh. ‘I’m maintenance crew not medical staff.’

The intern twisted back to the woman, his face pale. ‘All right. Stay where you are. I’ll get a stethoscope.’

She appealed to the hammer guy. ‘Why does he need a stethoscope? All he has to do is take my pulse. We’re wasting time!’

The big man glanced at the other. ‘She has a point.’

The intern straightened. ‘You want to be sure or not? Besides, this way I won’t have to touch her directly.’

The maintenance guy nodded and the intern slipped to the other side of the room, putting the examination table between them. He turned and pulled open one of the drawers under the wall bench. There was a moment of silence as he peered inside. Then he slammed it and pulled out another.

The woman moved towards the hammer man standing between her and the exit. She looked up at him. ‘I _have_ to go. My daughter!’

On the other side of the room the intern was opening and closing drawers and muttering, ‘Where the hell is the stethoscope?’ He reached the corner and turned. ‘Oh. There it is.’

The stethoscope lay on the floor under the end of the table… in a pool of blood… beside a head separated from its body. The throat had been torn open and brain matter pulled through the bottom of the skull. The intern looked up, his sobbing cry drowned out by a sickening crunch.

‘She’s a…’

The room appeared empty but the cracking thumps continued. He dropped to his haunches beside the corpse and stared under the table to the other side. There squatted the woman, also beside a body, grinning at him. She yanked the hammer out of the maintenance man’s skull and licked it.

‘Mmm, brains.’