Thanks for joining me for another installment of my new story, Birth Day. I hope you enjoy it.
BIRTH DAY #6; by Tucker McCallahan:
My bare feet pounded down the cold floor of the hallway. Palon’s lush lime scent wafted up from the rear stairwell. One second I was dashing down the main chute of our Emergency Department, and the next I crashed into the rear stairwell door, some one hundred twenty feet distant. I hit the door so hard the handle smashed into the wall and lodged itself in the plaster. I leapt into the stairwell, eyes darting around and nostrils flaring.
Glancing back at the reinforced steel fire door and its mangled handle wedged into the wall, I frowned. Before I could ponder how I’d managed any of what I’d just done, Palon’s scent hit me like a combination punch: one to the gut, one to the head. I whirled around with stars spinning across my field of vision and one hand grabbed for the stair railing. Before I even had time to think, I vaulted over the rail.
It was fifty feet to the bottom of the second sub-basement.
As I fell through empty air, I braced for impact and pain, but neither happened. When I opened my eyes I stood on the floor at the base of the stairs. I glanced up at the stairwell stretching multiple floors above me.
I knew the grin on my face was unbecoming a dignified Chief of Surgery, but damn. Just damn.
I could get used to this.
A blast of cool air from the building’s ventilation system carried a strong waft of that telltale lime aroma. I focused down the main corridor. He was in the generator room. For the third time, I moved from one place to another as if the intervening space didn’t exist. I was about to open the door and paused, my hand hovering over the handle.
The generator room was huge. It took up most of this floor. We didn’t use the main machine; we couldn’t. No utility company existed to pump natural gas into our pipes. The emergency generator was powered by an NF battery, and could be run directly off electricity. I knew this room well because of that – I’d been in here repeatedly since the Rising.
Plenty of places for somebody to hide in there.
“When his master or mistress comes to reclaim him, and make no mistake, his owner will come for him, the least of outcomes will be his removal from your custody.”
I heard my Sire’s voice as clearly as if he stood behind me, his lips to me ear, his words laced with the peculiar lilt of his Chinean accent.
Rage consumed me, the heat of it boiling away any fear I might’ve felt. I threw the door open and stormed inside. The huge open room was dark. With no stealth of any sort, I stomped in, grabbed the nearest chair, and slammed it under the door knob of the heavy door, wedging it ajar.
“Palon!” I roared. “Palon, it’s Van!”
Nothing. I listened, straining to hear anything over the continual hum of the smaller generator. My mind separated out the unique sounds: generator’s hum, rushing air, a squeaking fan belt. When I was on the verge of giving up, I finally heard it.
The echoing cacophony masked an odd, soft snoring. Drenched in relief, I took a tremendous breath of my own and headed into the maze of equipment, cords, and cables to find my young friend.
Hank and I had coiled the extra cable off to the side of the emergency generator. Palon was curled up asleep in the center of the largest mound of cable. He lay in a big black nest of the stuff, and the odd quality of his snores was because he’d fallen asleep sucking his thumb. All of my aggression and panic drained away as I gazed at his thin face, his perfect lips lax around his thumb like an infant who had soothed itself to sleep.
I approached and laid a gentle hand on his elbow, squeezing slightly as I shook him.
“Palon? Wake up.”
His pale eyelids fluttered and he gazed up at me, his eyes as blue and clear as any summer sky. My heart contracted painfully. He sat up, stretching like a cat who’d been sleeping in the sun.
“What in the world are you doing down here?”
“You never came back.”
He said it so simply, as if that explained everything. I frowned and shook my head.
“I got sick, Palon. I was in another part of the building.”
“I thought Yaz found you and took you.”
I leaned down and helped Palon rise. My hands wrapped around his ankle and slid up each leg. By the time he’d stood, I’d done a full physical assessment to assure he was all right.
Old habits die hard.
I indulged the desire and pulled his slight form against my taller body, hugging him tight. That was all the encouragement Palon needed; he clung to me. My fingers tangled in his mop of wavy white hair.
“Who’s Yaz?” I whispered, petting Palon’s head.
“He’s…” Palon clutched me so tightly it hurt. “He’s who I was running from.”
“Come on.” I lifted him free of the floor and headed for the propped open door. “We need to talk.”
The others found us in the stairwell. Palon was walking on his own by that point, holding my hand and following me up the stairs.
“Chief!” Rosy slid to a stop on the landing above me and holstered the two Glocks he’d been carrying. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
“I’m fine.” I held a hand up to the others to stop them from rushing down at us. Palon was already cowering behind me. “Everybody, this is Palon.”
“How the hell did he get past Hank?” Everett Rosemond, Rosy to his friends, had been an oncologist before the Rising. Now his hobby as a gun enthusiast made him the perfect person to handle building and grounds security for us.
“He didn’t.” I motioned for everybody to climb the stairs. “He got past you when I stumbled in here a couple days ago.”
Rosy blinked, his mouth dropping open, but I interrupted him before he could say anything. “We have a lot to talk about. Palon and I need a shower first; he was sleeping by the generator and I’m covered in dried fever sweat. ”
“Why don’t we meet up in the triage room in thirty minutes?” Trish looked a little better. She wasn’t sporting the Lithium “moon face” anymore. I silently reminded myself to check her stitches after the meeting.
As the group headed toward the Emergency Department, I turned Palon back toward my room. Rosy reached out and grasped my shoulder.
“You want any security outside your door while you clean up?” Rosy met my eyes and then he glanced down at Palon, a mixture of curiosity and distrust clear on his face.
I drew Palon out from behind me and tucked him under my arm. He wrapped his thin arms around me and clung tighter than Velcro. I stared at Rosy until his eyes rose and found mine again.
“Palon and I don’t need anything else. Thanks, Rosy.”
I led my beautiful boy to my room and another hot shower, deliberately ignoring Rosy as his hot stare burned our backs.
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Be Well ~ Tux