This story is by Adamluke and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The mobile alarm chimed relentlessly for the third times, both my hand were groping around trying to get rid of the noise. After a while of scrambling, the mobile was found under the bed and I was well awake.
The first sight that came into contact was the well pressed uniform adorned with conspicuous hospital emblem name tag and collar pin. The uniform wasn’t that uncomfortable when I joined them as an inpatient process executive. Only recently, it had become so loathsome that I was reluctant to wear it out on the street. The thought of changing it in and out was a worst hassle after much consideration.
At the lift lobby, while the lift door was squeaking to open, one of my foot was already inside. A shrill broke out at the time when I had bumped into another passenger. Both of us shoot a glare toward each other. They were aunty May and her husband.
“Hey! Watch where you are going,” Her stern look was still very fierce and penetrating behind the mask .
“I am sorry, aunty May,” I crumbled up a smile and apologized to her.
Her husband held on to the lift while his vision was gazing on my uniform. Both of them exchange a hasty eye contact and walked out of the lift spontaneously. I grope out the bottle of sanitizer, rubbing down myself and let out a whiff of relieve.
Under the dim moon light, I pulled down the face mask letting myself be embraced in the fresh morning breeze and blasting music. The journey was too soon for even a tenth of a song. In a fleeting moment, the train station was already within sight.
The fresh morning breeze had finally come to an end. In replacement was the familiar air conditioning ambient blended in stench of cleaning detergent. The train had already arrived at station, ample vacancy was seen among scattering passengers. I swaggered along with the quaking train instead. My effort was not in vain, I got the last cabin all by myself. My blithe of exclusiveness didn’t last very long, the cabin was filled up in no time. The only separation seemed to be depended on that thin and flimsy surgical mask.
There were three of us working in the inpatient process section, Jody was the most senior, she had been working for about three years. Every morning, she would be the first one to reached the office with our delicious breakfast. Siti was the next doyen, she came in one month after Jody. With them around, working hour passed easily. A few gossip here and there, followed by stealthily munching tit bits and chasing for celebrity, a day of work was hardly felt at all.
As usual, the day started with spraying of sanitizer on the desk, seat, keyboard and one last madly burst to the space.
Jody came in at the juncture, she threw up a scoff at me, “Save it,”
I smirked with curt reply, “I know,”
She sat back plonking around with her belonging, the monitor was cranking up and finally gave out a beep to start her day.
While registering the first patient, I hissed at her, “Any news from Siti,”
She shrugged at me, “I feel like walking out of this place just like that,”
“Me too, is there any safe place to go?” I consented to her proposal.
“Some place where no one else is there, I didn’t want to end up like Siti,” her finger were punching across the key board.
“You think Siti would be alright,” I threw out a sigh.
She maintained at her last posture while replying, “who knows, I wasn’t doctor,” she paused and continued, “even doctor wouldn’t know,”
Silent sunk in and she was rustling with the document and bidded to me, “I am escorting the patient to the ward, see you later,”
I nodded and send her off in silent.
Looking at the pile of inpatient document, I took a deep breath. Three person’s job was splited between two. The worst duty would have been escorting patient, especially those send in by ambulance donning in full personal protection equipment. Siti had done the last arrival of ambulance patient escort. Two days later she started coughing and show symptoms of rashes at random.
At this moment, my attention was lured by a clamorous commotion just right outside. The gaudy and colorful revolving light reflected all over the place.
“Give way please” a fully donned up paramedic was brawling at the door entrance, he gazed around and finally dropped his vision on me.
He blurted, “Patient escort please, patient escort please,” he repeated the instruction twice.
My lower drawer compartment was slided out revealing brand new set of personal protection equipment consisted of N95, head and shoe cover, inner gown, outer gown, face shield and gloves.
My hand was trembling with the N95, a familiar silhouette was approaching from the far end of the corridor, Jody was on her way back.
A whim of thought flitted across my mind. There wasn’t a split second to be spared for cogitation. I pressed against my abdomen along with crumbled face. I turned towards the duty sister nurse, “Oh shit, I got a bad stomach, this is the third time in the morning, I need toilet relieve,”
She stood up, took a look at my station, both her eye brown came together, “Are you alone today?”
I threw her a long sight towards the corridor far end, brough along her vision to approaching Jody, “Jody is coming, don’t worry,” I gave her an assurance.
I maintained a half stood posture, open up my steps towards Jody. While passing by, she stared at me in daze.
I blurted, “Jod, my stomach upset, Please stand in for a while,” I didn’t wait for any reply, combining two steps into one closing the distance to the nearest toilet.
Before pushing into the toilet, I took one glance back, Jody was already mingling among the paramedics and nurses.
I moved one step further, opened the adjacent door which led to the staircase. I dodged behind the door in one swift action and my stature was disappeared.
The stench of mouldy air wafted in my face with background of flickering lighting, lizards were clambering around the no smoking signage, freaking cob web frisked all over my neck.
Not long ago, smoker would sort this stealth location for a temporary relieve. Not anymore, this had become criminal offence for anyonee who caught smoking here. Ever since then this staircase was completely deserted.
I lifted up the surgical mask allowing a gap, the stagnant air gushed into my noseril straight away. The reek made me puke and nausea. I removed the loop from the ear and the entire mask slided down from my face. The stench was unpleasant, but it didn’t bother me as much as anywhere, at least it wouldn’t kill.
I took out a piece of tissue paper sweeping up a step to sit on. I took out the mobile browsing aimlessly and finally stopped at my favourire Korean soap opera. I was almost done with this episode, Just a bit more to go before I would know whether both the main characters would have come together. Almost to the end of the movie, with blessing, they were really together but one of them had only six months to live, he had suffered from last stage of cancer. Would he be able to survive through?
The mobile blared giving me a shocked, my hand trembled and the mobile swopped to the floor. The display was flickering with Jody’s name. My heart gave a strong thud, I realized need to get back to work. My mind started churning for some lame excuse to prevaricate her. While slipping both feet back into the shoe, I scrambled to put the mask back on and lurching for the door. I took a last look behind making sure nothing was left behind. Suddenly, my gripped on the knob was slowly letting go and slipped out. The ajar door snapped back to a closed. I turned around sat back down on the steps. The mobile was ringing in silent mode. I don’t know how long the battery would last or how long would I last, which ever would come first, this moment is hard to come by.