Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Breath of Life

Charles Wu was carrying candy from the George Washington University Hospital gift shop when he entered the patient's room. The man was less recognizable today, with his long brown hair shaven off where Dr. Khalid Mohammad had operated. Nurse Consuela Arroyo finished checking the patient's IV, then gave Wu a funny look. "He's on intravenous feeding," she said. Wu put the candy down and told the nurse it was for later. (He had never bought flowers or stuffed animals for a man, and it hadn't seemed right.) "Only family members are allowed in here." He told her he was a cousin and the only family he had in Washington, then gave her the deep and meaningful brown-eyed stare that never failed. The stare did not work on Nurse Arroyo, but she did recall that the patient had no health insurance and his chart had something on it about a cousin paying his bills. Gay lover, she thought, and she was going to tell him that President Obama had just issued a decree that gay partners could not be barred from hospital visits, but she decided to say nothing, and just nodded on her way out. Wu sat down in the visitor chair, not sure what to do; he knew that sometimes coma patients could hear things said to them, but he didn't know the guy and didn't know what to say. Wu thought back to when he was young and had long hair and dressed like a rock star and rode his bicycle around Hong Kong without a helmet: it could just as easily have been him that collided with a taxi carrying an important businessman in the back seat who was so engaged in a cellphone conversation that he had not even noticed whether the cyclist or his taxi driver were at fault. (In fact, nobody at the nearby bus stop or walking down the busy city street had witnessed the collision, either.) He pulled out his Utne Reader and selected an article to read out loud to the patient.

Several miles to the east, Dr. Devi Rajatala was enjoying the morning's Friendship Garden volunteer session at the National Arboretum. She knew for some of these kids, the pollen-laden (male) city trees had been causing rampant hay fever and asthma attacks, but the air was cleaner here at the Arboretum--where seed-laden (female) trees were favored to provide more food for insects and songbirds. The children and adolescents had paused several times during their weeding and planting chores to point out cardinals, robins, chickadees, vireos, and bluebirds. She had never seen Angela de la Paz happier, and knew it was because her mother was back in her life, working a steady job with the U.S. Census, and looking for an apartment where she and Angela could live. From a distance, The Warrior hacked invasive vines with a long knife and wondered if this would be the year The Prophecy would be fulfilled. From the corner of his eye, he suddenly noticed the arrival of another man on the far side of the Friendship Garden, and recognized him as the one who had followed Angela's mother around. Horrified upon realizing the man had figured out where Angela and her mother were living, he began walking quietly around the perimeter of the Friendship Garden to confront the man.

Glenn Michael Beckmann had, in fact, figured out where Angela's mother was living and was full of outrage. It was bad enough that taxpayers were subsidizing trees, bushes, and silly gardens at this place, but illegal aliens!? It was too much for him. Dissatisfied that Tea Party protests, spitting on Congressmen, and sending death threats to U.S. Census workers were not giving him any sense of satisfaction, he was determined to pull the plug on at least one communist, socialist, totalitarian waste of taxpayer money and threat to national security. Out of nowhere, Rani the donkey came around a bush and bit Beckmann in the buttocks, causing the militia member to squeal like a stuck pig. He whipped out his gun and turned to face his attacker, but Rani had already positioned herself to kick out with her hind legs, and he was knocked on the ground before he knew it. The shot he did fire (semi-accidentally) fatally tore through a squirrel and lodged itself into an oak tree. Beckmann writhed in pain as all the city kids instinctively ran away from the sound of the gunshot. After being satisfied that the children were out of danger, Dr. Rajatala cautiously approached the area from whence the gunshot had emanated, then saw Rani braying and baring her teeth at a man on the ground. "Rani!" she called out, but Rani stood her ground until The Warrior approached, knife raised, to deal with the man, and for a moment, Dr. Rajatala thought The Warrior was actually going to kill him. The Warrior kicked the gun away from Beckmann, then visually inspected the wounds. "He needs an ambulance," he said quietly to Dr. Rajatala, who could now perceive that the wounds were serious but not urgently life-threatening. "You're lucky," The Warrior then said to Beckmann, but the hard, angry look in his eyes and still raised knife implied the exact opposite.

A couple miles to the west, Sebastian L'Arche arrived at the White House, called back for additional therapy with Bo after Bo's diagnosis of canine narcolepsy. L'Arche had protested that there were no known cures for canine narcolepsy, but the staff had been adamant that they really wanted him to try. Clio (the butler) ushered the now familiar dog whisperer down to a sparsely furnished basement room, where Bo was gnawing contentedly on a chew toy while the Rahm Emmanuel wannabe stared at his PDA screen, scrolling through his emails. He looked up at the arrival of L'Arche and put his PDA away. "Hi, Seb. Good to see you again." L'Arche didn't like being called "Seb", but it was a minor annoyance to the Iraqi war veteran--who was all too aware that another vet had just committed suicide in Ohio. He shook the man's hands and again protested that there were no known cures for canine narcolepsy. "I'm sure it's more than that, Seb," the wannabe said, "and we can't afford to have this dog distracting POTUS in any way." Bo was already nuzzling his old friend, L'Arche, and telling him how stressful it was to live in this place. L'Arche whispered in Bo's ear, and Bo sat expectantly on his haunches. "We brought him down here because he seems to do better with less stimuli." L'Arche nodded, despite his certainty that this analysis was rather off target. The wannabe left, and Clio started to leave, then paused for a moment to confess to L'Arche that her twin pre-schoolers were sometimes responsible for provoking the Portuguese water dog.

"It's not them," he assured her. It's the White House ghosts using your children for their own purposes. He started to say something, then changed his mind. He knew she had HIV, and was only doing fair-to-middling on the medications. "A less stressful environment might be good for your kids, too." Since Regina and Ferguson had been born in the White House in the middle of a security lockdown, nobody had ever suggested to her that the kids live anywhere else--living here was their reward! She went off to ponder this, leaving L'Arche alone with Bo. "I know, I know," whispered L'Arche, as the dog explained to him that things sometimes got overwhelming here, and he would just pass out from the anxiety. "Some people focus more sharply when they're under a lot of pressure, Bo. Others simply pop. But I'm proud of you! You have a lot to deal with here." The two lay down on the carpet and began their relaxation breathing exercises.

A mile to the east, Perry Winkle was at The Washington Post headquarters, working on his article about Mayor Fenty's proposed budget. "BOR-ing!" a coworker called out to him one last time, laughing on his way out the door. It's NOT boring! Winkle sighed, and drained the last swallow from his coffee cup. He knew it was a sign of confidence from his "Metro" editor that he had gotten this important story, but it was, well, a little boring. He had been secretly writing a series of articles about his urban guerrilla field trips for D.C. adolescents, but had been procrastinating pitching the series to his editor. For one thing, it was not independent reporting. For another, some of the activities had involved misleading parental waiver slips, and although nobody had gotten hurt, he could not be certain that parents would not be horrified to read all the details of what their children had been taken to see around the city. He tried to re-focus on the Mayor's budget details--get beyond the hype and hysterical pronouncements from city council members ("disturbing"), human service agencies ("heartless"), and environmental watchdogs ("we haven't seen this kind of willy nilly fund-shifting since Marion Barry was mayor"). He had contacted the Tea Party to see if they would speak out in support of the budget as one elected official's attempt to keep spending low in the face of revenue shortfalls, but all he ended up with was a quote about the outrageousness of President Obama's statement in support of full voting rights for residents of the District of Columbia. Winkle's cellphone buzzed, and he saw an incoming slideshow from Dubious McGinty entitled "pink dolphins in the Potomac", but when Winkle opened the photos, all he saw was the river. Someday I will find a way to prove all that, my friend, he thought, then turned back to finish up this article so he could get back out into the city.

Back at GWU Hospital, Wu patted the comatose patient gently on the shoulder, then left. In the room next door, the brother Wu never knew he had also lay comatose, in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. Outside the patient's window, a raven felt it--the faint ripple in the pond of destiny--and sensed something big was coming. Deep in the nearby Potomac, Ardua sensed it, too...and she didn't like it.

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