Here is a little fiction Friday for your enjoyment, a short story written by me entitled “Down.” Enjoy the read and your weekend!
The ground was wet and dark beneath her. Her face felt heavy, like someone was sitting on her forehead and leaning on the right side of her face. It was hot and thick with something wet, running into her hair and smelling earthy. But then, the left side of her face was getting small licks of something cold, hitting her face every few seconds.
Oh my God, Oh my God.
She tried to open her eyes at the same time, for fear that if one of them didn’t open, then the other would follow suit. The right opened to goo sitting over the pupil, it was thick with red and burned with the same intensity of the light in her face. The left tried but there wasn’t enough room for her eyelid above the swollen bottom half.
Oh my God
Her breathing was erratic and she had to spit, forming her mouth into small round O’s. The blood on the right side of her face spread to the corner of her mouth and over her cheek. Once her lips were able to move, and saliva had run over them, she started to hyperventilate. Her chest was dry and burned. She could see lights above her, but not everywhere, small spots of artificial light here and there. She couldn’t tell if it had rained or if she was sweating, she couldn’t tell if the ground was wet or if she had wet herself.
What the hell?
“Alice?” A voice from above, she made a quick mental joke in her head.
Pause, her eyes frantic with recollection, scanning her surroundings.
You can make jokes, you are lucid. You can answer. Get up.
A rush of warmth ran to her arms and legs, she was now aware that they were all still there, she could bend them, wiggle the right things, and move them. Her head was still heavy and wet but her vision in her right eye was clearing. Her voice came to her throat.
“I’m here, I’m here.” She flailed her arms and one of the lights came to her face. She saw the ground next to her, and remembered where she was.
We were hiking. We went rock climbing, and it was pretty.
“Alice, can you tell me what the date is today?” The voice bellowed.
“It’s October 22nd, Saturday, 2012.” The side of her head was pulsing, she was wanted to put it down, just let her right eye meet her left, and rest.
“Alice, my name is Dr. Rooper and I need to know what parts of your body you can feel when you’re not moving them.”
She looked at her hands, flat in front her dirty and crusted with blood. Patches of dusted brown and dark red colored the tops and crusted her fingernails. She looked up.
“I can feel everything, but my eye won’t open. It’s swollen shut.” She wasn’t sure if she was screaming.
She decided not to waste energy either, “left.”
“That’s good. Alice, can you tell me if you know how you got hurt?”
We were hiking. Rock climbing, it was pretty.
“We were rock climbing, we were climbing and then I slipped.” She was sitting up now and looking around. “I was with my sister, “ Oh God “I was with my sister!” She was on her feet now, her head made her wobble and she closed her eyes as the pain came from the right side of her body. The outer meat of her thigh was tender and throbbing, her knee cracked as it straightened and her left shoulder drooped a little low. She couldn’t see everywhere, just spots of light coming from above in different areas in the darkness. The voice stopped her in her tracks
“Alice you don’t have to search she is 10 feet away from you, to the left.” She went to move, her stopped her again. “Alice, if you can, can you walk to you sister? Can you walk?”
He wasn’t even finished yet and she was moving; he could see the top of her hair matted on the one side, shoulder dropped and her leg looked like it was slanted inwards. People were rushing all behind him; he could hear noise of the trucks, and smell the supplies coming out of the ambulance. But he couldn’t focus on that, he could only focus on the top of her head, the part in the middle behind her bang and in front of the crown.
Her leg felt like it was being punched in, but she counted the steps.
One, two, three, four, fuuuuck, five.
She saw her sister, but only half of her was blessed with light.
Please let her have the other half, please let her have the other half.
She reached her sister and threw out her arms, grasping at her sister’s hiking fleece and pulling her towards her. She was afraid at how hard she might have done that, but the voice hadn’t said anything, and her sister seemed to be caught on something. Her sister unrolled unto her, her arm came out and laid across Alice’s chest, her legs spread and her right leg stopping underneath her knee.
She didn’t pull any harder, and something was creating a small noise beside her; she slide down so she was sitting against the wall of the rock, and held her sister’s hand.
“Alice, I sent down a flashlight it should be coming down next to you. I need you to check and see if your sister has a pulse.” His voice was even and authoritative.
Her hands started to shake she reach over to her sister’s neck. It was warm and sticky, but warm. The pulse was faint below her fingertips and she wanted to keep her hand there to make sure it didn’t go away.
“It’s faint, but there.” She croaked her other arm painfully reaching her sister’s forehead, and stroking it.
Alice couldn’t tell what was happening up at the source of the light. No one was talking to her anymore but she could still hear voices. She looked at her sister with the flashlight; her face was dirty but peaceful, like she was asleep. Alice carried the small stream of light down to her sister’s chest, rising and falling but barely; if she moved the flashlight an inch during breaths, she would miss it. She continued down her sister’s body with the flashlight; her left leg was now out-stretched on top of Alice’s legs. Alice was holding her sister’s left hand in her right, and her sister’s right arm was propped at the elbow, leaning on the rock crushing her right leg.
Alice picked herself up off the ground but didn’t let go of her sister’s hand. She noticed she wouldn’t be able to move around the rock, so she got on her tip toes and tried to find the other half of her sister’s right leg. She couldn’t see anything, just rock. She let out a small whimper, knowing her sister’s leg was smashed completely, there was no saving it.
“Her leg is gone! I can’t see her leg!” She screamed, she was standing, looking up at the lights ahead, reminding them that she was still conscience and talking.
The voice was clear, and loud.
“Alice, what can you see? What parts of her leg are visible to you and what do they look like?” He was trying to find her flashlight, follow her from above to make sure all angles were accounted for.
Alice didn’t want to be wrong; she didn’t want to be the reason that they had to leave her sister in the hole. Panic rumbled in her chest and stomach, she flew the flashlight every which way, creating a light storm that she couldn’t control.
She placed the flashlight at her sister’s bent knee; the whole knee was there, a perfect half circle at the top of her grey hiking pants, with the familiar creases underneath. She let out a sigh of relief and slowly moved the flashlight lower on the leg, looking for more grey. With trembling hands she only moved the light a few inches before the grey turned to stone.
Her voice was shaking as she took in the information before saying it out loud. She took two long, deep breathes. “She has her whole knee; I can see all of it, but it’s bent.”
“Alice, you have to listen to me ok? I can’t come down there and get you.” Alice’s head jerked up to the sky, flashlight still on her sister’s leg. “You’re going to have to cut her leg and stabilize it so we can bring you both up.”
“What?!” Alice shrieked, her flashlight following her face.
Alice saw thin lines coming from the sky; at the bottom of each line was something else. One had what looked like an emergency kit, white, plastic and small. The other was a longer white box, and then a larger cable came, with a single oxygen tank and mask attached to it. For some reason movie rules shot into Alice’s mind and she went for the oxygen tank first, fearful when it hit the hard, rocky ground it would explode. She had watched enough House to know the oxygen tank was for her sister, and she carried it over to her, and placed the mask over her sister’s face. She wasn’t sure if it was already on, but then her sister’s chest started to rise a little bit more each time and she knew it was.
She went to the other packages, the small one first. She clicked open the top and saw all white; pads of gauze lay over top of the other contents, she lifted them and saw a green sterile sheet, medical tape, a scalpel and what looked like a child’s vinyl belt.
Alice moved quickly, she didn’t want to waste any time.
I watch enough TV to do this; I know how to set this up. Do I know how to do this?
She opened the sterile sheet on the ground and laid out the contents so she had clear vision of everyone one; she opened the larger white box and revealed a small saw. She hesitated at the sight of it and couldn’t touch it, she kept the lid open but placed an open pieced of gauze over the top, to shield any debris.
“Okay Alice, now tell me how much room your sister has from her knee until you can’t see anymore.”
Alice stopped organizing her supplies and went back to her sister, at the sight of her sister’s leg she wanted to turn back around and keep organizing. She couldn’t tell how much of her sister’s leg she could see, she couldn’t think in measurements right now.
“It’s about the size of my fist, maybe three or four inches but I could be wrong.” She screamed above, keeping the flashlight steady; focusing on her breathing.
“Okay, this is what we’re going to do. I’m going to walk you through this okay? I’m going to be here the whole time; we’re going to do this together.”
At the thought of all of this actually happening, Alice’s breathing became erratic again. The flashlight started to slip from her sweating palms and her head became heavy again, she leaned against the rock behind her.
He could see her starting to doubt herself, to get nervous and start to panic. “No Alice, you’ve got to stay with me okay? You have to do this for your sister. Go to the sheet and pick up the vinyl belt.”
It took a few moments for her to move but she slowly made her way to the sheet, dropped to her knees and grabbed the portable tourniquet.
“This is a portable tourniquet. We need to stop the blood flow to the bottom half of her leg, okay? Place it right under the knee and tighten the straps.” The overhead lights had moved to shine over the sister, he saw her left leg, open and to the left, her torso and right arm. Alice crawled to her sister and covered his view, when she moved he saw the green strip contrast her sister’s grey pants.
Alice had strapped her sister’s leg rather quickly, her breathing was fast and quick. Once she sat back and checked her work; she figured it was too loose, she went back and pulled the strap tighter, when she did this a rotting smell emerged from the crease of the rock.
Oh my God, I’m gunna through up. Don’t throw up.
“Okay Alice, now I need you to feel under your sister’s knee for her popliteal pulse. That’s a pulse behind her knee.” He waited and watched as she scooted on her knees, covering her sister with her body.
Alice’s hands were shaking and she could feel her heart beating in her ears. She had to move her sister’s pant leg out the way and nudge two fingers against the tight skin. She felt the bump, bump, bump. She withdrew her fingers.
“I can feel it!” She shouted; the skin on her sister’s leg, the skin beneath the tourniquet was starting to grey. There was a breeze that rushed through the small rock hallway, the smell of dead flesh hit Alice’s nostrils and she threw up in between her sister’s legs.
“Okay Alice, we’re going to do this now okay? You need to get the amber liquid and wet your sister’s leg.”
The voice was talking slow; his voice was traveling down to Alice’s ears like a stream of information. She crawled over to her supplies and took the small bottle. She opened it with vigor and squirted it all over her sister’s leg.
Not the time to be neat.
When she emptied the bottle and threw it behind her. It was getting harder and harder to breath; she leaned on her forearms and took deep breaths.
“Okay Alice, it’s time to pick up the scalpel.”
She didn’t move, but looked at her sister’s sleeping face; peaceful under the plastic mask, chest still rising and lowering. She waited until her chest took a rhythm and crawled to the scalpel. She picked it up, shiny and hard, like the rock under her. She put the handle of the scalpel in her mouth and scooted back to her sister.
“Okay now; try and make an even incision as deep as possible. Don’t worry about how deep you go just try to make it straight. And DON”T MOVE.”
His last command made her more nervous; she held the scalpel in her fingers like she had seen so many times on TV, her only reference for this. Her hand shook with the weight of the small instrument, like her wrist couldn’t take the strain.
She placed her left hand on her sister’s leg, creating a larger v shape with her index finger and thumb. She tried to steady her breathing and relax her trembling hand.
Just breathe, just breathe, just breathe.
She took her left hand away from her sister and gave her body a good shake. She placed her hand back on the small part of skin and felt it’s tightness against the tourniquet. She took a deep breath and brought the scalpel to the graying flesh.