The author's note today is that I got an e-mail asking me how Alain's name is pronounced. He's named after this cool French guy I met at a tiki bar called Kelbo's (the one on Pico Blvd.) when he and I both regularly fed our karaoke addictions there.
Kelbo's was a great place. There were quirky regulars, celebrities would drop in... Oh, I could tell you stories.
Anyhoo, Alain's name is pronounced UH-LAWN, two syllables, no long vowels. And there's no resemblance between the tiki bar Alain and the Alain in the novel except their names.
Enjoy the rest of chapter two and I'll post all of chapter three on Monday.
Hell on Five Dollars a Day
A Novel By Greg Bulmash
Â© MMVIII - Greg Bulmash - All Rights Reserved
Chapter 2 - Part II
"What the hell is that?" Alain shouted.
The nurse went running out of the operating room as the orderly started advancing on Alain. The doctor, on the other hand, stood by the undulating pinkness. He had that sort of unflappable self confidence, most often displayed by politicians and other fools who think that they are too important for someone to take a swing at them. "It's your soul, of course," the doctor said. "Or at least part of it."
As they circled, Alain saw two things: First, the pink mass was stretching and flowing into a vaguely humanoid shape, though it was still very blurry and child-size. Second, that he was approaching the instrument tray. "SOP," the doctor blathered on, oblivious to the explosive nature of the developing situation. "You think you'd get all that power without a little collateral?"
Closer to him than to the orderly lay a bone-bladed knife he assumed had been used as a scalpel. Alain decided there was no time like the present to see how coordinated he could be. He leapt forward, grabbed it, and leapt back, holding it in front of him defensively. "Get back," he said to the orderly, taking up a fighting stance, holding the knife ready to strike.
The orderly stopped, but didn't back away. He looked at Alain, then at the knife, and chuckled. Meanwhile, the mass on the gurney was getting more and more distinct. Rather than sprout arms, the pink material flowed off of what could be a torso, defining the arms, slowly splitting them away. As they separated from the mass, they curled up over its chest and it rolled up into a fetal position, issuing a high-pitched moan from its forming mouth.
Noticing Alain's distraction, the orderly moved closer. "Get BACK", Alain yelled, taking a swipe at the orderly. But rather than jump back, the orderly stepped into the blade's arc, letting it draw a path across his stomach, tearing through his shirt and cutting a shallow wound in the flesh. He stopped and cringed, obviously feeling it, but he didn't bleed. Alain stepped back, panicked by what he'd just seen.
To Alain's right, another orderly burst into the room and approached from the other side. Amidst all this, the doctor hadn't left his spot, watching the proceedings with a sort of detatched amusement.
"If you two can hold him..." the doctor trailed off as he prepared a syringe. The two orderlies continued their advance.
Better than being caught between two of them, Alain knew he had to rush one. He chose the one to the right, between him and the door. Stutter-stepping forward, he stopped, pivoted on his right foot, and moved forward at a forty five degree angle to the path leading directly toward the orderly, avoiding the orderly's grab for him. Raising his arm as he twirled, he put his weight behind the knife, slashing it across the orderly's throat, and came out of the twirl heading backward into the swinging doors. Dropping the knife, he grabbed the cart with the pink, moaning mass on it and dragged it with him as he burst through the doors into the hallway.
His hold on the cart kept him from falling over as he backpedaled through the doors, but the cost of that came quickly, the cart adding its weight to his as he slammed into the wall on the other side of the hall. Alain pushed off quickly and charged off to his right, the cart careening ahead of him.
As he ran down the hall, searching for an exit, he realized what kind of sight he must be. A naked man, running through a hospital, pushing a cart with what was now looking to be a moaning, naked boy on it. He knew if he didn't get out of there quickly, he could expect police at every exit, and if he didn't get some clothes, he couldn't expect to get very far even if he did get out.
Turning a corner, he slammed open the door of the first room he saw. It was empty. He turned and ran further down the hall. He would have expected to be challenged by this point, at least seen some other nurse or patients in the halls. Reaching another room, he threw the door open, but the room was empty. It seemed almost as if he was the only patient on the floor.
At the end of the hall, he found a stairwell entrance, but there was no way the cart was going down the stairs.
He looked at the figure on it. The pulsing and undulating had finished and a small boy lay there, maybe four or five years old given the size of him. He remained curled in the fetal position and was the reddish pink color of a newborn, but the moaning had subsided into a mild whimper. A closer look at the boy's face made Alain's legs go wobbly.
It was the face he saw every time his mother took out the photo album. It was the face in all the pictures his dad had taken with the Kodak Brownie when Alain was a boy. Now it was on this thing on the table, and somehow Alain had given birth to it... by caesarian section.
The thought of caesarian section made his legs go even more wobbly. They'd just cut a big hole under his ribcage, reached in, and tore something out of him, yet here he was on a dead run through the hallway with a cart careening ahead of him. He felt his abdomen, expecting to find a big bloody wound, but it was smooth and dry, no sign he'd ever been opened up.
His head felt like a dirigible about to lift off from his body, and without its support, he was going to topple. He shook it hard and slapped himself twice to bring the world back into focus. He was losing sight of his goal... get the Hell out of this place.
Alain looked at the stairwell and then at the child. Whatever it was, whoever it was, he couldn't leave it. He picked it up and the child wrapped its arms around his neck. Its legs around his torso.
Alain tore down the stairs, taking flights at a canter, one hand on the safety rail, one holding the boy. As he progressed downward, the numbers beside the doors counted down... 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.. and Alain stopped.
The first floor, and presumably the exit, were just one floor down, but the problem of clothes hadn't been forgotten. He listened at the door, then opened it a crack and peeked out, getting views up and down the hallway. It was empty. Slowly, Alain crept out.
Three steps out the door, before he could even take in his surroundings, he was hit from the left by a flying tackle. He went down and the boy bounced out of his arms, skidding across the floor while Alain struggled with his attacker. But the struggle was in vain. A second orderly joined in, and within moments, Alain was laying on his stomach, a knee on his back, feet on both hands.
Straining to look to the far periphery of his vision, he could see the boy on the floor. He would have expected it to curl back up into a ball and begin moaning again, but the boy scrambled to his feet and launched himself at the men pressing Alain to the floor.
Another orderly grabbed the boy and pulled him off, the boy snarling and screaming unintelligbly. As the orderly carried the boy away, he reached out. "Alain," he screamed with the fear and rage of a child being torn from a parent. "Alain!"
Boy and orderly passed through a set of swinging doors which muffled the sound of the boy when they closed. The screams grew more distant until Alain could not hear them at all.
All Alain could hear now was the ragged breathing of the orderlies, the quiet hum of some nearby machinery, and the clop of a pair of sensible shoes approaching from directly ahead of him. The shoes moved around to his side and stopped by his head. "This ought to take care of things," a female voice said.
He felt the pain of a dull needle sliding into the side of his neck and everything went dark.
[To Be Continued December 8th, 2008]
Hell on $5 a Day is a work of fiction, serialized by its author on Brainhandles.com. Excerpts may be used for blog posts or articles about the novel. The length limit on excerpts is 4 paragraphs. Any more extensive usage requires permission.