The Ward - Chapter 1

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The ambulance screeched down the street, its siren blaring obnoxiously. The ambulances driver, Darryl Yates stifled yawn as the traffic parted before them. It wasn't as if anything new was happening. He did this everyday, like twenty times a day.  

Sitting next to him was Warren Harrison, M.D. The doctor wore the traditional white coat, and his brown hair was slicked back. He pressed a button and a tiny gap opened in the window, allowing a small stream of wind enter Darryl's mobile HQ. Annoyed, Darryl pressed a button closing the Doctor's window. Harrison gave him a funny look before returning to face forward. 

Darryl reached his destination and slid to a halt at the curb of the smoldering wreckage of a house. Fire trucks surrounded what had just minutes before been a blazing inferno. Everywhere there were blackened pieces of furniture, sofas, chairs, a bed. Broken pieces of staircase and window sill lay fractured and black on the dead grass. Mounds of burnt book residue and broken bookcases lay on their sides in the heap. Darryl and Warren hopped out of the ambulance. 

Darryl was annoyed at the doctor; it was none of his business to be here, but Harrison wanted to see what it's like on the job. 

The two rolled a stretcher to the figures in front of the demolished house. A man with mousy brown hair was kneeling over the body of a woman. She was covered in burns and her flesh was a tight pink. She was unconscious, and didn't appear to be breathing. Darryl halted the stretcher next to them. Harrison shoved the man out of the way to check the girl's pulse. He flopped over on the ground, limp. 

"The names Harrison, Warren Harrison," Harrison told the limp man.


"Henry Slate," The man replied shakily, "Is she going to be alright?" 

"I don't know yet," the doctor responded matter-a-factly. 

Darryl resisted his urge to yell at the doctor. You are not supposed to be so disrespectful to the nearest family or friend of a victim! 

"She doesn't seem to be in imminent danger, Mr. Slate. If we make it to the hospital in time there is a good chance we can save her," Darryl said.  

"Thank you." 

Darryl and Warren carefully lifted the unconscious women onto the stretcher.


They wheeled her across the ground with the man following behind.


Darryl felt very bad on the inside. He had seen this sort of scenario countless times, but it never ceased to touch him. The poor man whose house is now a smoldering wreckage. His wife covered with massive burns being driven to the hospital in an ambulance. Slate probably felt so helpless. There was nothing he could do.


Darryl closed the back doors of the ambulance leaving Harrison and Slate and the woman. Hopefully the doctor would be able to stabilize her on the ten minute drive to hospital. Darryl quickly pulled open his door and slid into the driver's seat. He flicked a switch on the dashboard, turning on the blaring sirens overhead as he pulled the door shut and maneuvered back onto the road. He jammed his foot on the accelerate, enough to go fast, but not enough to cause difficulties in the back.


It's going to be a long night for Mr. Slate, Darryl thought as he raced down the straight, cars swerving out of his way.



In the back of the ambulance Warren Harrison was observing the patient. Henry Slate sat on a small stool in the corner, tears creating wet stains down his cheeks, watching the doctor for some piece of good news, anything to pull him out of the hole he was falling into.


Harrison was studying a particular burn on the woman's face. Most of her hair had burned off and there was an unnatural tightness of the skin on her scalp. Covering half of her crown was a hideous, crusty layer of skin.


He took out a stethoscope from a drawer and put into his ears. He pulled some of the ragged clothing so he could put the end of the stethoscope onto her skin unobstructed. Was it his imagination or was the heartbeat slowly fading?


He quickly started rummaging through the cabinets for first aid supplies. Miraculously the woman moved her mouth. She was trying to say something but it was inaudible. Slate rushed to her side, staring into her eyes, trying to read her lips. She tried one more time before her blue eyes slid closed and she slumped down. 

Harrison checked her pulse. Nothing. 

Sighing, he opened up a window that opened into the drivers area and called to Darryl, "You can turn off the sirens. We're not in a rush anymore." 

Slate sat down on the floor numb with shock. He couldn't think straight. 

Darryl could have punched that stupid doctor. The last thing you do when a distressed relative was there was to tell the driver that we don't need to get there quickly. 'Cause it's so nice to tell them there's no hope left. 

"Oh, and by the way," Harrison whispered loudly, "Pass me the phone, I'm going to call a mortician so he can be ready when we get there." 

Slate started weeping openly. Darryl seethed. 

The ambulance at last stopped in front of the hospital. A couple medics rushed the woman away, leaving Slate, Darryl and Harrison alone.  

"Look," Darryl began, "I-I know it doesn't mean much, but I feel really sorry for you. I see this kind of thing daily and It always..." 

"What my associate is trying to say is," Harrison said, "Is that we sympathize with you for your loss, but it was unavoidable. Her burns were too extensive she couldn't have survives, and if she did she would be absolutely hideous." 

He laughed. 

Slate stared at him. Darryl clenched his fists. A voice came on the loudspeaker: "WOULD DOCTOR WARREN HARRISON REPORT TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM!" 

"Well, excuse me gents," Harrison strode confidently away. 

Darryl opened his mouth to apologize but a hand tapped him on the shoulder. 

"Your needed Darryl," a white-coated medic said and led him away. 

He looked helplessly at the forlorn man. 

Slate slumped into a chair, his eyes red, his vision blurring. At first sadness was all there was. Grief washed over is body, like molasses. Then that distress was replaced by anger. 

Who did that doctor think he was anyway? He thinks he can do whatever he likes just because he has some goddamn PhD? Well, he'll pay. I won't be going down without a fight.

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