What You Don't Know Can Scare You
CATEGORY: JC/PB Creep Story
ARCHIVE: Yes, just let me know.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Comments can be sent and will be deeply cherished at
THANKS: To Jackie for such wonderful help and support with this story.
Thank you to Debbie for all of your help! Author's notes at the end.
SUMMARY: John has a frightening night in the ER during Halloween.
The downpour outside could do nothing but reflect the battle of chaotic forces inside. The rain fell in sheets, creating black rivers in the streets. It was astonishingly dark; there was an absence of light from lack of the moon or stars in the sky. An odd sensation filled the air, a spark of power or electricity, but it was hard to say if it emanated from the outside world or from the desperate fight from within.
Amongst the brightly decorated room of pumpkins, ghosts, and ghouls, were the stains of red, from various horrific traumas.
"What have we got?" Carter called out, running with the gurney that was rushed in.
"Female, age 26, BP 70/30, reps 11, GSW to the head, chest, and abdomen." The EMT gave the resident the complete bullet.
Lily and Chuny followed the rolling gurney into the room as they transferred the pale woman onto the exam table. Carter swore under his breath as he saw the bloody remains of what once would have been an angelic woman. Amazingly, her eyes were open and their blue depths seem to lull his mind with a sensation of peace and tranquility. They seemed to indicate the serenity within the soul that was slipping away from its host. Unable to shake the feeling that somehow this dying woman was communicating to him, Carter felt the inexplicable need and duty to save her.
"We need some more help in here!" he yelled as her clothes were stripped and he was gowned and gloved.
"Weaver, Kovac, and Benton are all handling the multiple MVA, they're all tied up," Chuny yelled. "Her pulse ox is 81 and falling."
"Okay, I'll try to intubate," Carter took the tube and tried to slide it down the woman's throat, but blood was everywhere, all he could see was her life bleeding away. "God, tracheal laceration!" Carter pulled the microscopic device out and replaced it with a pressure bandage, applying it directly to the seeping wound.
"Carter, her pulse ox is falling to 76!" Dave cautioned, his voice urgent and tinged with a warning
His hands shook for a second as he watched the blood ooze from multiple wounds, and glanced at her fragile face. He blinked. Were her blue eyes staring back at him? For a second, their blue depths lured him back in and he swore he heard a choir singing. He looked up and saw that everyone else was oblivious.
"Get Benton in here, she needs a trach! God, all this blood-" his gloves were slippery from too much of her life's fluid.
Lucy had just walked in and was immediately greeted by the desperate plea for the surgeon in the next room. She had just come from Trauma One, but Peter was too busy trying remove a steering wheel from a man's chest.
"He's still busy, Carter, and Elizabeth is in the OR trying to reattach an arm," Lucy explained, already anticipating the next question.
"Then I'll have to do it," Carter announced with more conviction than he felt. When he was handed the blade to make the cut he heard the choir vocals grow louder, and still he was amazed at how unaffected the others where from the noise.
He made the incision, determined to fight the losing battle, creating an airway, and then positioned the bag over the new hole. Chuny moved over and attached the oxygen tube that would supply the woman with air.
"She's bleeding out!" Lucy yelled.
Carter moved to the woman's side, to the gaping chest wound that seemingly mocked his fierce efforts at saving her. "Lucy, hand me a chest tube." As he took the offered piece from her hand, he meet her intense gaze. "I'm performing it this time." Carter inserted the chest tube and tried to ignore the slight tremor that crept through his arm.
"She's still bleeding out!" Chuny announced.
"I know, I know!" Carter yelled back, wracking is brain for a miracle procedure.
"She's lost 1600 cc's," Chuny warned.
Trying to calm his rising sense of panic, Carter nodded his head and locked eyes with the assembled staff. "We have to crack her chest."
"You're going to perform a thoracotomy?" Lucy asked amazedly as the others traded worried looks.
"We have to find the source of bleeding, and I don't see anybody else around do you?" Carter shot back, his voice more antagonistic than intended.
Chuny wordlessly handed over the blade, and he cut open the woman's chest with a smooth incision. Lily handed him the rib spreader, and he cranked the metal device so he could explore the chest cavity and was astonished by the profound amount of blood that was pumping out. He stole another glance at the patient's face before handing the bloodied instruments back.
The eyes were still open, staring at him with sense a of loss. They were not at ease anymore, but vacant and empty. Carter bit his lip and tore his gaze away, trying to focus on the situation at hand. He did not have time to argue with the rational and now frightened part of his mind.
When her heart was exposed, Carter grimaced at the sight. "She's got a ruptured aorta." As soon as he announced the latest complication, Benton bounded into the room, trying to mask his initial shock at the surgical procedures that had been performed. He eyed his former student for a brief moment while being updated on the patient's worsening condition.
"Okay, people, let's move. Carter, move aside while I stitch her aorta." His voice was not tinged with accusation, but it echoed the knowledge that he was trained for the procedure.
Undaunted, Carter moved away and was transfixed by Peter's quick hands as he sewed the injured valve. The buzzing and alarms soon overcame the angelic sounds of the singing voices; the angry blaring of the alarms became unbearable as their insistent buzzing flooded his ears.
Carter visibly flinched by the unwanted white noise and moved to finish his examination of the patient's other injuries. He started on her right side, prodding with his fingers, when he discovered her distended abdomen. "We need an X-ray in here, stat!" Carter yelled loud enough for everyone else to hear, but to him it was a mere whisper over the chaos in the room.
Transfusions continued to pump back the blood that relentlessly spilled everywhere. The X-ray wheeled away and the films were slapped on to the light box. Peter walked over to read the results, Carter stood motionless.
"She's got a belly full of blood, liver and splenetic lacerations, let's take her to the OR." The surgeon announced, as they started to disconnect the various tubes and wires and reattach them to portable machines.
Carter started to remove his gloves absently and stared down as his hands that began to shake. He clinched them into a fist and stretched them back out. What he heard next shook him out of his surrealist state.
"We've lost her pulse!" Chuny yelled.
Carter did not wait for a response, moved to her side and started internal compressions.
Peter watched the monitors. "One amp of epi!" Peter plunged the needle full of stimulant into one of her veins. He stared at the insistent diligence of his former student as he continued to pump the woman's heart. The flat line continued.
The voices were mute, the buzzing gone; the only thing Carter could hear was the sound of weeping. He stared at Benton as he continued to massage her still heart and was bewildered at the seemingly unaffected surgeon.
"Internal paddles," Peter commanded. The instruments were handed to him and he placed them beside the patient's heart. "Charge to 200....Clear!"
Carter removed his hands as the jolt of electricity was introduced.
Slowly the weeping subsided, and all Carter could hear was Peter's voice.
Then there was silence.
Peter Benton wandered into the lounge in the search of something to eat. When he opened the door, he noticed the shadowy figure sitting silently in the corner, with the lights off, and the room filled with the sound of the pouring rain outside.
"What are you doing in the dark, Carter?" he asked using a slightly irratated tone.
Carter did not look up when he spoke, keeping his voice quiet. "Kind of wanted to be alone," he said simply.
Not really in the mood to have a pep talk with the younger man, Peter walked over the refrigerator and peered into it questionably. "Where the hell did my dinner go?"
Carter leaned back in the couch and spoke absently. "All the food was removed when the exterminator discovered fruit flies earlier. It was all thrown away," Carter replied, shielding his eyes from the light streaming from the appliance. "Can you close that, I have a headache," he said grumpily.
Peter shook his head in annoyance and slammed the fridge door shut. "Now I have to find something at Doc Magoo's." Peter looked over at the window, seeing the storm raging outside.
"I would have shared of the sandwiches out by the admit desk with you, but I was pretty hungry," Carter told the other doctor as he stiffly got up from his seat.
"Uh-huh, you eat like a horse, Carter, I doubt I would have liked any of it anyways," Peter grumbled.
"I'm going to see if I can track down any information on Jane Doe," Carter said, his tone hushed and somber.
Peter bit his lip, knowing what was going on. John Carter was always the hypersensitive type, and it never ceased to amaze him how he conjured up things to feel remorse about or somehow direct blame onto himself. "Look, that woman was a goner. You did everything you could, more then you should have done." Peter did not hide the sternness from his voice involving the resident's drastic, unsupervised measures in the trauma room.
"It didn't matter anyway," was his dejected response.
Peter stifled the urge to sigh when dealing with the stubbornness of his former student. "Just the same, she stood a very low chance in the OR, I doubt I could have done anything. You'll have other patients to save." Peter looked down at his watch, noting the time. "I'm going to find something to eat, you'll get over it, because there will always be more." Peter presented the hard, simple truth, and left John to ponder it.
John slowly made his way into the admitting area, eyeing the unusual parade of people taking up chairs in the lobby. Most of the patients had minor injuries, but were all wearing costumes reminiscent of Colonial England. Perplexed, he wandered to the desk to speak with Randi.
"Are all these people together?" he asked in astonishment.
Randi looked up, clearly not amused. "Yep, all part of some reenactment or something."
Carter couldn't help but smile slightly at the strangeness. "Of what?" he asked.
Randi put down the magazine she was reading and replied in an annoyed tone. "I have no clue, why don't you ask."
Shrugging John went up to one man dressed like a colonial judge. The man looked up at the doctor as he approached. "So, what kind of reenactment do you do?"
The man stroked his braided gray hair that flowed past his shoulders. "We're part of a contingent that reconstructs events from the colonial era."
Intrigued, Carter looked around at the other actors and noticed the amount of detailed that was put forth in the costumes. The shoes, hair, makeup all looked amazingly realistic to him. "That's kind of cool, do you put on plays or something?"
The judge shook his head, slightly irritated. "No, we hold reenactments that are all carefully studied. We leave no stone unturned, we re-create buildings, lectures, clothing, food, everything you can imagine. In order to reproduce historical accuracy, everyone spends months at a time with the same tools and preparations as the real colonists."
John was fascinated by the actor's words. "You're very dedicated. So what happened?"
The judge sighed and answered in a frustrated tone. "We were en route to the next site and our bus was in an accident. It's a damn shame, most of our stuff was destroyed in the wreck, and the items we salvaged are being stored here."
John shook his head in amazement and was about to ask more about the event they had just completed when he saw a long figure dressed all in black staring at him from afar. Unnerved by the way the stranger peered at him, John excused himself and walked up to the other man.
"Is there something I can help you with, sir?" he asked tentatively.
The man was very tall, standing a few inches higher then Carter himself. He had white hair that was pulled back into a ponytail, and his skin was taunt and leathery. His eyes were a dark steel, and Carter felt a chill run through him just from being under their gaze. The older gentleman wore a black suit and spoke in a low voice.
"You were the one who tried to save my daughter?"
Confused, John shifted uncomfortably. "What? I mean, who was your daughter, Mr...?"
"It doesn't matter what my name is. My daughter, Abigail, was brought in here from multiple gunshot wounds, a robbery." The man's voice was deep and menacing.
John shivered involuntarily, the chill transforming into an intense cold, causing goose bumps to from on his arms. Instinctively he began to rub his hands over his frozen limbs as he tried to explain to the stranger about his deceased daughter.
"Sir, your daughter was brought in with some very severe injuries, I..., we tried everything in our power to revive her, butů"
"No! I did not want her to be attended to. She was not to have any medical procedures performed on her at all, it was against her faith!" the man said bitterly.
Sensing the man's anger, John glanced around to see if he could locate any of his colleagues, and to his dismay, none were around. "Sir, I was not aware of this and as a doctor it is my duty..."
"It is not your duty to tarnish her purity with your tainted instruments of science. With your touch You have destroyed her ability to transcend this world, and for that I curse you!" the stranger's voice boomed.
Carter flinched at the man's words and slowly backed away as he continued to stare at him. The black-clad man did not back away. "She should have never been touched! You violated her. One of those doctors told me what you did to her in order to intervene." With each word, the his voice rose with anger.
"I hope her lost soul follows you around and--"
"What's going on here?" Dave asked from behind the now-trembling doctor.
Carter was too wrapped up in the man's violent ravings to notice Dave, and he began to hear a strange chanting, as he watched the stranger begin to speak in a language he had never heard before. His eyes seemed to glow a deep shade of red, as if some demon was gazing right through him. The chanting continued, but he felt someone's hand on his shoulder shaking him.
John turned around, his body shaking. "Did you hear that?" he asked Dave, who was staring at him strangely.
"Hear what?" Dave looked confused, and John didn't know what to do.
His stomach began to feel extremely upset and he was overcome by an overwhelming nauseas sensation. "I...I have to go." Carter said as he ran in the direction of the men's room.
Dave watched his friend dash towards the bathroom and looked up at the kind elderly man standing there. The man appeared to be in his late sixties, with scraggly, gray hair. The young resident cocked his head to the side when he spoke to the elderly man. "Is there some kind of problem?"
The older man had a very confused look on his face. "I don't know what is wrong with the young doctor. I was trying to find out what happened to my granddaughter who was brought in. He didn't answer any of my questions. I thought he was hard of hearing, but he just kept staring at me as if I was the devil himself."
Dave did not know what could have made John so upset, but he would check up on the shaken resident after he found the guy's granddaughter. Dave took the older gentlemen down to admitting, where Peter Benton was complaining to Randi about the food choices at Doc Magoo's.
"Hey, Randi, do you think you can find this guy's granddaughter, she was admitted here," Dave called to the desk clerk.
Randi took the man's information, and Dave had nothing better to do than to listen to the conversation the surgeon was having with the retired police officer.
"So, Dr. Benton, waz up? Pretty wild day, huh?" Dave smiled at the brooding doctor.
"Nothing worth speaking about," Peter replied.
"Yeah, I just watched Carter freak out over this poor old guy over here," Dave said, finding it hard to laugh. "I swear Carter has been acting pretty strange lately, just a little while ago--"
Peter was already irritated at the arrogant resident and had had about enough of the his ramblings. "You don't know when to be quiet, do you?" Peter asked.
"Hey man, just calling it like I see it," Dave said his tone of voice still exuberant. The resident picked up another chart and strolled away with it, laughing to himself.
Peter sighed and checked the board, noting the lack of any trauma cases. Bored, he thought back on what Dave was gabbing about and decided to search for his former student, wondering what had gotten into the man lately. The surgeon casually walked through the halls and peered into a couple of exam rooms. He passed by the lounge and was heading back towards the desk when Carter stumbled out of the bathroom. His friend looked totally disheveled, his hair was wet, as if he had poured water all over it. His face was pale and sweaty, and his hands were trembling.
"Hey, Carter, are you all right?" Peter asked.
His voice seemed to startle the younger man and he looked at him with his eyes wide. "Uh-yeah...just something didn't agree with me," he stammered.
Peter noticed how terrible the doctor looked and how he couldn't seem to stand still. "Well, yeah, then why are you shaking?" he asked not believing him.
John gave him a lopsided grin and placed his hands in his pockets. "I don't know, just jumpy I guess. Ah, Dr. Benton, I need to look into something, I'll catch you later," he said and walked away before Peter could respond.
The older doctor gave the other man's retreating form an odd stare and shook his head. 'Sometimes I'll never understand you, Carter,' he thought and walked away.
John headed back to Exam 2 to see if he could find anything in the woman's belongings that confirmed her identification or religious order. The weird man who had threatened him with mumbo jumbo had more of an impact than Carter had thought, and John had lost the contents of his lunch in the men's room. Carter thought it had been hours since he had those sandwiches, but all the excitement of the long day had just finally caught up with him. He walked into Trauma 2, seeing that the death kit had been used and the body was most likely in the morgue by now.
The floor had been cleaned and the room sterilized for the next patient. John leaned against the wall, contemplating whether he had been able to do everything in his power to save the woman like Benton had told him. He closed his eyes and could see her, without all the blood, smiling at him. She had long blonde flowing hair, and those deep blue eyes that many men must have gotten lost in. Her pale skin was delicate, and she had the longest fingers that he had ever seen on a woman. She was gazing at him intently and John smiled at her warm nature. He could hear her laughing. In fact, he DID hear her laughing; right next to him, in his left ear, he heard her giggling beside him.
John's eyes flew open, and looked for the source of the laughter, still echoing within the room. John looked wildly about, but no one was there. He walked in a circle about the area, trying to find the source of the faint laughter, but it was slowly evolved to the sound of sobbing. John ran his hand over his face and bit on one of his fingers, trying to decide if he was losing his mind. His body was starting feel cold again, and he decided he had enough.
'I hope she haunts you,' The weird man had told him. Panicked, John bolted from the room, almost running into Dave. The bewildered resident watched in confusion as Carter ran as if the hounds of hell were after him.
"Hey, Carter, you all right?" Dave called, concerned, but the fleeing doctor never stopped.
Peter Benton was sitting at a desk near an exam room doing chart notations. It had been four hours since he had seen a trauma patient, and he resided with the fact that his fate this late night was to do paperwork. The lights flickered off and on as the thunder storms increased in strength. Peter looked at the ceiling as the rumbling thunder made its presence known. The doctor rubbed his go-tee absently when a shadow appeared over the chart he was working on. A man ridiculously dressed as a historic judge peered at him hesitantly.
"Um, I was wondering if you could help us locate some of our stuff. We got a few rental vans and the rest of the ensemble would like to leave now," the re-enactor asked hesitantly.
"Why are you asking me?" Peter asked wearily.
"Well, you don't look like you're doing anything and the other doctors are all with patients," he replied.
Peter looked around to see if anyone else could complete the task, but found that the majority of the staff was elsewhere. "I guess. Where is all your stuff?"
The surgeon followed the man with the English wig, wondering whom he had offended to be stuck with such a mindless task. He followed to where a crowd gathered. Peter did not know what to make of the bunch, they all seemed like they walked out of a history book, the women wore dark dresses, the men wore odd top hats and wool coats.
Peter placed his hands on his hips and asked, "So, where did the desk people say your stuff was located?"
The judge looked at him and replied, "I think they put all the boxes in some supply closet, but they were suppose to keep all the food separate. We wrapped it all in aluminum foil until we reached our destination."
Peter shook his head. "Yeah, yeah, I'll find Randi, and she'll gather everything for you."
The doctor, glad to get away from the odd group, found Randi and told her not to allow him to be interrupted again. The desk clerk snapped her gum and informed him that she would get Malucci to help load the contents into their vans. Satisfied that he would not be bothered again, he started to walk away before Randi grabbed his arm. "Oh yeah, if you see Carter tell him Dr. Weaver is looking for him. Apparently he ran out of Trauma 2 and no one has seen him since."
Peter nodded his head, absently agreeing so he could get back to his paperwork. Walking back, he considered Carter's weird behavior and Dave's sarcastic comments, and pondered the reason for the young doctor's strange manner. Failing to come to a meaningful conclusion, he returned to his notes and began to write again. He was finishing the last details on a chart when the power went out.
"Damn it," he cursed. The backup generators clicked on and Peter threw down his pen in frustration, since there was not enough light to write with. Annoyed, he decided he would have to go back and hang out in the lounge until power was restored.
John was not sure why he was headed to the morgue, but he just felt a strange need to find that woman's body. Somehow he had convinced himself that he had to do this so he could remove the weird feelings from his head. His stomach was cramping, and he wondered what could be causing the severe pain so suddenly. John noticed how lonely the basement had seemed. There wasn't anyone around, and the stillness in the air embraced a very morbid feeling. His footsteps echoed in the hall, only adding to a not-so-vague feeling of creepiness.
The walls were painted a deep green, and John always forget that the reason for such a thing was to hide the blood stains in hospitals. The lights flickered off and on as he proceeded down the hallway, causing him to worriedly look behind him every so often. He couldn't shake the paranoid feeling that he was being watched, but whenever he turned around there was no one there. The further he went down the hallway, the more nervous he became. His hearted pounded and his hands continued to shake for a reason still unknown to him.
Suddenly, the sobbing sound that had plagued him earlier returned. It was coming from the door in front of him, the one that lead to the actual morgue, a place he spent a lot of time in as a med student, but never before had he felt this afraid.
John slowly inched his way to the door towards the faint crying sound coming from within. Unable to shake the feeling that he needed to face whatever it was in the room, he turned the knob and entered. The room was dark and he searched for a light switch, finding it, he flipped it on. The room filled with low lighting that flickered, giving the morgue a strobe light effect. The eerie illumination only served to make Carter all the more jumpy as it was becoming increasingly disorientating. There were a few slabs where bodies waited for autopsy or preparation for burial transfer. John had seen plenty of dead people, but under these circumstances the corpses only gave him a foreboding feeling.
He scanned their lifeless faces and spotted the one he had needed to seek out. Lying on the slab was Jane Doe, or was it Abigail? Her face was frozen into an expression of sorrow and that of an untimely death. Was it her sorrow that led him here? He cautiously inched his way towards her body, just to say his sorry for whatever reason. The closer he got, the better he was able to make out her facial features. The one frightening thing he discovered upon better viewing was that her blue eyes were open and she was staring at him.
Unable to control his fear, he hurried back to the door, when a stomach cramp hit him and he was quickly doubled over. A sharp pain lanced through his belly and he was once again overwhelmed with nausea, his head spinning wildly. He picked himself back up from the floor, still bent over at the waist with his hand clutching his stomach, valiantly searching for the exit. Then the flickering lights went out, and John was left alone in the dark, with rows of dead bodies.
Engulfed in pitch-blackness, John panicked when he bumped into one of the tables. He felt a limp arm brush against his and coupled with the fact that sobbing was growing louder, John Carter freaked out and began to scream.
"Noooooooo! I'm sorry!" he cried into the empty room as the aura of the woman's presence caused John to fall to his knees in catatonic fear. His abdomen was on fire and he was surrounded by death, all alone in the dark. He knew no one could hear his pleas, and was terrified that the spirit of the woman was going to torment him for the violations and his failures to keep her alive.
The backup generators drove Benton to near-fits. Disgruntled, he decided to leave the lounge since he did not feel up to sitting in the dark. Peter always knew holidays brought out the freaks of the city, but Halloween always riled up the most bizarre situations. One year Mark and Susan Lewis were convinced that ghosts haunted the third floor of County, and there were always rumors that the deceased roamed the halls. Peter frowned at the concepts and groaned inwardly when he saw Dave bounding up the hall towards him.
"Hey, there, Dr. Benton," Dave said, a smile plastered all over his face.
"What do you want?" Peter asked in the most unenthusiastic tone he possessed.
"Sheesh, man, just wanted to know if you spotted Dr. Spooked anywhere?" Dave asked in a mock eerie voice.
Peter rolled his eyes and looked over Dave's shoulder to see if anything else was going on. "Who?"
Dave's face lit up as if he was about to recount some new tale of wonder. "You know, Cater, he's been acting like Casper around here." Dave chuckled and chose this opportunity to elaborate. "You know, he's been acting a bit goofier than normal, even for him. He keeps staring off into space, jumping whenever you approach him, and if you ask me," Dave leaned closer to the other man, keeping his voice low, his eyes gleaming with mischief. "I think he's hearing things as well." Dave nodded at Peter's exasperated expression.
"Dave, why don't you mind your own business and keep out of everyone else's," Peter replied dryly.
"Keeping up as to whether good old Carter has finally done too many double shifts and is cracking, is my business," the resident replied, smirking away.
Peter finally had enough of Dave's disparaging remarks. "Dr. Carter does not `crack' under pressure." Peter's voice was close to menacing. "If you think there is something wrong with him, why don't you ask him if there is anything bothering him?"
Dave shrugged his shoulders. "I would if I could find him." Dave clicked his teeth and walked away. As he was leaving, the resident spoke over his shoulders, "Do you teach by example?"
The older doctor was about to snap back, but his last remarks lingered in his mind. Peter snapped himself out of a reprieve, muttering as he went to the admit desk. "I hate holidays and former med students who can't seem to stay out of my life."
Carter was paralyzed. No matter what he did, he couldn't move or even attempt to leave. He covered his ears with his hands in a futile attempt to block out the insistent crying that threatened to uproot his sanity. The wailing echoed in the room, but Carter was too afraid to look up, fearing that the weeping woman would be staring at him with the terminally accusing eyes.
He tried to inch along the wall, using his elbows since his violently trembling hands refused to cooperate. The sensation of being watched had not diminished, he knew that the eyes of all the dead were staring at him, all bearing witness to the harm he had inflicted earlier. The old man was right, she would torment him forever and he would never escape the room. He was doomed to suffer forever in the morgue. As if the morbid sounds of the woman were not enough, a bitter laugh accompanied it. It was "his" cackling, low and evil.
Where could he run and hide? His head bumped into another slab as he crawled on the ground, and instinctively grabbed the sheet that was draped around it. The cover slid to the floor and landed on top of him. Frightened by the smothering sensation, John wrestled with the sheet only to become more entangled. He finally took his hands away from his ears in order to remove the sheet that was soaked with the smell of famadhide. The sick smell invaded his nostrils, causing his stomach to twist into excruciating knots.
He smelled death; it permeated the air, rushing him to the ground. Carter needed to regain his bearings, and opened his eyes, greeted with imminent darkness. The room was absent of light except for two small glowing red orbs in the distance. He focused his sight in their direction, realizing in horror that they were the evil eyes of the mysterious old man. He had come back to accompany his daughter in tormenting him. Carter could almost make out the shape of a body coinciding with the glowing lights. Maybe the old man had been dead and was waiting for his daughter in the after life. Nothing the young physician could say to persuade the restless spirits that he had meant them no harm would suffice. How do you confront the dead with pleas for forgiveness?
He didn't have the chance to ponder it, as the combination of the wailing and evil laughter only served to surround him, weakening his battle to make it out that damned door. Too exhausted, the resident succumbed to defeat and lay on the cold tile of the morgue. If the spirits wanted their way with him, how could he possibly stop them alone?
Peter made his way back to the admitting area, where he saw the re- enactors arguing with Randi. Frustrated that all the kooks had to come on Halloween, Peter grumbled at the group of bickering people. "What now?" he asked, not hiding his irritation.
The desk clerk turned to him dismay. "These people are complaining that we don't have all their food. I keep telling them I don't know! I didn't know it was something special from their props are something," she explained in aggravation.
For once, Peter was glad it was dark so the gathered crowd could not see his look of dismay that the argument was over something as petty as missing food. Trying to calm them down, the doctor reasoned with them. "Look if we misplaced some of the food, you can always grow more."
The judge who had spoken to him earlier only shook his head forcefully in response. "No, that food was specifically prepared, it came from our last re-enactment. It was grown with specific reason and if it was mishandled it could be dangerous."
Disturbed, Peter crossed his arms. "How can the food be dangerous?"
"We were reconstructing the era of the Salem Witch Trials, and the bread was baked out of a special grain. We wanted to re-create the theory that ergot poisoning was an influence for the general hysteria of the trial period. Some of us ingested the bread at the time, but we had doctors with us and were prepared for the effects," the man explained.
Peter furrowed his brow upon hearing the news. "Ergot poisoning? You subjected yourselves to that?" he asked.
"Under controlled conditions and under supervision, yes. We were willing to endure the effects for a few hours knowing the correct counter-medication was present. But, if any of you ate the bread unknowingly, it could make you violently ill and cause hallucinations," the man warned.
Peter absorbed the man's last statement and grew concerned. He turned to the Randi, who had been listening intently. "Did anyone eat any of that bread?"
Randi looked down at her hands quickly, and back up at the surgeon, "I fixed Dr. Carter like two or more sandwiches for lunch," she replied sheepishly.
Suddenly, everything clicked into place, and Peter grabbed the judge by the shoulders. "You have any of that anti-ergot stuff with you?"
The older man nodded.
"Good, I want you to grab another doctor and explain what happened. You tell whoever, that Dr. Carter has ingested ergot-laced bread and if they see him, get him into an exam room immediately!" Peter shook the man to make sure he understood. When he was done talking, he eyed Randi who indicated she knew what to do.
After a reassuring glance around, Peter ran in search of Carter, hoping the younger man was all right.
Peter searched the hospital endlessly for his former student. After half-an-hour most the staff was made aware of the situation and all of them knew that if they ran into Carter that he might not be himself, and to get him into the ER immediately. Peter did not know very much about ergot, only that he it was a fungus that grew on wheat particles, and the screening processes nowadays prevented such infestation.
He had ran into Dave, who had already looked up possible effects in one of the toxicology books and it seemed there were many different strains of poisoning and resulting effects. People often experienced symptoms such as nauseous, tremors, convulsions, along with vivid hallucinations. The other symptoms were very much like those of modern psychedelic drugs, with nervousness, physical and mental excitement, insomnia, and disorientation. Peter could not imagine his friend's state of mind, but the effects of the toxin would only exaggerate whatever he was feeling at the moment.
The last place Peter chose to investigate was the morgue, but it really was the last area of the hospital to be searched. He walked down the long hallway, annoyed that the emergency lighting was so ineffective. He went all the way down the hall when he heard crying coming from one of the rooms. He opened the door and squinted, trying to adjust his eyesight in the darkness. He could hear Carter mumbling in the room and he almost tripped over the younger man.
Peter bent down and felt the shaking body of his former student. Carter felt cold to the touch and Peter shook him slightly.
"Hey, Carter get up off the ground," he said.
"I killed her," he whispered.
"Carter, you didn't kill anyone, now come on, you're freezing," Peter said, tugging on his arm.
"She's been trying to tell me something. I've ruined her peace," he whispered through chattering teeth.
"Come on, Carter, you're sick, now I need to get you upstairs," Peter pleaded.
"Can't you hear her crying?" Carter asked, staring up to where he thought Peter was standing. "The old man told me I was cursed. I heard her communicating with me in trauma, all peacefully, until I intervened," John yelled in hysterics.
Peter shook his head in the dark, and realized how pointless a gesture it was. "Carter, you ate something that is poisonous and is causing you to hallucinate. There is no one here, now can you please stand up?" Peter tried to reassure the other doctor.
The surgeon's eyes adjusted somewhat to the darkness of the morgue. He really did not like being down in this particular room. It was cold, and the resting place of death, to put it bluntly. He had to face it on a daily basis, but it didn't mean he relished intruding in a room whose only purpose was to house the dead. He could see his breath producing a small vapor from the chilliness of the room, but he did not want to ponder the eerie atmosphere of the place.
Peter somewhat man handled the doctor, moving up from the floor when the other man seemed too taken up in his delusion. The surgeon did not want to remain in the foreboding room if he could help it. Carter stood up, but seemed transfixed to whatever he thought he heard or was seeing in front of him. 'Whatever it is, the hallucination must really be rattling him. The sooner we leave the room, the better,' Peter thought.
John was practically being dragged towards the door, he had no idea where he was going, his sense of direction was completely distorted. He heard her, though, weeping in the darkness and he had to make her stop crying. "I'm sorry for disturbing you, all I wanted to do was help," Carter pleaded to the empty room.
Peter continued to try to maneuver them out of the morgue, but Carter was strong, and when he didn't want to budge it was difficult to forcefully remove him from his determined spot. Peter pulled on his friend's arm, not wanting to bear witness to Carter's guilt. It would only make it difficult for the other doctor to face him later on. Just as his frustration began to get the better of him, Peter heard a distinct female voice.
It was quiet, but audible. "Go now and be not upset. I'm in peace, and hold no ill will. Use your gift on others." Then the soft voice was gone.
Peter let his hand drop in shock. Speechless, he remained still as he tried to comprehend everything about the mysterious voice. Carter relaxed a bit and placed his hand on Benton's shoulder.
"I...I would like to leave now. My stomach is killing me."
Still stunned, Peter grabbed Carter's elbow and lead him out of the morgue. As they were exiting, both doctors heard a rustling noise in the path in front of them. Apprehensive, Peter slowly opened the door to the hallway. As it swung open, both men were startled by the suspicious noise. Faint footsteps could be heard coming approaching them.
Unnerved, Peter felt torn between heading back into the morgue or facing whatever was heading towards them. John could hear the commotion and wondered if the odd man in the waiting room was coming back to seek revenge. Justly paranoid, he squeezed Peter's arm tightly.
"It's okay, man," the surgeon growled impatiently, still trying to figure out what to do.
Before either could react, a shadow figure came into view and both doctors jumped when it emerged.
"Damn it!" Peter cursed when Dave Malucci jumped from the shadows.
"Gotcha!" Dave chuckled at how easily he startled the other two doctors. His good humor wore away when he could feel the anger emanating from the surgeon, so he backed away slightly. "Sorry, guys, I was just having a little fun." Dave could make out Carter in the dim lighting of the hallway, his pallor was pale, and for a moment, the resident regretted scaring them both.
"Hey, Carter, my man. How are you feeling?" he asked.
John just clutched at his stomach and peered at Dave. "I would really like to lay down," he replied his voice low.
Peter calmed down during the exchange and collected himself. He knew Dave had entered the doorway and overheard John's hysterics and calmed him down by faking the ghost's voice. For that, he would not grill him, but he really did not want to spend much more time in the other man's company if he could help it.
"Come on, let's get Carter on an IV and treated for the ergot poisoning," he ordered, and all three men slowly headed back upstairs.
John lay restlessly on the gurney. His stomach felt like he had eaten a box of rusty nails, and it made it impossible for him to sleep. The visions had slowly faded away, but he occasionally still heard buzzing and an odd barely-audible white noise, but his mind was more at ease knowing the reason behind it. 'That's the last time I let Randi fix me lunch,' he mused.
It bothered him that he had allowed himself to get so caught up in his imagination, but he was informed that his hallucinations were created by his own emotions to events or people around him, and their reactions to the ergot. It shuddered to make him think how the people of Salem would have reacted to the town hysteria of witches while under the influence of such a drug, completely unaware of what was happening to them.
John hoped he would not be on the receiving end of too many jokes because of this incident, but it was probably unavoidable. John guessed he was pretty lucky; Dave informed him, once he had been feeling better, that the ergot poisoning could have given him severe convulsions, gangue green, or could have resulted in death. He was just glad this particular fungus was engineered for a reason. John heard the door creep open, and of all people, Peter Benton strolled in the room.
Curious over such a visit, John straightened up in the bed, greeting him with a perplexed look. "Sorry for being such trouble, Dr. Benton," John apologized.
The other doctor looked slightly annoyed judging by his scowl, but when he spoke, it took John by surprise.
"You were pretty sick, Carter, no need to be sorry about it. Just next time..."
"Yeah, yeah, no more hospital food," John chuckled at the surgeon's reaction to his joke.
Benton laughed and actually smiled. "Yeah, well, maybe you might eat healthier for once," he replied.
Carter grimaced. "I think I have had enough of vegetarian type items, I think I'll eat a nice steak, if my stomach ever feels normal again."
Peter stood there, wanting to make amends for his harsh comments about the female patient that Carter tried so desperately to save, but no words formed in his head. It seemed that his patient was astute to this, because he smiled at him.
"Don't worry, Dr. Benton. I know couldn't have done anything to save her," John told him matter of factly.
Before either doctor could continue, Dave walked into the room carrying a plastic pumpkin full of candy. "Hey, there Carter, brought you a bunch of treats for all the tricks performed on you tonight." The resident placed the pumpkin on the desk and looked as Carter.
"Um, thanks, Dave," Carter replied eyeing the candy nauseously.
"No problem. Happy Halloween, Carter." Dave was completely unaware that both doctors found his presence somewhat annoying. "By the way, those uh, `eyes' you said you saw were only the lights from the refrigerated temperature gauges in the morgue coolers."
John only nodded too, embarrassed to talk about it. He recalled telling both doctors about his encounter in the basement and insisting that it had been real. After he had been given medication via IV for several hours and the ergot worked its way out of his system, he realized how foolishly he had acted.
"Well, you should be out of here in the morning as long as you take your medication," Peter grumbled, heading for the door.
"Yes, Doctor," John replied sarcastically.
Peter rolled his eyes and ushered Dave out the door so the younger man could get some rest. The surgeon felt reluctant to talk to the smart aleck next to him, but felt compelled to do so. "Hey, Dave that was a nice thing you did in the morgue, you didn't have to, but in Carter's state of mind it really helped," Peter chuckled, "You sure have a woman's voice down."
Dave looked at the surgeon, bewildered. "What are you talking about? I just found you guys down there."
Peter could not believe that Dave was dragging out a seemingly simple piece of gratitude. "I was just thanking you for acting like the ghost of that woman Carter thought he was seeing," Peter replied.
"Sorry to disappoint you, but I didn't say a thing. I found you guys in the hall, that was it." The noise of an incoming trauma caught the resident's attention. "I'm being called, Dr. Benton, gotta run."
Confused, Peter remained in place while watching him leave. Either Dave was pulling his leg `Or...no,' Peter thought, `couldn't have been.' He wasn't going to let his mind go there. The surgeon turned to leave and glanced at the door leading to Carter's room. "Happy Halloween, man," he said to the younger doctor's room, and walked away.
Author's notes: Yes, there are reenactments that are reconstructed across the country. I made this group up. Yes, ergot poisoning can result in hallucinations, convulsions, skin crawling sensations, and in extreme cases, gang green and death. Ergot poisoning ended in the late 1890's with proper screening processes. Yes, there is a theory that ergot poisoning was an influence at the Salem Witch Trials, I did extensive research of this for a loft paper, and according to court records, farming records, weather, land disbursement, diary entries I am convinced it was a factor.