The right of passage

Post By Taras Danylak. Reading time 8 minutes (1,369 words)

This is a very brief short story based on the first episode of The Walking Dead.

Rick woke up dazed. He opened his eyes to look around and get his bearings and saw a blurry outline of the door. He turned his head over to the other side. The blinding light hit his eyes with a vicious stream of pain. Rick quickly closed them. A tear rolled down his right cheek, streaming down on to his dry, cracked lip. Another shot of pain. Rick raised his hands to wipe off the salty liquid. He opened his eyes. A tear drop on the left side of his face shot down his cheek and hit his lip again. He felt searing pain burn his lip for the second time. He closed his eyes.

Rick tried to scream. The sound got stuck in the middle of his throat, with only a hoarse squeak escaping the confines of his lungs.

Rick tried to swallow. His dry mouth contained no saliva to moisten his throat. Worse, the back of the throat felt like it was swollen. He moved his mouth, pursed his lips, opened his mouth and ran the tongue around his lips. A little bit of liquid freshened them up. He felt better.

Rick opened his eyes again. This time the light did not blind him as much. The pain was not as bad and the blurriness began to fade away. Where am I? The thought simmered his mind with the realization that he had no idea bubbling up to the surface. Fear wrapped its claws around his body. He turned his head from side to side looking around the room. It came to him. He was in a hospital room, recovering from a gunshot wound he had received a few hours ago. He and Shane were in a shoot out with a bunch of assholes in a stolen vehicle. They had flipped their car after being chased by county police and were trying to escape by shooting their way out. Rick was shot in the chest, but was saved by his bulletproof vest. The second bullet got him in the back, as he was telling Shane something about his wife. What was it? Rick couldn't remember.

Lori! The second thought flashed through Rick's head. Did she know about the shootout? She was supposed to pickup Carl from school that afternoon and they were all supposed to go out to dinner that night. She would probably be angry at him for skipping out in them.

He'd had so many arguments with his wife over the last few months. They would snap at each other over the littlest things. The other day Rick came home after a late night shift and left the porch light on. Lori woke him up with a shout the next morning. They argued for over an hour, bringing up every grievance, every annoying thing, every unkind word they had said to each other. The only good thing was Carl being at school already. At least he didn't have to suffer his parents's angry bullfights. Where were Lori and Carl right now? Rick closed his eyes again.

Rick heard a distant noise. At least he thought he had heard it. He open his eyes and stilled his breath waiting to hear more. No noise, silence all around him. If he were in the hospital there should be plenty of noise about, shouldn’t there?

Out of the corner of his right eye he noticed a flower pot. He turned his body sharply towards it and was brought down on his back by a penetrating pain, streaming from his left side. The wound hadn't healed yet, he thought. He should be more careful. The second attempt was more successful. Rick managed to turn his body to the right side of the bed and have a look around. There were flowers in the pot. Dead flowers. The stems had all dried up and shrivelled petals had fallen around the pot. How long had these flowers been here? Rick thought. Why hadn't they been cleaned up?

Hello!!!, Rick's shout sounded hollow.

Anyone here?, the second attempt was much louder. Rick listened for a while, but produced no results.

No one responded to his shouts. It seemed as if there were no nurses on duty today. That was strange. Rick turned over to left to search for the help button. He found it on the wall beside his bed and pressed it vigorously hoping for someone to come. Nothing happened. No sound came out when he pressed the button. There was supposed to be a sound, right? Rick looked around to see if there was another way to alert someone that he needed attention.

His eyes went up and stopped on the clock hanging above the door to the hall way. He focused on the clock. It read eighteen past two. His eyes focused on the clock’s hands. They were not moving. The seconds hand stood firmly in-place, pointing to 34 seconds past the minute. The clock wasn't working. The batteries need to be changed, thought Rick. But this was the hospital. Things like these should have been fixed almost immediately. Maybe the clocked stopped working a minute or two ago. Rick needed to find out what was going on.

Getting out of bed was a challenge. Rick dropped his legs to the side of the bed and swung his body upright like a pendulum. This made him realize that the pain in his wound had another accomplice, an excruciating headache. He felt dizzy. His vision blurred and Rick had to steady himself with his right hand. His head began to swim and he almost fell off the bed.

Rick took his time to steady himself and get his balance back before getting off the bed. A few needles and tubes were still attached to him and he took them out, along with his heart monitor stickers. He rose carefully and began shuffling towards the door. He reached it in considerable amount of pain. Again, he had to steady himself by leaning on it with his right had.

The door wasn't locked. He pulled on the handle and he open it. Darkness greeted him in the hallway. An empty medical supplies cart stood across the entrance blocking Rick's way out. He pushed the cart out of the way and stepped out into the dark hallway.

Hello!!!, he shouted. This time the sound echoing back at Rick from down the corridor and filling his heart full of fear and panic.

No one answered. Rick looked around in both directions. His eyes now needed to adjust to the darkness. Medical beds were left empty up and down the corridor. Some were on their side, some were completely overturned. Supplies were scattered all over the floor. Syringes, bandages, plastic bottles, medical charts and other garbage were littered along hallway. The whole place looked like a hurricane went through it.

Clutching his wound, Rick moved towards the reception desk to the right of his room. Papers and office supplies were scattered around this place too. It looked like no one has been here for long while. Whatever happened here must have been quick. People had left this place in quite a hurry. Rick's mind was racing. Fear began to overtake all his senses.

He moved on down the hall, looking for an elevator or stairs to get outside. A brief movement caught his attention. The doors just ahead swayed back and forth. Rick rushed towards them, hoping for someone to be there. His slow dash was brought to a halt by a sight of a big chain holding two doors together. A padlock connected the opposing loops locking whatever was inside. There was writing on each door. Ricked moved closer to read it.

Don't open, Dead inside. The words he read sent a chill through Ricks mind, heart and whole body. The doors swayed again and a dark, grey hand appeared in the opening, pushing the door open as far as the chain would allow it. Ricked turned around and ran opposite way.