As a paramedic the first thing they train you for is to be ready for anything.
I’ve worked swing shifts here at Saint Luke Memorial for about 16 years now and I was sure that I had seen it all.
But nothing prepared me for my shift a few nights ago. It was supposed to be my day off to celebrate my parents anniversary.
Instead my day started with my pager going off around 3:30 in the morning and me trying to force myself to wake up in time to catch a ride with my partner James.
James has been an EMT for only a few short years but his clear leadership skills and sensibility have given him quite a few perks, one of which includes that he can take one of the hospitals reserve ambulance home with him for situations like the one we were dealing with that night.
“Dispatch said they got the call a few minutes ago, up near Twin Falls,” James said as he put the pedal to the metal.
I busted my butt getting supplies ready for whatever we might encounter, listening to chatter over the radio about what 911 had reported.
“Call came from one of the homeless shelters downtown, a young girl was reported to be experiencing some kind of seizure and foaming at the mouth,” the radio chirped.
My first thought went to some lowlife trying to slip her a drug. I had seen it too many times before.
But when we arrived at the shelter, my reaction changed to one of confusion. The building itself looked abandoned, and without power to any of the levels my first question was how had someone made a phone call from here.
“Maybe this was a prank?” I asked.
Then James spotted a figure near one of the windows, the little girl that dispatch had reported. She was walking strangely toward us and limping slowly. It looked like something was dangling from her mouth. Like fish hooks.
I jumped out of the ambulance and ran straight toward her to help her.
“Hey sweetie, we’re here to help you, Okay?” I told her.
The girl made no attempt to respond. I could see little bits of foam still drooling out her mouth. I realized what I thought to be fish hooks were actually her own teeth, growing at an alarming rate and curling as though they were fingernails. The seizure was still taking hold of her body and yet somehow she was able to walk upright.
I tugged at the doors to the ambulance and got her on a stretcher. As soon as the straps touched her skin though she started to scream in pain.
“What’s going on?” James asked.
“She might have some nerve damage, move out right away,” I ordered him.
The girl began thrashing, screaming louder as she struggled to break the straps. The ambulance lurched forward and I heard the sirens blare.
It was 22 minutes back to St Luke.
22 minutes of hell.
It started when I reached for a sedative to calm her down.
As I prepped the needle the girl started speaking, but the words were just jumbled and made no sense. She just kept saying the same words over and over.
Origen. Nagrath. Odin. Thrak.
Then she bit down on her tongue and blood seeped out her mouth.
I hurried to get the sedative in her arm. But the needle refused to pierce her since. It bent and snapped like a twig.
She grabbed at my arm with a strength I knew could not be her own. Her eyes that had once been pleading now showed menace.
“Release me.” It wasn’t a question but rather a command. I felt a chill go down my spine.
We were on the interstate. I heard traffic buzzing past us at 80 mph and this strange girl was telling me to let her go?
“Just calm down, we’ll be at the hospital soon,” I told her
The she opened her mouth and I stared wide eyed in horror as hundreds of strange long black insects skittered out of her orifice.
I jumped back and watched as her body was covered by the insects. They were shimmering down the stretcher toward me at an alarming rate that I couldn’t help but to scream.
Then I heard a menagerie of voices wailing in my head.
Demanding me to let her go.
I started frantically stepping on the bugs trying to see if James could pull over.
“What’s going on back there?” he asked.
I couldn’t even explain it.
Suddenly she broke free of her bonds and sat up, her body now naked and pale to the soft light of the ambulance. She was watching as the insects bit at my legs. She was smiling.
“Pull over!!! Pull over we have a situation back here!!” I yelled.
The girl shook her head she held up a long boney finger for me to remain quiet as James shouted, “What the hell is happening? We’re ten minutes out.”
The girl extended her hand and the insects started to swarm back to her. They wriggled their way under her skin and moved about the way a mouse might under a rug.
“Release me.” This time it was soft, almost like she was desperate for me to listen. Her time in the soft lights showed me that her skin was fading gray, her hair a sickly brown. Those long gray teeth were chomping down on her bloody tongue as she pushed herself up toward the door.
Her long fingers scratched at the stretcher as she stood up and walked toward me, grappling me like an ape might to the wall.
I fumbled for the door of the ambulance, letting it fling open as James drove down the highway.
“What the hell!! Are you trying to get us all killed??” he asked. He glanced briefly through the rear view mirror. The girl leapt from our ambulance and straight on into traffic. The car tried to swerve to avoid her and smashed against the medium.
James slammed on his brakes and skidded to a halt as I rushed out toward the traffic. Other cars were doing their best to avoid the scene as we checked for survivors near the crash.
The driver was barely cohesive, and bleeding badly.
The girl was nowhere in sight.