“Where you going? We're only two hours into our shift, man.”
“No. Your shift. I'm out.”
Martin swiped his card, pulled his coat from the nearby rack and was gone, leaving Nathan to wonder what exactly he had seen.
"The Drive Home"
Everything seemed to be watching him. Even the trees at the edge of the parking lot seemed to have eyes that he couldn't see, watching his every step as he approached his beat up old sedan, keys in hand. He couldn't shake that feeling, eyes everywhere, watching for him to turn his back, watching for that lapse in his attention that would signal the moment when something horrible would have it's chance to spring on him from the darkness, devouring his body the way the thing he had seen burst from the girl's chest had devoured his mind in the brief moments since witnessing that horror. He wondered if he would ever sleep again.
Martin unlocked his car, painfully aware that his back was wide open to the world, a world that he now feared may be inhabited by monstrosities beyond his reckoning. How many of those people inside this branch facility of Cook County Hospitals were completely sane? How many of them had simply seen some revelation of the ungodly truth as he had when that thing ate it's way out of the chest of this strange young woman? The door now closed and locked, keys in the ignition. He took a sigh of relief as he looked at the reflection of his own eyes in the rear view mirror. Get a hold of yourself, he thought. It was dark in there. He couldn't have seen what he thought he saw. But what about the silence of the other patients that Nathan seemed so unnerved with? And what about the girl whispering Dr. Van Meter's name? He was sure that while he couldn't make out exactly what the doctor had said to her, he knew he certainly had not heard anything faintly close to the name “Horace”. How could she have known his name and just how the hell was able to make the flailing, fighting maniac become completely sedate with just a few short whispers? None of it made sense. The only thing that would make sense, he thought, was getting home, taking a shower and going to bed. He would look for a new job tomorrow. Sure, the pay and benefits were good here, but there's no way he was going back in there after this. Something simple would be welcome, maybe bagging groceries or clerk at a gas station. Screw the money. Just get the rent paid and go to bed. Right now that's all that mattered. That, and getting the image of that thing and the sound of her whispering out of his head.
The car lurched a bit as he entered the roadway. “Damn transmission,” he said aloud, more to hear the sound of his own voice than to curse the beat up old vehicle. On the radio, a classic rock station bellowed, “I'm looking through a hole in the sky, I'm seeing nowhere through the eyes of a lie...“.
Glancing back in the rear view, Martin saw the skin around his eyes looking sallow, deep and darkened, and the faintest impression of a black X seemed raised from the skin between his eyes. Panic set in. The wheel had a mind of it's own, as he stared at the image in the mirror. “Hole in the sky; gateway to heaven; window in time; through it I'll fly...” came the cries from the radio. “Marty,” he heard from behind him, the same thin whisper as when the girl said the name of the doctor. He spun. Nothing there. He whipped his head back around just in time to see the lights of an oncoming truck. Adrenalin surges as his foot slams hard on the breaks, hand jerking the wheel to avoid a head on collision. The truck's horn bellows as it speeds by, his car now angled off the edge of the road at the end of a set of smoking skid marks.
There she stood, in the middle of the road, arms stretched out wide, turning in a slow spinning dance, a smile on her deeply chapped, darkened lips and a hellish glare in her eyes. He couldn't take his eyes off her, the spinning form of a young woman, her hospital gown blowing just barely open as she turned, open just enough to reveal her round, tight bottom. With every turn of her pirouette, he heard, no, felt her call to him. “You have seen because I wanted you to see. You know because I wanted you to know.” He could hear the raspy voice and yet there was no movement of her mouth. “First to see, first to know, Marty. First to see, first to know.”
Blood streamed from his nose and upper lip as he snapped his head back from the steering wheel. Teeth felt loose, nose broken, and a headache rolled through his skull like a Panzer brigade. He looked to the mirror again. Nothing. No strange, crumpled skin. No X between the eyes. Drawing in a deep breath to build his courage, he turned to look to the road. Nothing. No twirling, pale skinned girl, only the burned rubber skid marks from his emergency braking and near deadly crash. Another deep breath and a turn of the ignition key brought a sigh of relief. The car started, and though the driver's side headlight was knocked at a precarious angle to the road, and the front of the vehicle had suffered some rather ugly dents and scrapes, he opted not to linger here, else his nerves might completely fail him. Better to head on home and deal with it tomorrow. “I'm living in a room without any view, I'm living free because the rent's never due”, the music proclaimed. “Sabbath? Really... ,” he thought, “Definitely not right now,” but the rest of the words rattled on through his mind, “the synonyms of all the things that I've said are just the riddles that are built in my head.” Enough thinking for now. Time to get home, go to sleep and figure things out fresh in the morning.