Cakepan II: Chapter Five – Meet Me in the Morgue

This is a creative writing experiment, shamelessly stolen from the Chopin Manuscript: a serialized story where each author writes a different chapter. The members of this blog are each writing their own chapter, and we’re calling ours the “Cakepan Manuscript”. This is our second story.

For this story we used a random plot generator, which gave us: “The story starts when your protagonist gets lost. Another character is an anesthesist who is researching something terrible.” You can start reading at Chapter One, and each week we will post a new chapter until we reach the thrilling conclusion!

We hope you enjoy!

Chapter Five: Meet Me in the Morgue

A toe tag on a toe of a dead body

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At that moment they heard footsteps coming down the hallway, and after a loud mechanical click, the double-doors swung open with a bang.

Russ held his breath, assuming it was Nurse Ratched coming to drag him back to that awful sterile room on the 14th floor.

But to his surprise, in marched Maureen and Tony.  Her blue eyes were ablaze but she seemed to dismiss Russ and pointed the venom towards Udo.

“Why did you bring him here,” she asked.

“I wanted to see if any of this would jog his memory.  And, I think it has.  Isn’t that what you’ve been wanting, Dr. Morrissette, oh brilliant one?”

“You’ve stepped out of the protocol.  I never should have let you into this.  You can’t be trusted with a live body.”  She frowned and then said, “Tony, get Dr. Winston.”

“Wait a minute,” Russ said.  He turned to Udo, “What the hell is going on?  These are specimens with eviscerated brain tissue and nobody seems to notice?”  The words jumped out before Russ fully understood and then a strong memory of anger and fear gripped him.

“I don’t know exactly what’s happened here, wait, you just called me doctor.”   Russ looked around the room again, sensing he knew what was stored in the stainless steel cabinets and drawers opposite the temporary storage units for the corpses.

“See what you’ve done?”  Maureen glared at Udo.

“Face it, the experiment is a flop, Mo.  Or don’t you notice the shrunken heads on the slabs, like Dr. Winston said.”

“That’s not the point.  Autopsies weren’t supposed to be done here,” she countered but with less confidence.

“That’s what you do in a morgue, isn’t it?” Russ asked, drawn into the discussion.  He forgot any concern for his own welfare because their argument had a familiar pull, and he felt he had a side in it, but they ignored him.

Tony rose onto his toes, and moved to look through the hazy windows on the electronic doors.  “We need to do it now,” he said and then he moved swiftly to Russ’s side, pinning his arms down.  Without saying anything, Udo held Russ’s hand firmly while Maureen pulled a vial from her pocket and expertly inserted the needle into a vein in the crook of Russ’s elbow.

Everyone stepped away from Russ and they talked as though he wasn’t in the room.  He felt a tingling move down to his hand. He flexed his fingers but not one budged.  He tried to walk but his legs gave way and he slumped into Tony’s arms.  His eyes were open but he couldn’t move.   It was then he realized she’d injected a paralytic.  Pancuronium, most likely.  She was an anesthetist after all.  How did he know that?

Maureen glanced at Tony, saying “Get a bag.  We’ll take him out on wheels.”  She looked at her wristwatch.   “He’ll need to be on a respirator soon.”

“Maureen, you’re crossing the line now, you know that don’t you?”  Udo said rather casually.

“He’s terminal.  Look how sallow he is.  We’ll wait it out, and he’ll never remember a thing,” she answered with complacency in her voice.

“And they claim we’re the heartless bunch,” Udo said, grunting as he helped Tony lift Russ up onto a gurney with a familiar item lying on top, the black zippered body bag.

Russ wondered how many times he’d been on the other side of a loaded bag looking in?

Udo laughed, and hung his thin grizzled face directly over Russ while Tony wrangled Russ’s legs into the bottom part of the bag.  Udo  talked while he shoved Russ’s shoulders and arms inside, shifting Russ’s head so the zipper was like a curtain half covering his face.

“Hey, Dr. Russell Winston the third,” Udo said, chuckling, “I wouldn’t want you to leave without knowing that your lovely wife, Miriam, has been having a ball since you’ve been holed up with the other droolers on fourteen.  She’s been having a grand old time with her young dance instructor.  As a matter of fact, when they called to tell her you’d taken a turn for the worse thanks to Dr. Mo’s experiments, Miriam was on a cruise in the Mediterranean.  She’s been pretty darn scarce around these parts if you know what I mean.”

“Knock it off,” Tony said.

The sound of the zipper closing was quickly followed by total darkness.  Terror was taking hold and the last thing Russ heard clearly was Tony saying, “Let’s get him out of here.”

(Continued in Chapter Six)

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Cakepan II: Chapter Four – Going Down

This is a creative writing experiment, shamelessly stolen from the Chopin Manuscript: a serialized story where each author writes a different chapter. The members of this blog are each writing their own chapter, and we’re calling ours the “Cakepan Manuscript”. This is our second story.

For this story we used a random plot generator, which gave us: “The story starts when your protagonist gets lost. Another character is an anesthesist who is researching something terrible.” You can start reading at Chapter One, and each week we will post a new chapter until we reach the thrilling conclusion!

We hope you enjoy!

Chapter Four: Going Down

English: Combination of two brain diagrams in ...

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“Where are we going?” Russ asked.

“The Morgue.”

The ride down to the basement was a quick one, and Russ noticed that there were twenty buttons marked on the elevator control panel in addition to those marked R and B. Russ felt his stomach rise as they neared the bottom, and when they stopped, the elevator doors opened onto a long, narrow corridor.

They hurried down the hallway and rounded a corner to another secured door. Again, Udo swiped his card across the electric card reader and a set of double doors swung open into a large room filled with metal tables. Three of the tables had corpses on them in various stages of dismemberment.

“I hope you’re not squeamish,” said Udo. Strangely enough, Russ felt oddly at ease amid this gore. He walked over and looked into a stainless steel tray filled with organs: a heart, a pair of lungs, a gall bladder, and a severely damaged liver. “This guy was a boozer,” thought Russ, and he could see from the dissected lymph nodes lying next to the fellow’s open chest cavity that this patient had developed a virulent form of cancer. But how did he know that?

“Check this out,” said Udo as he pulled back the skin on top of the patient’s skull. The frontal bones had already been sawed away to reveal the brain. Yet this was a specimen unlike anything Russ had ever seen before.

“Good God,” said Russ. Instead of a normal-looking brain with its curled and spongy tissue, this brain appeared mutilated—even dissolved. “It looks like someone poured acid into his head.”

“And he’s not the only one,” said Udo as he walked over to the next table and peeled back the face of an old woman. Again, the skull had already been sawed open to reveal the brain tissue, and again, the tissue was pocked with gaping holes like the surface of Swiss cheese.

“What the hell would do something like this?” asked Russ. “Is it viral? No. Bacterial? Maybe. Chemical? Yeah…that could be it. Give me the autopsy reports.”

Udo did as commanded, and Russ skimmed through the details of the medical histories, processing the patients’ previous health conditions, surgeries, prescription medications and dosages—all with a mental dexterity that both baffled and frightened Russ. “Why on earth do I know all this?” he thought. “How is it that I can’t remember where I live or who my family is, but I can look at a cadaver or a medical chart and tell with one glance what killed the poor sucker?” Still, Russ felt some comfort in being able to focus on something and find at least a vague semblance of clarity.

“Are there others?” Russ barked. “Others with brains like this?”

“These two, plus five more that were shipped out last week,” said Udo.

“To be cremated, I presume?”

“Exactly,” said Udo. “They don’t appear to share any pathologies. Drinking killed this one, that woman died of heart failure.”

“What about the others. Any surgeries? Travel outside the country?”

“One had a knee replacement, another a facelift twenty years ago. Ordinary stuff. They all died of the usual geriatric conditions. The only thing they really had in common is that they were all patients here.”

“What kind of patients?”

“Alzheimer’s.”

“These brains don’t show any signs of Alzheimer’s.”

“No, but they all came from the 14th floor.”

This revelation stopped Russ cold. “The 14th?”

“Yep, that’s the Alzheimer’s ward. And there’s one other thing I’ve noticed. They’ve all got a mark at the base of their skulls—just left of the vertebrae. Come look.” Udo lifted the woman’s shoulder so that Russ could see the back of her head. There it was: a tiny blue dot, no larger than a bug bite.

Instinctively, Russ felt the back of his neck and noticed a tender spot. “Do I?” he asked.

“Let’s take a look,” replied Udo.

At that moment, they heard footsteps coming down the hallway, and after a loud mechanical click, the double-doors swung open with a bang.

(Continued in Chapter Five)

Cakepan II: Chapter Three – 2 by 2

This is a creative writing experiment, shamelessly stolen from the Chopin Manuscript: a serialized story where each author writes a different chapter. The members of this blog are each writing their own chapter, and we’re calling ours the “Cakepan Manuscript”. This is our second story.

For this story we used a random plot generator, which gave us: “The story starts when your protagonist gets lost. Another character is an anesthesist who is researching something terrible.” You can start reading at Chapter One, and each week we will post a new chapter until we reach the thrilling conclusion!

We hope you enjoy!

Chapter Three: 2 by 2

Wide angle shot of hospital morgue

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“Who sent you? Who told you to pretend to be my daughter?” he asked.

Maureen looked at him squarely with those big, blue, unwavering eyes of hers.

You did,” she said.

Russ backed up and shook his head, trying to force his brain to start working, force the pieces together.  Tony had his hand on the metal bar of the door and he kept licking his lips.

“Me?” Russ said.  “Why would I do that?”

You knew you would be sent here.  You asked me to get you out.”

“We don’t have time for this, Maureen,” Tony said.  He took a step toward Russ who kept backing up.

“Tony, no!” she said but those big blue eyes never left Russ’s.  He jerked his head away from that unwavering gaze and Tony was there, reaching out for him.  Fear shot through Russ’s body like a shock from a live wire.  In that moment the thought of that grasping hand touching him was the most terrifying thing he could imagine.  He tried to swat it away but couldn’t bring himself to touch it.  Instead he lurched back and turned to run.

Russ collided with a brick wall in green scrubs.  He rebounded and would have fallen but huge hands steadied him.  They didn’t let go.  Russ looked up and up into the broad face of an orderly.  The face split in what was supposed to be a smile and Russ shrank back as far as the hands would allow.

“I thought I told you to stay put, Mr. Winston?”  It was Nurse Ratched and her tone was light but her eyes were hard.  “Who were you talking to?”

Russ turned but the hall was empty and the door to the parking garage was just clicking shut.

“My daughter,” Russ said.

“Mr. Winston you don’t have a daughter.”

“Yes.  Her name is Maureen.”

“You’re mistaken.”

“I’m not.  I’m…”

The hands that had steadied Russ now squeezed.  The movement was slight but the pain was considerable.  He had no doubt the brick wall could break him in two with very little effort.

“I’m…confused.”

“That’s alright Mr. Winston.  Let’s get you back to your room.”

The huge hands stayed on him to the elevator and all the way up.  Russ watched carefully and saw they got off on the 14th floor.  Nurse Ratched dismissed the orderly at the elevator and walked Russ down the hallway.  Back to the goddamned room.

“Let’s get you back into a gown, Mr. Winston.”

“Okay,” Russ said and started to tug at his shirt.  “I’m sorry I’m such a bother.”

Russ groaned and put his hands on his stomach.  He swayed and bent double.

“I think I’m going to vomit,” he said.  “Could you get the bathroom door?”

Nurse Ratched rushed to the door and opened it.  Russ waddled over still bent and as he passed the nurse he started to fall.  She reached out to steady him and Russ straightened quickly and put all his weight behind his fist as he punched Ratched in the gut.  She folded over and Russ brought the edge of his hand down at the base of her skull.  He pushed her into the bathroom where she lay dazed and groaning.  Russ shut the door and wedged a chair under the handle before fleeing this damn room.

He made his way to the elevators and hit the button but the car was taking too long.  He found the door to the stairs and ducked in.  Russ looked down the stairwell, then up.  He needed time to think and they’d be watching for him to try and get out.  Instead of going down Russ started climbing and kept climbing until he ran out of stairs.  There was a metal door that was being held open with a brick and Russ could see the roof.  He stepped through the door and started to look around.

“Patients aren’t supposed to be up here.”

Russ jumped for the voice was right next to him.  A skinny man in scrubs was perched on a piece of ductwork smoking a cigarette.  His hair was slicked back and he was unshaven.

“How do you know I’m a patient?”

The man pointed with his cigarette.

“You’ll never get away from them while you’re still wearing that.”

Russ looked where he pointed and held up his wrist.  He still had the plastic ID bracelet on.

“What makes you think I’m trying to get away from anybody?”

“Spare me old man,” the skinny man said.  “It’s written all over your face.  Did they come for you?  A pair of them pretending to be someone you know.  They always come in twos.”

“Who does?”  Russ pulled at the bracelet but couldn’t get it off.

“Well I don’t really know but I’ve been trying to find out.”  He walked over to Russ and took his hand.  He pulled out a pair of medic’s scissors and cut off the ID band.  “Russell Winston.  Huh.”

“Who the hell are you?”  Russ said.  He rubbed his wrist as if the bracelet had galled him.

“Alex Udo,” the skinny man said.  “I work here.  But I don’t work for them.”

“If you know something why don’t you just spit it out?”

“Like I said I don’t know.  Not for sure,” Udo said.  He threw down his smoke and stamped it out.  “But I think I just got a big piece of the puzzle.  Come with me.  There’s something you should see.”

Udo walked off and Russ followed.  Udo crossed a helipad (Russ wondered where the helicopter was) to a pair of doors to a large elevator.  Instead of a call button there was an electric card reader.  Udo swiped a card and the doors opened immediately.  They got in and Udo had to swipe his card again below the floor buttons.  He pressed one marked B and the doors closed.  The elevator began to drop smoothly and quickly.

“Where are we going?” Russ said.

“The morgue.”

(Continued in Chapter Four)

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Cakepan II: Chapter Two – Puzzle Pieces

This is a creative writing experiment, shamelessly stolen from the Chopin Manuscript: a serialized story where each author writes a different chapter. The members of this blog are each writing their own chapter, and we’re calling ours the “Cakepan Manuscript”. This is our second story.

For this story we used a random plot generator, which gave us: “The story starts when your protagonist gets lost. Another character is an anesthesist who is researching something terrible.” You can start reading at Chapter One, and each week we will post a new chapter until we reach the thrilling conclusion!

We hope you enjoy!

Chapter Two: Puzzle Pieces

 

Eye blue small

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“Damn. What do they want with me? How do I get the hell out of here?” Russ pressed his head to the window and let out a sob.

Russ walked into his small bathroom. Everything was spaced far apart to accommodate wheelchairs or multiple attendants. Also cold and hard so anything unpleasant could be easily sanitized away. He hated it.

He looked into the mirror, and a familiar stranger looked back. He knew all the wrinkles on his face, and his name, but big pieces of himself were gone. No, more like the pieces were there, just all jumbled up. Like a jigsaw puzzle dumped out of the box.

He tugged at his face, mugging into the mirror, hoping to knock a few more pieces into place. Nothing.

He heard the door open out in his room and peeked out. He expected Nurse Ratched’s assistant but instead a slender young woman in jeans and a t-shirt was already in the room, and a slightly paunchy, grim looking fellow trailed in. Both looked surprised at the empty room.

Russ knew them. He thought he was happy to see them, but couldn’t put his finger quite on why. A piece snapped into place and he stepped out into the room.

“Dad!” the woman exclaimed, rushing over to him. She looked as if she might hug him, but stopped short when he flinched. “Are you okay?”

“Russ!” said the paunchy man. “Had us concerned there. Thought you checked out or something.” The paunchy man didn’t seem any less concerned as he shut the door behind him.

Russ shook his head. “I’m sorry, I’m still having some trouble remembering things. I’m not even sure…” he trailed off, suddenly unsure what to say.

The woman looked at him a little sadly. She had huge, blue eyes, and they never wavered when she looked at something, never flitted around the room like most people’s. Russ liked that. Her name was Maureen, he remembered.

Maureen put her hand on his arm. “It’s okay, Dad. We’re here to take you home. It’ll be okay.” She smiled.

The man nodded, but didn’t say anything. Maureen looked at him. “Tony, the bag?”

Tony gave a small jump. “Oh, right, sorry!” He held out a plastic bag towards Russ. “We brought these. Figured you’d be dressed, you know, like that.”

Russ took the bag, the outline of shoes straining clearly through the bag’s edge.

“Thanks,” he said, trying to smile. “Um… I’ll be right back.” Russ backed into the bathroom, not wanting to expose his butt to anyone else today, and closed the door. As he changed he heard Maureen and Tony whispering to each other. Arguing? He couldn’t be sure.

The clothes fit him well, khaki pants and a soft yellow Polo, but he couldn’t remember ever wearing them before. He felt through the pockets, hoping to find a wallet, but they were empty.

Maureen was alone when Russ emerged. “Tony went to get the elevator,” she explained. “We’re running late.”

“Late for what?” Russ asked, but she didn’t reply. She stuck her head out into the hallway, looked around, then walked away quickly. Russ frowned, but followed.

No one seemed to notice them as they rode the elevator down the ground floor, and while Tony fidgeted neither he nor Maureen said anything on the way down. Russ kept studying them both. Something nagged at him, still not quite right. He almost had it…

The elevator binged open on the ground floor and Maureen took Russ’ hand to lead him out. He resisted, but she smiled and pulled at his hand. “The parking garage is right down here. We brought my car,” she explained. He followed her.

Tony’s phone chirped and he looked at the screen. “Dammit,” he muttered. “We need to hurry,” he added, tucking his phone back into his pants.

They reached the connecting door into parking garage when Russ stopped, dislodging Maureen’s hand.

Tony groaned and licked his lips. “Come ON,” he said. “We don’t have time for this!”

“What is it?” Maureen asked, pulling at Russ’ hand again.

Russ nodded to himself. “You’re not my daughter,” he said, stepping back. Maureen frowned.

“I knew it,” exclaimed Tony, throwing up his hands in frustration.

“I know you, but you’re not my daughter. Someone put you up to this, didn’t they?” Russ asked, backing up a little more. He was back in the hospital hallway now.

Maureen reached for Russ’ hand but he snatched it away.

“Look, you need to come with us, okay? You need to trust me,” she said, her voice firm.

Tony looked past them, down the hallway, and his eyes grew large with alarm. “We’ve got to go! Now!”

Russ didn’t want to stay, but was unsure of so much today he couldn’t let go of the one thing he was getting control of. “Who sent you? Who told you to pretend to be my daughter?” he asked.

Maureen looked at him squarely with those big, blue, unwavering eyes of hers.

You did,” she said.

(Continued in Chapter Three)

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Cakepan II: Chapter One – No Way Home

This is a creative writing experiment, shamelessly stolen from the Chopin Manuscript: a serialized story where each author writes a different chapter. The members of this blog are each writing their own chapter, and we’re calling ours the “Cakepan Manuscript”. This is our second story.

For this story we used a random plot generator, which gave us: “The story starts when your protagonist gets lost. Another character is an anesthesist who is researching something terrible.” Each week we will post a new chapter until we reach the thrilling conclusion!

We hope you enjoy!

Chapter One: No Way Home

Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched in the 1975 film.

Image via Wikipedia

The hospital smell churned his stomach as he swung his legs to the floor and yanked needles from both arms. Tubes dangled and the medicine inside sloshed. Another wave of nausea was hitting; he had to get out of the room. He needed air. He needed it now.

Russ Winston ambled down the hall, feet bare and saggy tush exposed. He ducked behind a vending machine just in time to miss two nurses padding down the hall in squeaky shoes. At least he could hear them coming. The newly waxed floor and white sneaker tread made sure of that. He felt a chill. No wonder. His hands wrapped behind him as he attempted to close the vent that is the bane of all hospital patients.

He wasn’t sure where he was. A hospital obviously, but that was all he remembered about his location. The ambulance trip was a blur and the medicine they had given him earlier in the day made his mind foggy. He didn’t like the feeling. At seventy-three years old his mind was already showing signs of slowing down. The medicine didn’t help. All he knew was that he had to escape. He had to leave. He wasn’t even sure why they had brought him here or what they planned on doing to him. That scared him more than anything. It was time for him to move on. If only he could find the damn exit.

He continued to wander what he thought might be the sixth floor, occasionally dodging a nurse or a visitor or two. “Don’t any damn doctors work here?” He wondered. “I can’t believe that I haven’t seen a doctor yet. So much for quality care! Maybe I have. Maybe he did come to visit me. Maybe I just don’t remember. Getting old stinks.” He continued to try and organize his thoughts as he moved about an empty hallway. Looking up he saw the door to the stairwell. Just at that moment a familiar face rounded the corner. So caught up in his own thoughts he hadn’t heard the approach of what turned out to be the nurse assigned to him. “Mr. Winston, what are you doing out of bed? And look at your arms! Did you tear out the IV? Let’s get you back to your room.” Russ considered making a run for it but opted instead to grab the flaps of his gown so as not to expose himself anymore to Nurse Ratched, as he called her.

His eyes darted to and fro as he desperately looked for a means of escape. He didn’t know exactly where he was, but if he could get outside he might have a chance to make it home. The door to the stairwell got further and further away. The nurse talked on and on in what she thought was a soothing tone. It grated on his nerves.

A couple of turned corners led them back to his room, his nauseatingly sterile and stark room. No one had sent him flowers. No one even knew he was in the hospital. Hell, no one cared. Suddenly, as Nurse Ratched settled him back in his bed, alarm bells sounded in the hall. A pale, red-haired man poked his head into the room, “All hands on deck, Leslie! Trauma Team is bringing in fifteen to twenty severely injured. They are pulling up to the ER doors now. We are short-staffed today so we need you downstairs pronto.” Leslie tucked the covers tightly around Russ, “Now stay put, Russ. I’m going to go get one of the medical assistants to hook up your IV again. Be a good guy for me and don’t wander again!” She patted his arm and left the room, quickly following behind the red-haired man.

Russ was still for a moment taking it all in. “Alone again,” he thought. “Wish I knew the way home.” He wiggled out of the swaddle of blankets in which Leslie had bound him and went to the curtained window. A peek outside told him he was not on the sixth floor, but much higher up. “Damn. What do they want with me? How do I get the hell out of here?” Russ pressed his head to the window and let out a sob.

(Continued in Chapter Two)

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