The 23rd Installment

Nurse Stillmark smelled the vapor coming. She’d worked too long at the Asylum not to know what to do. She pressed her face into the grass, surreptitiously reaching into her pocket. The pink haze drifted over her, but it was just light enough that while it skimmed the grass’s tips, she didn’t breathe it in.

From her pocket she pulled out her nurse’s mask. It was designed to protect her from various contaminants including the fog now tinting the air. The gas was usually used only in one room at a time as needed. The dose was strictly monitored. But for this someone had clearly opened every vent wide and turned the valve all the way.

Nurse Stillmark waited until the man in pajamas fell over. He wasn’t a patient, but she didn’t have time to wonder about him. At least, she thought, the patients who attacked her were passed too, wherever they were. They’d run off when she dropped to the ground as she knew they would. She’d been about to get up when this fool in his pajamas showed up. But she was weirdly grateful for the robe draped over her. It was soft and comforting.

Determined to reach her goal, she calculated the path to the storage room. She had to hope the sickly gas didn’t reach that far. She put the mask to her face, the palm of her hand holding it over her nose and mouth.

She pushed herself up, the robe momentarily wrapping itself around her legs causing her to stumble and almost drop her hand and the mask away from her face. She ran. The pink film in the air faded the closer she got to her goal. Several people lay on the ground in the distance.

The door to the storage room opened easily. She shoved it shut behind her and removed the mask. She was out of breath. The air tasted of dust, but it wasn’t sweet. It wasn’t pink.

Before her sat her prize. Nurse Stillmark put her hand to her heart, an uncommon gesture. She’d seen the light and was about to set herself free. No more patients to quiet with needles and pills. No more corridors to monitor. No more impossible stories to listen to.

She could almost thank the security for making her see the truth. Finally. And it struck her that the feeling rushing through her was excitement, a feeling she hadn’t known in years.

She walked over to the propane tanks. All she needed to do now was figure out how to start a fire. How hard could it be?

The 24th Installment