May 06, 2012

Morning comes, the incessant buzzing and the irritating, bubbly voice of a local radio station host, issues from the alarm, it awakens Jade.  She reaches over blindly, punching for the snooze button, missing it all together the first time.  Before the second try, she opens one eye just enough to see where the snooze button is, before trying to press it down.  She face plants into the pillow; her muffled words,
“Whatever he’s on, I want some!”
Jade remains on her stomach with face still planted.  She relishes the silence, knowing that in five-minutes, the noise will return.  Jade must get up, because today is her long-awaited final interview.  Jade gets up and at a snail's pace, walks out of the bedroom, into the kitchen.  She draws up the shade, sees the sun and thinks,
“Jade, why do you make these morning appointments; you know you’re not a morning person!”
Jade shakes her head in dislocated wonder and turns away from the window.  She gets lost in daydream, while she pours water into the coffee machine reservoir.  While brushing her teeth, still in a mental fog, Jade looks deep into her intense eyes,
“Well at least I don’t look like I pulled an all-nighter!”
She reaches into the shower, turns on the water and lets it run warmer than normal.  Jade takes longer than usual to shower today, bothered by thoughts of all that blood; she wants to wash it away, along with the dream.  She turns off the water and stands in silence; the only sound is the dripping of the facecloth. 
“No blood--cool!”
She reaches for the towel hanging behind the door and dries herself off slowly as if surveying damage.
“--no cuts--even better!”
Jade squeezes the water from her hair in the towel while walking into the kitchen for her favorite thing in the world.  That first sip, the first sip of coffee to start the day.  She retreats towards the bedroom, coffee in one hand, towel in the other.  Jade stands, looking down at the previous nights purchase, pondering the temptation to wear them under her business attire.
“Who’s gonna see ‘em, the chick in HR?  I’m sure she’ll get all sorts of turned on; right!”
The ponder takes longer than it should.  She shakes her head to herself,
“Jade, there’s plenty of time to feel sexy, some other day. 
“Some hunk can get a good look--
 before your clothes fly off!”
Jade reaches into the closet, pulls out a skirt and blouse, deciding they work together.  She dresses quickly, walks to the mirror and puts in her favorite gold ring earrings.  She’s naturally pretty and usually never wears make-up; but today, because it’s the very important final interview, she opts for a quick swipe of eyeliner and clear gloss for the lips, a tiny dab of perfume; looks herself over quickly and says out loud,
“Oh Jade you look stunning, you--look--simply mahhhhvelus!”
She giggles to herself and goes out the door, down the stairs, out to the sunshine filled morning.  She walks over to the red Magnum® and sits inside, Jade starts the powerful Hemi® V-8 engine; it rumbles to life.  While the engine idles, she looks around to make sure everything is as it should be; yes we did say she could be anal; right.  Jade turns on the navigator and sets her course for Salem City Hospital; it tells her the trip is twenty-five minutes, door-to-door.  Jade drives
to the end of Mill Street and turns left onto Washington, follows Washington to the intersection of Mishuwam Road and merges onto route 128 northbound.  This is not one of her favorite highways because the road can be congested at strange times of the day, sometimes for no apparent reason.  Occasionally, it’s because of rubbernecked drivers looking at an accident scene on the opposing direction roadway, slowing the whole procession down.  To this day, Jade cannot understand why the high speed travel lane on the Massachusetts highways come to a screeching halt.  The sudden halts are what cause more accidents than in other states.  To her thinking, it’s what she feels is the idiotic and morbid curiosity of drivers looking onto the other side of the highway instead of paying attention to the road in front of them.  In every instance, bar none, there’s a narrow escape, Jade thinks to herself,
“Idiots--that’s why my insurance premiums are so much more here than back home; these drivers are imbeciles!”
Followed by her saying aloud to the empty car.
“Man I’m glad for the third shift, no traffic!” 
She arrives at the hospital and drives around the parking lot looking for a place to park; the lots pretty full today.  Finally, finding a spot out in the boondocks, Jade parks and walks towards the entrance of the hospital.  She enters through the revolving door as the sign requests and approaches the information desk.  There is a woman, who looks to be about eighty, dressed in a red volunteer jacket with the cuffs folded over and rolled up; the sleeves about 6 inches too long.  The old woman has hair with a bluish hue; I believe they still call these people blue hairs.  The lenses of her glasses are extremely thick, making the eyes look four times larger than they actually are.
She’s one of those aged people whose eyes seem as if they are looking through you
Jade notices the old woman’s nametag; it reads:
 Hello, my name is:    
  How may I help you today?


     Helga looks up and smiles as Jade walks towards her.  In a somewhat pressured speech,
“Hello dear, how may I help you today.  Oh, I love your blouse!  It’s so unusual.  Did you buy that here?” 
Jade smiles back,
“No--Helga--I didn’t.  I bought it in Pennsylvania when I lived there.  Helga, tell me please, where is HR?”
Helga continues the conversation with herself. 
“Oh Pennsylvania is a nice place to live, I had relatives that lived down there; in the sixty’s of course.  They had a wonderful home in the country.  They had farm animals, chickens and such--course they’re long since dead--but I remember it well!  Oh--sorry dear, I’m off on a whirly again.  So, Personnel is down the hall behind me here, and take the second left, and it’s the third door on the right; or is it the fourth.  Anyway, you can’t miss the big sign.  Got all that; want me to write it down for you dear?” 
Jade ’s chuckle becomes a guffaw,
“Helga, you are a dear; no I think I can find it just fine.  I still have my wits about me!”  
Helga smiles and leans in to speak softly to Jade .  Her hand rests on Jade ’s forearm,
“--covered in blood!”
She recoils as if static-shocked.  She looks at Jade with a bemused expression. 
“Are you here for a job dear?  This is a great little place to work.  My grand kids work here and a couple nieces and nephews too.  Of course, you’ll find all of that out when you come to work here.  One of them works in the lab and takes samples so when you go to get your pre-employment lab work done you’ll meet her!”
She looks off in the distance, as if trying to recollect her train of thought, blinks, then focuses back on Jade  .
“Her name is Victorea but she wants everyone to call her Vic.  She’s such a nice girl and her friend Hillarea, gosh-dang, she is too!  She’s such a pretty girl, all the single boys drool over her!  Her and Vic is a beautiful couple, so in love; inseparable them two are!  You’d think they be joined at the hip!  Course, at times, I know they are, but that’s another story!”
She smiles and her dentures show the excess of cement just at the gum-line; she continues, again, trailing off absently. 
“Course, I don’t like the idea of all them piercings she has.  Honestly, kids these days.  Why do they want to mark themselves all up with tattoos and such?  Vic has one of those star things; I forget what you call them, with a circle around it stuck right through there on her chest!”
“Do you mean a pentacle Helga?”
“Yes!  That’s right dear.  That’s what they call them?  Why on earth would you want one of those piercings stuck on your body?  Isn’t the woman’s chest a sacred place?”
“Well, some kids are into witch-craft and like them.  It’s the thing in a town like Salem!”
“Well isn’t that nice.  Well dear, what did you say your name is again?”
“Oh Helga, forgive me, I never told you my name; it’s Jade Kierkierwitsky.”
Helga smiles,
“Well Jade Kerrr caa--wiza--!  Whatever--can I call you Jade K for short?  Is that a Russian name?”
“Its Polish Helga, my father is from Poland.  A lot of the Polish people settled in Pennsylvania back in the day.”
Helga smiles,
 “Well isn’t that nice, Ms.  K.  I’ve held you up long enough!  Miss Jade you best gets a move on so’s you’re not late for that appointment.  The lady’s name up there for HR is Felicia.  She’s a dear, too.  She’s from the Virgin Islands.”
“Thank you Helga I’m sure I’ll see you on the way out!”
They wave good-bye to each other.  Helga thinks to herself,
“What a pretty girl, but that was a strange little shock I got.  Hope it didn’t do anything to my pace-maker!”
She goes back to her crossword puzzle.  Jade walks past the information desk to continue down the long hallway, turns left at the second passageway as Helga advised.  Ahh yes, the sign Jade  is looking for:
H U M A N   R E S O U R C E S

She  can see through the glass door, an African-American woman seated at a desk.  From behind the desk, she looks like a short, plump woman.  Felicia is actually five-foot eleven-inches, and with the shoes she has on today, when she stands, she will be over six-feet tall.  Strips of braids about a half-inch wide adorn her hair, going from front to back; the braids go past her shoulders.  Each strip has colored beads in the midst of the braid; quite pretty.  She has high cheekbones with slightly flattened nose, and face a little on the wide side.  Her lips are thinner than what you would expect for her ethnicity, and with the choice of lipstick, they are strikingly pretty; as are her piercing grey eyes, it’s obvious she wears colored contact lenses.  You can tell this woman is no stranger to beauty secrets.  The charcoal-grey, mid-sleeve, long dress fits her well.  The neckline is meant to be open just enough to accent her abundance, but not look inappropriate.  Likewise the slits show just enough leg to make it eye catching while still being business-like.  Her torso seems to be a little out of proportion with the legs that support it.  There is some mottling and jiggle on her exposed arms from lack of muscle tone. 
Felicia is moving around, shuffling papers, and opening and closing drawers; filing papers away.  She looks busy, not the kind of busy that someone who is trying to hide from their boss there is no work to do kind of busy.  Jade opens the door and smiles as she walks in.
“Hi--Felicia is it?”
The woman looks up and says in a long misplaced southern accent, while pointing into the air. 
“Umm--you muuuust be Jade --ahhh--Jade Kierkierwitsky--did I pronounce that correctly?”
“That’s perfect Felicia.  Thank you.  I’m very pleased to meet you!”
Jade extends her hand simultaneously with her.  Felicia feels a minute current flow through her with a reverie of,
“--bloody stumps of hands and feet.
Hundreds of gashes cover the face!”
Felicia’s eyes flash a quick visual of Jade ’s body; all present and accounted for.  Her brow twitches for but a millisecond; a casual observer would think Jade shook Felicia’s hand to forcefully.  Felicia says to herself,
“Wow! That’s freaky! I’ve never gotten that from anyone before!”
 “Come, sit over here next to me Jade and tell me all about yourself.  Nothing like puttin’ you on the spot as soon as you walk in, right?  I’m only kidding of course.  So, I wanted to start out by saying I got all your documents from the email Boston sent me.  And, I see you took the time to fill out the application on line.  Perfect.  I had ample time to check you out as they say, with all the previous employers and such.  You do come highly recommended--so I ask you--why on earth do you want to work for such a rinky-dink operation like this?”
 Felicia studies Jade ’s face. 
“Jade, you’re a monumentally venerated radiologist, published, and known everywhere; why Salem?”
Well there don’t seem to be any healed cuts on this chicks face.  Wow!  Very freaky!”
Felicia continues,
“There are so many partner hospitals downtown that could use your talent, why Salem?”
The preceding scene takes less than a second to pass,
 “Felicia, Salem City is not that small of a hospital.  Maybe it is compared to the ones downtown but this particular one is part of the City Network so it’s got huge financial backing.  I’m just looking to get out of the limelight and enjoy life a bit!  I’m not in this to become a millionaire anymore.”
Felicia clucks,
“Jade, I half expected that kind of reply from you.  Your old peer Jack says you’re a real cracker jack and always do your research before venturing out; no matter what the endeavor!  You did your homework on us too.  I bet you even walked around the hospital a bit before y’all decided to apply here too, didn’t you?”
Felicia pats Jade ’s arm,
“--follow the bloody footprints! Footprints? Again!”
Felicia smiles a pained politician’s smile.  Jade continues; she too wears a slightly confused expression.
“Yes, matter of fact I did.  I stopped into the department and asked the girls and guys all my questions.  I talked to a guy named Peter, about what I like to do on my off shifts, and he told me that by far the best shift for me to work would be the graveyard shift.  He says the differential for that shift is like being rewarded by the Gods!”
Felicia laughs bellicosely,
“Yup, sounds like Pete!  Jade, with all that bein’ said, I’ve been authorized by Network to offer you the position.  And to make things even sweeter, the salary and perks will be better than you have researched.  I have to keep the upper hand somehow don’t I?  You see, I had you hired before you even got here today.  This meeting is just a formality to say hello and welcome you aboard.  The staff in the NMD already says they like you from your visit, and your paper trail did the rest; so, what day are you starting this week?”
“This week?  That’s awesome!  I just need to check a few things before I can give you the exact day for this week.  It’s the first shift to start, for training, right?”
Felicia grins,
“Yup!  That’s right sweetie; now remember when you start on nights, you’ll have to pack a lunch; they pull in the streets around here after midnight so you can’t go wondering around town looking for dinner or breakfast or whatever you graveyard folks seek!”
“Those braids are gorgeous!  Are they extensions?”
While grabbing a fistful of braids, Felicia says
“Noooo, baby they are all my hair!”
She adds thoughtfully,
“It costs a small fortune to get it done, but I love it like this.  It’s pretty easy to care for it like this.  I usually get my nails done the same time I have them touch this up.  There’s a great little place in Lynn I go to on Western Avenue.  I’ll show it to you sometime.”
“Yes, you’re going to have to show me.  I can get lost in a paper bag, so I know I will around here without your able guidance!”
Felicia laughs,
“Ya, I got lost a lot when I first moved to the area, too.  It’s all right though.  You learn quickly, especially when you gotta be somewhere!  Good thing about Lynn is that all the side streets end on one of two main streets so you can’t ever really get lost; you just gotta put up with those alternating one way streets!  Now Salem on the other hand, is very confusing.  Especially up to the Witchcraft Heights area.  Gads, those streets run around in circles!  I’m surprised the witches didn’t get dizzy flying around up there in the old days; I know I would have!  But, I’m sure you know there are no flying witches--as far as we know; one never knows though!” 
Jade laughs at Felicia's way with words,
“Felicia, you are such a character; I love it!”
“Why thank you dear!  OK!  Now, back to biz!  Jade, you’re going to have to take all this paper work to employee health so they can swear you in.  Mrs. C will take care of all that stuff.  She's a real sweetheart.  When you’re done with her, you’ll walk over to the lab to get your blood work done.  The kids up there are cool, too.  You should expect head banging music playing in the background.  Don’t let that throw you; they’re still really good, responsible kids.  One of them, Vic, has a pentacle stuck on her upper chest; she likes to show it off so you can’t miss it.  She’s related to Helga, who I’m sure you met.  Helga is a great old lady.  Stay friendly with her and she’ll bend over backwards for you.  That will come in handy when the snow flies.  She knows everyone and talks to everyone and she’ll have some guy cleaning your car off before you get to it!”
Jade lets out a short giggle,
“Nice, very nice!”
“Thought you’d like that!”
Felicia hands Jade some forms and walks to the door with her. 
“--shirt, drenched in blood!  Where is this shirt from?  I wasn’t wearing anything--before!”
Felicia opens the door; she again wears that momentarily confused expression.  She steps out into the hallway, Jade in tow. 
“Jade, come to think of it, I’ll walk you over to see Mrs.  C; I want to say hi to her anyway.”
“Oh!  That would be great, thanks!”
Felicia leads Jade down a hall to the left of Human Resources, they cross the hallway she used when going in to see Felicia.  They continue down a corridor, their shoes echoing loudly with each footfall.  The echo makes it difficult to speak, little conversation passes between them, therefore.  When they turn off this corridor, the echoes stop, making it easy to converse again.  As they pass by the elevator banks, there are a few employees waiting, holding food trays or cups of coffee.  They all greet Felicia and nod at Jade, in acknowledgement of her presence. 
The smell of food fills the hallway; it’s becoming apparent they are approaching the cafeteria.  Passing by the cafeteria opening, several people can be seen eating or talking and laughing or reading the paper or yakking away on cell phones.  Yes, cell phones, the omnipresent cell phone.
“Awesome breakfast here, especially the triple by-pass sandwich, one of my favorites.  If you’re hungry after all your paper work’s done, you can stop in here and grab a bite.  Do you like breakfast?”
“I love breakfast!  I could eat it all day long!”
Felicia chuckles,
“Well I‘d like to know where you put it!  There ain’t an ounce of fat on you!  You really take good care of yourself, and it shows!  I bet it won’t be long before I’m hearing about you gettin’ hitched to one of our young, single eligible doctors running around here!”
Jade looks at Felicia with wide eyes,
“Oh no Felicia--not that--I’m too young to do that!  What would mother say?!”
They laugh heartily at each other’s wit while still continuing the trek to Employee Health. 

   The physical
They arrive at the health office and walk in; Mrs.  Constantinopolis is seated at a cluttered L-shaped desk.  She looks up and says through a smile,
“Felicia!  Hey girlfriend!  How are you?  And whom do we have here?  Another fresh guinea pig to suffer the throes of Salem City Hospital?”
Mrs.  Constantinopolis, everyone calls her Mrs. C, is nearly five-foot two-inches tall with about thirty pounds of too much good living on her body.  She has brown hair, auburn highlights and a little grey flecked throughout.  She looks about forty-five years old, yet is actually fifty-three; time has been kind to her, so has her favorite hair coloring solution. 
She has a full and round, friendly face with unremarkable features.  Mrs. C has thick black eyebrows and a slight Mediterranean hirsute.  She is wearing a pair of green OR scrubs with a flowered-print nurse’s cover-up.  She has half-moon, pink reading classes hanging around her neck held by a clear-plastic beaded chain. 
Her desk is littered with medical files and she appears to have been working on one, as there is a file open on her desk.  Mrs. C is holding a red and black pen that has been taped together with white paper tape so that the tips oppose each other; common nursing practice.  Her computer screen has pictures of her grandchildren scrolling across in a random slideshow.  On the wall directly behind her desk is a poster of Athens Greece.  On the wall to the left is a poster of the Acropolis, in Greece.  On the wall to the right, on either side of the door leading to the examination room, are a few medical reference charts and notices from the hospital administration; also, with white paper tape holding them there.  One of the notices has information about an upcoming inspection of medical charts.  The notice is responsible for the pile of charts on the desk.  Felicia motions with her head to the pile of charts behind Mrs. C, and remarks,
“Joint Commission?”
Mrs. C half turns to look at the pile on her desk and says with a bit of a sardonic laugh in her voice,
“Yup, the bane of my existence!  Why can’t those blokes find somewhere else to smoke their joints?”
The trio laugh, Felicia regains her professional demeanor, the other two, follow suit.
“Well Mrs. C, this here is Jade Kierkierwitsky, our new Chief of Radiology.  She comes to us all the way from Pennsylvania, and we’d like to get her all tested up and ready to go, so she can get to work and maybe control that unruly bunch from third shift!”
Jade looks at Felicia with a big smile, Mrs. C chuckles, and nods in agreement with Felicia's statement.  She leans into Jade,
“I hope you know what you got yourself into, dear!”
The trio laughs again,
“Okay!  Jade I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Mrs.  C.”
She reaches for Jade ’s hand; as she shakes it, a faint odor graces her nostrils.
“--the odor of cedar and pine oil--”
Felicia’s brow twitches again from the reverie.  Felicia looks at Mrs. C to catch her attention,
“Oh, and ‘Pina, you gonna be there tonight?”
Mrs. C makes a single nod and replies,
“Wouldn’t miss it for all the tea in China!”  
“OK!  Cool.  I’ll see ya then.”
Felicia turns away and walks out the door.  Mrs. C focuses her eyes on Jade  .
“Well, let’s get your exam going hun because you’ll need to get some lab work done, too.  Come break time, it’s like a ghost town up there and you’ll end up waitin’ a bit longer than you’d like; so let’s hustle a bit!”
Mrs. C goes into the exam room, and returns with a hospital Johnny.  When she hands it off to Jade, the projection of--
“--chunks of charred skin!
Jagged sinew in place of the hands!”
--runs through Mrs. C.  She speaks a little slower than normal.
“Okay hun, go in there and strip down to your undies; get this on and just open the door a little to let me know when you’re ready.”
Jade goes into the exam room and puts on the jonnie.  She looks around the room quickly before walking to the door.  The room smells faintly of peroxide.  She opens the door a little,
“All set!” 
Mrs. C enters the room and motions for Jade to sit on the exam-room table covered with stiff white paper from a roll at one end.  She puts a thermometer in Jade’s mouth and proceeds to wrap a blood pressure cuff around her right arm.  As she does so, another brief reverie from Jade ’s dream is projected,
“Blood drips from the pyre
onto the floor in a steady stream.”
Mrs. C hesitates a moment and looks up at Jade before pumping up the cuff.  She’s still looking into Jade ’s eyes as she places the stethoscope and listens intently while releasing the air pressure slowly.  She looks away from Jade long enough to make a few notes in the employee health chart.  Mrs. C, again looks into Jade ’s innocent looking eyes, until the thermometer makes its low electronic alert.  Mrs. C takes the device from Jade ’s mouth and pops the plastic shield into the nearby hazardous waste container.  She raises her left hand and places it on Jade ’s forehead.  Again a short reverie. 
“--thorns wrapped around the entire body,
blood oozes from the punctures--”
She lifts her hand off and again looks in Jade ’s eyes, wearing a confused expression; Jade ’s innocent expression persists.  She hesitates again before placing her hand on the side of Jade ’s faces expecting another wave.  She breaks her stare and remarks in a motherly tone. 
“I like to double check the reading, me being old school, I check by touching the forehead and face.  It’s just something I always do.”
In her thoughts though,
“But that’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever encountered before--yikes!”
Jade nods, acknowledging the comment.  Mrs. C takes the end of the stethoscope, goes behind Jade, and starts listening to different places on her back. 
“Okay, do me some deep breaths, good; ok now cough a few times, good!”
She goes around to the front and repeats the procedure, pausing and moving.  She says again,
“Deep breaths, good, cough again, good.  Ok, great, looks like you’ll live!  Tell me, how long have you had this problem of living?”
They both laugh at the comment, Mrs. C more so.  She seems more amused by her own humor than Jade  .  Mrs. C removes the stethoscope and places it on the prep table.  She takes a foot in hand and examines it, runs the metal handle of the reflex hammer across the sole of her foot causing Jade ’s toes to curl. 
“--panties lie there as a bunched
sopping rag of blood!”
She gently releases Jade ’s foot, pauses and tics her head; again flummoxed.  Mrs. C grasps the other foot, and repeats the process.  She looks up at Jade to study her face for but a moment; she reads nothing unusual in her expression.  Mrs. C next uses a reflex hammer to test Jade ’s patella reflex on both knees; writes more notes in the chart.  She takes the auriscope and shines the light into Jade ’s eyes to check the retinal reflex. 
“Well those very pretty eyeballs work, that’s a plus!”
She inserts the auriscope in each ear and looks around.
“Yup, no potatoes growing in there either!”
 Mrs. C returns the instrument to the prep table.  Next, she takes a tongue depressor and probes around Jade ’s open mouth. 
“Well, hmmm, you might want to go and find yourself a single dentist, and tell him you need work on your teeth, and then you can take him home with you.  Hun, your mouth looks good to me!”
They laugh together,
“Is everyone here a comedian; you’re a riot!”
Mrs. C smiles and nods.
“Yup, pretty much!”
Satisfied with the findings, she throws the stick in the waste container-more notes in the chart.  Mrs. C glances down at a questionnaire on one of the pages in the chart and proceeds to ask questions about various common diseases; marking the checklist with each response. 
“Okay hun!  We--are--done!  Do you have any questions before I give you the final blessing and a prognosis of terminally long life?”
“Nope, All I can say is you’re a scream!”
“Well that’s good!  Thank you muchly!  Now girl, get yourself dressed back up and while you’re doing that, I’ll be filling out some slips to take to the lab for the rest of your P.E.P.”
Jade climbs down off the exam table,
“Ok, great!  I’ll be right out.”
Jade dresses, steps out of the exam room, walks over to the desk and sits beside Mrs.  C.  The lab slips are prepared and Mrs. C hands them to Jade with a smile. 
“Here you go Jade! It’s a pleasure to meet you and I want to welcome you to our little hospital family.  Now hustle along and take these slips to the lab on the second floor, you know, take the stairs you came down with Felicia.  Well take those up two flights now, and the lab will be to the left, down the hall about half way on the left, I’d take you myself but I know me, we’d get yakking and never make it there.  The girls up there will do the rest--aaand I think we made it before they go on break!  So hurry along!  Ciao honey!”
Jade takes the slips from Mrs. C and thanks her.  They shake hands,
“--hands covered with gashes--
dry blood from the thorns!”
 Mrs. C leads Jade to the door.  She wears a worried expression.  She turns and smiles at Jade  . 
“Well, Jade, have a great rest of the day!”
“Thank you Mrs. C, you too, bye for now!”
Jade heads for the stairwell, walking quickly and reaches the stairs in half the time it took her and Felicia to come down to the health office.  She takes the stairs two at a time, and reaches the second floor in just a few seconds.  The oversized brown, steel, fireproof door opens slowly, as if groaning from the interruption of its slumber.

The laboratory
 Jade steps out into the hall and sees the sign over the laboratory doorway; she walks quickly to it, opens the door, steps into the empty waiting room and approaches the check-in counter.  Behind the counter sits a young female.  Jade tentatively peers in the sliding glass partition and sees the girl, head down, reading a magazine, concentrating rather intently.  The top of the girl’s head has four tightly woven French braids that disappear down the back.  Without looking up,
“Hi, I’ll be right with you.  Nice perfume by the way, what’s it called?”
Jade hesitates from pure surprise before answering.
“It’s--called--Warrior--Woman--from--Brazil; wow, you got a good nose, I put hardly any on!"
A few seconds pass and the youngish female stands up.  Pinned to her lab coat is a nametag printed in lowercase letters; it reads
krystyne  {Pronounced Chris–tinny}
It appears as if the lettering came from a label maker, and was stuck over someone else’s hand written name.  Krystyne is a shapely young lady of twenty and is nearly five-foot nine-inches tall.  The first thing that catches Jade ’s eye after her height is the girls intensely green eyes framed in by very blonde eyebrows.  Krystyne’s shiny braided blonde hair reminds Jade of a young medieval princess.  She has a pretty, almost angelic face, enhanced by; one would think, many hours of makeover secrets-the type magazine she has been reading.  Fact is her appearance is enhanced by other methods.  Krystyne has straight, pearl-white teeth that seem to make her face light up whenever she smiles; it’s infectious.  She has a radiant tan from her many hours at the beach.  She is dark enough that all the blonde hair, the white teeth and the green eyes contrast her skin color.  She seems petite in all respects, despite her height; her jeans tightly fitted, white Reebok® sneakers on her feet with barely visible ankle socks. 
“Hi!  Are you here for some lab tests Ma’am?  I see you have some slips there.  May I see them?”
Jade looks down at the slips in her hand for a millisecond, almost as if returning from a momentary absence, realizing what is in her hand.  Jade hands them to the girl.
“The wall is splattered with blood--!”
Krystyne looks up at her and for just a split second looks over Jade ’s shoulder at the wall behind; nothing, no blood.
“Oh!  Yes!  I’m here for some pre-employment screening.  Mrs. Constantinopolis sent me.  Did I catch you in time?  Mrs. Constantinopolis told me you girls like running off to break right on time.”
Krystyne looks down and giggles while in her head,
“Whoa!  This chick must be--wow! I wonder if she’s psychic! If she is, I need to know about her!!”
She says outwardly,
“Yup!  She would be right!”
She pauses,                                                                       
“By the way, everyone calls her Mrs. C, you can too, you know!  Sooo, Jade, umm how do you pronounce your last name?” 
“That’s Kierkierwitsky, Jade Kierkierwitsky.  I know it’s a hard name to pronounce.  Hey, you can call me Jade K.  for short, just like what Mrs. C does, if that’s any easier.”
The girl replies,
“Wow, really, that’s a cool name, so where you from Jade  ?  What are you going to be doing here at the hospital?” 
 “Well Krystyne, what an unusual spelling, by the way, are we going to call you Ms.  K?”
Krystyne laughs at the jibe,
“Naw, you can call me Krys, like everyone else.”
Jade pauses a moment, gets back on task. 
“Sooo, I’m from a little hokey town in Pennsylvania called Lock Haven, near Collegetown.  Ever hear of it?” 
Krys looks a little perplexed.
“Nope, can’t say I have!  I don’t get out of the state much with the wages they pay in Mass.  Seems you have to save half a year to go over the state line!”
Jade raises a brow.
 “Okay, you got me; I’m exaggerating, a little!  But you get the point, right?”
“Oh, yah!  It’s the same all over hun!”
“So, is it near the Amish country?  You know the people that dress up in old fashioned clothes?”
 “Yes.  I guess you could say it’s near them.  They don’t exactly come into the town.  They do their own thing in the woods.  As I’m sure you know, they have their own way of living that’s not exactly like you and I know.” 
She finishes logging in the visit and glances up at Jade .  Krystyne’s show-stopping green eyes peer deep into Jade ’s eyes, looking for a clue to the question--is Jade  psychic or something else. 
“Ok Jade K, follow me please.  Vic will be doing the blood draw.  She’ll also give you the magic cup; okay?  So if you have any questions, she’ll be able to answer them for you.  All set--set like cement?”
Jade smiles at Krystyne’s humor.
“Well I gotta say, everyone I’ve met so far in this place, has a great sense of humor!”
Krystyne nods and with an exaggerated head tilt, signals Jade to follow her into the actual laboratory.  Krystyne daintily bellows,
“Hey, Vic, there is a patient here for you!” 
Jade smiles as she makes one last eye contact with Krystyne, acknowledging the friendly triaging.  The girl withdraws, leaving Jade alone in the lab.  Jade can hear the rumor of an unattended centrifuge humming on a table about twenty-feet away.  Inside a room, off to the left and a little further back from the table, are two young women.  Victorea, who insists she be called Vic, and her girlfriend Hillarea.  Vic has Hillarea up against the wall, far enough into the room so no one can see what they are doing.  They are in the throes of a very spirited kiss when Vic hears her name called.  She pauses for a split second, exhales sharply from her nose while reluctantly pulling away from Hillarea’s lips softly
“It makes us want each other that much more baby!”
“Hold that thought lover, I’ll be back!” 
Vic smiles coyly and heads for the open doorway.  Hillarea creeps up quickly behind Vic, pulls her back by the pocket just out of sight, grabs one of her buttocks and while squeezing it gently, whispers in her ear,
“You better be, I wasn’t nearly close to being done with you!”
With a reproachful swat, Vic whispers back,
“Stop!  I’ll have to spank you for that--later--on!”
“Promises, promises!  That I could handle!  Now, if only I could get you to deliver, we’d be golden!”
Vic smirks at her and turns to go; Hillarea looks after her lover with an expression that can only be wanton longing.
Vic is a five-foot seven-inch tall gal of twenty-eight and is a bit on the thin side, closely cropped blond hair and deep set, dark brown eyes.  Vic inherited the kind of eye sockets that have small, darkened circles that make her look like she doesn’t sleep enough.  She has high cheekbones that would make the face that much more beautiful if it was a little fuller.  She has a narrow, rounded chin and a petite pointed nose.  Vic has a condition known as hemi-paresis, her right hand and arm are short and thin like a child’s; the left arm is normal size.  Today Vic wears loose fitting blue jeans, held up by a belt with a large silver buckle, adorned by an embossed snake-like creature.  She wears black, high top sneakers, scuffed and discolored from age, and a loose fitting black tee shirt under the required white lab coat.   

Her nametag reads
‘--VIC--’ in one-inch black letters.
Vic is adorned by a silver pentangle whose outer ring pierces in four locations on the upper left side of her chest; just at the beginning of the breast curvature.  Vic and Jade lock eyes for a moment; Jade smiles first. 
“That’s quite a bejeweling you have Vic, must have cost a lot to get it placed like--that?”
Vic breaks eye contact, slowly returning the smile and adding a barely noticeable drawl.
“Hey, thanks hun!  Nah, it only cost half a yard and some blood; the pain was optional.  I got it done over to the Indigo Scorpion, on Derby Street; ever hear?  If you haven’t it’s alright, not everyone has.  Check this out, the chick that did it said it had to be put exactly there cuz that’s where it’s the most fleshy.  I think she really just wanted to cop a feel; hey whatever floats your boat right.  She’s obviously not from here or we’d know of her--we let her do our tats anyway; she behaved.  There’s this other guy there too, no one knows his real name, so they call him Kit.  So Kit does ‘em, he charges peanuts and says he does it for the sake of art!  He’s either soft or sicko rich, or both; the jury’s still out on that one.  You should see him; he’s covered with some insane stuff and even more sicko metal!  Uhh, and his book is even more wicked!!”
As Vic is telling Jade all about the artisan, she nods her head once in the direction of a chair with an arm board attached to it for blood drawing.  Jade sits in the chair, Vic pulls a piece of rubber strap from the lab coat pocket to use as a tourniquet.  When her hand touches Jade ’s arm, a slight current, like static electricity, envelopes her.
“--Venit regnum ejus omnes terras
fieri sentietur incaelis et erit semper minuo--
Vic hesitates a split second, glances up at Jade  and studies her expression. The feeling persists,
Covered in blood! Guts hanging--blood pours forth!”
She taps at Jade ’s arm hesitantly; a barely perceivable furl crosses her brow.  Again, the strange feeling.
“--face covered with--hundreds
--of small slices and dry blood!”
Vic sees that most of Jade ’s veins protrude from the pressure of the tourniquet. 
Wow,  won’t be any trouble finding a vein on you!”
Vic opens an alcohol prep pad, swabs Jade ’s arm and again looks up to study her expression.
“Stabbing--pain--smeared--bloody--hand prints!”
“Jade, you aren’t in any pain are you?  This isn’t going to freak you out, right?”
Jade smiles,
“No Vic, I’m fine, go ahead, do what you do!”
 “--feet--the feet are--bloody--stumps!”
As Vic turns to pick up a blood-drawing syringe, and two empty test tubes, she casually looks down at Jade ’s feet.  While studying Jade ’s eyes, Vic gently plunges the syringe body into Jade ’s arm.  As she does so,
“The wall splattered--with blood--your
blood--Is it your blood?”
She recoils, ever so minutely, almost imperceptive to the casual observer. 
“That’s a really nice outfit you have on!”
Vic looks over Jade ’s shoulder; at the wall behind her. 
“Oh, thank you Vic, thank you very much!”
Vic looks at her again, expecting another split-second horrific scene, nothing.  Vic smiles at her,
“Mmmm, that perfume, too!  You smell so delicious!”
“Aww thanks again!  You don’t look like a cannibal though, and I’m a pretty good judge of character; I’ve been wrong before though!”
Vic looks up at Jade with an amazed look on her face.
“Oh my God, Jade!  You’re a riot!”
Vic places one of the empty test tubes on the spike inside the blood draw syringe.  Bright red venous blood, anomalously red in her experience, fills the tube rapidly, again anomalous to the usual rate.  Vic pulls the tube off the spike and immediately replaces it with another.  While the second tube is filling, she studies the first tube; her brow furls in confusion.  Vic removes the tourniquet from Jade ’s arm.  When the tube is full, Vic pulls the syringe from Jade ’s vein, places a gauze pad over the injection site, and says to Jade,
“Here, hold that right there for a minute, please.”
Vic calls out over shoulder.
“Hey Hillarea, can you please come take these bloods and do ‘em while they’re still hot?”
She glances up at Jade and continues,
“I like to get them spun down while the person is still here, if I can; just in case there’s any weird result.  Then I can grab another tube if I needa.  Strange things can happen with our all-new state-of-the-art equipment.  Hillarea and I are just getting used to it!  So--humor us okay?”
“Oh sure Vic, that’s fine; I know all about new equipment glitches.  Lord knows I’ve had to fix some of them on my days off!”
Hillarea appears in the doorway from the inner lab, as if she drifted in on an air pocket.  Hillarea is a five-foot six-inch tall, well-proportioned gal of twenty-seven.  She has a near-round face with soft features, a small, flattish nose and almond shaped eyes.  Hillarea’s smile is so bright and so broad, it’s hard to believe such a small mouth and such full lips come from the same face.  On days such as today, when her mane is pulled into a ponytail, Hillarea’s green eyes plus the ambient light, make her brown hair appear almost golden and makes her head seem like it’s surrounded by a pale green haze. 
Today she is wearing tight black jeans and with the unbuttoned lab coat, it’s apparent her grey sleeveless top fits her like a second skin.  As well, the lab coat is sheer enough her arm’s length tattoo is visible through the fabric. 
Hillarea hesitates at the doorway for a moment, before walking over to where Jade and Vic are; she snaps nervously on the cuff of her latex gloves.  Vic turns at the sound, smiles at her, their gazes never breaking.  When she reaches Vic, Hillarea breaks eye contact long enough to take the tubes with both hands, she deliberately holds Vic’s hands a long moment as a wave passes through her,
“The wall splattered in blood--face covered with hundreds of small slices and dry blood--
Venit regnum ejus omnes terras fieri sentietur 
incaelis et erit semper minuo--”
She glances quickly up at Jade and smiles politely, re-locks eyes with Vic and shudders on contact; Vic feels it and her brow tics.  Hillarea always the actress,
“For you, my love--for you the vorld!”
Hillarea’s eyes silently communicate,
“Yes, and hurry up--I want you again big-time!”
“Okay V, I’ll get ‘em done S-T-A-T!”
Hillarea turns on her heel quickly, like a ballerina, and walks away; ponytail swaying.  Over her shoulder,
“Take a pic dudettes, they last long--er!”
“It’s all yours!”
Vic shakes her head, turns and locks eyes with Jade,
“Sorry, that was way inappropriate!”
“That’s okay!  I have to tell you though, Vic you’re so lucky to be  with such a beautiful girl!  It looks like she has a halo around her head!”
 “Yup, I love when she wears her hair like that, that’s why she glows!  And her eyes are to die for!”  
Just as Hillarea reaches the doorway.
“Hey Hillarea, please indulge me!  Show Ms. Jade here your art!  I was tellin’ her about how Kit does some wicked stuff!”
Hillarea locks eyes with Vic, then lingeringly at Jade, then back at Vic.  For the split second Hillarea locked eyes with Jade,
“WOW what a gorgeous bod!  Surprised I missed it the first time!  She’d be wicked perfect for--hmmm let me see!”
Hillarea’s eyes dance across Jade ’s body, seeming pleased with what she sees, a smile spreads across her face.  Hillarea peers searchingly into Jade ’s eyes while purposely letting the lab coat glide off her shoulders and arms slowly; as if doing a striptease.  Jade ’s eyes follow the path of the lab coat and her quizzical expression becomes an innocent smile.  Her gaze lazily returns to Hillarea’s eyes,
“Owwww what have we here?  Someone riding the fence are they?  Very interesting indeed!”
At the conclusion of the attempted striptease, an elaborate, multi-colored tattoo adorns Hillarea’s left arm, from shoulder-cap to fingertips.  The artwork depicts her half of an inverted pentacle, done in a soot-shaded outline.  Within the half-pentagram proper, is her half of a bust from a demon, obverting four-spiny, crab-like appendages protruding through the inherent angles of the pentagram; they appear to slither partially down the arm.  Her half has an eye recessed in its socket; the cornea bright yellow, the oblong, blackened pupil, occupying the center in the vertical.  The eye seems focused in the distance; bloody tears run down its face and cheeks, the droplets of blood splotch her hand and terminate in black on her fingers.  From the darkness of the mouth, her half of a black tongue sheathed in scales, forms the basis of an asp intertwined with a dragon.  The shades in color of the asp change from black to blue, then red.  The fangs grip upon a misshapen skull.  Blood oozes from the skulls empty eye sockets.  Yellow flames outlined in blood red emanate from the dragons open mouth.  Within the flames, a phrase scribed in a burnt-black representation of blood reads:  
Semeno nevinné, kŕmenie Na 
Podstatu, vrhá optimistický pozostatky
[Translation seeds the innocent, feed upon the essence,
 casts the sanguine vestiges,
Jade studies the intricacies of the artwork. 
“That--is--some--tattoo Hillarea!  The detail is phenomenal!  I have seen hordes of tattoos over the years, but that is by far the most interesting!  I have a question though, and I am sure you get it all the time, where’s the other half?  What’s that phrase mean?”
    Hillarea, seemingly expressionless, glances at Vic whose brow and head simultaneously tic once.  Vic slowly pulls off her lab coat to reveal the tattoo adorning her left arm.  Her half of the tattoo is the right side of the pentacle, pentagram and demon bust.  The same details, appendages, eye, and blood splotches befit the art.  Her half of the tongue however, has a pair of snakes intertwined and crushing the body of a dove; its blood oozing through the twists of the snakes bodies.  Scribed within the coils of snake is the phrase:
Jeho hnev sa cítil na nebesia,
Svoje ​​hnev ovládal bez ohľadu
{Translation: His fury felt to the heavens;
His wrath wielded without regard}
“In order to get the full impact and meaning of it all, you have to see it when we put it all together!”
Vic walks over beside Hillarea.  Because both wear the tattoo on the left arm, they must stand side by side, facing in opposition.  They move in close, arms touching, the entire tattoo taking form.  While they are standing in position, they turn their heads to face each other, Hillarea leans in so their foreheads touch, she says through a snorted laugh. 
“And it was all my idea, so I’ll always be the--!”
Vic shakes her head in mock exasperation and smirks. 
“Don’t even go there!”
“Yah, yah, yah don’t worry!”
They separate to stand side-by-side, facing Jade .
“You two have certainly shared some quality time; you make a great couple!”
Vic grins and gently hip-checks Hillarea, while saying in an exaggerated drawl. 
“Ya, s’pose you could say that; whadya think Hil?”
“Yup, damn straight!  Okay, back to work!”
She winks at Jade  before sweeping her glance to Vic. 
“Yes dear, that means you too!”
She turns on her heel and heads for the inner lab, replacing her lab coat in as provocative a manner as possible.  Vic shakes her head, smiles to herself and looks at Jade .  In a low voice,
Jade, she did that for both of us, she’s just fishin and means no harm.  She’s got a way about her that lets her get away with it.”
“She’s a very pretty girl and has an infectious smile; those two things are disarming and will get you a lot!  She won you over right?”
  “Hey maybe you’re right; never gave it much thought!  Maybe that’s why I love her to death!”
She peers into Jade ’s eyes searchingly,
“Now you on the other hand--!”
“Oh stop!  Don’t even say it!”
 Silent smiles,
“Fine; your loss!”
 Jade  rolls her eyes.  Vic continues in a hushed tone,
“Oh, and, the phrases mean: there’s some demon who rules the seventy-plus legions of Hell, whatever, and will rise again to rule the world in darkness, eat up all the innocents and throw their carcasses to the flames of Hell-or something to that effect!”
Jade  nods unconsciously, nothing new there.  Vic continues in a hushed voice. 
 “Smoke some weed and it sounds like a cool thought for a horror flick.”
 Her voice returns to normal.
“When we went down to get dragons around our waists, that guy Kit, when we walked in and talked a bit, told Hillarea he was supposed to look us up if we didn’t come in.  Said he was told he’d be able to tell if it was us because we’re always together.  Said she was chosen because she was special and he was sent here to color her with a special drawingAt first I thought it was bullshit cuz he made it sound like a Publishers Clearinghouse® prize.  But then he kept bringing up the conversations she had with a chat room.  She finally got me hooked by tellin me the only way Kit would’ve known the facts is he would’ve been told by someone.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s definitely the chosen one!  Chosen by me and vise versa and chosen by them too!  She’s for sure my only other half!”
Vic giggles,
“So that day he knew it was us because of the way we dressed.  That day she was dressed bordering on indecent.  Her excuse was, we’re gonna have to make it accessible anyway if we’re gonna get poked and if a guy can’t hold it together then there’s plenty of ladies there that don’t mind seeing a hinny!  I’m surprised Kit didn’t wet himself but he’s older so he’s probably seen plenty of fine ladies bottoms.”
She furls her brow,
“So he tells her she needs to have it done.  And he was explicitly told it had to be free.  She sidles on up and butters him up.  And says because she’s the chosen one, she should be able to have it done anywhere she wants it!”
 Vic smiles mistily,
 “You should have seen his face!  I thought he’s probably thinking she’s gonna pull off her pants and have it done right up to her crotch!  She laughs at him and tells him to cool his jets and that sharing it with me on our arms would be the same amount of work!”
She muses,
  “Oh, and says if he did it all on her that it wouldn’t be fair because there wouldn’t be time to get my dragon.  I think the clincher was when she told him two are stronger than one!”
Vic smiles to herself,
“She’s amazing!”  
She pauses,
“And she made that dude eat out of her hand!”
She smirks,
“Of course he made good and went ahead anyway.  He blushed like crazy when she kissed him when he was done!  It was a good one too; not a sloppy, stick-your-tongue-down-the throat kiss, but a  good one!”
She muses,
“So there you have it, we are the chosen ones and two are stronger than one!  So now, she thinks because we are the chosen ones, we will lead the charge in bringing the souls to that creep in Hell!  Like I wanna be a soldier, right!  Oh, really now, ah, newsflash, I hate to disappoint, but if I wanted to be a general, I’d join the jarheads on Parris Island!”
“Hence her being a wise guy--girl?”
“You got it!”
Vic lowers her voice again; sardonically she adds. 
“She’s so wicked into it!  Like I said, personally, I think it’s frikked, pardon my French!”
As Vic continues working on Jade  a new wave passes through her,
“--chunks of --charred skin!  Jagged sinew--where my hands are supposed to have been!”
She looks at Jade, in the eyes, at her hands, and back up to her eyes; all within a few seconds, and then whispers,
“So there you have it, I’m marked, she’s chosen, I’m the skeptic, and she’s a priestess, see what I live with?”
 Vic pauses, as if searching for words. 
 “Jade you seem well read, you ever hear of some all-powerful group of anarchists in the mountains of Utah?  Hil keeps trying to show me signs and there’s some code or book they follow; who knows; do you?”
She shrugs; Vic studies Jade ’s expression, peering into her eyes searchingly for any sign she’s the least bit annoyed by the question and just being polite.  Jade smiles  a real smile; Vic takes it as a go-ahead to keep the dialogue flowing. 
“Jade, are you clairvoyant?”
Jade  doesn’t seem the least bit put off by the question.
“Huh--no--I don’t know--maybe--why do you ask?”
“I dunno you just seem--very--intense!  You know, very intriguing, not in a girl sense; but you have a vibe about you!”
Jade nods, says nothing at first.
“That’s the first time anyone has called me that.  Is that meant as a compliment?  Don’t answer that; I know it was; thank you, thank you Vic!”
They stand in silence again, smiling at each other. Vic looks down at her hand, realizing she is holding a sample cup. 
“Oh, duh!  Here I’m holding a sample cup; so now let’s get a sample of your urine!  Great segue, right?  Jade, I’m sure you’ve done this before, so I don’t think I have to go over it.  Remember, like, don’t turn on the water, don’t flush; blah, blah and, so, bring the cup to me when you’re done.”
Vic hands the cup to her,
“--water running pink--the color of dilute blood!  Blood is everywhere--so much blood!”
She pulls her hand back slightly; Jade  seems perplexed for the moment.  She shrugs it off and retires to the bathroom.  Minutes later, Jade reemerges holding the cup gingerly with her fingertips.  She places it in Vic’s waiting, gloved hand. 
“Okay great!”
 Sarcastically Vic adds. 
 “I hate it when biddies can’t even fill the cup to where it covers the indicator.  They can pee their pants all day long, but can’t give you a spit when you need it; go figure.  Wow, I can’t believe the way I’m behaving around you; I’m usually not this playful--thought you’d like to know!”
“Hey, don’t let me stop you; you’re hysterical!”
“So Jade, now you get to watch me fill the tubes and seal them.  I’ll have you initial the seals and you can fill in your part of the Chain of Custody form.  I’ll place everything in this plastic bag and again, have you initial this seal.  This sample gets tested off site, as I’m sure you’re aware.  Now, I need you to initial right here on this block of the form, acknowledging that I tortured you in the comfy chair with a feather while a herd of buffalo stampeded you!”
 As Jade affirms the request, and adds while laughing.
“You--young lady--are a riot!”
“Yes, but Hil tells me I should keep my day job though; just in case Late-Night can’t use me!”
Vic finishes all the busy work in Jade ’s presence.  When all is completed, she walks Jade slowly to the doorway leading out to the waiting room.  At the last moment, Vic pulls off her glove and turns to face Jade, extends her hand, and peers into her eyes.  As their hands clasp, Vic’s expression tics an eye twitch mixed with one of incredulity; a flash of Jade ’s nightmare flows through her in but a split second; enough to see all of it, while quick enough to not stun her immobile; a little speechless perhaps.
--two figures moving back and forth!  A cloth suspended over my body slit in the middle!  A figure stands over me--arms outstretched--slicing, hacking and cutting into me--     pacing--chanting!  The cloth tears down the center--a roiling, churning, sooty smoke descending; so dense I can’t hear the chanting now!  The four candles extinguish--.not dark though--how can I see in the dark?  The two halves of the cloth are blown off--Ba’Gatz diving into my crater head first--sniggers maniacally!  He vanishes in a wisp--
 “O--kay Ms. Jade !  Hmmmm--I must welcome you to our little family.  You seem cool!  Maybe we all can have you over once you get acclimated.  Hillarea would love it; she’s the party organizer!  So--your--blood must be okay or we would have heard by now; I never doubted, but you know--!  Well Ms.  Jade, you know your way out, right?”
“Yesss, I do believe I can find my way!  First, I’m going to stop in the cafeteria and grab me one of those famous triple bypass sandwiches that Felicia raved about on the way over.”
“Those are awesome sandwiches!  Highly addicting though!  I eat those when we have the extra scratch!” 
 Her enthusiasm deflates, 
“Which isn’t too often I’m afraid; they pay us lackeys peanuts!”
Jade smiles; with a slight giggle,
“Who knows, when this character you described, gets all the souls he wants, maybe he’ll leave you minions some extra money for food and other fun things!”
Vic quietly chuckles while looking over her own shoulder.  In a hushed voice,
“Shhh, don’t let my babe hear you!  If she knows I told all and you poked fun at it, she’ll go off!  It’s the price I pay for a, pinch me, awesome babe!”
Jade  replies in an equally hushed tone, 
Okay, okay, I’ll keep it on the DL, I won’t say another word!”
Jade  motions the zipping of lips. 
“Vic, I gotta tell you, you’re a great kid and I hope you find your true calling in life; you certainly don’t belong here!”
Vic flushes, becoming shy about the compliment.  She looks up at Jade, and through a giggle says,
“Thanks J-K, that’s a real nice thing to say!  You sure know how to make a girl feel good!”
Vic winks facetiously,
“I’m such a pushover--I’d follow you anywhere!  You know, anywhere?”
She hesitates,
“Theeen, my baby-girl will get all jealous!”
Jade giggles while shaking her head.  Vic continues,
“Then she’ll think we’re running off to Vegas to get married!  That is where two girls can go right?  You know I’m kiddin’ right?  Nod to say yes!” 
Jade nods,
“There you go!”
Jade  shakes her head and laughs almost too loud, while continuing to listen to Vic’s riotous monologue. 
“Well J, you’ll probably make some one a great partner in crime!”
 Jade raises her brow in surprise,
“Ummm, I had no plans for that venture; but thanks for that insight!”
Mistily Vic continues, as if unimpeded,
“I know I am; a great partner in crime that is, I wish this medieval state would frikkin relax!  Hillarea’s the best thing to ever happen to me; bar none!  Did I just say frikkin again?  I’m sorry; I don’t know what got into me!  I just feel really comfortable talking to you!”
Jade puts her hand on Vic’s shoulder and gently shakes her; again, a wave of insight passes between them,
“--two halves of  cloth--blown away!  Ba’Gatz dives into my crater headfirst!  He sniggers maniacally then vanishes!”
“Vic, now who’s making who feel good?  I’m glad you feel comfortable; the feelings mutual!  Listen you’re a great catch so I want you to make a deal okay?  Don’t let anyone ever make you feel otherwise!”
 Jade replies,
“Vic this has been the most interesting, and dare I say, enlightening experience, I have ever had in a laboratory!”
She adds,
“Okay, later gf!”
“Later!  Now go eat Jade, I mean, Jade, go, and eat, not--”
“Got it, leave it, I knew what you meant!  You’re too much!”
They smile at each other one last time.  Jade leaves the inner lab and walks through the waiting room in the direction of the cafeteria.  Krystyne remarks from behind the reception desk,
“Hey, Ms.  Jade K thanks for coming in today!  I really look forward to talking with you soon!”
“Ya thanks Krystyne--me--too--I--”
“That’s a weird parting--I wonder what she means!”
In the lab, Vic walks back to where Hillarea is working blood.  Hillarea looks up,
“Baby-H, she’s good people; I really like her!”
“Ya me too!  I thought for a split second--!”
“Yes my little fisherman-I noticed!  Undress her why don’t you!  I assure you she--!”
At the precise moment Hillarea is putting her arm around Vic’s neck to kiss her, her ungloved hand is setting the blood tube into a centrifuge slot, a strong current-like sensation passes through her,

“--Chanting--the cloth tears down the center.  A roiling, churning, sooty smoke descending so dense, I can’t hear the chanting now!  The four candles extinguish it’s not dark though-how can I see in the dark?  The two halves of the cloth are blown off!  Ba’Gatz diving into my crater head first-sniggers maniacally-he vanishes in a wisp!  Wall splattered with blood-hands dripping of blood-the back of my neck-smeared with blood!  Ba’Gatz diving into my crater head first-sniggers maniacally-he vanishes in a wisp!  My hands-rivulets of blood run from body from the thorns--
“What the fuck!”
“Whoa!  That is sooo fuuuucking weird!!”
“Stop!  What is?”
“I just touched the tube of that her blood and I got this, like, vision, of all kinds of creepy shit.  And it’s as if I seen it through her eyes!  Like it’s happening to her but she’s watching it happen!”
“Oh my God!  When I was drawing her I got three different kinds of--waves--or something!  Hey, I did ask her if she was clairvoyant!”
“And she said no!  It’s totally fucked!  I don’t get it!”
“Well, other than clairvoyance, I can’t think of any other reason to have visions of bloody--stuff!”
“Babe, know what else?  Her blood has a weird shade to it; and it’s pretty warm to the touch, more so than normal.  It spun down weird too; I’ve never seen blood do that before!”
“Ya, I wonder how it would cross match!”
“Hmmm, me too!  Okay, enough shop talk!  Now, before I rape you right here; get out back, we have unfinished business!”
“Uwww, I love it when you boss me around!

The cafeteria
Jade arrives at the cafeteria moments later, walks directly over to the grill area and calls out,
“Hi, sir, if it’s not too much trouble, may I have a sausage, egg and cheese on a grilled English muffin?”
             The cook turns to face her;
In large block letters his nametag reads:
   “HI I’m PHIL!  What can I cook for you today?”
Phil smiles at her, he’s missing a few teeth; the rest resemble baked beans.
“Ohhh, you mean a triple bypass?”
Jade’s chuckle becomes a laugh. 
“Oh!  Is that the colloquial name for it around here?  And here I thought it’s a pet name, made up by the underpaid, over-worked staff!”
The cook laughs louder than appropriate, 
“Oh sure, who’s feeding you that line of baloney?  And we cooks get paid the big bucks down here, too, right?”  
The cashier, Belle hears the laughter and joking; she walks over, overtly winks at the cook to keep up the ruse.  She says to Jade, in a staged illiterate sounding linguistic,
“Oh, is he cryin’ poor mout’ agin?  Don’t-cha let ‘em kid ya!”
The trio laughs.  Phil replies equally playful,
“Hey, why don’t you just go back over there and count me out a pound of twenties will ya!”
Belle’s expression takes on a serious look; her smile fades quickly, 
“Why, how much is dat worth Phil?  I ain’t ever ‘eard ‘o no poun’ o twenyeez befo’ ta-day!”
She glances at Jade for reaction; nothing.  Belle studies Jade’s expression to see if she’s baffled as well.  Actually neither has ever heard the phrase until now.  Phil responds with a similar type of quizzical expression,
“How the hell should I know?  It’s a lot; is all I can tell you!”
As Phil  hands Jade a paper plate with the sandwich,
“--a figure stands over you!  It’s arms outstretched!  It’s slicing, and--hacking--and cutting--into--you?”
He twitches, almost dropping the plate.  Phil stares Jade up and down,  
“--Ummm--that’s--ah--two-eighty---five--Ma’am!  And Belle will be happy to take that from you down at the register!”
Jade takes the plate from Phil, his near accident went unnoticed.  She fills a paper cup with cold water and approaches the register, 
“Any coffee or juice Miss?”
“Thank you, no.  I’ll just drink this here!”
Jade hands three one-dollar bills to Belle,  as she hands Jade back her change,
“--Ba’Gatz diving into--my crater--head first!  He sniggers  like a maniac and vanishes in a wisp--“
Belle’s brow tics, she stares at Phil; he shrugs.  Jade proceeds to an empty table facing large windows, her back to them.  She sighs,
“Thankfully the counter is far enough away so I can make a smooth exit; sans conversation!”
As Jade walks in the direction of the lobby,
“I just want to get home and throw myself on the bed--a lot of stuff isn’t making sense--I need to go all analytical Jade and play it back--somethin’ ain’t right!”
She mutters under her breath,
“Bet dollars to donuts there’ll be no escape without running into Helga--sweet old lady as old folks go but I think I’ve had enough sweet for today!” 
Mentally psyching herself up to deal with another conversation, Jade sees Helga facing away, engaged in a one-way conversation with another equally aged blue-hair.  Jade prepares to sigh relief; maybe there’s a wide enough berth to exit the hospital unnoticed.  Helga notices her at the last second and stops talking to the other woman for the moment.
“See you around Ms. Jade I can tell with that spring in your walk, you’re gonna join us here!  You have a pleasant rest of the day dear!”
Jade turns and puts on her most brilliant smile while walking backwards. 
“Thanks Helga!  You as well!  Don’t work too hard today!”
She turns around to walk forward, the smile fading from her face.  She exits through the vestibule and walks to her car for a speed limit ride home.  While driving, she adjusts the volume of her IPod® and puts on her favorites list: ‘Rammstein ‘Tool’ ‘Godsmack’ and ‘Rob Zombie’.  All the songs on the playlist have a low bass beat; something she wants for the ride home.  

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