The Department Of Paranormal Medicine (A Short Story)
I was digging through a veritable graveyard of old writings yesterday when I stumbled across this. It’s a short story I wrote for a creative writing class (one of the few classes in high school I actually put effort into, I might add) about a secret facility that treats aliens who are visiting Earth. While I cannot say that I am particularly proud of this piece, it’s certainly an interesting link in the chain that is my journey of writing.
It is always interesting to see one’s growth in hindsight. Anyway, enjoy!
The Department of Paranormal Medicine:
The large steel doors burst open. A small group of men were wheeling a bed carrying the long, skinny body of an alien, down the long hallway, a sickly greenish light coming from the roof, doors lining the walls.
“We need an OR!” shouted one of the men as he ran.
A pause, and then another voice came from down the hallway.
“You’ve got OR 2!”
With the frantic rush of adrenaline laced medical staff, the group wheeled the alien into another steel room, walls lined with operating equipment. A surgeon took one of the scalpels on the tray sitting by the wall. Moving quickly, yet carefully, the cut open the alien’s chest, exposing the slimy organs contained within.
An alarm sounded, signaling cardiac arrest.
“Its heart is failing!” shouted an assistant.
“All five of them!”
The surgeon quickly surveyed the failing hearts.
The staff attached small metallic objects to each of the hearts, connected to long cords. Stepping back, the surgeon picked up a small remote.
Electrical energy shot through the objects, but all of the hearts were still in cardiac arrest.
Still nothing. The medical staff looked anxious.
It was a very hot day, sand stretching for endless miles. A lone truck was driving across the rough desert road. It slowly worked its way across the harsh landscape, eventually ending up at a gateway with a red sign that read “Restricted Area. No Entrance.”
Leaning out of the truck to a microphone and pushing a button down on a small console below, he spoke.
“Dr. Hal Madrid, requesting entrance.”
A moment passed, then a voice emanated from the speaker.
“Cleared for entrance.”
The gate opened, and the truck drove through.
Beyond the gate, there was a large complex of buildings. A sign over the largest one in the center was emblazoned with the name “The Department of Paranormal Medicine”.
The DPM had been around for more than 40 years, treating and housing extraterrestrials when they are ill and for whatever reason cannot get off Earth to return to their home planets. The hospital was equipped with state of the art tools and workstations, designed to be universally accessible to most alien species.
Hal walked through the doors, pausing only to show his pass to the guard. Just as he was starting to head towards his office, a shorter dark-haired man came running up towards him. Hal sighed.
“Morning Copper. Could this not have waited until after I had a coffee?”
Copper Briggs was a junior medical staff member at the DPM, and was named as such because he had been born in a quarry by a bunch of hippies.
“No Dr. Madrid, it can’t. Three patients in the OR as we speak.”
“And I’m not a surgeon.”
“No, but you need to be-”
“Then I’m going to get my coffee. Want one?”
Hal changed direction to walk at a brisk pace towards his office. Copper ran up alongside.
“Sir, it’s one of the patients. It was in a crash last night. Cardiac arrest across all five hearts, massive internal hemorrhaging.”
“Hmm. Tricky one eh? Well, put simply, I’d say your patient suffers from being-in-a-crash syndrome. If you want, you can call it B.I.A.C.S.”
Copper sighed. “No, that isn’t the issue. Alien’s been on the operating table all night. Bleeding. Its blood isn’t clotting. We can’t be sure if that’s a trait of the species or a medical anomaly, but if it loses much more blood it’s going to die.”
That stopped Hal in his tracks. Thinking for a moment, he spun around, took the file from Copper’s hands, and then continued walking to his office.
“I’ll look into it then.” He said over his shoulder, walking through the door to his office.
“Operating Room 2, sir!”
Hal went into his office, shut the door behind him, sat down and sipped his coffee. Leaning far back in his chair, he let out a sigh of contentment. After about three minutes of relaxation, he sat up and looked through the file in front of him. Frowning slightly, he got up, took the file and the coffee, and left.
Eight hours now. Patient had still not stopped bleeding. The nurses removed the blood soaked bandages and again began applying new ones. They all wondered what they could possibly do. Then the doors to the operating room burst open, and Dr. Madrid stepped in. He immediately began flipping through the patient file, talking as he read.
“So I’m assuming you’ve tried all the obvious routes?”
The Head Surgeon, Sam Kittner, spoke up. “Of course. The damn thing still won’t stop bleeding. We’ve even tried-”
“I’m sure you have, spare me.” Hal said quickly.
Slowly walking around the limp form of the alien, he surveyed it closely. Noticing the blood on the table, he dipped his finger into it.
“This is the thinnest blood I’ve ever seen… are you even sure it’s blood at all?”
A bandage on one of the alien’s wounds broke, and the thin blood started spilling at an alarmingly fast rate out onto the already drenched operating table, spilling further onto the floor. Hal stepped back quickly as the nurses ran in to re-apply bandage.
“Of course we are. It’s alien blood. Could be thin as soup or thick as sludge, who knows? This is the first contact we have had with this species.” Said the surgeon, stepping out of the way of the nurses, smoking an expensive cigar, which he would never have been allowed to have anywhere near the hospital had he not been one of the best surgeons out there who knew how to deal with aliens. He couldn’t afford to be lost.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.” Do some tests; see if this is actually our little red friend or some bizarre alien fluid.”
The surgeon blew smoke at him, clearly annoyed. Hal smiled and patted him on the back.
Leaving the surgeon to his work, Hal walked off to get lunch.
The numbers raced by on the screen, blurred and choppy. The surgeon peered over the shoulder of Copper Briggs to survey the results.
“Well, whatever it is, it’s not blood.”
“Shall I run some tests to determine what the substance is?” asked Copper.
The surgeon looked grimly at the screen.
“You’d better do that. I have to go find out where this alien’s blood actually is, and whether it’s fine or not.”
Standing up, the surgeon started off towards the OR.
Chicken was about the best meal around here, in Hal’s opinion. The soup of the day was clam chowder, but Hal hated chowder soups. He was just about to begin eating when an assistant ran up to him.
“Doctor, we are receiving a radio message on all channels from an unknown alien source, I think you should hear it.”
“What am I, the radio attendant? Tell them to leave the Department Head’s a message.”
“Well sir, the message specifically asks for you, and it’s urgent.”
“…and alien radio signals are all of a sudden more important than chicken? Where’s the justice in the world?”
Looking mournfully at his plate of food, he accompanied the assistant to the broadcast center.
The alien was just plain confusing. There were so man lines running through its system, all filled with different fluids for unknown purposes. No sign of any blood anywhere. The surgeon just shook his head. The hearts were definitely pumping fluids, but it was not blood but various other substances, some thin, such as the fluid the alien was bleeding out, others slightly thicker, more like blood, but in various colors and hues. It was absolutely confusing.
“Prepare to take out some of these fluids. Run some tests, figure out what they are and what they are comprised of.” said the surgeon. “Time to find out what in hell the purpose of all this is.”
The broadcast center was a circular room with various people working all over the equipment that lined the walls. There were three circular desks, one that circled the wall, one smaller, and one even smaller than that and right in the center. The people working there directed Hal and the assistant to a communications device on the center table.
“We received a transmission about five minutes ago asking for the senior medical officer at this facility, and demanded urgency.” said a technician standing nearby.
“Well, hurry it up, or a chicken will have died for nothing.” Hal said in a flat tone of voice.
He picked up the receiver. The technician pressed a few buttons, and an alien’s voice sounded, a harsh, rasping voice, inhuman and yet still very intelligent.
“We demand to speak to whoever is in charge at once!”
Hal responded in an almost annoyed voice. “This is the senior medical officer at the Department of Paranormal Medicine, what’s your problem?”
The alien’s voice bordered on outrage. “You are unlawfully holding one of our citizens in our facility, and we demand immediate release from your facility!”
“Unlawfully holding? Well I suppose so, in the sense that we are trying to treat it after being severely injured during a crash landing of its ship, which by the way also almost compromised our alien-human interference laws.”
“That is no excuse! We must have our citizen treated by an appropriately trained medical priest, not your tainted doctors! I will not let your personnel near one of us any longer!”
“Your ‘Citizen’ is not yet well enough to be moved, at this point there is nothing we can do. Send over one of your priests if you want.”
“Unacceptable! Citizen must be brought to our ship, where the properly trained medical practitioners can treat him. We will land outside your facility, and you will bring it out to us.”
“I told you idiots already, it can’t be moved fr-”
Hal was cut off as the communication abruptly ended. Mind racing, he held the receiver in vain next to his ear, static noise ringing out through the tiny speaker. In a very short time, the aliens would land and demand their fellow be returned to them. If Hal gave it up to their care, then it wouldn’t last the trip into orbit, the aliens would undoubtedly blame him, and the already delicate relations with this species would be ruined.
Slowly he put down the receiver.
“Call the board of directors, all senior staff, and the security team to the conference room. The meeting begins in 10 minutes.”
The surgeon and Copper stared at the diagrams depicting the internal workings of the alien.
“So all we have is that the fluids flow through the body, triggering…what?”
Copper looked just as confused as the surgeon sounded.
“Sometimes the fluids trigger heartbeat abnormalities, sometimes muscle spasms, it all seems rather random.”
The surgeon continued to stare.
“I can see no pattern, but if it’s doing this much, it probably has a cognitive origin. Do a head scan; get me the results in two hours.”
Copper walked off, leaving the surgeon still staring perplexed at the mess of diagrams in front of him.
All the required personnel were finally assembled in the conference room, except Copper and the surgeon. Hal stepped up to the head of the long table and in a slow, solemn voice, began.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a problem. We recently received a transmission from our patient’s government, demanding its return to the species. We cannot, however, move the patient, it’s in critical condition. I need options.”
Silence greeted him.
Hal looked around the room.
“Are any of your going to do your damn job?” He said, spitting the words out.
A medical officer spoke up. “Is there no hope of negotiation?”
“I wouldn’t have called you all here if there was. Give me more, we are on the clock, they are on their way to pick up this son of a bitch, and we need to cure it so it can go back home.”
The security chief spoke. “I will post guards at all entrances and exits. We can enforce a temporary lockdown, but the aliens may get violent and try to break through. You need time to find out what is wrong, here’s your chance.”
Hal looked around at the blank expressions on the doctors. “Well these bastards certainly don’t have anything better to add. Let’s do it. All medical officers follow me, we need to treat this patient.”
Hal and the medical team strode off towards the OR, and the security chief headed for the barracks.
The surgeon came in to observe the head scan in progress.
“Nothing too much so far sir.” Said Copper.
The surgeon lit up a cigar. “Keep looking.”
Walking over to the table where the alien lay, machines all around its head, scanning the brain tissue. The alien’s skin had taken on a purplish hue, and it looked thinner and more sickly.
“So strange… A few years ago, I would have called anyone who believed in other life forms in this universe an idiot, and here I am, treating one.”
Copper looked up from the head scan.
“Well sir, I suppose none of us would have an easy time believing any of this unless we had seen it.”
“Yes, I suppose.” Said the surgeon.
Suddenly the panel next to Copper lit up. Staring intently at the head scan, he called over the surgeon.
“Apparently,” said Copper as he read the data, “the brain experiences chemical changes every time those fluids pass through.”
“So the fluids could be controlling the emotions?” The surgeon blew a puff of smoke.
“Or at least the emotional responses, yes, setting off muscles to react to how it is feeling. If it’s angry it might lash out in rage, if it’s sad it cries, so on and so forth.”
“Do we know which fluid it was bleeding out?”
“I’ll have to analyze the reactions to find out.”
“Make it so.”
The Department of Paranormal Medicine sometimes had need of defense, for alien life forms are unpredictable at best. The barracks was a long building with a rounded roof, bare but for tables in the center, and lockers lining the walls. When the security chief walked in, it was crowded with the specially trained marines that were housed at the facility.
“This building is on lockdown status as of this moment! Step lively!”
The chief pulled a key out from his jacket, put it in a keyhole in the wall, and turned, revealing a panel with a keypad inside. He typed in a few commands, and the lockdown alarms started ringing.
“A and B squads, you are on door duty! Get your rifles and move out!”
It had begun.
The hallways seemed almost a blur as Hal and the medical staff walked down them. The doctors kept talking while they strode, trying to come up with answers.
“Perhaps the blood has been thinned out by a medical condition…”
“We weren’t even sure the substance was blood.” Hal said.
“If the alien had masses on its heart, drawing in and thinning out the blood…”
“The heart was clean, so were the other four as well. The surgeons will certainly have new data for us when we get there. Until then, shut up.”
The doctors stopped talking immediately.
Hal opened the doors to the lab, and with the entire senior medical staff behind him, calmly strode up to the surgeon.
“So, got anything for us, or were you people just sitting on your asses this whole time?” Hal had adopted a cheerful tone.
The surgeon chewed on his cigar thoughtfully before answering. “From the tests, hell, it’s a nightmare. Our latest head scan indicated that the veins running throughout its body are carrying fluids that affect emotion.”
The doctors just stared in amazement. Hal looked confused for the breadth of a second, then realized. “Do we know which fluid the alien was leaking out then?”
“Just waiting for results from the lab.”
One of the doctors spoke up. “Why would the loss of a fluid that controls emotion put the alien in the state it’s in now?”
“I wouldn’t know.” The surgeon said promptly, then turned to Hal. “What are all the staff here for?”
“Thought we might start the company Christmas party a little early.”
An explosion rocked the building, and the staff was thrown into confusion as some panicked and ran down the hall, some stood where they were, shivering with fear, while others curled up on the floor, terrified of the siege that now raged around them.
Hal looked over at his terrified co-workers, and then turned back to the surgeon. “I was thinking Thai food for supper. Care to join? Unless you have that patient to cure, I think the alien government might be a little pissed about it…”
The surgeon looked at Hal and rolled his eyes. “Test results should be back soon, we’ll see which fluid it was that he leaked out.”
“Until then,” said Hal, “we wait.”
Explosion. White Light. A loud ringing in the ears. As the security chief ducked down under cover, he realized they were losing. As soon as the aliens had landed they stormed out in force, demanding the return of their citizen. The chief had stated that they were working as fast as they could to stabilize the alien’s condition enough to send him over, but that seemed to only infuriate the aliens more, and not two seconds after that the entire group of aliens opened fire on the guards. It had seemed like hours since then, bullets flying all around, think as raindrops in a gale. The aliens kept tight suppressing fire on all positions the guards were at, keeping them from moving while throwing large masses of some sort of jelly into the posts, which then latched on to any human nearby and started to eat them alive. Looking through holes in the barricade, he saw the alien’s guns to be made of a long barrel with a strange apparatus at the bottom. The aliens had some kind of needle jammed into their hands when they put it in the apparatus, and were manipulating the gun through their complex nervous systems.
As all this rushed through the chief’s head, he awoke from his reverie to hear a voice on his radio.
“Sir! Our group was trying to flank the aliens keeping you guys down, but we ran into more of them in the southwest corridor! We might not be able to make it to your position!”
The chief responded with an urgent voice. “Hurry it up, whatever you do! We can’t last forever like this.”
There was a slight pause in the firing on his barricade. The chief, acting out of instinct, put his gun over the top and blindly fired into the mass of aliens. As soon as he pulled his gun back down into cover, another shower of bullets rained down. Picking up one of the shells, he saw it had notches all along the edges of the bullet to make it harder to pull out of the skin.
This was going to be a long fight.
Copper Briggs ran into the room, panting.
“I had to pass five firefights on my way here!”
“And I hope it wasn’t just to tell us you don’t have any results.” Hal said.
Copper rolled his eyes and handed him a sheet of paper, freshly printed. Looking it over, Hal looked intrigued.
Turning to the surgeon, he said “The fluid your patient was leaking out controls its ability to feel pain.”
The surgeon looked surprised. “But then why would the patient still be unconscious?”
Hal contemplated for a few seconds. “Bring me the scan results for its body and head.”
As the surgeon pulled them out there was a loud rumble preceding distant shouts. The medical staff looked around worriedly.
Taking them and looking them over, Hal said “the vein-like lines running through its body are connected to nerves. Perhaps when they tried to activate the pain feeling when it woke up after the crash, it had lost so much that the fluid wasn’t accessible, so its body just shut down.”
The surgeon turned to Copper. “Go take all that fluid it bled out, see if you can’t reproduce the stuff or just IV drip it back into the patient.”
Hal turned to the assembled medical staff, who had been silent the whole process.
“Now, why did I hire all you again?”
Copper Briggs ran through the hallways, all of them infested with smoke and flame, heading for the patient’s room, to administer the treatment. Gunfire rang all around. As he ran past an adjacent corridor, a ball of the jelly substance hit the floor underneath him. Looking in terror but unable to stop fast enough, he jumped over it. The ball exploded as he was in mid-jump, and the pieces of jelly splattered onto his left leg. He fell heavily on his side, giving a cry of pain, and then twisted around to attack the jelly slowly eating away his limb. He grabbed a burning piece of wood, a remnant of a desk that had stood there, and bludgeoned the substance. His vision was going blurry and red from the pain, but the fire had a very good effect on the jelly. It withered and started to die, giving off a putrid stench. After getting all of it off his leg, it felt very raw, and the skin burned. Pushing with his hands, he tried to stand. Pain ravaged throughout his senses, and he fell down, screaming. Bringing together all his will, he pulled himself up, he limped onwards to the patient room.
The security chief was at his last resort. The aliens had pushed them back to the corridor which contained the patient’s room. Throwing himself behind a desk, he just missed the first onslaught of gunfire.
“Return fire!” He yelled at the others.
Just as he said this, Copper limped around the corner. Looking in shock at the scene around him, he just stood there. The chief ran up quickly and pulled him behind the wall.
“Do you guys have a treatment ready?”
“Yes, I just need to pump some fluids into him.”
“Get to it then! I’ll cover you, but be quick.”
Copper began to run towards the door, but his leg started to convulse with pain, and he fell down on the floor, sprawled out in the middle of the hallway.
“Go, go, go!” Screamed the chief, shooting wildly towards the mass of aliens slowly advancing.
Copper crawled frantically, ignoring the burning sensation. Bullets flew all around him. As he entered the doorway, a jelly ball hit the wall opposite. Still lying on the floor, he kicked his good leg in a rapid windmill motion, kicking the door closed just as the jelly ball exploded. After a second had passed, hearing only the muted noises of war outside the room, he let out a terrified breath. His chest pounding, his leg still screaming bloody murder into his senses, he slowly lifted himself up once again. Limping very slowly, holding onto whatever he could, he advanced to the alien’s bed. Getting out the bags of fluid they collected from its body, he began the slow process of pumping the thin liquid into its bloodstream.
The security chief clawed desperately at his face. The jelly ball had exploded right next to his face, and now the substance was all over his head, eating away his cap, his hair, his scalp, his cheek, and his right eye. Getting a good portion of it off his head, he realized the substance has just spread to his hands and arms. As the jelly ate deeper, he began to writhe in pain, dropping to the floor and letting out the wailing of a dead man. The other few marines that had been left were still firing wildly at the oncoming horde. A few fell to gunfire. All time seemed to slow down as the jelly ate deeper, his vision in the right eye, consumed with a bluish hue, now went black, and a large mass that had once been a cheek muscle fell to the ground, covered in the blue substance. He saw his team give cries of helplessness, still emptying their clips into the aliens as the creatures walked calmly towards them, picking one or two off as they poked their heads out of cover. A few hour-long seconds later, the last of the valiant men who had stood guard were dead. Barely conscious anymore, he could make out a figure walking towards him, speaking words in a language human lips cannot replicate. Slowly, he moved the one hand that still hadn’t been completely eaten and pulled the pin out of his last grenade. Held in the remains of his hand, He looked up at the alien, who returned his gaze, its expression unreadable in its face, which seemed to the chief the face of an animal, crazed as he was with the pain and the frenzy of battle. As the muscles in his jaw started to give, he spat out his last words.
“Damn you to hell.”
Grenade clutched tightly, he punched the alien, and the conflagration of flame engulfed them both.
Copper had just finished pumping in most of the fluids he had found in the room when he heard the explosion. It unhinged the door, half wrecked as it already was. There was an eerie silence that followed. Copper stared, petrified, at the door, lying at an odd angle, exposing a few bits of the hallway, now stained with the debris of rock and flesh. An alien appeared at the door after a while, moving silently but swiftly, and kicked the door across the room. Leveling a gun at Copper, the alien stared into his eyes.
“Stop!” Screamed a familiar voice.
Hal and the medical staff ran up the adjacent corridor, towards the room, yelling protest at the aliens gathered outside it. A few aliens, out of instinct, turned and fired immediately. Two doctors fell, and Hal got a bullet in his side, then leaned heavily on the wall to support himself. Gasping for the breath that had just been knocked out of him, he spoke.
“We just cured him.”
A sharp intake of air was heard beside Copper. The alien opened its eyes, and looked around at where it was. Seeing Copper beside itself, holding an IV tube running into its body, and a heart rate monitor connected to its other hand, the alien let out a scream of remorse and started to rip the tubes out of itself. Copper, who was startled, just stumbled backwards out of reach. The assembled aliens looked at their comrade, and it seemed as though they emoted pity to Copper. An alien, a leader from its more colorful uniform, walked up to Hal and shoved its gun into his chin.
“You were not to use your blasphemous medicine on our citizen!”
Hal clutched his side in pain, but managed to speak clearly enough. “We couldn’t move it, you wouldn’t send any of your people down, and it was going to die if we didn’t do anything. We have an obligation to preserve life.”
“You have condemned it! Our people cannot give it anything anymore. It cannot trade with us, we will not let it mate anymore, not after being tainted with your filth. It’ll only be a matter of time before we convince it to take its own cursed life.”
“That is its choice. We didn’t have one.”
The alien stared at Hal for a long second, and then rasped something in the harsh language to the rest. They began to head back down the corridor they came. The alien who had been cured started after them, making a sort of whimpering noise, without a second glance towards the humans standing all around.
The weeks following the incident were boring ones. Everyone had had time to recover, go to the funeral service held for those that died, and sat through meetings with government officials, describing the aliens and their attack. The building had been largely repaired when Hal walked in, on his fifth day back at work. As he passed the guard, showing his pass like always, he saw Copper Briggs waiting for him, still walking with a cane, his leg not fully healed.
“Got another comatose patient bleeding out its emotions for me?”
Copper fell into stride with Hal. “Not today, Dr. Madrid. It’s some patients who have had serious seizures after eating some of our planet’s food. We did some tests, and found their brainwaves fluctuating all over.”
“Well find one of our doctors to do it. I’m sure as hell not going to do all their jobs for them. Lazy bastards. Now off with you. Today I want to enjoy my coffee.”