Alex checked for pulse, counting slowly under her breath as she held the comatose patient's wrist.
"Normal," she muttered under her breath. She turned to look at the clock: five minutes left to her monotonous life as an intern at St. Bartholomew Hospital. Five minutes and then she could enjoy her measly hours of respite with her current steady boyfriend, Ronald Suarrin.
Alex decided to wait out the five minutes in the comatose man's cubicle. To pass the time, she flipped through the doctor's notes on the clipboard:
It didn't take her long-the forms were essentially blank: cause of coma was unknown, vitals had been normal since the past 32 hours, no contusions or blows to the head. However, Alex noticed, there was an incongruency in the physical.
There was supposedly a row of pointed pincer-like perforations along his clavicle.
Alex leaned in, cautiously moving the neckline of the hospital gown, and checked. Sure enough, there were red marks on his shoulder-she frowned.
"What have you been upto?" she quietly said, looking at the graying skin of the lonely old man, his hair all but gone, his eyes deeply blanketed in sagging skin.
Her wristwatch beeped signalling the end of the hour. Placing the clipboard back, Alex skipped down the corridor to the doctor's lounge, looking forward to some time in peace.
"Hey babe," Ronald said, his face materializing as a blur on the screen in front, "What's up?"
"It's about time," Alex frowned, "I've been waiting since the past three days for you to call me!"
"Sorry babe," Ronald answered-he coughed.
Alex softened, "What's wrong with your voice Ron?" she asked, leaning in front of the webcam, "You still have a cold?"
"Yes," he replied in a robotic monotone, "But I feel better now...I was thinking about our one-year anniversary plans..."
"You remembered?" Alex smiled, feeling warm and fuzzy as he smiled back, "So what's the big plan?"
"Moonlight picnic, champagne, by the place where we first...you know..." he trailed off.
Alex bit her lip, "Really? That late at night? What if someone catches us?"
The screen pixellated-his voice seemed cracked. She attributed the latter to the flu-it had been spreading around quite a bit lately.
"Oh come on," he said in a throaty, expressionless voice, "Be adventurous."
"Alright, you'll pay the bail money if we're caught for trespassing," she joked, trying to make out his reaction from the blurred image in front-the internet connection seemed distorted, "I get off my shift at 10pm tomorrow."
"I'll see you there 10.30 then," Ronald answered, and before she could reply, the call had ended.
The Grimsby College football stadium was a vast expanse of bleachers and banners that seemed to lack its usual daylight cheer as Alex ascended the stairs to the bleachers. It seemed almost ominous in the silver moonlight, creating a kaleidoscope of gray and black, odd shapes and strange movements in the shadows. Alex stood alone at the top of the bleachers, looking around for her beau. She shivered against the European cold. She considered calling out to Ronald but she hesitated-some security guard nearby might recognize her.
Alex stood there alone for ten minutes, but what seemed an eternity in the black bosom of the night. Her eyes were fixed in the center of the field where the white markings seemed to glow in the moonlight. She shuddered-the football stadium was creepy that late, she realized.
"How could I have chosen this place to get laid?" she wondered, recalling the silent evening after the big game, a year ago, when she and Ronald had 'consummated' their relationship. It had been right behind the team's locker room, in a smaller playing field where they had found true passion in each other's arms. She forced her mind to think of the game that day: cheering hooting crowds in the bleachers, colourful waving banners and somersaulting mascots-but all she could conjure up was non-existent voices and moving silhouettes in the bleachers.
She checked her watch:
11.06, the digits glowed.
Angry and frustrated, Alex wanted to stomp her feet and scream. He couldn't care enough to even show up on time for their anniversary! It had been his plan anyway!
She felt like a fool, having waited for half an hour in the chilly breeze biting at her, for an inconsiderate fool like Ronald. Exasperated, she turned to leave.
That's when she saw him. He stood in the front row, right in her view-Alex wondered how she could have missed him coming in.
"Ronald!" she jumped at the sound of her own voice, piercing through the silence. "Ronald!", she called out again, her voice sounding more relieved than angry.
He did not turn.
He just stood there wearing his overcoat and his stupid fedora hat. Alex made her way down the steps, coming down to his row,
"You're 45 minutes late Ron!" she exclaimed, "Now can we please stop the games and move on? It's cold out here."
No reply. Silence.
Alex moved closer to him, his face hidden underneath the shadows of the hat.
A chill went up her spine-he wasn't responding.
He just stood there.
In the dark.
Looking out into the playing field.
Alex lightly tapped him on the shoulder.
He turned to face her.
And grabbed her by the arms.
Alex yelped at his freezing touch, her heart pumping crazily.
"Let go of me!" she cried, realising it wasn't Ron.
The man lifted his head-and in the silver moonlight, Alex saw his face.
The greying, rotting skin.
The sagging wrinkles.
"You!" she screamed, as his bloody eyes stared at her, his teeth menacingly bared out.
The rotting corpse cackled throatily, the red hound eyes gleaming at her,
"You're mine," he whispered.
With a sudden burst of energy, Alex pushed him off. She immediately turned and screaming, stumbled up the bleachers. She didn't stop to look back-just kept climbing up, ignoring the tingling numbing sensation in her feet.
Tears streamed down her face, as she ran up, fumbling for her phone in her pocket.
She was almost out the stadium gate-when out of the blue, two arms grabbed her from behind...
"Noooo," she sobbed, struggling.
Alex opened her eyes.
"It's me! Ron!"
Alex allowed her eyes to acclimatize to the dark.
Sure enough it was him.
She could not believe it! She touched his face to be sure it didn't fall off or anything-it was him.
Forgetting all her anger, she hugged him, sobbing,
"This man-he..." she cried, barely getting the words out, "Oh God!"
Burying her face in his warm coat, she let him lead her out the gates.
"You're fine now," Ron whispered, caressing her hair.
"Thanks for bringing me home," Alex sniffed, looking at the warm glow of her apartment.
"I don't know what you saw hon but it's alright now-I can stay over if you want," Ronald offered, his arm around her waist.
Alex gazed into his deep brown eyes as he pulled her close. He seemed distant. Perhaps she had spooked him.
"No, that's fine," she shrugged. She just wanted to get some sleep.
"Well...goodnight," he smiled-Alex realised how lucky she was as she stood with him under the streetlight.
"I'm sorry we couldn't go through with our plan," Alex playfully apologised, biting her lip as she tousled his black hair.
"It's okay," he leaned in.
Suddenly he grabbed her close and kissed her passionately, his hands massaging her body. His lips followed her neckline, gently kissing.
Then harder. She felt a slight sting as his lips nuzzled her neck.
Alex laughed it off,
"Ron, I'll have a hickey to explain at work tomorrow if you don't let me go now," she lightly pushed him away, grinning.
He suddenly pulled back, staring at her, his expression undecipherable,
Alex blinked. No-there he was again, his goofy smile. She breathed. Just the streetlight toying with her-coupled with her close encounter earlier that night, she was proud of herself for having the strength to stay on her two feet.
"Goodnight," Ron said, winking as he walked off into the night.
The light in her apartment was on.
A wave of dread washed over Alex as the adrenaline began pulsing through her veins for a second time that night. She felt her senses become more sensitive to every thing around-the hall light was blindingly bright. She could see the movement of shadows under the door.
Alex gulped. Her heart pumped like a jackhammer; she could almost hear it thudding.
The neighbours were out, she realised in despair. She could not even call for help! Tears sprung back into her eyes-what if it was the same man again? That face would haunt her forever.
Calling to aid the on y possible weapon in her bag, Alex opened her door slightly, the pepper spray armed...she peered in...there was a man standing over the couch.
He turned around at the noise of the door.
Alex blinked. Was she going crazy?
He hurried towards her,
"Oh hon, I'm so sorry I haven't called you in so many days-it's been long and you have every right to be ang-"
Alex's mind began whirring, "R-Ron? How'd you get here?"
"I know I should have called but I wanted to surprise you," he smiled, "I want to make up for not contacting you-"
"B-But we just...we just skyped yesterday. I just saw you off," she stammered, feeling nauseated.
"W-what?" Ron gave her a confused look, "Hon, are you high? We haven't talked or seen each other since the past three days-at the coffee shop remember?"
Alex backed up, putting her hand against her head...
"H-Hon, you okay?" Ron asked in a concerned voice, "A-and...is-is that a...bite mark on your neck?"