Rehab Center, Third Shift
by L. J. Geoffrion
Sarah Whitebird grabbed the keys and the room count log and pulled the office door shut behind her. A cold breeze wafted the scent of stale cigarette smoke and she paused and made a note on the log: smell cig smoke on women’s wing, 3 a.m. Following the freezing draft, she found a window open in the women’s bathroom that was letting in the January night air, and cursed as she cranked it shut.
One by one, she turned the knobs and pushed the doors open, counting lumps in beds. They were all asleep, every one. She took a moment at one or two bedsides, pulled up blankets and tucked them in.
Humming tunelessly, she swung the keys in her hand as she headed to the men’s wing, swung them up in an arch until they met her palm in a satisfying chunk, and then swung them out again.
The men’s wing was very quiet. She pushed open the first door, a line of light cast by the hallway florescent cutting across the far bed, counted lumps and let the door swing closed, easing it shut with her hand on the knob so that she didn’t wake the sleeping men.
Two more doors and four more lumps later, she stopped in the hallway, listening. There was a step and a rustle coming from behind the next door. She tapped softly. “Room check.”
The voice was muffled but clearly granted her entrance. When she swung the door open, she was greeted by a frigid blast. “Dammit!” she choked out and pushed the door wide. “What’s the matter with you, Nishkigwan? Are you trying to freeze yourself to death?”
Justin Nishkigwan sat on the bed, naked except for a pile of hair in his lap. An electric razor buzzed in his hand. He’d cut his hair into a Mohawk and it waved towards her in the stiff breeze coming from the window.
She had to lean over him, lean around his bare shoulder, to reach the window crank. “You crazy idiot,” she muttered, slapping down the window lock. As she drew away, her eyes met his and she stumbled back with a gasp.
“Wh... What did you take?” Leaning toward him, she tipped her head to the side, studying his eyes. “What are you on?” She put her hand on his bare shoulder and gave him a shake.
His skin burned and she pulled away, cursing. “Christ! Christ!” She backed away, cupping her hand. The skin was white with cold. His eyes, pupils blown and the whites so bright that they glowed in the dim room, moved across her face. She took another step back and felt the other bed behind her knees.
Charlie Lawson was the other occupant of the room. She sat on the bed, Nishkigwan’s strange eyes following her, and put her hand to Lawson’s still form. He was cold, of course. She knew it before she reached out her hand. Very cold.
Nishkigwan’s voice spoke like the wind roared in the pines, like the stars whispered in the skies; the voice of multitudes as one. They stared at each other across the space between the beds. He never blinked. Frost moved across the bright white of his eyes. She leaned forward, her gaze going from his frosty eyes to the Mohawk. His skin was tinged blue. “So,” she leaned back and tapped her bottom lip with a fingertip, “Nishkigwan has left the building, hm?”
You have such a warm heart.
“Wiindigo,” she sighed and shook her head at him. “I don’t know how you got into Justin Nishkigwan, but it was a bad mistake, brother.”
I can smell it, Sarah. Your blood... So warm.
She smiled at him, canines flashing, and wet her lips with the tip of her tongue. “Not exactly.” When his eyes met hers, the razor dropped from his hand.
He was so cold. Like ice cream.
Copyright © 2009 by L. J. Geoffrion