Firestarter

Kindling 1.5

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Beep… Beep… Beep…

Something was making noises. How rude, some of us were trying to sleep… It should shut it’s pie hole… Or I would do it myself…  My semi-lucid indignation melted away as I drifted off to sleep again.

When I woke again, everything was fuzzy. Not the bad kind fuzzy like the smelly chest hair of a big man slowly choking the life out of you, but the good fuzzy, like when you get drunk and wrap yourself up in a shag rug like a burrito and fall asleep. And it was warm… Except my toes, those were cold. I pulled them back beneath the blanket, and snuggled up and started to fall back asleep. Then I stopped. Something was off. Why wasn’t I dead?

Holy shit, I wasn’t dead!

I tried to jump out of bed. It didn’t work all that well, I had casts on my right shin and forearm, so I just ended up kinda rolling to the right and slamming my head into the bed rail. Wait, bed rail? I finally opened my eyes and took stock of my situation. I was in a hospital. The room was kinda dingy, the walls and most of the fixtures had been painted white several lifetimes ago. Now all the paint was yellowing, peeling in an unsanitary looking sort of way. I was lying in a raised bed in the center of the room, bars on both sides of the bed keeping me from falling out. There were cabinets everywhere, filled with all sorts of medical supplies. Another botched job, another shitty hospital.

I was attached to a monitor on my right by a bunch of wires, and to an IV bag on my left. Pretty normal for a hospital. I also wasn’t handcuffed to the bed rails, which is a bit of a first for me. Normally when I lose consciousness and wake up in a hospital, the police have at least a few questions for me. I was wearing one of those silly looking greeny-blue and white hospital gowns with the weird print. And bandages, lots of bandages. I was pretty much a mummy under my gown, and I felt about as flexible as one. The bandages chafed uncomfortably whenever I tried to move. I carefully slipped out of bed, gasping as my bare feet landed on the chilly tile floor.  I limped to the side of my little room and started looking through the cabinets behind me, as much as I could without pulling off my leads. I had to get out of here before they figured out who I was, I couldn’t afford another ridiculous hospital bill.

I removed the tape keeping my IV in place. The bag was finished anyway. Then I pulled out the catheter, and slipped a pad of sterile gauze on it. After giving it a moment to stop bleeding I wrapped it in the sticky gauze. I’ve had some practice with this sort of thing, way too many of my jobs have ended with me in a hospital with no memory of the last week. At least it wasn’t a central line. I’d removed one of those before, in front of a mirror. I’d bled like a stuck pig all over my bedroom. It was bad. My landlord had not been happy with the large bleach spot in the middle of the carpet, or rather I assumed he hadn’t been. I didn’t actually stick around for his final inspection.

My clothes were nowhere to be found, which was hardly surprising. With the shape I was in, the nurses had probably needing to cut them off me. And I’d probably need to find them and burn them, ugh, that’d be a pain. Another thing on my to-do list. If I didn’t… I shivered, bad things happened to people who were careless about bodily fluids. In the magical world, unintended pregnancy was by far the least of your worries. People leaving their body fluids lying around willy-nilly found themselves turned into ghouls, targeted by curses, tracked, influenced, compelled, stuck in mirrors, and generally in unpleasant situations. One of the few upsides of relying on pyromancy is that it often rendered that sort of thing a bit of a non-issue. Helped with disposing of other forensic evidence too.

I’d miss that jacket though… I suppose it was a bit gaudy, but it had been warm. It was also a nice reminder of one of my more bad-ass moments, it had belonged to some poor hothead midget biker. I liberated it from him after we had a disagreement regarding the disposition of a certain goblinoid slave. I’d also liberated the goblin. And his wallet. I’d wanted to take his bike too, but I gave up on that pretty quick. My first attempt to ride it ended with me taking a turn too slowly and sliding clear across the other lane into a ditch. Ever since then, get a class M license and steal a bike has been on my to-do list. It’s somewhere below paying rent and somewhere above getting health insurance. I like to think I have a good grasp of what’s really important in life.

I checked out the chart at the foot of my bed, more out of curiosity than anything else. It was nice to find a hospital that still used paper charts. Trying to walk behind the nurses station in a patient’s gown was always so very awkward. And if the nurse was a big black lady thrice my weight, odds were good I wasn’t going to be able to choke her out and drag her into a closet for some privacy. A good old paper chart at the foot of the bed made getting your records without paying so much easier. I was I was registered as ‘Jane Doe’, that made sense, my wallet was in my backpack. Which was burned to a crisp. Shit, now I needed a new passport. Well, a new fake one. That was an actual passport, I just happened to have had more than one. I’d lost passports and licenses before, it happened often enough that I’d started buying them in bulk. I knew a guy who knew a guy who had some poor government official charmed so badly he thought was forging passports for Jesus. I’m not sure how that works, or how he could possibly think Jesus was a short teenage girl, but the guy will copy your passport for about a hundred bucks, with a pretty nice discount for bulk orders. Anyway, that was my last real fake passport. I had the original in some safe somewhere, or maybe in my closet. It was somewhere, and probably in my apartment. Probably.

Anyway, the chart said I had suffered four broken ribs, pulmonary contusions on two lobes of my left lung, a closed displaced fracture of my right ulna, contusions across most of my abdomen and thorax, and an open shaft fracture of my right tibia. My head CT was clear, according to note in the bottom, which judging from the chicken-scratch handwriting, was clearly the product of a doctor. I suppose that was plus, it’d be kinda anticlimactic to survive yesterday just to go and die from a brain bleed. However, the chart was kind of worrying. Not the injuries, those weren’t too bad, particularly considering what I’d been through. I was more worried why my injuries weren’t more severe. There was blood everywhere on the runway, way too much to be just from some scrapes and one open fracture… There weren’t all that many options. I suppose I could have suddenly developed some sort of superhuman healing ability, but lets face it, the universe doesn’t like me that much. Or my chart could be faked, unlikely, since I would still have those injuries. My memory could be wrong, but I didn’t have any head injuries. It’s possible to alter memories with magic, but I’m not sure how that works. It’d be futile to consider anyway, if I can’t trust my memory, I’m screwed. That leaves the most likely possibility, given who was left standing at the end of the fight on the runway. Less-than-divine intervention…

Not good. Not good at all. I couldn’t remember the exact wording of my deal with the demon, but it was starting to look more and more like he had taken several miles in addition to the explicitly offered inch. I didn’t even want to consider the strings that might be attached to being physically healed by a demon. I’m pretty sure that’s how several strains of vampirism got started, that’s one of the few factoids that stuck with me from all those lectures on the history of the magical world. I needed to find a priest really fucking soon and figure out what the hell was going on. Demons were the Serbian loan sharks of the supernatural world. Except, instead of breaking your legs and stealing your kidneys, they slowly corrupted you into a horrible unholy abomination and ruined everything you ever loved. And then they made you watch them eat kittens. Hence why I was actually considering the thought of going to a priest for aid. I don’t like priests, they’re all hypocritical assholes. But, hating lawyers doesn’t make it a good idea to defend yourself in court. Same principle applies.

I got out of bed, and smoothed the covers as best I could. I silenced the alarms on my monitor, then started pulling the cardiac leads off my limbs. I pitched the leads, and hung the blood pressure cuff and pulse-ox back on the hanger by the monitor. I was about to ditch a hospital without paying, there was no need to leave the room a mess as well. There wasn’t any bag of personal stuff in my room, and I couldn’t exactly ask a nurse. I’d just have to hope for the best on that count.  If someone did have my bloody clothes, there wasn’t much I could do about it until I changed into less suspicious clothes and got my hands on a lighter.

I straightened my gown, and walked out through the curtain onto the hospital floor. First I saw the beds. And then I saw the television screen.

Gods… What the hell had I done…

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