White walls filled with faded encouragement posters and team spirit awards on one wall, and a black stage at the opposite wall, blink into existence as I enter yet another nightmarish premonition. I take a step forward, noticing the slightly chilled, polished wood floor beneath my feet, with black lines mapping out a basketball court. My eyes follow the lines, past rows and rows of emergency cots to the wide-open doors, and outside into the brilliant sunshine and simmering heat just above the asphalt courts, down the hill from the gymnasium I had found myself standing in. A soft summer breeze flowed through the open doors, lightly moving the long black curtains on stage, and I could see feet walking behind them.
My eyes trailed back to the cots, which were set up in long rows, in 2 sets of 30 along one long one long wall, and another 2 sets of 30 along the opposite wall, with a fairly big aisle in the middle to walk on. Each of these beds had an IV with what appeared to be saline next to it, and some had a second bag of some blueish liquid set up as well. There were also Army cots set up on the far short side of the room, which were used for sleeping, rather than for patients. Most of the patients' beds were occupied, although a few were either empty or in the process of being cleaned up and sanitized for the next patient. Some patients were sitting up on the cots, some were wandering around with their IV bags in tow (often with a nurse helping them), and others were standing in small groups, speaking in hushed, anxious voices. There were military guards at the entrances and exits, and some walking in the hallway with their hands on their weapons, but guns at rest (pointed down to the floor), but none of them were refraining non-patients from going outside.
Although the world seems to move and shift around me and the nurses and guards don't seem to see me, one patient—a young girl, about five years old (maybe younger)—caught my attention and when I look into her eyes, I know she can see me, even if the rest of the world doesn't seem to. Her eyes are wide open in fear and pain, her face swollen from crying. There are dark circles under her eyes and her skin is pale with subtle hints of pink. She's curled in a tiny ball under a US Army medical blanket, hugging a light brown teddy-bear to her chest and sucking her thumb. I can see the blanket rising and falling light and fast, and I can just barely hear her wheezing. An Army medic in a camouflaged uniform comes over to check on her IV. She never turns over to look at him, but stares right at me with pleading, frightened eyes. Still, the medic doesn't seem to see me (I assume by now that I'm a ghost in this dream). He checks her chart and glances at the monitors, then writes something down in the paperwork, before pulling out a syringe and inserting it into the IV tube. Her breathing slows down and her eyes loose focus then flutter closed. When the medic leaves, I walk closer and look at a tag that's attached to her bed; it reads “NO GUARDIANS—PARENTS DOA.” I turn away, feeling sorry for the girl, and look around at the other patients in the room.
Some have severe skin blisters and burns, many are wheezing and struggling to breathe, and some are heavily bandaged. A tarp sits close to the stage and as I look closer, I notice a tiny hand sticking out. With horror, I realize there are bodies underneath it, some with horrid burns covering most of their bodies. Several figures in body suits (but without masks) come in to take the tarps out to a waiting van, then some facility for “decontamination” before burying them. Whatever it is can't be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, but can through fluid and blood transfer or ingested.
A strong scent and taste of mint pulls my attention away from the mangled corpses, and I notice a man approximately 20 years old, being held up in a sitting position by two medics. He has second degree burns on his chest and arms and a blackish color beneath his nose and around his mouth. His breath is raspy and he's struggling to breathe as he dry heaves. The medics are giving him a green-tinted liquid to drink that's minty flavored but he's having trouble keeping it down.
A sudden, loud buzzing noise followed by alarms catches my attention from across the room and one of the medics momentarily glances up, then looks away. A little boy with blond hair, about 6 years old and still wearing cowboy PJ's—has just flat-lined. A woman grabs the doctor's arm, wailing loudly and begging him to save her son, to do something, but they can't. The dad is yelling at the medic who's putting away the shock paddles; two huge, muscular soldiers with AR's strapped to their backs grab him and drag him outside to “cool off.” When I turn my attention back to the mom, she is cradling him, tears streaming down her face, as she rocks back and forth on the floor. I can see a green tag with the number 3 on her back. The nurses leave her to her weeping and the husband comes back in, his shoulders hunched and his right hand bloodied from punching a wall. He wraps an arm around his wife and another around their son and cries. The two soldiers who had dragged him outside stand guard about five feet behind them. Eventually, two men in body suits peel the boy from her grasp and she tries to fight them off but is pulled away by one of the soldiers and her husband. She glares at both of them, and yanks herself free, then stumbles to a corner and collapses, staring at the wall numbly. Her husband tries to talk to her and comfort her, but she refuses to speak to him. He sits down next to her but doesn't look at her, choosing instead to stare out at the other beds around them, rubbing his face wearily. The two soldiers remain fairly close, keeping an eye on them with orders to detain them if they cause any trouble.
A soft whimper draws my attention to another corner where a little girl, about 10 years old, is laying on her side, tears staining her cheeks. A female nurse is changing bandages on the girl's back—there are second and third degree burns and shrapnel cuts all over her back, and the skin—what's left of it—is swollen and oozing. The girl is on the highest dose of painkillers possible, but I can see the excruciating pain in her face nonetheless. An Army medic with a tan-camouflaged uniform and a stethoscope around his neck is holding her hand, whispering soothing words to her. “I want my daddy!” She whimpers between sobs. The medic glances over at the bed next to her, where a pale white man with graying-auburn hair lays unconscious and on a respirator; he hadn't woken up since they'd brought him in, but the girl had been found with him at the site and wouldn't leave his side. The doctors had said he probably wouldn't make it, and they would eventually need to move her as his condition worsened.
The medic turned his head back to the girl and gave her hand a slight squeeze, saying “I know, sweety.” Then he tried his best to distract her by talking about his silly German Shepherd he had back home, who liked to chase ducks but who would run fast if the duck started to chase him. The girl smiled slightly, but her lower lip still quivered from the pain and her eyes were wide with fear. The female nurse caught his attention with a slight wave of her hand to signal she was done with the bandages. The medic looked back at the girl and smiled. “You are a brave girl! Much braver than my silly puppy!” He watched her blink as her eyelids started getting heavier, then smile slightly again.
“I hope mommy and daddy will let me get a puppy some day...” She whispered as the medicine pulled her away to sleep again.
A tear slipped down the medic's face as he watched her breathing slow and her face become expressionless again. “Maybe, sweety, maybe.” He whispered, tucking her hand under the covers again and carefully sliding the blanket over her and tucking it under her chin. He walked past the beds and flashed his ID at the guards before walking outside to take a smoke break. It was hard to see children slowly die, especially when they were alone and had no one left.
A woman's pained cry draws my eyes to the black curtains where the feet move with a frenzy, and I am somehow transported behind it, without walking there myself. Medics and doctors in long-sleeved body gowns were hurrying around a woman who was laying on a stretcher. She was about 40 years old, with dark brown hair that was streaked with grey hairs and matted with blood. Half of her face was peeling and bubbling away, and there were blisters and burns on more than 60% of her body. She was screaming from the pain—every breeze against her naked muscles and open wounds was like a thousand razors cutting open your nerves—and there was nothing they could do for her. Blood and flesh lay in scraps all over the floor and brain matter was leaking out one ear. She was dying slowly and painfully, and there was nothing they could do. Within a half hour, her screams had subsided to whimpers and moans, and within the hour she was dead. They covered her with a sheet and stuck her inside a body bag so that the living would not have to see her body, before carrying her out past the cots, into one of the CDC vans. I backed out of there, noticing that the whole area had been set up as an emergency room for the more severe patients; already, a man was mopping up the floor with a blank dead look on his face. He was singing softly and as I passed him, I heard the words “If you want to get out alive, run for your life.”
I walked quickly out of there and towards the hallway, stopping momentarily in front of the guards with their AR's strapped to their chest; they still did not see me, so I walked past them and into the hallway. I could hear moans coming from some of the rooms, where the more severe patients were—the ones they didn't want the rest of the world to see.
In one room, there were two children—a brother and his younger sister. Both were hooked up to respirators and had blisters on their chests, throats, faces, and arms. The sister, approximately 4 years old, was also missing half of her arm, just below the elbow, and had a teddybear tucked under her other arm. Someone had neatly braided her blond hair, to keep it away from her blistered skin. She was hooked up to an IV with both a saline bag and the strange blueish liquid in a second bag; the respirator was breathing for her and her breaths were even and light. Her brother, approximately 10 years old, lay in the bed next to hers, also unconscious and on a respirator. His skin was an ashy-white color and he was covered in blisters from head to toe, some darker in color and oozing horrifically. Bandages covered his head, and there were cuts all over his face. Both children had red tags on their beds with the number 4, and both children wore a red bracelet and an orange “ALLERGY” bracelet. A man and a woman—their parents—sat on black plastic chairs in the corner, dressed in full-body scrubs with face masks on. The mother had her face buried in the husband's chest, her back heaving with sobs. The father's face was drawn and taught, tears flowing, but his own sobs silent.
I pulled my gaze away from their room and walked to the next one. A young woman, approximately 20 years old, lay unconscious on the bed, her skin ashen and her lips pale. She was also on a respirator and had an IV in her arm with three bags on the hook. One was saline, another was the blueish liquid, and a third was presumably painkillers. The blankets were pulled up around her and tucked just under her chin, but I could see bandages on her arms and legs. She had a third-degree burn on her left hand and cuts on her neck, which were bandaged. A young man in ABU's was sitting in one of the black plastic chairs next to her bed, leaning over slightly and staring at her face with hopeful, tired eyes. He was holding her limp left hand in his, occasionally squeezing it, and talking to her softly. He'd been crying sometime recently, as his face was puffy and red and stained with tears. He touched a hand to her cheek and stroked her hair back away from her eyes; she did not respond or move. A mask covered her nose and mouth—the only evidence I could see that she was actually alive—and a yellow tag was on her bed, with the number 5 on it. The soldier looked like he was trying hard not to cry and as he turned his face to a teddybear he'd placed next to him on the bed, to move it closer to her, I could see his face: it was a IIIper I know. I moved back quickly from the door, alarmed, and stumbled down the hallway, towards two metal doors that lead outside.
As I reach for the door handle, I hear a tiny voice behind me. “Where are you taking Mommy?” I turn around quickly, to see a little girl (approximately 5 years old) clutching a dirty toy giraffe, her face covered in soot and grime and blisters on her bare feet. Two soldiers moving a body bag glance down at the girl who had apparently followed them, then glance up at one of the big, hard-faced, muscular guards, a 6ft-6in African-American Marine in a desert-camouflaged uniform, in the hallway. With a slight nod, he walked towards them, sliding his M4 rifle to his back as he got closer. She hid her face behind her giraffe and started to cry. “I want my mommy!” The two soldiers were trying to inch away from her, but stopped when she cried out and waited.
The Marine kneeled down so that he was level with her and smiled sympathetically at the girl. He had a daughter about her age who he knew would be petrified if she was in this girl's shoes. He knew he needed to distract the girl so that her mom's body could be taken away and she wouldn't have to see the horrific state of her mom. No child should ever have to go through what this girl was going through, and it broke his heart to see her alone and afraid like she was. “What's your name?” He asked in a low, quiet voice. She didn't answer but just stared up at him with wide, terrified and confused eyes. “My name is Jason.” He looked at her giraffe, then back at her. “You know, I have a daughter about your age. Her name's Maria and she really likes giraffes too. She has a BIIIIG yellow one, kinda like yours.” he continued as he pointed to her giraffe. “She named him Bananas. What's your giraffe's name?” He waited for her answer patiently, seeing in her eyes that she was interested...and distracted.
“His..his name is B-Benny.” She answered in a small voice. She held Benny close and tightly, looking deep into the Marine's eyes and took a small step towards him. He reminded her of her daddy, who Mommy had said was overseas in a desert; she'd never met daddy but had seen pictures of him. He was big like this Marine...she wondered if the Marine was huggable like her daddy?
The Marine cocked his head slightly and smiled. “Benny, huh? That sounds like a good name for a giraffe!” He watched her inch closer and said “Well, would you and Benny like some lunch? I think we could find you something and I know you're probably hungry.” She nodded eagerly and hugged her giraffe tighter. The Marine held out a large hand to her, but was pleasantly surprised when she ran to him and wrapped her arms around his neck instead. In one swift but gentle moment, he hugged her back and picked her up, holding her with her face towards him and the gym so that she didn't have to see the men taking her mom away again. They nodded their thanks to him without saying a word; there was not a dry tear in the hallway as she tucked her face into his neck and hugged her giraffe against his chest. “It's okay, Sweety, everything's going to be o-kay.” He cooed softly to her while rubbing a hand on her back gently. Once the men and the body bag were out of sight, he turned and walked back towards the gym again; another guard had already been summoned to take his place at the door.
I turned back to the doors and reached for the handle once more, swinging it open, and stepped outside, into a bright white light. I woke up at that point in time, covered in sweat and crying. That was definitely one of the more difficult premonitions to see and I hope it never comes real.