Angels Children's (Part 1)
This is a three-part ghost story, inspired by a short vignette my clinical instructor once told us. All characters, and places are completely fictional. I try hard, but certain mistakes slip through, as English is not my native language. I welcome constructive criticism and pointing out my mistakes. I hope you enjoy!“Professor Johnson?”
The eager student broke the silence, prompting me to give her an answer. What was it that she asked? Ah yes, she wanted to know what it was about the hospital that I never left the place since getting my first nursing job there. Aspiring to be a pediatric nurse herself, the student wanted to know all about the place.
Angels Children’s Hospital.
The largest and famous institution with proud accomplishments and cutting-edge technology. But that was not the reason I never left.
The little known secret, dismissed as an urban legend. I had stopped talking about it long ago, tired of getting good-natured slaps on the back with “That’s a good one!” followed by delighted laughs.
But I never laughed.
I was a fresh new grad RN in that December, 2000, just off orientation in a busy med-surg floor of the Angels Children’s. With almost 400 inpatient beds and several specialty buildings, the place was a giant maze. The baffling layout was made worse by recent constructions adjoining the main hospital building with various bridges, due to the damages from the 1994 earthquake. It was the most damaging earthquake of the West Coast in recent history, killing hundreds and injuring thousands.
I was only a child and living far away from the epicenter, but I had heard numerous stories. Angels, in particular, had lost 63 lives within the hospital. The names of the children, nurses, doctors, and ancillary staff who perished in the chaos were commemorated on a large plaque in the hall leading to the chapel.
It was on this hallway that I met Hanh Tran.
During nights, the lobby would lose all the bustling activities of the day and provided the most peaceful location to relax on a sofa and watch the aquarium. One night, as I came down for a break, I caught a shadowy glimpse of a man standing by the chapel. Thinking it may be a grieving father in need of support, I began approaching the hallway. As I got closer, I realized he was a staff, wearing a scrub top with Scooby-Doo and Shaggy chasing around each other. Noticing my presence, he looked up from the list of names he was reading. He was an Asian man with a slight build and a face that could be of an old adolescent or a young middle-aged man – his age impossible to guess. Before I could say hi, he gave a small nod and promptly walked by. I barely made out his title from the badge – Care Partner, 5 East. Hem/Onc, our sister unit.
Not long after, I saw him again in my unit when he floated. I quickly found out he was a man of very few words.
“Hi, I’m Jen. I saw you the other night. By the chapel?” I extended my hand as I introduced myself. He gave a tiny smile with a nod before walking past me towards a Dynamap, my hand awkwardly hanging in the air.
Carol, a senior nurse who had been my preceptor, chuckled and motioned me closer.
“That’s Hanh. He’s shy but he’s the best CP you’ll ever meet,” she whispered. “He’s been with us since the beginning of time!”
“Since when? He can’t be that old!”
“Oh honey, you’ve no idea!”
Among the smaller buildings that project out from the main hospital, I found that I only needed to familiarize myself with one bridge that led to the imaging center, which was fortunate as I was never a good navigator. The way to radiology using the second-level bridge was straightforward enough. Trouble was, the bridge was closed after 10 pm, and transporting a patient to radiology at night required taking an elevator all the way down to the lower level, walking through an underground corridor to the imaging center building, then taking another elevator up to the procedure room.
The underground corridor was the oddest place in the whole complex. Repairing the damage from the earthquake somehow resulted in a tilted ceiling, giving the feeling of constricting claustrophobia and vertigo, even though the ground itself was perfectly level. Utter lack of decoration on the walls did not help either.
With my terrible sense of direction, it was inevitable that I lost my way underground one night. I had come to pick up a bag of TPN – why on earth would they place pharmacy in the basement? – and taken a wrong turn, distracted. When I realized that I was walking a longer distance than I should and stopped to look around, I found myself staring into the long, white corridor that seemed to stretch forever. The bare walls glowed eerie blue-white under the harsh fluorescent light.
Feeling light-headed, I started to lean against the wall, and jumped at the coldness. Sudden chill enveloped my whole body, raising the hairs on my neck. Then, I felt my throat closing up, suddenly unable to breathe. Was it my hallucination that I felt like being choked? Was it my imagination that I sensed cold fingers grasping at my neck?
I stood there, momentarily stunned, desperately suppressing the rising panic.
Then I heard it.
Shattering the oppressive silence, a shrill cry echoed from the far end of the corridor.
Cries of a child, where there should not be.
Before I could think, my body whirled around and bolted. My footsteps rang loudly, but the shrieking sound followed me even closer, louder. I ran as fast as I could, until…
“What the hell’s going on? Are you okay?”
With a shriek, I struggled against the arms holding me.
“Whoa calm down! It’s okay! It’s okay!”
The deep voice finally broke through my panicked mind and I looked up. It was Tom, the pharmacy tech.
“Tom?” I squeaked.
“Yeah. What happened? I heard you screaming. Did you get scared by the empty hallways?” he gently mocked.
“Uh yeah, I guess…”
“I got your TPN.”
“Yeah, the TPN you yelled at me for. You’re Jen from 5 West, right?”
“Oh, right. TPN.”
“Here ya go.”
“Um… Could you walk with me to the elevator?”
With a shuddering breath, I stepped off the elevator and walked into the unit. Carol looked up from her computer, and hurried toward me, alarmed.
“Oh my! What’s wrong, hon? You’re white as a ghost!”
“It’s nothing Carol. I’m fine. I just… I just got lost downstairs and spooked myself, haha,” I stammered, and slumped into the chair Carol pushed me into.
“Did you get lost in the underground corridor?” asked Amy, a fellow RN who had started working there a year before. When I nodded in affirmative, she let out a delighted squeal.
“That’s the Cursed Corridor! I heard couple of kids went into code blue during transport, right in that corridor, totally unexpected. They didn’t make it. Isn’t that crazy?”
“That’s just a rumor, Amy,” admonished Carol. “It’s scary down there at night, that’s all. People get scared and imagine all kinds of things. Then some people even make up stories like that and think it’s funny.”
“Uh yeah, I guess. I kinda thought I heard something. I guess I was just imagining it,” I said in a shaky voice, still feeling the residual coldness on my neck where the invisible fingers touched.
I then remembered I needed to hang the TPN before the old bag ran out. As I stood up, I came face to face with Hanh. When our eyes met, he gave an awkward smile and walked away.
-- End Part One --
Disclaimer: Even though I alluded to 1994 Northridge Earthquake, any details here are completely made up, including the casualties. Also, it's a fictional hospital and fictional characters. Thank you for reading!Last edit by Joe V on Nov 8, '12
tokebi has '10' year(s) of experience. From 'California'; Joined Mar '10; Posts: 413; Likes: 866.2Nov 8, '12 by tokebiThank you for the comments. Part two coming up by tomorrow night, depending on my proof-reader's availability. I submitted this one without proof-reading, but intend to fully edit the subsequent parts. Regardless, you'll get the full story within a week.
It's a chilly rainy night outside, and as I sit here alone writing, I'm scaring the heck out of myself!