For those who didn't see it in my newsletter, here is an old favorite Halloween story of mine. Happy Halloween!
Pull Cord for Nurse
(c) Noreen Braman
Emily hated working late. The turn-of-the-century hospital building that now housed her office was creepy enough during the day. After dark, building would creak and moan, making it easy to believe the stories about the former hospital - tales of experiments and mysterious deaths. The hospital staff had been absolutely fascinated with electric devices, haphazardly running wires to power all sorts of gadgets, including hundreds of little boxes with strings hanging from them, each one labeled "pull cord for nurse."
No one had bothered removing these boxes when the building was converted to offices. Every so often, a persistent ringing or buzzing coming from some distant room would require hours of work by the electrician to find the source and shut it down; blown fuses were common. Out of desperation, the office staff had become quite adept at pulling wires and changing the old glass fuses.
Tonight, Emily hoped she wouldn't have any electrical problems, she didn't feel like stumbling around in the dark utility closet to change a fuse. But around 9 PM, with only a little flicker as a warning, the lights went out. Emily sighed and reached into her desk drawer for the flashlight. Then, she headed down the hall toward the utility room, her footsteps echoing eerily in the empty building. Swinging the flashlight around, she searched the floor for the piece of wood they used to prop open the heavy metal door, then turned to open the fuse box. Suddenly, the door crashed shut behind her. She jumped and dropped the flashlight, which immediately went out. Frantically, she dropped to her hands and knees, feeling along the floor for the light, but she couldn't find it. Although she knew she had been alone in the building, she pounded on the door, screaming for someone to come open it. Terrified at the thought of being stuck in the utility closet all night, she ran her hands along the walls for anything that might help her get out. Behind some pipes, she felt the shape of a box with a string hanging from it. In desperation, she pulled the cord, and to her great surprise, there came the sound of a bell ringing somewhere deep in the recesses of the building. Emily yanked on the cord incessantly, hoping that someone would hear her.
After what seemed like an eternity, Emily heard footsteps in the hall, slow, shuffling steps that were coming closer. "I'm in here!" she shouted. "Come open the door!" She pounded on the utility room door as the slow footsteps became louder and louder. "Hurry!" she yelled, but the footsteps continued at their slow, shuffling pace.
Finally, they stopped, right outside the door. The old doorknob turned back and forth. Emily pushed on the door. It flew open and Emily fell headfirst out into the hallway. She sat up and rubbed her shoulder, and tried to see in the darkness who had rescued her.
"Thank you," she began, then gasped. Standing above her, glowing dimly in the dark, was someone half -human, half corpse, wearing the tattered remnants of a uniform and nurse's cap.
A skeletal hand reached toward Emily and a low raspy voice said "It's time for your medicine."
In the creature's other rotten hand was a hypodermic needle, filled with a glowing blue liquid. Emily screamed and tried to crawl away. A rancid hand fastened on her leg with a surprisingly strong grip. With her free leg she kicked at the glowing needle, knocking it from the nurse's hand. The nurse hissed furiously, and let go of Emily.
Emily scrambled to her feet and stumbled down the dark hall. Behind her, the nurse had picked up the needle and was shuffling toward her. "It's time for your medicine!" she wailed.
The old hospital building seemed to creak and groan in response. As Emily raced down the hallway, the doorknobs of each room she passed shook violently, and there was pounding on the doors as if someone was trying to get out. She looked behind her to see the nurse coming closer and closer, needle raised above her glowing skull. "It's time for your medicine!" she shrieked.
Emily careened down the hall, until she finally saw the outline of the front door. Outside, the lights of the parking lot glowed brightly. Emily swung open the door and ran out into the night.
Inside the hospital, the nurse watched Emily run away. Silence descended on the building as she shuffled back down the winding halls of the building. Slowly, she lowered her decaying body into the rusted chair at the forgotten nurse's station. She put the glowing needle back on the desk with the others, and folded her bony fingers in front of her on the desk. There would be other patients who needed her, and she would wait there as she was trained to do. Forever.