It turns out Ruth has Alzheimer’s disease. She’s also been out of medication for a little while. When I returned from my first successful hunt the best I could do was explain what was going on. After a few hours she started to come around. By the next morning she was back to her normal self. She was hesitant to explain everything to me but she didn’t really have a choice now that I knew something was wrong. She takes one of those medicines that even if you know the name you can’t spell. Ruth was diagnosed two years ago and so far her medicine has kept it in check. I immediately volunteered to get more for her. That’s when she dropped a bomb on me.
The medicine she took could not be refilled at the regular pharmacies. She always had to go to the hospital to get the prescription refilled. This meant if I wanted to get more, I would have to go into that awful place again. When I asked for the bottle so I could find the medicine she out right refused. Somehow without me telling her she knew just how bad the place was. She told me that if I got sick and died, she wouldn’t live any longer and the best thing I could do for her was to just learn what I could and live. I had to argue with her for two days but it was only when I threatened to go and raid the whole hospital pharmacy that she relented, but not without conditions.
The first condition was that I go to the medical supply shop and acquire a clean suit. Something to protect me against whatever may be in there. The second was that if I went, I had to take along something to decontaminate myself after. In this case it was a spray she made from bleach. The third was that I was only allowed to go once and never again. Only after I agreed to all her conditions did she give me the bottle.
I needed to prep first. The first thing I did was go to the medical supply shop I had found earlier in the year. They didn’t have exactly what I was looking for but they did have a full body suit that covered everything but the face. I completed my outfit with a trip to the hardware store where I acquired a full-face mask with a filter. I even got seconds of my normal break in tools. One of the conditions of my decontamination is I can’t bring the tools I use home. They have to be burned or left at the hospital.
While I was there I picked up a very useful book Ruth told me about. It’s called the pill book. It is a current guide to medications. What they look like, their shapes, colors, and markings. As well as their names and a lot of other information. I would need this to help me identify the pills. I spent some time with the book writing down other medications that were supposed to help with Alzheimer’s for when the stuff she used ran out.
I was prepared to set off early in the morning. I even acquired a second shotgun that I could take with me just in case, because anything I took in had to stay. Ruth told me again that she didn’t want me to go that morning but I refused to listen. I told her we were in this together and I was going to do what I could to keep her around. In reality half of my reason is just fear of being alone and my own ignorance. I’ve almost certain I wouldn’t last any longer without Ruth than she thinks she would survive without me.
The ride out was brisk, I kept waiting for the stink of the hospital to ruin the fresh air. I kept my clean suit in a bag until I got close enough to downtown to smell the hospital. I changed on the bypass bridge so that I could see if anything was coming. I could see the hospital from here so I left my bike and my normal shotgun for when I returned. I took my pack, the pill book, my second shotgun, and a flashlight with several extra batteries and set off for the horror show that was the hospital.
The mask I brought helped a lot with the odor, but it didn’t completely remove it. When I entered the lobby the first time I was sickened by the smell and strangely rotted bodies I saw in the gloom. Returning with my flashlight made things worse. Before I couldn’t see the bodies well. Now I had a bright unobscured view of them. They looked awful, like skeletons covered in greasy brown paper cut vaguely in the shape of people, on soiled beds. There were no bug, no mold, no scavengers of any kind.
I made my way to the directory feeling like I was in a horror game. Nothing jumped out at me, but I was tense all the same. It looked like the Pharmacy was a floor up and on the other side of the hospital. It didn’t look like a long walk. That’s what I thought until I entered my first hall way. There were beds lining both walls. Each had a body, all laying in slightly different positions. The floor was covered in the rot that looked like mud, it stuck to my shoes like syrup. I stepped as lightly as I could knowing I would have to leave these shoes here as well.
The hallway wasn’t dark, all the rooms had their doors open and light was coming through the grimy windows giving just enough light to see everything. I felt like I should want to throw up, but my stomach was a rock. For this at least I was grateful. I didn’t want to think about taking my mask off in the middle of this. The floor squelched as I walked, looking for the staircase. I lost my footing for just a second but caught myself before I fell. After catching my breath and trying not to think about falling in the feted sludge on the floor, I proceeded slower.
It felt like an hour before I made it to the staircase and rushed through the doors. Thankfully there were no bodies here. Just darkness and my own heavy breathing. There was some light, just a little coming through the arrow slit windows in each door. I clicked my flash light on and proceeded down the stairs, praying the person goo on my shoes would not make me trip.
The second floor was much like the first, with less light. I had carefully memorized the path I would have to take to the pharmacy so I could spend as little time in here as possible. Around the second corner I ran across a dead animal. I’m not sure what it was before it died, it looked like a very small dog or a very big cat, but it was more rotted than the bodies around it.
It took what felt like another hour before I got to the Pharmacy. The glass doors were locked, but that was only a problem for as long as it took to break in. A minute later and I was inside. The pharmacy had no lights. I had to rely completely on my flashlight. It also had a mindboggling amount of medicine. I pulled out my list and got to work.
The dark plays tricks on you. Especially after you’ve walked past more than a hundred rotted corpses. I kept thinking I was hearing something, but every time I stopped to look around nothing was there. It took a while but I got four of the five medications on my list. I sealed them in several layers of plastic bags for the return trip. I would have to discard the outer few layers as per my agreement with Ruth when I got back outside. The trip out was almost as bad as the trip in, as now the corpses appeared to be facing me. Nothing had moved, or so I kept praying and reassuring myself. Soon the lobby was in front of me and I walked into the day light.
Once I had gone a decent distance from the hospital, I started my decontamination like Ruth asked. I pulled the bottle of bleach solution out and started thoroughly cleaning off the outside of the suit and the bags I would be taking with me. I then started the careful process of removing the excess bags and dropping the full bags of pills away without touching them. I lost more bags than I thought I would but I did manage to get it done before I ran out. I piled the used bags up along with my flashlight and gun and backpack. I then took off my suit and threw it on the pile, doing my best not to touch the outside. I cleaned my hands with a second bottle of the solution before grabbing the medication and heading home.
Ruth was waiting outside with more of the bleach and a change of clothes. I had to let her pretty much soak me and burn the clothes I took and all but the last layer of bags before she was done. I had to clean my gun and bike before she was happy. All and all the trip wasn’t so bad. Even a week later and neither of us is sick, though I did have some pretty awful nightmares the two nights after. Ruth seem very happy, and she hasn’t had any lapses since. I hope it’s enough to keep her going for a while. I don’t want to think of what we’ll do when we run out again.
April 30, 2022