Nurse Taffy

Feeling hopeless was exhausting…even annoying. Yet, it was something Che had come to agree to, though he couldn’t remember the exact moment he signed up for it. The illusory recital hall faded in and out of sight, its cleverly slanted walls built for optimal acoustics. The chairs were ancient and had likely been there since the hall was built decades ago, when things were made of sturdier stuff. Maybe that was what Che needed more than anything else, to be sturdier.

“How was he acting right before the incident?”

“He seemed pretty normal, I guess. I didn’t think anything was wrong.”

“Were his words slurring before he collapsed? Did he do anything unusual?”

“No, he just kinda zoned out and stopped walking. Then he tumbled.”

“Hmmm.”

The recital hall finally began to fade, transitioning to a different environment. Che now found himself standing in what looked like an empty cafeteria in Legaros Tower, gazing out of a large window at the campus below. His eyes scanned its perimeter before settling on the area just behind Legaros Tower where access was restricted. One building in particular stood out to Che, and he couldn’t figure out why until he saw the figure standing on its roof, his sinister brown eyes and wide grin immediately unsettling him. Yokan peered up at Che, seeming to be far away and close all at once, before mouthing something Che shouldn’t have been able to hear. Yet, the words rang in his head just as clearly as if Yokan were in the room with him.

“Come to the Marbot Research Facility. You’re almost there.”

The empty cafeteria then faded to black as Che realized that he was once again lying on his back. Would he wake up and find himself in another arena with new opponents to fight? Maybe this time he’d actually find himself back in his home with a few hours to spare before his interview. He wondered where Nikki had gone after class, why she wasn’t with him when he fell.

The first things he could feel were his fingers, and he slowly balled up his right fist as he struggled to open his eyes. Light blue walls appeared before him, followed by two faces eyeing him with concern. Tyson was standing, his hands still clutching the straps of his backpack, while a woman with dark brown hair and a white nurse’s uniform peered down at Che.

“It seems he’s awake now,” she observed, her purple eyes assessing him.

“Rowan!” Tyson exclaimed. He dropped his backpack on the ground with a thud and rushed over to the bed. “You passed out on me! What happened?”

The nurse shushed Tyson, pulling back the curtain behind her to check on another student, who appeared to be sound asleep.

“Please don’t make a commotion in here,” she scolded Tyson. “I have other students who are trying to recover.”

“Sorry, I just…Rowan, you scared me back there,” Tyson scratched the back of his head.

“I…I think I’m fine,” Che said slowly, sitting up with the nurse’s help. “What happened?”

“Apparently, you fainted,” the nurse explained. “Do you remember anything before that?”

“Yeah, we were walking down the hallway, and then I started to remember…” Che rubbed his temples, trying to will away the headache that was forming.

“Remember what?” Tyson prompted.

The recital hall flashed in Che’s mind once again, and he clenched his teeth as the memory overwhelmed him once more. The nurse noticed the change in his expression and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Breathe, Mr. Rowan,” she instructed calmly. “In through your nose, and out through your mouth.”

Che did as he was told and slowly began to feel more in control. The headache subsided, and he was able to think clearly again.

“I um…it was nothing,” he shook his head. “Nothing important. I think I’m okay now. Probably just hungry. I didn’t eat breakfast this morning.”

The nurse nodded, a smile spreading across her face. “That could be a possible reason. I was just thinking you might have been bitten by something. I’m a Venom type, so I could easily make an antidote.”

Che’s eyes widened, and he instinctively drew back from her. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary.”

“Oh, nonsense!” the nurse shooed away his concern while grabbing his arm. “Here, let me just find a vein…”

“No, really, I’m fine,” Che insisted, trying to pull away from her grip. “I don’t need an antidote.”

“Nonsense,” the nurse repeated, and her skin began to turn pale white, almost blending into her uniform. She smiled, and Che could see two fangs protruding from her upper mouth. “You obviously were bitten by something, and it’s my job to make sure you’re healthy.”

“No, really, I’m fine,” Che repeated, a note of desperation creeping into his voice. “Please, let me go. Let me go!”

The nurse finally released him, and Che scrambled off the bed, putting as much distance between them as possible. He backed into Tyson, who was still standing there with a confused look on his face.

“Oh, alright,” the nurse sighed, her skin and teeth returning to normal. “And I was so hoping I could use you as a test subject today. Perhaps another time.”

Tyson and Che exchanged glances as they simultaneously started to back away from the nurse.

“We should probably go,” Tyson said quickly, and Che nodded in agreement.

“Well, if you’re still not feeling well, be sure and come back!” the nurse called after them as they rushed out of the infirmary. “Ask for Nurse Taffy!”

“That was…weird,” Tyson commented as they made their way down the hallway. “I don’t think you should ask for that nurse, bro.”

“What gave it away?” Rowan rolled his eyes. “Her being a Venom type nurse obsessed with using students as guinea pigs or transforming into a vampire?”

Tyson came to an abrupt stop, his eyes widening. “Wait, she turned into a vampire? Are there vampires here? That’s awesome! I’ve always wanted to meet one!”

Che’s brow furrowed in confusion. Had Tyson not seen the fangs and pale skin? Of course, in a world where girls could shoot fireballs out of their hands, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for there to be vampires as well. Still, how many more strange confrontations would he have today?

“Does anything phase you?” Che sighed.

“A few things, I guess,” Tyson shrugged. “I think lunch period just started. Let’s go to the cafeteria!”

Che looked up, suddenly remembering that the infirmary was on the second floor. He thought back to the moment before everything went black in the twelfth-floor hallway. The twelfth-floor. How did he manage to get all the way down here?

“Tyson…” Che gazed up at the muscley teen, a feeling of dread washing over him as he imagined Tyson scooping him up and throwing him over his shoulder like a gym towel. “Did you…carry me all the way down here?”

Tyson nodded sheepishly. “I mean I couldn’t just leave you there. It’s roommate code.”

“Roommate code?”

“Roommate code!”

They reached the elevator, and Tyson pressed the number six. As they stepped inside, Che remembered that the sixth floor was one of the cafeterias. Yokan’s words sounded in his mind once again. There was no way that was a dream. It was too uncanny and detailed as if someone was projecting an image into his mind. Only someone like Yokan could do that, and now Che knew where he could find him. He had to find a way to reach the restricted area and confront his delusional adversary once and for all.

“I wonder what they’re serving today,” Tyson mumbled to himself as the doors closed in front of them.

Che leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes and sighing. “As long as you can find us a window seat.”