“Is this really necessary?” Tink growled as the wheelchair jerked to a stop. “I’m just getting into an Indigo Beam, so what’s the point?” Swiveling his skull completely around, he leaned over the armrest and shoved his face at Sammy, cracking his jaws together several times. The small gnome jump backwards in alarm and lost his hat which landed in a heap on the floor. “And you keep rolling on my cloak!”
A large Rhinoceros Beetle, openly showing signs of crust contagion veered sharply away, passing the pair on the right as opposed to its original, left-sided route. Scraping its shell against the guard railing in the process, it crushed the hat with a sharp hind foot. The bright lights of the hallway made the very tip of its crusty dome glitter like mercury. Sammy glowered after the beast while Tink cracked his jaws louder.
“Stop doing that!” the gnome hissed and picked his hat off the floor. “You’re scaring the other patients.” The dirty, white, tassel, flattened beyond recovery, looked to be holding on by a single thread. He tried unsuccessfully to fluff it a bit, then sighed and just pulled the hat onto his head where it rested a little to the left, the side seam having split at the base. He glanced at Tink who was still staring at him over the arm of the chair.
“Did I do that?”
Ignoring the question, Sammy waved at the skeleton to turn around. Grabbing the lower, secondary handles of the chair he dug his boots against the floor and pushed.
“It’s hospital policy that everyone leaves in a chair,” he growled as they started to roll. “And your cloak is too long.”
Radiating indignation, Tink straightened up and gathered the flowing, dark gray fabric into an ugly bunch around both of his thigh bones, leaving his feet and shins exposed. “My cloak is exactly the length it needs to be!”
“Whatever,” Sammy grunted.
Stopping at the Discharge Desk located only a few feet away from the Indigo Exit Beam, Sammy set the brakes and mounted the four steps that allowed him to speak to the sitting clerk face to face while Tink stared vacantly into the beam and waited.
Painfully slender and ghastly pale, with overgrown, shedding, hair branches, the Birch Elf dead-eyed the gnome. Perched at his right elbow was a pot of marigolds sagging in their soil. The drooping heads barely moved as the shadow of the Sammy’s hat passed over them.
“Patient name?” His voice was soft and whispery with only a hint of creaking. He looked unfazed as Sammy crossed his arms over his chest and cocked an eyebrow.
“Seriously, Alba? You know who this is.”
“It’s policy, Sammy, I have to ask.” Having no eyebrows of his own, the clerk could only stare as Tink tittered from his chair in a high voice.
“It’s policy, Sammy.”
Dropping one hand below the counter where the elf couldn’t see, the gnome showed the skeleton a middle finger.
“Fine,” he stated. “The patient’s name is Tink.” He turned and grinned at the cloaked figure. “If there is anyone left in this place that doesn’t know who you are, I’ll eat what’s left of my hat.”
“There is a new admission in the Burn Ward,” Alba offered. “Almost vaporized, but managed to shadow herself at the last second. I’ll bet she doesn’t know him.” Tink’s head jerked around at this information and his jaws separated, the lower one dropping almost to his chest.
“Are you joking? Who is it?”
Sammy shook a finger at him while giving the elf a hard look. “You know we can’t just give that information out to –”
“Metoria,” the clerk said loudly, cutting Sammy off. He leaned to the side to look around the gnome, his elbow bumping against the marigold pot. The flowers shuddered and one head turned to face the edge of the counter, dropping two of its curling, orange petals which fell like coins onto the tiles below. “Did you know her, Tink? She was a member of the Night Terrors too.” He smiled nastily, a small teardrop of sap forming in one corner of his mouth. “At least she knew how to pull her shadow, huh? Had she not done that she would have been completely vaporized.” The frail branches of the clerk’s hair shuddered dramatically. “I’ll bet that would have been painful.” Tink snapped his jaw shut with a vicious crack and looked away.
Sammy’s gray eyes looked as brittle as dragon stones as he leaped onto the top of the Discharge Desk and snarled into the clerk’s face. “Why don’t you work on your Patient Relation skills and just hit the button.”
“Sure thing,” the elf purred. One long, finger reached out to flip the Exit toggle to ON.
The Indigo Beam began to hum faintly as purple light swelled outward from the center, filling the entire five foot, cylindrical space from ceiling to floor with dark light that pulsed like a heartbeat. All along the hallway employees and patients alike paused to stare at the beam with rapturous expressions.
“Hurry up,” Alba snapped averting his eyes. “After sixty-three seconds you know everyone will just start throwing themselves into it.”
“It would serve you right,” Sammy muttered as he hopped down the steps. “C’mon Tink, let’s blow this joint.” Slouched in the chair the skeleton didn’t respond. Throwing his weight behind the handles the gnome pedaled his feet against the floor. For a second nothing happened.
Releasing the folds of his cloak, Tink raised his head and planted both hands on the large wheels. Unlocking both brakes simultaneously he rolled quickly forward, abruptly pulling the handle grips from Sammy’s grasp. Yelping in surprise the gnome pinwheeled in place.
“Don’t eat your hat!” the skeleton yelled as he steered the chair into the beam. There was a small popping sound followed by a wisp of black smoke as Tink vanished, leaving behind the sharp, inappropriate scent of citrus. An instant later the elf flipped the toggle to OFF and smiled.