It had been a good night. As far as nights go, when working the 7PM to 7AM shift, yes, it was definitely a good night. None of the postoperative patients had had any issues. The parents were pleasant, there were no overly loud visitors we had to deal with, and all in all everyone had been really well-behaved. We didn’t have any of those Moms with the big bosoms, the full-arm tattoos hanging at the Nurse’s Station wanting to talk about themselves for hours on end, while we tried to appear to be politely listening and getting our meds ready and the kids settled in for the night.
At around 11PM, feeling very pleased with ourselves, because everything had gone so smoothly this far into the shift, we sat down to begin the mind-numbing job of checking off lists and charts in the computer. We all hated this part of the job, filling in boxes to appease the accreditation organizations and the administrators, to prove that we were doing what they thought we should be doing. It didn’t matter that the the kids improved, and went home safely, having recovered from their surgeries. That didn’t matter. The only thing that did, was that all the boxes were checked. We as nurses, didn’t write notes anymore, we just clicked, clicked, clicked the mouse, checking each box. Sometimes I just felt like we were glorified secretaries with all the computer work that had become part of our jobs. So there we sat, at the Nurse’s Station, 3 mouses (or is it mice, the plural form of computer mouse) creating a staccato concert of clicking.
The overhead lights had been dimmed. The only lights on, were the Nurse’s Station lights, and the lights that illuminated the floors of the hallway. We could hear the nurses down the hall, in the next patient section over, talking, and their central monitoring system beeping. Apparently their night was not going as smoothly as ours. We could see them scurrying around, still very busy.
Somewhere, down the hall, in our section, an IV pump alarmed. The nurse assigned to that particular patient, went off down the hall to find out what was going and to silence the alarm. The quiet of the night returned. Momentarily. And then, a very small giggle of a child. The two of us, who remained at the Nurse’s Station looked up simultaneously, eyebrows raised. I was about to ask if my coworker had heard the sound, but it was quite apparent she had. We listened. And then two distinctly different giggles could be heard. And then a scampering of little tiny bare feet, on the tile floors, running and stopping. More giggles. We both stood up, and leaned over the desk, and looked down the hallways, one direction and then the other. We listened.
I walked quietly over the other end of the Nurse’s Station and looked down the hall, to the closed section, the section that had been shut down for the weekend. It was really unnervingly dark. The highly polished tile floor shone from the lights of our Nurse’s Station and became swallowed into darkness down the hall towards the closed section. More pattering of bare feet, then nothing. More giggles, more running, bare feet on the tile floors, the sounds were becoming louder, as if the individuals responsible for the noise, were getting braver, more ballsy. And then out of the darkness, a slam of a patient room door, from the closed section, echoed down the hall towards us. The sound reverberated through the quietness.
I jumped back behind the Nurse’s Station, and stood close to my coworker. She was leaning over the desk, with her arms up on the counter, whispering for our other coworker. She was the braver one. She stuck her head out the patient room door and said she would be right there. As we waited for her to return, we distinctly heard a different sound, as swish, roll, swish, roll, getting louder, getting closer. I apprehensively peered down the dark hall, leading to the closed section, and there it was. Coming directly towards us.
A red ball.
Rolling furiously – swish, roll, swish, roll. Rolling straight as an arrow, coming with speed down the hall, not slowing, but decidedly picking up speed as it approached. It rolled right past the Nurse’s Station and across the intersecting hallway, and slammed into the wall, bouncing back, rocking back and forth and coming to a standstill. At that very same moment, our coworker, came out of the patient room down the hall. She had seen everything. Looking over the Nurse’s Station, we saw her standing, statue-still, in the hallway, facing towards us, staring down at the red ball.
And then, out of the darkness from the closed section, down the hall from us – every patient room light flickered on, alarms beeping, beeping, as if to say, come down here, we need assistance. We just stared at the red ball, in the hallway. And then the hysterical giggles began.