Today’s the day the man promised to kill one of us. I found out that Kelsey had the seal break and the blood loss. I don’t know how much blood, but for her small size, it doesn’t surprise me that she’s been in and out of consciousness since then. The debate between my coworkers and me raged on, most of us in a state of hysteria.
“Okay, three deferrals in one day,” Emily said, she works in the quality department, “That should be pretty memorable. Right, Ben?”
I rolled my eyes. Emily hadn’t worked in the areas for a long time. While she saw the paper trail, no one realized how much the phlebotomist’s brain dumped, or blocked memories, at the end of a working day. Most of us don’t remember who we stuck the day before. It all looks like the same day to us.
“No, that could have been any day,” I said, “you know that our numbers have been on the downslope lately.”
My stomach grumbled, and I moaned in discomfort. No food since I arrived, but the man hooked me up to a saline bag last night. It felt like ice water in my veins. The shivers still hadn’t completely dissipated. I hate listening to people, not in the areas trying to tell us how it should be so different.
“Think guys,” Luke said, “don’t fight each other. Ben, do you remember July 28th?”
“No, I already told you,” I replied, irritation starting to rise in my voice, “I try to forget the day as soon as the shift ends.”
“That’s your problem, none of you care,” The man said. “We are just donors to you, and you are the worst of all, Luke. As the Center Manager, you should know better than anyone the donors you permanently defer.”
Wait, he didn’t say that before. Permanent deferrals didn’t happen that often, so maybe I can remember him. Luke laid on the bed across from me, but I couldn’t see his face. Sunlight started to creep in through the sliver of the blinds that sat offset. I hoped the man wouldn’t notice. As more light entered the room, I realized that we were, in fact, at work.
“It is time for your first guess,” The man said, “come to a decision quickly.”
“Wait,” Emily said, frantic worry in her voice, “I think I remember reviewing his chart. I think it was Bret Foster.”
“Is that your final answer?” The man asked.
A collective grumble of approves came from the group.
“Yes,” Emily said, “You are Bret Foster, even through your distorted voice, I can hear it.”
The man burst into a maniacal sound that bordered on laughter and sorrow.
“Very well,” The man said. “Luke, seeing as you’re the Center Manager and responsible for all of the operations, I guess that you will die first.
“What?!” Luke yelled, “no, no, no. I can’t die. I have a family!”
Luke started to sob as I heard the PQR3 machine slow down its hum. Has it been drawing the entire time? Click. He can’t think of killing us with seal breaks. But in the bleak light, I could see the anticoagulant bag that hung empty above the machine.
“I had a family too, and you took them away from me!” The man yelled.
The pumps started to rotate toward Luke. I saw clear fluid when I should have seen blood going back. Even for a larger man, too much Anticoagulant would cause severe damage. First, I saw Luke start to lick his lips as he opened and closed his mouth.
“You may experience a metallic taste in your mouth,” The man said in his customer service voice. “And you may feel a tingling sensation in your fingers.”
Luke wasn’t talking. No one spoke for some reason. I didn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. But I didn’t think that any cries for mercy could dissuade this man? I watched Luke’s fingers stop moving and what looked like him trying to raise his arms turned out to be the muscles contracting on their own as an audible scream escaped his trembling lips. I could see Luke’s face turn red and swell before his body began to convulse. When Luke stopped moving, everyone started to yell for the man to stop, but he’d left my sightline. So I didn’t know if he was even still there. Luke fell still. The machine gave it’s ten beeps to signal the end of the procedure. Luke remained motionless.
“Luke,” I said, tears threatened to choke off my words, “please tell me you’re still alive.”