The Cull: Prologue One

Perth, Australia 12:01 a.m.

          It was a quiet night on the maternity ward in the Royal Perth Hospital.[1]  Dr. Amelia Taylor scrolled through patient records on her iPad with a frown.  “Cammie,” she called to the nurse at the desk, “look at this.  It looks like every single baby born yesterday is female.  Could that be a software glitch?  What are the odds…”

          Amelia’s voice trailed off as she caught sight of a middle-aged man coming out of one of the patient rooms down the hall.  As he turned toward the nurses’ station, the rubber sole of his sneaker caught against the waxed linoleum tile with a sharp squeak, causing him to stumble.

          Later, when asked to recount the events on the ward that night, Amelia would compare her perception of events to moving through a horror movie opening sequence frame-by-frame:

          *click* The exhausted new father stumbles and begins to fall.

          *click* Amelia lurches forward instinctively, fully aware she is much to far away to catch him.

          *click* A clattering, clanging crash splits the air.

          *click* As the sound of vibrating metal fades, a wild, anguished scream starts, and doesn’t stop.

          *click* The emergency lights over the doors, windows, and elevators begin to flash; an eerie, silent pulse in the dimmed corridors.

          *click* Madeline, the ward’s on-call midwife for the evening shouts from a patient room “Dr. Parker is down!  I need a doctor and a code cart!”

          *click* From yet another patient room, frantic cries of “Jake? Wake up, Jake? Somebody help!” come with growing desperation.

          As Amelia turned in a circle, bombarded from every angle with cries for help, unable to determine where to move first, her eyes fell on the scene outside the double-paned windows.

          The world below was in chaos.

          Emergency lights flashed in every window.  An ambulance had crashed into the pylons in front of the emergency room.  Two people had collapsed in the parking lot.  No one seemed to be coming to their aid.

          Amelia knew that whatever was happening extended far beyond the sound-proofed calm of what is typically the quietest, happiest ward in the hospital.

          Quickly, Amelia crossed to the big double door separating the ward proper from the waiting room.  She engaged the manual deadbolts before crossing to the nurses’ station and disabling the electronic lock release.

          “Cammie!” Amelia had to shout to be heard over the ever-increasing cacophony of wailing women and children. “Lock down the ward.  Move all children to the nursery.  Not just the newborns, take any siblings that are here as well.  Once all the children are secure, come back and help me with the adults.”

          Amelia grabbed the handle of the code cart kept beside the nurses’ station and pushed it toward the room where Dr. Stephen Parker, the anesthesiologist, had been placing an epidural when he fell.  But even as she ran, Amelia couldn’t shake the feeling that it was far too late for her to help anyone.

[1] This is a work of fiction.  The real Royal Perth Hospital doesn’t have a maternity ward.

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