“Just remember, you’re here to visit a sick relative. If anyone asks, it’s your uncle José on your mother’s side.”
Having narrowly escaped the bombarding metal darts of the Oñate zombie clan only an hour before, we were walking briskly down a hallway on the first floor of the County/USC Medical Center (everyone in the barrio knew simply as The General Hospital). Mr. Nez was in the lead, followed by me, Pearl Gonzalez and Mr. Brown, the driver of the fake ice cream truck that had rescued us from the marauding zombies. He had driven us to the Eastside medical facility which, I had just been told, was the site of Mission Poderosa. The laboratory conducted experiments on the mutant zombie gene which someday might end mortality and give human beings eternal life.
Hey work with me on this. Just go with it–I had to!
We arrived at the bank of elevators and saw we were in a for a long wait–along with the collection of humanity that accumulates in front of the four elevator doors at the General Hospital. A teenage boy in baseball uniform nursing a broken arm, two pregnant mothers on their way to prenatal care, a tattooed ruquito in a wheel chair, showing the battle scars of years of barrio warfare, and a day laborer, the grime still on his worn Dickies with a very worried expression on his face. But everyone was quiet and polite, all waiting for the elevator that would wisk them to their respective medical destinies.
When the elevator finally showed up, our group quickly crammed in, along with the pregnant moms, the teenage Fernando Valenzuela, the veteran ruco and the harried construction worker. Before anyone could say anything, however, Mr. Nez pushed a button to the basement floor.
“Going down” he announced emphatically.
I could tell everyone was pissed. They were all going up. They looked at each other and decided they’d get out and wait for another elevator. When they were all out, the elevator door closed on our small group as we descended to the basement floor. Mr. Nez, meanwhile, reached into the bag he had been carrying.
“Here,” he said as he handed out cotton face masks. “Put these on.”
Pearl and I looked at each other, nodded our heads. Hey, just go with it remember.
When the elevator door opened on the basement floor we all started get out, but Mr. Nez motioned us back. He pulled a credit card out of his pocket and slid it along the elevator control box. Suddenly a new floor appeared on the elevator gauge.”Lower basement” The damn thing hadn’t been there before. Now all of a sudden a “Lower Basement” floor existed.
Within moments the elevator had descended again and this time when the door opened we found ourselves in an empty sterile hallway with white walls. Adjacent to the elevator a sign with an arrow indicated: “Contagious Diseases- Permit Required.”
Mr. Nez was in the lead again, Pearl and I and Mr. Brown following along. We came to the entrance to a hospital wing. The double doors were closed. Sitting at a desk adjacent to the entrance was a guard wearing a face mask and thumbing through a boxing magazine.
“Excuse me,” Mr. Nez said,” We’re here to visit a relative, Mr. José Buendia.”
The guard looked at us with suspicion. Then he examined the clipboard he held. I could see a long string of names on it. His finger went down and then stopped on a particular name.
“Yes, Mr. José Buendia is here. Go right in.” He looked up at Mr. Nez and winked.
We followed Mr.Nez as he plowed through the double doors and into the hospital wing. Or so it seemed. There was a nurse’s station with two nurses chatting away, a small waiting area with chairs but no visitors, and beyond we could see another set of closed double doors. For all appearances, a typical hospital waiting room.
And then the entire floor began to move.
I suddenly realized that we were not in a waiting room at all, we were in yet another elevator! Except this time, the entire waiting room was the elevator and we were descending once more.
After what seemed like an eternity but was probably not more than three or four minutes, the room stopped moving and came to a stop with a slight jolt.
One of the doors at the end of the hallway opened and what looked like a medium sized pit bull and German Shepard mix came bounding through the door. The short haired dog looked pretty menacing and Pearl and I took a step back. The dog seemed to single me out. She came directly to me jumped up and immediately started licking my face. In a second I was busy scratching the back of his ears, and then, as she slid on her back, scratching her belly. She was hardly menacing, just a delightful little pup.
“She seems to have taken a liking to you,” someone said.
I looked up to see that a twenty-something woman had entered the fake waiting room. She wore black eyeglasses and was dressed in a doctor’s smock.
“I’m Dr. Martínez,” she said, “and welcome to Mission Poderosa. You must be Pearl and Lazaro.”
“Yeah, that us.” Pearl replied
“Well I’m so glad to see you. Especially after the fright you had today. You’re safe here. Consider this your new home.”
“Such a cute dog,” Pearl said, joining me in scratching the dog’s belly.
“She’s a very special dog.” Mr. Nez, interjected, giving Dr. Martínez a knowing look.
“Yes, that she is.” Dr. Martinez replied. “Her name is Vida…Life! And I’ll bet she’s the first zombie dog you’ve ever met!”
Copyright 2013 by Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productoins Inc.