Dr. Miguel Guitierrez – Hospital

The walls of the infirmary were dull and pallid. The same white and grey scheme carried on throughout the hospital, with the sheets on the beds, the doctors' coats, and the patients' gowns. The only difference in the monochromatic air of the hospital corridors would be the occasional intern wearing scrubs, or someone in their street clothes, perhaps in to visit a friend or relative.

Dr. Guitierrez was in a rather poor mood. He had been awake for over twenty-four hours, keeping himself going with the constant intake of hot, caffeinated lattes. He knew it wasn't healthy to stay awake for so long, but with all that was going on, he couldn't find the time to sleep.

Miguel Guitierrez had left the Oregon Health Sciences University in 1987 for a new job in Sperry. After his long internship, he became a general practitioner at the Saint Cloud's Medical Center in Sperry. Personally, he hated working in a hospital. He found it to be very depressing, with all the death and illness. The dismal demeanor of the hospital only deepened his skeptic, almost nihilistic views on life. Nevertheless, he worked to help others, which was what he thought was a man's single greatest calling.

His wife had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Sometimes his friends would jokingly ask him how, if he was a doctor, his wife could ever get sick. He always returned such idiotic remarks with an angry put-down. Being a doctor doesn't make you or your loved ones goddamned invincible.

He sighed, silently wishing it were so. But being a physician didn't help you to save the lives of the people you care about. If anything, it taught one to distance himself from the rest of the world. A doctor was surrounded by death. If he ever grew too attached to one person, it would only hurt more when they go. That was why Guitierrez never got to know his patients too well.

But it was just a regular morning for him. He was held within a caffeine-induced insomnia, too busy to be bothered by sleeping. He took a sip from his morning cup of coffee, letting the warm, bitter liquid run to the back of his throat.

"Dr. Guitierrez?" He spun around in his seat. "Doctor, we have a patient who wants to see you."

"What is it?" he asked gruffly.

"It's a man," the nurse said. "He's been bitten by something."

-----

Dr. Guitierrez paced the room, his white coat trailing behind him. Ray Jacham sat on the bed, his bloody hand wrapped in a towel. The man's wife stood behind him, her hands at his shoulders. Guitierrez sighed. "What exactly happened, Mr. Jacham?"

"We were driving down the road," he said nervously. "We accidentally hit a man. When I got out to see if he was okay, he bit me in the hand. I got back into the truck, and he began attacking it, like he was crazy or something."

"Have you called the police?"

"No."

Guitierrez brushed his bangs out of his eyes. "We'll have you do that soon. Right now, let's examine the wound."

Ray nodded, and began to unwind the bandage. Guitierrez looked closely at the bite. The skin between the thumb and the index finger was torn open, the tiny pulse of the radial artery almost visible. The indentations of the incisors and canines could be seen. The wound appeared to be only skin-deep.

"It doesn't look like anything to get excessively worried over," Guitierrez said calmly, "but we should probably check it for infections. You might be needing stitches."

Ray looked up and nodded his head. He looked back down at his hand, the sticky blood drying on his palm.

-----

Guitierrez returned to his coffee mug. He only had a few short minutes before the scan of Jacham's blood was presented to him. He wasn't worried, it was only a bite mark.

In his years as a doctor, he had seen many bites. Dog bites, snake bites, all sorts of bites. His first incident was early in his career, when he had met a girl whose entire nose had been torn off by a neighbor's dog. She had survived, and now lived in Oregon City as a school counselor. She had a prosthetic nose.

The second incident was a boy who had been bitten by a brown recluse spider. The spider was a pet that had been brought over by a daring relative. The bite had the characteristic necrosis of a recluse bite, the wound growing to roughly the size of a quarter. The wound healed in time, and the boy survived.

Later in his career, he saw several other animal bites. One was a woman who had been bitten by a rattlesnake, one was a zookeeper bitten by a cougar. Two others had come from dogs. Guitierrez had grown to dislike dogs. The wounds were often deep and brutal. Angry dogs don't just nip at a person, they latch onto their arm and thrash them about.

But what was weird about this one was that it wasn't an animal bite, it was from a human. He found it hard to believe that a person would be wandering through the woods, waiting to bite anyone who passed. He worried that perhaps Jacham hadn't been telling the truth about the bite, and that perhaps it had come from someone else.

He spun around in his chair just as his nurse entered his office. "Doctor, we just finished the examination of Jacham's blood."

"And?" Guitierrez took a sip from his drink.

"It's infected."

He frowned. "Infected with what?"

"We don't know. It's an unidentified virus."

Guitierrez sighed. "Run another test. I want you to find out what's in his bloodstream."

His nurse nodded, and walked out through the door. Guitierrez looked down into his mug, his face reflecting in the rippling liquid. He groaned, and took another deep drink.