It would take another hour before Maiken was given a bed and some attention. A doctor with the eyes of a sleep deprived raccoon and hair so messed up it looked like a bird's nest appeared by her bedside and introduced herself:
"I'm Dr. Frances Diu. I'll be your doctor today."
She rattled the line off like it was a password read into a microphone, flat, without emotion, perfunctory, all the while writing on a clipboard.
"It says here you have a head wound and an injured shoulder?" she looked up from the board and leaned in to take a look at Maiken's head, a mess of blood crusted hair obscuring her vision. She put the clipboard down and carefully inspected the wound with gloved fingers.
Satisfied with what she saw, she used some gauze and tape to cover the wound.
"You'll need stitches, but it can wait. Someone will come over and get that sorted for you. Now for that shoulder…"
She again started by taking a distant look at Maiken, then went in to poke and prod and move the arm and shoulder around.
"It's dislocated," she said, as Maiken's face went through more contortions of pain than Kenneth had ever seen.
"OK, you have two options," the doctor continued, cradling the injured arm in Maikens other arm and stepping away. "You are in a lot of pain right now I can see. Reducing, that is resetting the shoulder will be quite uncomfortable due to how long you've waited. We could give you an anesthetic to take the edge off, but if you want to take that route, you'll have to wait since there are other patients in more acute need than you." She gestured around at the other people lying on stretchers or on the ground or leaning against a wall or against someone else. "Or we can get it done now, without anesthesia. It'll be relatively quick and we'll do our best to keep the pain at a minimum."
Maiken looked at Kenneth who looked around at the other injured, then back at her.
"Do it now." she said, wincing in pain as she shifted her position.
"OK!" Dr. Diu responded, waving over a nurse to help out.
When the "reduction" as they called it was done, Maiken passed out on the bed from exhaustion.
"I think the sudden loss of pain might have done it," Dr. Diu said patting Alfred on the head before walking away.
A few minutes later, another person who introduced themselves only as "Edwards" came over with a suture kit and started cleaning the area around Maiken's head wound. She woke up from the prodding and looked startled for a moment before seeing Alfred and Kenneth leaning over her. Her body noticeably relaxed and she glanced back at Edwards who sat by her head and said "I just had my shoulder reset. Do your worst!" with a wink and a tired smile.
Two hours later they were back in their house, Alfred sleeping on Kenneth's chest, Maiken trying to find a comfortable position in the couch. They had planned to recover their car on their way back, but when they got to it other vehicles had boxed it in to the point it couldn't be moved at all. Somehow the cars on the street and sidewalk had multiplied, no doubt as a result of other people having the same idea as they had; to drive to the hospital. In hindsight it was foolish and shortsighted, exactly the kind of decision one would make while in shock.
They slept, for what felt at the same time like an eternity and just a blink. When Maiken woke up some indeterminate time later, she found Alfred curled up in Kenneth's embrace, both of them turned on their sides in the couch with the toddler taking up so much room her husband barely fit. She got up as quietly as she could and snuck out of the living room to visit the bathroom. As she washed her hands she looked at herself in the mirror for the first time since the Blackout. The person staring back at her looked 10 years older, hair matted and caked in dried blood, face sullen, drained of color, and with large dark rings under the eyes, skin dry and sagging. She tilted her head to the side and used her fingers to remove the bandage and part the hair around her wound to see what it looked like. After trying for a couple of minutes to get in the right position she realized her eyes would never point in the right direction so she pulled out the magnifying makeup/shaving mirror on the wall and used it to create a double reflection. Edwards, the nurse/volunteer/doctor/med student/whatever had done a commendable job. In time the two inch ridge of stitches and blood would subside becoming a hidden scar only she and Kenneth would know. She stepped out of the bathroom, walked over to the kitchen, and drank three glasses of water. Outside the sun was emerging from a bank of clouds, in the couch Alfred was making the grunting sounds of a child emerging from sleep, and on the counter in front of her lay a note she had written to herself at some point over the past crazy weeks:
"Life comes in lumps."
It was something her father's mother's brother's sister had said once as an explanation for why live seems to be an endless succession of long periods of dull mundanity interspersed by stretches of intense chaos. Life comes in lumps. May this be the end of the current one. She put her forearms on the counter, tilted her pelvis so her legs and back were straight, let her head fall forward, and started to laugh. In the couch Kenneth's voice, heavy with sleep, asked "What's so funny?"
Five days later, two Sentry appeared at their door.
"Mr. Valen, we are sorry to inform you the body of your sister Julia was found five days ago, just before the Blackout. The investigation is ongoing. What I can tell you is her husband, Michael Chopade, has been charged with her murder."