• Lucifer Storm

DESPERATE TIMES



     The rumbling pollution of moans, groans, hustle and bustle filled the air of the shopping centre and was framed by the occasional shriek of an excited child. The Christmas decorations were sprawled across the ceilings and balconies of the shopping centre like spider webs laced with glitter and cheer. It was Christmas Eve alright, and no one was allowed to forget it.      Everything seemed to be business as usual for the stores, employees and the 'late again' Christmas shoppers who reluctantly shoved and pushed their way through the shopping centre, hoping that their last minute shopping spree would come to an end soon. That was until a crowd began to form on the lower floor of the busy mall. Is he alright?      Is he okay?      Is he hurt?      Is he dead?      Questions filled the air above the heads of the crowd that had formed around a middle-aged businessman who was laid on the floor. He kept still, laying on his left-hand side, and didn't say a word. His eyes continually blinked,  his skin was blotched and his five o'clock shadow had just started to come through. But his grey two-piece suit was immaculate.      Several of the shoppers tried talking to him to see if there was something wrong, but silence was the only response the businessman would give to them. The shoppers started to panic, unsure of what to do. They couldn't just leave him there, but they couldn't do anything if they didn't know what was wrong with him. But luckily for the businessman in the grey two-piece suit, someone had called the paramedics the moment they saw him laying on the floor.      He had been there for almost half an hour as the elderly shoppers stayed close by to make sure he was okay, and all while the younger shoppers floated past with their cell phones in hand, videoing the strange occurrence they saw before them. But it wasn't long until the paramedics arrived to handle the situation.      The two paramedics, John & Loraine, entered the shopping mall with a sense of calm worn upon their faces and a sense of urgency in their steps. They both wore crisp white clothing and carried large green medical bags hoisted over their shoulders.      'Five bucks says it's an old woman who slipped on the marble again,' John said with an air of arrogance to Loraine as they slid and weaved through the sea of self-obsessed shoppers.      'No chance, Mister,' Loraine replied in a stern manner. 'You know as well as I do that nothing exciting happens on Christmas Eve. So if I took your bet I might as well give you the money now'.      'Or you could just let me take you to dinner instead,' John replied.      'How many times do I have to tell you, John,' Loraine responded as they got closer to the crowd that had surrounded the businessman in the grey two-piece suit. 'I'm not interested in cheating on my husband --- No matter how many times he's decided to screw that skinny bitch he calls a secretary'.      'Hey, You can't blame a guy for trying,' John replied with confidence.      'It's a shame you're not a guy then isn't it'?      John and Loraine got to the edge of the ever-growing crowd that surrounded the businessman in the grey two-piece suit and soon realized that things weren't going to be as easy as they anticipated.      'Oh, Jesus Christ,' Loraine sighed as she tried to look through the people in front of her. 'Okay, you stay here and do what you can to disperse the crowd. --- I saw a security guard on our way in, so he can help. I'm going to try and get through all of this and see what's going on'.      'You got it,' John replied as Loraine squeezed into the outskirts of the crowd. She didn't like to push and shove the bystanders, but she had to treat the situation as urgent until it proved to be otherwise.      'Excuse Me,' Loraine blurted as she weaved and pushed, 'Paramedic coming through --- Could you give me some room please'!      Eventually, Loraine found herself bursting through the crowd and on to the other side where she saw the businessman in the grey two-piece suit laid on the floor. She didn't see any blood, but she instantly jumped into automatic pilot none the less. She dropped to one knee close to the businessman in the grey two-piece suit, placed her large green medical bag next to her, unzipped it, pulled out a pair of latex gloves and snapped them on.      'Good afternoon, Sir,' Loraine began, 'My name is Loraine. --- Could you tell me your name, please'?      'I'm fine!' The businessman in the grey two-piece suit shouted. 'Leave me alone!' Loraine was taken aback by the volatile response she received. But she had to press further to understand what was going on.      'Sir, I'm a paramedic and I'm here to help you,' Loraine said in a soft and warming tone, hoping that the businessman in the grey two-piece suit would be kinder towards her.      'It's not me who needs help,' he replied with venom in his voice, 'It's these idiots who are just staring and lurking --- I'm a healthy, forty-three-year-old man. I have no broken bones, no neck or back problems, no heart problems --- In fact, the only thing wrong with me is that I had a sneezing fit this morning shortly after breakfast'.      'Could you all please give us some room?!' Loraine shouted as she turned her head around in order to address the ever-growing crowd. The shoppers shuffled back slightly, giving Loraine and the businessman in the grey two-piece suit a little more room as requested. Loraine turned her attention back to the businessman as he continued to lay still on the floor.      'Then could you tell me, Sir --- If there is nothing wrong with you, then why are you laying on the floor'?      'It's none of your business,' The businessman in the grey two-piece suit replied. 'Besides I know what you're thinking --- Yes, this is strange, but this concerns no-one here except me --- I'm not causing any harm to anyone, so all I need from you and all of these vultures is for everyone to go about their business as usual, and leave me the hell alone'.      Loraine wasn't quite sure what to do. Something wasn't right and she could feel it in her gut. But then she looked at the businessman's eyes. He couldn't stop blinking. It was as if he was trying to stop himself from crying. So Loraine looked around at the faces of the concerned bystanders as she tried to process her thoughts when all of a sudden she had an idea that no-one else seemed to have thought of trying.      'Will you just leave already?!' The businessman in the grey two-piece suit demanded as he continued to lay still on the floor. Loraine turned her head back to focus on the businessman and forget about the crowd around her.      'I can't do that I'm afraid,' Loraine replied as she began to lower her body onto the floor.      'What are you doing?' Asked the businessman in the grey two-piece suit as panic swept across his face while the rest of his body remained still and motionless.      'Just relax,' Loraine said in a comforting manner. She laid her body on the floor and mirrored the position that the businessman in the grey two-piece suit was laid in. Her eyes began to lock with his until a small blue flash caught her attention. She thought it might have been the flash from a cell phone as a bystander took a quick picture, but then she moved her eyes to the side of the businessman's face that was closest to the floor. And after a few seconds, she saw another tiny little blue flash. It was a Bluetooth earpiece that the businessman in the grey two-piece suit had been wearing this whole time. But no-one else had noticed it until now.      'My name is Gary,' the businessman in the grey two-piece suit said to Loraine in a hushed tone as his skin slowly turned white from the fear that flooded through his veins.      'It's nice to meet you, Gary,' Loraine replied. 'Now, do you want to explain to me why you're lying on the floor in the middle of a busy shopping centre when there is nothing physically wrong with you'?      'I'm lying on this floor,' Gary began, 'Because if I move just one inch --- One millimetre --- then they're going to kill my daughter'. Gary's eyes began to well up. 'It's her birthday today,' He continued, 'She's only five years old'.      'Okay, Okay,' Loraine said calmly, trying to avoid the fear that she could feel wash over her. 'Who are 'they''?      'I can't tell you,' Gary replied as tears began to roll over his cheek before leaping towards the marble floor beneath him. 'They wanted me to do this in order to spare her life. No-one else was meant to be involved. But then you showed up, and now you're a part of this. They're telling me that they want you to do something in order to spare my daughter's life'.      'And what do they want me to do, Gary?' Loraine asked as her throat began to feel dry. Gary stared deep into Loraine's eyes as the tears rolled over the bridge of his nose.      'Send more paramedics'.