Guide Us Through Our Darkest Days
Chapter 1: It's Gonna Be a Long Day
"Paluntena, are you sure this is a good idea? Hospitals are full of sick people. You're bound to catch some disgusting disease. What if you catch like… polio or something?" a fairly high-pitched voice said.
"Then it's a good thing I'm vaccinated." came a more mature voice.
"Hmph. Well whatever. I'll come and visit you when you're stuck in the iron lung just to say 'I told you so!" the higher pitched voice snapped back.
"And I'll be sure to cough all over you so that you catch some of my germs. Then we can be side-by-side iron lung buddies!"
Angel Land University is one of the leading schools in the world. It's a private school few can afford without a scholarship and even then scholarships don't even cover a pinch of the cost of semesterly tuition. The cost is for good reason, however. Angel Land is host to many famous business alumni. By the time you graduate and start your own job, the price of the tuition will be nothing compared to the money you will be making.
This brings us to one of the most promising students currently in enrollment at ALU. Lady Paluntena, or as she prefers to be called just Paluntena, is a young woman destined for greatness. Born into a wealthy family of ALU alumni, her destiny was set the moment she was born. She is the next in line to take over the Paluntena family name in the world of medicine and science. Her family comes from generations of ACU alumni and it was her ancestors that helped build and shape the medical department. This isn't at all what she wants to do with her future, however. Her dream is to start a flight enterprise business and become a pilot. Needless to say, her parents were less than thrilled when she forged documents to switch to the business center.
That being said, Paluntena is enrolled in business school along with her 'friend', Viridi Nature. The shorter, blonde haired girl's case is very similar to Paluntena's- in the sense of her being born into a family of ALU alumni and she's expected to eventually take over the family alternative energy and conservation business. Both women are aiming for the top and have high expectations from family and the school itself.
"Ugh, why do I have to do this too?" Viridi whined and put her forehead on her desk. She turned her head to look at Paluntena, who was sitting with her legs crossed on a green beanbag chair.
Paluntena was currently looking over paper in her lap. Without looking up, she hummed back, "Technically you didn't have to do this for volunteer work. You could have signed up for anything you wanted when the sign-up sheets first came out. I was working on my statistics project so I didn't get a chance to look at the list, unlike you who waited until the last minute."
Viridi quickly turned her head to instead look at her dorm wall. The rooms weren't huge but they weren't small either. Each student was assigned a single room in a sort of apartment complex styled building. Viridi was located on the sixth floor, while Paluntena's room was currently on the eighth floor. The blonde's room had a very earthy tone to it. All around the room were potted plants that she grew herself. Delicate orchids dangled next to her desk lamp and loose ivy crawled down her bookshelf.
Viridi picked herself up and took a look at the form that was near the corner of her desk.
Did you finish all of your homework? Are you looking for extra credits? Haven't completed the ALU required volunteer hours? Then this sheet is for you! All ALU students are required to attend a 6 hour minimum weekly volunteer job of their choosing for a total of 100 volunteer hours. Students are required to write a report at the end of their volunteer time, going over experiences they have had and detailing how it may or may not fit into their career path.
Last updated: 8/12/19
Farm Land: FULL
Paws and Claws: FULL
Residential home/Living assistance: FULL
Children's Ward: OPEN
Soup Kitchen: FULL
"I still think that this is a bad idea. I know I'll get assigned the snot nosed kid with pneumonia or appendicitis nerd." Viridi signed and grabbed her pen. It was a pink pen with purple ribbon around it and at the top of it was a ball of fluff that shed everywhere. At the bottom she selected 'Children's Ward' and signed her name in half-assed cursive.
"They won't give you a contagious child, Viridi. We'll get assigned someone else, like…. Like a temporary in-house patient or a terminally ill patient." Paluntena reached up from her spot in the beanbag chair and put her paper on top of Viridi's. Paluntena's signature was elegant.
Viridi looked at the green haired woman with a blunt face. "Uh-huh… and that makes it better how?"
"It doesn't. Do you mind dropping these off at the volunteer center at some point today? Can I trust you that they'll make it there?" Paluntena reached for her book bag and pulled out her school laptop. As soon as she opened the cover, music started blasting from the speakers to which she quickly fumbled for the volume button on her keyboard.
"Don't do that in the hospital," Viridi snorted, "you'll end up giving some poor kid a heart attack... And yes, you can trust me to bring them to the volunteer center, since you asked. I'll drop it off when I go for my 2:30 class."
"...Sounds like a plan…" Paluntena trailed off. She was already reading something on her laptop, probably an email from a professor or looking over a paper.
Viridi tried to look over Paluntena's shoulder but instead she just slipped out of her chair and landed on her fluffy rug. "Ow… when is this dumb assignment supposed to start, anyway? It better not start around midterms."
The smaller woman waited for a response but nothing came.
"Ahem. I asked when the volunteer job starts." she repeated a bit louder and a bit snobbier.
"Huh? Oh, sorry, I was reading something." Paluntena snapped out of her trance to look at Viridi who was now laying on her stomach with her head in her hands on the ground. "Why are you on the floor?"
"Some things are best left unsaid." she shrugged. She crawled up and around the beanbag chair, tripping on her purple dress as she padded over on her hands and knees. "What were you reading?" she put her arms on the side of the chair, just close enough where she could see the laptop screen and not get a face full of long green hair.
"There was just breaking news of a warehouse fire down in Cape Town. Apparently it was supposed to be abandoned but it ended up being a hang out spot for some of the homeless folks."
"Click on the live video feed. I've had a boring day. I want to see some action!" Viridi punched the beanbag chair, earning a glare from Paluntena.
The video feed buffered for a moment before cutting to a live helicopter shot of the warehouse currently on fire. Windows were blasted out from the pressure inside of the building and angry flames greedily ate up the oxygen.
A female commentator's voice came on over the roar of the helicopter propellers. "We're here at the scene of the currently 3 alarm warehouse fire on Goodwill Boulevard in Cape Town. The fire was reported around 1:00 this afternoon after a bystander saw what looked like fire on the second floor. Firefighters quickly arrived at the scene and are currently working to put out the flames. It's unclear if anyone was inside at the time and still is inside. We will be giving live updates as they come in-" the woman suddenly stopped. "I'm getting news that it has been upped to a 4 alarm fire. The size of the warehouse is extensive and it appears to be spreading quicker than it can be extinguished. We've also received word that the chief of police is asking all residents to stay away from the area as the building and is susceptible to collapse."
The sky camera panned to one of the ground cameras for a closer shot. A few 'watch it, bud!'s could be heard as firefighters pushed around the flocking camera crews. Suddenly, an explosion in the building caused the fire to roar harder and debris to fly out. Bricks, wood, and shattered glass rained from the sky. Civilians screamed and firefighters ran for cover. The camera started to pan backwards as the camera people were trying to get away while still capturing the juicy shots.
Someone off to the side could be heard yelling, "The children! There's two children still inside!" A faint glimpse from the corner of the camera showed an older woman being restrained by police officers as she fought them to try and run back into the building. Garbled yelling soon followed as the first responders went into overdrive upon hearing that there were still people in the building, and children at that.
Then came the creaking. A long, ugly creak that can only signal one thing. The camera crew members were violently pushed backwards as police officers grabbed a hold of them. They could be heard yelling, "Cut the feed! Cut the feed!" Nobody had the time to react, however, as the creaking became a full-blown screech and a part of the building collapsed.
The live feed cut out just as the building collapsed. A shrill noise filled the air as the stream connection was cut and Paluntena quickly hit the mute button to save herself from going deaf. Both the green haired woman and the blonde were silent. Viridi was the first to break the silence.
"Holy shit," she whispered.
Without saying a word, Paluntena closed her laptop and gently put it back in her bag. She packed up the rest of her things and promptly stood up, taking her bag with her as her legs carried her towards the door. She nodded at Viridi while looking at nothing in particular before exiting the dorm. She stood with her back pressed against the door.
A full police report was released three days later to the public. The fire was caused by an unattended electric heater malfunctioning. Nobody knew why electricity was still being run to the building; it was an abandoned factory. Homeless civilians took refuge inside of the facility to take advantage of the shelter it provided.
The police report detailed of two children and a dog who were trapped in the building when the fire broke out. After the explosion and building collapse, both children were found and were rescued by first responders. One had minor injuries while the other is listed in critical condition with life-threatening injuries. Both children were life-flighted to ALU Children's Center for treatment.
After speaking with several of the residents, police determined that the children were taking care of a puppy on the other side of the factory due to one of the residents complaining about the dog. Any exits on that side of the building were boarded up. With the route back to the main area of the building cut off, they were forced to stay in place. The explosion was caused by some propane tanks that were left behind and set off a chain reaction. With the building being old and with support structures damaged, parts of the ceiling beams collapsed.
The puppy was also found alive and is currently receiving treatment at a local veterinarian hospital.
The report ended with the current condition of the children are being held confidential. Police are working hard with the community to find shelter for the misplaced homeless civilians. More updates were to follow as they came out.
One Month Later…
A sharp rapping of knuckles on a wooden door snapped the early morning lull in two. "Viridi, are you up? You're going to be late." Paluntena called from the hallway. There was no response. "Viridi, are you awake-" Paluntena was cut off by the door swinging open to reveal a very disgruntled looking young woman.
"Do you know what time it is?" Viridi hissed. "You're the only person functioning this early in the morning!"
Paluntena's fairly neutral face twitched into a quivering smile. The green haired woman cupped her mouth with her hands and had to turn away as to not look at Viridi. Said woman was standing in the doorway, blonde hair sticking up like a Troll doll. The plant lover had literally just rolled out of bed moments before her acquaintance knocked on her dorm door. Viridi's face quickly turned red in a mixture of embarrassment and anger. "Say. Nothing." She pointed at Paluntena with threatening eyes as she slowly closed the door.
Ten minutes later Viridi opened her door and stepped out with her key in her hand. After locking and checking the door she turned to the still smirking woman. "You saw nothing." She sneered.
Both women were dressed comfortably yet professionally at the same time. Paluntena wore a simple pale green, flowy suit top and bottom with some platform heels despite the young woman being 6'3" as was. Before stepping out of the dorms, she pulled down a pair of white-rimmed sunglasses from the top of her head.
Viridi on the other hand was wearing a complementing pale-purple short sleeve dress that went to her kneecaps with a white long sleeve shirt underneath. Her dress had a sort of floral pattern to it that was slightly darker than the base purple. On her feet were some sandals that tied around her ankles. Her hair was tied up in her signature side-ponytail with a faux Lily flower hair clip holding it in place.
Paluntena squinted down at her phone as it was hard to see due to the sun reflecting off of it. "Our driver says they're over by-" she was cut off by a horn honking. "Ah, there they are."
Both women approached a pearl white SUV. After clambering inside and buckling off, the driver looked over their shoulder. "Just confirming, ALU Hospital, correct?"
"That is correct." Paluntena smiled at them. Viridi looked out the window and crossed her arms.
"Why couldn't we have just taken one of your dad's company cars? He has like a bajillion of them and they're all professional looking." The blonde pouted.
The green haired woman next to her put her hands on her lap. "You know where I stand with my father right now." Her voice was sweet but Viridi could hear the bitterness.
The rest of the ride was silent. It was only about a ten-minute drive to the university owned hospital. The building itself was massive. With one main hub area, it split off into a web of different buildings. ALU Hospital was regarded as one of the top hospitals in the world because of its state-of-the-art technology and world-renounced doctors. The hospital itself worked with the university medical students and offered them hands-on experience. It also provided volunteer work hours, which is what Paluntena and Viridi were arriving for.
The driver of the SUV they were riding in came to a stop outside of the front entrance of the main hub area. Both women thanked the driver and climbed out.
"Here we are." Paluntena forced a smile and looked up at the enormous glass dome in front of them.
Viridi visibly slouched. "It's going to be a long day."