The Kindly Nurse
“I wonder how much longer my shift will go,” thought Annie, a middle-aged nurse in San Diego. Although she loved helping all the young children in the hospital, her aging joints could not quite keep up with her active spirit. “Hey Cathy, how much longer, do you think?” she called her oldest friend.
“Only another hour, I’d say.”
“Thank goodness. I don’t think my old bones can handle much more.”
“You’re only 44! Stop complaining!” Cathy berated. Annie sighed. No matter what she said, Cathy could not seem to see her frustration with her aging body.
Two hours later, Annie was sitting on her couch enjoying a well-earned bowl of ice cream. A twelve hour shift was just too long. Suddenly, a giant portal opened. It was a swirling vortex of colors, predominantly oranges and greens. A sleek black cat jumped out onto Annie, rubbed his head on her, and purred. The look of pure astonishment on Annie’s face was incomparable. “Hello, my friend,” purred the cat, “my name is Ostrix, and I need your help.”
“D- di- did you ju- just talk? And why would you need my help?” stuttered Annie.
“Yes, I can talk, I am a cat, my name is Ostrix, and yours is Annie. Now that that’s done, let me explain the problem. You’ve heard of the dust bowl, correct? Well, a mysterious force besides the dust is destroying homes and their inhabitants. As to why I need you specifically, I’ll get to that later. For now, all you need to know is that you are needed to help stop this, with my assistance, of course.”
“NO. I need more information and time to decide. ”
“I know you. You wouldn’t risk the lives of others for your own selfish reasons.” Ostrix was would not rest until she agreed. “Look at this.” The portal turned into a kind of video showing a village. Abruptly, the village collapsed. Screams could be heard, but no when escaped. Within minutes, a dust storm covered the wreckage as if it had never existed. “This is what has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen unless you came with me now.”
“Alright,” agreed Annie, “I see I don’t have much of a choice here anyway.” Together, Annie and Ostrix lept through the portal.
“Ostrix? Anyone? Hello!?” Dust swirled around her; she spun around, trying to find anyone, anything. Annie could barely hear anything over the howling and moaning of the wind. Dust flew in her mouth, eyes, and nose. She hunkered down on the ground in a tight coil to keep it out. Although it seemed like an eternity, it lasted for only three minutes.
As the clouds of dust subsided, Annie sat up, brushed off the dust, and looked around. The cat, Osterix, was sitting a few feet away, staring at her. They were surrounded gritty dirt with a few tumbleweeds mixed in. Ostrix stood and started walking away. Confused, afraid, and slightly angry, Annie hurried after him.
Although Annie asked many questions on the walk, Ostrix was as silent as a brick. She sighed to herself, wondering how on earth she was going to get out of this mess. Not long after they began walking Annie and Ostrix came upon a small village; it was the village Ostrix had shown Annie in the portal. Here; however, Annie could hear the noisy crying of a baby. Determined to save it and not heeding Ostrix’s warnings of imminent danger, she ran into the rubble.
“Annie!” called Ostrix, “there is traces of magic there; come back, it isn’t worth it!”
“A child’s life is always worth it.” Annie searched for almost an hour, acquiring an impressive assortment of scrapes and bruises. The baby turned up under a large pot; it must have been left there for safety. It was a young boy with a name tag that said Leroy. The shaking nurse climbed out of the rubble and over to where Ostrix was waiting.
Without warning, a ghastly feeling of terror overcame Annie. The baby also seemed to sense it and commenced screaming louder. “I told you not to go in there! Now look at yourself.” Ostrix vented. A blue-green tint was creeping over Annie and the infant. “If that color stays for more than 24 hours, you two will be stuck like that. The only way to stop it is to drink a cup of tea.”
Annie went back into the rubble to find something to make tea. Eventually, she found a small pouch of herbs. Ostrix handed her a cup and some water, and the shaken woman commenced making the tea. Once she and Leroy had drunk the tea, the blue-green tint began to subside.
Out of the blue, an image appeared over the rubble. It was of a strange looking lady with a small man who Annie thought looked slightly like a tyrannosaurus rex. The lady, wearing long robes, a cloak, and brittle straw colored hair, called out, “Hello down there, you meddling fiends. My name is Amber, and unless you want to die, I suggest you stay away.” The form disappeared as quickly as it had come.
“Perfect,” purred Ostrix, “now all I need to do is perform a simple tracking spell and we will find her in no time. Simply follow the green line in the dirt.”
So off they went. Along the way, they came to another town, this one still intact. Midtown, Annie knocked on the door of a pleasant looking home, hoping they would take care of Leroy. A crazy adventure like this was no place for a baby. An old woman and young lady introduced themselves as Rosemary and Cynthia, respectively. They agreed to take care of Leroy, but insisted on inviting Annie and her “cute little kitten” in for tea. Ostrix did not reveal his magical properties in order to keep the evil duo from finding them.
Small talk over tea ensured, even though Annie was eager to get on with the mission, so she could go home and rest. Her old age was really getting to her. She wondered once again why she was needed for this mission...
“Huh?” Rosemary had interrupted her musings.
“I was just telling you,” Rosemary continued, “that I can see that you are not from around here, and based on all that’s been going on, I figure you must be here to solve this...problem...we’ve been having. So, Cynthia and I have a few gifts to give you. I would not suggest asking how we came by these items. First, a flying potion. Second, this sword. Annie, whether you know it or not, only you have the strength to wield it. Third, for the cat, a ball of magical yarn. I’ll let you figure out what that does later. I suppose you must be off now. Goodbye!”
Ostrix and Annie left the warm cozy home, dreading what was ahead. The green line to Amber and her sidekick, who they had taken to calling Rex after his dinosaur-like features, seemed to go on forever. Discouraged, in the next town, Annie knocked on another door, hoping to find out if anyone had passed through recently. Ostrix stayed outside, as the elderly woman who answered the door was allergic to cats.
“Come, pretty thing, come in,” whispered the ancient woman. Annie began to get suspicious. “I have something for you. It’s a wee little potion; it will keep you young forever. Of course, I’ll need something from you in return. How about you take this portal home now, with the potion, and we can pretend you never showed up here.”
“What about the people? I don’t want anyone else to die.”
“What concern of that is yours? You’ll be 80 years in the future,” the hag pressured.
“I suppose it couldn’t hurt...”
“That’s the spirit, my fool! Ha Ha!” A nervous sweat broke over Annie. Could she really do this? Leaving all these people to die? No. She sprinted out of the house before she changed her mind, not even waiting for Ostrix to catch up.
After yet another long walk, kindly lady and magical feline came upon a giant building. They were sure that the evil duo were inside, the only problem was, the door was being guarded by a lion.
“Now what?” groaned Annie. They were hidden behind a patch a tumbleweed watching the door. All she wanted to do was go home and take a nice, long nap. But no, first there was a lion to deal with. Ostrix stared intently at the door. They deliberated for several long minutes, inventing many possibilities, but none seemed plausible. As night fell, they conceded that nothing more could be done until morning. Ostrix took the first watch while Annie fell into a fitful sleep.
The next morning, the solution dropped on Annie like a bomb. The magical yarn the Rosemary and Cynthia had given seemed like it should help. After all, a lion was really just a large cat. As they rolled the yarn out towards the door, the lion’s interest was piqued. The yarn drew near, and the lion reached out and batted it with a hesitant paw. Immediately, the lion turned to stone. “Well that seems almost too easy,” commented Annie, “not that I’m complaining.”
The door into the lair swung open. The footsteps of Annie rang throughout a grand hall while Ostrix padded silently behind. When they reached the end of the hall, they saw Amber sitting on a throne with Rex off to the side. “You shall never defeat me!” was what the unearthly scream from Amber said. “I will destroy you all!” Annie drew the sword, but was hardly able to lift it due to its immense weight. Amber walked over, knocked Annie to the floor, and Rex grabbed hold of Ostrix. Just when it looked like things could not get any worse, a swirl of dust came in through the open door, blinding everyone.
In the midst of the struggle, Annie found her strength. She realized that no matter how old she got, no one could ever stop her from doing what was right. She twisted and turned, finally getting the leverage to thrust the sword into Amber’s leg. Amber, realizing she had been beaten, sat and glared at Annie. The bad news was, after she had conquered Amber, there was still Rex to be dealt with. The good news was, Rex seemed to be helping Amber against his will. He released Ostrix and strode over the Annie.
“Thank you, for you have saved me from being a slave to Amber forever.” praised Rex. “In return, I want to give you this gift.” He held out a beautiful ornate rug that shimmered in the light. “It may help you get home. Also, my name is Magnus, not Rex. Maybe I will see you again sometime. But for now, farewell.”
Annie assumed Ostrix would make a portal there so she could immediately go home, but she was mistaken. “A time portal can only be opened in that spot. I apologize for the inconvenience.”
“We still have the flying potion! And we can use it on the rug; it will get us back so much faster!” exclaimed Annie after a brief spat of disappointment. She dumped the potion on the rug and headed back.
Once at the portal, Annie realized she was sad to be going back. She would miss Ostrix and the others met on the journey, but in the end, she was ready to go home. Ostrix opened and portal and she jumped through.
Back home, she spread out her lovely new rug on the living room floor and picked up her bowl of ice cream. It seemed as if no time at all had passed. “Well of course,” she thought, “I was traveling through time!” Laughing to herself, she went about her business. Even though nothing had changed in her time, she knew that the important lesson she learned would be with her for the rest of her life.