Xu Guan in Sixty Seconds
Xu Guan blinked his eyes open. His mind worked slowly and unsteadily to recall recent events. The cool caress of industrial tile pawed at his cheek as he tried to draw his knees up to his chest. Xu Guan blinked again trying to bring his surroundings into focus.
Industrial furniture. Hospital furniture.
The hospital-standard clock on the wall read 11:02 as the second-hand made a soft clunking noise with each movement.
On the floor nearby was a stainless bedpan. Not far from the bedpan was a sickly pink plastic food tray. The room spun ever so slightly. Xu Guan’s stomach lurched as he looked beyond the bedpan and food tray at an ever-widening pool of blood leaking from under the door.
The raw meat smell of the blood wafted past Xu Guan’s nostrils. His stomach rebelled. Xu Guan tried to raise himself up onto his hands and knees but he was too late. Vomit involuntarily lurched past his lips and onto the cool, white tile floor. Splatters sprayed back onto Xu Guan’s face immediately inducing a second round of regurgitation. The small hospital meal, eaten only hours before, liquified and trailed across the floor in the direction of the pool of blood. Xu Guan’s stomach was empty but it continued to lurch as the stench of the mixing pools reached his senses.
With his guts pitching and his head pounding, Xu Guan pulled himself up onto his hands and knees. He could hear shouts outside the door. Something was horribly wrong. Xu Guan knew that much. His current mental state simply would not allow him to make the connection between his present condition and the immediately preceding events.
Xu Guan shook his head trying to clear the cobwebs. Pain exploded like a grenade inside his skull causing flashes of light before his eyes and dizziness that threatened to knock him prostrate into the quickly combining puddles of blood and emetic. His stomach did another flip as Xu Guan dry-heaved. Mucus ran from Xu Guan’s nose as he tried to regain his balance.
As Xu Guan steadied himself, he touched his head with one hand. Most of the pain seemed to be emanating from a spot above and slightly behind his right eyebrow. Xu Guan explored the area with his finger tips. As his fingers trailed through his freshly washed hair, Xu Guan found a knot nearly as large as a chicken egg. Even the slightest pressure brought stabs of pain. Xu Guan drew his hand away and slowly turned his head as there was a thump outside the door.
The muffled thump was followed by cursing – in English, Xu Guan was almost sure of it. The door handle rattled as it came into contact with the dresser drawer wedged beneath. Two sharp clanks followed the rattling. Xu Guan could hear something inside the door handle give way under the assault. There was a loud clang as the horizontal handle went limp and fell, useless, against the dresser drawer.
Xu Guan’s eyes widened. Recent memories swarmed his brain like a gaggle of geese descending on a loaf of bread. The nurse. The gunshots. The dresser. The blood! Xu Guan made the connection. The slipping gears of his mind engaged as he looked wildly around the room.
“I have to get out of here,” Xu Guan breathed as he fought dizziness and nausea.
As Xu Guan’s head swung ponderously away from the door, he could hear something heavy slamming repeatedly against the lock.
Xu Guan remembered looking out the window and down onto the battle below just minutes before.
It was his only escape.
The drop from the window was three stories but the slamming against the door had dislodged the handle. It fell with what seemed like a thunderous clank onto the dresser drawer and then tumbled to the floor.
Xu Guan unlocked the window and slid it to the side.
The sounds outside the door changed but continued with a frenzy. Xu Guan could picture an angry American soldier kicking the door as he had seen in one of the training films his platoon had been shown.
The noise stopped. Xu Guan heard muffled voices as he pushed the sliding window the rest of the way open. The view to the ground brought another round of nausea. Xu Guan dry-heaved as he lifted one leg over the sill of the window.
A thunderous roar filled the hospital room as Xu Guan swung his other leg over the window sill. Splinters from the heavy wooden door sprayed across the room bouncing off the floor. A few ricocheted against Xu Guan’s back.
Wincing from the pain, Xu Guan glanced back over his shoulder and noticed that the dresser was beginning to move under heavy pressure. With only a second’s hesitation, Xu Guan put his feet together, flexed his knees and pushed off from the window sill aiming at a patch of what appeared to be soft ground below.
The door burst open as Xu Guan dropped to the ground.
For one brief moment there was silence as the minute hand of the clock on the wall clunked into place. It was 11:03.