“He's burning up,” Callie said as she brushed her hand across the old man's face. She retrieved the quick read thermometer from the pocket of her smock and swiped it across his forehead. The device beeped and a quick glance at the read out made her shake her head.
“What's wrong?” the new aide asked.
“Thermometer's broke.” She reset the thermometer and tried to check the old man's temperature again. The read out was more wrong this time. “Hundred and fifteen. Can't be right.” She placed her hand on her patient's forehead again. The heat that radiated from him was intense, she had never felt anything like it on a living thing. “Best get the doctor. Even if this thing is broken he's running a high fever.”
The aide hurried from the room as Callie pulled the covers down from the old man's body. His body was thin and and sickly looking. As she loosened the gown he was wearing she felt the heat intensify. It was as if there was fire being stoked inside him.
“What's going on?” The RN on duty bustled into the room, followed by an orderly and the nurse's aide. Callie fought the urge to roll her eyes. Tell the girl to get a doctor and she comes back with an orderly.
“He's spiking a fever,” Callie said. “Last temp reading was one-fifteen.”
“Impossible.” As the RN spoke, Callie noticed a smell in the air, like roasting meat.
“He's smoking!” the orderly cried.
They all stared in awe, terror, and dumfoundedness as thin curls of smoke began to rise from the old man's thin gown. Then it caught fire. Shouting words her mother would have beaten her for, Callie snatched the pitcher of water next to the bed and dumped it over the patient.
With a *whoomp* the man burst into flames.
The RN was shouting, the aide was screaming. Callie tried to push them out of the way and found their way blocked by the quick thinking orderly who had retrieved the fire extinguisher from the hall. The flames were shooting up from the bed scorching the ceiling. The frail body was completely engulfed.
As quickly as it had started, it was over. The orderly didn't even have time to press the lever on the extingusher when the flames died down and disappeared.
They all stared, slack-jawed at the tiny form lying on the bed.
The baby opened it's mouth and let out a hearty wail.