Here's a short story I wrote for the WW on the subject of Il Divo and the swine flu. It's got a twist, like most of my stories. Enjoy, Liz
The Night Nurse
Night blanketed the hospital. Originally built to house the injured of World War I, a long-term restoration came just in time. Now the newly remodeled building housed victims of a different war, the H1N1 influenza pandemic.
Urs Buhler opened his eyes and focused fuzzily on the ceiling above his hospital bed. The last thing he remembered was boarding the jet in London for the American leg of the tour. A pounding headache and queasy stomach had had him dreading the long flight across the Atlantic. Assuming they were simply the remnants of a wild going away party thrown by some friends the previous night, he'd gone along with the trip.
Lying still Urs tried to concentrate, but his head began to ache again. A white figure moved at his side, and cool hands smoothed his hair from his face. Those same gentle hands raised his head and spooned crushed ice between his fever cracked lips. He sucked greedily at the ice and opened his mouth for more.
"Easy, my dear. Don't choke." The soft voice spoke in perfect Swiss German. Urs was confused. Weren't they in the U.S.? The simple act of eating ice had exhausted him. Darkness descended again, and he was lost in feverish dreams.
Sebastien Izambard thrashed around on his bed, tangling the sheets around his body. His high fever triggered hallucinations, and he relived the horrible flight to New York the previous week. Urs had looked pale and wobbly when he boarded, but blamed it on a drinking party the night before.
Two hours from New York, Urs began having seizures. Holding his friend so he did not injure himself, Seb could feel the fever radiating off of Urs' skin. They were allowed to land at JFK, but the entire band was whisked away to an isolation hospital. Carlos had sickened the next day, and David the day after that.
Sebastien remembered waking the fifth day of their forced quarantine aching and nauseous, calling the nurse, then nothing. The Frenchman twisted against the encircling sheets in a panic.
"My dear boy, calm yourself." The quiet soothing voice spoke in French. Seb stilled instantly, and opened his eyes to the kind face of a nursing sister. Her wimple encircled her head like a halo, and reminded him of the nuns in Paris.
"My friends?" He spoke in French also, his voice a raspy croak. He was afraid to ask, Urs had been so sick...
"All of you are mending well, Mr. Buhler has been the sickest. You will all make a full recovery." Sebastien meant to ask how she could know this for sure. Sleep pulled him down once again.
Carlos Marin coughed heavily and pulled at the oxygen mask covering his face. Soft hands gently restrained his, and a musical voice spoke quietly.
"Carlito, my dear. Quiet, now." Carlos smiled to himself upon hearing his native Spanish, and fell back against the pillows.
"Mama?" He couldn't speak above a whisper. His voice! He'd die if he couldn't sing!
"Your voice will be fine, as you and your friends will be." The soothing Spanish words calmed him again.
Carlos wondered at the firm reassurance in the nurse's voice. He opened his eyes and smiled weakly at the nun standing over him. She moved the oxygen mask slightly and spooned crushed ice into his parched mouth.
"Try to swallow, it will help the fever." Her kind face beamed at him as he obeyed. "Good boy."
David Miller moaned in his sleep and pulled at the I.V. lines in his arm. A cool wet cloth draped over his brow roused him from a feverish doze. He moved restlessly on the bed, crying out at the stabbing pain in his joints. From what seemed a long distance he could hear a faint humming. His ears picked up the faint notes of a lullaby his mother used to sing to him as a child.
He opened heavy eyelids slowly. The room was dark except for a dim bedside lamp. The white form of a nursing Sister of Charity swam in and out of focus at the side of his bed.
"Are you in pain, love?" The mellow voice carried a slight hint of a Western twang in the soothing tones. She sounded like his favorite grandma did.
"Yes, ma'am. I hurt all over." He spoke weakly through cracked lips.
"Well Honey, let me sponge you off, that will help the fever and pain." She began humming softly again, drawing the cool cloth over his bare chest and shoulders.
"Thank you." David mumbled, soothed by the humming and the gentle motion of the cloth.
The night nurse tidied the last room and glided past the nurses station unnoticed. Dawn light peeked through the blinds. Her shift had ended.
Two long weeks later the four friends were discharged from the hospital. As they passed the nurses station, David noticed a memorial plaque installed above the desk. The kind face of their night nurse, framed in her winglike wimple smiled from an antique photograph.
The four men exchanged glances, then David asked the question they all wanted the answer to.
"Who is that?" The orderly pushing his wheelchair waited until they were away from the desk.
"That's Sister Camille. Her order, the Sisters of Charity, built this place for soldiers injured in World War I. She was the head night nurse here during the 1918 flu epidemic.
She caught the influenza from one of the soldiers and died."
The orderly bent closer and whispered in David's ear.
"Rumor has it she haunts the place. Crazy, huh?"