The front lobby was deserted, rows of empty chairs under cold florescent lights and white clean walls. It was creepy, but Miranda was relieved the hospital wasn’t now a train station or a coal mine or something.
She didn’t know why, but she knew Dad was here, like she could feel him.
The bright lights caused a glare across the rows of seats in the waiting area. Behind those was a counter with a sliding glass window. It was eerily silent in there.
Where was everyone?
“Hello?” Miranda’s voice echoed back at her. She took Cindy’s hand. Off to the right and left were double swinging doors with bright lights showing through their windows. A third set of double doors sat to the left, behind the counter. The first place her mind went was one of those zombie invasion movies. At least there weren’t bloody hand prints on the walls.
Cindy looked around. “Maybe we can look your dad up at the desk?” She pointed at a computer just inside the sliding window.
Miranda shrugged and they moved around the rows of seating to the counter. As they came up to the desk Cindy craned her head around. “The door on the side is probably locked. One of us might have to climb in through the window.”
“Climb what?” They jumped. A woman’s voice came from inside the reception area.
The woman leaned up to sitting in the receptionists chair, like she’d been crouched over asleep. She looked about Alice’s age, but less put together. She was wearing the uniform Miranda expected her to be. On her lapel was a name tag that read. “Shirley.”
She looked half asleep. “Can I help you?”
Miranda squeezed Cindy’s hand. The woman seemed to not quite focus on them.
Miranda spoke slowly and carefully, “Are you okay?”
Shirley’s face went a little blank. “I’m not sure.”
Whatever was changing things, was changing people too. Just like Officer Lidbeck and Mr. Hanson, whatever did this left people lobotomized. At least temporarily.
Miranda wasn’t sure what to do next. She was pretty sure if she asked Shirley to let them in to use the computer, she’d do it.
But it felt wrong to take advantage of her condition. “We’d like to see my Dad.”
“Are you family?” Shirley seemed to be working from a script.
Miranda had to keep herself from raising her hand. “I am.”
“And what about her?”
Miranda squeezed her hand again. She wasn’t sure she could wander in the hospital with Cindy. “She’s not.”
Shirley paused. Miranda started to panic. Her brain ran through arguments why they had to see her father. Why Cindy had to go with her.
Shirley smiled. “Okay.” She sort of mechanically turned to the computer and tapped through a few screens.
“He’s in 1264.” She pointed at the doors to her right. “Second floor.”
That had gone much easier than Miranda expected. “Should we sign in?”
Shirley’s face went blank again. “No, do you want to?” She looked around her desk, as if for a scrap of paper.
“That’s okay.” Miranda dragged Cindy down the hall.