I ran down the hallway, clutching at the thick fabric of my uniform’s sleeve, hoping to catch all the blood that had begun trickling down my palm and fingers. As I turned to push through the swinging door to the bathroom, I quickly looked behind me to make sure that none of the drops of crimson liquid had followed me in a trail down the hallway.
Hovering over the sink inside, I quickly pulled back my sleeve, now soaked. With my opposite hand, I turned the sink on full blast to hot water. Steam slowly began to rise and catch on the mirror in front of me. With a quick breath, I shoved my torn-up hand under the stream of water, wincing as the liquid ran over it with searing heat.
The stall behind me opened up suddenly. From my quick glance in the mirror, I could see my coworker, Marshall from the African exhibit pop out. “Jackson? You okay?”
“Just got a little scrape.” I muttered through gritted teeth, the faintly red-stained water washing down the drain.
“Is… that a bite?” I could see him from my peripheral vision, looking over my shoulder.
“It’s not that bad.” I pulled my hand out of the stream, shaking it back and forth. More blood began to pool up in the shallow, dark bite marks. “He didn’t draw blood.”
“Care to reassess that statement?” Marshall shifted around to my side, pulling out a fistful of paper towels from the holder to begin wiping up the stray drops of blood and splashed water from around the sink. “Why did you come here, rather than the first aid station?”
“It was the Karaqual. He got a good chomp, probably wanting to play with me.” I shoved the water off carefully with my wrist. “Didn’t start bleeding right away.”
“Damn that thing.” Marshall attempted to start patting my hands dry.
“Wash your own damn hands, first.” I grumbled, snatching the wad of paper from him. “Do you know what they would want to do if they thought it got a taste of blood?”
“It’s endangered. They wouldn’t put it down but… they wouldn’t let anyone near it anymore. Especially not you.” He mumbled.
“The thing is just acting out because it doesn’t see enough activity.” I sighed, wrapping up my hand in several layers of the paper towels. “It won’t act nice with any other of the reptiles from the nearby exhibits. What it needs is a mate.”
“Yeah right.” Marshall shook his head, leaning back against the counter. “And you’re just gonna head down there and find one out there, if there even are any?”
“We have that grant being divvied up right now. I think I can convince them.” I looked down once again at my hand, paper towels slowly taking on a reddish tinge. “That big old lizard probably it reaching the end of it’s breeding cycle right now, don’t you think?”
“We don’t know that.” Marshall shook his head.
“Then they’ll be less likely to risk it.”
The airport was bustling. Nervously playing with the tied-off strips of gauze and bandages on my hand, I looked up at the gate listing, heading south to Brazil.
-To Be Continued.