When you ride in an ambulance, you see the world painted in strobing blood red and stark bone white. When the siren isn't blasting above my head, I am straining to hear it in the distance. Driving when I'm not at work is like going to the dentist, with its slow motion crawl and delaying stoplights. The flat panel bullet that I ride at night has no respect for the rules of the road. "i am tha god a speed" it screams with its oscillating metal throat, blasting through intersections like a bat out of hell.

You watch the faces in the windows as they flow by in a cloud of blurred tint, the little faces yearning to sit in the seat you are warming. It's always the little kids that look the hungriest. The plainest expressions come from the young. They haven't learned to bottle up their demons. The siren sound means someone is in pain, dying, and we race to them like a hungry wolf. They watch us hurtle past, their eyes stabbing. Which way to the blood? Where is the soul slipping loose? Predators learn from their parents.

I hate calls for kids. The bus rocks like a sick railcar as the Sadist rides the horn and swears at spooked old ladies. The kids, man, they can't hide it. They just spell out all their pain in big capital letters. They wail their little hearts out in confusion and animal terror. "How can this happen to me?" they screech. What God would let me die like this?

It's stuff they don't see in their Saturday morning cartoons or fuzzy picture books.

I bite down on that tickle of consciousness that make me want to cry. "Just do your job" I mantra to myself. Keep it together and pass the buck. Going through the motions keeps the emotions away. We slide to a stop in front of a dirty tenement. Slum job.

Choking is the worst way to die. You have just enough time to realize your ticket is punched and thrash all your strength out in a show in front of people trying to help you before you go under. Instinct makes you try to hide. Watch somebody who is choking next time it happens. They ball up and try to avoid you, sometimes running to the bathroom. They want to get away, lick their wounds in private. I have nightmares about food stopping up my lungs. I chew like a obsessive compulsive now. Another joy pissed away by this job.

Up the stairs five flights. Paramedics always seem to know where to go. You know why? We follow the waves of panic. People don't realize how much louder they get when they freak out. I could find you a million miles away if you're bleeding in the water. Sharks never stop swimming. Not even the mingling apartment stenches can hide them.

Ok, steel yourself. It's show time.

The pastel green door is caved in. A size twelve footprint is stamped on it up by the doorknob. The deadbolt lays on the floor. Cops.

A screaming girl. She ain't choking, that's for sure. Ok, pan left.

Cop. Big cop. Mr. Door-kicker. Doing a shitty job of calming the little girl down. Nope, next room. Feet on the floor. Little brown feet and big black boots.

Oh man.

Cop Number 2 is hunched over the flat little body of Kid Eternity, who is splayed out like Leonardo da Vinci's Man. His big hands are half in a cheap latex glove, which is in turn, stuck in the kid's jacked open jaw. He looks broken, like a rag doll. The cop is pale and sweating. A week of first aid didn't cover this. He doesn't even see us come in. I can hear him muttering frantically under his breath. "Move." I command.

He stops like a cockroach in a kitchen light.

I don't ask twice. Kid don't have the time for his brain to turnover. A well placed shove knocks 2 over. Time to work. Stick to the little jobs, don't get sucked in. He is young and small and reedy and beautiful, like a dark leather briefcase, untouched by time or fear. His vitals are weak. The thin whistling gurgle means he is losing. And then I made the mistake of looking at his eyes.

A cyanotic eye, rolled up in his tiny black face, shone like a star. Time stopped when I fell into Eternity's eyes - he was looking a million miles away with his black pinpoints. The wreathes of pale blue veins held his brown iris up, porters carrying the heaviest soul in the world. He looked right through me and a tear boiled up and fell.

I.. I. I don't know what happened next.

The cop had packed up the kid's windpipe while trying to help him. He was choking on macaroni and cheese, comfort food. I decided to try for a emergency tracheotomy. You ain't dead yet, Kid. Scalpel, find the hollow between his tiny little collarbones, cut his poor flawless skin.

Enjoy your first taste of the real world, Kid.

The foamy pink blood told me he could breathe. The eyes snapped back from the edge of the universe. His new nostril flared horse-like, raw and bleeding. His lungs filled with the rotten air of reality, the one where nobody really cares unless it happens to them. The kid did the only honest thing I have ever seen anyone do when faced with that.

He puked. Hard. Cleared his throat and lungs and stomach and heart all at once. He screamed with his new breathless throat. The reedy howl chilled me to the bone as I wiped off my uniform shirt. Born again, Kid. Born again.

The cop with his fingers in the Kid's throat had coffee with us after we got done in Emergency. They were going to foster homes. Mom was out whoring. Welcome to the real world, Kid.

Christ, what next? I check to see if it's a full moon.

continued in Do svidanya, Rodina!

In which the mountains are old and I am the ghost on the battlements - Kid Eternity - Do svidanya, Rodina! - Standin' in a pool of cop blood with a shotgun you can't stop - Street Meat - Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar