Perception–the whole thing





God, that’s annoying.




What the hell is that?



Maybe I should look.



Yeah, look. See what’s making that god-awful noise.


Although it’s nice with my eyes closed. Don’t really need to see.



Really is annoying, though.



I’m going to look.




I am. Trust me.


Here goes….I’m opening my eyes….



Guess my eyes disagree with me.



Try again now.



Her eyelids opened slowly, offering resistance taught by old rusty gates with only a less creaking. The light that bled through was far too white, and the ceiling above was in competition with the light for shocking lack of color. There was the faint hint of a strong antiseptic, as though the very air needed to be the same blinding white as the ceiling and lights. After a moment of looking through cracked open eyes, she decided that perhaps looking around the room might be in order. She boosted herself up on elbows that complained more that her eyelids. Connected to her hand was a wire that traveled over to a heart monitor, the device being guilty of creating that god-awful noise.

What the hell…? Why am I here? I don’t know what’s going on.

She tried to move off the bed, but her legs seemed to be as incommunicado as her eyelids and elbows had been initially. She tried again, but still nothing.

Is my ENTIRE body on strike today?

An itch was developing in a sneaky fashion over her left eye, creeping gradually into her attention like a small irritating train in the distance.  At first you’re aware of the low rumble too low to hear, but slowly you realize you’re standing 30 feet in front of a long frieght. She tried to reach up to scratch it into oblivion, but her wrist was secured to the bed, her hand enclosed in a soft mitten.

Well, that’s new, isn’t it? What the hell is going on?

She heard the distant sound of  someone being paged over a loudspeaker system, followed by what sounded like bells. The bed was soft beneath her,and the antiseptic smell was starting to tickle her nose. The pillow caressed her head as she leaned back into it’s welcoming softness.

The friggin’ heart monitor had to go, though.

She smiled a little at this, feeling foggy as she closed her eyes. The next minute, however, her eyes snapped open at the sound of a voice. This voice was speaking in a forced-to-sound happy tone.  It was a tone she had heard from most flight attendants, the No One Gives A Shit What I’m Saying But I Say It Anyway So Deal With It voice. As far as she knew, the room was unoccupied apart from her, so the fact that this person was using it to speak to her was mildly insulting. What she saw was a small planetoid in nurse’s scrubs. The planetoid kept speaking, in a state of contented ignorance that she was being listened to.

“—and the weather outside is really unseasonably cool, we should all be glad we’re inside on a day like this, don’t you think? Of course, of COURSE you do. Do we have enough blankets, there, dear? And are we COMFORTABLE?”

Nurse Planetoid began to hum, a cheerless little tune that held all the promise of a cloudy picnic in the middle of ant country. After a moment, she realized the song was SUPPOSED to be “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Great, I get an extra large off-key nurse with a taste for ‘80’s music.

Now she really wanted to move her hands, to take care of the damned itch and also cover her ears. The indignity was just too much. She tried to move her lips, stuck together by  dryness. They parted with much reluctance, lovers after the final dance. She tried to moisten them with her tongue, but found it even more  arid. Nurse Planetoid hummed a few more bars of the song, and the torture was too much, it was worth the pain to speak.

“Will you PLEASE stop that?”

It had been intended as an indignant shout, but emerged more as the air escaping from a half-filled balloon. The humming continued for a moment, then the nurse (who she saw with some amusement was named Pauline) turned to her.

“Did you just speak to me?” Pauline the Planetoid asked, startled. Her voice was no longer pleasant, but slightly paranoid and defensive.

Is there someone ELSE in here?

“Yes.” Her voice was still as quiet. Damn it all.

Pauline the Planetoid was once again in Full-On Nurse Mode. She lunged forward, the aroma of baby powder, god-awful perfume, stale coffee and staler tobacco cutting ahead of her like a stinky machete.

“Oh, we’re awake! Good morning! Hello there!”

“Hello. What am I doing here?” Besides, of course, being smothered in cheap perfume whilst being serenaded by a small moon.

“Well, you’re resting in your bed, you’ve been through QUITE the ordeal, now, Dear, yes, yes, indeed!” The planetoid’s mouth spread in a broad smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes. That was when the green stuff caught between her teeth became fully visible, like a shy reminder that said “Yes, Pauline has eaten today!”

Well, I just know a whole lot more NOW, don’t I?

“What exactly KIND of ordeal, now, DEAR?” Her relief was tremendous that her voice was regaining strength, and that her sarcastic irony was clearly audible in her voice. At least, she hoped it was.

The Planetoid fussed pointlessly over her pillow. The damn humming started again. Then, as though the humming were some kind of tone-deaf overture, “Well, it was serious, I can tell you that. Maybe we ought to just let the Doctor tell you what’s happened here.” Sheets were now being tugged, as though the bed wanted to be made with her laying in it. Tug, wrinkle, tug tug, crease, wrinkle. Had the sheets been pulled any tighter she thought she would’ve fallen through bottom of the bed. Her legs, which were just beginning to regain some normal sensation, gave up the fight as the sheets condensed the space between each other, a pair of overstarched, painful-to-look-at, hospital-cornered magnets.

“Yes, indeed, VERY serious,” the Planetoid continued. “I’ll just go and get the Doctor for you, why don’t I do that?”

“That’d be just swell. Something to drink would be heavenly, too.” The Planetoid’s smile swallowed her features as she nodded quickly, a bobble-head with bad breath.

Really wish I knew something more. What the HELL am I doing here?

She looked around the room. Yep, still really white. Clues to her current predicament had not, as hoped for, suddenly sprung into being in burning letters on the wall.

Burning letters just don’t show up when you want them to anymore.

With a dry-throated sigh, she leaned back against the pillow. She tried to shake her head, but, closing her eyes, she found she only had the strength in her neck for a small jiggle. Suddenly there was a new smell. After shave. A clicking sound, then a soft, dry scratching sound.

“Pauline tells me you were awake. Are you still?” Another clicking.sound. Her eyes tried to fly open. They failed in quite the miserable fashion. Maybe the voice will work better.

“Yes, I’m awake.” Not much better.

“Well, that’s good. I’m Dr. Golden. I’ve been taking care of you since you got here. I’d say you were lucky to be alive, but something tells me that wouldn’t really explain much.”

SO glad you went to medical school for THAT, Doc.

“So, do you remember anything?” With a sudden stomach-twisting lurch, everything tilted to one side.

Whoops! Now I’m GLAD my stomach’s empty!!

She actually got her lips apart without too much pain or trouble, but that pesky voice was still absent without leave. Giving up, she shook her head.

“Not much, huh?” There was another clicking noise, but the Doctor seemed to have made it himself. “Not surprised, really. Amnesia’s a common after effect with an experience like yours.”

WHAT kind of experience? Is this National Keep Me In Suspense Day?

She shook her head slightly. This was quickly determined to be a mistake as the contents of her skull decided to form their own mosh pit with several large spikes.

“How are you feeling? Is there any pain?”

Well, apart from not knowing where I am, what I’m doing here and why I’m laying here like Prometheus about to lose a liver again, I’m hunky dory, thanks.

“No.” No head shake this time, THAT lesson had been learned well. The Good Doctor nodded, made another note with a ball point pen— Betcha anything that was the clicking noise. I just betcha. –then held the pen still, looking at her, contemplative. Absently, he clicked the pen shut— HAH! I win! What’s my prize? –and leaned closer.

“I want to look into your eyes, if I may.”

Usually I like dinner and dancing first, there, Doctor.

Without waiting for permission, the Doctor leaned closer. Before she knew it, a thumb, its skin dry, parched really, was gently pressing against her upper eyelid.

Whoa, hey, that’s an eye WHAT THE HELL—!

The thumb gently stroked the eyelid, drawing it up. The room didn’t seem quite as white, as though a dimmer switch had been lowered. Before she could observe this phenomena closer, suddenly there was a light RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER EYE, PENETRATING DOWN TO HER VERY SOUL, BURNING AWAY ANY SIN THAT IT MIGHT FIND. Oh,God,Jesus,ohthathurtsohwhatdoyouwantI’lltellyouanythingyouwanttohearIsleptwithRicky PritchardatthepromIstolemymother’sginandthrewupinthebackseatIkilledKennedyandI knowwhereJimmyHoffaisandIknowwhat’sintheCololnel’soriginalrecipejustgetthatLIGHT THEHELLAWAYFROMMYEYESOHDAMNOH GODOHJESUS—-!! Then blessedly it was gone, the joyous Nirvana of darkness returned. She would’ve wept had she the strength. Completely unaware of the torture she’d just gone through, the Doctor murmured, “Yes, that’s very good.”

She had barely begun to feel her breathing return to normal when that antiseptic-and-lemon-scented instrument of sadism pulled up her other eyelid. It didn’t seem possible, but this time the light was even brighter, as though it were trying to shine through every orifice in her body. She felt a scream welling up, tried to claw the flaming light of death away but her mitten-encased hands were still strapped to the bed. The scream drew ever closer to her lips but all that came through that traitorous mouth was a tiny whisper. “Good response here, as well.”


Click, whir, “Patient’s pupilary response excellent, recommend moving her to step-down.” Click. “All right, enough of that. Sorry about that light.”

I’m going to hand you your lungs on a silver platter if I ever get out of here. Just so you know.

Suddenly, all pressure on the bed eased. Her stomach danced again, though this time is was more a slow soft shoe rather than the slamdance from before. “Unfortunately in cases like these, memory loss is very common. Try to relax, and I’ll tell you what happened to you.” Deep breath, swishing sound. “You were found on the side of a mountain. Your car had gone off the road, down the embankment. It looked like your car didn’t have any airbags, and it seems as though you’d rolled a few times. You hit your head quite badly, broke several ribs, and sprained both your wrists pretty severely.” A long, pregnant pause that suddenly gave birth. “Does any of this seem familiar? Is any of it coming back to you?” She shook her head, the new knowledge in her skull pushing any memory of pain out. “Again, that’s very common.”

C’mon, voice, work! WORK, DAMN YOU!

“Was…was I alone in the car?” It almost sounded like a normal voice.

“You sound like you could use something to drink. There’s some water here, would you like some?”

She tried to make a noise that said in one tone, “Why, yes, Doctor, I would like to see the hospital’s wine list, along with whatever fruit juices and hard liquor you might have stocked in your desk or the desks of any of your colleagues.” Apparently, he understood, because a moment later a straw was against her lips. She cracked her eyes, wanting to make sure this new tempting happening was in fact real and not a delusion brought on by brain melting lights and extreme thirst. The Doctor sat there, a hideously mauve cup in his hand, straw coming out of it.

God bless you and may your golf scores continue to be low ones, you beautiful man.

“Take it slow,” the Doctor said gently. “Don’t want you choking, now.” He chuckled. “Although, I don’t think you’d have to go far for medical attention.”

The frigid water coming out of the straw was shocking as it saturated the her mouth. She let it sit there for a moment, feeling it seep into every molecule of her being.

Yeah, THAT’s it. THAT’s got it. I’m in freakin’ heaven.

“Enough?” When she nodded, he took the cup away from her. She watched it with a deep longing, a dear friend whose parting comes too soon. “Well, then. Yes, you were alone in the car. It seemed that you were at the accident site for quite a while before a clean up crew discovered you. You’ve been here since you were airlifted here four months ago.”

“FOUR—four months ago? I’ve been here for—(gasp)—four MONTHS?” With startling quickness,  her breath was nowhere to be found.

“Try to relax.” He nodded in a sympathetic fashion. “I know this is a lot to take in when you’re just waking up.”

Her eyes fluttered closed. Tears burned, showing their impatience to be released, small children at the top of a water slide. The first fell, slipping down her cheek. When it had gone far enough, the rest began to flow and they pulled a sob from her chest. She tried to cover her eyes, but those damn mittens were stilled tied fast to the bed.

“D-damn,” she whispered.

Suddenly, though, the mittens were pulled off, the straps loosened. “I don’t think you need those anymore.” He rubbed her arms where the straps had been to return the blood to the surface. She pulled her arms down, he let her. Even though her fingers were still asleep, she kneaded at her eyes.  Still, no matter how hard she pressed, the tears insisted on coming out.   This effort was, predictably, unsuccessful. Her fingertips were warm, dry, carrying the scent of the mittens like a bonus surprise. She pulled her hands back, looking at them. She bent her fingers, the skin resisting the sudden indignity of movement. Unbidden, a new sob shook her chest.

“Try to relax,” the Doctor said, looking at her with concern. “You’re alive, you’re awake, and you’re going to be fine. I promise.” He tapped his ID with his pen. “See this? Means I don’t get to lie to people. You ARE going to be fine.”

Sure, yeah, whatever, leave so I can have my complete mental collapse, now, please!

“Are you hungry? Want something besides—” he pointed to one of the tubes in her arm—”something I don’t know that I’d give my houseplants? Some toast?”

At the mention of food, her stomach stood at attention as though trying to show that it was quite ready to resume its God-given duties and responsibilities.

“T-toast would be good,” she said. “And maybe whatever else is in the kitchen covered in chocolate and whipped cream.”

The Doctor laughed. “Well, let’s try the toast and maybe some cereal, see how you make out with that.” He put his hand in his pocket, and she was crushed when he didn’t pull the promised food out of said pocket. “Yeah, let’s see.” She settled her head back against the pillow, now thoroughly convinced that his pockets held no food. He nodded, stood up. “I’ll check in after you eat.”

She tried to smile and nod, but this time the motion of the bed had been too much. Bile climbed her throat, and only went back down after she swallowed several handfuls of hot gravel. Only when the door was closed and she was alone again did she let the gasp of pain escape.  Her fingers were tingling as she brought them up to feel her face. Their aridity was still startling as she ran the tips across her cheek. The only thing that shared in their attempted Sahara imitation was again her mouth. She reached across to the table for the cup. Her fingers closed around it, but all strength had fled. It was as though they were enjoying their lack of moisture and they were determined to stay far away from anything that would change this fact. Finally, after a renewed set of negotiations, she convinced her hand that, indeed, picking up the cup would be a good thing. The effort it took was startling, and as she brought the cup over to her, it shook violently, a loose gate in a hurricane wind.

Steady, there, easy! Whoa, there!

The quivering hand brought the cup to her mouth, placing her other, equally vibratory hand against it to steady it. It was apparent, though, that the cup didn’t get the memo, as it continued to shake. She drank, tasting the plastic in the cup more than anything else, but it was still heaven. After a long, nirvanic sip, she pulled the cup back. It resumed the Mexican jumping bean act, although not quite as severely. Still, some spilled, landing squarely in the middle of her chest.


She frowned down at the cold spot of cloth. After a moment, she placed the cup, now traitorously quiescent and steady, back on the table. She pulled the cold, moist cloth away from her skin and frowned.

Well, shit.

She closed her eyes, leaning back into the pillow. The pillowcase was stiff, as though in a previous life it had been a dress shirt and it wanted to show that it still had what it took for a business meeting. Her head didn’t care, though. Just from that small effort, she felt exhaustion coming to claim her again.

I should probably stay awake. Breakfast is coming. I should probably stay aw—–

“Hello, there.”

What—who’s that?

“Hi, are you awake?”

Her eyelids had apparently decided to resume their single-minded quest to stay together. She opened her mouth, deciding not to even fight them. Her voice, on the other hand, sounded clear. “Yes, I’m awake. Don’t let my eyes fool you.” They still stayed shut.

“Actually, it was the snoring that was fooling me. Are you hungry, dear?”

A soft, wrinkled hand patted hers, as though to say, “Don’t worry, all hands are dry and happy.” The mention of food, though, constricted everything inside her and her eyes flew open whether they wanted to or not. Before her stood a tiny woman, a cart full of trays behind her. She had a grandmotherly, don’t-mind-the-blood-gushing-scratch-I’ll-fix-it-better presence. In response to the question, her head was already ignoring the dizziness and fog, nodding that yes, hunger was the current state of things. Grandma Cart smiled, showing yellowing, crooked teeth, with thankfully no evidence of previous meals.

“Well, let’s just see what we have here for you then to take care of that.” She turned with surprising fluidity and drew a tray from the middle of the cart. “Yes, yes, this is it, this is for you.”

Suddenly, there was a new smell coming from Grandma Cart. A sort of moist yet crisp scent, with the faintest hint of sugar. And over that, my GOD, is that coffee? COFFEE? Grandma Cart spun, a magician’s flourish of food. The tray she held bore a bowl, bearing the ambrosia of the breakfast table with a pint of milk beside it and a foil-covered cup of yellow liquid.

Even if that IS someone’s sample, I’ll still drink it.

“Now, the Doctor says this should be enough for your stomach,” tray goes onto table, “but if it’s NOT, well, I’ll be back in a little while and maybe you can try some more.”


“Now, would you like anything else? Would you like some coffee maybe?”


“Yes, please.” Her voice once again lacked the strength of an old noodle. “That would be nice.”

“Well, as long as you don’t tell anyone, I suppose it’d be all right.”

CIA, FBI, KGB, TMZ, CNN—NO ONE will get it out of me, you beautiful woman. May the angels and Juan Valdez’s burro sing you to your rest.

Grandma Cart looked at her for a moment. “You know, you should be sitting up more, don’t want you to choke.” Suddenly there was the sound of the robotic apocalypse and the pillow started to press up against her head. After a moment, she was sitting up, a completely new experience. She could now look Grandma Cart in the eye. “There, is that better, dear? Are you warm enough?” Another hand pat. “Now, if you need anything, you just let me know.”

Grandma Cart squared her shoulders, looked appraisingly at her big silver charge, and made a deep-throated harrumph. She opened the door, chocked it open with her foot, and gave the cart a mighty heave. With a loud, petulant squeak, the cart began to move. The rear edge caught the edge of the door, but Grandma Cart was ready. She gave a tug that would garner no argument and the door released its captive. Defeated, the door gave a resigned sigh as it swung shut.

She held the coffee cup in her hand, the blessed warmth returning full life to her hands. The revitalized appendages, new strength coming into them every second, lifted the cup to just below her nose.

“Arabica,” she whispered, as though making the most holy of prayers. The first sip, the warm bitterness washing into her across her tongue, filling her head, her soul with new vitality. “Oh, yeah, this is JUST what the doctor ordered.”

She settled her head back against the pillow, feeling either the warmth or the caffeine charting its course through the nether reaches of her body. “Yeah, this is good.”   With exceeding reluctance, one of her hands parted from its new home next to the coffee cup and moved to the cold steel spoon in the cereal bowl. The spoon raised a bit, the cereal looking crisp and wholesome and completely unappealing. Still, the spoon came up, depositing its cargo in her mouth. Not nearly as heavenly as the coffee had been.

“Well,” she mumbled around the cereal, “well, it’s still food.” After a few minutes, the meal was finished. With one last, savoring sip, the coffee followed. She settled back against the pillow, eyes drifting closed. She took a deep breath, trying to decide how she felt. Then another, slightly shallower breath.

There was a smell. Not the delightful, mouth watering smell of the coffee, not the aroma of the cereal, not the sharp, biting antiseptic smell peculiar to all hospitals. No, this was an earthier, slightly more athletic smell.

When the hell was my last shower? And how long have I been in these jammies?

With a grimace, she fingered her shirt with distaste. She made a nauseated noise, the coffee and cereal moving around inside. With a glance, she noticed a closet and a small cabinet next to it.

Maybe there’s something else in THERE to wear. At least, I HOPE there is.

Expelling a deep breath, she sat for a moment. One hand showed that yes, indeed, the reek of a dozen marathons combined with Wimbledon’s entire tournament and the entire football season added in for spice was lingering about her person. The other hand, just as relevant, showed that her muscles were still weak, no matter HOW good the coffee was. She rubbed her thumbs and forefingers together, as though she was a pianist preparing for a Carnegie Hall performance.

Come on, LEGS! Come on, FEET! You can do your stuff, do your job, let’s GO!

Her toes wiggled. Not quite the response she’d been hoping for. Still, progress was progress, not to be argued with. More wiggling. Ooops, there goes the foot. And the other foot, not to be outdone, was flexing away. She drew her leg toward her, the knee tight until a loud crack was heard.

YEAH, that hurt. That’s not something good, is it?

She pressed on. Slowly, so slowly, she pulled her other leg up. The knee bent, and though the suspense was excruciating, the bending this time was not. She swung her right leg over the edge, letting it dangle. For a moment, her foot moved back and forth, as though she were sitting at the end of a dock on one of the dog days. She steadied herself, stopped the foot, took a deep breath, and swung her other leg over the edge. Now, titled at a highly uncomfortable angle, her feet hanging over, she was unsure of how to proceed. On both hands, the fingers stretched, pressing down against the sheets. She remained still for a moment, assessing this new position and how best to get out of it. Almost by itself, her right foot swung around, looking for purchase. Her fingers gathered what strength they had, then pulled her toward the edge, a precipice beyond which was the great unknown. Centimeter by centimeter, she edged closer and closer toward her fate. For an interminable moment, it seemed she would remain suspended in the astral world between bed and floor. Years would pass, stories told to the hospitals interns and candy stripers about the patient that vanished into thin air, never to be seen again. A movie might even be made eventually. Now, both feet moved in the emptiness. She closed her eyes, mulling this new indignity until—


The gasp that forced its way from her mouth and the bed squeaking was all the noise in the room. A shiver began its World Tour at the base of her spine, traveling quickly from show to show up her verterbrae to its grand finale somewhere behind her eyes where its fireworks exploded. Her conciousness wavered, as though she were strapped into a mental Tilt-A-Whirl. Her eyes opened, and she realized that her mind was taking the rest of her body along for the ride. She leaned back against the bed, pulling in another deep, shaky breath.

Yeah, the floor’s cold, but I stink. Talk about the lesser of two evils.

She eased her toes down, until her big toe met polished, frozen tile. She drew breath between clenched teeth. The floor didn’t seem as cold this time around. Experimentally, she put her whole foot on the floor. Yeah, just as cold, but at least tolerable. With a grunt, she put her other foot down and lifted her upper body from the bed. There she remained, surveying the overclean floor before her.

I’m just dying to spill something on that. It’s almost as bright as the damn lights.

Maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t talk about dying in a hospital.

Just in case.

She pressed her hands against the bed until she was almost completely vertical. Slowly, impatiently, the room stopped spinning. A moment later, her stomach did likewise. The floor was still too damn bright, though. Now, the real challenge began. She moved a cold, weak foot forward. Experimentally, she stood. Stairmasters were currently out of the question, but at least it didn’t seem that she’d be falling on her butt immediately. She looked down her arm, her hand was still pressed against the mattress. Go on, it seemed to dare her. Take me off the bed. See what I do to you then.

Oh, this might suck. This might really really suck.

Her hand came away from the bed. She stood, independent. Though still unsteady, she remained vertical. The really hard part was about to come, though. Everything depended on this next motion. She took a step. She hadn’t realized her breath was being held until she felt the pressure in her chest showing that she had to exhale. She did, finding that it wasn’t the shaky, uncertain action she expected. Still uncertain, but with confidence building every second she didn’t go tail over teakettle, she took another step. Then a third. Somewhere in the back of her mind, a song about one step and another from some half-remembered Christmas special played. After a few steps, perhaps the longest stroll she’d ever taken, she reached the closet. Pulling it open, desperately hoping for a new wardrobe and a valet to assist her with it, her disappoinment was considerable when all that lay inside was a thin, terry robe with the hospital’s logo embroidered in. Undaunted, she opened the drawers. Inside them, medical supplies, rubber gloves, note pads, and various unidentifiable medical paraphernalia, but nary a strip of clothing. The sad, dejected sigh echoed in the room. She looked over her shoulder. The bathroom door was open, and it held something better than all the clothing in the world.

A gleaming, polished, tiled shower lay inside, the equally gleaming, polished shower head shining as though heaven above were shining a blessing, golden light on it. She moved toward the inviting bathroom, gaining more confidence with each step. She stepped across from the main room into the bathroom, the ball of her foot making contact with the square tiles inside.    The floor near the bed had been cold. Compared to these subarctic, cryogenically preserved squares of death, however, that floor had been a Tahitian beach at noon in the middle of July. A gasp escaped through her clenched teeth as she looked down, her hand grasping the doorway for support. The light grey tiles stretched between her and the shower stall.

EVIL. You are PURE EVIL. And you SUCK!!

She looked up, gazed at the shower head. Now, no longer inviting, it seemed to mock her. Her foot remained on the floor. The smell remained on her skin.

“Screw this,” she muttered. Still, she hurried across the terrible tundra toward the shower stall as though the chill would catch her. She stepped into the stall, the floor of which was paradoxically warm. She shook her head, not even trying to figure THAT one out. She grasped the single handle and turned it to the left, toward the warm area. The shower head spluttered for a moment as the water worked its way up the pipes, then spat, then came on full force. Expectedly, the first splash of the water was frigid.

I think I’m starting to sense a pattern, here. Is this hospital in the middle of Alaska? Have I been taken to the St. Siberia General Hospital?

After a moment, the water grudgingly began to warm. A few of the streams from the shower head on the outside were still cold, but in the end, even they gave up the fight. She stood for a moment, goosebumbs covering her skin as the water struck, enfolding her in a comforting hand. Her eyes closed, she ran her hands through her hair. She discovered a few unfamiliar bumps beneath her fingertips, covered by short hair. She knew her hair was generally long, so this area was mysterious. With a cautious finger, she gently traced the contour of one of the ridges. There was no pain, but the skin was slightly tender beneath the pressure. Going to have to ask about that one. Her hands stroked through the rest of her hair. No further anomalous discoveries were made beyond the fact that her hair was rather dry. She reached out, eyes closed, searching for a soap dish. After a moment, her fingers tracing the walls, she discovered one. Two small, paper-wrapped bars of soap lay within. She fumbled with one, finally getting the bar free. She held it beneath her nose, hoping for lavender, or vanilla, or even strawberry. Unfortunately, this smelled like old dish soap.

Beggars can’t be choosy, I suppose. Even if they don’t want to smell like they’ve just come out of the dishwasher.

She let the water hit the soap in her palm, then vigorously rubbed her hands over it. She imagined the layers of dirt flaking away, as though she were some archaeological artifact emerging from centuries of sediment. Beneath her arms, short hair took the soap hungrily. She felt her face heating as she realized this. Then, after that initial moment of shame, she got a hold of herself.

I guess maybe they don’t have a traveling beauty shop around here for people who’re out cold.

She moved down to her legs, trying to ignore the hair there as well. Her eyes widened when she saw vivid, purplish red scars on the top of her thighs. They weren’t painful to touch, but it was still a shock to discover them. After washing, she stood for a moment, hands braced against the wall of the shower, tilting her face up toward the water. It flowed over her face, running in warm rivulets down.

Ah, heaven. This is almost as good as the coffee.


“What the hell are you doing?” The voice came out of nowhere, as did the hand that grasped her biceps and lifted her, pulling her out of the shower. A small scream came out, and at first she didn’t realize that it had come from her. With her free hand, she wiped her eyes. Once they were clear, she saw the Planetoid had returned, holding her arm in a death grip, an expression of fierce anger distorting her face.

“Ow! I’m—ow, let GO—taking a shower! Damn it, let GO!” She tried pulling her arm free, to no avail. Her feet scrambled against the floor, unable to gain any purchase.

If this was a cartoon, any minute now I’d be off like a shot.

“Are you CRAZY? What were you THINKING?” Pauline said, shaking her arm, and thus, her whole body. “I can’t have you falling and getting hurt on MY watch!” Another shake. That was all her stomach could take. Between the food being the first she’d eaten in quite some time and the Nurse-A-Whirl she now found herself riding, everything in her stomach decided that it had enough. A burp came up, a precursor to everything else. She moaned after, but it was with no little amusement that she noticed that the Planetoid’s lime-green scrubs were now decorated with several other colors. Pauline wasn’t happy with this, if the flash that went across her face was any indication. She remembered and collected herself after a moment, shaking her head and hopefully any thoughts of patient dismemberment out.

“Now, come on, back to BED!” Pauline started to pull her toward the middle of the room, her grip inescapable.

“Will you LET GO!!” She pulled with as much strength as her weakened condition could muster. Somehow, she remained in midair for a moment, Pauline’s shocked face the only thing she could see. The next thing she knew, the cold floor came up to slap her legs as she collapsed. Now Pauline let the anger show on her face. A frustrated sigh shot out, and she was quite certain she heard some muttering beneath Pauline’s breath.

“NOW see what you’ve done?” Pauline grasped her arms, no less gently, and pulled her to her feet.

What I’VE done? What I’VE done? Are you KIDDING me?

Pauline shook her head as she hauled her to the bed. She seemed to have lost her voice again, new shivers shaking her from the inside out. The Planetoid looked around.

“What did you do with your clothes?” Another look. “Where are they?”

She looked up, pulling the blanket around her. “I t-took them off before I took the shower.”  Or do you believe in bathing in your clothes, you huge freak?

The Planetoid looked around, then went into the bathroom, and when she spoke it was as though she had discovered something momentous. “Oh, HERE they are.”

No, REALLY? You found them right where I left them? REMARKABLE!

She rubbed her leg where she’d struck the floor. She got up, again unsure if her leg would support her, and hobbled over to where she’d seen the robe hanging. As she pulled it open, she half expected the robe to have disappeared. Thankfully, it was still there. She pulled the rough fabric around herself as the Planetoid came out of the bathroom, the pajamas in one hand, the other hand using a towel to wipe herself down.

“Oh, you’re up.”

Nothing slips by this one.

“So, you don’t want to wear these then?” The Planetoid held up the malodorous clothing.

She felt her eyes widen. “Would YOU? Would you want to lay around in something that smelled like that?”

The Planetoid seemed highly affronted by this response. “Well, I don’t know if we have anything else right now for you to wear.”

She walked back to the bed, cinching the robe’s belt around her waist tighter. “Well, this’ll do.”

The Planetoid took another deep breath.  “I’m going to have to tell the doctors about this.”

Oooh, THERE’S a threat. “Okay, you do that.” She settled back against the pillow, letting her eyes drift shut. Her mind’s eye put together a funny picture as she heard the Planetoid sigh, annoyed, and mutter under her breath. A moment later, the door whispered shut.   She drew in a deep breath herself, letting it drain slowly out her mouth. There was a pressure on her arm. Suddenly, her arm rocked back and forth with this pressure.

“Are you awake?”

My god, I’m really starting to hate that question.

Her eyes shot open. “What—yeah, I’m awake. I’m awake.”

She saw a dark-skinned man with a thin moustache standing next to the bed. He smiled down at her.

“How are you feeling? Up for a little ride, maybe?”

She pushed herself up on her elbows. “A—a ride? What–?” Only then did she see the wheelchair beside him.

“I’m here to take you down to the exercise room. Doctor Golden wants to find out how strong you are.”

Suddenly aware that she was clad only in a robe, she tried to make herself small against the bed and pillows. Where before they had been at least comfortable, now they seemed to be made of the hardest, unyielding granite. “I—I—I’m not dressed,” she mumbled shyly.

Another smile. “That’s why the doctor gave me these.” He held up two plastic-wrapped packages. One held a pair of slippers, the other some folded cloth.

“What’re those?” She asked, her modesty trying to drive her even deeper into the bed.

An even bigger smile, followed by a quick chuckle. “New clothes,” he said. “Doc Golden thought you could use them.” Although covered by both her robe and the blankets, her modesty wouldn’t let her do more than reach a tentative hand toward them. He nodded encouragingly as she took them.   The plastic was yeilding beneath her fingers, filmy, slightly sticky. She stared mutely at the packages at the end of her arm. After a moment, she realized two things. One, her mouth was hanging open, and two, her new tailor was speaking. “—and you just get dressed, and I’ll take you over.” She blinked rapidly, as though her eyelids were trying to overtake his words.

“Wha—I’m sorry, what did you say?”

More chuckles. She raised her eyebrow speculatively. Well, Mr. Generosity gives clothes, but not much information, does he?

“I was saying the doctor wants me to take you to the exercise room, but first you should get into those.” He pointed to the packages. “They’re not the latest fashion, sorry to say.” She looked from his smiling countenance back to the clothes in her hand, then back to him. Her mouth, dry again, opened and closed three times, but no words were forthcoming.

Great. I’m doing so well that all I can do is impersonate a goldfish. Come on, TALK!

She swallowed. Though her mouth was dry and empty, it felt as though she were trying to force a spiny stone down her throat. He nodded encouragingly and stepped back.

“Don’t worry,” he said, taking a backstep. “I’ll just be right out here while you get dressed, okeydokey?” Not turning from her, he pulled the door open behind him and stepped through.

“Thanks,” she said, her voice suddenly back, although not really fully functional. For a long moment, she stared at the bundles before her. She moved the slippers off to one side, fingering the packaging over the garments. She licked her lips, then pulled at the plastic. Watch, way this day’s been going, I’m not going to be able to get this wrapper off. However, after a moment’s resistance, it came loose, a transparent Christmas package revealing its contents. She held the shirt before her. It felt thin, not terribly soft. Still, it would cover her. She pulled it on, noticing as she did that she’d dropped an extreme amount of weight. The four-month flat-on-your-back diet, sure to be ALL the rage in Hollywood this summer. Shaking her head, she pulled on the pants, then sat up. She pulled the robe up over her shoulders, suppressing another shiver. At first she didn’t know where she’d put the slippers. She felt around the bed, looking around. She felt them beneath her blanket and pulled this package free.

“Whatever,” she mumbled. She was taking them out of the wrappings when there was a knocking. She looked up when she realized that it was the door. “Yes?” she said, so softly that she could barely hear it herself, then louder, “Hello?” The door cracked open slightly.

“How are you making out in there?”

She shrugged. “All right, I suppose.”

This was evidently the hoped-for response. Mr. Generosity opened the door, smiling and nodding. “Well, all right, all right, let’s get you GOING!” In two steps he was next to the bed. He placed a gentle hand on her arm, pulling her up. She was nearly standing when the helping hand became a steering one.

“Easy, now,” he said, helping her into the chair. The plastic seat gave a little beneath her, but supported her. She rubbed her hands across the armrests. While covered in a wood grain pattern, they were hard plastic. The left one had been cracked and broken. She ran her finger along the edge.

“Are you all right on there?” he said, leaning down. When she nodded, he pulled the door open and started to pull the chair into the hall. Her eyes had grown accustomed to the light in her room, so of course, here in the hall, they decided to turn the light up even higher. She squinted, feeling her eyes beginning to water. She blinked twice, and then, cracking her eyelids just slightly, looked around. People were hurrying back and forth. Everyone seemed to be talking at once. As she was wheeled around a corner, a speaker mounted in the wall came to life. Loud life. Three tones, followed by the voice of someone who was apparently devouring the microphone as she spoke. Whatever was said, incomprehensible as it was, had to be important because it was repeated with no more clarity. The announcement, whatever its original intent, had the effect of slicing through her head, She squeezed her eyelids shut against this new agony. She raised her fingertips to rub her forehead, to try to rub the pain out. Her other hand clutched the broken armrest, her finger running over the rough surface where it was broken.

“Are you all right?” her clothier-turned-chauffeur asked again, the cheer in his voice really beginning to grate on her nerves.

She took a deep breath, still rubbing her forehead. “Do those announcement have to be so LOUD?” she asked, glancing back. She saw the sparkling white tiles, varied by either colored squares or black scuff marks rolling by. The pattern’s motion, even at the pace they were moving, was turning her stomach once more. She blew her breath out through her mouth, trying to settle her innards.

Come on, don’t barf now. This guy hasn’t been annoying at all. Wouldn’t be any fun to decorate HIS outfit!

He made a noise which was either meant to be affirmative or to let her know he was really enjoying his food. She hoped it was the former. She swallowed, once more feeling as though a small meteorite were trying to work its way down her throat, leaving small fragments embedded in her esophagus. She closed her eyes, willing the pain to cease. She opened them slowly, trying to relax. People were hurrying by, most with clipboards or PDA’s or some other recording media in their hands. She felt some regret that she herself didn’t have something to carry. Ahead were a pair of wide, maroon doors. They were coming up on them quickly. With a growing sense of alarm, she realized that her erstwhile guide was maintaining his rapid pace as the doors grew ever closer.

“Excuse me—”

Come on, Voice, don’t choose NOW to give up on me!

The doors grew ever closer. She cleared her throat, an activity that sent new screaming pain through everything from the neck up.

“Uh, excuse me, but—”

The doors loomed. Rather than slowing, it almost seemed that her litter bearer was speeding up in anticipation of the looming collision.


The doors swung in before them. In the cacophony of the surrounding hall, the silence with which they moved was astonishing.

“—um, closed,” she finished, feeling as though she belonged in a flock with a wolf dressed in similar hospital-issued attire stalking her to make her into lunch. There was a deep-throated chuckle behind her.

Great, now the wolf’s pushing me around to lunch.

“What, did you think I was going to make you crack up against the doors or something?”

Yes, you fast-walking maniac, that’s exactly what I thought. For all I know in the basement of the hospital, there’s a pile of dismembered body parts from your wheelchair demolition derbies, and you select the choicest bits for dessert!

“No, no, I didn’t think that at all.” Her eyes looked heavenward, just in time to stare right into those straight-from-hell flourescent lights. She closed her eyes, running her hand down her face.

At least this can’t get any worse.

She heard the sound of listless air escaping, as though the contents of a teapot were rapidly cooling. The tone changed a few times, and she realized her erstwhile guide was attempting to whistle.

When will I learn not to think things like that?

Just then, as though suddenly realizing it had made an error in lifestyle choices and deciding to give up right then to find a new path, the chair beneath her jerked to the side. Defensively, she grabbed the armrests and looked around. Contrary to her first thought, the chair was behaving, they had just turned down new hallway.

Because every time I DO, something like THAT happens!

On her left were windows, the sun streaming through. Paradoxically, the sunlight was not as bright as the overhead lights. Maybe it was just a matter of proximity. Overwhite clouds, as though they’d been made from the hospital sheets, drifted lazily by. Look at us, they mocked her, you’re moving to who knows where faster than anything, while we just watch and laugh. We’re outside, doing what we want and you can’t even control where you go. This thought drew the urge for another sigh. Afterwards, she looked in front of her. A grove of dull silver elevator doors stood in front of her. On the left panel of the middle one, a large dent marred the surface as though some orderly, impatient to deliver his bedridden patient, had decided to use the gurney as a battering ram. At this thought, she looked up at the one pushing her.

Don’t even THINK about it, Buster. Don’t even THINK it.

The orderly pushed the button, continuing in the attempt to make music by exhaling. In mid-note/breath, he asked, “Are you warm enough?” and then went right back to the tune. Amazed as she was by this feat, all she could manage to do was nod. Two sets of doors opened at nearly the same time. A group of doctors, or at least they looked and walked in a doctorish fashion, came out of the one. Her chair began to move toward the other. She saw that at the back, another set of doors was closed. Once inside, her chair was turned around to so that she was watching the door she’d just come through. A moment after it was closed, the floor seemed to fall away from beneath her, and she left her stomach above as she fell. A moment later, all organs present and accounted for, she looked up to see just where she’d been. The indicator light was behind the six. She processed that information, and, seeing that this hospital apparently had eleven floors, she tried to determine if there was some formula by which she could reliably determine, by taking into account her current speed (which she didn’t know) and her destination (another thing she didn’t know) what floor she’d been on. She squinted as she thought about it, and then came to a reasoned, logical conclusion.

I have no idea where the hell I’ve been, and I have no idea where I’m going.

She considered the wheelchair for a moment, again absently running her finger along the cracked armrest. As she did this, she decided her destination was probably not hell, as the chair in no way resembled a handbasket. That was something, at least. Somewhere, up above the elevator car, there came the sound of metal being sheared away by the angry hand of a giant that wanted to, in fact, swat her down to hell.

She looked up, terror evident on her face. “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”

He Who Was In Charge Of Wheeling shook his head, smiling. “Every so often, the freight elevator gets jammed in one of the other shafts. It’s kind of noisy.”

KIND of noisy? KIND of?

“Sounded like the end of the world!” she moaned, not taking her eyes of the ceiling. She tried to take him at his word, but she could swear the unmistakable scent of burnt engine oil was filling the small chamber. “It happens all the time?”

He shrugged. “I don’t even notice it anymore, really.”

How the HELL can you not notice THAT?!

A chime sounded, and with another stomach-wrenching lurch, the elevator stopped. She was very glad that she’d soon be off this vertical deathtrap. She watched the doors in front of her, but then, suddenly, she was jerked from behind. Only blind luck and inertia kept her from toppling from the chair as she realized they were leaving by the elevator’s back door.


Her mental diatribe was cut short as she realized this new area was not lit nor colored in nearly as blinding a fashion as the upper floor(whichever it had been) that they’d just left. Everything was either a deep maroon or a soothing cream color. The lights upstairs had been brilliant, torturous tubes of fluorescent pain, ready to conduct the third degree from Hell. Here, though? Here was lit like a restaurant specializing in either French or Italian food, but the food less so than the ambiance. Rather than the tubes overhead, actual table lamps with real light bulbs glowed warmly, invitingly. The walls were lined with landscapes gently illumined by track lighting. Warm mahogany tinted paneling gleamed, running from the floor halfway up the wall. THIS is a decided improvement.

All I need now is to see the menu and a wine bottle serving as candlestick to pick the wax off of.

“What is—what IS this?” She looked around, afraid if she looked to hard the comforting light and color would flake away like some kind of cereal-constructed illusion. Her guide laughed, a deep merry sound that, before, had seemed incongruous, but here seemed to fit the gentle, more intimate surroundings.

“Not like upstairs, is it? Personally I’d love to see the whole hospital done like this, but the doctors seem to like to be able to read their charts. This, my friend, is the rehabilitation wing. Some smart cookie a while ago realized that patients do better when they’re relaxed, so they redid this place like this. What do you think?”

She nodded, looking around. “Can I move my room down here? And what’s on the wine list?”

Another laugh. “Unfortunately, nothing right now.” He made a noise low in his throat, considering. The chair slowed. “Now, which of these rooms is it?” He made another noise, more affirmative this time, and started to push her chair again over the carpeted floor. The chair turned beneath her, there was a heavy paneled door before her with a brass plate about eye level. She looked over her shoulder to see what he was doing. There was another door, identical, behind them. He pulled it open, then pulled her through.

Maybe this is where I order the appetizers?

Alas, no such luck. The same carpeting covered the floor, but instead of the tables and chairs one would esxpect to find in a room like this, treadmills and exercise bikes lined the walls. An older woman sat on one of the bikes, pedaling away. She hummed to herself as she pedaled. In the corner sat a desk with a squat, balding man behind it. Something still seemed wrong with the scene, though. Then it struck her.

Vanilla. Strawberries. First gym I’ve ever seen with potpourri around.

The man behind the desk stood up, checking something on the computer screen. “Welcome to our little exercise room. Doctor Golden said I should give you all the tests, but I think I’ll go easy on you.” His voice, for such a solid-looking person, was high and reedy. “Well, how would you feel about some bike riding? Think you could handle that?” He held a hand out to her.

Her deep-laughing friend put a hand on her back, and leaned over to her. “I’ll leave you here, get you checked out, all right? I’ll come back in a while.”

She took the hand offered to her, the man’s skin softer than she expected. With a gentle tug, he helped her to her feet. “Are you all right?” he asked, watching her feet and legs. “Are you okay on your own?”

She bit her lip, not at all sure, but still she nodded. Right after, though, her legs felt weak. She felt his grip tighten on her arm, supporting her. “I guess that answers that question, hmm? Come on, right over here.” She let him lead her to the closest bike. “Yes, this should do.”

Shouldn’t there be a Queen song playing right now?

“Go ahead,” he said, encouragingly. “Get on. For right now, I just want you to pedal.”

She gripped the handlebar. “Um, how fast? How long?”

The handgrip was yeilding beneath her hand, and a little too dry. She stepped across, feeling the seat behind her. Her other hand took the other grip, this one was firmer. “There you go, hop up on the saddle, take it easy. I don’t want you to go too fast, don’t over-exert yourself too much. As for how long, really as long as you can. Don’t push yourself too hard, okay? Can’t have you wearing yourself out and hating my guts first time out, right?” He patted her hand. “Well, go ahead, get started.”

She swallowed another small boulder, suddenly nervous. She felt the pedals beneath her feet, not sure exactly what to do.

Oh, come ON. What, afraid you’re going to do, fall off? It’s not like you’re actually MOVING!

She took a deep breath, made her hands tighter on the handlebars, and braced herself. She looked down, watched her feet rock back and forth on the pedals for a moment. They were still for a moment, then, she rocked again. With a deep breath, she pushed against the pedals. She pushed more, but still, nothing moved. She looked up, the other biking woman pedaled on, unaware of any problem.

This is a gag, right? Or are they trying to test my nerve? Put me on a bike with pedals that don’t move and see how far I’ll go, right? See what happens, if I’ll crack up, right? I’m not going to play THAT game, NO I’M NOT, I’M NOT GOING TO—

The pedal moved slightly under her foot. Experimentally, she pushed against it again. At first, nothing, then a slight move again.

Oh, come on, how weak am I? Seriously!

She felt her mouth tighten, her lips compressing into a tight, determined line. She moved her foot against the pedal–

– Come on, you son of a—

—and it moved. Slowly at first, but then slowly loosening up. The pedals, like a rotating avalanche, began to gain speed as they spun. She heard a grunt, then another, and only then realized they were coming from her own throat. With each turn, though, the pedaling was easier, though still her legs didn’t feel at all strong. Even still, she relaxed into a rhythm, the pedals turning beneath her feet.

“So, how far are you going?” She looked over at the other bike. The woman there smiled slyly. “I’ve been riding for an hour and still I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere.”

The small smile that was all that line deserved pulled at her lips, but it fled as a tightness in her thigh began scratching at the edge of awareness, an achy puppy that wanted to play.  A few more turns of the pedal and the puppy had transformed itself into a full blown hound from hell.  A throbbing, stabbing agony ripped up her leg like flame skipping along kerosene.  She tried to shout at it to stop, to wait, but all that emerged was a high pitched chirp.

Great, I’m being eaten from inside and all I can do is imitate a parakeet!!

Still, she felt her cheeks stretching as her mouth opened in a silent O as he eyes clamped shut, twin Fort Knox gates securing after getting the news that Dillinger and Capone had returned to life and were on the way for a tour.  Her leg was demanding so much attention that her hands had numbed.  There was a strange, disconnected feeling, as though she really were on a bike and the wind was flying through her hair.  This strange, disconnected feeling was chased away by a strong, connected feeling that proved other portions of her anatomy beside her leg could feel pain.  Gasping, her eyes flew open and she realized she was on the floor, and her side and shoulder felt as though they were part of a football practice dummy.  Her head turned, and she caught the scent of an old closet, dust and neglect, mixed with too much scented carpet cleaner.

Well, this can’t be good. You were SUPPOSED to hold me up, you prick.

The floor vibrated beneath her as she tried to push herself up. From out of nowhere, strong fingers grasped her arms. Her head whipped around to see what this new indignity was. Several pops shot into her head as her neck cracked. She opened her eyes and saw a white shoe way to close to her head.

WHOA! What the—

“Easy, easy—”

Yeah, falling off was very easy. Since I fell off the bike, does this mean I have to find a log to ride, now?

“Are you hurt? Come on, let’s get you up.” The man from the desk lifted her. Her hands moved forward in a token gesture to push against the floor. “Are you all right? Anything broken? Anything hurt?”

She shook her head, struggling to pull air into her lungs.  His hands were very large against arms that were like toothpicks in his grasp, that thin and that weak.  As her body went more vertical, whatever gyroscope controlled her breathing suddenly righted itself and her lungs filled with several gasping inhalations. Whatever evil was hidden by the carpet cleaner had managed to get inside her nose just enough, and the sneeze shook her to the toes.

“Can you follow my finger?”  The question hung there for a moment, looking for a head to enter.  Her own was busy trying to fight her intestines from shaping themselves into hands to reach forward and grasp the floor to lower her altitude.  The disconnected voice came again.  “Are you all right?  Can you hear me?” Sudden connection came from the words to the muscles in her neck.  They swung her head around, rather like a tennis ball-surmounted antenna in a strong wind.  After blinking several times proved unworthy as an answer, she tried to speak.

“Just peachy in here!”  Her throat felt very thick around the words as the attendant walked her over to one of the chairs.

“Looks like you weren’t quite ready for so much activity,” the attendant said, easing her down.

When’s the next case, Sherlock?

But, contrary to that thought, her voice betrayed her by saying, “No, really, I’m fine.  I was just–”

Just—what?  Testing the bounce-ability of the floor?

“You were fine, I hear you.  Just rest here for a minute.  Are you warm enough?”   As this last question came out, her limbs decided it was time to treat her internal organs like an egg about to be scrambled in its shell in a late night infomercial.   The attendant made an affirmative noise, producing a blanket from she knew not where, and it was wrapped around her as her eyes closed against the chill.

If I don’t SEE it, it won’t make me cold!  Yep, there’s the old logic train!

She looked up at the attendant, pulling the too-soft-to-be-in-a-hospital blanket more tightly around her.  “Thanks,” was all that would come out.  She wanted to explain just how embarassed she was, how grateful to be away from the carpet, and how much said carpet needed a good steam cleaning, but the words stubbornly wouldn’t come.

He put his hand gently on her shoulder, as though to say he knew all that was going through her mind. “Just rest here, I’ll get someone to take you back up to your room.”  He nodded, as though trying to encourage her and agree with himself that this was the proper course.   “Would you like something to read while you wait?”

A shuddering breath shuddered as she tried to steady herself, but she shuddered again, and tried to shake her head.  Her head, having given this concept due consideration, moved slightly.  Her teeth had begun to click against each other in a manner that suggested all her bodily warmth had been moved away from said body and remained on the floor where she’d struck it.   Her nose was still slightly irritated by the earlier sneeze, but her hand seemed to have been absorbed into the blanket and also chained to a ring on the floor.

Don’t make me sneeze again.  My head can’t take it.  Brains and boogers would splatter all over the place.

The chair ahead seemed both close enough to touch, and farther than the furthest neutron star.  Her legs had once again attained the consistency of cold linguine that had been left in a week-long rainstorm.  She felt her feet pressing against the floor, but no supporting sensation from the legs above.  She pressed forward, feeling herself move toward the chair.

Come on, Body, it’s not like it’s THE Chair, I just wanna sit down!!

Before she knew it after an interminable wait, the chair was there before her.  A curious, cautious finger ventured from beneath the blanket, stroking the padded arm.  The chair did not, as feared, vanish soap-bubble fashion beneath the finger tip.

“Oh,” escaped from her lips, surprising her.

“All right,” said the orderly from behind her, “lets get you turned around and into this chair.”

Turned around?  Can’t I just sort of collapse into it?

The wordless reply came as strong fingers grasped her arms, turning her as a pajama-clad pinwheel in the breeze.  Her gaze attempted to stay on the seat, the wonderful promise of comfort having attached Velcro to her eyelashes.  With no thought from her or warning to her stomach, the hidden band holding her gaze there snapped, moving her head with nauseating quickness to line up with the rest of her body.  Her eyes stayed open, taking in all the aerobatics her head was performing.    Salty, sour bile tired clawing its way up her throat, escaping in a malodorous gasp as the hydraulic pistons the orderly had in place of arms deposited her against the cushions’ firm support.  Many bitter swallows were needed to convince the bile to retreat down her throat, grumbling all the time at having to return to whence it had come. The chair was just soft enough to welcome her, but not so soft that it would entrap her, capturing like a hungry predator with she as a tasty snack.  Her head remained in motion, as though not-quite solidified gelatin had been poured into an ear.  If she moved slowly, however, the discontent was kept to a minimum.  Even her breathing, which for so long had seemed to come in staccato inhalations, was attempting to slow itself.  Her temples were likewise losing their marching band drum beat. She tried to settle into the chair, attempting to find a more comfortable position that could be reached with a minimum of movement.  There was not, but still, restlessness nagged.  After all, it seemed to say, since this is an exercise room, shouldn’t there even be exercise in quasicomfy chairs?

What, will Hans and Franz throw me out if I can’t bench press the orderly?

A languid eye opened, reviewing the orderly.  No, he wasn’t THAT cute.  She let out a sigh, clutching the blanket closer against her form.  Her toes, as though trying to make up for their lack of communication earlier, obligingly wiggled against the rough, soft terry material.  In this way, her desire to do more exercise was sated.  With a deep breath, she tried to smell the heady potpourri, but it was being overpowered in her nostrils by the dusty carpet smell from before.

Oh, well.  If I wanted perfection, the orderly WOULD be that cute, an Adonais, really, and I’d have more strength to take advantage of him.

It.  Take advantage of IT.

The situation.

Oh, whatever.

The door opened, her eyelids following close behind.  Her chauffeur had returned, ready to begin her journey to either somewhere even more lush and comfortable(doubtful) or back to her room.  On further reflection, the thought of returning to bed wasn’t that bad.

“So,” Mr. Wheelman said, “how did we do?”

“Okay, but I fell off the ol’ wagon,” she said, her voice at once solid and weak.  It was only after she said this that she saw the orderly pass Mr. Wheelman a printed page.

“Still some balance issues, apparently, and her legs will need a lot of work,” the orderly intoned.

That’s all because I said you weren’t Adonais, isn’t it?  And why the hell are you telling the wheelchair guy?

They helped her into the chair, her legs feeling just as rubbery.

Okay, I take back the Adonais line, but seriously, why the wheelchair guy?

“All right, let’s get you back upstairs, maybe get some more food in you, eh?” Mr. Wheelchair pushed her across the room, through an alcove with steamed windows. “That there’s the pool.  Nice and warm in there,” Mr. Wheelchair said.  “Once we get you a little stronger, maybe I take you in there.”  Another throaty laugh.

“Probably drown right now,” she said, deep shudders rocking her whole body.  “I never learned to swim.”

“Oh, that’s no problem, it’s not really deep and it’s always good to grow!”  As a throaty chuckle worked its way out of him, another shudder grabbed her heart, moving out across her chest like killer jumping beans on spiked pogo sticks.  Thankfully, once they had passed the pool, it seemed to fly from her driver’s mind,  a wet duck going south for Christmas.

“Work up any appetite in there?  Dinner cart’s almost due; we’ll get you back and nourished up real good.”

Apparently I’m in Deliverance Hospital, where proper grammar is on life support and it’s not looking hopeful.

Still, at the mention of food, her stomach’s ears reacted, a digestive golden retriever hearing a can opener.  I’m hungry, it seemed to say, adding a few bubbles into the mix to confirm this opinion, The elevators they took this time were in a different location, blessedly silent except for a doctor’s humming for three floors.    After this, more hallways lit by direct system links to the surface of the sun, with more noiseless doors.  In what seemed a far shorter time than it had initially taken to reach the exercise room, they reached the hallway that held her room.  Sure enough, the food cart was standing silent sentry at the end.  Whether its patrol had already carried it past her room now became the question.  There was suddenly an overwhelming, hunger driven urge to leap from the chair, bounding over passers-by, bodily tackling the cart and whichever elderly pseudofamily member was now moving it.    Further consideration, memory of her legs’ recent pasta impression, and the sight of the cart moving, in fact, toward her room kept this desperate plan from being enacted.  Just to be absolutely certain, her legs tensed as she watched the delectably-laden mobile metal until the wheelchair was in her room.

“Easy now,” Mr. Wheelchair said, holding her hand and arm as though they were made by Faberge’ as she tried to stand.  For this first time today, it went remarkably smoothly.  Her erstwhile porter deftly engaged the brake on the wheelchair, saying “Let’s get you into bed, now, hmmm?”

Bet you say that to all the girls.

“And I don’t say that to ALL the girls, now, mind you!”  Spindly fingers helped her turn around, helping her remain stable as she tried to stifle a painful guffaw.    He gripped her ankles—- HEY!  Watch it there, funny man! —-and swung her legs atop the bed.  She attempted scooting the pillow up with her elbows, but its softness just molded around them.

“Here, let me get that,” Mr. Wheelchair said.  As he fluffed the pillow out, removing the injuries caused by her elbows, the door slammed open, sounding like a hundred thousand pencils cracking at once.  She jumped, once more compressing the pillow in her surprise.

Glad this is a hospital, where everything’s so QUIET!!

That the cart was no longer under the delicate ministrations of Grandma Cart was obvious.  No, she’d been replaced by someone younger, gum chewier, and looking as though not all the cart’s cargo reached the intended patients.

“What did you order again?” Gumgirl said, looking into the cart. She looked to Mr. Wheelchair, who was trying to find a way to maneuver the folded chair past the cart and its masticating mistress.

“Um, I didn’t get to order, well, anything.”  A small miffed voice arose from her midsection, stating petulantly in no uncertain terms that food had better be coming forthwith.

The gum cracked like the last remaining pencil.  “Well, if you didn’t ORDER, how do I know what to GIVE you?”  Crack, slurp.

Give me FOOD, you moronic—–!

Once  again, Mr. Wheelchair showed his chivalric side, charging again to her rescue.  “I’m sure Doc Golden had note sent down,” he said with an edge, pushing past Gumgirl, opening the cart.  Making an affirmative clucking sound– He rescues people, drives wheelchairs, and imitates chickens.  Is there no end to his talents? —he pulled a blue tray forth.  Upon the silver lid, a small note was affixed, reading the room number and “Orders of Dr. G.”  She felt her eyes widen in anticipation as her stomach again tried to exit her body by clawing up her esophagus to more easily reach the food bypassing her mouth altogether.

Settle DOWN, you!  In a minute!

The tray was placed on the rolling table, cuing Gumgirl that she was no longer needed.  A loud harrumph indicated she got the message, and began pulling her charge behind her.  There was an horrific crunching sound, followed by a stifled, tear-filled curse.  Gumgirl’s pudgy fingers could be seen between the cart and door jamb, wiggling mealworms on a sunbaked sidewalk.

“Oh, honey,” Mr. Wheelchair said gently, although there was still a trace of satisfaction in his voice.  “You should get that LOOKED at!”

Pity there isn’t a doctor around!  Oh, I shouldn’t say that.  It may not be her fault she’s such a twit.

No, it is.

It really is.

Mr. Wheelchair had moved the cart, and was about to help Gumgirl out.  He looked back to the bed, a question in his eyes.   She nodded, mouthing “Thank you” as she removed the lid.  He nodded, a warm smile lighting his features like morning sun on the mountain slope. Thinking of slope made her realize she was slipping down the bed.   Uncertainly, and mindful of her previous failure at this, she braced herself against the starched whiteness, trying to push herself up.  It was with immense gratification that her eye level moved up the bed as her body complied with her orders and also had the strength to do it.  For a brief self-congratulating moment, she allowed her head to settle against the pillow, then she decided to see what her current repast consisted of. There was no coffee this time.  Thin strips of unbreaded chicken under an even thinner brown gravy lay on the plate, next to slightly-too-green beans.  With caution, as though she were afraid it might scream in agony when she cut it, she pulled the knife across the meat.  It crumbled in much the same way dried dirt does when tossed by the wind, and in a way meat never should.    At this point, however, the her stomach was prepared to brook no argument.  Experimentally, she tasted it.  Put more correctly, she tried to FIND some taste in the meat other than the slightly greasy lingering it left behind.  She chewed, feeling less like she was eating meat than an old Styrofoam sandwich container. The Seismic gastronomic upheaval in her midsection continued, mindless of her tastebuds’ displeasure.  More Styrochicken followed, with a few bitter beans, causing the rumbling inside to settle begrudgingly into a gentle oceanic wave.  Next time, it said, next time, more chicken, less gristle, less grease.

NEXT time.  I didn’t BUY the damn thing!

Still, her only slightly mollified midsection would credit that not.   Most of the green beans appeared firm but their inner sogginess belied any hopes she’d had after taken the first bite.  The second  caused her to assert full dominance over her stomach as she pushed the plate further down the bed.

I should cover that plate. I really should.

The silver cover seemed to be possessed of immense weight and impossibly far away.  Her left hand even began the Journey of Disappointing Dinner Covering, but this effort was given up halfway.  Her fingers reached out one last, half-hearted time, folding as they at last came to rest against the overstarched sheet.  Several nasal hairs chose this precise moment to follow her stomach’s previous example, leaping up to call attention to themselves.  Perhaps they did this to protest the scents that blended themselves in the room.  The aromas of antiseptic and antipasta threatened to cause some reaction, but a sudden energetic twitch of her nose brought them back into obedience. A sigh that had common weight with a blue whale that had a glandular condition and indigestion passed her pursed lips.  Her head shook slightly to clear it and make the pillow slightly more comfortable.  Neither effort was met with success.  She tried again, but this second effort was only slightly less effective.

Come ON, pillow, don’t MAKE me get the hands involved!!

The pillow, curious to see what the hands would do if in fact called upon, remained motionless.

I’m WARNING you!

Still nothing happened, the pillow remaining steadfast in her discomfort.

I really am this time!

Her fingers wiggled in preparation to punish the pillow.  She braced herself, half-hoping the delay would bring the bed and pillow into line.  They did not. A sudden yawn stretched her mouth, causing her eyes to tear, a sound like a dyspeptic goose emerging.

Man, I’m really tired.  Maybe just rest after I fix the pillow.

Maybe…. Gotta fix the pillow. Gotta. Fix. The.













Beep beep.

Why is there beeping again?



And why don’t the beeps answer?







Nothing worse than stubborn beeps.



Shut up, you.

Her hand moved out with some trepidation toward the source of the sound.  The table beside the bed seemed so close and yet so far from the warmth of the blankets.  A finger, not the index but one more indicative of how she felt about the source of the beeping, searched until it found its prize–the snooze button.  One quick depression then the hand darted back beneath the cover, a trapdoor spider evading light.

She sighed contentedly as the blanket enveloped her once more.  That’s when it began.

My foot itches.

Ignore it.

Another deep breath, another attempt to return to the shadowy realms of sleep.  Another, sharper poke by the itch.

Aw, frig.

Through a combination of clever maneuvering and contortion the foot was scratched without the blankets being removed.  Still, she had moved too far away from the areas Morpheus controlled, and sleep was no longer an option.

“Aw, frig.”  The epithet was delivered sadly with a hint of resignation.  Through no fault of their own, the blankets had lost their inviting, welcoming features.  Then, intent on injury being added to, the snoozing alarm clock awoke.  Now her hand shot forward, a vindictive arrow determined to kill time.  It had to settle for killing the noise.

Another deep breath, followed by another itch, this time on her nose, and she felt herself ready to begin.  The covers were folded away from her, and her legs swung over the bed.  With a glance, she caught the morning sun gleaming through the blinds.  The tree outside the window was tossed back and forth in the breeze, its shadow dancing worms synchronized on the floor.


I hate worms.

I hate dirt where worms live.



She’d developed the habit of leaving slippers beside her bed, so her feet would never have to be frozen again.  Slipping her feet in as a yawn slipped out, she shuffled toward the kitchen.  The timed coffee maker–God bless technology–had brewed whatever it was she’d put in last night.  The scent from the pot was thick in the air, dimming even the soapy water scent from the sink a few feet over.

Another jaw-stretching yawn contorted her face as the coffee went into the cup.  The bells of Heaven could not be as sweet as the spoon striking the side of the cup, stirring the sugar into oblivion.   The first sip, still slightly too hot, connected all the loose wires in her head as full wakefulness struck like a bolt from the blue.  Well, black, with sugar.

After a second cup of awake, and a leisurely shower, she dressed, finally leaving the house.  It was earlier than she usually left, something she felt good about.  The car always seemed a little too eager to get her to work in the morning, but this time she didn’t care as much.  The sun shone brightly, there was a nice breeze, and the honeysuckle in the neighborhood hadn’t reached the Oh-God-Its-Choking-Me stage yet.

Her stomach piped up.  It wanted something more than coffee this morning.  As she began to ponder what my satisfy it, the railroad crossing closed before her, the bells clanging, a discordant clatter on the pleasant morning.    A few other cars were gathering behind her.  One of them decided a long freight train across the road was insufficient a reason to wait, so it starting blaring its horn.

“Where do you want me to go, Einstein?” she asked, moving her fingers away from the steering wheel in a questioning gesture.  Still, the impatient driver blared that damn horn.












“Pulse is thready and irregular.”



What the hell…?  What’s going on, and why does my head feel like someone’s playing racquetball with my brain?

“Multilple contusions and lacerations across the chest and legs, deep gash in the forehead.”




“Both wrists are broken, and she’s lost a lot of blood.”

So, THAT’s why my arms hurt!

“Blood pressure’s very low, and her left ankle is definitely broken.”

She felt a tug at her waist, but her head was affixed to whatever she was laying on by impenetrable force.  She felt it again, like the hint of a moth flying against a screen, trying to get inside.  She tried looking down, but beyond the bruised tip of her nose, she could see nothing.  She tried to ask a question, but this attempt lost against the stronger attempt of all the air in her body trying to leave violently at once.  Coughing and choking when your head is immobile is particularly strenuous.  She wanted to take a deep breath as the spasm passed, but the grey tendrils closing around her vision prevented that.   In fact, the gasps that followed were less enervating or sustaining than a bowl of oatmeal, paste, kitty litter, and broken glass. A face came into her view.  “Just try to relax as much as you can,” the woman said.  “Don’t try to talk.” “Not sure if she’ll ever get the use of that foot again.  It’s completely shattered.” Wait…WHAT?  I was just using my foot–HEY THAT HURTS! Her leg felt as though it were the sealed lid on a soda bottle, being turned by a giant 9-year old intent on a drink.  She tried to look, but her head was seemed fastened to whatever uncomfortable mode of torture she’d been attached to.  She tried to grasp at it, but her arm seemed to terminate just below the elbow.  She tried to move her finger, and felt something vaguely fingerish move against her side, but he had no sense from the offending digit.  Her other hand, sore as it was, felt as though it were in an oven mitt that had woodpeckers striking at it to find any insects that might be inside.  It didn’t seem to be as entrapped as the other.  Raising it, she was astonished to see a hand that bore many scratches, as though the flies from the other hand decided to carve this one first.  Likewise, it was looked as though it were the hand of a plump overinflated Buddha balloon. She tried to say something, make some alarmed exclamation, but her breath only rattled into a choking spell.  Her eyes shut against the pain, and she was only dimly aware of the clamor of voices around her.  As her breathing returned to normal, her tearing eyes opened, twin slivers in an ice sculpture. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?  I WAS JUST IN THE DAMN HOSPITAL!  WHERE AM I?? Her ears seemed to release whatever had been clogging them, though she didn’t hear it fall.  She did, however, hear a new voice. “Dispatch, we’ve almost reached the hospital.  Patient critical.” She tried pulling in a deep breath to yell in an indignant fashion, but all that resulted was choking, stabbing pain ripping from the center of her head outward.  She squinted upward, trying to make sense of what was happening, but the voices around her seemed muffled now.  It was like they new of the New Pain, and didn’t want to frighten it off. PLEASE!  Hurts so much FRIGHTEN IT OFF!  HELP ME! She felt a gentle touch, and glanced over with barely seeing eyes.  Everything blurred around her, but there was a shining above her that caught her gaze.  A golden twinkling, allowing of no looking away.  This new light seemed to draw her forward.  She still heard the motion, the siren, the rattling and susurrus around her, but only the gleaming bore inspection.    After a moment of gazing, her eyes were growing dry.  With effort that came from every part of her, she moved her eyelids closer together, screen doors caught between a strong breeze and the tug of their hydraulics.  Soon all she could see was the pale, golden glint.  It began to spread to encompass her whole vision, then surround her to become her whole being.     Only distant recognition showed her that she was for some reason salivating.   The pain caused by the fluid moving down her throat was beyond anything she’d ever conceived of.   The tears flooded her view, diffracting the golden light, shattering it into the million pieces it felt like her body had become.  It seemed her whole life, her whole universe, was pain, light, and—

That friggin’ BEEPING AGAIN!!  Why is there always friggin’ beeping?

She sobbed, then all she could hear was her labored breathing an



















This is not comfortable.







Something touching.


Something on my face.










No, that’s–








Not right.

That’s not right.

My face





face is on something.






This is less than comfortable.




Why is there beeping?


Is that–what is



that?  Sounds close.


Chest sore.






Something’s on it.



Should move it.




Why can’t I move it?




Try to feel it.





Try again.








Her hand reached up, pausing just before reaching her face.   Her face contracted, her upper body tightening involuntarily.  Small, pebble-like things skipped merrily across her cheek and forehead, falling away with the sound of settling sand.  Her forehead, which before had an ache, an old tired silent woman, now enlivened to a vibrant dancing senior with stiletto heels against her skull.  Her hand, now given the proper permission, probed the dance floor, coming away sticky.

What’s happening?  I was in an ambulance—- HOSPITAL—

—in the hospital, now where the frig am I?

Her eyelids, showing more initiative than they had in recent memory, shot apart.  After a moment of blurriness, she focused on her fingertips.  Her red covered fingertips.  Distantly, her mind connected RED with blood.

“Someone’s bleeding.”

Her mind was not quite fast enough at this point to recognize that her head hurt, she’d touched it, and now her fingers were red.  In fact, she was surrounded by the iron-heavy scent carried by blood, along with a slicker scent, a more mechanical scent, and behind that…a scent more like a greenhouse.  Finally getting her eyes off her fingertips, she saw her car surrounding herself.

Shit. I’M the one bleeding.

Well, shit.

The windshield in front of her was showing a peculiar design, a snowflake fallen on a piece of thin ice.  There were trees laying down on their sides, were THEY the source of the earthy smell?   A tightness at the back of her throat.  How long had it been there?  She tried to clear it, but it was as though there were a Gordian knot just past her tonsils.  A second attempt was similarly unsuccessful.

Why are the trees laying down?

She shifted her shoulders, and felt the seatbelt cut into her chest.   Her eyes drifted down, seeing the nylon holding her fast against the seat.  As she moved, particles of glass–GLASS!–fell away from her and landed in the water that covered the passenger door.


She reached for the door, her hand moving across a serrated butcher knife, coming back bloody.  She looked, and saw the window was broken.  Beyond that was the rear view mirror, showing a patch of broken tree limbs and flattened grass.  Presumably that was the path she’d taken.  In the distance, she heard birds starting to chirp, water getting louder.    She tried to use her other hand to reach her cell phone, but the angle was awkward and her fingers had no strength left.  She felt the edge of the phone, but her fingers could do nothing more than feel it.  Eyes closing in determination, she made another attempt.

Slow and steady, that’s the way…..

The phone made the slightest budge.  Her fingers caressed the case, trying to entice it out to play, while the rest of her body chose then to adjust itself against her seatbelt.  The phone took exception to this, whether because it disliked the jostling or being left out of the decision process, who is to say?  Nevertheless, it chose that moment to jump ship, falling out of the pocket.  Her strained neck swung in a manner she didn’t believe it could, and her dry eyes watched as the phone stood in space like a cellular bubble.  She tried to grasp it, but it decided at that moment to move away from where it had been with surprising assuredness.  The noise as it broke the surface of the puddle was hollow, definite, and final.  She was surprised to see the screen still lit beneath the surface.

I can get it, right?  Then call for help and get OUT—

The screen flickered, then went dark.  Behind the clog at the back of her throat, a sob punched through.  Shortly after, stabbing pain punched through her chest.  It was apparently too much for her, because the next thing she knew she was waking up.  The hillside in front of her was brighter, then sunlight flowing down through tree limbs and browning autumn leaves.  Instinct pulled her eyes to the clock on the broken dashboard, but like the cell phone and everything else–including my prospects!  DON’T GO THERE!—it was dark.  She closed her eyes, opening them again a moment later.  She tried moving the hand that hadn’t been sliced on window against the horn.


Several ground creatures could be heard scurrying off, several birds could be heard flapping indignant wings.  Dirt fell down the hill in clumps, some coming through the window, landing against her face.

That’s not fair.  That’s just not fair.

She glanced to the left, trying to make sure there were no more descending dirt devils.  Her glance caught the rear view mirror, from which hung a gold cross.  The sun glinted off, sending golden sparkles against the inside of the car.


Golden will save me….

How will golden save me?

She closed her eyes, trying to push the desperation away.   All she could hear was her own labored breathing.  She tried swallowing again, again disappointing lack of success.  She looked up the hill, trying to pull the door handle.  Her fingers scrambled across the plastic, finding no purchase.  A scarlet drop fell from her palm, splashing into the rising water next to her.    There was a whimpering sound along with the birds now, and after a moment she realized it was coming from her.

I can’t die like this!  I was in the hospital!  I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL!   GRANDMA CART BROUGHT ME COFFEE!!

I…was home….I was home…

I want to go home.

There was a new sound, a lower sound than the animals.  Than the water.

I don’t wanna drown in that water.

Why didn’t I learn to swim?

Or drive on a damn road?

There was a lower sound, a crunchier sound.  A mechanical, crunchier sound.

That’s a car.  Or a truck.

It’s coming.

A new sound joined the car or truck sound, a sound that was familiar through all of this.


She didn’t even realize she was jamming her injured palm against the horn for a minute.    The car or truck sound was getting closer, it was getting closer, wasn’t it?

The light around her seemed to be darkening.  She felt her other hand fall away from her side, but the horn had to go on!  IT HAD TO!


It had




I will live


I wi

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEe EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee




Someone save me…..







11 Responses to “Perception–the whole thing”

  1. Car wreck. You’re hiding something.

  2. Yes, I’m hiding something. No, it has nothing to do with the car wreck. (MWAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAA! I have them NOW!!)

  3. Hmmm… It’s semi-autobiographical and the woman in the piece is you fifteen days after the accidental sex change operation?

  4. You’ve discovered my secret and now I have to destroy you. Such a shame it’ll mess up my nails….

  5. Before anybody asks, no, this isn’t the Bates Hospital.

  6. Ah! More! I’ll read it later and get back to you.

  7. There’s more here!

  8. I’m reading, I’m just waiting to see where you’re going with this.

  9. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten her, and yes, I do know what’s going to happen, but I’ve been really busy at work and I’ve also been learning how to do special effects on my computer.

  10. So, whattaya think?

  11. Right now, this thing is exactly 14,000 words. Unless you count all the beeps as one word, in which case it’s 12 words.

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