Authors: B. V. Larson
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2012 B. V. Larson
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by 47North
P.O. Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140
I slowly became aware of my surroundings. I felt groggy and I knew I must have been drugged—probably for pain. I was lying in a bed. I knew I was in a hospital room, but I had no idea how I had come to be here. There was a TV mounted high on the wall in front of me, blaring with late-night infomercials. The TV tried in vain to sell me waffle irons, jewelry, and exercise equipment. Attractive, almost frantic people tried to get me to pick up the phone and call
. The bluish, flickering light from the TV screen provided most of the illumination in the room. The door was closed and the curtains were drawn around my bed. Apparently I rated a single occupancy, as the bed to my left was empty.
I searched my foggy brain for information, but I found precious little there. I had names for all the furniture around me, and I understood the function of each item. But I did not know my own name.
Much of what we are exists in the mysterious realm called memory. Our identities reside there. Without memories, what are we? Virtually nothing. Since I had no memories, I decided to investigate my surroundings and build some new ones.
I stirred under my sheets and felt sharp, stabbing pains. I noticed an intravenous drip line taped to my wrist. I curled my lip at the IV. Here was the source of the drug fogging my brain. I thought vaguely of pulling out the needle, but it seemed like too much effort. I reached out, kinked the clear plastic tube that ran to the sliver of steel in my arm, and pinched it. The flow stopped.
I waited for several minutes, lying there and gathering my thoughts. I felt like sleeping again, but stubbornly refused to let my mind fade away. I knew if I did, that IV line would open and the fluid would run into my veins.
After a while, my mind began to clear. Carefully, I lifted away the sheet over my legs and inspected the damage. My parts were all there, but there was a hard cast on my right leg below the knee. I was pretty well mangled. I saw staples, sutures, dark scabs, and even glassy spots where they’d used glue to hold my flesh together. The scabs flaked away at my touch, revealing fresh, pink skin growing underneath. How long had I been here?
Still pinching the IV drip line, I forced myself into a sitting position. The world swam for a moment, then steadied. I noticed that someone had brought me a flower. I spotted it to my right on a tiny table. I turned my stiff neck from side to side, but didn’t see a phone in the room, or any sign of clothing more significant than the flannel smock I was wearing.
I looked at the flower again. Someone must have placed it there, either out of concern or kindness. Maybe it meant
I had at least one friend in the world who cared. I tried to remember friends, relatives. I drew a blank. As the implications sank in, I began to worry. How much of my mind had I lost? Would it come back in time?
I looked at the flower one more time, seeking solace. Whoever had brought it, they must have done so a long while ago, because it was dead. The flower wasn’t a red rose—which would have left me hopeful of a romantic interest. It wasn’t pink, yellow, or even white. In fact, it wasn’t even a rose. It was a chrysanthemum. A big purple one. It had sagged over, its frilly head growing too heavy for the stalk as it expired. Dipping down like a weeping mourner, each of its long thin petals was tipped with crinkly brown.
I stared at the dead flower in its cloudy vase of green glass. How long would it take for a flower to die like that? Three days? A week? Somewhere in between, I guessed. In any case, the inescapable conclusion was that I’d been lying here in this hospital bed for quite some time.
There was a tiny note on the chrysanthemum, tied around its neck like a collar. It was written on folded purple paper and said:
Hope you feel better—Holly
. I wondered who the hell Holly was, but my mind produced no answers. Maybe she was the woman who had hit me and landed me here. Maybe she hoped I would lighten the lawsuit if she did the courtesy of sending me a flower. If so, she was in for a surprise.
By this time, I’d grown tired of pinching the IV line. I untaped the needle from my wrist, wincing as the adhesives plucked out fifty or so hairs from my arm. I found a box of tissues and wadded up a stack of them before pulling out the needle. It didn’t hurt much, but the blood flowed. I pressed the tissues against my wrist and muttered curses.
I got up at last and staggered around my bed in widening circles. My mind was still fuzzy, but it was clearing up fast. The cast on my right leg made walking difficult. I stretched painfully, and some of the stiffness left my body as I did so. I found a paper inside a plastic sheath hanging from the foot of my bed. Inside were a few printed facts. My name was Quentin Draith. It seemed like an odd name, but it did ring a bell. The rest of the sheet was a list of stats: blood gas numbers, dates, operations. I’d been here for ten days.
The door rattled. Some dark instinct within me caused me to release the paper in its plastic sheath and let it fall back into place. I flopped back, painfully, onto the bed. There was no time to pull up the sheets, so I didn’t bother. I did conceal the dangling IV line, however.
I didn’t move as the door swung quietly open. A figure stood there, watching. I opened one eye to a slit in the dimly lit room, and I watched her in return. The nurse had a fresh IV bag in her hand. The clear liquid inside gleamed in the light from the corridor behind her.