by Ron J. Cruz
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
Steven wanted to talk, but remained silent until he was led into a large room with the smell of alcohol and clean sheets. Unlike the last room, there was a large halogen light and straps on the table in a position for his arms and legs.
“Why the straps? This is going to hurt, isn’t it?”
“No. Get undressed and lie down.”
Steven stripped down to his boxers and lay out on the table, which was far more comfortable than the last. He stared up at the light and it reminded him a bit of the rectangle of light in his dream. He could feel his palms sweat.
The doctor rolled a tray over to the side of the table, Steven didn’t have to look to know they were needles. Wen was already gloved and masked when he came to the table.
“You relax. Important you relax.” Dr. Wen strapped his arms and legs to the table.
“I’ll try,” Steven attempted to joke, but he wrenched from the pain in his groin that exploded at that second and made him double over. “Sorry.”
Wen pushed a button on the table and overhead light grew brighter. He pushed Steven’s head back to the table and shone a light in his eyes. Through the cloudy glasses of Dr. Wen, Steven could see darting pupils that seemed to bounce around and take in everything but never stopped to see. Even above him, staring into his eyes, there didn’t seem to be any eye contact.
“You relaxed?” Dr. Wen adjusted his gloves and broke a fresh needle from its plastic packaging.
“Doctor, I don’t feel any of this is working.” He paused, wondering if he should continue. He didn’t want Wen to stop trying to help him. “I feel like I am getting sicker. The pain is bad.”
From behind the mask, it appeared that Dr. Wen smiled. He reached out and toward Steven’s secured hand and when he got close enough, Steven grabbed it. Dr. Wen pushed it down to the table and felt for a pulse. “You are getting better. You will be better tonight.”
“Well, I hope so.” Steven felt a bit awkward.
“You relax or this won’t work.”
The progression of needles began, and as with some things, there is no getting used to it. Each one pinched and bit into the skin. When they were bad, Steven winced, and Dr. Wen would smack his chest lightly and instruct him to relax.
There were needles on the bottom of his feet, between his toes and one on the top of his foot. The next series began at the top of the knee, which seemed to go to the bone. There were more needles around the pelvis and midsection. The most painful of these dug into his sides and were seemingly pushed into the small of the back. A few were scattered around his chest and shoulders while the vast majority bit into his neck and head.
“It seems like there are more needles this time.”
Dr. Wen didn’t respond.
“Are there more needles this time?”
Steven closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing. The red paisleys were again on the back of his eyelids, spinning around. He concentrated on their design and began to paint them with their patterns, violet and yellow. The wall of spinning paisleys, dancing and spinning, doubling in number. He tried to count them, but they doubled before he got halfway.
The black background on which they danced suddenly turned white; the paisleys again doubled. Steven opened his eyes to see the giant light overhead had been turned even brighter while the rest of the lights in the room were off.
“One more pinch.” Dr. Wen’s feet could be heard shuffling around, first away from the table and then back. “One more. Relax, this is the important one.” He moved up behind him.
Gloved hands could be felt on the top of his head. Like little surveyors, they seemed to march off distances and measure. Little feet pressing in right at the top, twisting around and then marching towards the back of his head. And when it seemed they had found what they were looking for, they broke ground. This was definitely the thickest of the needles, and it slid in, stuck, wiggled around a bit, and then continued.
Steven closed his eyes again. The dancing designs were still there, spinning around in the white glow of their background. The needle still fell down through his head, through his brain. He could feel it, though it didn’t hurt. Diving, slowly diving, deeper.
A small point seemed to crawl in from the top of his eyes, down into the field of paisleys. It was intrusive, splitting some of the designs, cutting the field of them in half. It continued to fall, through his vision and through his mind.
He could still feel the needle pushing, stopping as if caught on something, wiggling free and then pushing on. It was like a truck on a highway, slowly lumbering up to an occasional stop sign and then continuing to motor. Steven couldn’t open his eyes.
There was a feeling of motion, as if the table was being lifted up. The backlit paisleys grew brighter and there was a feeling of heat. For the first time in eight months, there was no pain shooting through his body. His mouth was free from the taste of blood and he could breathe deeply without cramps or pinching.
When his eyes did open, he found himself in a small, comfortable room with a television and a window. The window was tinted and he could see another room with figures sitting passively inside. He had a needle with a tube stuck in his arm, IV, and he was in a hospital gown. He sat up and felt incredibly woozy and his vision blurred. He could hear Dr. Wen’s voice, but couldn’t locate him.
“Well,” he said, “Everything went as planned and Steven will be out in just a moment. He’s getting dressed now.”
There was shuffling in the room next door, sound of excitement. He looked over to the window, but still could make out nothing.
The door to the room opened. Dr. Wen came in with two large men in white shirts. They lifted him from the bed and placed him into a wheelchair.
Steven couldn’t keep his head up, one of the men strapped his head to a brace while the other fastened his legs and arms in as well.
“It all turned out, Mr. Ferris, ” Wen said as he moved to the window and pulled the open curtain back to allow him room to stand.
One of the men pushed the chair to the window while the other dimmed the lights to make the figures in the next room more visible. It was Bobbi and Nathaniel and they were facing him. Bobbi pulled their son under her arm, wiped her lips and looked excitedly towards him.
“What’s,” Steven tried to form words, but he was weak. “What’s going...”
“Relax,” Dr. Wen cut him off.
A creaking could be heard through the wall as a door to the side of the room opened. Bobbi’s face fell open into a smile as her knees bent and her arms flew around the figure of a man who came out into the room. His arms wrapped around her as well, save one that ruffled the hair on his son’s head. Nathaniel joined in the embrace.
The man was tall and the clothing was familiar. He knew that man, but couldn’t see his face. The group hug lasted another moment before the man released and Bobbi picked up her purse and Nathaniel ran over to where he had been sitting to grab his radio.
Steven’s eyes tried to focus, but it was difficult. He could see Bobbi was happier than she had been in a long time. He could see his son, beaming at the side of the strange man who would reach out and touch him and cause him to giggle.
“Who...?” Steven tried. “Who... who...?”
Before he could finish, the man turned to look around the room and Steven could see his face. His own face. As he recognized the man, his chair was pulled away from the window and the lights were turned up. He could see the family walk out. His mind went into a panic.
“Everything is going to be fine, Mr. Ferris.” Dr. Wen assured him. “Don’t worry. Everything turned out fine.” He pulled a hypodermic from his coat pocket and inserted it into the tube attached to Steven’s arm. “Everything is fine.”
“My life,” Steven struggled with his words. “That’s my life. I can’t replace me.” He could feel his mind succumbing to the drugs and he struggled to object.
“Everything’s going to be fine,” Dr. Wen continued to say as he felt Steven’s pulse slow to a crawl and then stop.
“That’s my...” Steven mumbled. Then this Steven said nothing more.
Copyright © 2013 by Ron J. Cruz