“You know how doctors are, he won’t use a smartphone, says
he likes buttons. He’s so proud of his
new flip- hey there! It’s just us checking in, we won’t be a minute.”
The nurse or orderly or whatever she was in her mauve scrubs and teal Crocs
pushed the door quietly open and moved to check the machines around his bed
while her companion waited in the hallway. He thought she reminded him of that
lady from Good Times.
Florida? He couldn’t remember the
actress’ name but as soon as this woman adjusted something on one of his IV
bags he fell back into the torpor he’d been fighting to come back from since
his surgery this morning.
As soon as his eyes shut he felt the sudden descent into the
abyss, swirling down the drain, the roller-coaster sliding into the big drop
after the excruciating climb to the top of the first hill. His rib cage vibrated like he was his own
private earthquake. He saw the light
overhead, heard the murmuring voices of the surgeon and his nurses, saw the
gleam of the scalpel blade as it descended toward his torso-
“Nurse!” His eyes sprung open and he immediately noticed
that the angle and color of the light had shifted in his room, the sun setting
in the window outside, the walls splashed with orange and red. Rust.
Blood. A few drops of sanguine fluid
moved down the tubular drainage system attached to his surgical wound and
toward the collection bag at the foot of the bed. He was alone, but he must have yelled out
loud because he heard footsteps approaching his room.
“Everything alright in here, honey?” A silver-haired woman
with a genteel Southern accent inquired as she pushed the swinging door open.
He squawked out “I think something’s wrong, I need to talk
to my doctor.” His hands moved over the thick bandages on top of his wound.
“Oh honey, don’t fool with that. I’ll see if I can reach your doctor, he’s
been out of pocket most of the day. You just try to rest and I’ll…” Her words
faded as she moved back towards her station. He hoped.
His eyes furtively scanned the room. The whiteboard on the
far wall indicated that the shift had changed and his night-time nurse was on
duty. There was a note to call Dr.
Eisenroth, his surgeon. It was in his morning nurse’s handwriting. They must not have been able to reach him all
day. Why not?
Suddenly he was falling back again, this time pain went
hand-in-hand with the disorientation and the shaking, buzzing feeling like his
skeleton was going to come apart. He
could see the sun setting in the distance that kept becoming more and more
distant like looking at the stars from the bottom of a well. At the bottom of this particular well was a
door, wooden, with a brass knob. He
reached out and turned it. It opened into darkness. He heard mumbling and the clinking of small
pieces of metal, voices whispering, something...beeping? He stepped inside.
He was in what appeared to be a long hallway, industrial in
décor, brick red tile floor, French drains, fluorescent lighting overhead, a
sterile smell of bleach covering a hint of something...organic.
The light was brighter at the far end where lie a set of
double doors with small square windows set in them. He walked briskly toward them. He could hear more clearly now, people
speaking urgently, talking over each other, a man with an authoritative voice
and women dissenting but deferential, as if they didn’t have the final word. Metal dinged off the tile floor from inside
and the man cursed. The beeping sounds
grew louder and began to run together into one long trilling report. He felt the shaking again, like his body was
ready to explode somehow, he stumbled in agony and his hand pushed one of the
doors open. Nurses with surgical masks
holding trays of implements whipped their heads around to stare at him. A man backlit by a tall bright lamp stood
over a table with a figure covered in tubes and partly obscured by beeping machines.
They all shouted out in unison as the vibrating claxon
“The call is coming from inside-!”
“HELLLLP!” He shrieked in a voice too high-pitched to be his
It was dark as the grave outside and almost so inside,
except for the dim glow of the monitors around the head of his bed.
He heard footsteps rapidly coming down the hall and looked
anxiously with fear and hope toward the big swinging door as it slammed open.
Dr Eisenroth burst into the room still wearing his surgical
mask and his gloved hand held a scalpel that just managed to catch the bright
red light off the display on the vitals monitor.
“H-halp-” he tried to choke out but fear stole his
voice. His gut sent his monkey-brain
into frenzy, he began to flop his way out of the bed but the side rails blocked
Eisenroth moved slowly and deliberately toward him as the
vibration came back with a vengeance – setting off tremors of pain and
panic. He began to seize as the surgeon
held him down with one hand and ripped the bandages away from his abdomen.
“There it is, it’s always in the last place you
look!” An uncanny visage of determination flashed over the doctor’s face as he
slashed his scalpel down into the wound, neatly slicing open the fresh stitches
to a cacophony of a gargled scream. He
plunged his hand into the spurting hole and fished out a buzzing, folded
flip-phone while his “patient” looked on with wild, frenzied eyes that soon
Dr. Eisenroth wiped the blood off his phone and flipped it
open to answer it.
“You know, I think you might be right, maybe I should
get a smartphone so I can track it.”
Cover Image credit: Mikey Hope, Jordan Drew collaboration