The next time she woke up, her head felt heavy, her mouth felt like it was full of cotton and her wrists… She could feel, there was something soft and tight fastened around them. Restraints. She pulled hard on them.
Her head hurt. She tried to think, but everything was blurred and slow and… dark.
She tried to look around the room, blinking away the fog from her eyes. She could vaguely make out shapes. A round object on the wall, a rectangle that glowed in front of her with fuzzy things moving around.
She looked away from it as trying to focus on the glowing box only made her head hurt more, so she turned to the window and realized she hadn’t really looked at any part of her room before. The memories of her last stint with consciousness were becoming less hazy. She vaguely remembered being awake with people that had stood over her, snake people that had been trying to eat her. That didn’t seem right, but she couldn’t shake the image of large fangs coming at her, and a mouth with a forked tongue flicking from between its lips.
She focused on it, trying to remember what really happened, but couldn’t change the image of those large fangs, once of them stabbing into her shoulder. She wanted to remember more, but it wasn’t coming too her. Something was blocking her. It probably had to do with the IV drip that was running into her arm and the drugs, but she didn’t think she would fully remember everything from before. It was too much like a dream and dreams only faded over time.
Slowly she scanned more of the room making sure not to move too fast. Her brain didn’t feel attached inside her skull and any too sudden movements, she was sure, would remind her of her worst migraine. She was obviously in a hospital room, and in a bed that kept her head elevated. She thought they were called gurney’s, but not sure if that was just something out of a tv show, or it they were actually called that. To her left there was a C shaped stand that was positioned on wheels and stretched over the top so that she could eat when served. Currently it was positioned behind the tall metal IV stand. Next to that was some kind of a machine that had scraggly lines and numbers that changed every so often. It was past these machines she could look out the window.
She couldn’t see the ground outside, but she did see the top of a streetlight. It shown bright in the dark sky, but past it she could just make out the lightly clouded sky and the stars. They shined bright and she took comfort in seeing them because if the stars were out, then it wasn’t a sun hidden day.
Had she really been afraid of that? To her surprise, she actually had been. Though if the sun was gone, wouldn’t she still be able to see the stars during the day. She’d seen a solar eclipse once, and once the sun was darkened, the stars were able to be seen so it was possible.
She pushed the thought down and took her time to study the cabinet that was in the corner, past the window and next to the little bench that was on the far wall. Why was she so drawn to it? It was a standard wooden cabinet, though taller than anything she had ever seen before. This one was tall enough to stand from the floor to the ceiling and she couldn’t help but wonder how they got it into the room as it looked like it extended into the panel tiles. What was in it, what did they need to hide that was so large?
Above the bench and suspended from the wall was the large tv. She debated about turning it turning up the volume, not really sure what she would watch at three in the morning, but it would be noise in what was too quiet of a room. Since she’d been up, she’d not even heard the signs of life from outside the room, or much else for that matter. The only thing she heard was the occasional, rhythmic beep from the machine. The television stayed muted as she saw that the remote was on the desk across the room, and she wasn’t sure about standing with the IV still attached to her arm.
Not like you could if you wanted to. You know you’re still restrained. You won’t be going anywhere until the doctor comes back and you can get your hands freed. She thought it to herself, that inner voice speaking to her, and it was right. There was no way she could do anything.
To the right of the desk was another cabinet. This one wasn’t as high, but it was wider. Past it to her right was a light blue curtain that looked like it ran on a track around her bed. It must be there for her privacy when she needed to change, though she would have preferred just to have a door on her room.
Which was what truly frustrated her about the room, or more adequately described as a large cubby hole put off to the side. She had no door. She had no fourth wall. Where the wall on her right side should be was one long curtain. It ran the length of where the fourth wall should be. It didn’t stretch fully to the floor, so under it, she could see the slight glow from the hallway beyond.
Behind the bed to her right was more gadgets hooked up to her. I mean, Christ, with how much crap was connected to me, you would think they needed to jumpstart me like a car. I’m not on life support, so what the hell is all this garbage.
Her head was clearing. She hadn’t realized it at first, but it felt like forever since she could start to remember things. They were distorted and none of them made sense. It was like a dream that wasn’t a dream, or something that was real that should have been a dream. That just about summed up her whole day, but in that sense, it was a nightmare, one that wouldn’t go away.
Had there been something about one of her nurses being a snake that was going to poison her? Oh god, she hoped she hadn’t actually hit her doctor, though it did explain the restraints.
She slammed her head back into her pillow trying to hide from the empty room, so embarrassed that she never wanted to see another living soul. She had, hadn’t she? She had hit her doctor and who knows who else. She was pretty sure she had been thrashing around for awhile. Anyone could have been caught with a loose fist.
Someone should have gone ahead and hit me back. I deserved it. But of course, none of them had hit her back, not physically. She wasn’t sure what kind of sedative they had given her, but it had done the job.
They had been asking her questions though, before she had freaked out. She was pretty sure she had mentioned Roland, but what else had she said? Another wave of embarrassment hit her. Had they called him? Great, what would he be thinking? He already thought of her as an emotional flake who found any reason to go nuts. What would he think if the doctor had mentioned something about her episode? Of course, he would never come visit her, but the story would be all amongst their friends by the time she got home. It would be years before she would ever live it down.
What if she had told them about her brother? That… Now that would be worse. There would be no way he could get there to visit her, and he would be trapped in Madison worrying about her. She would need to call him and let him know she was okay.
She should call him now, just in case they had called… But it was three in the morning. Well, now it was getting closer to four. Where had the last twenty minutes gone? Even if they had called him and he had stayed up late fretting about her, he would be asleep. Worry only lasted for so long before exhaustion took its toll.
Where was her phone?
She looked around the little room and didn’t see it. Maybe it was with her clothes, wherever those were… She wasn’t sure. Maybe that was the purpose to one of the cabinets across the room. Probably…though she wished they would have left her phone out and over there by her so she could use it.
She lied back in the bed.
What was she going to do? She was up now and didn’t feel tired at all. The bed was getting uncomfortable, and she wished she could at least lower the back portion and turn on her side. The restraints made any movement impossible. She was going to lie on her back wether she liked it or not.
“Hello.” She said into the dark room. Her voice was timid and cracked. She hadn’t realized just how thirsty she was, her cotton mouth getting the better of her. She had to swallow down saliva a few times, though there was not much to work with before she tried again, this time a little louder into the quiet.
“Hello. Anyone out there?”
She waited. She didn’t hear any kind of a response and she had a sudden, scary thought. What if she was alone? What if no one was out there manning the nurses station? What if she wasn’t even near a nurse’s station? Would she just have to lie there until someone finally checked on her?
The thought of spending the next few hours lying in the bed, waiting for someone to finally pull back the curtain and slip into her little space was torturous. Could she really last that long; no tv, no internet, no phone.
She continued to listen. The only sounds she heard was her breathing which grew louder the more anxious she became, and the machine that kept a constant beep next to her.
How did they ever expect anyone to sleep in there with that damn machine beeping at her all night? Yeah, well, people didn’t go to hospitals to sleep, they went there to get better. If she wanted to sleep, she should dig herself a grave. Wasn’t that the old adage. She didn’t think she had it right, but her mind was still working through the haze of the meds.
The drugs. They had drugged her. How could they drug her and knock her out like that?
Wasn’t there supposed to be one of those call buttons at the ready? Something she could use to page for the nurses. There was something on the side of her bed. It was a small box connected by a cord that ran below the bed. It had a few buttons on it, but she couldn’t say for sure what any of them were as the pictures on each button had been worn off by use.
Though she could just start pressing buttons at random, if she could reach it. She tried to grab at it, but the restraint was just tight enough that she couldn’t grasp the dangling box.
“Ugh” The cry escaped her in frustration as she slammed herself back onto the bed. “Hello!”
“Hello!” she called again; this time louder as she grew more confident in her voice. She was still so thirsty, but her throat didn’t feel as restricted as before.
Being awake must be helping, she thought as she lifted her head again, cocking it to hear better. She thought she heard the sound of a chair creaking out in the hallway. Was she by the nursing station? Could they hear her after all? Maybe that last time had been loud enough?
There it was again, another creak. Then the definite sound of someone shifting their weight to stand. There was someone out there and they were getting up.
Lizzie listened intently as she heard the release of the chair, recognizing it as the sound of the chair rising to its unseated state. Then came the soft steps and slight squeak of a person wearing well worn tennis shoes, but the person was walking away from her. The footsteps were getting quieter. They were leaving her, were they going to go tell someone she was awake. Why wouldn’t they just call someone, and then come in to check on her?
“Heeellooo!” She said again, this time exaggerating as she spoke, trying to put as much strength as she could, expelling the air from her lungs in force as it formed the word. She reminded herself of Josh Gad when he sung “Hello” in his opening number for the Book of Mormon. She had never seen the musical, but the soundtrack was in heavy rotation on her phone.
The footsteps were returning. She could hear them getting closer, and then saw as the light under the curtains showed them. They reached the edge, and just as Lizzie was expecting a huge pulling back of curtains reveal, a quant woman slipped in and disappeared as the curtain closed again behind her.
“Hello Lizzie, how are you feeling?” The nurse said as she was illuminated with a faint light. Lizzie could see that she was standing by a light switch on the wall and what must have been a dimmer as she brought up the light gradually. Lizzie recognized the woman as one of the ones from earlier, the one who…had Lizzie really thought this woman had turned into a snake?
“I’m okay.” she said, not really sure if she actually was. She didn’t feel like she was hurting too much. Other than a slight headache and the fuzziness around her thoughts, she felt fine. She didn’t even feel the soreness she would have expected for all the falling she had gone through, or any of the scrapes she had gotten running through the woods.
“That’s good. I’m Elisabeth. I’ll be your nurse tonight. Can I get you anything?”
“Sure. I’ll refill your cup.” She spoke softly and if there was any resentment from before, it didn’t show. The woman moved gently and was smooth as she glided over to the little table next to the bed. Lizzie hadn’t noticed the water bottle next to her bed but watched as she grabbed it and took it to the sink across the room. She filled it then turned back towards Lizzie, “I bet you’d like some ice.”
“Just the water is fine.”
Elisabeth had already started towards the hallway but stopped and turned to the bed. She was quick to bring the water, tilting the cup so Lizzie could drink from the straw.
Lizzie looked at that approaching straw protruding from the water cup and was filled with a strong sense of dread. A deja vu washed over her and a rasping voice whispered in her ear that it was poison. That was impossible but she couldn’t shake the feeling as it mixed with the hazy memory of this woman with a serphant’s face. She had to close her eyes to push away the memory and allowed herself to drink.
The water may not have been ice cold, but it was still cool, soothing her throat as it made its way to her empty stomach. She could feel as it moved inside her, the touch of it on her insides alighting herself. It seemed to flow through and back up, and she could feel as her head felt lighter, her brain waking up a little more with some of that haziness chipping away.
“No, no, not too much.” Elisabeth said softly as she pulled the cup back. She eased it away and Lizzie felt the little drips that leaked from the corners of her mouth, running down her chin.
She was alive. Why was it that with everything that had happened, it wasn’t until that drink of water that she truly felt like she had survived it. She was safe now; she was in a hospital and everything was going to be okay.
“Thank you,” and she was grateful as she didn’t think water could ever taste that good. Well, it hadn’t tasted good, as she had cottonmouth, but water had never been so refreshing as it had been.
“That’s good. You seem to be feeling better.”
“I guess so.”
“Good. Do you know where you are?”
“No, not really.”
“That makes sense. From your chart, you were unconscious when the EMT’s brought you in and you’ve only been awake a few times.”
“I have? I don’t remember too much. It feels more like it was all a dream.”
“Yeah, the sedatives can do that.”
“So where am I?”
“You’re at Atlas Healthcare in Wautoma, the Christmas tree capital of the world.”
“Okay, and why am I here? and why am I in these handcuff thingies?”
“Um, well, you were brought in earlier today sometime in the afternoon. They were originally going to keep in you the ER, but they brought you up here to intensive care when you weren’t waking up. Hope you have good insurance, eh?” The woman said that last part, with the strong “A” that mixed many northern Wisconsin accents with Canadian. It was interesting with how the accent wasn’t always there when the nurse talked, but then it occasionally slipped in. Most the time, Lizzie would have guessed she was from farther south but still in the Midwest. It was hard to tell, as culture became more centered around televisions, accents seemed to fade.
“No, not really. College student.”
“Oh crap. Yeah, well, at least staying in intensive care won’t be as bad as those student loan payments. And if you don’t like your major, you can always take up boxing.”
“Sure. So, did I really attack the doctor…and you? I had hoped I’d dreamed that.”
“You swung, but it was a swing and a miss.”
“Part of the job. Is there something I can get for you? There’s no one else on the ward, so you have it all to yourself, but I still need to keep watch in case an emergency comes in.”
“Can you open the curtain and let some light in. I don’t want to be in the dark right now.”
The nurse went to one side and grabbed the edge and worked the curtain. She was halfway when it looked like the curiosity got the better of her as she turned look back at Lizzie, “Do you mind me asking, what happened to you?”
“I’m not sure. My best friend and I were at a house, my uncle’s house that I inherited…which I guess makes it my house now.”
“I guess so,” Elisabeth said as she finished pulling back the curtain.
Lizzie could now see the nurse station across the little hallway, though all she could see of it from her angle was the counter and on that a rack holder with a single file in it. That must be her file with who knew what kind of records. Had they pulled her whole history? Was there information about the broken arm she had at the age of fifteen, or the tonsils she had removed when she was ten?
Elisabeth walked back over to her and to Lizzie’s surprise, pulled up the reclining chair that had been next to her bed.
“We went there, and then, there was this strange naked man in the kitchen. He attacked us…well, he attacked Sarah.”
“Wow, did she get away okay?”
“No, I think he killed her. I barely got away. I don’t know how, but I ended up here.”
“Yeah, you need to talk to the cops.”
“I know,” though up until just minutes ago she had forgotten why she needed them. How could she have forgotten Sarah?
Those dead eyes looking at her, watching her as she ran away to leave her there…
“I can call the sheriff’s office. I’m not sure anyone’s there this time of night, but I’d think someone would be available.”
“Thank you. Do you know if they called my brother?”
“I don’t think so. Do you want me to call him?”
Lizzie hadn’t realized how much that had been worrying her until the sudden release of tears, glad that they hadn’t. The nurse was quickly to scramble for the Kleenex.
Lizzie tried to wipe them away herself but was stopped by the wrist restraints. She laughed as she looked at them. It was the tired laugh of the frustrated and it brought more crying. She was laughing and crying, and, in her head, there rolled a hurricane of emotions. Her parents were dead, her best friend was dead, her other friends were miles away and busy back in Stevens Point and Madison, leaving the only person who really knew her to be her brother.
There was no way she could unload all this on him. It would only make him worry about something he could do nothing about or even get to her to comfort her. It wouldn’t even do to talk to him over the phone and hear that robotic voice of his machine talking back to her. Was there anything less helpful than to hear a computer-generated voice even if it was her brother’s words typed by stylus on his keypad?
Elisabeth dabbed at Lizzie’s cheeks and Lizzie looked into her kind eyes. This woman who barely even knew her seemed to genuinely be concerned for her. How could Lizzie have ever thought of this woman as a snake?
“No problem. I take it you don’t want to talk to your brother.”
“It’s not that. I do, its just…its complicated.” Lizzie didn’t know what else to say, and the nurse seemed to understand. She stood there, and they both just looked at each other, one knowing the other wanted to say more, and that when she was ready, the nurse would listen.
Lizzie let out a long sigh, and looked down, catching sight again of the ungodly large clasps around her wrists.
“Do you think you can do something about this?” Lizzie asks, looking up again and catching Elisabeth’s eye.
“You promise you’re not going to slug me again?”
“No, but I’ll dance a jig if you do.”
The nurse didn’t know what to make of it, and Lizzie wasn’t sure what she had meant by that as well. She ended up cocking an unsure eyebrow at the nurse in what had to look like a mix between a puppy dog pleading for forgiveness and an older sister who was ready to drag you into something naughty that would definitely get you in trouble. The look would have probably been more convincing had Lizzie not had the streaks of fresh tears and the red puffy eyes of the recently crying.
“Yeah, forget I said that” she said, “but I’ll still appreciate it if you’d take these off me.”
“Just, please, no hitting. I’d have to do more paperwork.”
Elisabeth was quick with the straps and like that, Lizzie was free, her arms lifting into the air happy to be loose.
She stretched, then yawned. The early morning was starting to catch up to her and she was beginning to think she might actually be able to get some rest.
“Here,” the nurse said, bringing over the plastic cup and Lizzie was grateful to be able to hold it herself as she brought the straw to her mouth. She took a long drink, felt as the cool water hit her stomach, and then realized something else. She was hungry. Very hungry, which was announced to Elisabeth with the roar that erupted from Lizzie’s stomach. It could have scared a bear to run for safety.
“You know, the cafeteria is closed, but we keep some light stuff in the fridge. I think we may have some crackers and some jello, but there’s not much else in there.
“Yeah,” Lizzie nodded in relief.
“And then I’ll call the sheriff, okay?”
Lizzie nodded as she lied back on the bed. She was spent. By the time Elisabeth had left the room and pulled the curtain closed behind her, Lizzie was already caught in the first nightmare. The cackling voice surrounding her as maggots swarmed over her. She was twisting and turning in her sleep violently shaking the bed, but there was no waking. Not until the nightmares were ready to let her slip back into reality. It would be a while, as they enjoyed playing with the new toy, and the maggots grew in size, their mouths exposing long vampire like fangs.
She wanted to scream. She wanted to wake up, but she was trapped. She wanted it all to end. End it, end it now, she pleaded in her mind.
But she could barely here her own thoughts over the cackling voice…
“Tik-a-tee, tik-a-tet… your death does not come yet…”
She slipped further into the darkness.