Awake

Author’s Note: Yes, I’m still putting a request for feedback at the top of all of these. No, I don’t intend on stopping that anytime soon. This is part 4 of (?). You should probably make sure you’ve read the first three, “A Test“, “Exploration“, and “A Home” first, otherwise this might make sense.


The blackness faded into a cacophany of sounds and smells and feelings. It was bright, but with a cold harshness that was entirely unlike the welcoming sun. Lingering memories of the forest, the fields, the stream — all of them blended together in a hazy retrospect. The whine of machinery and medical equipment seemed oppressive, despite their familiar din. Having spent so much of a short life tied to the wires and tubes of the infirmary bred a certain distaste on its own; contrasted against the freedom of sprinting through the grass, it was downright sickening.

There wasn’t anyone else in the room, mercifully. Waking up to the probing and prodding of the medical staff was, perhaps, the worst part of an already dreadful life. The endless battery of tests, the constant adjustments to the stiff metallic gear, the cold, detached sympathy that hid behind the eyes of caretakers — these were as much a part of existence as breathing or eating. Waking up here, alone and with a moment of peace, was a rare and wonderful commodity.

The peace, naturally, could not last. The rattle of an opening door announced the end of it as the broad-shouldered nurse stepped into the room. “Oh, you’re awake! Fantastic,” he said with a grin. “I was beginning to worry. You’ve been here almost my whole shift, you know.”

It wasn’t worth a reply. Just more stock phrases, platitudes meant to help patients feel human. Hold still. Let them draw the blood, measure the heartbeats, shine the harsh light into barely-open eyes. The same routine, every time, no matter how long it had been since they’d performed this ritual examination. The nurse didn’t bother with any other words as he went about his work. He knew.

“Well, Daniel,”  he finally said as he scribbled onto the chart, “everything looks alright.”

“I told you to call me Dani,” came the reply, perhaps a bit sharper than intended.

“Look, Daniel — Dani. Whatever,” a thinly veiled weariness hung on the words. “The point is, you’ll be able to go home soon.”

Dani almost allowed a smile at that. Home. As if anywhere in the depths of this place would ever compare to — wait, where had it been? Dani was suddenly very aware that there was no name for it, no word to ascribe to it. That would have to change, but first, there was a lot of work to do that wasn’t going to get done laying about under the doctor’s microscope.

“If we’re done here, I’d like to go now,” Dani said bitterly.

“I said soon, kid. Waiting on a couple more things. I’m not sure what it is that keeps bringing you here lately, but the doc seems pretty worked up.”

Dani could feel a nearly concerned, caring tone under the man’s usual detached voice. What did he mean, ‘bringing back’? Dani had no recent memory of anything more than the usual, and doctor Simmons surely wouldn’t be in a fuss about the standard concerns. Still, if they were worried, there wasn’t anything to do but wait here in bed, dreaming of finding home waiting upon release.

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