Feet planted firmly on a rock, I was standing in the middle of gently flowing creek in my grandmother’s backyard. The small silvery fish swam around black granite and milky quartz to each side of my legs. Delighted, laughter escaped my throat as the fish tickled against my legs. A tentative touch of the water, then immersion of my arm to the elbow sent fish into a frenzy scattering them in all directions. I splashed long misshapen streams of water into the air. The cool water trickled down my hair, my face, and my arms sending a relaxing shutter through my body.
I glanced at my grandmother standing by the house. She stood my height and had long, black ringlets of hair spiraling down over her shoulders, then halfway to her waist. Squinting in the sunlight, I couldn’t quite make out what she was saying. Her arms waved in slow motion synchronized with her lips. Faster now, her arms flailed and my sense of curiosity transformed into urgency encouraging my feet to move forward toward her frantically moving arms.
I pushed my feet forward toward the mud and grass at the edge of the creek. Something wasn’t right. The splashed water on my face and arms hardened into a murky gray, then a gradual thick black. What the hell? The water thickened beneath my feet and the silvery fish floated to the top rotting with each step I took. I looked up beckoning my grandmother to help me, but she was gone.
The high pitched ring of my phone woke me. Weston was the last person on Earth that I wanted to talk to. Weston’s competitive nature had always irritated me, and I was in no mood to talk about anything having to do with work. The clicks and whirs of the hospital room caught my attention as I wiped little droplets of sweat from my forehead. A nurse dressed in a blue shirt decorated in hearts and bows was leaning over my mother’s bed taking a vial of blood. Her ample bottom seemed to span half of the length of my mother’s hospital bed blocking my view.
“How is she?” I asked. I was proud that my voice didn’t shake.
“The doctor will be in to speak with you in a few moments.” Her voice was inconsistent with the decoration on her scrubs. The nurse should wear something more somber if she wasn’t into niceties. I suppose in that way, we were alike; I believed in matter-of-fact, scientific proof and most of the time left emotion out of the mix; an impossible task at the moment.
I sat there staring at my mom lying there, still and quiet. I was about to analyze the situation but was interrupted by a handsome fellow dressed in jeans and a green and red t-shirt that read I Love Santa. It struck me as funny, and I almost laughed.
“Please excuse my appearance. We had our staff Christmas party today.” He stood between me and the hospital bed. The view from my chair was much better than it had been when the nurse had been standing there. I just stared at him open-mouthed. What the hell was wrong with me? What had it been? Twenty seconds of silence? I took a deep breath and let it out in several staggered, short breaths. I managed a friendly smile. I suddenly felt anxiety clawing its way to the surface. I was grateful that the doctor began to speak.
“Coma?” It was the first word that I had spoken since he’d come into the room. He sat in the chair to the side of me partially facing in my direction. “Do you need to speak to anyone? A social worker? A pastor from church?”
“Jesus Christ. No, I don’t need to speak to anyone. Let me process what you’ve said.” Silence followed for a good ten minutes as we both sat. Strange doctor. Didn’t he have better things to do? Go play Dirty Santa or something. My inner voice was getting hateful, one of my personality attributes that came out during high levels of stress.
The television was playing low in the background. A woman’s voice said, “Cicadas swarmed several cities, and scientists are baffled.” I’m not sure that I was baffled as much as curious. I’m not sure I was baffled at all since I was privy to information that others weren’t.
Marshall, a scientist from the lab and I had been working on the Cicada project when he suddenly killed himself. That was still a hard pill to swallow. He hadn’t seemed like the type to go and kill himself, but I was no psychiatrist. He had been a bit of a recluse, but weren’t most scientists?
“Ma’am?” The handsome doctor spoke again. “Is there anything that I can do for you?” I had a few ideas, but none of them were appropriate for the current situation.
After a few more questions and answers, I’d made a determination that there was nothing that I could currently do. Insensitive or not, I needed to get home to clean up, get a few hours of rest, and get to the lab. The doctor agreed that someone from the hospital staff would contact me if there were any changes. After I’d kissed my mother’s forehead, told her I loved her and to wake up soon, I headed home.
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