Edgar’s head was swimming, and for the first time in a long time, he felt as though something were missing.
The room was dark, if you’d call it a room at all. Whatever the doctor, his name had been Joe, had injected into Edgar’s neck made him feel as though he had little instinctual awareness. He couldn’t tell whether he was in another hospital room or back in the vast warehouse of the infinite, waiting outside Herald’s office for the next adventure.
Edgar paused for a moment, wondering if there would ever be another adventure; so far this one had taken a bit of a rotten twist, and, according to Herald, it was only a test run. Edgar knew the creator was, in fact, testing them, but he couldn’t help but have the thought resurface time and time again, ‘Is this part of the test, or are we failing?’
What he knew now, or at least told himself that he needed to focus on most, was that his head, much like his wrist and the ankle opposite side of it, had a dull and pulsating pain. His disorientation left much of his surrounding details to the imagination. He focused as much as he could without straining much more than he already had. His good hand hit more cotton sheets like the ones he ha been laying on in the room with Mick.
‘Mick–,’ his mind wrapped. Edgar’s dull pain was thrust to the back of his mind like a bad experience, but the recent memories that led up to his current lying there in the dark were starting to resurface. There had been the Doctors, both of whom were checking on Edgar and Mick.
‘D’mor—D’mor and Joe,’ Edgar thought. There was a third past these two, but Edgar couldn’t remember whether or not that doctor’s name had been mentioned. ‘What was his name,’ Edgar thought; after yielding nothing for a while, he relaxed the question and let it fall away from his thoughts. Edgar began to remember.
Mick had tried to boost himself up, and not long after he had failed, collapsing back onto the bed, he began to convulse. Edgar remembered a chilled look across Mick’s face as he went from an unconscious drool, to a steady foaming at the mouth; he thought he looked like a dead man that was being possessed by a demonic puppeteer.
Edgar looked around to see if anything at all was visible. It wasn’t.
‘I have to–.’ His thought was cut short, tugging what his immediate memory hadn’t yielded to him made him feel as surprised as the first time he had realized he was bound to the bed. The leather cuff that had once braced him on his left wrist was now firmly affixed to his right.
‘D’mor–,’ he thought coldly, ‘that son of a bitch.’ A chill went down Edgar’s spine, remembering that horrible smile written across D’mor’s face when Joe had told him to get Edgar under control. Joe didn’t seem petty but seemed as if he wanted to actually help with Mick’s convulsions. D’mor looked as if he were a man possessed by vengeance, but why? Edgar brought forth the pain from the back of his mind and remembered why his left wrist had hurt so much. ‘It could’ve been a small fracture at the most,’ Edgar thought, ‘but D’mor finished the job when he put his knees into it.’
Edgar tried to flex his left wrist. After a tightened, streaking pain, he let out groaning shriek, trying to mask the sound between gritted teeth. Someone had put a cast on his arm. Edgar, his curiosity and anxiety needing to be soothed, let out in a normal voice, “Mick—-Mick, you there, man?”
He gauged by the sound coming from across the room that it was similar, if not the same, as the one he had been in before; shoes made a squeaking sound on a polished tiled floor as the person whom they had belonged made their way closer to Edgar’s bed. ‘Mick wasn’t wearing shoes last time, and the time before that had been a pair of loafers. Do they make that noise,’ he thought, but his question was answered when a burst of light singed his pupils.
The light had amplified the dull pain in his head to a steady hum. The rest of him tensed, sharpening the pain in his two broken limbs. He felt his pupils adjust, but not soon enough to see clearly that someone was reaching a hand for his shoulder. He felt the presence, making him give an instinctual jerk deeper into his bed as it made contact with his shoulder.
“Edgar, it’s okay,” a voice called. “You’ve been through quite a lot, but you’re okay now. You’re safe.” The voice wasn’t edgy or smooth. The voice was far more than that, for better or worse; this voice was something else. The voice sounded like that of an old pediatric physician who made a real effort to keep all of the children smiling when they had left.
Edgar’s eyes focused, seeing an older gentleman smiling genuinely and giving not a firm, but a comforting grip on Edgar’s shoulder. His hair was losing its soft ashen gray color, leaving nothing but white tips at their ends. His face was wrinkled and weathered, ugly at first site, but his smile stayed genuine. He spoke again with the same experience in his voice. “Edgar, My name is Jonathan—– Doctor Jonathan Eldridge.”
‘Eldridge—,’ Edgar’s mind leapt on. The name was resonating with him, making his head throb with new pain. Dr. Eldridge must have seen the wheels in Edgar’s head grinding again; his hand braced again on Edgar’s shoulder.
“Don’t bother yourself with anything that troubles you now,” Eldridge said. “You’ll have plenty of time to worry about life when you get back to your feet. It’ll come when the time is right for it to.”
Edgar thought Eldridge spoke as a man who actually cared for such things as getting people back to their feet and on their merry way, but he couldn’t help remembering what D’mor had said, ‘Once you come to the ward, there’s no leaving.’
“Where’s Mick,” Edgar asked, as calm as anyone could muster in the amount of pain that he was in. “Where’s my friend?”
The doctor withdrew a hand from his patients shoulder and rolled a stool around to sit himself upon. He didn’t cross his arms like a doctor who was questioning an untrustworthy patient, but instead, he put his hands just above the knee, rubbing up and down nervously. He spoke as though he was about to tell Edgar the news that he was going to die a slow death or perhaps—.
“Is Mick okay? At least tell me that,” Edgar said, hearing the plea in his voice. He never liked begging in the past, but he figured now would be as good a time as any to break such a prideful habit. This was something that simply couldn’t wait.
“Your friend will be fine,” Doctor Eldridge said, with a look that saying it was the only good news he really had to offer.
“I wanted to tell you personally that I’m sorry for what’s happened to you and Mick so far. Some of the doctors here haven’t been as—- professional as we would have hoped.”
Edgar, thinking the doctor would have said anything, asked, “What about Dr. D’mor, Why are Mick and I in the ward, and why can’t we leave.”
Doctor Eldridge wore a look as if Edgar had asked him where bread aisle was. “Young man, you can leave whenever we’re finished in the morning. You’ve had a concussion; when we found you and your friend, the two of you were both mumbling on about some sort of creature,” Eldridge said.
“What about D’mor,” Edgar repeated, pinching at the subject and disregarding the second.
“D’mor is being reprimanded for his actions and will have his license suspended until a hearing with the board,” Eldridge said, looking around to make sure no one could hear him. “That stays between you and I,” Eldridge whispered.
“Where’s Mick. We need to leave,” Edgar said again, getting tired of having to ask. Eldridge was starting to bear another expression of sorrow. “Mick is in intensive care right now, soon to be released. I’ve given Parker the orders to let me know as soon as he’s out, and trust me when I say, you’ll know as soon as I know. Until then,” Eldridge said, standing again, “get some rest. You’ll need your strength if you want those bones to heal,” he finished, pointing and nodding his head to Edgar’s black casts around his wrist and ankle.
Eldridge was on his way out of the door when the urge for answers started to strike even harder. “Doctor,” he said, watching Eldridge turn back for a moment in curiosity, “why did D’mor say what he did?”
The doctor bobbed his head for a moment, and returned to his seat. “Edgar, they knew you were awake when they came in the first time. There are cameras in some of the rooms, you see. They’re only in place for—-exceeding circumstances.”
Edgar held a growing look of confusion. Eldridge wasted no time letting Edgar try to sort it for himself. “When we found you two in the hallway, you were both carrying what looked like explosive devices. D’mor and Joe have dealt with many cases where the patients were potential threats, but it seems that you both had struck a chord, particularly in D’mor. He was a combat medic in Iraq, you see,” Eldridge said thoughtfully.
Eldridge saw the still look of disgust on Edgar’s face and explained further. “His actions aren’t accepted by any means of this facility, but you have to understand what he’s seen in the past. Explosive devices have been the end of many of his comrades. So, naturally you would understand why he would have such an opposition to help anyone carrying such things.”
Edgar considered the possibilities for a moment, remembering as much as he could from before the action broke out, but his mind stayed fixed upon the obvious. “Why would they make up things about the ward,” Edgar asked, trying not to be too specific; if he already had been, he figured it best to use whatever advantage he may have left.
“Again,” Eldridge reiterated, “D’mor was trained to treat every patient he came across. That included enemy combatants. Most of them had suffered from premature blasts of their own faulty devices. When he found you two, he saw what you two had been carrying immediately. After a bit of discussion, I decided to let him see if he could find anything out about the two of you. His technique is not letting others in on what he knows, but once he came in to see Mick convulsing and you trying to escape, he acted as he would have in the war.”
“Why are you telling me this,” Edgar asked. Eldridge had seemed to be more open with him in the past few minutes than Herald had been since they had known him.
“Mick told us what’s happened,” Eldridge said. Edgar felt his spine tingle. If being a terrorist wasn’t bad enough, now they had swapped that for a one way ticket to the loony bin.
“He told us about you two finding the devices. He said you two were trying find the general hospital after being in a car accident,” Eldridge explained.
“Mick told us that the two of you couldn’t find anyone at first, but heard something in one of the rooms. Turns out it was the broom closet on the first floor that had the two devices set to blow. Again, I’m deeply sorry for the treatment you’ve endured thus far, Edgar,” Eldridge said, looking over to Edgar’s cast wrist. Edgar looked at it, thinking that Mick had really outdone himself with such a runaround. ‘If they bought it, they bought it,’ he thought.
“Mick will be out of the intensive care unit soon,” Eldridge said, pulling something from his lab coat. Edgar winced at this, thinking of the needle that had gone into his neck. Eldridge slowed the trail of his hand at this, “It’s okay, son. Just something to show you that you aren’t in incarceration anymore.”
Eldridge pulled an odd device from his pocket. He reached to the leather cuff, pried the metal dowel up, and twisted, releasing the pressure off Edgar’s wrist. “Listen, we’d like to run a few more tests on you and Mick both before leaving. Those concussions aren’t good for anyone,” Eldridge said with a smile. “For now, you’re free to do as you wish.”
Edgar thought it over, considering the events, and quickly complied. ‘A delay shouldn’t hurt our chances of getting to level ten,’ he thought.
“Doctor,” Edgar started, not really feeling sure how to word the next question, “has anything strange ever happened here?”
The doctor looked as confused as Edgar felt, but still looked as though he was considering the question, if anything, out of courtesy. “Apart from you two, Pinson Mounds is a pretty regular hospital. Quite groundbreaking too, I might add; we usually have a group of college students in once a year for internships to do lab work, forwarding the development for cures to diseases of all types.”
Edgar put forth a looked of satisfaction for the doctor’s answer, but had another question he wouldn’t be asking the doctor just yet.
Eldridge looked around again, almost nervously as if trying not to offend Edgar. “Do you need anything before I go for the night,” he asked. Edgar simply shook his head and Eldridge had nearly shut the door when he paused. “Would you like a wheelchair or a crutch? I figured you’d want to roam a bit if your mind gets restless,” Eldridge said.
The doctor looked out the door again, scanning the area for a moment. He spoke soft and direct in Edgar’s direction when his head came back in. “Strictly, physicians aren’t supposed to grant such injuries mobility,” he said, pointing at Edgar’s cast leg, “but with everything that’s happened I’ll make the exception,” he continued, shooting Edgar a wink.
Edgar gave a smile and watched as the doctor let himself out, closing the door softly behind him.
Edgar couldn’t really think anything other than recurring questions. The doctor, Eldridge, would have likely answered more, but for the time being, Edgar felt as though he needed to stay in the know, even if doctors Joe and D’mor knew they hadn’t been asleep.
‘What about that name,’ his mind traced, thinking back to Eldridge himself. Norman, the black mass, the monstrosity that nearly killed Mick in the flooded basements of this place had a chart on the wall in the sealed room. ‘His surname was Eldridge, too,’ Edgar thought.
No sooner had the thought passed over Edgar’s mind; the doctor was back, leaving Edgar to believe he was fast for a man of his age. He rolled the wheelchair up slowly, having a single crutch occupying the seat. “Just do me one favor if, if you would,” Eldridge said, speaking as though he were making deal with a child. Edgar held his eyes fixed at attention.
“Try using the wheelchair before the crutch. Like I said before, I’m not really supposed encourage patients in your condition to be up and about, especially this hour. If you’re in the chair, people won’t think too much of it,” Eldridge said, smiling.
“Sure thing,” Edgar said. His face was present, but his mind was still a thousand miles away.
“I’ll leave you to it,” Eldridge said, sneaking back out of the door, “goodnight, Edgar.”
“Goodnight Doctor,” Edgar said, his face still holding a genuine smile. The door shut again, softer than before, and Edgar could hear the squeak of Eldridge’s shoes moving down the hallway.
It was time to do some investigating.