II, Issue #11 The Wanderer

Edgar lifted himself from the hospital bed and into the wheelchair. It nearly slid out from under him, Eldridge hadn’t set the brakes, but he held fast to the guard rail on the side of the bed; Edgar thought this one was must have been much sturdier than the one he had broken his ankle on. ‘No getting out if I get strapped to this one,’ Edgar thought.

After a few minutes of situating himself comfortably with a blanket covering his lap and legs in the chair, he roll toward the door, pausing before touching the handle. ‘There are cameras in some of the rooms you see. They’re only in place for exceeding circumstances,’ Eldridge’s voice echoed in his head.

Edgar thought it best to assume the worst, given the incident with D’mor early on in the day. He started to wonder if he had been placed in another monitored room but held his attention to the bigger picture. ‘I can’t afford to be so naive if I Mick and I want to get the hell out of here,’ he thought. “Best not to worry about it now,” he said quietly to himself, and opened the door.

Edgar thought he must’ve been near the top floor; rain was beating steady still on the roof and made a pleasant white noise that seemed to sedate everything’s movement. He saw  what looked like that floors admission desk, perched within an indentation that faced the silver elevator doors. There were a few nurses standing around it, each uniformed in navy blue scrubs. As they continued to palaver, Edgar glanced down the other side, seeing a mostly darkened hallway with a well-lit end that veered either to the right or left.

He looked up, saw a digital clock reading three minutes past one o’clock and thought, ‘I’ve been sleeping all afternoon.’ He rolled his wheelchair out of the door and thought it best to head to the right. ‘less people see me,’ he thought, ‘the better.’

He continued into the darkness, slowing only slightly at the voices within the rooms but paying most of his attention to the light at the end. The hallways were what you would expect of any hospital, Eggshell walls ran the length of the hall and the drop board ceiling and the tiles were slightly flecked, making it look as though the lingering smell of diluted chemicals hadn’t quite done its job in making the place utterly spotless. The air was thin and chilling, but, apart from the static of the rain, palaver of the nurses, and the occasional voices, the silence is what made Edgar hesitant about moving on. He did anyway, only he started to feel like the world he was in felt more and more cut of the father he rolled himself.

As he continued down the long hallway, Edgar tried to put aside the fact that this was a completely conjured world. He started thinking that if someone like D’mor could have shown such hatred toward him and his friend, even if he had lived through dangerous situations in the past, perhaps there were others capable of something different. Maybe there were some with compassion, but Edgar’s hopefulness was quickly replaced with the thought of the rolling hum that was D’mor’s sinister voice. ‘That stupid smile,’ Edgar thought. ‘and how does something like snapping the bones of another human being come so easily?’ No sooner had the thought crossed his mind, the lights in the hall took on an slightly odd hue before cutting off completely. Edgar paused his wheelchair, feeling a brush of chill, but tried to stay rational.

He started to think the lights may have cut off due to the hour; Perhaps it was time for this section of the hospital to go dark for the night. The thought was quickly changed from an assumption to assessment as they began to flicker. Edgar rolled back to see the nurses, still holding their position at this floor’s desk and still holding idle conversation. The light above the admissions desk of the floor remained a steady fluorescent gleam in the ceiling without the slightest hint of waver.

He look in the direction his wheelchair had been rolling; the lights remained a soft flicker. Edgar took a few takes back and forth, wondering if this end of the hospital had been on two separate grids. ‘The nurses haven’t noticed a thing,’ he thought, ‘but maybe they were used to it be now.’ The small voices within the rooms, talking nurses, and especially the steady patter of rain seemed to comfort Edgar’s mind, but just like a lot of good things so far in Mick and Edgar’s new adventure, he felt that it wouldn’t last long. His assumptions were made correct sooner than he had hoped.

After flickering steadily for a while, the florescent light at the end of the hallway turned off completely again. This is what Edgar saw immediately, but what he hadn’t noticed until there was nothing to notice at all was that, along with the lights, all of the sounds had seemed to shift.

Edgar cocked his head to the side and listened closer to what seemed to have vanished into this air. The white noise of the rain was drowned by silence at first; the voices in the rooms and the chatter of the nurses could have belonged to specters at this point. Edgar thought that it couldn’t simply be his imagination, and he couldn’t help but notice the change in smell as well. Most hospitals smelled of delicately scented chemicals in order to maintain a killing floor for bacteria, but now the air within the blackness changed. It was less like a cleaning agent and more like something that could be lethal in the long run of things. Edgar was smelt the faint remains of cigarette smoke.

‘Who smokes in a hospital,’ Edgar thought, wondering if one of the patients were making a shallow attempt to pull a fast one on a nurse. After the thought passed his mind, a roaring tide of questions began to flood his mind as all of the lights flicked back on.

It was the same hospital altogether, but it looked older and younger at the same time. The aged bulbs showered the hallway in a yellow light that completed an eerie gleam. The tiles were checkered and the walls held several portraits, all containing men in wool suits with stethoscopes around their necks. The portraits littered the wall in a reasonably organized fashion, and while the ceiling looked the same, save the incandescent lighting, The air was much thicker now. Edgar felt it harder to breath under such conditions, but what he saw at the end of the hall gave him enough to look forward to, calling out like a beacon.

Never mind the fact that the hospital was younger now because of the fifties decor, what Edgar saw was a symbol that had transcended quite a bit of time, and whether he believed in the symbol or not, he figured it best to start with what he knew. At the end of the hallway, three plaques reading SURGERY, ELEVATORS, and ROOMS 616-630 all pointed to the left; Edgar saw a cross next to a fourth that read CHAPEL, pointing to the right.

Edgar felt the change of the hospital as he made his way toward the chapel. He held back panic at the fact that his best friend was not only in another room or even a separate floor now, but he was in another time as well. Edgar was starting to feel like his chances of reaching Mick would be better if he had landed on another planet.

As he made his way to the end of the hall, he noticed another plaque above the doors. It read in big engraved letters ‘Jesus wept’.

Edgar entered as well as he could in his wheelchair without disrupting anything that may have been going on inside (‘No push-to-opens in this era,’ he thought). The door opened easy enough and was quietened by a felt stopper. Edgar saw inside that it was as much a chapel as anyone could ask for. If the lights in the hallway were chilling, these lights were eerily warm. The coldness of the hospital had almost fallen away, the lack of overhead light was made up for by the soft light coming through the colored glass in the windows that lines the sanctuary room.

The checkered tile was replaced by ocean teale carpet. The walls, not real but achieving the same warmness at a glance, were covered in wallpaper made to looks like distressed wood. The pews were aligned accordingly, a set of rows with five in each, tanned wood and red upholstery. Kneeling on either side of the podium in the pulpit were statues of angels, holding their hands to the sky as if asking ‘why us’ rather than worshiping an entity.

Edgar rolled in as silently as he could. There was only one other person in the chapel, but he figured it best not to disturb them if at all possible. Edgar was spied by the young man almost immediately. He looked pitiful, like someone trying to get something off of his chest, but he only gave barely audible sigh and turned back round.

Edgar rolled towards the pew, stopping beside it. He thought if he was going to start asking people what was going on here, he may as well start with the person who wants to complain to someone. ‘If he thinks God isn’t listening, maybe he’ll talk to someone who will,’ Edgar thought.

Edgar paused for moment, considering the circumstances, and then offered what little wisdom he could. “Do you know the story of David and Goliath,” he asked, looking ahead of them and trying not to sound too casual, or forceful for that matter. The young man in the pew considered him with a dip of anger on his brow, but trailed off with a strained expression as if in deep thought.

Edgar waited for what would’ve seemed like a minute to anyone else put in such a situation, but Edgar had counted only ten seconds, twelve tops if a stopwatch were put to it. He was good at giving advice, and comforting people only came natural as second nature.

“I remember a bit of it,” the young man said, his voice barely above a whisper. He didn’t seem offended much past the question; in fact, he looked as if he was comforted now that someone else had presented something, anything really, that took his mind off of what had been bothering him.

Edgar had nodded at his response reassuringly, hunching his back and starting to roll his hands into one another, like a man who’s ready to offer what he knows and listen to what he doesn’t, good or bad. “What parts do you remember—if you don’t mind my asking,” he finished, talking on eggshells so as to not offend the young man.

The young man looked up after considering the question, his eyes barely visible in the dark chapel but his face an oddly familiar shape. Edgar thought it looked considerably familiar, like a map of the road compared to the road itself; one had all the looks and the other had all the real experience. He had another thought but quickly brushed it aside. ‘Surely lots of people look the same if the creator is just brushing out a story,’ he thought. What he would come to learn in the coming months and with all his new adventure was that there was no such thing as coincidence when it comes to a good story.

The young man was peering forward for a few moments more when Edgar had nearly went to speak again. “I don’t mind,” the young man in the pew said. He re-positioned himself briefly and cleared his throat. “What I remember is the really big guy, Goliath; he stands out. Only, now that I’m thinking of it, maybe in the bible days a man who was my size was considered big,” the young man continued. He held out his arms to showcase a meager figure and considered Edgar for a moment. “And, well—no offense —but David might be a guy around your height while in that chair. I know the good book made him out to be pretty young, too. Speaking of, where’d you get it? I’ve been looking for a good one for my brother for some time now but they’re all in shit condition. Yours looks pretty sleek,” the young man said. Edgar was confused for a moment and the young man must’ve seen it. He motioned his head towards Edgar’s wheelchair.

“Oh, this,” Edgar said, realizing that it was probably the least impressive thing from the future to present to someone in the past, “it’s just what the doctor had given me.

The young man looked down for a minute and nodded his head considerably. “Guess some people get the good luck,” he said, staring off in front of him. Edgar saw that he wasn’t hinting the typical subtext of someone insinuating ‘what makes you deserve better than my family.’ It was a look of acceptance to the fact that sometimes it really is just a matter of the luck. Edgar, having almost forgotten that this young man was a conjured being from a time, not to mention a world that wasn’t even his own, started feeling sorry for him.

“I’ll tell you what,” Edgar said, smiling as the young man in the pew looked up with a blank expression. “I’ll send this chair to your brother’s room if you’d like. My leg won’t take much longer to—“

“My brother’s dead,” the young man interrupted in an even voice. Edgar was taken aback and didn’t know what to say. His response was almost so immediate, it sounded automated to both him and the young man. “I’m sor—,” Edgar tried to say.

“It’s okay,” the young man interrupted again, “if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not talk about it.” He gave a bit of a chuckle and stood up, pacing toward the podium. Edgar saw his eyes starting to swell a bit. In the yellow light it looked like the boy had contracted a disease. “It’s kinda funny man,” he said in a wavering voice, “we sat in here for hours because no one else in the ward is religious. We figured it was the one place where we could talk and smoke and not get interrupted by those lyin’ sons-of-bitches roamin’ the hallway.” Edgar watched the young man’s pace quickened a bit as he pointed  a quick gesture to the double doors Edgar had just came through. Edgar had figured he meant the doctors.

“I’m sorry, man,” the young man said, sitting back down and laying his face in the whole of his hands. He rubbed a few good times as an addict would, trying to calm himself from the inevitable panic that would come had he not performed that ritualistic act upon himself.

Edgar wheeled over and faced the young man. “Hey,” he said softly, beckoning for his attention, “don’t be sorry for being human. We’ve all lost someone.” Edgar thought back to Mick. ‘Surely he isn’t dead though,’ Edgar thought. ‘He could be in danger though,’ another part of him seemed to burst, ‘after all, one of those sons-of-bitches broke your arm,’ he thought. He calmed himself and got back to the situation at hand.

“I know man, I just want him back,” the young man said, his voice trailing. Edgar saw the look of longing in the young man’s now bloodshot eyes. “I just know it’s not going to happen.” Edgar kept his Eyes on him and waited for him to keep speaking. After another few seconds that would have seemed like minutes passing to someone else, the young man spoke up again, offering the gesture as if trying to repay a stranger’s kindness.

“My name’s John— John Eldridge, what’s yours,” the young man asked.

Edgar paused. It was true, what had crossed his mind. The young man praying in the chapel and the doctor who had reassured him in his hospital bed, fostering the same sense of compassion a brother would have shown had been the same person. One had retained a the smooth edge and contours of the face like a roadmap, and the other had all the real wear and tear of experience.

Edgar must’ve been in a trance longer than the few seconds he had waited on the young man to answer back. Just as in revealing who he was, it surprised Edgar when the young man spoke again. “Hey man, you okay,” he asked, waving a hand in front of Edgar’s face. Edgar withdrew from his mind. “Yeah, heheh—-sorry. Must be the hour or something,” he said, faking a yawn. “I’m Edgar,” he said, offering his hand.

The two young men shook hands and started in about the ward. Edgar claimed he had just gotten there when Eldridge had started in about some of the weird happenings he had heard about.

“I honestly wouldn’t have believed any of it man. Some of the shit you hear can’t be true. Sometimes you have to see it for yourself, but the look in her eye when she was telling me. She was either deranged or telling the truth. I would’ve believed either way honestly,” Eldridge said.

“What do you mean weird things? I thought this was a run-of-the-mill hospital,” Edgar said.

Eldridge started pacing back and forth again; the redness looked as though it was leaving his eyes now. “You know what a sanatorium is, right?” Edgar nodded. “From what I know about the history of this place, it was a sanatorium in the days of that nasty cough everyone was getting. tub–tuba colli—tub-something,” Eldridge said.

“Tuberculosis,” Edgar offered.

“Yeah, that one. Anyway, the story goes that uncle Sam thought they may never find a cure for it, and everyone involved had to come up with a plan for the disposal of all the bodies that were piling up,” Eldridge said.

“What did they do,” Edgar asked.

“Well, I don’t know what they actually did, but the rumor’s that a lot of the hospitals around the nation were allowed secret sections called Disposal Wards,” Eldridge said. “The whole point of the ward was to not only dispose of the bodies so that the disease wouldn’t spread, but each hospital involved was also offered a team of scientists that were allowed full access to any patient admitted to the ward.”

“Really though,” Edgar said thoughtfully, “it may have just been for the best.” Eldridge smiled like someone who knew the secret ending to story that no one was supposed to know in the first place.

“That was exactly what I had thought, until one of the patients here told me she overheard a few of the older doctors talking about it. She said they must’ve thought that she was asleep because they went on about some pretty vulgar stuff, but what stood out the most is what these sections of the hospital were allowed to tell the patients’ family. The government had gotten desperate from what I understand. She started going on for a bit about how the doctors were allowed to lie to get them into the ward earlier and run more tests. She was talking about how the scientists would run several tests, sometimes months before the patient would actually die, and the government would put all the information together to try and find the cure.”

“That sounds more like an excuse to tests unnecessary things,” Edgar said, looking off into the yellow lit room. He started thinking about Norman and understood that the creator hadn’t just left both men with the same name by coincidence. ‘I don’t think your brother is as dead as you may think,’ Edgar thought quietly, if only to stifle himself from rambling on like the girl Eldridge had been talking about.

“You see,” Eldridge said, “that’s exactly what I thought, and she told me according to the doctors, these sections were still doing tests, even after the sickness stopped. She started rambling a bit, but she still believed everything she said man; you could just see it in her eyes.

“She went on about the scientists after this. She said they would take patients who were almost in perfect health and threaten the doctors until they told the families they were dying. Then they would have fresh and healthy people to work with,” Eldridge finished in an impression of what was a creepy girl’s voice. Edgar had thought he had done this to lighten the mood, but it had the effect of surprising Edgar and giving Eldridge what looked like an eerie chill down his spine, having remembered what the girl had sounded like.

Eldridge started to pace a few more times before sitting back down; he was looking a bit panicked. “John,” Edgar said in an asking voice. There was a hint of reproach in his voice.

“Yeah,” Eldridge followed.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to your brother?”

A mortified look crossed Eldridge’s face, but he didn’t seem as angry at the question as he was scared of it. He let out a large sigh and spoke evenly again. “He was diagnosed with something called cancer. Doctors said early on to us that it was likely he wouldn’t make it. Two days ago they gave us the news that he had passed and said that there isn’t really any new research done into the disease or why it happens.” Eldridge gave what he must’ve thought was a laugh, but it came out sounding more like a snort. “They even told us it picks people at random. But, I guess when you hear about something like a the disposal ward, it’s easy to start blaming all of your problems on it. Call me crazy but having something to hate, even if it isn’t real, is better than letting it boil up in’ya, I guess. At the end of the day though, It just smells fishy when someone who’s so healthy is just gone the next year.”

“Those same doctors are the ones who broke my arm,” Edgar said, showing the cast to Eldridge. A look hatred was growing on his face. “Now they’re telling me that my friend is in the intensive care because of a punctured lung, and to an extent I believe them, but we can’t leave until further testing is done according to them.”

“You want my advice,” Eldridge said, “I’d find your friend and check him into a different hospital. Those assholes might know what they’re talking about, but you never know,” Eldridge said, pointing toward the door.

“We’d have to find him first,” Edgar said. He had a tinge in his voice that the younger form of Eldridge had heard, and even if it had obviously been bait, Eldridge looked as pleased as pie to take it anyway. Eldridge stood up and started pacing a few more times before stopping and gripping the arms of Edgar’s wheelchair with aggression of someone ready to steal it out from under its user. Edgar thought he might have to hit him if the anger didn’t leave his face, but it did. It turned into a looked of determination that would have scared most, but it pleased Edgar to see it.

“Let’s go get your friend,” Eldridge said.

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