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So, I wanted this to be my 4,000th post, but I won't get there for a few weeks and since I just finished Part One of this thing it seemed like a good place to post it. :P My book! Or the hopes and dreams of one. This thing has gone through so many versions; the plot has changed, the freaking basis of the thing has changed, but I think this is the best version of it. I'm 22k words in, so it had better be :P.

Yes, that is a working title that is prone to changes. Might need one. It makes sense to me, who knows why it's called that, but it's not of huge significance until later so idk. Also it's kind of stereotypical, in a way? So yeah working title.

Constructive criticism and/or grammar spelling check would be appreciated :)

I don't actually care if anyone reads the whole thing or any at all but just thought I'd share anyway :P (Hopefully) enjoy Project Rosette!


Prologue:

Spoiler

The bright, blinding lights of a medical examination room always gave Rainier a surge of elation. To some the glare was excessive, but to him it was a proclamation that there was true glory in a surgeon’s work. Why else would they be so consistently illuminated?

It was this that Rainier anticipated as he shrugged on his streamlined coat and clipped on his name badge to the front pocket. The hour of the most important procedure of his life was at hand, and he was a fool if he claimed no nerves had wormed into his behavior. He was also a fool for being nervous. Rainier was the most talented and sophisticated surgeon in all of New York, perhaps the country and likely the world- he was beyond qualified for this job.

That didn’t make it any less important nor imposing, though.

Rainier let himself take a single deep breath before tugging on a pair of mint-scented latex gloves and pushing his way out of the preparation room and out into the sixth floor hallway. A nurse pushing an empty stretcher rushed past at that very moment, but despite her clear hurry Rainier cut in front of her, forcing the nurse to pull the stretcher to a screeching halt. She ducked her head when she saw Rainier’s expression, and went out of her way to move out of his. Rainier sniffed, straightened his coat, and moved on.

His polished shoes went click, click on the shiny hospital floor, the tile in alternating squares of blue and white. Every few seconds Rainier couldn’t help but check his watch, not at all slowing down with each glance- still an hour early. Let no one say Rainier is one to be late. In his mind, twenty minutes before the scheduled start time is late but the demanding pace of the emergency room- especially this one- had drilled certain habits into his mind. Punctuality being one of the better ones.

“Jim! Jim!”

The voice echoed behind him, and Rainier turned to see who had made it. A portly but surprisingly quick man was sprinting down the hall, his white coat identical to Rainier’s flapping behind him. Wesley, one of Rainier’s… lesser coworkers. Wesley held a clipboard in his hand and bore a face of concern. He came to a quick halt after Rainier’s gaze landed on him. “I’m sorry,” he said haphazardly and with a pause. “Is this a bad time?” Wesley adjusted his glasses, looking not quite at Rainier’s face.

Rainier sighed. “When is it not a bad time, here.” That was a statement, not a question.

Wesley straightened. “Good point, Jim. Very good point.”

Rainier waved a hand. “Well? What is it that is so important? You know what today is, I’m on a tight schedule!”

Wesley raised a finger. “Jim, the operation technically doesn’t begin for-”

“I’m aware of when the operation starts, Wesley.” Rainier interrupted. “The matter of urgency. Now.”

Wesley fiddled with the position of his glasses on the bridge of his nose for a moment before speaking, first opening his mouth only to close it again. Wesley glanced at the clipboard in his hand, scanning its contents. Rainier tapped his foot impatiently. How had a man with these stark organizational gaps land a job in a specialized medical office?

“Well, you see… it’s about the operation, actually. A report just came in. From our science department.” Wesley bit his lip. Whatever it is, it wasn’t good.

Rainier shrugged stiffly. “The science department doesn’t have a say on how the procedure is completed.” He said. “They do the research, I do the execution.”

“Well,” Wesley continued, adjusting his glasses for the third time already. “We do the execution, but let’s not get into the details-”

“Thank you, let’s not.” Rainier put in, somewhat sarcastically.

“-But this I think you’ll want to hear. Or not want to hear, I suppose.”

Rainier slammed his hand against the wall. “Get on with it, then!”

Wesley gulped. “Yes, Jim. Let’s see…” he scanned the paper attached to his clipboard. “Ah, here. ‘Official and urgent findings of the science division of Phoenix Incorporations, to be sent immediately to Doctor Jim Rainier, head of the medical division of the same company, circa July fifteenth’…” Wesley skipped further down. “‘Upon a final test of the method set out for usage in the procedure, it is determined that anesthetic and the chemicals used within anesthetic are unsafe for the very procedure itself.’” Wesley looked up from reading, clearly nervous. “It goes on to detail why, and is signed directly by Marriane so there is no reason to doubt its authenticity.”

Rainier took a few audible breaths. The news hadn’t fully sunk in yet, he could tell. He wasn’t panicking. “And why,” Rainier began, clenching his teeth, “had we not been informed of this earlier?”

“Because none of the tests prior to this one had included the use of anesthetic.” Wesley explained hastily. “They weren’t on live- er, human- subjects; there was no reason to. It’s fortunate the science department chose to run a final diagnostic. The compounds in our formula were unresearched, there really was any number of strange reactions it could have caused.” Wesley again fiddled with his glasses.

“Yes.” Rainier said, his eye twitching slightly. “Fortunate.”

He let out an exasperated sigh, checking his watch. Three-quarters of an hour until the scheduled start time. “Which anesthetics? Surely the report specified.”

Wesley looked Rainier straight in the eyes. “All of them.”

An uncomfortable silence hung in the hallway for a time, broken only by the buzzing of the overhead lights. Finally, Rainier spoke. “Well? What now?” All hopes of completing the operation seemed dashed. The board would be furious.

Wesley hesitated. “The report… goes on.” He said, somewhat slowly. “It details how the procedure itself includes a chemical that could potentially act as a slight anesthetic and includes a statement that the location of the procedure itself likely wouldn’t kill the patient without anesthetic anyway-” 

Rainier’s heart leapt. “So the operation goes forward?”

Wesley sighed, letting the arm holding the clipboard drop to his side. “Likely wouldn’t kill, Jim. That’s not exactly a firm testimony. The patient would be in extreme pain and be awake for the entire procedure. The trauma would be lasting.”

Rainier held a stare with the other man. “Not this trauma.”

Wesley sighed. “Yes, and that is the only reason I am even considering moving forward, but I still don’t like it.”

“Lucky for the project, you don’t get to make the final decision.” Rainier at last continued his walk towards the examination room. “The procedure moves forward.” He glanced at Wesley, who had jogged a bit to catch up with Rainer’s sudden departure. “Besides, remember where the patient came from.”

Wesley shook his head. “That shouldn’t matter, Jim. We should be better than that.”

As they stopped in front of the closed door to the examination room, Rainier smiled a fake smile, lips tight. “And it’s a real shame we’re not, isn’t it. I’ll see you after the procedure.” Rainier pushed his way inside the room, closing the heavy door behind him. Nurses ran this way and that throughout the room, preparing for the operation.

Rainier smiled again, this one sincere. He stared at the wall clock, hands showing thirty-six minutes till.

Right on time.

Spoiler

[Procedural Report  -  Project Rosette]

 

> Stage One (1):

 

Patient was cleaned, minor cuts and bruises treated as required. Implants and markings of various types were removed. Full-body scan and overview occurred, with results immediately sent to the biology division for analysis.

Calming sedatives were used to relax the patient; minimal success.

Restraints holding. Caused minor bruising in the patient’s arms and legs.

 

          >Patient received: 5:01 AM

          >Patient sent: 6:38 AM

          >Total time of procedure: Ninety-seven minutes

                    >Status: Ahead of schedule

 

 

-Signed by Dr. Patricia Whitmer

Rosette Stage One Medical Professional

Spoiler

T  H  E

I  R  S  T

One:

Spoiler

Blinding lights spun above him. The world warped, the tiled ceiling spiraling before disappearing as his head hit the floor. Exposed plumbing pipes blurred in his view, and the blood that exploded from his nose stained his shirt and the crumbly floor.

Thomas gasped, blinking against the pain. Above him, a deep voice laughed, joined by two others. This high school, Thomas found, had some strange welcoming rituals.

“Like that, punk?” Ned ‘Striker’ Jackson called down. Thomas snorted at the word ‘punk’. He says, after decking me across the face. He inhaled blood and a coppery taste filled his mouth. Thomas began to cough, nearly vomiting. He groaned, beating his fist weakly on the ground at the flashes of pain.

“Yeah, Welcome to Cali.” Another voice said. Darryl Walker, one of Ned’s buddies. Which, by buddies, Thomas meant pets who basically did everything Ned asked them to. It was a stereotypical high school bully gang, and Thomas was their newest plaything.

He broke through a new boundary of pain as a large booted foot- Ned’s or one of his cronies, it didn’t matter- stomped on his back a few times. With each forceful impact Thomas winced, all four of his limbs flinching involuntarily, but he didn’t let himself cry out. Hold still, and they’ll leave. Eventually.

All three of the other seniors- members of Thomas’ own class- each took turns kicking his sides, jesting with one another and making fun of his clothes or appearance. Which wasn’t fair- Thomas was taller than all three of them, and while he hadn’t worked out in a few months he was no weakling.

Why, then, did he lay here? Take it all in?

Thomas didn’t know. Maybe being a decent person had something to do with it.

He closed his eyes, letting his mind fade from the beating and onto his classes, the ones he would be late to. All new teachers, all new material. His new school in Los Angeles was in a completely different spot as far as education went, which made zero sense to Thomas. Shouldn’t the schools be uniform- or at least close to uniform- across the country? Instead, he found that the schools Chicago had been far ahead of what the West Coast was studying. It made Thomas’ life easier, sure, the first class of his senior year had been completely review, but it still didn’t really make sense.

Of course, Thomas wouldn’t dare point that out. Even the minimal fact that he had noticed the difference wouldn’t be well received in a community that welcomed new faces with a three-on-one; let alone that he cared.

Thomas at last opened his eyes, blinking at the electric lights of the boys bathroom. He was alone. Finally he released a moan of pain, letting his tensed muscles completely relax until he doubted he could move if he tried. Every inch of his body hurt. Ned had clearly been thorough. His nose still leaked blood, feeling like he had slammed it against a brick wall. The rest of his head and neck pounded, like a gong had been sounded at full resonance an inch from his eardrums. His back ached worse than it ever had before. Thomas would be lucky to escape without any broken ribs.

He decided to test his hypothesis of not being able to stand by attempting to do just that- and it went about as well as he had figured. Thomas had thought that his arms and legs had received the lesser of the beating, but the faint ache apparently only applied when they were stationary. A single inch of movement sent a spike of pain up the limb, as if a spear had been driven through it. He gasped in pain again, twisting his head to search for the wall clock. His next class started at 9:00AM.

Instantly Thomas’ vision blurred, the world fuzzing and seeming to swim across his eyes. His head dropped back to the floor, chin slamming against the tile. Compared to how he felt everywhere else, the bang was nothing.

He hadn’t even caught the time…

The fleeting thought of how much homework he’d have when he woke up crossed his mind.

Thomas’ thoughts came slowly. Wake… up?

The world went dark.

 

*   *   *

 

He gasps, sitting up. He’s in a field of dandelions, the flowers reaching up to his shoulders. Their petals are mostly the bright yellow they are in the springtime, though a few scattered here and there have wilted, the petals becoming white and poofing out so they look vaguely like a lollipop. 

He chuckles, remembering a day from his childhood when he had ignorantly stuck one in his mouth. The fluffy seeds stuck to the inside of his mouth even with his violent attempts to spit them out and at last he had run crying to his mother. He had laid down on the old couch in the living room with his mouth stretching open like a dentist as his mother had picked out each one he hadn’t swallowed. He had been terrified that dandelions would start growing in his stomach for weeks.

When he finally stands, he brushes the dandelions that stick to his pants back into the field. The flowers reach his knees now, and are thick enough to completely cover his feet. He lifts his right leg as if to affirm it is still there, and his bare foot emerges from the flowers. He wiggles his toes and flexes the muscles that run along the bottom of the foot, then slips it back to the ground, doing his best to squish the least amount of flowers possible with the movement.

He starts walking, first stepping cautiously to spare the life around him but resolving after a few minutes that the effort is both overly time-consuming and largely futile. He strides confidently in a direction, knowing where to go but not where he is going. He finds this… strange.

What direction is he going? He halts, and looks in every direction, turning in a full circle. Dandelions as far as the eye can see, everywhere. The elevation does not change, either. Just flat, with yellow flowers swaying in the slight breeze. Forever.

He looks up, at the sun, hoping that it can give an idea of the direction. The sun sets in the west. But it is exactly overhead, glaring down at him, its position mocking. He knows, somehow, that he could stand here until every flower in the field wilted and died, blowing their seeds and growing a new generation a hundred times, and the sun would not move.

He is suddenly hot. The sun’s warmth seems to increase exponentially with every thought of it doing so. He begins to run, following his instincts to deduce which way to go. The heat seems to chase him, a wave of escapable warmth that could roast him alive if it wished.

Another memory flashes into view. Second grade, his family’s vacation to the national parks across Utah and the surrounding deserts. He had loved the arches and rock formations of Bryce Canyon and Arches national parks, and the others.

But the heat. The heat had been killer. Not literally, but nearly. Or it had seemed.

He had lived on water. His eight-year-old frame soaking up moisture to the point that it might be possible to wring him out like a sponge.

Water.

Where was water. He needed water.

He was sprinting now. Flowers were trampled with every step, but that didn’t cross his mind. Only the thought of the inescapable heat behind him, that would destroy him, lest he find water.

Sweet, cold, refreshing water.

It is the anticipation of finding the oasis he knows is ahead that drives his legs forward. He runs with a vigor known only to those who have been forced to flee for their lives. His strides span meters, crushing the flimsy dandelions below with every step. Behind him, the heat still rages forward, letting out guttural screams that its prey is escaping it.

He lets out a yell too, for his muscles throb with complaints of the extended sprint. His throat is ragged from the heat and the run, begging for a refreshing swig of water.

Water.

It is ahead. He knows this.

The dandelions around him begin to lessen in their density. He can go steps without crushing any now. The field is thinning. The dirt below is soft and dark. He leaves footprints with each step. The heat burns them away.

He squeezes his eyes shut tightly to combat the pain. His aching muscles turn into an aching self with every single step. Head pounds, feet swell, lungs scream. Skin blisters, neck burns, hands peel.

He is moving quickly. Faster than possible. Faster than reality.

His eyes are still closed. The wind blows into him, and he feels like he is sprinting through a wind tunnel and still breaking the sound barrier.

And then a thought.

Stop.

He rips his eyes open with a forced command from the mind, something proving to be no easy task, and plants his feet down as hard as he can. He skids, sliding on the gravel. Hadn’t that been dirt?

And stares at the looming cliffside a millimeter from his toes.

His ragged breath truly hurts with every inhalation. But he is done. He has made it.

The cliffside is truly the end of the world. The gravel on the ground is just the surface, he finds, as he kneels down to wipe the top layer off. Hard-packed earth lies under the pebbled outer shell of the ground he stands on. He rises, looking to the left and the right. It is exactly as the dandelion field was- which he can no longer see; behind him lies a uniform gravel plain, flatter than anything he has seen. The cliffside extends out of view in both horizontal directions, staying as flat as it was where he stood. 

The cliff itself is as sheer as any. More so. It is as sharp an angle as a wooden block in a children’s toy. Perfectly ninety degrees. Vertical and forever. He peers over the side, careful not to lose his balance, and the abyss is endless. Mist seems to hang just where he cannot make out the details of the cliffside, and he wonders if the mist is truly there or just what his mind substituted for a lack of anything.

Outward, there is nothing. The sky fades into black that way, the perhaps not-mist blending with the horizon and what is above and below.

He stares at the cliffside for a long while, contemplating its existence. What could create a formation so uniform?

And what of the heat?

The thought is invading. He had been carefree for as long as his eyes had been open, because of the cliffside’s distraction. Now the gnawing truth of what he had been running from returns in full force.

The heat. The blistering, painful, searing heat.

It approaches from behind, and turning the direction he had come he actually sees the shimmering waves rushing his direction. He knows that if he stays, he will die. The heat consumes all. It would consume him.

But there is only one other option. He knows this, as well. The cliffside. It is the only direction the heat is not, the only place the heat will not go.

His mind races. The certain doom, or the uncertain doom?

The logical solution is obvious to him. Uncertain doom is, in fact, uncertain. He will jump. Now. There isn’t a second to lose. The heat will be here at his next breath.

He turns to face the cliff. The sheerness of it hits him with full force. The image of him falling and splatting on the ground he cannot see below flashes across his mind.

He must jump. But he cannot. The moment passes.

The heat is upon him. As his flesh burns away, he screams.

Instead of the world going dark, his vision turns red.

 

*   *   *

 

Thomas’ eyes shot open faster than he would have thought possible. He saw only darkness, and had the briefest moment of panic thinking he was still in that… place. The field, plain, and cliff. And the heat.

Was he dead?

He tried to sit up, and instantly felt a flash of pain everywhere.

Nope. Still suffering. Not dead.

Thomas waited patiently for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, wondering where he was. The bathroom floor of the high school? Now that he was more aware, Thomas could feel that the surface he laid on was soft, or at least soft compared to the tile floor. Besides, he was on his back. After being beat up he had been face down.

He groaned, remembering the beating in full detail. Ned, Darryl, the third nameless dude, and the joy they had expressed while inflicting immense pain on him. Thomas didn’t understand how their sick minds must function to find a hobby in something such as that.

He turned his head the other direction, cracking his neck, and suddenly didn’t need his eyes to adjust anymore to know where he was. Instead, they focused on a small blinking light a few feet away, green and steady, on a box that was hooked to a machine of some kind.

A hospital.

Thomas mentally shook his head in disbelief. He hadn’t thought his injuries were that bad- he had broken more than a few bones before rock climbing, and the pain he remembered to be far worse. But he supposed if he had been a student or teacher walking into the restroom to take care of business, only to find an unconscious young man of no small size with blood on his face- an unconscious young man who didn’t wake up even after hours of prodding- he would have wanted the fellow to go to the hospital too. He wondered both who had discovered his body and how long it had actually been. Surely hours, if he were here.

Overhead the lights suddenly flicked on, and Thomas winced, closing his eyes by reflex. He heard the sound of a door opening and he eased them back open to see who had come into the room.

A distracted-looking nurse walked in pulling a small metal cart behind her, which had a short stack of papers and a few pieces of standard pediatrician-level doctor tools like stethoscopes and reflex mallets on the top tray. The nurse herself looked to be in her late twenties, with light brown hair kept in a bun, likely so it didn’t get in the way of her work.

Thomas blinked, still not completely adjusted to the light. He watched for a moment as the nurse closed the door behind her and checked some of the papers on the cart, then cracked his mouth open to speak. A faint croak came out, not loud enough for the nurse to have heard. That was probably for the better. Thomas tried again, forcing the words out. “How did you know…” his weak voice faded away.

The nurse looked over at him, and caught his meaning. She smiled. “That you were awake? We’re monitoring your vitals. Your sleep pattern changed. How do you feel?”

Thomas glanced down at himself for the first time. He was in a standard-issue hospital gown, his clothes nowhere to be seen. I hope I kept my underwear, he fleetingly thought. But the wire-looking band taped to his arm caught more of his attention. Thomas assumed that was how they were monitoring his blood levels and such, probably deducing his sleep patterns from that, but he didn’t know for sure. Medical procedures and methods never made sense to him.

“I… could be better.” He croaked, coughing slightly. “What time is it?”

The nurse looked up at the wall clock Thomas hadn’t known was there. “Twelve twenty four.” She said. Thomas glanced at the dark window on the other side of the room, and the nurse tipped her head downward slightly and added “AM.”

He had been out for over sixteen hours.

Thomas’ eyes bugged a bit. The darkness of the room when he had woken up should have been a clue, but he hadn’t taken it.

A sharp fear hit him suddenly. “What day?”

The nurse laughed quietly, like wind chimes. “Don’t worry, still September second.” There was a pause. “Well, the third.”

Okay, good. Thomas didn’t know how he would have reacted had it been longer than it already was, and he couldn’t say he was sad he wouldn’t find out.

“I’m just going to check your heart rate, alright?” The nurse took the stethoscope from the cart and held it to his chest, and the room was silent save for the steady ticking of the wall clock. How had he not noticed it before?

“Seems normal.” The nurse narrated, moving the stethoscope back to the cart. Thomas wondered how much the nurse had actually needed to check his heart and how much it had been an act to show normality.

A few more awkward moments passed until it became clear that the nurse hadn’t come into the room the second he had woken up to check his heart rate. Thomas spoke up, likely playing along. “Did… I get X-rayed?” He asked. “For my back?”

“You did.” The nurse said, leafing through more of the papers. What were they? “Four cracked ribs, I’m afraid, with five more bruised. Whatever you did, it wasn’t kind to you.” From another that might have been a tad insulting- the emphasis on what he did instead of what was done- but the nurse said it with a friendly tone that made it clear that she had experience talking with people. Thomas decided that made sense, though he hadn’t ever thought of the medical field as a social workplace before.

He winced, trying not to move his stomach. So that was why it hurt to breathe. “How long?” He asked. “Before they heal?”

“Rib fractures normally take one to two months to heal fully.” The nurse said. “Your left side- that’s where the bruised ones mostly are- will feel better a bit quicker.” She looked up from the papers she was still holding. “Here, let me grab the images from the X-ray.”

Thomas waited as the nurse slipped back out the door to grab the X-ray results. The instant she was gone he felt the impulse to go through the stack of papers. For a moment he wrestled with himself, debating the pros and cons, even going as far as to make the first movements to stand up- that turned out to be the deciding factor. His chest burned at the slight motion and he relaxed back down.

It turned out to be a good thing, though, because the nurse opened the door the second he collapsed. Thomas was glad he wouldn’t have to explain why he was looking through the hospital documents, if that was what they were. The nurse held up an orange folder with a few paper clips sticking out from it, and brought it over to show Thomas.

The nurse opened the folder and took out the first set of images. The X-ray pictures looked like the ones you see in movies- his bones printed out stark white that bled into a bit of blue on the contrasting black background. The first image was that of his right side, twelve ribs.

Three of them were cracked. Thomas hadn’t expected the breaks to be so clear.

The nurse pointed to the cracked ribs, as if she expected Thomas couldn’t tell which ones they were. “Here is your right side.” She said. “These ribs are cracked. Notice how they are all in the same section of the ribcage- the top. That was where the pressure of whatever happened was pushing.”

Ned’s foot. Thomas thought.

The nurse switched the pictures, putting the top one in the stack behind to the back and revealing the second. It was Thomas’ left side. One was visibly cracked.

Right. The nurse had already said he had four broken ribs, and the right side only had three of them.

“Here is your left side. There’s only one broken here, but you can see that it’s in the same top section of your ribcage.”

Thomas nodded, but then remembered something. “You said that I had five bruised ribs, too. Where are those?”

In answer, the nurse flipped the second image to the back of the stack and laid the next four out for him to see. The first two were close-ups of his right side, the second two close-ups of his left, dividing his ribcage into four quadrants. On each image sections of various ribs were circled in red marker, but even when squinting Thomas couldn’t tell the difference between the sections circled and the sections not. But there were five circles.

The nurse confirmed his thinking. “Each of these circles marks a bruised rib.” She said, pointing to one of the circles. “They’re hard to see even on an x-ray, but we normally can spot them.”

Thomas just nodded again, and the nurse seeing his face put the X-ray images away. She smiled at him. “Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as they look. All you need to do for the next few months is relax. No school sports,”

Not a problem. Thomas wasn’t the worst athlete, but he had never liked the competition.

“And make sure to ice it every day. No set length of time to do so, but you won’t need to for as long when they are more healed. If you want, I can give you some pain medications too.”

Thomas took a deep breath, wincing at the pain of doing so. “Yeah.” he said. “Yeah, if you would.”

The nurse laughed kindly again, and reached inside of a drawer to pull out a bottle of pills. “These should work fine. Just remember that the prescription alone won’t heal the injury; you’ll need to be proactive as well.”

Thomas nodded, fixing his eyes on the bottle. The pills would be a great help.

The nurse glanced at the wall clock again, and then at Thomas’ tired face. She stood, slipping the folder with the X-ray images onto one of the lower trays of the cart. “I’ll let you get back to your rest.” She said. “I’ll check with you again when the sun comes up.” The nurse quietly opened the door, turning the light off as she did so. For a moment, Thomas could see the illuminated hallway beyond the door.

And then it was closed, and he was returned to the darkness.

Hope I got all those italics right after copying it over lost them all :P.

I'll post more at some point, obviously that's not the whole thing (there's five more chapters, each about that long) but I both want to see if anyone is willing to actually read this thing and also I don't want to dump a lot onto someone who does. I want it to be approachable. And it takes a long time to reformat these and I don't want to do five more right now. Anyway, that's all for now!

It gets more interesting I promise

Two:

Spoiler

Sleep didn’t come easy. Thomas wasn’t certain if he even wanted sleep. The vision he had seen during his sixteen hour coma still haunted him every time he closed his eyes, the searing heat and the terror he had felt returning to his mind’s eye. Thomas hesitated to call it a dream; it had felt as real as anything he’d ever done. Sometimes when he ran it again through his mind it felt like a memory.

But at the same time, Thomas knew it had only been in his head. What else would it have been? Life was not science fiction, or at least he wasn’t. When a cryptic and terrifyingly real vision entered your head, it was just a vision. A dream.

His body instantly flared in pain, the agony expanding outward from his chest. He groaned, tossing and turning. If it was a coincidence, it was a cruel one. Thomas opened his eyes to the darkness of the hospital room, staring at the wall clock that he couldn’t see. Didn’t hospitals normally have one of those LED clocks with the digital light? He flexed his chest as much as he could without nearly passing out from the pain, wondering how anything possibly could hurt this bad. It certainly hadn’t felt like this when he had been on the bathroom floor. Thomas wasn’t a doctor, but that didn’t make sense.

The other thing that didn’t really fit in was how he had cracked four ribs and bruised another five because of a few stomps. Ned… knew his own strength, Thomas guessed. The brute had probably beaten up a lot of people. Ned likely expected to face some consequences, and just as likely didn’t care, but the repercussions for a small scale smackdown were considerably different from breaking someone’s chest. He briefly wondered if he had any underlying bone condition that made it so they broke easier, but instantly dismissed the thought. His broken bones from years ago would have been far worse if that were the case. Much more likely Ned was just exceptionally off his rocker this time around. And for the next few months, Thomas would pay for it.

With any luck, Ned would too.

For the millionth time, Thomas wondered who had discovered him lying there in his own blood, and how long it had taken for someone to do so. It was likely that Ned was still running free, as whoever it was couldn’t have proven who had done it, but that was fine with Thomas. This way, he could be the one to turn Ned in.

If this night ever ended.

*   *   *

The light streaming through the window was one of the most glorious things he had ever witnessed. That, and the realization that he hadn’t suffered through the whole night awake. His lack of dreams was pretty rejuvenating too.

Thomas groggily sat up, propping his right arm on the hospital bed and swinging his legs to the floor. He didn’t feel quite ready to walk yet, though simply not laying down was good progress. His eyes found the clock, and was satisfied with the time of seven AM. He smacked his lips, a bad taste in his mouth. Something vaguely like blood.

With a stark realization, Thomas noticed- or rather, didn’t notice- the level of pain in his chest. While it was certainly still noticeable, the burning sensation from the night before wasn’t burdening his body any longer. The swift change made Thomas question how much of the pain he had been creating in his mind, and how much had actually been there.

He didn’t have to wait long before the door to his room swung open and a familiar face stepped in. “Good morning!” The nurse said. “Did you sleep well?”

Thomas nodded, momentarily staring at the floor, then looked up and verbally answered like a competent socializer. “Yes, thank you.” 

The nurse set down the tray she had brought with her onto the cart, which was still there from the night before. And the papers. Thomas mentally cursed himself for not taking a peek at those when he could have, then chided himself for thinking the thought.

The tray was one of those plastic ones from elementary school lunchrooms, and in each quadrant rested a different breakfast food. Toast, a small pile of eggs, a piece of bacon, a glass of orange juice, along with silverware wrapped in a napkin. Steam rose from the tray and the aroma drifted to Thomas’ nose, making his stomach rumble. The nurse gestured to the food. “Hungry?”

Thomas nodded, trying not to appear too eager. Soon, the tray was on his lap, both warming his legs and providing a meal. It had been far too long since he had eaten a hot breakfast, and while the hospital food probably wasn’t that high quality compared to other diners and restaurants, after the last twenty-four hours Thomas thought the food tasted heavenly.

He took small bites, trying to pace himself. As he ate, the nurse asked him questions about his pain, where it was and how bad it felt.

“It’s kind of weird.” he said in between swallows. “I feel a lot better today than I did last night, like I had some sort of speed healing.”

The nurse smiled. “That’s good.” she said. “Cracked ribs normally don’t feel really painful; the pain is just sustained for a long time.”

Thomas took a sip of juice, washing down the last bit of toast. “That makes sense. I’m kind of surprised the injury was as bad as it was, actually.”

“Oh?” the nurse asked, putting down the containers of soap she had started sorting into cabinets on the other side of the room. She leaned against the wall, sounding interested. “How were you injured?”

“I…” Thomas suddenly was embarrassed. That was irrational. He was talking to a professional. She had probably heard much worse stories than his. “I was attacked. Well, beat up. At school.” Realizing how that sounded, he hastily provided context. “I moved across the country, from Chicago, over the summer. It was my first day at the new school. I guess they thought it was funny to pound the new kid.” Thomas put no bitterness or emotion into the story, just laid out the facts. It didn’t take too much effort to do that.

The nurse put a hand to her mouth, gasping. “I’m sorry! That’s no fun.” She put her hands on her hips, looking across the room, past Thomas, out the window; as if she were staring down the whole world. “Some people are just jerks.”

Thomas shrugged. “I’ll live, and they’ll probably face more than a few consequences.”

“Rightfully so!” The nurse huffed. Then she relaxed a bit, and rolled her eyes in response to her outburst. “Sorry, I just like when people don’t hurt other people. Being in the medical field and all.”

Thomas set the empty tray on the cart, leaning a bit forward to do so. His chest throbbed in protest. “I can understand that, it’s fine. Nothing to do about it now.”

The nurse nodded her thanks, and Thomas chuckled at the reversal of roles. He was the comforter, now.

The moment passed, and the nurse grabbed the stack of paper on the cart, the one that wouldn’t leave Thomas’ thoughts. “I’ll let you rest. I can bring you our selection of movies and a DVD player, if you want.”

“No, that’s fine.” Thomas said. He didn’t really like movies. “But- how long do I need to stay here?” he asked, looking around the room.

The nurse followed his gaze. “As soon as someone comes to get you. Hospital policy, I’m afraid. We have a telephone you can use, but the school should have already notified your parents.” She wrinkled her brow. “I’m surprised they haven’t called in already, now that I think about it.”

Thomas shook his head. “Won’t work. They’re on a business trip in San Francisco for most of the next week. They block most calls that aren’t related to the trip.”

The nurse shook her head, sighing. “What do they do? It must be important.”

Thomas shrugged, staring at a spot on the floor. “In all honesty, I don’t know. Management for some company that makes something. They have meetings all over the country all the time. I feel like I don’t even know them.” He looked up. “That’s why we moved here. More of their trips are on the west coast.”

The nurse was silent for a moment. “It doesn’t need to be your parents.” she finally said. “Anyone can come and get you, though their ID has to be checked and they have to have some relation to you.”

Thomas thought about it. “I can call the school, if you bring me that telephone. They can probably send one of my teachers.” He had only had one class so far in the entire school year. “Or, actually, my phone should have been in the pocket of my pants… where are they?”

The nurse smiled. “They were washed and dried, and can be delivered to you. But… no phone. Nothing in the pockets.” Her face was apologetic.

I’m going to kill Ned. Thomas thought. “Oh. Alright. The hospital telephone will be fine, then. Thanks.”

The nurse nodded, and then walked out of the room. Still holding the stack of papers.

He sighed, flopping back down onto the bed. That was a mistake. Thomas’ chest flared with pain, and he groaned. Why would Ned take Thomas’ phone? Off his unconscious body, too? He was low, but not that low. And… before he had slipped from consciousness, hadn’t he been alone in the bathroom? That meant Ned also had returned at some later point, just to take it. It wasn’t as if that made sense, but nothing else made more sense. Whatever the case, he no longer had a phone. And definitely not enough money to buy a new one. He had never wanted a job, and he received zero dollars and zero cents in allowance from his parents.

Thomas grinned to himself, imaging what his father would say if he asked for money to buy a replacement. ‘You have to work for the things you want, son. They won’t be given to you.’ Well, Thomas didn’t really need a phone that much anyway. Ned could keep the dumb thing. Like he could unlock it anyway.

The door to the room creaked open again, and Thomas looked over to see the nurse returning with a bundle of clothes and a plug-in telephone under her arm. She set them onto the cart, bending over to plug in the phone into the wall. “Here.” she said, and smiled before closing the door behind her, again leaving him alone.

Well, Thomas thought. That was fast. He realized that he would have to stand up to get dressed or use the phone, and his body protested. But eventually his mind and resilience to both get out of the hospital and get out of the gown won out, and he forced himself back to a sitting position and then to his feet.

It wasn’t as bad as he had thought it would be. The level of pain in his chest didn’t change too much, and although his legs were extremely sore they weren’t broken. Standing was a chore, but not a punishment.

He hobbled over to the cart, grabbing the bundle of clothes tightly and moving back to the bed. Thomas sat back down, deciding it would be easier to change that way, in his current state. He unfolded his shirt and pants, and then slipped off the gown and forced his legs and arms into the clothes. After, he stood again and shook his arms, trying to settle back into them. He folded up the gown and after shuffling back to the cart, put it where his clothes had been.

Thomas put his hand into his pocket, the one where his phone normally was, as if to check if it actually was gone. Like he didn’t believe the nurse, or thought she had somehow missed it.

She didn't. Both pockets were empty.

Thomas sighed. Oh well; he had already decided it didn’t mean a whole lot to him anyway.

Now for his second task. The telephone sat in front of him, and as he stared at it Thomas realized he had no idea what the school’s number was. That was a minor detail he had forgotten to mention.

Well, he didn’t want to bother the nurse again, but what else could he do? For a moment longer he stared at the telephone sitting uselessly on the cart. Perhaps if he looked at it long enough he would remember the number. The number he had never heard or seen.

What was that corner, peeking out from under the phone?

Thomas lifted the phone, and saw a piece of paper with a printed list on it. He had a momentary surge of excitement, thinking it might be one the nurse missed when she took the stack, but upon further examination saw that it was instead a list of all the high schools in the Los Angeles area, along with their phone numbers.

The surge of excitement was guiltily replaced with a surge of gratitude. The nurse had probably figured he wouldn’t know the number, but he did know the name, and it was on the list.

He dialed the number on the phone, and as it was ringing wondered if the office would be open. The question was answered by the voice of the secretary picking up the phone.

Of course they were open this early. It was a school.

“Hi.” Thomas began, “My name is Thomas. Thomas Winters. I’m a Senior.”

“Hello, Thomas.” the secretary said. “How can I help you?” Thomas thought her voice could have used a bit of enthusiasm.

“Well, yesterday was my first day at the school. I moved from Chicago over the summer.”

“Mmhmm.” The secretary said.

“And… I’m at the hospital right now.”

The secretary responded immediately. “Yes, you are excused from classes today, as well as yesterday. I remember documenting the incident last night.”

“Actually,” Thomas said, “That’s not what I need. The hospital won’t release me unless someone who knows me comes to pick me up, and my parents are out of town for the week. Can you put me on the phone with Mr. Douglas?”

“Sure.” the secretary said. “I’ll reroute the call. Just a moment.” The phone clicked.

Thomas blinked. That was easy. He could see why she was a secretary, but she would have made an awful nurse.

“Hello?” Mr. Douglas said over the line. “This is Mr. Douglas.”

“Hi, it’s me, Thomas.” Thomas said. “Thomas Winters?” I’m in your first period class.

“Oh, hello, Thomas!” Mr. Douglas said. “I hope you’re feeling all right. The office told me what happened.

“I’m fine. Thanks. But I have a… favor to ask.” Thomas bit his lip nervously. It was kind of a weird thing to ask. 

“Go for it, buddy. I’m here for you.”

Thomas relaxed a bit. “The hospital won’t release me unless someone who knows me comes to pick me up.” he explained again. “You’re the only person other than my parents that I really know here, and they’re out of town.”

Thomas heard Mr. Douglas’ laugh echo through the telephone. “Of course I’ll come get you!” he said. “Where are you?”

Thomas smiled in relief. “I think just the hospital. I don’t really know, but there probably is only one?”

“Right, right.” his teacher said. “Well, I’m afraid I don’t have time to get you before first period, but my free period is the fourth in the day, so I’ll come then, is that alright?”

Thomas nodded, and then felt silly. “Yes, thanks.” That was much better than he had hoped, in all honesty. He had expected to have to wait until after the school day had concluded.

“Alright buddy, I’ll see you then. Best wishes!”

“Bye.” Thomas said, and the phone clicked again. Mr. Douglas had hung up.

Thomas walked over to the window and looked out at the city below. Evidently, his room was on an upper floor. Fifth or sixth, by the looks of it. The cars on the highway looked like toys from up here, and there were so many of them driving by despite the early hour.

Well, all things considered, the morning had gone well for him. That… that was good. Though compared to his day yesterday, it would have been hard for it to get worse.

Thomas glanced back at the ticking wall clock. Seven thirty-five. He was starting to regret turning down the DVD player and movies.

His chest throbbed, like a second heartbeat.

It was going to be a long few hours.

*   *   *

“Thomas!” the nurse said, poking her head through the door, a few minutes before noon. “Your teacher is here, in the main office!”

Thomas briefly wondered how the nurse knew his name; he had never told her. Though he supposed it would have been in the hospital records when he was taken here.

He sat up slowly, the motion still making him wince. “Cool, thanks.” The nurse waited at the door as he stood and walked over, stopping at the cart to stick the bottle of the pain meds into his pocket. She waved a hand. “Here, I’ll take you there. It’s a ways.”

Thomas nodded, and off they went. Finally out of that room.

He was glad for someone to follow, as the hallways all looked identical. Same white walls and uniform ceilings, same blue-white alternating tile floors. Why was there so much white? He would have thought they would mix it up a bit. Even the windows seemed to be spaced the same distance apart.

The nurse led him to a sleek metal door that, at the push of a button, opened up to reveal the elevator’s brown interior. She pushed the ‘1’ button, taking them to ground level. Thomas watched the numbers tick down from five- he had been on the fifth floor after all- and tried to think to fill the awkward silence of their march. It hadn’t been much of a march, actually- more of a hobble, for him. Thomas’ chest hurt a bit more with every step, and his movements were slow. The nurse, of course, was kind enough to walk his pace.

A friendly sounding ding! signaled their arrival to the first floor, and the nurse led him out of the elevator into another copy-pasted hallway of blue and white tiled floors and blank walls. The windows looked different now that they weren’t opening up to the horizon and instead various plants and walkways outside.

“This way.” the nurse said, gesturing to a side hallway that was considerably more narrow than the ones they had traveled so far. The nurse had to open a door to do so. It was long and straight, and had no windows. The buzzing of the electric lights seemed to grow louder once they stepped inside.

The nurse closed the door behind them.

She continued on like nothing was out of the ordinary, and although the change surprised Thomas he admitted that it wasn’t too strange. Hospitals had multiple wings and buildings; likely this was just the connecting hallway between them. Had his room been in a section other than the main one? Thomas didn’t know where the ER was in this hospital, and that was where he assumed he had been taken.

Once at the other end of the hallway, the nurse opened another door and stepped through into the next one, which was the size of the ones from before, though the floor was tiled with red and white. This essentially confirmed his suspicions; it made sense to assume that the hospital would color-coordinate their sections. Personally, though, he would have made the ER red.

A few minutes later- after more turns than Thomas had expected- they emerged into the main office, passing the front desk. The lady sitting there smiled encouragingly at Thomas as they passed, and nodded towards the waiting area. Mr. Douglas sat looking at his phone, but when he glanced up to see Thomas he broke into a grin and put it away. Thomas’ gaze lingered somewhat longingly on the device as it disappeared into his teacher’s pocket.

“Thomas!”  Mr. Douglas said. “It’s good to see you in better shape than yesterday.” he chuckled. “You gave us quite a scare.” Thomas assumed ‘us’ referred to the other teachers whom he’d never met.

Mr. Douglas nodded his thanks to the nurse. “I thank you for assisting my young friend here, ” he left a pause, obviously prompting for the nurse’s name.

Thomas realized with a shock that he’d never asked of it himself.

“Barbara.” The nurse said with a smile.

“Barbara!” Mr. Douglas repeated. “Thank you, Barbara.”

Thomas nodded. “Yes, very much.”

Barbara’s smile widened, and she waved. “Best of luck in your recovery, Thomas! Remember to ice it.” She winked. “And what I said about those pills.” Then she walked away, back the way they had come.

What had she said? That they weren’t the fix, and that he needed to work on his own to recover?

Mr. Douglas tilted his head to the side. “Let’s go, buddy!” he said with a grin. “I’m on a schedule.”

Thomas nodded, and he winced his way out the hospital doors into the sunlight. Mr. Douglas led him to a small dark green pickup that looked like it was twenty five years old. His teacher opened the passenger door for him, and helped him get up inside. “Thank you.” Thomas said.

“You bet.” Mr. Douglas replied, sliding into his own seat and turning the key, starting up the truck. As he pulled out, he pointed to the hospital doors. “That nurse, Barbara. She’s kind of cute.” he said this with the straight face of a forty-year-old man.

Thomas looked at his teacher dryly. “Oh, stop. She’s like ten years older than me.”

The neutral expression melted, and Mr. Douglas laughed in a way that made it clear that it had been a joke, and Thomas weakly joined in. Laughing hurt too much, but it helped all the same. The remark had been the perfect ice-breaker.

“Where’s your house?” Mr. Douglas asked as he pulled out onto the highway.

Thomas recited the address, his math teacher nodded. “Cool, cool. That’s on the way to the school, so convenient for me.”

Thomas realized that he finally could answer the question that had been on his mind since he had woken up. “How did I end up in the hospital?”

Mr. Douglas sighed, his typical humorous demeanor vanishing. “Oh, it was about… I want to say ten-thirty when one of my students went to use the restroom and came back wide-eyed.” He chuckled. “Poor guy was quite troubled.”

Thomas could understand why. But… he had been laying there for almost two hours?

“Naturally, I went straight to the office, who went straight to your parents-” his brow furrowed. “They didn’t answer.”

“They’re on a work trip.” Thomas said quickly. “They don’t like to be bothered.”

Mr. Douglas coughed. “I’ll say. But at that point we decided- blood all over, you weren’t waking up, no one knew what had happened- we called the ER and an ambulance showed up a few minutes later.”

Thomas nodded. “Thanks.”

His teacher didn’t reply, staring straight ahead at the road. A silence followed.

Finally, Thomas took a deep breath. “I know who… hurt me.”

Mr. Douglas exhaled. “I suspected as much. I would appreciate it if you let me know, though if you don’t want to I understand why.”

Thomas had no such qualms. “It was Ned.” he said instantly. “Ned Jackson. And a few of his friends. Darryl… Walker, I think, and someone else. Big blond dude. I think it was their way of welcoming me to the school.”

Mr. Douglas shook his head. “I’ll never understand,” he said, sounding genuinely amazed, “why some people take so much pleasure in hurting others.” He looked to the side at Thomas. “But thank you. I’ll let the principal and probably the superintendent know, and they’ll do something I’m sure. It’s a big mess, but after what was done there should be a form of retaliation. They can’t just tromp around like they own the place.”

Mr. Douglas pulled the car into a driveway, and Thomas glanced at the window. They were already here. They sat in the driveway for a few seconds before Thomas opened the door. “Well, thank you.”

Mr. Douglas nodded. “Sure thing. Get well soon, buddy. You’re not required back in the building until your ribs are fully healed, but starting in a week or two you’ll start receiving packets of homework.” his teacher winked. “Can’t escape the math for long.”

Thomas smiled slightly, and raised a hand in goodbye. He watched the pickup as it pulled out of the driveway and disappeared down the road, vanishing around the corner.

Thomas walked up the driveway to the garage, and typed in the code. He stood there, waiting as the door slowly was raised. He normally would duck under it once it was low enough to do so, but now the mere thought of that made his chest ache.

He strode into the large empty space and painfully made his way up the two steps to the door, hitting the button to close the garage before going inside. The house was large, dark, with lots of room and empty corners. And silent. It was very silent.

Thomas winced as he bent down into the freezer to grab an ice pack. He hobbled to the couch and sat down, exhaling heavily when his feet no longer had to support his weight. He pressed the ice pack to his chest and sighed.

“Home sweet home.” he said aloud.

 

Edited by Matrim's Dice
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Very nice 

just a quick point, I’m not sure about this but a doctor doesn’t put on his own gloves and especially doesn’t touch other things before a procedure. It’s unsanitary,  

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43 minutes ago, Bejardin1250 said:

just a quick point, I’m not sure about this but a doctor doesn’t put on his own gloves and especially doesn’t touch other things before a procedure. It’s unsanitary,  

Well, this doctor doesn't really care about the second thing, but he would love the first thing... alright, noted for a hopeful draft 2 :P

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Double posting it's been awhile five days qualifies

Two:

Spoiler

Sleep didn’t come easy. Thomas wasn’t certain if he even wanted sleep. The vision he had seen during his sixteen hour coma still haunted him every time he closed his eyes, the searing heat and the terror he had felt returning to his mind’s eye. Thomas hesitated to call it a dream; it had felt as real as anything he’d ever done. Sometimes when he ran it again through his mind it felt like a memory.

But at the same time, Thomas knew it had only been in his head. What else would it have been? Life was not science fiction, or at least he wasn’t. When a cryptic and terrifyingly real vision entered your head, it was just a vision. A dream.

His body instantly flared in pain, the agony expanding outward from his chest. He groaned, tossing and turning. If it was a coincidence, it was a cruel one. Thomas opened his eyes to the darkness of the hospital room, staring at the wall clock that he couldn’t see. Didn’t hospitals normally have one of those LED clocks with the digital light? He flexed his chest as much as he could without nearly passing out from the pain, wondering how anything possibly could hurt this bad. It certainly hadn’t felt like this when he had been on the bathroom floor. Thomas wasn’t a doctor, but that didn’t make sense.

The other thing that didn’t really fit in was how he had cracked four ribs and bruised another five because of a few stomps. Ned… knew his own strength, Thomas guessed. The brute had probably beaten up a lot of people. Ned likely expected to face some consequences, and just as likely didn’t care, but the repercussions for a small scale smackdown were considerably different from breaking someone’s chest. He briefly wondered if he had any underlying bone condition that made it so they broke easier, but instantly dismissed the thought. His broken bones from years ago would have been far worse if that were the case. Much more likely Ned was just exceptionally off his rocker this time around. And for the next few months, Thomas would pay for it.

With any luck, Ned would too.

For the millionth time, Thomas wondered who had discovered him lying there in his own blood, and how long it had taken for someone to do so. It was likely that Ned was still running free, as whoever it was couldn’t have proven who had done it, but that was fine with Thomas. This way, he could be the one to turn Ned in.

If this night ever ended.

*   *   *

The light streaming through the window was one of the most glorious things he had ever witnessed. That, and the realization that he hadn’t suffered through the whole night awake. His lack of dreams was pretty rejuvenating too.

Thomas groggily sat up, propping his right arm on the hospital bed and swinging his legs to the floor. He didn’t feel quite ready to walk yet, though simply not laying down was good progress. His eyes found the clock, and was satisfied with the time of seven AM. He smacked his lips, a bad taste in his mouth. Something vaguely like blood.

With a stark realization, Thomas noticed- or rather, didn’t notice- the level of pain in his chest. While it was certainly still noticeable, the burning sensation from the night before wasn’t burdening his body any longer. The swift change made Thomas question how much of the pain he had been creating in his mind, and how much had actually been there.

He didn’t have to wait long before the door to his room swung open and a familiar face stepped in. “Good morning!” The nurse said. “Did you sleep well?”

Thomas nodded, momentarily staring at the floor, then looked up and verbally answered like a competent socializer. “Yes, thank you.” 

The nurse set down the tray she had brought with her onto the cart, which was still there from the night before. And the papers. Thomas mentally cursed himself for not taking a peek at those when he could have, then chided himself for thinking the thought.

The tray was one of those plastic ones from elementary school lunchrooms, and in each quadrant rested a different breakfast food. Toast, a small pile of eggs, a piece of bacon, a glass of orange juice, along with silverware wrapped in a napkin. Steam rose from the tray and the aroma drifted to Thomas’ nose, making his stomach rumble. The nurse gestured to the food. “Hungry?”

Thomas nodded, trying not to appear too eager. Soon, the tray was on his lap, both warming his legs and providing a meal. It had been far too long since he had eaten a hot breakfast, and while the hospital food probably wasn’t that high quality compared to other diners and restaurants, after the last twenty-four hours Thomas thought the food tasted heavenly.

He took small bites, trying to pace himself. As he ate, the nurse asked him questions about his pain, where it was and how bad it felt.

“It’s kind of weird.” he said in between swallows. “I feel a lot better today than I did last night, like I had some sort of speed healing.”

The nurse smiled. “That’s good.” she said. “Cracked ribs normally don’t feel really painful; the pain is just sustained for a long time.”

Thomas took a sip of juice, washing down the last bit of toast. “That makes sense. I’m kind of surprised the injury was as bad as it was, actually.”

“Oh?” the nurse asked, putting down the containers of soap she had started sorting into cabinets on the other side of the room. She leaned against the wall, sounding interested. “How were you injured?”

“I…” Thomas suddenly was embarrassed. That was irrational. He was talking to a professional. She had probably heard much worse stories than his. “I was attacked. Well, beat up. At school.” Realizing how that sounded, he hastily provided context. “I moved across the country, from Chicago, over the summer. It was my first day at the new school. I guess they thought it was funny to pound the new kid.” Thomas put no bitterness or emotion into the story, just laid out the facts. It didn’t take too much effort to do that.

The nurse put a hand to her mouth, gasping. “I’m sorry! That’s no fun.” She put her hands on her hips, looking across the room, past Thomas, out the window; as if she were staring down the whole world. “Some people are just jerks.”

Thomas shrugged. “I’ll live, and they’ll probably face more than a few consequences.”

“Rightfully so!” The nurse huffed. Then she relaxed a bit, and rolled her eyes in response to her outburst. “Sorry, I just like when people don’t hurt other people. Being in the medical field and all.”

Thomas set the empty tray on the cart, leaning a bit forward to do so. His chest throbbed in protest. “I can understand that, it’s fine. Nothing to do about it now.”

The nurse nodded her thanks, and Thomas chuckled at the reversal of roles. He was the comforter, now.

The moment passed, and the nurse grabbed the stack of paper on the cart, the one that wouldn’t leave Thomas’ thoughts. “I’ll let you rest. I can bring you our selection of movies and a DVD player, if you want.”

“No, that’s fine.” Thomas said. He didn’t really like movies. “But- how long do I need to stay here?” he asked, looking around the room.

The nurse followed his gaze. “As soon as someone comes to get you. Hospital policy, I’m afraid. We have a telephone you can use, but the school should have already notified your parents.” She wrinkled her brow. “I’m surprised they haven’t called in already, now that I think about it.”

Thomas shook his head. “Won’t work. They’re on a business trip in San Francisco for most of the next week. They block most calls that aren’t related to the trip.”

The nurse shook her head, sighing. “What do they do? It must be important.”

Thomas shrugged, staring at a spot on the floor. “In all honesty, I don’t know. Management for some company that makes something. They have meetings all over the country all the time. I feel like I don’t even know them.” He looked up. “That’s why we moved here. More of their trips are on the west coast.”

The nurse was silent for a moment. “It doesn’t need to be your parents.” she finally said. “Anyone can come and get you, though their ID has to be checked and they have to have some relation to you.”

Thomas thought about it. “I can call the school, if you bring me that telephone. They can probably send one of my teachers.” He had only had one class so far in the entire school year. “Or, actually, my phone should have been in the pocket of my pants… where are they?”

The nurse smiled. “They were washed and dried, and can be delivered to you. But… no phone. Nothing in the pockets.” Her face was apologetic.

I’m going to kill Ned. Thomas thought. “Oh. Alright. The hospital telephone will be fine, then. Thanks.”

The nurse nodded, and then walked out of the room. Still holding the stack of papers.

He sighed, flopping back down onto the bed. That was a mistake. Thomas’ chest flared with pain, and he groaned. Why would Ned take Thomas’ phone? Off his unconscious body, too? He was low, but not that low. And… before he had slipped from consciousness, hadn’t he been alone in the bathroom? That meant Ned also had returned at some later point, just to take it. It wasn’t as if that made sense, but nothing else made more sense. Whatever the case, he no longer had a phone. And definitely not enough money to buy a new one. He had never wanted a job, and he received zero dollars and zero cents in allowance from his parents.

Thomas grinned to himself, imaging what his father would say if he asked for money to buy a replacement. ‘You have to work for the things you want, son. They won’t be given to you.’ Well, Thomas didn’t really need a phone that much anyway. Ned could keep the dumb thing. Like he could unlock it anyway.

The door to the room creaked open again, and Thomas looked over to see the nurse returning with a bundle of clothes and a plug-in telephone under her arm. She set them onto the cart, bending over to plug in the phone into the wall. “Here.” she said, and smiled before closing the door behind her, again leaving him alone.

Well, Thomas thought. That was fast. He realized that he would have to stand up to get dressed or use the phone, and his body protested. But eventually his mind and resilience to both get out of the hospital and get out of the gown won out, and he forced himself back to a sitting position and then to his feet.

It wasn’t as bad as he had thought it would be. The level of pain in his chest didn’t change too much, and although his legs were extremely sore they weren’t broken. Standing was a chore, but not a punishment.

He hobbled over to the cart, grabbing the bundle of clothes tightly and moving back to the bed. Thomas sat back down, deciding it would be easier to change that way, in his current state. He unfolded his shirt and pants, and then slipped off the gown and forced his legs and arms into the clothes. After, he stood again and shook his arms, trying to settle back into them. He folded up the gown and after shuffling back to the cart, put it where his clothes had been.

Thomas put his hand into his pocket, the one where his phone normally was, as if to check if it actually was gone. Like he didn’t believe the nurse, or thought she had somehow missed it.

She didn't. Both pockets were empty.

Thomas sighed. Oh well; he had already decided it didn’t mean a whole lot to him anyway.

Now for his second task. The telephone sat in front of him, and as he stared at it Thomas realized he had no idea what the school’s number was. That was a minor detail he had forgotten to mention.

Well, he didn’t want to bother the nurse again, but what else could he do? For a moment longer he stared at the telephone sitting uselessly on the cart. Perhaps if he looked at it long enough he would remember the number. The number he had never heard or seen.

What was that corner, peeking out from under the phone?

Thomas lifted the phone, and saw a piece of paper with a printed list on it. He had a momentary surge of excitement, thinking it might be one the nurse missed when she took the stack, but upon further examination saw that it was instead a list of all the high schools in the Los Angeles area, along with their phone numbers.

The surge of excitement was guiltily replaced with a surge of gratitude. The nurse had probably figured he wouldn’t know the number, but he did know the name, and it was on the list.

He dialed the number on the phone, and as it was ringing wondered if the office would be open. The question was answered by the voice of the secretary picking up the phone.

Of course they were open this early. It was a school.

“Hi.” Thomas began, “My name is Thomas. Thomas Winters. I’m a Senior.”

“Hello, Thomas.” the secretary said. “How can I help you?” Thomas thought her voice could have used a bit of enthusiasm.

“Well, yesterday was my first day at the school. I moved from Chicago over the summer.”

“Mmhmm.” The secretary said.

“And… I’m at the hospital right now.”

The secretary responded immediately. “Yes, you are excused from classes today, as well as yesterday. I remember documenting the incident last night.”

“Actually,” Thomas said, “That’s not what I need. The hospital won’t release me unless someone who knows me comes to pick me up, and my parents are out of town for the week. Can you put me on the phone with Mr. Douglas?”

“Sure.” the secretary said. “I’ll reroute the call. Just a moment.” The phone clicked.

Thomas blinked. That was easy. He could see why she was a secretary, but she would have made an awful nurse.

“Hello?” Mr. Douglas said over the line. “This is Mr. Douglas.”

“Hi, it’s me, Thomas.” Thomas said. “Thomas Winters?” I’m in your first period class.

“Oh, hello, Thomas!” Mr. Douglas said. “I hope you’re feeling all right. The office told me what happened.

“I’m fine. Thanks. But I have a… favor to ask.” Thomas bit his lip nervously. It was kind of a weird thing to ask. 

“Go for it, buddy. I’m here for you.”

Thomas relaxed a bit. “The hospital won’t release me unless someone who knows me comes to pick me up.” he explained again. “You’re the only person other than my parents that I really know here, and they’re out of town.”

Thomas heard Mr. Douglas’ laugh echo through the telephone. “Of course I’ll come get you!” he said. “Where are you?”

Thomas smiled in relief. “I think just the hospital. I don’t really know, but there probably is only one?”

“Right, right.” his teacher said. “Well, I’m afraid I don’t have time to get you before first period, but my free period is the fourth in the day, so I’ll come then, is that alright?”

Thomas nodded, and then felt silly. “Yes, thanks.” That was much better than he had hoped, in all honesty. He had expected to have to wait until after the school day had concluded.

“Alright buddy, I’ll see you then. Best wishes!”

“Bye.” Thomas said, and the phone clicked again. Mr. Douglas had hung up.

Thomas walked over to the window and looked out at the city below. Evidently, his room was on an upper floor. Fifth or sixth, by the looks of it. The cars on the highway looked like toys from up here, and there were so many of them driving by despite the early hour.

Well, all things considered, the morning had gone well for him. That… that was good. Though compared to his day yesterday, it would have been hard for it to get worse.

Thomas glanced back at the ticking wall clock. Seven thirty-five. He was starting to regret turning down the DVD player and movies.

His chest throbbed, like a second heartbeat.

It was going to be a long few hours.

*   *   *

“Thomas!” the nurse said, poking her head through the door, a few minutes before noon. “Your teacher is here, in the main office!”

Thomas briefly wondered how the nurse knew his name; he had never told her. Though he supposed it would have been in the hospital records when he was taken here.

He sat up slowly, the motion still making him wince. “Cool, thanks.” The nurse waited at the door as he stood and walked over, stopping at the cart to stick the bottle of the pain meds into his pocket. She waved a hand. “Here, I’ll take you there. It’s a ways.”

Thomas nodded, and off they went. Finally out of that room.

He was glad for someone to follow, as the hallways all looked identical. Same white walls and uniform ceilings, same blue-white alternating tile floors. Why was there so much white? He would have thought they would mix it up a bit. Even the windows seemed to be spaced the same distance apart.

The nurse led him to a sleek metal door that, at the push of a button, opened up to reveal the elevator’s brown interior. She pushed the ‘1’ button, taking them to ground level. Thomas watched the numbers tick down from five- he had been on the fifth floor after all- and tried to think to fill the awkward silence of their march. It hadn’t been much of a march, actually- more of a hobble, for him. Thomas’ chest hurt a bit more with every step, and his movements were slow. The nurse, of course, was kind enough to walk his pace.

A friendly sounding ding! signaled their arrival to the first floor, and the nurse led him out of the elevator into another copy-pasted hallway of blue and white tiled floors and blank walls. The windows looked different now that they weren’t opening up to the horizon and instead various plants and walkways outside.

“This way.” the nurse said, gesturing to a side hallway that was considerably more narrow than the ones they had traveled so far. The nurse had to open a door to do so. It was long and straight, and had no windows. The buzzing of the electric lights seemed to grow louder once they stepped inside.

The nurse closed the door behind them.

She continued on like nothing was out of the ordinary, and although the change surprised Thomas he admitted that it wasn’t too strange. Hospitals had multiple wings and buildings; likely this was just the connecting hallway between them. Had his room been in a section other than the main one? Thomas didn’t know where the ER was in this hospital, and that was where he assumed he had been taken.

Once at the other end of the hallway, the nurse opened another door and stepped through into the next one, which was the size of the ones from before, though the floor was tiled with red and white. This essentially confirmed his suspicions; it made sense to assume that the hospital would color-coordinate their sections. Personally, though, he would have made the ER red.

A few minutes later- after more turns than Thomas had expected- they emerged into the main office, passing the front desk. The lady sitting there smiled encouragingly at Thomas as they passed, and nodded towards the waiting area. Mr. Douglas sat looking at his phone, but when he glanced up to see Thomas he broke into a grin and put it away. Thomas’ gaze lingered somewhat longingly on the device as it disappeared into his teacher’s pocket.

“Thomas!”  Mr. Douglas said. “It’s good to see you in better shape than yesterday.” he chuckled. “You gave us quite a scare.” Thomas assumed ‘us’ referred to the other teachers whom he’d never met.

Mr. Douglas nodded his thanks to the nurse. “I thank you for assisting my young friend here, ” he left a pause, obviously prompting for the nurse’s name.

Thomas realized with a shock that he’d never asked of it himself.

“Barbara.” The nurse said with a smile.

“Barbara!” Mr. Douglas repeated. “Thank you, Barbara.”

Thomas nodded. “Yes, very much.”

Barbara’s smile widened, and she waved. “Best of luck in your recovery, Thomas! Remember to ice it.” She winked. “And what I said about those pills.” Then she walked away, back the way they had come.

What had she said? That they weren’t the fix, and that he needed to work on his own to recover?

Mr. Douglas tilted his head to the side. “Let’s go, buddy!” he said with a grin. “I’m on a schedule.”

Thomas nodded, and he winced his way out the hospital doors into the sunlight. Mr. Douglas led him to a small dark green pickup that looked like it was twenty five years old. His teacher opened the passenger door for him, and helped him get up inside. “Thank you.” Thomas said.

“You bet.” Mr. Douglas replied, sliding into his own seat and turning the key, starting up the truck. As he pulled out, he pointed to the hospital doors. “That nurse, Barbara. She’s kind of cute.” he said this with the straight face of a forty-year-old man.

Thomas looked at his teacher dryly. “Oh, stop. She’s like ten years older than me.”

The neutral expression melted, and Mr. Douglas laughed in a way that made it clear that it had been a joke, and Thomas weakly joined in. Laughing hurt too much, but it helped all the same. The remark had been the perfect ice-breaker.

“Where’s your house?” Mr. Douglas asked as he pulled out onto the highway.

Thomas recited the address, his math teacher nodded. “Cool, cool. That’s on the way to the school, so convenient for me.”

Thomas realized that he finally could answer the question that had been on his mind since he had woken up. “How did I end up in the hospital?”

Mr. Douglas sighed, his typical humorous demeanor vanishing. “Oh, it was about… I want to say ten-thirty when one of my students went to use the restroom and came back wide-eyed.” He chuckled. “Poor guy was quite troubled.”

Thomas could understand why. But… he had been laying there for almost two hours?

“Naturally, I went straight to the office, who went straight to your parents-” his brow furrowed. “They didn’t answer.”

“They’re on a work trip.” Thomas said quickly. “They don’t like to be bothered.”

Mr. Douglas coughed. “I’ll say. But at that point we decided- blood all over, you weren’t waking up, no one knew what had happened- we called the ER and an ambulance showed up a few minutes later.”

Thomas nodded. “Thanks.”

His teacher didn’t reply, staring straight ahead at the road. A silence followed.

Finally, Thomas took a deep breath. “I know who… hurt me.”

Mr. Douglas exhaled. “I suspected as much. I would appreciate it if you let me know, though if you don’t want to I understand why.”

Thomas had no such qualms. “It was Ned.” he said instantly. “Ned Jackson. And a few of his friends. Darryl… Walker, I think, and someone else. Big blond dude. I think it was their way of welcoming me to the school.”

Mr. Douglas shook his head. “I’ll never understand,” he said, sounding genuinely amazed, “why some people take so much pleasure in hurting others.” He looked to the side at Thomas. “But thank you. I’ll let the principal and probably the superintendent know, and they’ll do something I’m sure. It’s a big mess, but after what was done there should be a form of retaliation. They can’t just tromp around like they own the place.”

Mr. Douglas pulled the car into a driveway, and Thomas glanced at the window. They were already here. They sat in the driveway for a few seconds before Thomas opened the door. “Well, thank you.”

Mr. Douglas nodded. “Sure thing. Get well soon, buddy. You’re not required back in the building until your ribs are fully healed, but starting in a week or two you’ll start receiving packets of homework.” his teacher winked. “Can’t escape the math for long.”

Thomas smiled slightly, and raised a hand in goodbye. He watched the pickup as it pulled out of the driveway and disappeared down the road, vanishing around the corner.

Thomas walked up the driveway to the garage, and typed in the code. He stood there, waiting as the door slowly was raised. He normally would duck under it once it was low enough to do so, but now the mere thought of that made his chest ache.

He strode into the large empty space and painfully made his way up the two steps to the door, hitting the button to close the garage before going inside. The house was large, dark, with lots of room and empty corners. And silent. It was very silent.

Thomas winced as he bent down into the freezer to grab an ice pack. He hobbled to the couch and sat down, exhaling heavily when his feet no longer had to support his weight. He pressed the ice pack to his chest and sighed.

“Home sweet home.” he said aloud.

Adding it to the OP as well.

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Very nice. I am intrigued by the prologue. The language is excellent and the dialogue feels natural. Would you be open to a bit of constructive criticism?

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5 minutes ago, Mage said:

Very nice. I am intrigued by the prologue. The language is excellent and the dialogue feels natural. Would you be open to a bit of constructive criticism?

Always :P 

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1 minute ago, Matrim's Dice said:

Always :P 

Alright. I like where this story is going, but I feel like Thomas's character is not very distinct. After just reading that I don't think I could name a personality trait of his. So I guess I would enjoy this story even more if you made his personality a bit more obvious, kind of like you did with the hint about rock climbing. More of those subtle things that let us get to know the character.

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24 minutes ago, Mage said:

Alright. I like where this story is going, but I feel like Thomas's character is not very distinct. After just reading that I don't think I could name a personality trait of his. So I guess I would enjoy this story even more if you made his personality a bit more obvious, kind of like you did with the hint about rock climbing. More of those subtle things that let us get to know the character.

Hmm, interesting. And probably fair. I'll keep that in mind, but I apologize if it takes another five chapters before you see this because that's how far I've already written ahead of this :P 

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All good. I'm probably judging this too much based on just a couple chapters. I eagerly await the next one.

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First off, I love this it's super interesting.

Secondly, Thomas's parents are jerks!! What sort of person blocks calls from their own son! What if he got hurt and they didn't know. (They are going to have one heck of a surprise when then get home.)

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1 minute ago, Shard of Reading said:

What sort of person blocks calls from their own son!

I mean, it’s not like he was singled out, they just block all calls ever :P But yep

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16 hours ago, Matrim's Dice said:

I mean, it’s not like he was singled out, they just block all calls ever :P But yep

Yeah, but they could have said something along the lines of "Only call us if there is an emergency"

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16 hours ago, Matrim's Dice said:

I mean, it’s not like he was singled out, they just block all calls ever :P But yep

Wait wait

So they left a highschooler alone, who knew one person vaguely, alone for days, he has no friends and can’t even call his parents 

I’m getting evil parents vibes, I’m not sure if that’s what your going for

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9 minutes ago, Bejardin1250 said:

Wait wait

So they left a highschooler alone, who knew one person vaguely, alone for days, he has no friends and can’t even call his parents 

I’m getting evil parents vibes, I’m not sure if that’s what your going for

:ph34r: Do I get to RAFO here? :P 

I mean, it's not meant to be straight-out malicious, they just have work and are pretty sure he can fend for himself just fine cause he's 17 and this is a pretty normal thing for them to do. But you're also not wrong in that it's kind of crazy for them to do that anyway :P.

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