I laid there behind a tree, waiting. Finally Pete jumped up and started moving around. I made a quick roll behind another tree and crawled on all fours and circled around him, as he came back to check the truck.
He looked in there for a second and popped back out. He slammed his fist against it. “Dammit!” He screamed. He spun around looking for something, best guess was me.
Weapon in hand, everything told me to take Pete out. The legal question left me hesitant though, a sick crippling of civilization, no doubt. I mean even in a complicated justice system like ours, a situation like this would have to fall under a self-defense criteria, but still I had no idea. The way Pete had gone on about oaths and all that I didn’t think it was a good idea to push the situation, though it would have been easy and felt good.
Pete went running this way and that, yelling my name. I resolved to lay there. Hell maybe even take a nap. Let Pete find me, or not, that was what all this was teaching me, acceptance.
As I snuggled against the tree, with acceptance and anxiety brewing in my heart, I began to sort of drift off. Right as I did I felt my wife’s warm hand resting on my hip. It was just a soft bit of warm pressure, which could have been a hundred different things I guess, but somehow in this tentative relaxation I was sure it was her hand. It reminded me that I had a bone to pick with her if I ever made it back to the waking world. Sleeping on duty, now that was a broken oath!
A growling and grunting broke my thoughts. And for a second I was sure I was going to look back and the wolf was going to be there, standing huge and hungry, but the Commander screamed out, “Help!”
I watched as Pete crept back towards the scene, out of the shadows. His face was cold, unmoving. He did not call out to the Commander. He came up from behind and before I could even process what was happening two more shots rang out.
“Sorry sir, sorry sir,” Peter said over the man.
That homicidal bastard! That was it. I was just about to let him have it when I heard a loud engine racing down the road. Pete heard it too and dropped his weapon and started scrambling around the space. I watched him, more afraid then ever. He ran this way and that, and a brand new Humvee came racing towards us.
Pete saw it too. He settled under the back wheel of the idling truck, but just before the back up arrived, he hoped up and went diving against a large chunk of the dead werewolf, rifle and all. I couldn’t believe it as I watched him try to drag the massive slob of beast across himself, with little luck. He ended up with half the things large arm wrapped around his little chest. He comically rolled his head to the side and let his tongue dangle from it.
This guy was a total psycho. I couldn’t wait until backup got here and figured all this out. My mind scrambled with little tidbits I picked up watching true crime melodrama on the television. Couldn’t they do a gun powder test on Pete’s hand to prove he fired the rifle? Wouldn’t they be able to tell by the positioning of the body and the angle of the gun fire that the same someone delivered the death shots to the creature and the Commander? My rational mind pushed back, wouldn’t they also suspect me of playing some role in this, when they rolled up and found me hiding in the woods, which was right about now…
After the one truck it was like a whole ocean of trucks had been unleashed. All sorts of lights and lasers were brought out. All of it created a clubby vibe to the whole thing.
They came right for me. I thought about running, but I’d waited too long. I thought I was all burned out on fear, but having this team, march up on me like that, and snatch me from my hiding spot was the worst. They didn’t even say a word to me. I saw the glint of the syringe, a sharp pinch at my neck, and I was out.
I woke up 5:15, our side, so said the clock on the other side of the room. It was still dark out. There’s that weird yellowy grey haze over everything. I have never felt so sick in my whole life. Different parts of my body seemed to be at war with one another. Blood was drowning my brain. My throat was punching my mouth. My stomach seeped into my heart. I felt both physically weak, but also anxious and unsettled like all hell.
I sat up and projected vomited.
“Oh shit!” My wife screamed, jumping out of bed. “Honey, go to the bathroom!”
I stood up collapsed to the floor. “Oh my god! I’m calling an ambulance.”
She ran from the room, presumably to call. I wondered if I was dying. You know to be honest I was sort of pissed about it. I had always imagined dying as this relatively painless, sort of existential trip thing, almost like a good book. Something that if you just had the right way of looking at it, might even be enjoyable. This was like being sick on prom night.
Britney was at my side, towel under the arm, cup of water in hand, cell phone in the other. She lifted my head up and put the towel under it. “Are you okay? Should I call an ambulance?”
I tried to say something but it came out confused in meaning and speech, a grumble. The fact is I didn’t know what to do. Part of me was deathly sick, but the idea of standing up or being moved seemed like a torture. There was something else. All that that’d happened in the Pine Dust Forgetting Forrest. I was suddenly struck, in this dark chasm of sickness, with the deepest paranoia towards the outside world. Weren’t these ambulances and medical doctors, also clutching syringes, straight jackets, questions, and uncomfortable beds, more over, didn’t these same doctors operate in collusion with the same sort of men with guns and more questions, much like the forces I was confronting in the nether world? Even more, my rolling mind pushed, weren’t there in fact the same sort of baddies out here on this side, that might have the same sorts of interests that the baddies on the other side seemed to exhibit? In other words, fuckery all abound.
“Nooooo,” I grunted.
“What do you mean no? You’re just throw up all over the wall. I’m calling someone.” I saw her enter her code on her phone. I tried to yell at her. My diaphragm was shut down by the pile of warring organs on top of it. I started coughing, bad.
Britney dropped the phone and started patting me on the back. It sort of worked enough I was able to squeak out, “Don’t call!” Don’t call!”
“Austin come on,” she pleaded. “There’s something seriously wrong here. You weren’t this sick last night.”
“Over there,” I coughed out.
“Over there, what?”
“Drugged? What the fuck do you mean by that? You need help! I’m calling!”
With all my effort, I stopped her hand, “No!” And then I threw up again.
My hate for hospitals grows with my age. What’s there to like really? I wake up in one. The room half lit. You can never get full dark in a hospital, I reflect.
Panic and Pain. The concepts fight for supremacy in my mind. What’s happened to me? Am I dying? I try to sit up, and all sort of wires and things keep me down. The more I wake up, the more the urge to throw up increased.
This was no good. I closed my eyes and for the briefest moment I heard the sound of a loud engine. I imagine maybe I was heading down the highway over there. On my way to God knows where. I kept my eyes shut and started to plead with her.
It was fine I’ve had enough. She could have this whole Art thing back. Maybe I would go back to being a cook. I liked being a cook. You’re food is shit, a voice broke in my head.
So I knew she was there, right behind my eyeballs, waiting, watching. What the fuck?
You gonna help me out of this? I ask.
Nope, she answered.
I dropped it at that. I knew better than that by now. Besides the italics were making me nauseous.
I hadn’t rested like that for sometime, so as I woke up more, I started to feel refreshed. Still totally sick, but very awake. I laid with my eyes closed and tried to ignore the sick feeling, and let my mind run through everything that had happened since this all started months ago.
As I laid there and looked it at it from every angle I came to an awful conclusion, I had done this to myself. All this had been brought on by myself, I had to steal a phrase from god knows where, I had courted madness.
Look where it landed me. This was the first time, since my glorious and macabre entrance to the world, that I have ever been laid up in the hospital bed, and under doctor orders. I hated it, like I always knew I would. The stiff white sheets. The cleaning smell mixing and masking the scents of death and decay. The peeping, footsteps, and mumbled voices coming from the hallway.
Hospitals, prison, schools, they all got birthed by the same Momma, with a stern hand, and unquestioning disposition. Loving, of course, oh so loving, as long as you are a good patient, and rest, always rest.
Out of nowhere a nurse burst into the room, green scrubs. Like an asshole, I closed my eyes and tried to play dead. She recognized something was off immediately and came and put a hand on my shoulder. “Mr. McMulin?” She said softly. “Mr. McMulin, are you awake?”
I tried to keep my eyes shut, as if not confirming this whole situation with another human being, would stop it all from being real. I felt my face starting to flush with embarrassment, and so I finally let my eyelids open and gave a little yes.
“Oh that’s great Mr. McMulin. My name is Jennifer I’m going to be you’re nurse here for the rest of the night. Your wife, Britney, left a couple hours ago, to be with the kids at home, when they wake up; you gave everybody a little scare there, but don’t worry.” I was a cascading waterfall of worry. I was stuck until morning, in the care of Jennifer. “All your vitals are stable, and frankly we don’t quite know what happened with you there. We got fluids pumping in, and a CAT scan planned for tomorrow, so all we need you to do is try and get some rest, all right? You got a bucket there beside you if feel like you’re going to throw up. And I’ll be in regularly to check on you. You got the button, right here, if you feel the slightest bit sick, okay? Anything else I can do for you, let me know, okay?”
A ride home? A gun? A psychiatrist? “Maybe another pillow?” She asked. “You got a full water there, Britney got that before she left.”
I couldn’t say anything, and just shook my head.
“Okay,” she said. “I’m going to make a note you’re up. I’ll be backing bugging you a couple more times here shortly, make sure everything’s okay, now that you are up; that’s a great sign Mr. McMulin. But please don’t try to do too much, just lay there and relax; i’ll do the rest”
The silence spread out between us like a canyon. My mind tried to figure out a way to express the real sort of help I needed. What I needed was like a pot of coffee, a psychiatrist, maybe a ghostbuster and voodoo doctor too, just to be safe. In other words, I didn’t think a couple bags of fluid and some ibuprofen was going to take care of this one. All I could do was give her a creepy half smile as a form of agreement. It seemed good enough for her, and she walked back out the door.
Second the door shut I realized how desperate I was. Panicked and full of energy it occurred to me that I really needed to go back to sleep and make sure everything was okay over there. I mean I took the fact I was still alive out here, as a good sign, but not knowing what was going on over there was scary.
I tried to do some breathing exercises, but that seemed to flame the nausea. The greatest worry was how did I return to the Pine Dust Forgetting Forrest? That was the only reasonable thing to do. If I could get there, get some of that dust, and just forget this whole mess, I think I would be all right.
All around me stood the machines and monitors, screen and colors, electronic testaments to the fact that something was seriously wrong with me and therefore the world. Each person, Doctor and Nurse was one strutting symbol of cognitive dissonance. The Doctor is the last manifestation of the Daddy-myth, the God myth, that there’s is someone out there who knows better, who can fix shit, and it’s all a scam.
I knew it was dumb, but escape was the only option. I searched around for clothes. I found none and couldn’t help but feel a pang of anger towards my wife. I had on weird paper underwear and gown. Usually a normal sense of shame wouldn’t have allowed me out in such an outfit, but the repulsiveness of the affair had changed my whole opinion of normalcy.
I walked past two cleaning type staff, who didn’t even look at me. I tiptoed past the nurses’ station. There was only one woman sitting there, older and sort of grouchy looking. She gave me a solid look over, but just put her head back down, and I walked out the door. There was no one in the lobby, and so I stood alone, waiting for the elevator to come up.
There was a mirror there. I looked at myself. I was so thin. I remember when I used to be chubby; I think I looked better that way really. It was all so normal, except the gown and the golfball sized whelp on my forehead.
I found myself in a lobby and there was a guy running the information desk. He wasn’t looking my way, but better sense told me he might speak up if I just walked out the front door. I turned the other way and found a cafeteria that was totally empty, except one person working the cafeteria. She saw me immediately but again there was no sign of distress from her. I asked for a glass of water, and she handed me an empty cup. I filled it up and chugged it down and took a seat.
I knew I needed to get out of there quick. But that awful feeling of sickness was creeping badk, so I needed break. I spied another door outside, to a patio area, with benches and things. Everything had been so easy up to this point. I felt like I could feel the fresh air just on the other side. I waited for the cafeteria lady to turn around for a second, and then very carefully, I made a beeline for the door and was out.
It was surprisingly cold, the first hint of winter was in the air. Of course, I started panicking. What was I doing leaving like this? They would contact my wife; she would be freaking out. Where was I going? I had no money, no license, no transportation? Fuck, no clothes! Only thing I could do was run and that’s what I did.
I scanned the horizon, for the most open, woodiest thing I could see. I was drawn to the South. An under appreciated side of my fair city, I felt it was the safest and shortest distance to an isolated rural area, a much weaker version of the Green Dust Forgetting Forrest of the netherworld.
I don’t know about you, but I remember running with abandon as a kid. Just really huffing it sometimes, you know goofing around on the playground or running in the back yard playing some silly game, and that animalistic urge to run just sort of takes over, when you can run like the wind. I ran like that. I couldn’t feel anything. I wasn’t anything.
I can’t imagine what I looked like to any one who may have caught a glimpse of my five eleven, two hundred pound me, in a hospital gown, sprinting down the sidewalk. No one stopped though. No one tried to stop me either. I couldn’t even see them.
I ran on to some train tracks. Some deep instinct told me to run along it. It quickly took me right out of town, next to a river, which I decided to follow south.