The next time I awake, it’s in what I initially think is a hospital. Once my vision clears, it’s readily apparent that this is a makeshift facility. The only light hangs directly over my bed. It’s difficult to see through the darkness. Made even more strenuous by its depth. Not much occupies the large room. This must be an abandoned building. What it once was still to be determined.
I manage to sit up. Unable to ignore the IV pulling on the inside of my forearm. I resist the instinct to just yank it out. The tube runs up to a drip bag. I’m afraid to know what it contains. How did I get here? Who is behind this? And most importantly, do they mean me harm? I feel my back, knowing they wouldn’t want my kidneys. Still, having to check. Plus I’m not packed in ice. Isn’t that how the legend goes? Considering this makes me laugh. Which makes me cough. Catching my breath reveals a pungent stench.
I hear some movement and look to my left. There’s nothing there. And I see no one approaching through the dark. Looking up at the light, it is in striking distance. I’ll be careful not to break it. I twist up the bed sheet, and flip it up. The light sways back and forth, spreading more light around the cavernous room. The movement I heard seems to be the scurry of rodents. Pallets of various heights are spread around in haphazard stacks. Graffiti murals cover every inch of the walls I can see. But my field consists of only two directions. The others remain dark.
The last thing I remember is going over to the train tracks to score. I stay in deep contemplation for what must be hours. Without any company besides the rats. And they don’t talk much. Eventually I hear a far-off door open. Then slam closed. The heavy metal kind that rolls on a track from side to side. The sound reverberates through the mostly empty room. The scurrying intensifies. A flashlight slowly approaches me.
“Hello, how are you feeling?” I’m asked by a disembodied male voice.
“Confused,” I reply. This draws an invisible chuckle. He’s getting closer.
“You should feel lucky.”
“I’ll get to work on that. Right away.”
I can now make out a dirty white lab coat. A pair of glasses, reflecting off my light, peek out through long, scraggly-greyish hair. This doctor, if that’s what he is, has a mad scientist look. And potentially the lab to match. Hopefully I’m not the first experiment. It’d be nice to have some of the kinks worked out first. He tosses a greasy brown bag on my lap. Inside a cheap burger and fries. I’m famished, but I pause warily. I guess they could’ve drugged me already. Maybe it’ll go well with the drip.
“Ready for your rehab?” Dr. Scraggs asks. I produce a shrug. Unsure of what that entails.
He unhooks the IV. He begins slapping and rubbing my legs. Front and back. Next he grabs an ankle, swivelling it around in the air. Then the other. All in a semi-professional manner. I’m halfway through the tiny burger. I go for some fries and Dr. Scraggs snatches the bag out of my hand. Placing it at the foot of the bed.
“Ok, up,” Dr. Scraggs says.
I swing my legs off the open side. Letting them hit the floor. Slowly I stand. Holding on with one hand. I eventually walk around the second-hand hospital bed. Making several laps, holding on when needed. Until I can get my legs under me. Every lap I get to have more fries. Dr. Scragg’s orders to build up strength.
“It’s a good thing your friend found you.”
“Who?” I ask.
“Peter. He found you unconscious. Said the state of the place was deplorable. That’s really saying something considering he brought you here.”
“I don’t know. He’s one of those delivery guys. I’m sure he’s used to moving things around one way or the other. I guess Peter figured you didn’t have health insurance. Was he right?” Dr. Scraggs asks.
“How long have I been here? What is this place?”
Then I’m discharged without any paperwork. Just a hearty slap on the back. He points at the door, and says “That way.” Dr Scraggs holds up the light in that direction so I can find my way. I make my way to the outline of a door in the far wall. A rat stands it’s ground in front of me. I proceed, knowing I probably don’t have the strength to kick at it. I grab a small french fry from the bag, and wildly toss it to draw more rats. They’ll all vacate the area vying for morsels.
The open door blasts me with sunlight. I’m shocked to find it’s daytime. And I nearly lose my balance. For my next trick, I have to make it down a rickety metal staircase along the exterior. Nearly four floors up. Several rats make their escape with me. I have to pause occasionally because of the commotion. The stench persists outside. I realize it’s me. Hard to say how long I’ve been wearing these clothes. Never mind what they’re soiled with.
Feet finally on the ground I pause again. My sense of direction intact, I surmise it’s only a few block walk to catch a northbound bus. I walk slowly, and it seems like forever since I had a drink. Then again, that’s what got me here. I figure this is what it must feel like to be lost in a desert. The never-ending drudgery of sand hill after sand hill, the sun-induced thirst that couldn’t be quenched. It ate up any of the little motivation I normally possessed.
I eventually make it to a bus stop to join another hobo-esque fellow. I give him a nod, and he slides over to expose some bench. Timed seemed to slow. Later that night I wake up in the same spot. The food bag is gone along with the other hobo fellow. I catch the last run on this bus route, making it back to my building. Thanks to Peter.