“I don’t WANT to!” The shrill cry from the toddler woke him with a start. He knew it was his daughter making all the racket – he hadn’t met another little person capable of quite so much noise at such high pitches. He sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes and trying to orient himself to the moment. What day was today, anyway? What time was it? What could she be so upset about and who was she yelling at? In the jumbled way things fall into place right after you are startled awake, things started to come into focus. She must be yelling at Susan, his wife. And it must be Thursday since Susan was home. And it must be morning? Or afternoon? That last piece was stubbornly not fitting into place for him. He groped around for his glasses, hoping they would bring clarity of mind the same way they helped him see. They weren’t within reach and there was no way he could hope to find them without wearing them, which jumbled his thoughts that much more because his glasses were never out of reach. When your eyesight is as bad as his you kept your glasses where you could find them. Why couldn’t he find them? As he searched he gradually became more aware of his surroundings, and more aware of how wrong they were. Things didn’t smell right. There was this sharpness to the scent that he was struggling to identify beyond the fact that it was wrong. And the room was too bright. It should have been darker, and warmer now that he was noticing – sort of yellow instead of this bright white. His hands kept searching for the glasses until he noticed that his bed was wrong. It was too small – really only large enough for him. There should have been ample room for Susan even though she was only there to fill it some nights of the week. His heart started racing – what was going on and where was he? Where was his daughter? What didn’t she want to do?
Even though he didn’t know how he’d find his way to her without his glasses, he went to swing his legs over the side of the bed as the first step in getting up. They were too heavy – they wouldn’t move. He felt the sweat break out across his forehead. Something was wrong. Very, very wrong. He drew in a big breath and yelled, “SUSAN!”
The noise that responded to his yell was immediate and varied. Alarms started ringing on all sides of him – several different things started beeping and buzzing, and there were footsteps coming his way. Squeaky footsteps, none of them seeming right for Susan and all of them too fast and heavy for his daughter. He couldn’t make out what was happening, but a lot of adult-sized shapes were coming his way.
“He’s awake! Mr. Walsh, can you hear me?”
“Of course, I can hear you. Where are my damn glasses?” He wanted to be able to see so he could figure out what the hell was going on.
A blurry hand proffered up his glasses and he grabbed them clumsily. Once he had them on his face he was shocked to see how many people were in the room, none of them familiar to him. He could, however, figure out where he was. It was clearly a hospital of some sort, and, judging by all the coats he saw, he must be the patient.
“What the hell is going on? Where am I? What’s wrong with me? Why are my legs stuck? Where is my daughter? Where is my wife?”
All the questions came piling out of him without giving anyone a chance to answer. They did quiet the room. All of the coat-wearing doctors got very quiet and seemed to have things to look at other than him. Only one maintained eye contact. She was short and had an earnest look about her. She stepped past another doctor to get closer to him before saying anything.
“Mr. Walsh, I’m Dr. Girard. Melanie Girard. Can you tell me what you remember?”
“What I remember? How about you tell me what is going on, instead.”
“Well, Mr. Walsh, I’m going to need some help from you in order to do that. You telling me what you remember last will help me answer your questions. I need you to trust me on this one.”
He shook his head, trying to make things make sense. What did he remember?
“Ok. Wait. I. Um… I thought it was Thursday because I heard my daughter with my wife. I think that was just confusion, though. The last thing I remember was leaving the house to go to work. Yes – that’s it. Was I in an accident or something? Are Susan and Ali ok?”
The doctors all shifted about uncomfortably. All except for Dr. Girard. She kept her eyes on him and nodded.
“Yes, there was an accident. Can you tell me today’s date?”
“Why the hell does the date matter? I mean, it must be Wednesday the 12th.”
The room went silent – everyone froze. Dr. Girard took a deep breath.
“Mr. Walsh, you were in an accident on Wednesday, July 12, 1992. Today is Tuesday, October 15th…2032.”
He looked at her, his mouth hanging open. She must have misspoken.
At that moment, all heads turned to the door. A stately woman entered, holding a young boy’s hand and carrying a little girl. Mr. Walsh blinked and blinked again. “Ali?”
The stately woman replied, “Hi Dad. You’re back.”
**All 30-minute musing posts are fiction**