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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 16: Hastings 141
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 15: Beam 4
Lauren noticed that there was no clock visible from her position. Although there was a portion of the room she could not see, that which she could was Spartan at best, perhaps bare. She was strapped to a bed. Otherwise, there was no evidence of furniture. There were several small windows on the wall opposite the door; these were blurry, as of worn plastic, but clear enough that she could see bars on the outside. Adjacent to the door was an observation window, with privacy blinds on the other side currently open. She could see very little through it from her present angle. The door itself was metal, with a thin slit of a window probably considered necessary to prevent someone coming through the door from crashing into someone standing beyond it. It opened inward, clearly a security measure against someone within forcing it open, although Lauren wondered whether they had considered the possibility of a patient barricading himself inside.
Without a clock it was difficult to say how long it was before someone came, but she would have guessed about a quarter of an hour. The man who had first seen her returned accompanied by another man, rather large and clearly muscular.
“We’re going to take you to the bathroom. Is that all right?”
Lauren nodded. “Yes, that’s fine.”
They did not exactly work as a team. Rather, the smaller of the two men undid the restraints and lowered the rail while the larger seemed to be standing guard, watching her for any sign of trouble. “I’m going to help you sit up now,” the smaller said, and offered his hand. Lauren ignored the hand and swung herself into a seated position on the edge of the bed.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Are you at all dizzy?”
She had forgotten that part. She had been drugged, and they would be concerned about the lingering effects of the anesthesia. “I--I don’t think so.”
“Well, take my arm anyway. We don’t want you falling.”
The larger man slid a pair of sandal-like slippers on her feet, and then stood on the other side, taking hold of her other arm while she rose to her feet. Her equilibrium was just a bit weak, she realized; she would hate to have to do a flip or a shock-absorbing roll in this condition.
They moved slowly toward the door, which had been left unlocked, and brought her into the hall. The floor, which had been something like linoleum in her room, was suddenly carpeted, and the light from lamps along the ceiling considerably dimmer than the daylight behind her. Her eyes adjusted.
“Can you see all right?”
She nodded, and they led her down the hall.
Relying on them for direction, she took advantage of the opportunity to survey the area. There was a light chair immediately outside the door to her room, and she noticed that each room had one, which she guessed was available for someone to take into the room as needed. There was a large desk with several wheeled chairs in a recessed area behind which appeared to be a file room. They also passed a recessed section with something of a comfortable pit group and a sign reading “Family Conference Area”. Artwork adorned the walls in regular order, probably to make the area feel more like a home and less like an institution. It was rather plain realism, mostly landscapes and still lifes, and a clear absence of anything modern, cubist, or otherwise challenging reality. She paused to look at one seascape, wondering whether she might recognize the lighthouse, but decided it was not one she knew. “Missus Hastings?” the escort prodded, and she moved forward.
All this was within a few dozen steps of her door. She noticed that all the patient rooms were the same, and on the outer side of the building, and that there was an “Exit” sign at the end of the hall over a pair of heavy metal doors that did not have crash bars and again appeared to open inward. Fire trap, she thought, but then they were probably more concerned with patients escaping than with anything that might happen to them inside.
They reached the bathroom. The light switch was outside, and the smaller man switched it on as the larger opened the door. “Do you need any help?”
“No, thank you, I should be fine.” She stepped through and closed the door behind her.
She noticed immediately that it did not lock, at least, not from this side. In one sense, she was at their mercy; in another, they were available to help patients in trouble. She scanned the room and recognized that it was entirely basic--an institutional commode with no removable parts, a paper dispenser which released individual sheets, a sink with hot and cold water run through a central spigot, and a shower stall with a curtain, all with tile floor and two floor drains, one in the shower and one under the sink. She availed herself of the facilities, and then rinsed her hands and face at the sink, noting the absence of soap and towels. Finishing, she stepped to the door and opened it. “Towel?” she asked, and was handed one taken from an adjacent closet. “Thank you.”
On the return trip she tried to learn more. The carpet was a drab Jackson-Pollack pattern, the sort of thing on which stains would be taken as part of the plan. The walls were beige, light enough not to be oppressive but not stark. She thought it probably the same paint that was on the walls of her room, although there it was considerably brighter because of the sunlight.
They returned her to her room and asked her to sit on her bed. The smaller man then said, “You’re being given permission to move freely within the room. Take it easy at first until you’re certain of your equilibrium, and if something happens and you need help, shout.”
Hmm…no call bells, she thought. However, assuming they fed her and remembered to give her bathroom access, she didn’t expect to need to call them.
As they left, she sat on the edge of the bed and mused a bit on her situation.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #277: Versers Resettle. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: