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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 44: Hastings 148
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Lauren did not sleep the rest of the night. She sat up staring in the darkness. She told herself that it was simple vigilance, that having been attacked she needed to maintain her defenses, but inside she was perhaps not fearful but jittery, unnerved by the assault.
She permitted herself a brief nap in the morning, after what she judged would have been shift change, but was awakened by an early visit from Doctor Conway.
“Good morning,” he began.
“Morning,” she replied, somewhat groggily.
“I heard you had an interesting night.”
“The interesting part, for me,” she replied, “would be what you heard.”
He nodded. “One of our orderlies was treated for injuries--nothing serious, really, being watched for concussion, but I suspect he’ll be fine. He claims you attacked him.”
She smiled perhaps a bit wryly. “And why would I do that?”
“Why indeed? Why don’t you tell me what you remember.”
What I remember, Lauren thought. That’s an interesting way to put it. He isn’t asking me what happened, but what I, a potentially deluded patient, believe happened.
“Well, it’s not particularly comfortable to talk about, but it could have been a lot worse.”
“Take your time.”
She shifted her position in the bed. To his credit, the doctor did not flinch at this. Composing herself, she recounted the events of the night.
“I was awakened, rather abruptly, by a hand over my mouth. It occurred to me that this might be good or bad, that this person might be thinking I needed to be rescued but didn’t want me to alert anyone by crying out or shouting, or they might be trying to silence me so I couldn’t call for help. I noticed that the position of the hand was such that the fingers could easily pinch my nose and cut off my breathing, and that since this was the left hand coming from my right side, the arm had to be twisted a bit awkwardly to do that, so it was probably intentional. Let’s see, what happened next? Oh, yes. A voice spoke, saying it was good that I was awake because it was more enjoyable if I fight. I’ve fought some very nasty, let’s call them adversaries, over the years, but I waited to see what his intentions were--I recognized the voice, and knew who he was. He put his hand between my legs and attempted to push them apart, and I took a couple of deep breaths to oxygenate my muscles. Then--then he said something else, something about how I should relax and enjoy it. I think he misunderstood the intention of my breathing. So I kicked him.”
“You kicked him.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to let him rape me, and I wasn’t going to wait to see whether he had some way to disable me. He had made his intentions clear, and I made my answer clear.”
“You kicked him.”
“Yes. Pretty hard, considering the awkwardness of my position, but he’s a big guy. It shook him loose so I could sit up, but I knew he was still standing there, rather close in the dark, and I raised my arms in time to block an incoming swing, not so professional as a crosscut punch, mind, but with a lot of force behind it. After that, what--oh, I think I kicked him again to move him back, and rolled backwards putting the bed between us. He might have lunged or grabbed for me--it was still dark, and I was going by sound. Oh, right, he said something else, but I’m not sure what. Using that sound to locate him, I flipped over the bed and kicked him with both feet, and we both fell to the floor and hit the wall, but he hit it harder than I did.
“Satisfied that he was not about to attack me again but was still breathing, I returned to my bed to wait, and in a moment the lights came on and people came in to find out what happened. I told them; he denied it.”
The doctor shifted and cleared his throat.
“That’s quite a bit of detail for you to recall about a fight that happened in a few seconds.”
“I have been in far worse fights, fights in which my life was on the line, and it helps to keep a cool head. If you aren’t panicking but thinking through your moves, you’re more likely to remember them afterwards. Ask any boxer or wrestler. They can tell you what happened in critical rounds of their fights, in great detail.”
“So, you’re a boxer?”
“I’ve been a fighter, but never for sport. I had to learn to defend myself.”
He nodded, and jotted something on his pad.
“So tell me,” he said, “why I shouldn’t write this order to have you in restraints? Several of the staff have suggested it.”
“It’s a good question,” she said, the sardonic smile returning to her lips. “After all, I’m going to tell you that I don’t want that man--Brack, I think they called him--I don’t want him anywhere near me, and I don’t promise that if he tries something like that again he’ll walk out of here. But if a woman can’t defend herself against a perceived sexual assault, you’ve got a problem.
“I’m also concerned, doctor, that he said I was delusional--not as if it were his conclusion, but as quoting something you said. I can’t help wondering how many delusional patients he might have raped, warning them that no one will believe them so they shouldn’t say anything or it will make their situation worse. I also can’t help wondering what kind of doctor-patient confidentiality you have if one of your--you said he was an orderly--one of your orderlies is quoting your tentative diagnosis.”
“Well, nurses and staff have to know something of the patient’s condition, for their own safety as well as that of the patient.”
“It didn’t keep me very safe. I had to do that myself.”
“Yes, I suppose you did. Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?”
“Other than that I’d like to leave now? How long can you keep me?”
“We can keep you at least until we have confirmed your identity, as long as we are making a reasonable effort to do so, and established that you are not a danger to yourself or others.”
“I see. So pretty much forever, I expect. That seems a very subjective standard. I’m sure I could establish that you might be a danger to yourself or others; I certainly could establish that for Brack.”
“Yes, but Brack and I are not patients.”
“But you can see the difficulty. If you were, it would be very difficult for you to prove you were not dangerous.”
“Are you claiming you are not dangerous?”
“Absolutely not. Of course I’m dangerous. Corner me and I will defend myself. What I’m saying is that I’m not more dangerous than anyone else, and probably considerably less dangerous than most.”
“Until your paranoia makes you think you’re being attacked.”
Oh, so that’s how it was. This was going to be considerably more difficult.
“I think I’d like to use the bathroom now.”
He thought for a moment. “I’ll have someone bring you a bedpan.”
Again she smiled that smile. “What, and risk having me kill someone with it? I’ll use the bathroom, thank you. I’m sure you have another brute on duty who can escort me, and if he’s a gentleman about it I won’t hurt him.”
“All right,” he said rising, “we’ll talk more later.” He took his chair and left the room, and in a moment two men entered to escort her to the facilities.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #284: Versers React. 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: