Rendezvous, with Donuts: Free Fiction for Fyretober October 13, 2013

Rendezvous, with Donuts

Wayne Hudson worked the latch of the passenger door of the van, this time with hardly any pain is at all. Then he swung the door open. That was a little worse, but it was still a small victory. He would take every one of those he could get.

Brutus the physical therapist – Wayne had trouble remembering the man’s real name, but Brutus was accurate – had said Wayne was progressing exceptionally quickly considering the extent of his shoulder injuries. He Wayne still shouldn’t leverage himself out of the van, but that Wayne was getting more mobility in his arms every day. Maybe faster.

And Wayne’s legs were practically normal now, bruised but functional. As Myra wheeled the new chair around the van, Wayne took a chance. “Screw Brutus!” Gripping a safety bars in each hand, he swung his legs out.

“Wayne!” Wanda shouted from the open rear door. But despite her protests, he lowered himself to the ground before she could even bring the stepstool.

At the last moment, Wayne lost his grip with his right hand, falling hard and flat-footed to the pavement. Wanda’s face turned from surprised to frightened, but Wayne gave her a grin of triumph. “I made it!”

Wanda pointed her finger in his face. “But you might’ve fallen. Are you hurt?”

Wayne shook his head, turned backwards, and gave Wanda the satisfaction of letting her guide him down into the chair.

All right, that concession wasn’t just for her sake. He hadn’t fallen due to the pain, but to weakness. Exhaustion. Physical therapy that morning had worn him out more than he had realized.

But damn! He couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. He had done it for himself this time.

Then as Wanda helped adjust his foot rests, Wayne glanced into the side mirror that he had attached to the chair despite Wanda’s objections. Harvey was standing there, watching him and nodding.

Wayne didn’t see the hatter much anymore, nor the small rabbit. The tall frog seemed to have disappeared completely. Now most often mirrors – any mirror, not just this one – showed him was a six foot tall white rabbit wearing black pants and a sky-blue waistcoat, with big black eyes that disturbed Wayne and made him look away. This was clearly Harvey, the pooka from the movie of the same name. Did that make Wayne Elwood P. Dowd?

He shrugged )as much as his injured shoulders allowed). There could be worse people to be. Elwood had found quite a life for himself… before his relatives sent him off to the sanitarium.

Wayne wondered if the same fate lay in store for him. He still had no evidence that he wasn’t crazy. He saw strange things in mirrors, things which no one else saw and which made no sense. When the neurologist examined him, Wayne was careful not to mention these visions. They didn’t feel like delusions, damn it! They felt like… revelations. And until he was sure otherwise, he would keep them to himself.

Wanda closed the side door, then went to the rear of the van to shut that as well. Meanwhile Wayne steered the chair toward the handicap ramp. He was getting pretty good with the chair.

And according to the neurologist, Wayne’s brain was healing, too. He still couldn’t remember the accident, which the neurologist said was normal; but other than that, he scored as well on the man’s tests as the doctor expected at this stage of his recovery.

But sometimes… Late at night, Wayne wondered if this entire experience was the ultimate delusion. Maybe he was still trapped in his coma. Maybe he only thought he had regained consciousness. Maybe he had settled into a dream which was mostly rational, with dream logic manifesting only in mirrors.

But if his life was a hallucination, it was a damn detailed one, realistic in a way that couldn’t be imaginary. Could it?

But of course Wayne had never studied hallucinations, nor had he ever experienced them before. He was hardly a subject matter expert.

Wayne was nearly to the door button when a woman sped up the walk from the other side, grabbed the handle, and pulled it open. “Here, let me help,” she said. She was of medium height, smartly dressed, with a broad smile that rose all the way to her square wire-rimmed glasses. Her hair was a shade somewhere between blonde and gray, but with magenta ends that fringed her neck. Her accent was… Michigan, in part, but something else that Wayne couldn’t place. Like she had grown up here, but hadn’t lived in Michigan for a long time.

Wayne forced a smile. “Thank you,” he said as he accelerated through the door, trying not to waste her time. He didn’t feel annoyed, exactly, more like disappointed. He was trying to do as much for himself as he could, while still recognizing that polite people wanted to help: Wanda, their parents, doctors, and complete strangers like the woman who now held the door for Wanda.

And for Harvey, though the woman surely didn’t notice. The rabbit squeezed in between Wanda and Wayne, then stepped aside so that Wanda could get through the door unhindered.

That answered one question: The creatures who haunted him weren’t spirits, Wayne decided. Spirits didn’t need to worry about squeezing in between people. Spirits shouldn’t even need doors. They should just pass through walls, shouldn’t they?

And for that matter, so should hallucinations. That wasn’t how the creatures behaved. They acted like physical beings that no one could see, save for Wayne in his mirrors.

Wayne didn’t want to leave the woman standing there holding the door all day, so he rolled up to the counter, making room for Wanda to join him. The woman stepped in and let the door swing shut.

Elise smiled behind the order counter. “Hi, Wayne, Wanda. Your table’s ready. Shall I bring over your usual?”

Wayne shook his head. Again he wanted to do for himself where he could, and that included fetching his own donuts. But that wasn’t how he explained himself. “I’m in the mood for something different today, Elise. I need to look at the counter.” He looked at the selection, nearly 30 different varieties. He had tried many of them before, and he had never had a bad one yet. But it was still long johns that he craved most. Pure perfection!

But now that Wayne had made a big deal about choosing, he had to order something else. “Let me try one of those caramel apple filled.”

Elise jotted on her pad, then said, “And you, Wanda?”

“A cake donut… No, a pumpkin cake donut. ’Tis the season!”

Elise responded, “And coffee for both of you?”

“Two large,” Wayne said, and Wanda nodded.

Wayne turned his attention away from Elise and the counter, and back to the mirror as he shifted the chair into reverse. His backup alarm sounded, and the magenta-haired woman hissed like a startled cat. She had stood by the big board, looking over all the pictures of regular customers going back five decades. The chair beeping made had made her jump.

 Wayne turned as far as his injuries allowed and said, “Sorry.”

The woman laughed. “I appreciate the warning!” Then she turned back to studying the pictures. Wayne, meanwhile, turned back to his mirror.

Wayne was getting jaded by the surprises in his mirror; but this time he was surprised the new. The white rabbit wasn’t watching Wayne, as the creatures usually did. It was standing behind the stranger, looking over her shoulder.

The good folks at Fyrecon have declared this to be Fyretober: a month of creative prompts, encouraging writers, poets, and artists to share their explorations. Today’s prompt… Well, let’s just not talk about prompts today. This story has absolutely nothing to do with Zombie fireballs.

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