A Message from Carol: Free Fiction for Fyretober October 18, 2023
Kelly Goyer: Guys, has anyone heard from Carol?
Max Cook: No, and I’m beginning to get frantic.
Phillip Lawrence: I’ve started pricing flights to Michigan.
Kelly Goyer: Take a breath. It’s not that bad. I contacted her hubs, and he says she’s all right. She just has limited connectivity. But I was hoping somebody heard something more.
Max Cook: Limited connectivity? What does that mean?
Kelly Goyer: He didn’t say, but you know, it is a hospital. She was in a wreck. She might have more important things to worry about than checking in with us.
Phillip Lawrence: How rude!
Max Cook: So what did the mysterious hubs have to say?
Kelly Goyer: He said the doctors say she’s fine, she’ll be out in a couple of days. A lot of rattling, no breaking. They just want to observe her due to the head injuries.
Phillip Lawrence: Head injuries? Oh, no! What if that affects her writing?
Kelly Goyer: Let’s not get us ahead of ourselves here, guys. If hubs says she’s all right, she’s all right. Just relax. Everybody breathe.
Max Cook: Breathing…
Phillip Lawrence: Breathing…
Rose Stevens: Breathe, stupid, breathe! You forgot to breathe!
Kelly Goyer: Ha!
Excerpted from the Skëlëtön Crüe Writing Forum, October 167.
Kelly Goyer: Well, that’s one mystery explained. Carol’s hubs says she doesn’t have the login to the Skëlëtön Crüe forum on her phone; and the password recovery mechanism is broken.
Max Cook: As usual…
Phillip Lawrence: So why doesn’t she just use her laptop?
Rose Stevens: Haven’t you ever gotten that lecture from Dr. John? “Bedrest means rest, young lady! If you lay down, I shall let you hold up a cell phone or a paperback book. But no sitting up with laptops, or I’ll take your phone away!”
Phillip Lawrence: Apparently he’s never seen me lying on my back typing on a laptop on my belly.
Kelly Goyer: Snort! I need to see that. But no, Carol’s laptop is missing.
Max Cook: Missing?
Kelly Goyer: I’ll let her explain. She sent hubs a long email, and he agreed to share it with us.
No, don’t even think about coming up to Michigan! The twins need you more than I do. You read MyChart: As soon as I get a clean report from the neurologist, I’m out of here. I’ll be out of this hospital faster than you can get here.
And as for that neurology report, the memories are coming back to me. I’m not sure I ever had a legitimate memory loss from the concussion itself. Things seemed pretty clear in the immediate aftermath, though a few things got a little weird. But the real head trip started after the EMT inserted that IV yesterday.
Okay, the accident was just yesterday? I’m clear on that now. Promise.
I’m less clear on the cause. Enterprise and Nissan and I are going to have a little talk. It was like the steering completely went out, as if it had a mind of its own. In my panic, I almost thought it did!
So I went up a little embankment, over the other side, smack into small trees that set off the airbag just as I hit bottom. That’s how the police recreated it, at least, and I seem to remember it that way. Maybe just because they told me that it happened that way, or maybe I actually had some visions close to the truth.
But other visions…
The human mind is a fascinating thing, hubs. The whole flight over the hill seemed to go in slow motion, and I swear I heard a voice in my ear. Someone shouting in… Gaelic? Some sort of Celtic language, not one of the ones I know. Whatever they were shouting at me, it was a waste of time. All I could do was cling to the wheel, slam on the brakes… And hit the trees.
After that, it gets weird. There was more Gaelic, and I swear somebody opened my passenger door. I looked up, amazed that a rescuer could be there that soon; but there was no one there, just the door hanging open. Before I could puzzle that out, it slammed shut again, and I wasn’t sure it had ever been open.
I may have passed out then; but honestly, I may have passed out sooner. The entire business with the door might’ve been a dream. But sometime later, it wasn’t a dream when the driver side door opened, and a woman leaned in and peeled back my eyelids.
I tried to turn my head, to tear myself out of the Nissan. It wasn’t just any woman, it was the woman from the restroom. The woman with the creepy guy in the wheelchair.
I shook my head. “No, no…” I said weakly. This had to be a nightmare.
But when I looked back, she was still there. Her finger was on my neck, checking my pulse. “You’re all right,” she said. “Just a small accident. Try to hold still while I check your injuries.”
“Hold. Still.” This time she spoke with nurse authority, that practiced edge they use with difficult patients. I didn’t want to be a difficult patient, did I?
That was a reflex that kicked in. When someone’s trying to save your life, don’t make their job any harder.
Saving my life… Was it that bad?
As if reading my question, she said, “Your head hit the steering wheel pretty hard. Would’ve been worse without the airbag.” Then in a low mumble, she added, “Or better if you’d been wearing your damn seatbelt.” Then in a normal voice, she continued, “What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Carol. I’m Wanda, and I’ll be your nurse for a while. We already called 911. EMTs will be here soon, fully equipped for an MVA.” I didn’t ask the question. I’ve done right along was with enough EMTs to know the jargon. “You’ve got some scrapes, and your left leg might be bad. But I don’t see any blood. You got damn lucky.”
I tried to chuckle, but it turned into a cough. When I finally stopped, I said, “Lucky…”
She gave me a confident smile. “My husband had an accident last month. He spent time in a coma, and he’s now in a wheelchair. You’re way ahead of him. Now I want you to follow my finger so we can see you how that brain of yours is doing.”
We were still playing the finger game when I heard the sirens. Not long after, I heard multiple sets of heavy boots scraping down the hill. One of them shouted, “We got a victim over here!”
Wanda turned back and shouted over her shoulder, “He’s not part of the MVA. He’s my damn fool husband who couldn’t just stay in the in the van!” She looked at me, shook her head, and said, “Men!”
Somehow I found that hilarious. I was still laughing when the EMTs showed up and took over from Wanda.
Everything after that was a blur, with the three of them stepping in so smoothly, each with a role to play. The woman start probing for broken bones. When she got to my left leg, she was more definite than Wanda had been. “Yup, that’s broken.”
“I don’t feel it.”
“You’re in shock, Carol. You’ll feel it later. I’m sorry.”
A tall man stood behind the woman, jotting down notes as she called them out, and talking to me in between time, asking me about medicines and my pain and my personal info. “What’s your address, Carol?”
“My address…” It hurt to concentrate, but I still had the facts. “1645 Summerland, San Diego. No, I don’t remember the… The ZIP Code, but I never do.”
“All right, you’re not from around here. Anyone local we should call?”
“Uncle… Jim Phillips. Aunt Lorene.”
“And their phone number?”
I don’t know if it was normal to quiz somebody about their contact information while they were still in the field. I suspected he was doing an impromptu cognitive test. I wanted him to be sure to know that I was cognitive, so I answered what I could. Most of my phone numbers were only in my phone, however, so I couldn’t give them those. He nodded understanding. I did give him the hubs’s the cell phone, though. He replied, “We’ll have dispatch call him right away, and let him know that you’re safe. Banged up, but safe.”
After that, I grew a little lightheaded. The female EMT checked and said my BP was hot was high normal. “No sign of internal bleeding. It’s probably just shock,” she said.
“I should… sleep…” Then a M*A*S*H episode somehow popped into my brain. “Wait… Sleeping’s bad…”
The EMT shook her head. “That’s an old myth. You can sleep of you have to, but I’d like you to stay with me if you can, Carol. With head injuries, we like to keep you talking, so we know you’re all still there.”
“Once the hospital approves, we’ll give you some painkillers. It should be soon.”
Then the tall man said, “UM Health-West says just splint the leg and extract her if we think we can.”
The woman nodded. “I don’t think she’s got any other breaks. She’s going to have one hell of a bruise on her forehead, though. Ask them if we should give her a neck brace first.”
He asked, then said, “Confirmed on that neck brace. Let’s not take any chances.”
Very gently, they fitted me with a neck brace and then put an inflatable splint on my left leg. They did everything they could to make me comfortable.
Then they pulled me from the wreckage, and the pain made me pass out.
I awoke in a bed, soft and cushiony with metal rails on either side. There was an annoying beeping sound somewhere behind my head, and soft lighting from the ceiling. Soft murmuring voices came from beside me.
Then the woman – Wanda – bent over and looked in my face. “There you are, Carol. How are you doing?”
I tried to look away, but my neck was still braced. “I’m in a hospital. How do you think I’m doing?”
“If you feel good enough to make jokes, you’re doing okay. You’re at UM Health-West. The doctors had you checked in, x-rays run, blood work, everything. You have a broken tibia, bruised ribs, and a hairline fracture of the occipital. Considering what you went through, you’re okay.”
“Husband…” See, my first thought was of you?
Well, okay, not my first thought, but right up there!
She smiled. “Dispatch called him as soon as you gave us his number. He’s looking for a babysitter for your twins, then he’s flying here right away.”
I shook my head. “Too busy…”
“We’ll leave that up to you two. But he’s very worried about you.”
I couldn’t help smiling at that. Even from three time zones away, you were watching out for me.
Then I heard the squeak of hospital shoes on tile, and a short, baldheaded man with a fringe of white hair and silver-rimmed glasses came into view. The lab coat, stethoscope, and concerned look in his eyes were straight out of MD central casting. He looked down at the chart then back up into my eyes. “Mrs. Scott, I’m Dr. Walchek. I’ll be handling your case.”
I started to reach out to shake his hand, but he shook his head instead. “You have too many tubes in you right now. Just relax. You’ve been very lucky. I know you have trouble believing that, but I’ve seen far worse accidents.
Wanda turned to look at him. “How is Wayne, Dr. Walchek?”
“You mean besides stupid and pigheaded?” He shook his head. “He’s not awake yet, but he hasn’t relapsed. He’ll be okay. He probably lost half a week’s progress in physical therapy with what he did to his shoulders, but he’ll be okay.”
I bit my lip. The coincidence that my creepy stalker had the same doctor as me made my writer brain want to scream out in protest. No editor would believe that coincidence!
But maybe the man specialized in head injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents and similar causes. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence at all. Maybe it was completely logical.
And besides, what choice did I have? I didn’t know any other doctors in the area, so I just laid back and accepted the situation. Dr. Walchek asked me a string of questions, mostly the same ones that the EMTs and Wanda had asked. He probed the same bones, made the same notes, and apparently came to the same conclusions. He gave me a warm smile.
“This is just a slight hitch in your vacation plans, Carol. You should be out tomorrow, as long as all the neurological tests come back clean. You’ll be on crutches for that leg, but otherwise you just have a lot of bangs and bruises. And some painkillers to get you through them.
Tell the kids the twins I love their video. Tell them Mommy loves them, and I’m okay, and I can’t wait for them to sign my cast. Dr. Walchek says they might yet let me out today. Uncle Jim is going to take a couple days off and drive me around.
And I hope you’re not upset, but I’m not going to sit back and rest. The doctor says I should be fine on this leg as long as I use the crutches. I’m really worried, hon. Something’s happened to Emil. I can’t explain why, but I’m convinced. I have to find him. It’s not logical, but I can’t shake the feeling. I am convinced that something happened to the Nissan, something beyond any rational explanation. And so soon after the creepy stalker couple, Wayne and Wanda. Was it just a coincidence that they were first on the crash scene? And Emil’s friend Gil, dead. And Emil’s car is abandoned, yet no one seems to have noticed it.
There are answers out there. I can’t shake that feeling.
And somehow, they start with Emil.
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: Trick-or-treating shapeshifters.
Ummm… Can I save that one for later? I think it might come in handy before the end of the month.
But not yet… Not yet…