Silent Enemy

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Name: Amadi Yeboah

Age: 13

Affliction: Lesch-Nyhan syndrome


I am really, really scared right now.

Not because I'm in the waiting room of the largest hospital on the planet. I've been to plenty of hospitals. Too many, in fact. Hospitals are usually good things.

No, I'm scared because I feel totally vulnerable for the first time in a while. I don't have my dog. No one that I know is in the room. Just eleven other kids, who have been taken out of their normal lives and set down into this waiting room.

I sit on my hands. It doesn't relieve my anxiety.

The only thing worse than being in actual danger is not knowing if you're in danger or not.

I am literally so freaked out right now....

There's a friendly-looking girl in a wheelchair next to me. I feel a sudden spark of closeness—I was on crutches up until I had surgery a couple years ago. Maybe she'll be able to help.

"Hi," I whisper.

She smiles. "Hello! What's your name?"

"Amadi. You?"

"Jung. Nice to meet you."

I nod; relieved she hasn't asked me to shake her hand. That could end badly. So I just continue the small talk. "So... um... what's your story?"

"Cerebral palsy." Jung shrugs. "I hear they've got this awesome robotic structure that'll make me able to walk. Can't wait! Robots are awesome."

"Sounds cool."

"Yeah. What about you?"

"I've got this thing called Lesch-Nyhan...." I pause. Think. "Actually, could you do me a really, really big favor?"

"Sure thing," she responds.

I slowly withdraw my right hand from under my legs. "Can you... um... hold my hand?"

Jung smiles. "Of course. You must be scared." She takes my hand in hers, and I can suddenly feel how very sweaty mine is.

"Um... not like that."

"What do you mean?"

"I... think it would probably be better if you held my wrist...."

"Okay...." Jung takes my wrist, looking a little confused.

"Could you possibly do it a little harder?"

"Sure... but why?"

"Promise you won't think I'm crazy?"

"Promise."

"Well... my right hand is prone to attacking me," I admit, holding up my left hand. Her eyes widen when she sees the top of the ring finger is missing.

"That's... that's not good."

"I also used to bite myself a lot. It's terrifying."

"I can imagine," says Jung grimly. "No, actually—I can't. That's just...." She trails off, gripping my right hand tighter than before. I can feel it twitch, almost like it's trying to get free....

A woman comes in at that moment, and starts to make a speech about how we're all Abnormal. Not particularly heartwarming. I barely listen—my mind is entirely concentrated on keeping my hand in check. I say "here!" when my name is called, but other than that, I just feel like I'm living in my own anxious bubble.

Then we're moving down a hallway. True to her promise, Jung keeps her hand tight around mine. It's a little awkward, since I'm standing and she's sitting, but it's better than being involuntarily attacked.

"Hey." I hear a male voice behind me. It looks to be some sort of assistant or guard. But he's not addressing me—he's talking to Jung.

She looks up. "Yes?"

"We don't tolerate any kind of abuse here," the assistant tells her sternly. "It looks like you're gripping this boy's wrist against his will."

I'm about to respond, but Jung is quicker. "I know how it may look, but Amadi asked me to—"

"Regardless, I will have to ask you to remove your hand."

I cut in. "It's actually—"

"We have a strict no-physical-contact policy."

Very slowly, Jung draws her hand away. The anxiety comes back, full-on. I grip my right hand with my left. Breathe. Try not to panic. Try to stop my heart from racing this fast.

We're in a room now. The woman's telling us to eat. I can't listen. My eyes have focused themselves on the table. I see forks. And knives. Oh crap. This day just keeps getting worse and worse.

I try not to think about the man with Lesch-Nyhan who gorged out his own nose with a fork. Instead I just hold my wrist tighter.

I turn to the assistant who had reprimanded Jung. "Excuse me... I don't really like the look of those utensils. Would it be possible to... uh... use something—"

He raises and eyebrow. "Why can't you use these utensils? Nothing wrong with them."

"Well, I have this condition—"

The assistant shakes his head and steers me towards the table. "Don't worry, they're specially designed so that kids of all motor capabilities can handle them. You shouldn't have any problem eating."

This place is seeming less like a hospital and more like a prison. Obviously these assistants are not very well-trained. "That's not the problem!"

"We can always get you new ones if you're afraid they're dirty," explains the assistant, completely misunderstanding my fear.

"No! My hand is going to—"

And at that moment, my hand breaks free and punches the assistant in the face.

All hell breaks loose. Two other assistants run over to restrain me, yelling something about bringing violent psychopaths into this section of the Hospital. If I weren't so frightened, I'd be pretty offended.

It takes three assistants to finally get my hand in check. I'm actually pretty relieved about that—my hand might've done a lot more damage if left unrestricted.

Then they're pulling me out of the room, all with stern-and-angry faces on.

"Why did you hit that man?" demands one woman.

"It wasn't me; it was my hand!" I protest, but that doesn't seem to sway them.

"Put him in the psychosis sect," says another.

I want to scream, to tell them I'm not actually as crazy as they think. I can't control what my hand does! They should give me credit for at least trying to restrain it.

We come to a doorway. A woman asks what's wrong with me. They respond with a list of symptoms and disorders, only one of which I actually have (Tourette's syndrome).

Then we're off down another corridor, farther and farther away from any place I'm supposed to be.

This is supposed to be the most competent hospital in the country, but it sure doesn't seem like that right now.


The end.


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