Chapter 18

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Waking up had been a struggle, but finally opening my eyes had been worth it. I felt like I had fallen into my wakefulness, violently jolting awake with twitches and spasms before I lay motionless in bed. When I realized I was staring up at an unfamiliar ceiling my chest swelled with panic and my eyes flickered rapidly from left to right, expecting to be in the lush bedroom of Katherine Barrington. Or worse: I'd still be locked in that room, lying immobile and half-naked on the old mattress as they pumped drugs into me, as they slowly killed me from the inside out.

Instead, I quickly recognized that I was in a hospital room. It was a generic hospital room with white walls, an adjoined bathroom, lots of metallic-looking equipment, a singular wheeled chair beside my bed, a wheeled stool, and the ominous feeling of isolation and sterilization. There was also not a human being in sight.

The only not depressing thing was a rather large window on the wall opposite the door. The view, however, left much to be desired. I'm sure they must've had a room somewhere that wasn't overlooking a parking lot. But mine wasn't it.

On the brightside, it appeared that I had a private room. My room was smaller than others I had seen and my bed was the only bed in there. On the not-so-brightside, the only times I had ever been in a one-person, unshared hospital room was when the patient was terminally ill and dying. The patients who were recovering or only had minor injuries always had to share with someone else.

In any case, I was alone, in a hospital room, and there was an IV needle hooked up to my forearm. Gross.

I had woken up in this room before, hadn't I? It seemed familiar, like I had been here in a dream.

Memories of Alex flooded my head and I remembered waking up in this room, seeing Alex sleeping, and reaching out to see if she were real, if she had really been there.

She had come for me, hadn't she? She had been there, right?

I looked around again, as if a closer inspection of the hospital room would magically make it not empty, but it only reinforced what I already knew. I was alone.

Where was Alex? Had I imagined her? I wouldn't be surprised. Whenever I had those fleeting moments of consciousness it was her face I had seen. I wanted to make sure it was the last thing I thought of in case I could never have another thought again. It made sense that my brain would hallucinate the one thing it was so full of.

Good. If she wasn't really here then that meant she was safe somewhere else.

I was still in pain, but it was dull, ebbing away. I felt significantly better. Whatever drugs they had me hooked up to were working. Maybe too well. A part of me felt like I was floating.

My head, however, finally felt normal. I no longer felt the constant tug of sleep, the fear that at any second I would drift off again. For the first time in a long time I could think clearly. My life wasn't broken up and choppy with flickers of images and faces, like a broken film reel. Now everything seemed... like I was actually sober... clear-headed. I was awake.

I sat up and, after the dizziness had passed, croaked out, "Hello?" I sounded like a frog. No. Frogs were cute. I sounded like a toad. I swallowed a few times and then tried again, "Hello?" Okay that sounded a little less like a toad and more like me. I hadn't heard my own voice in so long though, so how could I be sure?

The door to my room opened and Alex, in all her beautiful glory, walked in. She paused in the doorway when she saw that I was awake.

I couldn't help but immediately notice what she was wearing. I had never seen her wear anything like it before. She almost looked like a completely different person.

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