lunes, 30 de marzo de 2009

Part 3: Watched

Getting Marianne into the operation room didn't change the situation at all. All the doctors could find was that, indeed, the hole formed because the muscle in the leg was disappearing. The only new thing they could find was that the muscle seemed to be torn around the hole, and that it was indeed growing to the point that it almost reached the bone.

"Torn?" Alice asked. The image of an invisible monster sneaking beneath her mother's sheets, chewing at her skin, tearing her mother's muscle away with razor sharp teeth invaded her mind with such unpleasant strength it made her dizzy.

"Yes, torn. We're not sure if it is a degenerative disease-"

"It's not a degenerative disease," the other doctor interrupted. Dr. Taylor frowned.

"We haven't ruled that out yet."

"But it is very unlikely-"

"Okay!" Alice interrupted, waving her hands at the doctors. "I get it. You've no idea what it is." For a second, she almost blurted out the ridiculous idea that had just crossed her mind. At least it could be worth a laugh. She shook her head. "Please, I don't want to lose my mother. I don't care what you do, you need to find out what's wrong with her." The image of a strange, invisible creature chewing at her mother's leg from under the covers flashed into her head. It made too much noise in her mind, which wanted to cling to any possibility, no matter how ludicrous.

"We could..." The two doctors exchanged glances.

"You could... what?"Dr. Taylor cleared his throat and played with a pen inside his pocket.

"This is, of course, as a last resort," Dr. Taylor said. "We don't want to jump into something drastic without sufficient cause. But, as a last resort, if it seems to pose a threat to your mother's life... and I mean, there is a small possibility due to the expansive nature of the ailment... We could amputate her leg to prevent it from spreading elsewhere. Just beneath the knee, she wouldn't have to lose all the leg... With a prosthesis, she could go on with her life as she always has." Alice nodded.

"Can you leave me alone, just for a second? You can tell my mother everything you told me, but please, please don't tell her that last thing." The doctors nodded and entered Marianne's room, leaving Alice alone on the corridor.

She paced back and forth, hoping that moving her legs would be enough to keep her brain distracted from the horrible idea that had been suggested to her. She stopped in front of an Aztec statue that adorned the corridor and stared at it to keep herself busy. Its jarring asymmetrical features, dominated by an open mouth with huge fangs, unsettled her. It seemed to be poking fun at her, the very embodiment of death, laughing as it prepared to pounce, once again, on her loved ones. It took all of her self-control not to pull the statue and let it smash on the ground.

As she considered the statue, something caught her attention. A glimpse of a shadow, quivering behind the statue when no source of light could've made it quiver. She approached the statue and, with the image of invisible monsters still in mind, felt behind it with a careful hand There was nothing there, not even a trace of the physical presence that had lurked beneath the sheets on her mother's bed. Alice laughed.

"The stress must be getting to me," she said, as she headed back to her mother's room. A newly developed itch made her scratch the back of her right hand while heading for the door. Her head was so full of worries she didn't notice the tiny hole that seemed to have appeared beneath her own skin, causing the itch.

miércoles, 25 de marzo de 2009

Part 2: Hallucinations

Marianne sat up on her bed and screamed. Her arms and legs flayed wildly about her. Alice rushed over to her mother, trying to contain her before she hurt her leg further, but Marianne's fright had given her all the strength age had stolen from her.

"They're going to eat me! They're eating me!" she yelled, kicking. Alice hugged her mother and pressed her against the bed until Marianne calmed down. Marianne's chest heaved against Alice's, almost pushing her away with the strength of her gasps. Her eyes focused on the room around her, and then on her daughter.

"Mom? Are you okay? Were you having a nightmare?"

"I'm fine," Marianne said. "I must've been dreaming... I don't remember now. How's my leg doing? Why are you still awake? It must be past midnight." Alice had already hidden the digital clock, which marked 3 a.m., on her mother's bedside.

"It's not even eleven o'clock, mom. Your leg's doing great," Alice said, but the cheerful tone was too much of an effort for her to add a smile to it. Marianne nodded and leaned back on her pillow.

"You should get some more rest. That's the key, rest."

"I'm sleepy."

"It's the medicines." Marianne mumbled something, but sleep had wrapped around her even before the words escaped from her mouth. Alice kissed her on the forehead; somehow, the irony of the moment made her uncomfortable. She was sure that her mother could see through her pathetic attempts at cheerfulness, but Marianne was behaving like a model patient, and Alice was glad for it.

She curled up in the sofa that had been turned into a bed with some sheets and a pillow. Two nights on that couch had accustomed her to the position, and her back was no longer sore. However, she still found it difficult to fall asleep on such an alien location. With no room to toss and turn, she kept still, staring at her mother's legs.

Alice dozed off. Dreams intertwined with reality and played with her perception of the room, if she was still semi-conscious and not merely dreaming of the room. She watched as the sheets at her mother's feet blew up and rose back down. The billowing movement gave way to a steady waving back and forth, as though something walked over her mother's feet, beneath the sheets.

The sight startled Alice into a sitting position. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the vision. It didn't feel like a dream, the walls around her were too well defined, the room too full of excellent details she barely registered, and even through the drowsiness, she had a rock-steady sense of here and now that was always absent even in the sweetest dream. No, that had to be the kind of nightmare that doesn't allow for the solace and insanity that is the world of the subconscious.

She stood up and went to the bed. Whatever walked on her mother's leg was larger than a crow, although it hunched over as it circled a specific area of the leg, stopping every now and then and making strange splurging noises. Alice let out a sharp gasp that made her chest hurt when she realized that 'it' was circling the hole in her mother's leg. Unable to restrain herself, Alice grabbed the sheets and pulled them away.

There was nothing beneath them. Alice looked around, hoping to find an escaped rodent with lightning-fast feet, but there wasn't even a thud to betray it jumping from the bed. Alice was about to chalk it all up to an overactive imagination she didn't possess when she noticed her mother's leg. The hole had just grown bigger; the skin stretching over it sagged into the depth of the hole. When she turned on the light, she could see, clear as day, the unnatural redness of the skin that covered the hole.

sábado, 21 de marzo de 2009

Part 1: Noises

In spite of herself, Alice approached her mother's bedside and put a hand on the covers. The strong medicine dripping down from the IV plugged into her arm guaranteed that Marianne wouldn't wake up as Alice uncovered her leg. There, beneath the thick, unshaved hairs and popping varicose veins, hid what seemed to be a hole beneath the skin. Alice passed her finger softly over it, feeling the sinking of the muscle. She remembered the hole being smaller, not larger than a tennis ball. As Alice traced its perimeter, it seemed to her it'd started to venture into softball territory. She pressed the emergency call button.

"Call Dr. Taylor or Dr. Ramirez, whoever's on guard." The nurse stopped with her body halfway through the door she hadn't even quite opened yet and went back outside to fulfill Alice's request. The door quietly slid back into place and the nurse's soft footsteps faded on the carpet outside. Exhausted, Alice dragged the only chair in the room so she could sit while she held her mother's hand.

"Oh, mom..." Encouraged by the fact that Marianne was asleep, Alice lifted her mother's hand up to her lips and kissed it. Marianne's bony hand felt as though it could fall apart any moment, so Alice put it back with care on top of the sheets and leaned back on the chair as she waited. The headlights on the street next to the hospital created ocean-like shadows on the ceiling of the room, aided by the sound of engines rushing by. The night felt still, missing only the comfort of soft sand beneath the feet and the haunting of the stars above to soothe Alice's soul into oblivion.

As she gazed up, a shadow slid through the ceiling on the wrong direction. Alice rushed to the window, expecting some idiot to be driving the wrong way, but for the moment the street lay deserted. Startled, Alice edged back to the chair, and sat down with her eyes locked on the spot where the shadow had merged into the silhouette of her mother's bed. As she watched, something seemed to stir on the corner.

A screech sent her heart beating so fast the surge of blood pushed her body into a standing position. Her breath had turned into short, sharp gasps that did nothing to alleviate the empty lungs. Asliver of light accompannied the horrible sound, which stopped once the door was fully oppened. Doctor Travis entered the room, and the screech filled the air again as the door closed, straining its hinges.

"Miss Hamilton?" The doctor gave Alice a very puzzled look, and relief finally allowed her to breathe. "Did you call me?"

"I'm sorry, doctor, the door startled me. Yes, I called you. The treatment you gave my mother this morning isn't working. The hole is already much larger than it was this morning. Look." The doctor approached Marianne's leg and started pressing with his fingers, his frown growing.

"Well... I didn't expect it to work right away... but the fact that this keeps growing troubles me. Actually, I was just looking at the bacteria cultures we got this morning."


"I did find some unusual bacteria, but not the kind that could be doing this. They seem to be more of a consequence than a cause. Also, there are no signs of infection." Even in darkness, the doctor's eyes shone with frustrations, which caused a thousands screams of helplessness to well up in Alice's chest. The pressure made her whole body shake, and she had her mouth open a whole minute while trying to find her voice. The chords inside her throat tensed with the mere thought of being used for something other than wailing. Her eyes welled up, but a will of iron kept her body's instincts at bay.

"You mean it's... just.... going to keep growing?"

"I don't know, Miss Hamilton."

"Well it better not!" Alice slammed her fist against the wall. "I'm paying you a fucking fortune to just stand there and tell me you don't know why the hell there's a hole in my mother's leg? Can't you see it's growing? What kind of doctor are you?"

"Miss Hamilton, I would appreciate if you lowered your voice. I've already scheduled the operation room for your mother tomorrow morning. We'll open up the leg and assess the damage properly. I assure you we will find out what is happening to your mother."

"You'd better." Alice walked over to the window and pressed her forehead against the glass to cool it off. Tears were already streaming down her cheeks, forcing her to shut up or risk bursting into sobs. The door screeched again, signaling the doctor's exit. The echoes of his footsteps faded away, leaving behind a comforting silence. She was about to let her frustration turn into crying when she heard a soft screech that had nothing to do with the door.