Sorry for the delay in getting this posted folks, I completely got caught up in the haze of Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing and accompanying naps and all together laziness. Moving forward, I’m going to work to stick to my schedule of posting about twice a week until we work through this thing. Thanks for hanging in there with me!
I thought in the dark and silence I would think – think about what else needed to happen, about the pain that was coming, about if I was crazy to even be trying to do what I was trying to do. Think about Josh and wonder if he thought about me. Think about Sara and if she was still looking for me, if I would wake up in the morning and she would be here trying to take me back. Instead I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, feeling surprisingly safe in the strangers house.
Bribed by the smell of strong coffee I peeled one eye open, then the other. A steaming purple mug rested on the nightstand. The room was new-light bright, sunlight refracting off every surface throwing prisms against the smooth walls. I sat up in bed sipping the coffee and nibbling on the buttered toast resting on a saucer beside it. Rubbing crumbs from my hands I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and taking another sip from the mug peaked out the bedroom door. The hallway was empty. I stood still, uncertain like a child just freed from punishment. Doc’s voice resonated down the hall. “How’s the coffee?”
I smiled taking the short hallway easily with my long strides. Turning the corner I found him standing at the stove, eggs fragrantly scrambling, a slice of bacon dangling from his mouth. He nodded towards the cup in my hand. I took a sip then raised it in salute. “Delicious.”
He grinned coaxing the remaining piece of bacon into his mouth. “Come have breakfast. It’s almost ready then we’ll get started. The longer we put it off the worse it will be.”
“Right. Shouldn’t put it off.” I took another sip of coffee, fighting the urge to drop the mug on the floor and run out the door, but running wasn’t going to get me anywhere. A little procrastination might. “I think I’ll start my day with a shower if that’s okay.” I said.
“Sure, sure,” he grabbed another piece of bacon from a tissue lined plate chewing between words, “I’ll be ready when you are.”
I turned padding softly back down the hallway. Finishing the last of the coffee I opened another brick red door hiding the bathroom. I’d never truly considered silver a color until stepping into the shining room. Silver was everywhere. The fixtures brushed and matte, the porcelain tiles in the shower, lining the walls and floor were polished, reflective and bright. The sinks were impeccably smooth stainless, the mirrors ornate in antiqued silver leaf. The shades covering the light fixtures, the towel hanging from the wall, even the soap resting in the tray – a decadently beautiful silver. The water from the oversized shower managed to soak in the light from the metallic walls transforming into liquid metal as it fell snaking down the perforated drain.
Stepping under the shower head I smiled imagining the color of Doc’s eyes in this room. I stretched my neck letting the hot water pound on my shoulders, along the small of my back, closed my eyes letting it rain over my face. My mind kept trying to walk its way around what was about to happen but I refused, instead held it captive in silver coated strings of water willing myself not to think at all.
Back in the white room I threw on some lotion before pulling on the jeans and one of the white tanks hanging in the closet. Barefoot I stepped back out to the kitchen. Doc sat at the black lacquered table, eggs, bacon and hash browns piled high on green serving plates. He spoke without turning around. “You need to eat, sit down. I’m good at breakfast, you’ll enjoy it.”
Sitting beside him I filled my empty plate with fluffy yellow eggs, potato and crisp strips of bacon. I took my first bite watching him pour orange juice from the container into a powder blue glass. We ate making the most minimal small talk – how lovely the morning was, how well we’d both slept, how nice the weather had been lately, how tasty the eggs were. We ran out of polite things to say at the same time. Catching each other’s glance, our nervous smiles morphed into crazy giggles.
His kaleidoscope eyes were wide and moist. I stood with my empty plate in hand and was halfway to the dishwasher before he spoke again. “I’ve never done this before. Wiped a Taram and of course never a Kachina. Bravado from yesterday aside I might be a little nervous.”
Walking back to the table I stopped to stoop in front of him. “You’re nervous?” I met his eyes with a half smile. “Come on. The longer we put it off the worse it will be.”
In the midst of clearing plates and washing dishes he explained what he thought would happen, how he thought things would go. I listened with one ear, enough to know what I was getting into, not enough to scare me away. Dishes clean and distractions shelved I followed as he walked to the other side of the house, past two closed doors entering through the third.
Stepping through this new threshold was unsettling. The room was sterile. Stale. In such sharp contrast to the rest of the house it was as if we’d leapt through a wormhole to another dimension. Paste grey walls, poured concrete floor, dull white cabinetry plain and unadorned, no handles, no panels just smooth lonely board. No windows, or rather windows covered with single pane shutters so seamless with the walls they read as one piece. In the center of the room like a forgotten shoe was a worn grey dentist chair sagging with the weight of tarnished stainless accents. Utilitarian and alien the chair loomed large and intimidating in the empty space.
Doc stood behind me. I heard the soft click of the door and then his finger was protruding past my shoulder pointing at the chair, his voice soft but stern against the back of my neck.
I walked to the chair, pulled myself up and swung my legs around to recline fully. Laying in the chair I heard Doc before I saw him. The muffled slap-slap of his flip flops against the hard floor followed by his hands at my wrist securing them in restraints fastened to the sides of the chair. He was all business. The hint of smile I’d grown used to seeing completely gone. His colorful eyes were hidden as he looked down. His brow was creased but his hands stayed focused and steady.
Securing the last restraint he walked behind me, flicked a switch and the oval swivel light above my head was awake and full. My heart knocked softly against my chest. Under my breath I hummed one of my mom’s old lullaby’s attempting to will myself calm. He spoke before I could admit it wasn’t working.
“This will hurt, especially in the beginning.”
It was impossible to see his face through the perfect brightness of the light surrounding him. I stared instead at the outline of his silhouette, tracing the slope of his shoulders, curve of his neck over and over again.
“You said that before, do you really have to keep saying it?” I unconsciously flexed and released my hands against the wrist restraints, breathed in deeply shifting side to side squeaking against the vinyl of the worn chair. He pushed the lamp to the left making half his face visible the other half stayed mute in shadow.
“We’ll go over this one more time so you’re clear on what’s happening. Once I start you won’t really be able to process anything until we’re through.”
“Your bedside manner is great Doc.”
He forced a smile. “Just want to make sure you know what you’re about to get into.”
“Um hum.” I said suddenly and desperately wanting to be anyplace but here.
He cleared his throat. “Okay, your ability to be recognized and called is a soul connection, established simultaneously with your marking. Because it is so intrinsically attached it is impossible to remove but I can reorient it. I can’t promise it will make you 100% clean, not for you. Your frequency,” he raised his hand in front of my face moving it rapidly back and forth, “does this” he stopped, moving his hand slowly straight up and down, “instead of this. The best I can do is promise to make it much more difficult for your signal to be noticed. Your desire to not be detected should also help. Clear?”
“Keep talking Doc so we can get this thing over with.”
“Right,” he continued, “Like I said, your signal’s connected to your soul. To re-direct it I’ll have to expose it, then I’ll basically be squeezing the signal into a different vibration. I’ll have to hold it there long enough for it to take. Then we’ll be done.”
“Great. Then we’ll be done.”
“Exposing your soul will be the worst,” he swallowed, “kind of like being skinned alive.”
I concentrated on my breathing still my exhale caught in my throat. He leaned closer. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Is it this bad for everyone? The folks choosing to be cleansed make it through this?” My head shook against the cracked padded headrest. “I knew some of them. I don’t see how they could make it through this. They couldn’t make it past the first quarantine!”
“It’s not this bad for them. They are so new, their signal so faint it’s over and done in seconds. You are not them.”
I sighed trying to relax into the chair. “No. I guess I’m not, and I don’t have a choice so if we could be done with the talking…”
He nodded and moved the light back to the side. I braced against his silhouette, my hands clutching the seat. He stood behind me and placed a hand over each of my wrists. I felt his breath on my forehead when he spoke. “Don’t speak. Try not to move.”
I expected there to be a build-up. Something to get used to. There was none. The pain was immediate and intense slithering itself around me overtaking every other sense. I saw nothing, lost feel of the chair beneath me, found even my screams locked shocked and stranded in my throat. I felt myself rip open piece by piece, fragments giving way to a gaping hole of a space. I was hot and cold. He was wrong. It was nothing like being skinned alive, it was like being ripped apart into tiny pieces, it was being set on fire, it was ingesting every bad thing only to have it claw out of you again. I waited for it to ebb, for the ‘worse at the beginning’ to give into the ‘not so bad middle’ but it remained constant and pure. I was aware of my crying only by the puddles forming over the tops of my clenched fists. I was aware of the totality of pain and then I was aware of nothing at all.
When I came to I was still strapped down. My clothes soaked through. Doc’s form was slumped over me in the chair with his cheek supported by my shoulder. I searched for my voice, took silent account of my body flexing and stretching each muscle grateful for the sluggish response. Turning my head I rested my cheek against his trying twice before words actually fought their way past my lips.
“Doc – Doc get up, wake up.” No response. His weight was heavy, unanimated.
Panic rose inside me like a moon-pulled tide. I spoke again louder, school teacher assertive. “Get up! Wake up! Come on Doc I can’t have this on my conscious. You have to wake up!”
Still nothing. He was resolutely motionless.
I looked around the empty room in vain, tested my wrist restraints cursing under my breath when they held fast. Moaning I searched for reserves of strength within my exhausted body before beginning to rhythmically slap his cheek with my own turning my head left and right, left and right.
“Wake up! Wake up!” I kept time with the sound of each slap, the satisfying contact of my sweat drenched cheek against his own, wake-up wake-up the metronome ticking me back and forth. And he did. Right when my neck was screaming to stop and my voice had dried to a throaty whisper he shifted beneath me, placing a wobbly hand between my face and his mid-swing before pulling himself upright and walking unsteadily to the side of the chair.
The color was drained from his face. His lips dry. His smile cracked. He rubbed his cheek against the bright ruby spot growing in response to my slaps. Moving as if through molasses his hands began working at the wrist restraints, his voice as rough and unsure as my own. “Was it good for you?”
I laughed tension in my body letting loose in one massive flood. He laughed too, softly at first, then loud enough so it mingled with mine filling the room. My wrists freed he helped ease me from the table. Standing, laughing, relieved we took stock of one another.
“Please tell me that worked Doc.”
He walked around to a mini cooler hidden behind the base of the dentist chair tossing a can of beer when I nodded. I sipped the cold liquid watching as he opened a can of his own. The room felt clear and quiet. He threw his empty can into the trash reaching for another before testing his voice. “I’m having a difficult time pinning down your signal with you three feet away. It worked. If I can’t pinpoint you it will be pretty much impossible for anybody else to.”
I dropped my empty can on the floor bringing my hands up in time to catch the second one he threw my way. “How much trouble will you get in for this? I held the unopened can between my hands turning it slowly. “I know it’s a little late to say but it seems unfair to have asked you to do this, knowing there are risks involved, consequences, I’m…” I looked at his collar bone, the top button of his unbuttoned shirt unable to meet his eyes, “I’m sorry to have put you in this position, sorry for what ever comes because of it…”
He sat on the dentist chair rubbing his cheek. “Every turn in life brings trouble or peace. It’s all part of the balance. I weighed the costs to help you. Whatever comes will be my own to manage,” he paused, “besides I promised Sara I would do what I could.”
I sat on the floor my back pressed against the cool wall, my shirt clammy from sweat, goose bumps traveling down my arms. I barely had the energy to register shock. “Sara said to help me? Sara did?”
He chuckled shaking his head against a memory he didn’t share. “She does that. Makes plans for you before you even know you need plans made. She believes in the end no matter how much running you do you end up right where you need to be. Let her run, she’d said. So I’d promised I would.”
I smiled, Sara’s calm face solid in my memory. “And so here we are?”
“No friend.” He said. “So here you are.”