Excerpt from Hermes' Viper:
continued from page
Carrying her basket of test tubes and syringes, Lily the little
lab tech moved quietly in the hallway shadows to survey the Special
Care Unit, the SCU, and gazed over its ranks of desperate patients
still clinging to life, mostly survivors of the intensive care units.
She studied the activities of the charge nurse, midway down the
ward poring over a stack of papers in a tiny pool of light behind
a glass partition. An aide dozed in a far corner of the same cubicle.
Ah, yes, perfect, everything subdued, all activities shut down to
a minimum for the hours from midnight to dawn.
Lily edged behind drapes along the wall and approached the cubicle
of Bruce Jackson. Poor thing! He had been confined to bed for four
miserable weeks, and only heavy sedation dulled the stark reality
of his unending regret. But when despair overcame the drugs, he
awoke in a state of anguish. She felt so sorry for him, his injury
so terrible. He could move nothing but head and neck, and could
feel nothing below his shoulders. Yet if anything disturbed the
quiet of night, he became fully alert as though over-sensitive to
sound. Whenever she moved to his side, the soft and secretive swish
of her skirt barely whispered, but each time she found him staring
wide-eyed in startled expectant silence as though he had been waiting
Trapped in his paralysis, Bruce had reached out to her with words,
expressing his agony, and she always stopped to let him tell it
again. He couldn't believe the damage he had done to himself, just
within a matter of seconds. No way could he have been so stupid
and careless. While fooling around at the lakeside dock on a sunny
Indian Summer day, showing off his strength, his command of his
own body, he had dived into unfamiliar water. Four weeks later and
forever immobile, his real life over at the age of eighteen, he
still relived and retold for every listener the terrible scene.
His running start and a frolicking leap thrust him into the air
above the water. Blue sky and coloring leaves rose and turned as
he spun in a somersault, the world soaring for one exhilarating
moment, until he plunged headfirst into cold autumnal water, his
last happy moment of a lifetime, this final tearing second indelible
in memory before he crashed head-on against slimy earth. The surprising
jolt stopped his dive, searing pain flashed through his neck, the
loud crack of snapped bone filled his head, an electric flash shocked
through his arms and body, and he crumpled in mud, gasping like
a landed fish, sucking down water, strangling before he lost consciousness.
He awoke in the emergency room beneath the glare of fluorescent
lights, never to move an arm or leg again, never to control his
bowels or bladder, never to walk or dance, never to make love. His
careless impulses had condemned him to a life of helplessness and
total dependence. He could never to be a man again.
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