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Excerpt from Hermes' Viper:

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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 for her.

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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