Chapter the sixth: Grasping Frantically at Normality
Jared and Marcus wore looks of dumb shock. Jared’s cards fluttered out of his now limp grip. Absentmindedly and almost conversationally, Marcus looked over and muttered, “Trent’s back. Oh, wow, you had a full house?”
Jared jumped up. “What are you doing here? You shouldn‘t be here.”
“I… don’t know what’s going on,” said Trent quietly. He looked about the apartment that he and the other two boys shared due to its relative cheapness and closeness to campus. All the usual accoutrements were there, computers, futons, the bunk that Jared and Marcus shared, the bookracks filled with various tomes that reflected the residents’ interests--Asimov, Plato, Gaiman, Keating, and others shared space-- and posters that did the same. Tori Amos, Seal, VNV nation represented some of their musical interests, and Evil Dead, The City of Lost Children, and Ghost in the Shell made appearances for their cinematic inclinations; various pieces of art made by them all also occupied the wall. Trent took it all in, breathed the familiar smell of Marcus’s candles and incense, and noted Jared’s eclectic sense of music currently manifested from a computer via “Moon Dance” by Van Morrison. This was no illusion. He was home in every sense of the word.
Maybe it was all a bad dream. But wait, hadn’t that strange young man at the pub mentioned the shooting? “Jared, was I shot?!”
Jared looked at Marcus briefly, concerned, and then turned back to Trent. “Of course. You were shot when we went clubbin’ at the masquerade last Saturday.” He paused, then said, “You do remember, don’t you?”
Trent pulled out one of the chairs from the small table the others had been playing poker on. He sat down with the abruptness of one who is exhausted. “Yes. I remember but… I’m not hurt anymore…”
“Maybe you’re not well.” Marcus said softly.
Jared took him by the shoulders. “Trent. What are you doing here?”
Trent looked up, a bloodless pallor on his face and tears dancing in his eyes. “I don’t know. That’s the thing. I woke up and…I--this.” He pulled up his shirt to show the lack of a wound.
Marcus got up and came to examine the spot. “That’s not right. I found you; I saw the blood coming out and I held the wound while Jared called the police…” He lifted the other side of Trent’s shirt, as if he expected the wound had migrated somehow. Convinced that somehow the wound had disappeared, Marcus wandered over to the TV and switched on the evening news. “That’s not right,” he said again to himself.
Jared sat on the floor at Trent’s feet. Thoroughly dumbfounded, he finally said after a great pause, “Is this some kind of miracle?”
“I… don’t know. It doesn’t feel like that to me. It feels… really scary, yet empowering. I mean, if I came back from this.”
Jared noted that Trent was breathing deeply. “Are you okay? Do you need some water? You look like you’re having a panic attack.”
Trent smiled briefly, Jared of all people, was someone in a position to recognize panic attacks, being a very high-strung person. “No, it’s not like that… I just keep getting this fear that if I forget to stop breathing, I won’t. It’s silly, but someone pointed out earlier that I wasn’t--”
“Look at this!” Marcus shouted without warning, making them both jump. Marc was pointing at the screen.
Trent and Jared jumped up to see what was meriting such a reaction at a time like this. “What is that?” asked Trent.
Jared replied with surprise, “Don’t you know? That’s the hospital you were at. That’s Grady hospital.”
Trent didn’t recognize the place very well, having never noticed it from the outside. In a female voice, he caught the following, “Police are concerned this evening after a man was attacked in his sleep by an unknown assailant that was using some kind of sharp instrument, rumored to be a scalpel, thought the hospital is saying the possibility of such a thing coming into the attacker’s possession are slim.
“Also, we have some eye witness-reports of an attacker that moved too fast to identify. Moreover, our most recent information tells us that one of the patients has gone inexplicably missing. One Trent Philip, who was in the news eerily--uh earlier, rather-- this week for being the victim of a shooting. He is reportedly in intensive condition and in need of serious medical treatment. Anyone with information…”
“What’s going on?” asked Trent to no one in particular. “Everything is crazy.”
The broadcaster continued. We are now going to go live to “Trishia Yamashita at the hospital. Trisha, what’s it like down there?”
The camera panned back a bit to show a young woman in a business suit. “Thanks, Diane. Residents are almost inexplicably frenzied following tonight’s events, though few could see what happened, everyone is in a panic. The agitation is palpable. I’ve never seen people like this during three years of reporting in the field.” The camera moved over to show a bewildered looking man in hospital pajamas.
“With me now is a witness of the events. Sir, you saw the attack first hand?”
“Yes, we all felt it coming.”
“We knew something was going to happen. It was like hearing thunder far off and getting all the hairs on your neck standing up cause you’re creeped out.”
Trisha showed confusion at this strange description. “Sir, can you tell us what it looked like?”
“I saw a guy I think. He moved so fast. He was huge, I think. It was hard to tell; the lights started going crazy, and this baby was screaming. And it howled! I swear it did, but it was like more than one voice; a cacophony of howls. The thing… the guy was hunched over the doctor, had him in a fierce grip.”
“And I swear, when I looked up, it had this feral look like… you don’t want to mess with me. I fell down. Then it moved real fast again. He was gone. He moved so fast, and the whole time the lights were flickering and paper was blowing everywhere.”
“A harrowing tale,” said Trisha patronizingly. “Did you see a weapon? Did you see any scalpels or other tools the assailant could have grabbed?”
“That thing didn’t need a weapon.”
At that point, Trent practically leapt to the TV, hitting it and turning it off. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t watch any more… this is all too… too much. I can’t handle any more tonight.
Marcus bent down and placed a friendly hand on Trent’s arm. It’s okay. We don’t know what’s going on… but…”
“Maybe we need some sleep before our heads pop from collective aneurisms,” Said Jared. “Times like these I wish I drank.”
Marcus got up. “Luckily, I have no such problems. You want some Irish Cream, Trent?”
“No,” said Trent as he walked over to the futon and plopped down. “I’m not thirsty.”
It was the first of many long nights for Trent.