A cold wind swooped down from the grey sky, rolling across a hitherto still field of fading grass, individual blades stale in the overcast sky. The wind rushed through the field and on to an overgrown forest, unusually vast in this rust belt county.
A kinetic energy seemed to spring the trees to life, but once the gust passed through, the forest was still once more and the wind, with as much velocity as when it started, approached like a race horse galloping across an open field and then a parking lot, a chain link fence, and a three story brick building: County Health and Rehabilitation Services. The wind slammed into the brick wall and rattled the windows.
Inside, a comatose old man lay in a white robe under a thin white blanket, in a room with white cinder block and beige linoleum tile. The wind thudded against the wall. The smallest hint of a breeze squeezed itself through a crack in the sill, drifted over to the old man, and died in a whisper in his ear.
His eyes, closed for years, opened with a start. He was overcome by the brightness of the room. A throb pulsed through his head. Dull aches shot through his body from every joint. He tried to move his hand, but he felt as stiff as dry concrete.
He didn’t recognize this place. An unfamiliar odor rose off the chemically cleaned sheets. Wires ran from his wrinkled arms and chest to a heart monitor machine that stood by the headrest. “What is this? Where am I?” he thought.
He looked down, every movement reverberating with dull pain in his neck. He was wearing a wrinkled gown, open on his chest. His skin was pale, flabby, and covered in dry patches.
His mind reached out to the moment before he was here in this room. Wait, he thought. What? He couldn’t come up with a memory—with any memory. He started to see in his mind’s eye a puff of cloud, a bright sun in a blue sky, but he kept losing it. He couldn’t see any details and the more he tried to think about what had happened, the more slippery the memories became. He couldn’t focus on any particular thought for more than a few seconds. He’d start thinking about one thing, then his mind would shift to another, but in the middle of a thought, he’d wonder what he was just thinking about and he couldn’t remember. Frustrated, he tore the electrodes out and sat up, the pain be damned. The heart monitor flat-lined.
The door opened within the minute, and three burly men stepped into the room, barely fitting shoulder-to-shoulder. They wore white uniforms, which complimented their faces, which seemed flattened by years of violence. Each held a black baton in his hand, each looked detached and unkind.
“Sir,” said the man in the center, a blonde with a crew cut and bulging blue eyes. “Sir, you need to stay in your bed.” He walked over and closed the window.