Richard’s next waking experience was less dramatic… he simply became aware. He heard a muted ticking noise coming from a machine somewhere past the head of the bed. The brightness kept him from opening his eyes, and he attempted to move his hand to shield the light, but he met the resistance of straps which kept his hands at his sides. His wrists felt bruised but it was muted next to the pain in his shoulder and head.
He slowly blinked his eyes awake and tried to squint enough to see where he was. It was tough to clear them without being able to rub the sleep out of them, but after a few minutes he could see that he was in a little room alone with no adornments aside from the machines at the head of the bed and the bed itself. There was a door with a little window and he noted that the door had no latch. The walls were a stark white along with the tiles underfoot. All in all it looked to Richard like a room designed to drive someone mad.
He leaned back his head with a thump on the inadequate pillow. He looked up and saw that the ceiling was spinning a bit so he closed his eyes again, suddenly feeling sick. He couldn’t remember why he was here or where “here” was. When he tried to concentrate, the aching in his head turned into a matching set of spikes drilling deep into his temples… driving away all thought in their wake. He felt tears run out of the corners of his eyes with the effort. He couldn’t’ remember anything.
He heard the latch click and was offered a diversion from his head as the door opened and two men came into the room. Both were wearing white lab coats right out of some cheap movie. The one who entered first was an older man. He was clean shaven with thinning hair unfashionably combed straight back, which lent his face a severe aspect. His flat grey eyes were on Richard as soon as he walked into the room, though he held the door open for the second man, who was pushing in a little cart that held a tray with a pitcher and a cup and a little bowl.
The second man had an unruly shock of light brown curls atop his head and dark glasses on an overlarge nose. Freckles gave the impression of youth, but as he approached, Richard could see some lines around his eyes and mouth that told of more age than seemed apparent. He was much taller and thick of chest than the grey haired man that preceded him.
The grey haired one walked to the edge of his bed and inspected him with his eyes. “Awake I see. Things might seem a little distressing for you right now.” The older doctor’s grey eyes flicked to follow the glistening trails the tears had left on Richard’s cheeks. Richard felt embarrassed suddenly by his tears, then angry at his embarrassment.
“…my head hurts.” His voice sounded like a heavy gate being dragged over grass. It was almost inaudible. His tongue was so dry he almost choked upon it.
The old face quirked into a little smile at that “try not to think too hard and it should dissipate in time, it’s perfectly normal for a man in your state to feel discomfort. I am Dr. Kane. This is Dr. Delhey, who has brought you some water to sooth your mouth and throat.” He gestured toward his disheveled looking associate, who was pouring the sterile looking water into the white plastic cup. “You have been fed intravenously since you arrived so it is understandable that your throat may be a little raw.”
“I don’t think you will require these any more.” He started undoing the restraining straps as he spoke. “At times you were in danger of harming yourself so we had to restrain you”. He worked the straps free on his feet first and then got to the wrists. His movements were unhurried and methodical as the younger doctor stood there holding the glass of water… looking strangely at him.
As soon as the straps were free Richard worked to bring himself upright, and struggled to near exhaustion as he drew his legs over the edge of the bed and sat up in a sitting position on the edge of it. He accepted the water and felt vaguely absurd as he drank with these two standing there watching him. He worked through it nonetheless… slowly sipping as he relished the shock of the cool liquid in his mouth and sliding down his throat. It wasn’t long before he was handing the glass back to the young Dr. Delhey, who set it back on the tray without refilling it.
He could tell his head was bandaged as was the back of his neck and shoulders. Every movement of his head or arms was painful and stiff. “What happened to me?” he asked of the doctors. “I… I can’t remember.” Again a flash of pain disrupted his thoughts, and he groaned aloud and put his hands to his temples.
Dr. Kane nodded slightly before answering. “To put it simply, you died. Your life before now was a painful experience, and it is over now. When you chose to join us here you chose to leave your painful memories behind, and we have wiped them from your mind. That is why you feel pain when you try to remember. The man you were is dead.”
There was a bloated silence while Richard accepted this. It was hard to contain the natural curiosity that he felt about his previous life. What could have been so bad that he would choose this? “What do I have to do now?”
Dr. Kane allowed a tight little smile that didn’t reach his grey eyes. “For now, you have to rest. There is much that will employ you once you are healed, but you have a lot of healing still to do.”
Richard looked at both of them and suddenly did not care to know anymore. He just wanted to sleep. He put himself back into a prone position and felt sleep taking him again. He didn't hear the two doctors leave.