Allusions to manipulation & domestic abuse
NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2022 - Round 1, Challenge 1
“Can you tell me your name?”
Don’t give her anything.
The tiny shake of my head was enough for the cheap, protective bedding to cackle mockingly in my ears.
“All right…” the nurse sighed sharply, annoyed she still couldn’t pry a new answer from me. “Do you remember what happened?”
I reluctantly gave her the same reply. The medicinal cocktail pumping through the needle into my veins wasn’t enough to soothe my growing headache.
My attempt to sit up revealed bindings locking my wrists and ankles to the bed frame.
When did —
“After your episode, we had to sedate you. This is for your own safety. I’m sorry,” the nurse answered my distress with little sympathy.
The monitor drummed in time with my erratic heart. A knock on the doorframe swiveled the nurse’s words from a demand for me to calm down to a curt “Excuse Me” as she left my bedside, her shoes clicking annoyingly. The interrupting coworker wouldn’t look in my direction as they spoke, their hushed tones indicative of change.
The nurse turned to me, her clipboard a useless shield against her chest. “It seems your partner has contacted the hospital. He will be here shortly to retrieve you.”
Her attention abandoned me as she shifted back to her coworker. “Maybe you can get more answers out of her. I’m going on break until this guy shows up.”
“Wait a minute, Sue. She’s your patient,” he groaned.
Sue barked a laugh and shoved the clipboard into his hands. “Not for much longer. Besides, Newbie, it’s time you got some hands-on experience.”
She shoved past her coworker. “You’re welcome, Ken! Have fun!”
Her hair flipped dramatically as she power walked away, leaving behind a stench of sarcasm that could scrunch anyone’s nose. Ken closed the door with a quiet click before the faux annoyance melted off his face.
“Are you all right?” The genuine concern missing from Sue was overwhelmingly present now.
His clipboard fell forgotten to the chair as he raced to me, wrapping my fingers in his warm hands. “Do… Do you remember who I am?”
His wavering voice sliced like a scalpel through my heart — delayed pain but effective.
“Brother…” A tear escaped my eyes alongside my first coherent words since I woke.
“Yes,” he gave a watery-eyed grin and glanced at his watch. “Okay. We don’t have much time. It doesn’t look like your injuries are too bad. Do you think you can walk?”
I tugged on my restraints.
He tenderly pulled the needle from my arm before releasing me. With his guidance, I was able to swing my legs to the floor and stand. His hold never left as I tested my balance.
Satisfied with my progress, he stepped back. “Wait here a second. I’ll get you some better clothes.”
Without hesitation, he disappeared out the door.
No time left.
Everything felt numb. I could barely feel the floor beneath my feet or the bandages plastered on my torso and face. The first step was the worst. I caught myself on the bed before my knees gave out. The second was better, followed by the third. Before I knew it, the door was within reach. It opened silently, in complete contrast with the heated murmur echoing from far down the cavernous corridor.
Pulling the door closed behind me, I padded across the floor away from the noise. The rain I hadn’t been able to hear inside my room was an excellent cover for bare feet on linoleum. Rounding the corner, I noticed a row of reassuring diplomas preceding a sign that indicated the Recovery Ward. Instead, my gut gurgled with dread.
A pair of elevators stood waiting here. That would be the fastest way to the ground floor… And to more people. The neighboring stairwell, while more difficult, would be safer. A distant shout resonated in the wake of an opening door just as I reached the first step.
The railing was my best friend and the only thing keeping me upright as I attempted to skip steps. A little extra bruising was nothing. I was thankful to reach the ground floor with no twisted ankles. Cracking open the door, I saw only a few people at a nurse’s station with their backs facing my direction, making it simple enough to sneak out and hide behind the nearest wall.
Lightning flashed in my peripheral, illuminating a path to freedom. Raindrops plopped against the tiny window embedded in the exit next to me.
Thunder boomed over the slam as the wind wrenched the door from my grasp, and I realized where I had led myself. A garden cloaked in the shadow of concealed starlight surrounded me, encapsulated by the rest of the hospital’s attached buildings.
Find another way.
Stone paths meandered through the foliage, leading to the other wings’ entrances. One of those could work!
“Such a pity,” a voice scoffed.
So close. Run!
Lightning cracked as my foot slipped on the wet rock. The pain that should have accompanied damaged ribs bloomed instantly, stealing my breath. Cold, calloused hands forcefully pulled me into equally chilling arms. The man’s calculating gaze arrested mine, his lips curling into a vicious smirk.
“My poor darling, you’re hurt,” he cooed cruelly. “This is what happens when you steal my car. I can only hope you learned your lesson after all you’ve put me through tonight.”
Squealing tires. Mangled metal. Bloodied glass.
My head was swirling with each mental photograph when he stood, lifting me with him effortlessly. “Come now, let us get out of this dreadful weather and return home.”
Home — A mansion where walls were lined with diplomas stating he knew better, where barred windows were installed for protection, where half of each meal was complacency laden capsules, where my personal warden inarguably reigned supreme.
A glorified prison.