Control Freak

[ The NPR contest asked for a story with fewer than 600 words that began with this sentence: ] 

The nurse left work at 5 o’clock.  “Are you going to wake this one up?” he had asked. “Don’t know,” responded a woman’s voice. “We haven’t gotten the test results back.  You can shut off 3, 8, and 12.”  Didn’t they know I could hear them? 

“Too bad, I liked 12,” the nurse said.  “She’s cute.” 

“Cute’s not important, Watson.  We need people who can entertain.”

My brain turned in its skull.  I wanted another chance.  Three switches snapped off and three hums died away, once to my left and twice somewhere over my head.  Like weeds in a garden, they were gone.  The nurse’s shoes squealed.

I focused everything on my right hand. I felt its full leaden mass, and I willed it to rise like a ghost over my body, the index finger twirling in preparation for an accusatory point.  This will freak them out, I thought.  But nothing.  The hand was fixed beside me.

My spirit flowed away.  I drained off the table and across the floor.  I was flat and wide, and percolating up through the other gurneys.  By God, if I could not control my own body, I would make these others do my bidding. 

“Number nine,” they murmured. “Number nine!”

“What did you say?” asked the doctor.

“Number nine…” I searched for words, “… is fine,” I made them say, and, to keep it going, “…all the time.”

“Number nine is fine all the time?” she repeated incredulously.  I felt her close stare and her breath on my face.

“Number nine is fine all the time. …  He’s sublime!”  I made the others sit straight up, push to the ends of their gurneys and chant, “He’s sublime, he’s sublime.  Number nine is sublime all the time.”

“But he’s not,” she said, “He’s on his cot!”  She had become part of my routine.

My comatose chorus chanted back, “He’s sublime!  Sublime!” as they hoisted me up and laid me across their shoulders.  I had once seen a dance on the 3D Channel who’s every movement I could now transmit to my dancing zombies.  Six of them marched me back and forth while numbers 5, 7 and 11 cart-wheeled and flipped.  Backup singers cooed, “Bring him back, number nine, bring him back.”  We finished in a staggered line that nailed my board-like body into a standing position before the doctor.  I was drooling with my eyes wide open, though I could see nothing.

Then I heard the doctor press a button.  This is it.  She knows it’s me.  That breath, I want to feel it again.  Thank you, doctor!

The intercom buzzed.  “Nurse Watson.  Come here, I need you.  You can wake them up now.  We’ve found our entertainer – he’s a director.  Make sure you keep Number Nine sedated.”

Published in: on September 19, 2009 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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