“Ms. Catherine, I understand you may be shocked, but I must insist you try your hardest to remember.”
She looked down at the stark white hospital gown she was wearing, the texture felt rough against the skin that was not wrapped up in gauze or absorbent patches. Even those were not exactly comfortable, and the man sitting beside the bed with the wide plastic smile put every hair of hers on edge. She disliked hospitals, the ward she sat in was almost blindingly white and sterile. The few occupants were her, the interviewer, and four other victims of the attack.
“I said that this guy leapt out from the hedge and tried to bite off my tit,” Catherine repeated, resisting the temptation to rub her wounded chest and arms. Even thinking about it made it hurt. “I heard something break a bit earlier, but I just thought someone had knocked over one of those big flower vase things in the park.”
“Did this man look drugged, or ill?” The interviewer leaned in, still smiling. “Or did he seem perfectly normal besides the aggression? Did you say anything that would have offended someone?”
Catherine moved further over to the side of the bed. “He looked really red and he was sweating. I think he was homeless.” She took a deep breath, trying to remember each detail of the man. “He had a beard and his nails were extremely long.” Her eyes moved over to her arms, all bandaged up from where the man had ripped into her. “He also was not wearing any shoes.” She nodded, laying back onto the stiff pillow. She wriggled slightly, trying to remove the pressure on her chest from the bandages. With most of her chest and waist covered, she really did not want to think about how bad the wounds looked, and was even more thankful she could barely feel them.
“I see,” the interviewer said, the smile never leaving his face, “so perhaps he was just mentally ill-“
“George!” Someone called from across the room. “We need to talk.”
The interviewer got up, nodded in the direction of the person who called for him before looking back at Catherine. “I suggest you rest, Ms. Catherine.”
“Will I get to call my parents soon? They’re probably worried to death that I got run over or something.”
“Tomorrow, Ms. Catherine. Tonight I believe you should rest, we have testing we need to do in the morning,” he said while getting up, then walking away at a brisk pace. Catherine watched as he quickly made his way to the door and disappeared behind it.
“…Creep,” she muttered underneath her breath. She could not deny that he had a point though, she was exhausted and her body hurt. Catherine waited for sleep to come, the sound of a hospital bed being moved the herald of a dreamless slumber.
Catherine woke up in a panic, nearly rolling off the bed. Her chest felt like it was in a tight vise, squeezing out her organs. She twisted and squirmed on the bed in an effort to loosen the hardened bandages, instead there was a cracking noise, and as she rolled over again the cold touch of air ran over her exposed wounds before the itchy hospital gown covered them.
“Oh shit.” She sat up, the pieces of bandaging falling off behind her or into her lap. Catherine reached into her gown to pull out the hardened gauze and looked over them for a moment. They were soaked in reddish brown, with crusted yellow green making faint outlines where she assumed the edges of the bites and scratches to be. She looked up first, at the empty ward, then leaned down to sniff the bandages. They were scentless, not even a slight metallic whiff of blood.
Goosebumps formed over her as the soft hum of air conditioning began, the cold breeze running over her exposed back. “Where’s my shirt?” she wondered out loud. With no doctors around to tell her to stay in bed, she quickly got out of it, hunching over to brace herself for a pain which never came. She stood straight up then, feeling the flesh on her chest stretch as she moved.
Catherine walked down to the end of the ward, where a few desks and lockers stood. Two of the lockers were opened, one with a post-it note attached complaining about someone named ‘Avery’ not cleaning it up properly. It did not seem like her own clothing was around. She turned to look at the desks, wondering if there were any keys in them.
The desks had a few papers on them, computers, pen cups, medical charts, emergency flashlights, manila envelopes. Things one might expect. She found several keys in drawers and one bright red stress ball with a crude face drawn onto it. Squeezing it, she began a slow process of finding which keys opened which locker. After eight lockers had been opened, she finally found one with some clothing in it. A piece of paper taped to the inside of the locker noted that it belonged to a woman named Doctor Elizabeth Schumacher.
“Sorry Elizabeth,” Catherine mumbled as she pulled out the blouse, underwear, and skirt. She was mildly disappointed to not find any shoes. She then looked down at the hospital gown, the cool breeze still hitting her exposed backside. She gripped the flimsy feeling material, wondering how horrible the exposed flesh will look underneath. She could not feel it, perhaps the damage had been less than she thought, but she braced herself for an ugly sight anyway as she pulled off the hospital gown and let it fall to her cold feet.
Underneath were large patches of reddened flesh, cracked dry lines of pus lining some of them. Her left breast was lopsided looking with a chunk of it still missing. Catherine frowned and poked the tender flesh there, and bit her lip in the sudden flare of pain. “That wasn’t the smartest thing to do.” She groaned, cradling it.
Getting over the pain, she quickly pulled on the slightly loose clothing, buttoning up the blouse and zipping up the skirt. She looked over at the heavy double doors, then at the two rows of empty hospital beds. The lack of a window in the white room, the quiet air as the air conditioner turned off.
“This isn’t a hospital,” she realized, looking back to the doors, the revelation taking a few moments to fully dawn on her. If she was not in a hospital, where was she? Where did the other patients go? Why were the grievous injuries healed? Needles felt like they were digging into her heart, a fearful confusion burrowing deep inside. Frowning, she walked over to them and pushed them open quickly, sending a shaft of light into a dark hall. She poked her head out, seeing nothing but dim lighting from a few small bulbs down the corridor. Catherine took a few steps out and suddenly found herself on her back, her head cracking against the tiles as she slipped.
Sitting up, she rubbed her head and looked down at her other hand. It was cold, and as the doors closed a sliver of light crossed over her hand, illuminating the red.