And then everything happened at once. The curtain was shoved aside and a young woman was unstrapping her. As soon as she had a hand free, Karen was scrabbling to free her other hand. She sat up and looked around now that she could see as she rifled through her mind.
"I... I know CPR, but that's not going to help with a seizure!" Her eyes fell to the file folder at her feet. "Did he have a file? Does it say anything about him having seizures and what to do about them?" She didn't even know what was in her file, but she'd worry about that when someone wasn't having a medical emergency in a hospital that was apparently run by a crazy person.
"What's going on? What's that sound?"
She couldn't see what was going on, surrounded by the blue curtains as she was. She couldn't get up or really even move all that much. She was feeling very vulnerable and helpless and confused. What do I tell my clients when they feel like this?
Well... what she usually told her clients was, "Don't worry, I'm here to help." And... that wasn't all that helpful right now.
"I'm not married!" she retorted. "And if I were, I wouldn't marry Jeremy. He's my client and he's just not my type anyway."
Because she could focus on what the disembodied voice had said or she could respond to the things that at least made some sort of sense and didn't send unnerving chills down her spine.
"I'm Karen Newcomb," she said to all the voices. "I'm a very successful lifestyle coach." Well, that was probably stretching things a little. A lot. But it was important to project success at all times. And much better to project success than think about what the voice had said.
What did they do to me - to all of us - while I was unconscious? Oh god, oh god, what sort of side effects? What if it's like that study I read about where some of the people went blind? I don't want to be blind!
Karen squeaked in shock at the sudden feedback screech and looked to the ceiling. "Where are we? What's going on?!" she yelled.
Karen continued to yell variations on "HELLO!", "WE'RE IN HERE!", and "HELP!" until she realized that wasn't getting a response. She stopped and caught her breath and tried to focus, but her brain was a jumble of places and people and how badly she just Didn't Want To Be Here. And then something occurred to her.
"Jeremy! Jeremy will call the police." Her current client was anxious and high-strung. It wasn't outside the realm of possibility. "...unless he thinks I abandoned him the way everyone else in his life does." She groaned in annoyance. She was mostly talking to herself (though in a perfectly-audible volume). "Okay, so maybe Jeremy won't call the police, but... someone will. Right? Someone had to have seen something or... or..."
It was starting to dawn on Karen just how alone she was in her life. Who was there who would miss her? She only talked to her parents when it was the holidays or someone's birthday. "Does anyone know what day it is?" she asked weakly.
Karen, in fact, did not notice the man's comment. She'd heard something else: the click of heels in the hallway outside. "Wait... Wait, do you hear that?"
It never occurred to her that this might not be a good idea. She wanted OUT, she wanted AWAY. She made sure her voice was nice and loud, to be heard over whatever it was that other person was doing that was causing such a ruckus.
"HEY, HELLO! CAN YOU HELP US?! WE NEED HELP IN HERE, PLEASE!!!!" Her normally-pleasant voice (she'd been in choir in church in her youth, she could carry a tune quite nicely, thank you) broke with her desperation as she yelled that last word.
"I mean, how long have we been here and there's no nurse, no doctor, no nothing? And what's with the straps? I mean that's just rude!"
There was a small part of Karen that was terrified. She had no idea what was going on or where she was or who she was with or who had decided to strap her down or how they'd even gotten her here in the first place and the ideas her brain could conjure if she let it were too horrible to think about. So she didn't think.
"I don't think there even is a call button, and there's a file folder here just left on the foot of the bed and that's just unprofessional, like, what am I? A table? I don't think so! I am a human being and I deserve some common decency and I'M SORRY BUT YOU COULD STOP WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOU'RE DOING THAT'S MAKING THAT NOISE?!"
((directed @kit and the rocking))
"You have a hand free?" Karen asked excitedly. "It's more than I've got!" She struggled against the straps a little. "Can you call a nurse or something? Ask to speak to a doctor?"
Something occurred to her in horror. "Ohhhh, Jeremy's got to be beside himself with worry. I need my cellphone... and at least one hand to be able to use it. Does anyone know where we are? The service here's terrible."
Karen blinked her eyes open and groaned at the blinding light. She hesitated to open her eyes again, knowing that it was so bright. She tried to stretch out the sleep from her muscles and found herself unable to. Huh? That was encouragement to open her eyes again. She winced but, as her eyes cleared, she blinked again, in confusion this time. Unfamiliar ceiling. She tried to raise her head, but her head felt... swimmy. Ohh, that's not good. She made herself go through with the motion and things got steadier.
Her arms and legs were strapped down to a hospital bed. It looked like she was in a hospital. Did the Uber have an accident or something? Wait, no, she'd still been at the mixer, hadn't she? She'd been mingling with the guests but keeping herself nearby in case her socially-anxious client needed encouragement, advice, or just a steadying smile (Karen counted herself good at all three). How'd I get here? Where even is here? Is this Mercy General? St. Francis? Methodist? ...are all the hospitals named after religious things? Worry about that later.
She couldn't see anything except the light blue curtain around her bed, and a file at the foot of it. Just leaving a file there? That's unprofessional. What am I, a piece of furniture? Well, when I find out the name of this hospital, I'll make sure never to come here again. She cast about for a nurse call button within easy reach. But then she heard an unfamiliar voice ask if anyone was here.
Someone else replied with a question about where they were. Huh.
She cleared her throat. "Anyone know what hospital this is?" she asked politely. "How many people were hurt in the accident? Does anyone know how to get a nurse? Or where the TV is?"
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