I awoke in a strange bed.
Aha, you say, how interesting!
Hold on, I say, because it was a hospital bed in a hospital room that I awoke in.
I think. I wasn’t sure.
The room smelled faintly like a zoo or stables, which contrasted oddly with its exceptionally clean appearance. I had a headache and my mouth was dry, but otherwise I felt okay. Maybe a little weak. No need to be in hospital, surely.
I looked around me. It was a hospital room, of that I was certain, but there was no medical equipment of any kind to be seen. There was only the hospital bed I was in, inclined slightly to let me sit up a little, a small bedside table with cheap reading lamp, and a simple, hard-backed chair for visitors. There were no windows in the room.
On the bedside table was a half-eaten box of inexpensive chocolates, a lipstick-smudged glass of flat Coca-Cola and a pack of cigarettes.
Not my brand, lipstick or smokes.
How long had I been unconscious, I wondered?
I didn’t know and couldn’t remember.
I reached up to scratch an itchy spot at the back of my head. What the? Upon touching it I instantly withdrew my hand! What I felt back there was not my usual head, with its lustrous, flowing locks and solid, skin-covered cranium. No. What I felt back there was a swollen, shaved, stitched-up mess at the base of my skull!
I reached up and carefully touched it again. There was stubble growing where the space had been shaved and it was tender to the touch. Beneath the stubble it was soft and kind of gooey, like I was pressing my fingers into an overripe peach. I thought I heard it squish and it hurt when I timidly pushed against it.
“Ouch,” I said to myself.
Myself, I suddenly wondered? Who’s that? I had no memory of who I was or how I got there.
Before I had time to panic, however, a doctor entered with a clipboard under his arm. I assumed he was a doctor, dressed as he was in a white lab-coat with stethoscope dangling round his neck. He had come through a door that I hadn’t noticed before, after first unlocking it.
I heard it distinctly when he unlocked it.
So, I had been locked in. Why?
The doctor was a very small man, perhaps not even four-and-a-half feet tall, but with large hands and feet for his size. His dark hair was slicked back and he sported, beneath his flat little nose, an old-fashioned pencil mustache. There was a great deal of rough, dark hair on the back of his hands and sprouting from his shirt collar at the neck.
Coming up to the bed, without introduction he took me by the wrist and studied his watch as he began to speak. “Ah, Mister Pliers!” said he with a big smile. “I see you’re awake. Wonderful! How do you feel?”
He had a high pitched voice to match his diminutive size and he spoke with a slight English accent.
“Yes,” he continued, “you look fine today! Just fine! How’s the head? Any more headaches?”
“How long have I been here, Doc,” said I, “and who the heck am I? I can’t remember. Who brought me here? Why was I locked in?”
“There’ll be plenty of time for all that later,” he smoothly assured me while he continued to take my pulse. “No need to worry.”
I lay back, feeling weak and disoriented. My head had begun to hurt, too, deep inside where it had never hurt before.
Finished with my pulse, the doctor smiled at me patiently while he gently lowered my wrist to my side and patted it comfortingly a couple of times. He had very long hands, with the thumb well back towards the wrist. I noticed again how hairy he was.
“Please don’t concern yourself with too many questions, Mister Pliers, it will only slow the healing process. Now, roll over onto your side and pull your pajama bottoms halfway down.”
“Pajama bottoms?” I answered. “I don’t wear pajamas, Doc.”
That much I knew about myself That I would never wear pajamas.
I felt myself and what do you know? Pajama bottoms. With resignation I rolled over unto my side and pulled them halfway down. As I did so he produced, from seemingly nowhere, a fiendishly large hypodermic needle which he jabbed without ceremony into my backside.
“Now,” he said encouragingly as the hot serum flowed into my bloodstream, “about those dreams you’ve been having ...”
I now noticed, standing quietly in the corner, my publisher. Had she been there all the time, I wondered? Was she even there now? The drug was beginning to take effect. I shook my head and looked again. Yes, there she was, dressed impeccably in a taupe-colored cashmere skirt and crisp silk blouse, standing quietly, holding the hand of a chimpanzee who stood at her side. They were both staring at me. The chimpanzee was wearing a little white lab-coat and smoking a cigarette. I think it was a female chimpanzee, because she was wearing lipstick.
This odd sight had me wondering, as you can imagine, but it was becoming difficult for me to keep my eyes open.
All I wanted was to close my eyes and go to sleep.
I fought to keep my eyes opened, watching as the chimp took another drag on her cigarette, causing its tip to glow a fierce red. After blowing a few lazy smoke-rings, she exhaled the remaining smoke through her nostrils. Then she shook her head insanely for a minute before barking something up to my publisher. My publisher nodded. As I lost the fight for consciousness and my eyelids fluttered to a close, the chimp released her grip on my publisher’s hand and started stepping towards me.
I could hear the chimp’s angry chattering, coming at me in the darkness.