I use my fingers to prise apart your eyes. The penlight is to see if your pupils, like little black pearls, are still round and wide. Will they dilate this time, or are you still out cold? The gloves on my hands are to protect me from the germs, the mucus; your ‘goo.’

They’re to protect me more than they’re to protect you.

This time your pupils constrict, shrinking away from the light. I can see in your eyes the little twisting roots of your optic nerve reflecting and refracting back inside.

You inhale a gasping breath and twist your head away.

Shocked, I say: “Welcome back. I’m glad to see you’re–you’re finally waking up. You gave us all quite a–uh scare.”

Here, you ask: “Where am I?”

Then I say: “You’re–you’re in a hospital.”

Say: “You’ve been in a coma for a few days now.”

I ask cautiously: “Do you remember what happened?”

You reply: “No.”

I say to myself: “Good.” as I write something down on a clipboard, “vitals seem normal.”

You ask: “Water?”

The machines that crowd your bed are the machines that have been keeping you alive. One that reads your heartbeat and reads your vitals, measuring things in beeps. Another measures drips of drugs and a third measured your breaths. We have watched you for days. Making rounds. Taking measurements while you slept.

These machines that crowd you to your right. Crowding where your friends and family should be in the small room. At the bedside, next to you. To your left is a closed curtain.

The machines are your visitors. Your only visitors during the long hours that you’ve slept.

I puncture the lid of the cup with a bendy straw and hold it out for you. You begin to stir to better reach.

Shock spells itself across your face.

I say: “Don’t try to move. You’ll over-exert yourself.”

You ask: “Why am I strapped down?”

It’s true. You are strapped down. Three nylon ratchet straps run horizontally across your torso. One across your collarbone, one below your breasts and one at your waist. A fourth runs just above your knees and a fifth across your ankles. Figuratively dividing you in pieces, across your joints, segmenting the parts of you that can move into parts that can’t.

You ask again: “Tell me why I’m strapped down?”

I do not answer. Instead I step away behind the other curtain, to check on your roommate. She is not connected to any machines due to budget, we didn’t have a set to spare so we have been rotating which of you are being monitored every few hours. I check her eyes. Cloudy. Gray.

“Fuck,” I mutter, and then: “Nurse! Nurse get in here!”

A man in a mask enters your room.

You shout: “Hey! Hey you!”

You don’t know, but the nurse has been instructed not to answer you. We are speaking now in hushed tones. You can’t make out much of it.

“…lost this one.” I whisper. “Must have happened overnight.” you hear more mumbling. “This one is gonna cost us a lot.”

More mumbling.

I say, probably loud enough for you to hear: “…was going to be perfect.”

You shout: “Somebody tell me why the hell I’m strapped down.”

I fling open the curtain to peer angrily at you. You can see her head, but nothing past the curtain. She was a brunette. Her forehead is pale in the fluorescent lights.

I say: “This woman over here is dead. Do you think you’re somehow more important? You can wait your turn and we will be back with you in a moment.”

The nurse says something that you cannot hear.

I am no longer trying to keep my voice down.

I say: “That one? Leaving the usual place.”

The nurse mumbles something else that you cannot hear.

I reply: “the incinerator,” and he wheels the gurney out of the room. The woman strapped to the bed is covered with a sheet, but even without seeing her, you can tell by her silhouette that you and she had something in common.

You look around realizing now that the walls of your room are a stark gray, rough cinder blocks, the mortar between sloppily troweled creating an unfinished edge. There are no windows. I see the fear grow in your eyes as they dart fitfully from me, then down to your stomach, then back to me, then back to your stomach…

I tell you: “Relax.” I poke a syringe into the head of a vial, pulling back the plunger, slurping something clear inside, a little more this time than the last.

You shout: “What is this!? What are you doing?!”

I say: “Trust me. You must relax.”

You say: “Let me out of here.”

I say: “If you don’t relax you will risk the baby. We can’t have that,” I can’t stress that enough, “Trust me.” I insist.

You say: “That other woman was pregnant! Her stomach! The sheet! Like me! I could–I could tell!”

The nurse comes back in.

He asks: “how is this one?”

I say: “Oh just fine, baby’s doing very well. We should be able to get double.. Multiple offers already on this one. Good thing too–with her roommate…”

As I empty the contents of the syringe into the intravenous line in your arm, you begin to struggle harder.

The nurse says: “We’ll have to go to a different obstetrician to replace the dead one. Don’t want to create a pattern.”

You scream.

I tell you: “Relax.” and slap you across the face, “Nobody will hear you here. You are very deep underground.”

I tell you: “Trust me. I’m a doctor.”

Your eyes slowly close and the world fades away once again.

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