The snow is starting to settle when his door is opened. They don't trust him to open his own door.
Waylon thinks it's supposed to be helpful. That's what he's told, anyway. He's smarter than to bite the hand that feeds him –much less the one that helps him up out of the car. For a second, one foot in the tacky snow, he has a premonition he'll fall. He leans hard on the left crutch and waves off the hand extended to him in help.
The street is noisier than he remembers cities being, but the noise is comforting nonetheless. Waylon doesn't trust silence like he used to, and he likes the insane mishmash of yells and car horns and traffic. He's even considering buying an iPod, just to have something to listen to.
Limping uncertainly, he stills himself and uses his left hand to adjust his scarf. It's colder than he'd like, and Lisa isn't here to keep one of his hands warm.
The building they've pulled up at is the nice sort –a universe apart from Mount Massive. It's the fancy sort, an apartment hotel with gilded handles and glass doors. Waylon passes the doorman and avoids the stare, insulated from it.
The interior is just as he suspected. Lush, overly-detailed carpets and overly-stuffed cushions on enormous sofas. Everything seems so much larger, and brighter. The only thing he can think to take comfort in is the noise of the bellhops, and the telephone, and the ding of the elevator as their doors open. The noise isn't central, but enough to ground him.
Waylon has been informed that as part of his 'rehabilitation', this is where he'll be staying. It's a whole six-month project, taking off where the hell of Murkoff ended. Patients transported elsewhere, renamed, the files destroyed, the place buried.
But they haven't buried Waylon.
In fact, they first found him wandering around, half-mad on someone's land, snagged on a barbed wire fence. They took him in, took his footage and took down his details. He was treated for extensive injuries and then treated to an even more extensive debriefing –it was another three days before he even saw Lisa.
She saw him across the street, a child in one of her arms, and the other stood by her side. Recognition flickered over her face after ten seconds of staring –he'd been abused so horribly that even the snapshot she got couldn't possibly have been that same man –her man.
Two days later, released from custody, they met under the pouring rain. Waylon still remembers it, clear as day that his oldest boy, who never liked to touch anybody but his mother, ran to his uncast leg and held onto the fabric. And he still remembers that Lisa, who has never had a problem touching anybody in her life, couldn't quite bring herself to lift a hand.
At the time, he'd longed to hear her say something to still his heart, anything at all. Lisa didn't say anything, and even managed to stave off tears, for a while. Though, it was more for the boys than for Waylon: that much he understood. The rain disguised her anguish –it was the only blessing of the night.
The officials on high –Waylon's friends in holy spaces, decided on their course of action. Still unready to return home, he remained in convalescence for a little while. He talked with his boys on the phone, and to Lisa. She wasn't ready to visit –and he understood that. He never wanted her to see him like this.
And now, the third month out of the six, they have given him a place in New York to recover, with individual therapy sessions twice a week and full access to the amneties in the building.
Waylon already likes it here. The noise is comforting, and there is a generous amount of light. He collects his room key. There are none free on the ground floor, but he can live with shuffling over to the elevator.
The corridors are nice and spacious. The corners are wide and open. It's nothing like before. Pausing, leaning heavy on the crutches, he undones his scarf and sniffs, treading light snow onto the deep carpet as he makes his way to the room. Part of him wonders if he could live in a place like this. With Lisa and the boys.
His therapist tells him that it's important to him to focus on his future. And his hopes.
It reminds Waylon that he has an appointment this afternoon. Not that he needs it: Waylon knows he isn't insane –he's seen insane. Every colour in the spectrum of it, and he finds no traits that lie alike. The only thing that his stay in Mount Massive has given him are the nightmares—of the most visceral kind that when he wakes up, cold, in the dark, he can practically feel arms tightening around him like stone.
The only point, he thinks, of the therapy is to collect the medications he's prescribed. Citalopram for the low moods and Zyprexa for the dreams. The rest feels like artifice. Waylon doesn't want to talk about how he feels, or about what happened. He wants to forget.
He has some four hours before the appointment, but finds himself waiting on the clock. Waylon finders it harder and harder to occupy himself currently. He puts it down to the constant moving around, but even now, at the prospect of settlement, he feels nothing but apathy. Before going on the Citalopram he was told that it could make him lethargic, but Waylon had not considered it to this extent. He has no interest in television, or programming. Not book can occupy his attention. He doesn't even want to eat anymore.
It's a working process. For now, Waylon gets by on phonecalls to the kids, and taking long, hot showers. It greatly lessens the pain in his ankle, and he relishes the feeling of the clean water sustaining him. In fact, it's what he's looking forward to most when he gets to his room. Hotels like this, in his experience, have enormous bathtubs.
He leans hard on one side to get out the key and unlocks the door. With his good foot, he gives it a kick to open the door before shuffling inside.
The place is light and airy. Nothing like the lush downstairs. The carpet is pale and subtle. The place has no visible personality. There is an open plan kitchen that opens up into a living area. There's a small television surrounded by sofas.
Lisa said she'd drop most of his clothes and his personal laptop the next time she came to visit. Until then, Waylon doesn't really own anything. He has a few things in his coat –the Zyprexa and Citalopram bottles, his phone, a crumpled receipt for the lunch he'd eaten earlier. His wallet.
The place is nice, but it doesn't make him especially happy. It doesn't make him feel anything new, so he remains apathetic, and tired. Limping over to the sofa, he leans both crutches against the arm of the chair and sets an alarm on his phone, before stretching out and closing his eyes.
He tries to think about Lisa's face, above all, as he drifts off into murky darkness.
When there is a curt knock at the door, the man in bed sits up slowly.
The dog in his lap barks at the door, and the man drops a hand to calm the creature. It licks his palm first, and then his remaining four digits. Not that it registers to the man in bed. He adjusts himself and says, "Come in."
The past few days have been a blur of visitors, all of them identical in cordiality and patience, all of them in suits and cufflinks. The man in bed makes a poor audience, and an even poorer show of interest. His guest closes the door behind him and comes to sit at the side of the bed.
"How are you this morning, Mister Upshur?"
The generosity extended feels false enough for Miles to dismiss it. Even if he did have any faith left, he certainly wouldn't give it to men of that kind.
"Racing around all over the place, obviously." That's the response that Miles decides upon. It doesn't get a rise from his guest, which seems a shame. It's the only card he can play, currently.
Secretly, Miles theorises that the only reason they don't ask more of him is because they think he is fragile. They've every right to think it, too. It was barely a week and a half ago that he slit his wrists with spare blades from his razor.
If Miles was a more honest man, he'd tell them how he feels: smaller. Afraid of his own shadow, and of the darkness. He'd tell them that every time a doctor comes in for a consultation, he's terrified all over again that he'll lose more than his blood or his fingers.
Instead, he settles for sarcasm.
His guest smiles, and then strives for a breezy tone. "I have some good news for you, Mister Upshur."
Miles scratches behind the dog's ear gently, his arm curved so that the long scar up his arm is invisible. It looks silver in the light, and while he feels numbness towards it –even indifference, it clearly makes his guest a little uncomfortable.
The man is staring, so Miles has to prompt him. "I'm assuming 'good' is some kind of euphemism?"
The man coughs and tries to continue, his eyes shifting purposefully from the wound, then to what remains of Miles' ring finger, and then just above Miles' gaze. He evades the question just as tactlessly.
"As part of your rehabilitation, you're being discharged tomorrow, where you'll-"
Miles considers the imperative. You will. He has had enough to do with compliance in order to survive. "Will I be free to go?"
It stifles the man somewhat. "Tomorrow you'll be escorted to your new place of residence in New York-"
Miles knows this isn't the man's decision. Anybody sent to have to deliver news and look at him is simply a messenger; an agent of another man's words. And at the very bottom of the pile, the most helpless and powerless –that's where Miles is finding himself. After all of it –he is powerless to do anything, and it makes him cold with fury.
Trying to temper his nerves, Miles swallows. "So, I'm not free to go, am I?"
The man's utter uselessness does not appease or quell his rising disgust at the situation. Miles cannot live on his own terms. He couldn't even decide to die. They can no more domesticate him after what has transpired than they could a boa constrictor.
"It is only temporary, you understand, but necessary. We have arranged individual therapy sessions to monitor your progress. Your expenses will be covered for your time there, as well as prescriptions."
Miles stares down at the sheets when he listens to the man talk. Not defeated, but desperate. He coughs, angrily, and looks up. "I already told you everything I know. Isn't that what you're after?"
His guest holds up both palms as if threatened by Miles and somehow wishes to surrender. "Mister Upshur, I assure you, our only interest now is you safe progression back into-"
The mendacity is intolerable. Miles despises it. "You're never going to let go home." Staring hard at the wall in front of him, Miles tries to distance himself from the frustration. He coughs again, dryly, harshly. "I don't have a choice, do I?"
The man looks around as if for some elected official to appear and tell him what to do. But none appears, and all he can be left to do is wriggle under the weight of Miles' accusations.
Standing, as if shyly, his guest simply says. "You'll be collected at eleven thirty. Until then, I suggest you get some rest."
Miles wonders, for a second, if the man is ignorant to the fact that sleep will not grow his fingers back, or let him forget. The only emancipation sleep has to offer is darkness.
He doesn't see the man off, but takes up the remote from his bedside and jabs the hospital television into life. His guest lingers, as if conflicted, and goes to speak. Sensing the words before they come, Miles holds the volume button down hard, drowning out the last, pathetic, "Goodbye, Mister Upshur," before the door closes and he shuts the damn thing off, falling limp back into the sheets.
Slowly, carefully, he turns onto his side and inspects the stump of his right index finger absently. It doesn't hurt anymore. At least, he thinks it doesn't.
Waylon is surprised to find out that his therapist comes to him for the session.
He didn't think house calls were advised –especially being alone with a patient. It makes him wonder –is he considered dangerous? Some kind of threat? Perhaps they suspect that all of the experiences he has internalised will tear out of him in a violent outburst.
If so, Waylon thinks they must be underestimating the strength of the Citalopram.
His therapist is a well-groomed man with one of those intelligent, pleasant voices. He comes in, proffering a fair-trade chocolate bar and a smile.
"I'm sure you can think of more enviable ways to spend an hour," The man smiles. "So consider it a form of compensation."
Waylon finds eating more troubling than it's worth. He puts the weight loss down as the reason Lisa didn't recognise him at first. He couldn't tip 140lbs soaking wet now.
Still, he respects the cordiality of the gesture and shuffles over to the kitchen, putting the bar down on the side. "Can I get you anything to drink, Mister-..?"
"Apologies. Reynolds. Mark." The man sits, retrieving a slim file from his briefcase. "I'd like a glass of water, if you can manage."
Waylon doesn't clock the insinuation until the tap has already starting running. His ankle is in a cast –he's not an invalid. He tries to ignore it for the most part. He wants to give the therapist a chance, but is finding it difficult to do so.
For some slanderous and obscene reason, the man reminds him of Jeremy.
It's the voice, and the neatness. It makes Waylon's hand shake so badly that he spills a good portion of the water just trying to make it back to his seat.
He rests the damp glass on the table between them, and his therapist nods thanklessly without looking up from the slim file. "Thankyou." The man says, more like he is issuing an automated response than engaging on conversation.
After a few moments in silence, the man looks up, a soft smile appearing on his face as soon as he does. He closes the file and replaces it in the case, only to return to his lap with a blank notepad and a pen poised in his hand.
"Is there anything you'd like to open the session with, before we begin?" The man's tone appears encouraging and kind, but it only makes Waylon more suspicious of the generosity being extended. There is no explanation of it.
Waylon swallows. "Like what?"
It gives his therapist pause for a matter of seconds. The man's fingers steeple together before one gesticulated towards him. "Well, for example, how are you finding your medications?"
Waylon shrugs a shoulder in an act of non-commitment. The issue is dropped, for now.
"I suppose I should start by giving you a little more information." That smile never wavers. Even at Waylon's violent indifference. "Feel free to call me Mark. I studied general psychology at Pennsylvania and went on to specialise in cognitive behavioural therapy." He pauses, wetting his upper lip. "I don't expect that would mean much to you. Why should it?"
Waylon stares hard at the glass table. A horrible, queasy sickness fills him as the similarities in the man's voice and syntax match with Jeremy's. And, God, Waylon hasn't thought about it in such a long time –he thought he had forgotten –thought he was made of stronger materials.
"Cognitive Behavioural Therapy concerns changing your cognition towards an event or towards yourself to achieve a different outcome. It is –essentially, a smarter way to think. It tries to resolve bad coping strategies or vicious cycles." The man pauses again, his smile slipping slightly as he re-assesses Waylon's interest in what he's saying. "Do you understand me, Mister Park?"
Waylon nods. He nods, and then tries to get some words out. He has never been known for being particularly verbose. "I understand you."
The vocal confirmation is enough to restore the therapist's smile to it's previous glory, and the man continues, making a small note in shorthand before clearing his throat.
"Excellent, Miste –I'll call you Waylon, if that's alright with you." But he seeks no response to that. "I'd really like to know how those anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medications are treating you, Waylon. Are you experiencing any side effects: headaches, troubling sleeping, anything like that?"
Again, Waylon goes to shrug, out of habit, but follows it with words. "None that I've noticed."
The therapist nods, as if greatly sympathetic, and says. "That's good –isn't it? Do you feel that they've been working effectively?"
At that, Waylon nods. It's the only thing he is certain about. "I've had fewer nightmares on the Zyprexa."
"And the Citalopram?"
"It works." Waylon says, uneasily. "I don't think about –I don't get low as often as before."
At last, the therapist picks up his glass of water and takes a very measured little sip, as if testing the taste or acidity of it. After the futile little action he sets the glass on the table again and writes something else. The silence extends, only to be broken again.
"That's excellent." The therapist says, eagerly taking note. "Great stuff." Waylon can see the more dangerous part of the conversation coming. He can feel the end to their relative smalltalk by the way the therapist leans forward and tries for some semblance of sympathy. As if by his own nature, Waylon feels himself draw back, go stiff and rigid, imagining the next few words will ask the world of him. The suspense is awful, and he lives in horror of the moment that the tension will break.
A cold sweat on the back of his neck startles him and Waylon swallows. He wants, desperately, to get a drink –but the citalopram keeps him off of alcohol and all there is left is water. Right now, he could drink an ocean and still be desperately parched.
The therapist catches a look at him and laughs, gaily. "Mister Park, are you well enough for me to proceed?"
Absently, he hears his voice come out before he is fully conscious of it. "Yes," Is what his mouth says, contradicted by the convulsive twist in every other fibre of his being.
Why does he do these things to himself? It's stupid –more than stupid, in fact; crazy.
The therapist breaks his small reverie of panic by taking the glass from the table again and taking another measured sip and expressing his refreshment in a small sigh. "Before we get anything on paper, I'd very much like you to describe the way in which you feel your daily life has been disturbed or disrupted by your trauma. For example, you mentions nightmares. How often do these usually occur? How do they-..." the therapist gives this terrible smile like a shark cutting into it's prey.
"How do they make you feel, Waylon?"
He swallows, and one hand grips tight to the leather of the chair, fearing he will fall back into the consuming darkness, unable to shed a trembling light on any of it, unable to understand. The light outside remains constant. Fighting through the feeling of shrinking, Waylon keeps himself there, psychically and otherwise.
While not being particularly verbose, Waylon never had a problem expressing himself before –but cannot find simple words now. Each of them evade his grasp.
He ends up stammering, pathetic. "T-The dreams..?"
The therapist leans back, as if giving him room. "Could you describe them to me, first? In your own words. "
For a second, his mind is blank. Simple words had been asking alot. Full, visceral descriptions may not be possible –and even if they are, Waylon hardly want to hear himself say the words. He doesn't want to hear about the darkness again or the smell of blood, the sound of the saw cutting through the wood –every millimetre closer and closer. He doesn't want to hear the word 'daring' ever again –he has already scrubbed it from his throat and his ears.
But more than anything, Waylon wants normalcy again. And this is the only way he'll get better. This is the fastest way to get back to Lisa, and his boys. So, he presses. For their sakes.
"They're different." He begins. "Mostly –mostly, they're about the m-morphogenic engine."
Waylon finds it unimaginably difficult to get but just those words alone. It becomes even harder when the whirring of the saw starts at the back of his mind, stapling him to the spot, as across from his, the therapist nods, and scribbles something else down.
"Could you elaborate, Waylon?"
For the second time that day, poppy blood blooms on Miles' collar. "Goddamnit, not again."
Since the blur of Murfkoff, Miles has endured a slew of identical hospital beds on paper gowns or spare surgical scrubs –this is the first time in over a month he has worn his own clothes, and they're getting bloody after less than an hour.
Miles isn't bothered by the blood. It's thickness and smile barely register to his senses, no more than rainwater would. It will wash out as easily, too, when he's done wearing the shirt. Miles sees no sense in changing the damn thing now. Probability dictates that he'll get another nosebleed anyway, and there's no good sense in staining two shirts. What's done is done.
He finishes cleaning his face up, and for a second is struck by his own reflection. Miles is not prone to vanity. Truthfully, he's glad to see himself alive, in the light. The last time he saw his own reflection was in the back of a squad car through the rear-view mirror, and he looked like hell. At long last, he looks human again.
When he was first treated, the trauma and shock was so bad that he didn't heal quickly at all. The bruises stayed yellow for nearly two weeks before they fell off. Never mind his hands. Never mind his psyche.
For that, they prescribed him a vast array of colourless pills which have only recently started working. He takes amitrip for the insomnia, zoloft for the depression, and sarotena for the PTSD. All of them leave him relatively numb, but he feels better for the intervention –and suspects that the side effect of weight gain has helped him to appear in a better physical state.
The high spirits are unable to reflect anything deeper than a smile. The only thing making Miles glad is the thought of gaining a little independence. He has calmed down about the New York situation somewhat speculating that even if it isn't his home, it's a start, and it will save him the trouble of finances for a few months.
Besides: it's not another hospital. He's damned glad of that.
Lifting up a hand, he pushes back his hair, still partially damp from his earlier shower. Because of his disinterest in eating the hospital meals, Miles' blood sugar drops now and then, so he shower with a chair, because he's a 'fainting risk. It's demoralising as hell, but it does mean occasionally a nurse will lend him a dollar for one of the vending machines.
His vanity interrupted by one of the suited idiots hollering for him outside the door. "We're ready for you."
Miles has nothing waiting for him. He has a suitcase ready to go. It's just a case with a handful of clothes that his mother brought, unable to believe what had happened to her baby. She wouldn't stop crying –it was so intolerable that Miles had to page a nurse to send the woman out.
He unlocks the bathroom door and steps out into the room, hooking his right hand in the handle of the case before turning to face his guest. It's the same guy as yesterday, looking a bit surer of himself.
"The car is waiting for us outside, Mister Upshur –should I call you Miles?" They're all too polite. They're servicemen, likely, not waiters or lobby boys. It's not as if they should live in fear that Miles should be unhappy.
Miles is the first to walk out of the room, free from the burden of looking at it. "You can call me Susan if it makes you happy." He mutters. "Where did you say this car was?"
"Right this way, Mister Upshur." The man takes the hint, thankfully, and begins leading Miles down the long bright corridors. The sound of the heart monitors and pagers are too harsh –too wild, and Miles will not mourn the loss of this place, nor all the memories it stirs.
He's glad to be shown to the back of a car, with tinted windows, and a cool interior. They don't offer him anything to drink, even though Miles is itching for a glass of something cool and strong. It's not recommended to drink when he's on so many pills, but figures that if before didn't kill him, a little light drinking shouldn't, either.
The journey is smooth and silent. Nobody says a word –nor dares to. It makes Miles suspicious. He leans back, slowly, and starts to play with the stub of his finger.
"So, what's your angle?"
They'll be in a confined space for a while, and Miles has gone far enough without answers. He has timed it well: enough so that man cannot leave but is also relatively prepared. The man twiddles his thumbs and says nothing of any relative importance.
"My angle, Mister Upshur?"
"Yeah." Miles watches the stump of his index finger wiggle uselessly, and he sighs. "I'm an investment. Somebody's going to alot of expense to keep me happy, and I want to know why."
It's making the man squirm, that's for sure, but Miles doesn't mind it. He's got all the time in the world. After some time, and with a great amount of difficulty, the man speaks.
"I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer that." He admits.
Without feeling, Miles presses. "Be a sport. Would you?"
The way Miles says it implies it's a sort of game. Of course, it's one Miles has played before, but it's necessary this time. They have hours to get to New York.
And, besides: there are worse games to play.