JUST A LITTLE TOASTED
Teaser:What if the events of the Episode 'A Girl's Life' turned out differently? For instance, it wasn't Heather that was struck by lightning, but Michael Wiseman?
Disclaimer:No, I didn't invent these characters or the show concept, I'm just taking them out for a spin...
* * *
Michael's scream was quickly lost in the roar of the rushing wind and driving rain. An extremely unwilling participant in the government's electromagnetic field test, he was distinctly unimpressed at being 'encouraged' to jump out of the airplane by guys with guns. As he picked up speed, he fervently prayed that the doc's hypothetical 'barrier' would prevent him from becoming an ex-ex-human.
Heather wandered through the dripping forest, uncaring as her feet became quickly saturated with liquid mud. Her friends could bitch about it all they wanted - she wasn't just going to 'get over it'. They all had their fathers, they couldn't possibly--
A bright flash above pulled her from her melancholy thoughts. She stood rooted to the spot in amazement as she witnessed a ball of light drop from the sky, fall straight downwards and then suddenly stop and hover in place. This was some kind of miracle - the stars were actually falling!
She gazed up at it in wonder and curiosity. She felt the wind whipping her hair and clothing around; the storm she had barely noticed was intensifying, rumbles of thunder still sending a shudder through her even at this age.
The wind seemed not to care that the oddly suspended ball of light was becoming increasingly unstable under its punishment, and Heather gasped silently as she saw it finally slide off to one side in a peculiar arc.
Oh no.... It was headed straight for her, and picking up speed, but she couldn't even attempt to run. Fixed to the spot as the light drew nearer at a tremendous speed, the shape became more distinct. It almost looked like... a man.
Right before her startled eyes, the man, who was somehow lit up like a Christmas tree, slammed into the ground with such force that Heather could only acknowledge the nauseating truth that the impact must have killed the man.
Through the trees, she could see the bright form of the man lying on the ground. She moved forward, both anxious to reach him to see if there was any chance for him, but also reluctantly, since she was sure he must be dead, and couldn't stomach the thought of actually looking at a dead body.
As she drew near, she thought she recognised the man, but struggled to make him out because his suit was so bright. She covered her eyes with her hands, leaving only a tiny gap between her fingers... Was on earth was making him glow like that? Was it even human?
Suddenly, she saw a twitch - just the smallest of motions made a wild hope leap in her. Could the bright form have survived?
Michael stirred groggily and sat up, putting a hand to the back of his head. He groaned, then looked down at his suit. He winced from the sharp light and quickly touched the button on his cuff which shut it off.
He looked around, trying to get his bearings... There was someone standing just a few feet from him... a child... Heather!
As the stabbing neon of the bright suit suddenly shut off, Heather's eyes ceased to function altogether in the contrasting blackness. Squinting, she began to make out the young man's features...
Michael looked up sharply into the shocked face of his daughter, his eyes going wide in surprise. He opened his mouth to reply, but could not think of a reasonable explanation for the crash, the suit... Oh, God, another blunder the doc' would probably go crazy about.
His thoughts were interrupted, then, as he glanced up briefly at the turbulent night sky. With his amazingly acute vision he perceived that a bolt of lightning was brewing fast... and in milliseconds his daughter would take the full brunt of it!
The questioning look on her face turned rapidly to one of fear as Mr. Newman lunged towards her desperately, rugby-tackling her away from her spot. She yelped as she landed painfully on her coccyx, followed the next instant by a piercing scream as a blindingly bright flash erupted from the sky. Horrified, she saw a jagged bolt of lightning stab through Mr. Newman, who lay motionless where she had stood a moment before.
In shock she lay there, then forced her bruised behind to move, crawling over to him. Panic began to seize her as she shook his shoulders vigorously, slapping his face and crying, "Wake up! Oh, god, please, wake up!" He was unresponsive. She knew for certain that Mr. Newman had just saved her life, being struck by lightning instead of her. If the previous crash to the ground from 1,000 feet didn't kill him, she felt sure that this must have.
* * *
Lisa was humming softly to herself as she sliced the vegetables for a stew she was attempting. There would be complaints from Heather, she knew, probably outright refusal to eat it, but in the end she, and hunger, would win the 'nutrition vs. junk food' battle.
Her song was punctuated by the insistent ringing of the phone.
"Just a minute, just a minute, hold your horses!" Lisa yelled at the phone as she hastily wiped her hands and made for the hall table.
Grabbing up the receiver, she was immediately assaulted by an unintelligible stream of calamity.
"Heather, honey, calm down! I can't underst-- just, just slow it down, okay?!"
The panicked teenager on the other end took an audible gasp of air.
"Mr. Newman? Whatddya mean he--"
"Just come! I'll explain when you get here, please mom! Hurry up!"
Lisa was already breathing hard by the time she put the phone down after fervent assurances to her daughter that she'd be there any minute. Her mind a whirl of confusion, she snatched up her keys and left.
* * *
She pulled up outside the phone-box in her red station-wagon, searching the edge of the trees for any sign of Heather or the young IRS guy with whom she'd so frequently found herself in similarly shocking circumstances. Before she cut the engine, Heather emerged from the woods in front of her and signalled with wild hand gestures for Lisa to drive the car off the road and into the wood.
Her none-too-reliable old motor had a hard time straining up the bank, but she managed to get into the woods a little ways before she spotted a clearing and stopped. There was someone lying on the ground up ahead...
Emerging from the car full of questions, she recognised the handsome face of Mr. Newman and her jaw dropped. He looked for all the world like he was dead.
"What happened?!" She stuttered out the question as Heather ran up from behind her and straight ahead to crouch over their fallen friend.
"Mom, we've got to get him home. Open the back."
"He's hurt. I'll explain on the way. Just help!"
Together the two manhandled Michael's compact form into the back of the station-wagon and quickly set off for home.
* * *
Michael stirred, groaning, and then grunted suddenly in pain as he moved his back. He glanced around the room he found himself in, a little confused at the pop-star posters on the walls and the cuddly animal toys dotted around the place. The answer was immediately obvious as he looked to the other side of the room, where Heather was snuggled up on a beanbag with a duvet around her, looking drowsy but keeping one eye in his direction. The moment she noticed he was now awake she sat up straight and shook her head vigorously to bring herself to full alertness.
"You're awake!" She rose quickly, dumping the duvet unceremoniously on the floor and shuffled over to his side. "How're you feeling?"
"Ahh... like I've spent a few hours in a toaster. But what... am I doing here?"
"Well, you were hurt so... we thought you'd be safe here."
"Safe, huh? You couldn't possibly appreciate the irony of that." Heather's face looked a little puzzled at that, but she dismissed it.
"Mom!" She called out of her bedroom, "He's awake!" Michael heard some shuffling coming from the next bedroom, then Lisa appeared looking a little wild-eyed. It was clear she hadn't slept.
"Mr. Newman.." she began, rushing to his side and seating herself on the edge of the bed.
"Mrs. Wiseman," Michael greeted her with a smile, pleased that he remembered to call her that, which was unusual.
"Are you okay? Are you in pain? Let me take a look at your burn." The quick-fire questions were a little overwhelming to Michael, who held up his hands to calm his concerned wife.
"Whoa, slow down there. Listen, I appreciate this, really, but there's no need - I'm fine."
"Fine? From what my daughter tells me your pretty damn far from fine." She turned briefly to Heather, then, who was hovering just behind her and asked her to go and fetch some more iodine and bandages from the first-aid kit. Heather looked once at Mr. Newman and then rushed out of the room.
"I have to thank you, Mr. Newman, from the bottom of my heart. I mean I'm just astounded that you.... saved my daughter's life - you took a bolt of lightning for her!"
"Oh, she mentioned that, huh?" Michael closed his eyes in submission and laid his head back on the pillow. He was starting to feel decidedly mellow, like this whole scenario wasn't real at all.
"I don't know how you're even alive. It's got to be some kind of miracle. Huh, Heather's pretty convinced that somehow God teleported you to those woods in order to save her. She said you fell out of the sky. To be honest, that alone should have killed you, so maybe she's right. Who knows?"
"Not me. I'm no th-theologian, sorry. I'm just glad she's alright." His speech was everso slightly slurred, but Lisa didn't notice.
"If you don't mind me asking, barring the possibility that you really were sent by Heaven, what were you doing in the sky, ahh... "lit up like a Christmas tree", I think she said?"
"I was falling out of an airplane." Lisa's eyes went wide.
"Out of a plane? What, were you pushed or something? Or are you just more of a dare-devil thrill-seeker than I took you for?"
"Oh, I jumped."
"Mind if I ask why?"
"I was persuaded."
"You shouldn't have jumped if you didn't want to."
"Oh, I wanted to. I wanted to very much when I saw the moonlight glinting off their gun barrels." He chuckled lightly. He had a vague feeling that he shouldn't be telling her all this, but the reason was lost in obscurity. It really didn't matter that much.
"Guns!? God, who were they! We have to call the police!"
"I doubt the police would mind. It's all perfectly legal when Uncle Sam calls the shots. Ha, the shots - get it?"
"This is ridiculous! The government can't just toss it's people out of a plane when they... what did you do?"
"Why did they wanna kill you? Did you sell secrets to the Russians or something?"
"How could I? Can't sell myself."
"I'm the secret. Top secret. Tip-top secret." He played with the words in his head, remembering a large, dark-faced man speaking them to him some time ago.
"You're not making any sense. Are you all right? Mr. Newman?!" All of a sudden she noted the way his head lolled on the pillow, the way he smiled sanguinely up at her.
"Wiseman." He corrected absently.
"Yes, that's right. It's me - Lisa Wiseman, your friend. Oh, God talk to me!" She lifted his head and cradled it in her hands, pleading with him to open his eyes and look at her. Obediently he gazed up at her with childlike trust, still smiling serenely.
"You're sooo beautiful..." he slurred adoringly at her. Her eyes widened again at this, and she felt the heat climb quickly up her cheeks.
"Uh, thank you. But you've got to sit up Mr.."
"Michael... is me... my name."
"Michael?" She sucked in her breath in surprise as the name struck a chord within her. "That was my husband's name."
"I love you..." his eyes drifted closed once more. She remained silent for several seconds, stunned by his sudden admission.
"Well, ahh, I'm flattered, really, but..." she glanced back towards his face, "No! No, you've got to wake up now! Don't go to sleep! Heather!" She called in desperation.
"Coming, coming!" Heather's exasperated reply drifted into the room just seconds before she appeared herself, her arms filled with bandages, bottles and sachets of all descriptions.
"No, Heather, look! He's sick or something. I think he's going delirious!"
"What? I only left you alone for a second! What did you do?" Lisa glared at her daughter, who quickly dropped that line of attack. "I'll go call a doctor." Her mother nodded.
* * * * *
Michael's eyes fluttered open, slowly at first, but then snapped wide as he recoiled from the face he looked into. It wasn't an unpleasant face, just a wholly unfamiliar one, and for some reason it scared him witless.
"It's okay! Calm down... you're safe." The man spoke to him in soothing tones, easing the fear minutely. "Look at me." He ordered gently, pulling his lower eyelids down one at a time, and shining an intense light into each eye in turn. Michael recoiled again from the searing light.
"Shhh, now..." the man shut off the light and turned to the figure who stood at his shoulder. Michael's eyes recovered from the light, refocusing themselves and recognising Lisa's worried face immediately. She's worried about me. She worries too much - I always tell her so.
"To be honest Mrs. Wiseman, I'm at a loss. I can make the logical assumption that the lightning striking him has done this, but beyond that... and I can't really suggest anything other than taking him into hospital for tests." Michael tried to counter the suggestion quickly, but his mouth felt like it was filled with glue. The words just wouldn't form and what came out was in incoherent mumble. The man, who Michael could now discern was a doctor, judging by the stethoscope around his neck, leaned back over him.
"Do you know where you are?"
"Uhh, Earth?" He mumbled. Both the doctor and Lisa chuckled briefly, the faint amusement releasing the concern in their tense faces for just a second.
"Very good, now, what's your name?"
"What??" Lisa's startled exclamation seemed piercingly loud in the hushed atmosphere of Heather's small bedroom.
"Uh, I think you mean 'Newman'...?" The doctor ventured.
"Oh... am I still...? Yeah, the doc' said Newman, so I guess I'm Newman. Where is the doc'?" The young medic glanced up in confusion at Lisa.
"He must mean his boss, Dr. Morris, but why he'd say he was..." a warning voice sounded in her brain, prompting her to study her guest's youthful features as he drifted in and out of consciousness, occasionally mumbling questions which probably made sense to him but came out quite unintelligible. Lisa repeatedly asked herself why this enigmatic man would, even in his troubled mental state, believe himself to be her husband, Michael Wiseman, but he had told her earlier that his name was Michael.
"Do you have any way of contacting this... Doctor Morris?"
"Uh, no, except..." she ran through the times she had seen Morris in her head. "Well, I don't know but, I think he might live in the same building or nearby... I mean, he always seems to be there..."
"You have an address?"
"Great. The Operator can get you his phone number then."
* * *
The TOYS 'B' FUN van was suddenly alive with activity.
"Someone get Dr. Morris on the phone right now!"
Morris stormed into the van.
"You've got a lead on Mr. Wiseman?"
"Could be, sir. The phone's been ringing for about ten minutes. Whoever it is just keeps calling."
"Give it to me." The headset was promptly passed to him. He dialled the retrieval number, and recognised the dial code as the district of New York where Mr. Wiseman's family home was situated. He groaned inwardly. She was going to cause trouble again.
"Hello?" Lisa Wiseman's voice sounded harried as she picked up.
"Uh, hello Mrs. Wiseman, it's..."
"Oh! Doctor Morris! I've been trying to get a hold of you. It's Michael, uh, I mean, Mr. Newman - he's ill."
"Ill?" His voice sounded incredulous, though Lisa couldn't work out why. Anyone could get sick, couldn't they?
"Yeah, I think you'd better come. He's delirious. He keeps spouting nonsense about..."
"I'm on my way." And the phone went dead.
The knocking on the Wisemans' front door sounded like a hurricane, Lisa thought. Morris was clearly as worried as she about the young man who lay in her daughter's bed, now running a high fever.
"Where is he?"
"Upstairs, in Heather's bedroom. He's no better, I'm afraid..."
"Let me see him."
As soon as Morris entered the bedroom, he knew that he had to act fast. Already there was another doctor there, checking Mr. Wiseman's pulse, his breathing, his eyes. Luckily, there were not too many obvious clues to identify Michael as something other than completely normal, but there was no telling what kind of secrets his delirious creation had spilled.
"Everybody out." He ordered.
"Just a minute, now..." the young GP protested.
"Listen to me. I know this man - I've known him all his life, and I need some space to examine him myself. I appreciate your efforts, doctor, but this is my patient." His tone was unequivocal, and the GP looked clearly intimidated by Morris dark, looming figure. He nodded and politely withdrew. Lisa cast a worried look over at Michael, mumbling that she'd be right outside if anything should go wrong. Morris felt a stab of fear as he heard Mrs. Wiseman's tone of voice. Way too emotional to be just concerned, he thought. He must have said something...
He sat down on the edge of the bed and put his hand on Michael's burning forehead.
"Mr. Wiseman? It's Doctor Morris. Can you hear me?"
"Hey, doc'," Michael smiled up at his boss, "Did you see me? I jumped, just like you said. Did I mention there were guys with guns up there? That was sneaky, doc', real sneaky."
"Listen to me, Mr. Wiseman, very carefully. Did you tell your wife anything about yourself."
"Uh-uh," he shook his head vehemently, "I'm secret, you know that. I..." he struggled to recall the conversation in his foggy brain, "I might have said I loved her, though. That's not secret, right? I'm allowed to love her - she's my wife." Morris groaned and ran a hand over his face.
"We've got to get you out of here."
"But I'm home..." Michael protested.
"Could be some sort of electrolyte imbalance in the brain, I suppose..." Morris thought out loud. He took his phone out and dialled the TOYS 'B' Fun truck.
"I've located Mr. Wiseman, but there are civilian complications. Get the ambulance, our ambulance, over to the Wiseman family home ASAP.
Within a little over fifteen minutes, an ashen-faced Lisa protested volubly as Doctor Morris told her in no uncertain terms that she would not be accompanying Mr. Newman to the hospital.
"Mrs. Wiseman, he'll be fine. Once I get this fever down and he stops hallucinating you can visit him, alright?" Lisa reluctantly piped down and watched helplessly as the ambulance doors slammed shut on Dr. Morris and the dynamic young man who had just saved her daughter's life.
Heather, thank God, had not been hurt at all by her near-miss with the lightning, but Lisa would have to have a serious chat with her about toning down the vehemence of her divine-intervention claims.
For now, at least she had the fierce scientist's promise that Mr. Newman... Michael, as he had called himself, would be okay.