A/N: I finally got a break from school, and I was able to finish Chapter 2. I hope to have Chapter 3 up and running soon, but I've learned never to make promises I might not be able to keep. So the next chapter will be up when its up. I hope you enjoy reading. :-)
I spent the time that it took the medics to get me loaded into the back of the ambulance wondering how much torture my little emergency trip was going to turn into. I knew if I mentioned the true cause of my headaches that any competent medical professional would lock me up for observation. "Mind reading" sits pretty high up there on the list of how to tell if someone belongs in the looney bin. It's right between thinking you're Jesus and believing the government is spying on you through radio transmitters in your fillings. Being made to feel like a loon irritated me to no end because I knew for a fact that I WASN'T mentally ill. And regardless of my own personal belief, it's how I felt every time I took a step through a set of hospital doors.
I dwelt on my dislike for the antiseptic hallways of the purgatory I would soon be enjoying. Trying to focus my energy on maintaining my own petulance was better than dwelling on the thoughts of the paramedic who was in the back of the ambulance with me. The pain wasn't as bad in the ambulance as it would've been everywhere else in Toronto. It was probably because the ambulance was moving and not giving my brain enough time to lock onto the mental static from the buildings around me. Unfortunately, my attempts at drowning out the thoughts of the paramedics failed miserably.
The red-headed paramedic, who sat in the back of the truck with me, was making an effort to take a medical history. The problem was that he was also trying to ignore the fact that his female partner had once again turned him down for a night out. His pitiful fantasies would've made me nauseous, even if my head wasn't already spinning, because they reminded me of really bad porn. I did feel kind of bad for him though. He'd been turned down by the only girl he'd ever spent a lot of time with. Being a member of the smallest minority on earth, loneliness was the one human emotion that I understood completely. I would've been tempted to give him some woman advise had I not mentally smacked myself first.
'Am I really emphasizing with the guy who is thinking about his romance issues while he was supposed to be treating the sick and afflicted?' I thought to myself bitterly.
The sick and afflicted that, for the moment, consisted of me and I had enough to deal with without worrying about if some down on his luck paramedic got laid or not. Where had listening to other people's loneliness gotten me anyway? I'll tell you where it had gotten me! In the back of an ambulance, with the headache to end all headaches, and me holding a sheet of gauze to my nose so that blood wouldn't get everywhere.
Quite frankly, I was getting pretty sick and tired of trying to fight foreign thoughts out of my head when it was clear that I wasn't doing a very good job in the first place. It takes an unbelievable amount of mental stamina to block out an entire world of loud, obnoxious people. Ever try focusing on a single blinking light bulb while your watching a light show? It's distracting to say the least. The psychic static never really ends. When I learned I could master my ability, I thought I had finally found a way to get rid of the distractions. There had been hope for some measure of quiet and normalcy. But as I lay on the gurney, it hit me that maybe I was never meant to keep my little slice of peace. Maybe I'd done something to piss the universe off and it was returning the favor.
The defeatist attitude of mine only got worse as the thoughts of everyone in the ambulance continued on, screaming in my head and tearing at my nerves.
"Man, I bet she's a hellcat. A girl that tough has to be. Wish she hadn't had something else to do last night, could've tried her out myself."
The red-head went on with the history, completely unaware that I knew where his attention was really focused–on getting into his partner's pants. I was so glad that I hadn't allowed myself to feel too sorry for him. The guy was a dog.
"Are you having pain anywhere else besides your head?" he asked, impatience in his voice. We'd already gotten past the humdrum 'how long have you had these headaches?' question before he'd let his mind start wandering, so I only had a few more monotonous questions to live through.
Well, there was a massive pain in my ass but I didn't think it was relevant to anything medical. "No."
"Did you take any medications or other substances this morning?" He said, wanting me to admit that I had snorted something that would've made my nose gush. "Bet she got high this weekend. Coke heads are such a waste of time."
Cocaine, what an easy and straightforward diagnosis. Part of me wished that I actually took drugs recreationally. It would've made for a believable excuse for how much of a freak I was. I could've pranced around in a blissful fog saying whatever I wanted about what people were thinking. No one would've ever taken me seriously because I would've been totally stoned. Or at the very least, the drugs would've been a good diversion from the fact that I was cursed. As you can probably tell, I'd considered the possibility before but the 'just say no' lecture won in the end.
"Nope." I muttered, hiding my distaste for his internal monologue. If only people knew what I could hear. They'd at least try to exercise a smidgen of self-restraint when it came to mentally insulting people.
"Big surprise." He put a pulsometer on my finger, and watched as the machine beep beep beeped to measure how fast my heart was going. "You're heart rate is elevated. Do you have a history of high blood pressure or anxiety?"
Anxiety? Oh you betcha. "It was my shrink who called you guys, what does that tell you?"
"Are you taking anything for the anxiety?" Was this guy ever hung up on drugs. Now he was convinced that I was snorting because I thought cocaine was medicinal. In his mind, not only was I a druggy but I was an idiot too.
I glared at him over the piece of gauze I was holding to my face, half tempted to flip him the bird. Quickly, I reconsidered that idea because people tend to get suspicious when you respond to their thoughts rather then their words. "I think I would've told you that when you asked if I had taken anything this morning."
The guy scowled at me, sensing the daggers of hostility that I was throwing at him, and continued with the interrogation. "Any head trauma in the past week?"
"Shouldn't you have asked this question before you loaded me onto the big white short bus?" I growled.
Evidently, my tone had gotten under his skin because his cheeks turned a nice shade of red, making his face look like it was going to morph into a giant radish. "I'm just doing my job, Miss Matthusen. Can you just answer the question?"
Well, since he'd asked oh so nicely. "No trauma unless I somehow missed a hard, blunt object hitting me. Wait a second! Do you think the anvil that mysteriously fell on my head Monday could've had something to do with it?"
"Hey Gauthier!" He called up to his partner, putting his clipboard down in his legs with a thwap. "We got an E.T.A on St. Luke's?" "I want this girl off my hands so I can treat people who actually appreciate being saved."
The female paramedic up front, who thankfully was quite focused on her task of getting me to the Emergency Room, shouted over the truck noise. "About five minutes. How's she doing?"
I raised my eyebrow and smirked, daring him to make a smart ass comment about me. His problem was that he was more concerned about impressing Gauthier and less about considering who he was taking on.
"She needs a new personality." "Cranky druggy bitch."
So he wanted to have a go at the mind reader huh? What a stupid, stupid move. The guy had been mentally accusing me of questionable moral character the entire ride, all the while thinking perverted thoughts about his partner. So maybe I let my headache get the better of me. Maybe I could've controlled my temper a little bit more than I did. But I'd be damned if I was going to let him get away with calling me names, even if he hadn't exactly called me them to my face.
"Hey, Ron Howard, I know I'm a bitch. It has something to do with the fact that there's a jackhammer pounding the inside of my skull. And let me tell you a little secret..." I paused, building suspense, like I was actually going to impart some valuable knowledge. Then I went straight for the jugular.
"The reason you're not getting any play is because grown women can tell when you're picturing them naked." I looked in the direction of the drivers seat to emphasize who I was talking about.
A loud guffaw came from the front seat. Gauthier apparently appreciated my jab. "She got you Henderson!"
Much to my satisfaction, Henderson turned a vibrant shade of crimson. "Shut up Gauthier!"
Henderson went quiet and stayed that way for the rest of the ride, sufficiently taught a lesson about not aggravating patients who were already having the worst day of their lives. The only time he looked up from his paperwork was when he tried to shine a penlight into my eye–which I didn't allow him to do because bright lights tend to be mortal enemies of people with headaches.
Even though I could still hear him cursing up a storm in his head, I appreciated the semi-silence that came from his lack of yammering. I appreciated it because I knew it would eventually come to an abrupt and painful end. When we reached the hospital, I would hear every thought from every single brain in the building. Not to mention all of the telephones, intercoms, beeping of heart rate monitors, crying children, and hundreds of people having conversations all at the same time. There would be no protection against it, no bracing myself for the impact. Something terrible was about to happen to me, something that I could see coming, and I knew it was going to sting.
The ambulance slowed down and I closed my eyes, dreading the inevitable. It reminded me of when I was six and broke my arm after falling off a playground swing. I'd waited in the emergency room for two hours, while pain ran up and down my arm. I knew, even at the ripe old age of six, that the arm would have to be cracked back into place. Cracking of any kind sounded terrible to me, so every moment I waited for the doctor to come I could feel the dread sinking into the pit of my stomach. The problem with my analogy was that what happened after the ambulance stopped hurt a whole hell of a lot more then setting a broken arm.
The thoughts came at me so fast that I worried they would blow parts of my skull to the other end of Toronto. I could hear each one individually as they bounced around my head, playing hopscotch on my brain tissue.
"They don't pay me enough to do the billings and clean the bedpans."
"Where the heck is that intern? He's an hour late for rounds."
"Mommy, please don't let the doctor poke me again."
"Good thing we have socialized health care. All these tests would be costing me a fortune."
"Spiral fracture of the arm, contusion to the left eye. This woman is being beaten by her husband."
"I swear I cannot read his hand writing. Does that say hydrocodone or hydroxyzine?"
"Oh Manny, how could you leave me..."
"The bullet barely missed her aorta."
"Another MRI? How long until they find this tumor?"
Just when I thought my cranium couldn't hold anymore people, something hit me...hard.
"TOBY! TOBY! HELP ME!" I heard a woman scream.
My head exploded, splattering big juicy globs of frontal lobe all over the back of the ambulance–or at least it felt that way. The strength of the thought made my whole body tense in pain, squeezing out a shocked yelp from my lungs. This thought hadn't just been words, or pictures that I experienced from a distance. It was as if the woman was inside my head screaming, and showing me IMAX quality video of what she was thinking. A car wreck, her head hitting the steering wheel as another car purposefully smashed into her. Snow fell all around, the cold blistering her skin. A bald man, the same bald man I had seen in Ray's thoughts, pulled her from the vehicle. This woman, where ever she was, was nowhere near the hospital and she was in serious trouble. I could feel her fear.
"OTTAWA! THEY'RE TAKING ME TO OTTAWA! I DON'T HAVE MUCH TIME LEFT!"
When the image went black, evaporating into nothing, a new pain filled my head. Sharp and unrelenting, it shot through my skull like white hot pokers being shoved into my brain. I couldn't open my eyes, or uncurl from the ball that my body had shrunken into. Every muscle contorted and I could hear myself wailing, but couldn't stop the sound from leaving my mouth. The agony was unlike anything I'd ever felt, dwarfing every other ache, pain and discomfort I'd ever had into nothing.
"Get her inside!" I could barely hear Henderson yell over the ringing in my ears and the thoughts of the people in the hospital. "Can you hear me Miss Matthusen?"
"I need Ray!" I shouted, gripping the sides of my head as I writhed. Not only was I in pain but I was scared shitless. Ray was the only person I could trust to get me through whatever was happening to me. It was completely clear that I couldn't handle this problem on my own, not without someone holding my hand and telling me that things were going to be okay. Even if they were lies, Ray would say those words if it meant dissolving my panic.
"What happened?" I heard Gauthier yell. "You said she was stable."
"She was fine!" Henderson snapped, pissed that she had basically accused him of some kind of negligence. "She just grabbed her head and started screaming!"
When they started lifting the gurney out of the truck, I felt my stomach fold in on itself, twisting and turning like a bag of live worms. Apparently, with all the pain and blood loss, my body didn't have the patience to deal with all the jerking that the paramedics were putting me through. I knew what was coming next, and couldn't hold it back. Hot, bitter vomit crept up my throat and spewed over the side of the gurney, thick chunks of my breakfast smacking onto the ground. I was sure that it didn't resemble anything remotely like the bacon and eggs I had had that morning, but I surprisingly cared very little about the puking. I was more concerned about the pain and getting ahold of Ray.
"Someone get me Ray Mercer." I groaned, my body tightening back into a protective ball. I was suddenly pissed at the paramedics for not letting Ray ride with me to the hospital.
"Mercer?" Gauthier asked. "The shrink?" "What does she want her shrink for? He's not even a real doctor."
"Yes." By now I was panting out my answers through clenched teeth. The pain would keep growing as long as the thoughts kept stampeding through my head. "You need to find him."
Suddenly, there was a loud uproar of voices and the sound of glass doors whooshing open. I was slammed from every angle by hands grabbing and tugging at me, invading my rather large personal bubble. I didn't open my eyes, because I really didn't need to. I knew I was being pushed into the ER, and that the hands jostling me were attached to nurses. However, the fact that the hands belonged to nurses didn't stop me from wanting to smack them away like the mosquitos they were.
"What do we have?" a deep, masculine voice asked with authority.
"Janet Matthusen, age 21. History of chronic headaches going back four weeks. Her shrink called an ambulance when her nose started bleeding uncontrollably." Henderson reported. "She was stable during transport, but she started convulsing as we unloaded her. She also vomited all over the back of our truck."
In the midst of my agony, I'd forgotten all about the nose bleed that had brought me here. Blood would've been all over my clothes and face, making me look like I had gone toe-to-toe with Sam Langford in a boxing match. Though the pain was still my biggest concern, I now began to worry what would happen if the bleeding didn't stop. Was it really blood leaking out through my nostrils, or was it melted brain? Could brains actually melt? People weren't supposed to do what I could do, so the realm of medical possibilities seemed to be a much larger place for me. Who knew how much damage all those years of "hearing" things had done.
"Did she mention any head trauma?" the doctor asked.
This time it was Gauthier who answered. "No trauma. She also denied any drug use."
"Miss Matthusen," I heard the doctor say. "My name is Dr. Langley. Do you know where you are?" "She could be hemorrhaging. Sounds like a brain tumor. We'll have to prep her for an MRI."
The words "brain tumor" sent a chill of panic up my back. I had known that it was a possibility, but hearing that the doc thought I had a tumor gave reality a chance to slap me across the face. My life was quickly turning into an even bigger nightmare than it already was.
Part of me wanted to say I was in hell but I couldn't seem to handle my usual dose of sarcasm. Instead, I obediently groaned the word "Hospital."
"What city are we in?"
Oh how I loved cognition tests, so delightfully mundane. They were even more irritating when you were trying not scream. "Toronto."
"Are you experiencing any ringing in your ears or sensitivity to sound?" Finally, a question that was worth answering.
I thought that voices would certainly count, so I nodded 'yes' before adding, "Where's Ray?"
"Who's Ray?" Langley asked.
Again it was Gauthier who answered. "He's the shrink who made the call. Dr. Ray ..."
"Mercer." Langley cut her off quickly. "I've seen him around here a few times. Is he on his way?"
"Yeah," a nurse somewhere answered, "He just arrived in the waiting room asking for her."
Langley had a grim tone in his voice when he asked, "Any family to contact?" "Just in case this thing is what I think it is."
I was about to tell him, rather assertively, not to bother with contacting my family but then I heard a thought that made my stomach drop. I heard it before I felt a set of ice cold hands try to wrench my fingers away from my face.
"Penlight." I assumed this thought had come from a nurse next to me. What was with these people and their stupid penlights?
"No!" I snapped, holding my balled fists tightly against the side of my head. They were going to check my pupils, and that was something I couldn't allow them to do–even if it meant biting off someone's fingers in the process. I couldn't take anymore pain, and adding a penlight to the mix sounded like a very, VERY bad idea.
"We have to check your pupils." the nurse cooed, as she tried to reposition me again.
This time I snarled at her, smacking at her blindly in an attempt to slap the penlight out of her hand. "No!"
Apparently, there more nurses surrounding me then I thought. Several sets of hands came flying at me, roughly pulling my fists away from my face. Another set came from above and held my head straight ahead. I squirmed, trying to get a few good hits in before I had to endure the trauma of having a mini-spotlight flashed in my face. Unfortunately, my body wasn't strong enough to fight them off. When I felt two fingers touch the skin of my eyelids, my stomach jumped into my rib cage.
"Fuck me!" I swore unintentionally. Everyone around me, from what I could hear, thought I was being overdramatic. I'll be the first to admit that if I had been a bystander watching the whole ordeal, I would've thought that I was being overdramatic too. And I would've been wrong. The light might as well have been the sun, because it certainly burned like it. Surges of pain shot across my skull like a lighting, and for a split second I thought I would lose consciousness. When I realized I wasn't going to blackout, I had to actively fight the need to hurl my already nonexistent stomach contents all over the emergency room floor.
"She hasn't blown a pupil." The nurse said, as she let go of my eyelids.
I wanted to fly up from the gurney and give the woman a good, firm pop to the mouth. If I hadn't felt like my head was being put through a wood chipper I would've. Or at the very least I could've told her to shove her penlight where the sun doesn't shine. But, knowing the way hospitals treated patients who picked on nurses, I let her assault on my retinas slide. Rather then starting a fight, I curled back into my protective ball and closed my eyes. Being put in restraints just didn't really appeal to me. What did appeal to me was making the screaming pain in my head stop, and that meant...
"I hate to bother you guys while your trying to work," I said over the commotion, trying to keep my teeth from clenching, "But can you give me something for this pain? It's kinda kicking my ass."
"Push .15 of morphine." Langley ordered. "I don't want her writhing around during the MRI."
I thanked him silently, even though his reasons behind doping me were more out of annoyance than sympathy. The dose of morphine would knock me out cold. I didn't have much of a tolerance for painkillers. When the needle bit into my arm, a warm, woozy feeling filled my head. It worked fast, easing the pain as it trickled through my body. Finally, with a sigh of relief, I slipped into a blissful fog of silence.
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