I opened my eyes and took a deep breath of relief. My eyes were working. I could see color and objects. I could hear a musical sound. I could feel a subtle vibration from under me. The smell that surrounded me was like a musty basement. The taste of the air was sweet and metallic. I laid there staring upwards, letting it all sink in.
The ceiling looked like a normal room. In the middle hung a chandelier, it was covered with decorative panels, painted like a fancy Victorian home. I was laying on something soft. I moved my head to see. It looked like a normal bed, in someone's bedroom. It had a huge, wooden headboard with carvings of circles and gears. Only, these carvings were moving around. I could also see two bedside tables, one on each side of the bed. Each had a lamp, and one had a pitcher and a glass of water. On the left table was a vase of arranged flowers; roses and daisies.
On the left wall, a large picture of a river in a forest sang at me with the voice of an all-female choir. It was low and whispering, like a chanting prayer. Under the voices, I could hear the river flow. Then, I realized that the river was moving, the wind blew through the trees, and birds were flying in the air. For reasons I do not know, I didn't want to think about the picture. It was happy and sad at the time. It was enough to know it was there and that was all.
On the same wall, stood an ordinary wardrobe. The door was open just a tad. I would swear on everything holy, that the sleeve of a woman's military flight suit was sticking out. Then, the sleeve was pulled inside and the door closed by itself. The wall itself was an unassuming and ordinary wood paneling, at first glance. But the closer I looked, the more the wood grain shifted like it was alive. Past the foot of the bed, on the far wall, was a dressing table. I could tell there were ladies things on it but not in any detail.
A door stood closed on the far right wall. It had markings that matched the headboard, but those were not moving. Next came the bookcase filled with books, gargoyle bookends, a paper Mache, blue, police box, a box of glowing marbles, a wormy potato in water, and other odd looking knick-knacks. Then, a set of wooden drawers. On the top of it, a long, two-handed sword with a white hilt on a display stand. There was so much to look at. So many things. I stopped looking. The last I wanted was to go into sensory overload again. I looked back up at the ceiling.
That's when I noticed a faint golden hue surrounding me, like a bubble. I reached up with my right hand to touch it. I didn't get to touch it. I noticed what was on my hand. The place where the thorn had injected me, had turned green. In the center of the wound, there was a piece of brown seed. Brown lines swam around my fingers, into my palm and wrist.
I brought my hand to my nose. I inhaled deeply. There was no indication of the smell of nuts, so it wasn't gangrene. I studied it carefully. I could see the lines growing. I sighed. There was nothing I could do about it. My attention went back to the golden bubble. I reached out to touch it again. It bounced back, like a force field. Cool.
A far off voice came through me, a whisper on wind without motion. It was a woman's voice. I only heard her saying my name. She said more, but I couldn't understand the words. Then, that was interrupted by the disembodied voice of the Shadow Man.
"It's a low level, telepathic field," he said.
"What?" I asked, looking over at the door he came in.
And there he was. I actually saw him. He was not a black-on-black silhouette. He was real and standing at the foot of the bed. But again, his body shifted, one person, many forms and faces, only his eyes remained the same. I was suddenly compelled to ignore him and speak aloud the only thing that filled my mind, numbers.
"10, 2, 37, 63, 8, 22, 59, 4, 89." I listed aloud.
"Why are you doing that?" he demanded.
Mustering as much focus as I could, I attempted to respond. "I, 11, don't, 41, know, 32, 6, 25." The numbers came faster and faster. I could no longer do or say anything else.
The Shadow Man pulled his metal light from his coat pocket. He aimed it at the headboard and it flashed and whistled. The numbers in my head slowed and finally stopped. The montage of visual forms on his body slowed and glitched out. "What do you see now?" he asked.
"Static. It's looping static," I replied
"Well, better than a shadow, eh?" he said.
"I know it's you in shadow because of your hair," I said. "Now, you look like a static silhouette. It's weird."
He reached up and touched his hair. "Yeah, well, it's a lottery, isn't it? That's what I get for spending too much time with Telosians." He scoffed. "Right now, I look like a toss up between Loki and Legolas. You should see the braids. It was either that or the man bun. Went with the lesser of two evils."
"Legolas? The elf from Lord of the Rings? He isn't even real," I objected.
"What? Of course, he is! You don't think that all happened in fiction, do you? Well, I admit there was some embellishment. But for the most part, that's what happens when a companion accidently gets stuck on the wrong planet. Not everything goes right. And sometimes, it takes a while to fix. In his case, it was a few years."
"Legolas, was your companion?" I asked.
"What? No! John. John was my companion. When he got home, he wrote a book. He wasn't the first to do that. Amazing man, John. Been using the name ever since."
I snorted a laugh. "Fine. If that is how you like it, then fine. Ruin a childhood, why don't you," I replied. He chuckled. "You are lying!" I accused.
"Get used to it," he shrugged. "It's better if you do..."
I interrupted. "Wait. You said, low-level telepathic field? I am on a medical bed? It looks like a normal bed. And what is reading my mind?"
"Well, yeah. Of course, it looks like a normal bed. It also acts as a medical bed. The TARDIS can monitor your life readings, recommend medical procedures, repair minor damages, First aid stuff. All the beds do it, when necessary."
"And when not necessary? Can you turn it on and off?" I asked.
"Yes, you can. But why would you..."
"Well, if you had a wife and she slept in bed with you, you could turn on the telepathic field and..."
"Okay! Stop!" he shouted.
That is when I found out that static could blush. It was so funny! I laughed at him. "Oh, you are naughty! I bet your wife was very happy! Talk about misuse of company property! Don't worry, I won't tell."
"Okay, let's get you out of that bed," he said quickly.
"Awe, wouldn't you like a go, Mr. Naughty? I'd like to try the telepathic field," I said, as I laughed harder. "Come on, join me." I patted a spot on the bed next to me.
I would like to say that I didn't mean it. But that wouldn't be completely true. I would say that 60% of me wanted to try, most of that was from plain curiosity. There was a 10% of me that responded with shock. Then, it came back with a thought that maybe static sex tingled in all the right places. And he would know exactly where the tingle should go with the instruction of telepathic field. Then, I realized how embarrassed I was at these thoughts. That was interrupted by a female voice, laughing in the back of my head. I went quite. He did not.
"Why does it always come down to that?" The Shadow man facepalmed. "I mean really."
I was still laughing at him and, secretly, me. "I'm only human." I shrugged it off.
"No, you would think so, but no. It isn't only human," he said.
"Well, you are a bit naughty, aren't you?" I said. Now, I was laughing so hard, I was snorting. I couldn't help it. How does static blush? How could I describe it? And how is it not funny? He would like me to believe that he doesn't have chemical in his brain that motivates him to think these things. He is an evolved creature from a highly intellectual race of beings who conquered space-time, time, and space. But the truth of it is, that they too were like humans in the way that they are driven to procreate, albeit a little differently. That means highly evolved brain chemicals that do the same thing. Maybe it functions like a Vulcan from Star Trek, how was I to know? But function it does, and there wasn't any use in hiding it. "Now, I know something about you. You are prudish," I said. "I'll bet you feel guilty about lying about that."
"Fine! I am a beast in the bed sheets! Is that what you want?" He yelled.
"Sure. Why not? No use in denying it, after all. Here I come, Effie! The oncoming storm. Don't be scared, I am going conquer all your time and space, it will be over in a flash!" He growled. "All right, I'm done! I swear." I laughed.
"I know why you are doing that," he said.
"This. You want to embarrass me because you are embarrassed for fainting again."
"Well, we are even now, I guess."
"Hold on," he said. His static shape came closer to the bed. "How do you know all that stuff?"
"Oncoming Storm, evolved creature, conquering space-time, all that. I didn't tell you that," he said.
I stopped laughing. He was right. "How did you know, that I knew?"
"Low-level telepathic field, I can hear surface thoughts," he said.
"Well, that is embarrassing." I thought a moment but could not come up with an answer. "I don't know," I said. "It was all just there, in my head."
"And you can see? Can you see what is around you?"
"Well, yeah. Sorry, I don't think I mentioned that. Probably should have. Maybe that's why I am avoiding leaving the bed. I don't want to be blind again."
He went quite. He looked over the headboard. The shadow man pointed his metal light at it and made it whistle. Then, he looked at his wand. "How? How! How can you...you...plug in? Plug and play?" He pocketed his metal light. Then, he grabbed my face with his static hands and came close. He was so close he should have been breathing up my nose. But there wasn't any breath from his face. The only thing that appeared in that was the burning blue eyes again. "What are you playing at, you sexy thing?" he whispered.
"I was only joking about the bed thing," I said. "If you want to play doctors and nurses, then you should work up to it. Dinner, dancing, ice cream, you know."
"Shut up, I'm not talking to you," he said. The eyes burned and went silent. After another moment or five, he let me go. "I hate not knowing!"
"Oh, then I guess the date is off. You are really going to hate me now," I said, averting his gaze.
"What? Tell me," he demanded.
I raised my right hand, palm out. "It's spreading and turning green. What does your bed med say about that?"
"Don't I know it!" I smiled. "Two! Two puzzles wrapped in one! Act now on this incredible offer! All for one low, low price! Only one human soul."
"No. No. Don't. Do not joke about that. Don't," he said.
"It doesn't matter," I said. "What am I compared to the big picture. A single-celled organism, on a mite, on a flea, on the back of a running dog? Nope, not even that."
"I have never met a single life that wasn't important. There is no such thing as small, Jessica."
"And death? Have you ever met a death that wasn't important?" I asked.
"You can't have one without the other. Would you protect an important death?"
"Life. Life is worth protecting," he said.
"Yes, but living is not. Life in exchange for life is not death. It's change without ending," I said. I could feel the blood drain from my face. Why was I saying this? My mouth kept moving. "You are a silly, ridiculous man. And even after all this time, you still haven't learned the most important lesson."
"What's that?" he asked, shocked.
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