Categories > Original > Drama0 Reviews
"There was something vaguely mechanical to the sound, laughing and laughing and laughing, voices spiraling ridiculously high at my eardrums, rebounding painfully up to my temples."
Walking among them you can pick out a few key types, all lingering. First there are the ones who lapse here naturally, who carry no pretense about them. They go happy in their willful ignorance, walking lightly down sidewalks with a criminal glee marked across their face. If one were to slap them they would stare back up at you, that smile twisting their faces in a terrible grimace. Clinging close to these, always, are people who glorify this perpetually infantile state. They walk less carefully, with less natural smoothness, and vary between tripping over themselves and a sickly cultivation of a limp step, always fumbling over themselves after the first type, simpering and striking poses and marking their intelligence somehow by how far they admire those who lack it. Finally, there is a set of people who are fully conscious of the situation, knowing that stupidity is not to be praised. From either exhaustion or weakness they bring themselves to it, heavy with a bitter self-revilement, spiting themselves with every moment spent among this mob. They list about, absorbing the forced torture of human contact, rushing themselves into a dull and frantic enthusiasm when the mood strikes them.
Of the three types, only the last doesn't belong. They move, rare and ill liked, tolerated only because the rest is lost for a reaction, between bodies seeking a vague isolation. These corrupt, these parasites hooked on the vast sustainable host of blank acceptance, quickly convince themselves that there is no hope and they are happy, healthily lost in the sea of skin around them, and that they would not go, even if it was made possible.
Only the solipsist can be made sick by contact. Tired of wandering between buildings, eyes spinning from staring too long at cracked pavement, I retreated again to the grips of my compulsion, that is, I walked down to the usual place, went down the concrete steps, and settled myself on Matt's couch. I could hear voices through the kitchen door. The muffled sound was enough to make me grin. Leaning back, satisfied, I glanced around at the livid room, glaringly familiar with old scarred furniture and resplendent with faded photographs and paint chipping in gray streaks down the wall. The door bangs into the wall as Matt stalks into the living room, followed loosely by a random assortment of acquaintances. I thought I recognized a couple of them, giving the group a quick glance before Matt sits down next to me.
"Jesus, don't you knock anymore?"
"I was lonely"
"Sure you were lonely you arrogant prick, what do you get out of coming here anyways? You just sit there and watch, don't even talk, makes my skin crawl the way you do it sometimes"
I shrugged, "I don't know. I like it I guess."
Matt turns around and strikes up a conversation with a tired looking blonde standing behind the couch staring at her fingernails. I lolled my head back again and listened vaguely. People clustered around me, merging in and out of each other.
"I was going to pick her up right and-"
"No! Damn it, it happened like this"
"You gotta try it man, it's the best thing you'll ever find"
"Check this picture Val, remember when we got this taken?"
The voices swam into each other, all in one strange overwhelming rush of sound through my ears and nostrils. Closing my eyes I took it all in, exhaling slowly. There's no better oblivion than other people, if you let them, they'll fill you completely in seconds, taking out any matter, any feeling or upset and replacing it with their smooth careless triviality. I felt myself relax as the conversation behind me turned to some recounting of the night before.
"So we got there and the place was closed!"
Laughter. It trilled up and hit me straight in the gut. There was something vaguely mechanical to the sound, laughing and laughing and laughing, voices spiraling ridiculously high at my eardrums, rebounding painfully up to my temples. I cringed, trying to pull back from it. My senses inflamed with the laughter. Consciously, I knew it was over, it was done. Now Matt, and the blonde and the others were talking about the war, imbuing their voices with a special mix of pride and grief apparently appropriate to the subject. I could hardly hear them, the laughter still rushing through my skull, reflected in shattered trails of thought, abandoned images were revived and brought behind my eyes with a hot sense of revulsion, stomach churning with contempt. I opened my eyes to get rid of it; frantically forcing them open so I could focus against this mounting nausea and bombardment of my mind. They open to a writhing lazy orgy of skin, corrupt bodies pressed over the walls, pale and clammy, garish in bright fabrics beaded with sweat that leaves as tumescent sheen on the furniture as they swarm against it. My mouth gapes open, fingers gripping the couch cushion in a blind and overwhelming terror. Bile rises hot and heavy in my throat as I watch them, guided by some alien compulsion to keep my eyes on them. Their voices are a terrible sound, thick and spat out like cheap refuse. They step over each other, trading waste and sweat, reveling in their obscene incestuous splendor. In a blind, fleshy ruinous pale mass they snatch out at food, their movements insect like, as if they could whip around and take my hand rather than the pretzels in front of them. The room reeked suddenly of sweat and piss, all varieties of infection seized my nostrils, I choked on the heavy smell of their bodies, standing to try and reach more clean air. And they came up, closer, surging around my body, drinking and laughing and sleeping in each others white and flaking skin shed upon the floor to rot, a circle of sepulchers, blanched out and disgusting with saliva glittering slick smeared over their lips, running in sticky lines down their chins. My breath comes hard, wheezing out of me as I kneel down. Their feet shuffle towards me, bumping against my back and legs, unobtrusively disgusting. I glance around for the door; I can't see it for all their fleshy whiteness, twisting my head around furiously. Finally, overcome by their rankness, their rank exusion of decay, I clench my eyes shut and vomit, releasing my fear in dry heaves as I wrap my arms around my stomach. Still heaving, I feel my legs drop out from under me, shaking wildly. Taking it in, in a sort of disassociated blankness, I pitch forward; wondering at the absence of my knee to break the fall, and go black, skin still crawling in revulsion.
I woke up the next morning covered with sweat, my skin hot and terrible to touch. I riled at my shirt stuck damp against my back. My throat was sore, reaching up to rub it I glanced about, taking in the bad walls and assorted photos that meant I was still on Matt's couch. Sitting up, I cringed at the rush of pain to my temples. I could hear Matt doing something in the kitchen; the inexorable crash of pots and pans hit my ears offensively. Gingerly, I stood up and walked slowly into the kitchen, wondering faintly that I had the use of my legs. They were sore. Matt didn't turn around when I opened the door
"You feeling okay there?"
"Huh?" My head was ringing terribly, a splitting sensation running down to knot in my stomach.
"You were acting real strange there last night."
My head began to throb worse as he said it, images flooding back through my skull. I recoiled a bit, stepping back out into the living room. Matt yelled after me
"You want some breakfast or something?"
I winced again, the sound shot straight to my temples
"Sure. Could you just talk a little quieter though? My head hurts"
"You sure you're okay?"
I laid back down again, recounting the perverse images of the night before. Shuddering, I tried to place where they could have come from, failing miserably as I drew an undeniable blank. Feeling uneasy, I shrugged it off. Maybe I was just spending too much time alone, no use getting anxious over some random hallucination. I drove the thoughts out of my head quickly, not wanting to dwell on them, when Matt came in, banging the door. As he came closer with the food I was gripped again in that strange horror, my skin growing tight around my face, eyes wide and dry; I was afraid to close them.
"Sure you’re not sick Jes? You're looking pretty pale there"
The words washed over me in a roaring fury, so much ringing static thrust at my ears. He leaned in to touch my forehead, I balked, eyes gone wide, I could smell disease leaking off his skin, exploding from his pores. Panicking, I kneed him in the gut and ran frenzied out the door. My skin tingled as I stepped out into the clear air, feet pounding against pavement as I crashed in to strange bodies, hardly taking in the looks of distaste at my frightened disarray, my limp and wrinkled clothes and tangled hair from sleeping restlessly. The world ahead of me broadened wildly into specters of color, points of lights ahead of me, the vague shock of the foot slamming into the ground as I thrust myself forward. On and on, my breath coming in wild ragged pants filling my ears, until I collapsed, legs taken out from under me again, and I slept, vaguely aware of rocks under my legs and dust clogged in my nostrils.
When I woke next the sun was high overhead, glaring down a brilliant scorching white. Dust clung to my skin, glued there by sweat. My left ankle was numb. Leaning up on my elbows I stared down at it. A snake slid calmly around my leg, a black ridge mutely reflecting the sun. It brushed against my skin; I shuddered at the cold sensation of the scales catching against me, shocking in the face of so much heat. Its skin was so cold it felt wet and soothing. I tried to locate its eyes, but couldn't find them, black blending into black. It lurched down and swung its tail around my ankle, gripping the tip in its mouth. I could see its
long fangs digging into the scales, flashes of brilliant white and red against itself. Swallowing its tail, it constricted itself around my ankle, gripping me painfully. My foot began to feel as if it was swelling, gone numb cut off from blood. Fascinated I stared at it, watching the faint spasm of muscle as it consumed itself. I reached out to touch it, wanting to feel more of that strange cool on my skin. My fingertips brushed against its back and the snake jumped, choking on itself. I went still, confused as the pressure around my leg began to fluctuate wildly as the snake tried to release itself, flailing wildly and ripping strips of flesh from its sides. Finally, it went stiff, mouth leaking blood and released venom. Its skin was slippery as I lifted it off me and set it on the ground. It struck me strangely, flooding my body with a strange sense of serenity. Even dead the thing look wild, undeniably free. Running my hand over it again I decided I must consume myself to be free, must raze myself entirely to the ground, ripping myself out of this soft and useless delirium into the raw horror and ecstatic suffering of being so that I could re-emerge pure, wild, and purged of all innocence.
I did not sleep that night, or the next, afraid to lose my revelation with sleep, to have it washed away. Instead I lay back there on the side of the road and stared up at the sky, watching the sun arch over me under my vision blurred and separated into patches of violent color, and the stars until they too came together n one vast gleaming haze overhead. After the third day I stopped sweating, my limbs heavy and numb for lack of water, my skin burnt red and cracking on my hands and fingers. I put them in my mouth to give them moisture, but it only scratched my tongue. The blood was thick and clotted on the roof of my mouth. It tasted metallic when I ran my tongue against it. Feeling my stomach growl I would imagine my bones spread out and bleaching under the sun. I wondered how long it would take.
My thoughts grew wilder with each hour without water, each day spent under an unforgiving desert sun. I imagined vast armies of ghostly dancers come up to flatten the earth beneath them, yowling with a high piercing keen of lament as they tramped around, conjured up dead or ruined gods, spinning around me with deep sorrowful eyes. I saw the stars fall and shatter around my feet in a great visitation of energy, the shards embedded in my skin and forcing me to rise. I pictured eyeless women nursing frantic babies that clawed at them, wailing curiously, their cries terrible and their fingers twitching like flashy cockroaches unbuttoning her blouse. I saw a vast dark river, plunged with bodies brilliant with release as they waded through the water, singing and carrying flowers, their eyes wild and unabashed.
These visions came all at once, or in rapid succession, always the same sights, the same fascinating wondering gaping back at me. I laid stiffly in the dust to watch them, too drained of liquid to move or think. So I watched and went easily when they all faded into black and I passed out under the stars.
My limbs were on fire! Shaking terribly I came too again, life is a succession of strange awakenings, lying prone across a leather seat. Glancing around I realized it was a cop car.
"You awake back there?"
The cop was a fat flaccid looking old man with dark eyes and thinning hair.
"You're lucky I came along and found you there, don't think you could have lasted much longer."
I must have made some vague noise of confusion, for he continued
"Yep. I'm taking you to the Emergency Room right now, only about five more miles I think, but you've been out a long time even since I picked you up."
I felt a strange constricting sensation in my throat when I felt the lack of my images
"I can't see-"
"What was that?"
"I need the sun"
He sounded amicably worried. I gaped in a stuporous confusion at myself and went back to sleep, preferring a black exhausted void to his company.
Presumably a few hours later, I was prodded awake in a metal hospital bed with an IV jutting out from my arm and a paper gown wrapped around my neck. Looking around I saw a pair of sterile looking women, one in a nurses' getup and the other in a white coat. They smiled at me.
"Good to see you're feeling better."
I shrug, unsure of what they are trying to pull from me.
"Now. The sheriff who brought you in was worried you might have hit your head. So do you mind if we ask you a few questions?"
I nod, "Alright"
My voice squeaked out raspy from lack of use.
"Can you tell us your name?"
"Very good. Do you know what year it is?"
"Yes. Now, so we can better gauge how dehydrated you are, could you tell us how long you were out there in the desert"
"I'm not sure"
"Alright" She frowned a bit, "Could you tell us why you were out there then?"
"I had to get out"
"What do you mean?"
"I felt sick and I had to get out"
I didn't want to say more, still unsure of what they were trying to get out of this.
The nurse exchanged a look with the other woman and they whispered for a moment.
"Would you mind being subjected to a psychiatric evaluation?"
The nurse took that as enough of a sign of consent and left the room in measured efficient steps, leaving me to pass out again.
Once more I was prodded awake. Hovering over me was a sweaty nervous little man who introduced himself as the psychiatrist on call. He had the confused sentimental sort of nervousness that people have when they are too afraid or too stupid to indulge in self-loathing.
"Let's begin. You told the nurse you felt you had to get out, what did you mean by that."
I rolled my eyes, resigning myself to answering him quickly so he would go away.
"I felt surrounded by people and repulsed and terrified, like they were closer in with claws stretched out for me, so I ran. I was afraid and made sick by all these people, so I had to get away from them"
He furrowed his brow
"Like they were out to get you?"
"No. More like they were just going to get me and they couldn't help it, I was just in their path of blind disgusting movement. That made it worse though, that they couldn't help it, they did because they didn't know how not to."
He scratched his head
"I see." He paused as if deciding a course of action, "Ms. Jessen, do you know the term 'paranoia'"
"Well, do you think that may have been a paranoiac episode?"
"Possibly. I don't see why it matters, it doesn't make the fear any less real."
The doctor quickly gathered his papers up.
"Oh! I have to go see another patient. Goodbye then"
Looking slightly worried he ran out the door and left. I laid there and decided quickly to go back to sleep for lack of anything else to do and in hope of people leaving me alone.
When I woke up again it was dark and a nurse was bustling around my charts. Noticing that I was awake she looked me over brusquely and said
"The doctor wanted me to inform you that once you are fit for discharge you are going to be committed to the psych ward."
She busted out of the room. I smirked after her and slumped into the pillow.
A week later I found myself sitting in a bathrobe in a depressingly sterile room watching other patients play cards or watch TV or mutter to themselves. I a lot of days sitting back with my eyes closed, playing my visions back to myself, recounting them carefully so they lost no detail, no sharpness in my recollection. Without the sun or a body wasted without water to bring them on they became relegated to dreams, recurring constantly. On one level it was horribly suffocating. Overcome with fear that I would die here without having been reborn, I began to seek someone out, so I could find anyone to rouse my nerves and even bring that fear back on again. As it was I had no impetus to leave.
She was beautiful, cutting across my vision pale face floating detached from her wrinkled robe. There was something vaguely feral in her movements, furtive and yet unwaveringly graceful. After emerging bleary-eyed from the therapist's office she would go and curl up on the floor and close her eyes. Later, asking her, I'd find she did this to recollect herself and to void everything she had just given of herself, negate it so the gift had been nothing, the outpouring dammed up and strenghtened with a level of infantile hostility. She hated to lie, but she hated the feeling that she was being bleached out more.
Her name was Ariadne, it was a name she'd granted herself feeling her own, which she'd refused to tell me, was inadequate and captured nothing of her soul and granted her no room to move. She thought names should have to air of immortality about them, something that can either strip you down or drag you up to a strange height. She'd laugh in the middle of this routine (she said it often) and stop and say it didn't matter. It took me three times asking to hear her full speech on it.
Our acquaintanceship started oddly, stumbling one day out of the office she tripped over my foot and stared up at me, as if wondering at the fact that there was another person alive. She had a wilder version of that corrupt innocence herself, and stalked the corridors with her fluttering, anxious hands, raving naively to herself and being awed by everything. Talking to her, she became possessed of a heavy wisdom that was all at once frightening and inexplicably absurd. It caught you off guard, hidden expertly among her childish smiles and endless diatribes detailing her sort of destructive regrowth. Ariadne said it was the therapy that did it, that she wanted them to have none of her so she had to make what they had not her anymore. That's why, she said, the therapy worked. It forced you to recreate yourself from everything they wouldn't take, and they only took psychosis anyways. I didn't mention any of my images to her, only the crippling horrible fear and my need to get out from under everything mounting on me, all the faces and voices that filled my mind and left no room for me. I would cringe remembering how that's what I had asked for anyways and then wonder if, on a deeply entrenched and thoroughly unreachable level of my psyche, I'd known what effect it had and forced myself into it, confident only that I wouldn't let it choke me forever.
Another week went on dragging its feet with it. At night the dreams became more vivid and more amorphous so that during the day I couldn't recall them the same as I had before. I would wake up drenched with sweat still reeling from them. The rest of the day I contented myself with seeking out Ariadne.
I woke up one morning to a nurse standing over me, checking my charts and shaking her head. I looked at her curiously, leaning on my elbows.
"You're going to start therapy today. Get up."
Her voice was deadpan; I shrugged it off and climbed out of bed, following her down the hall to the therapist’s office.
Opening the door I was relieved to see it wasn't the sweaty little man that had committed me, but a young-looking woman, her apparent youth betrayed only by angry lines etched around her mouth and an impatience too different form that of youth to really place. The place exuded a cold off-putting feeling, as if one should apologize immediately for intruding. I sat down quickly, flinching at the cold metal of the chair. Her office was just as stark as the rest of the ward, decked out in icy grays and sickly yellows, a sterile smell adding the final heady feel to it. My head ached as I waited for her to look up from desk, where she was rifling through files. Finally, looking up she smiled. It was the sort of smile that should come with a creak to express how forced it is, how mechanical and terrible it looks glittering on the person's face. Contrasting the rest of the place, her face was vibrantly tan, her hair lush and dark around her shoulders. If one could ignore her facial expressions, one would have to call her gorgeous. As it was she had the vague look of a discontented and malicious doll, perched on her chair looking at me. When she finally spoke her voice came in short hard bursts, each like a slap in the face.
"Are you on medication yet?"
"Well we'll see if that has to be changed. So-" She glanced to down check my name, "Jesi, what do you think sparked your fear?"
"I'm not sure"
"Was it that you were in a group of people? Did you feel outnumbered?"
"I guess but that wasn't the-"
She interrupted. I learned quickly that she interrupted constantly.
"Was it the closed off space?"
"No the room didn't bother me"
It went on like that uselessly. I didn't know how she could get anything vital from anyone with her cold questions and quick diagnosis. At the end of the first session she informed me that I was a paranoid psychotic personality with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. How she had come to that conclusion I wasn't sure, I hadn't said more than ten words during the session. I think she decided it on a whim when I had come in.
After each session with her Ariadne would avoid me for a few hours, to give me time to "recollect" she said. When she finally came over her voice grated on me, my skin began to constrict in her presence, her stupid and juvenile hang-ups. She told me she was here partly because she figured it was better than being anywhere else. I inclined my head when she said it, agreeing and despising the both of us for having so little capacity for exerting our own will. Ariadne really didn't seem to have one, just an odd and ever-changing assortment of phrases and impulses. She was carefully suppressed, if you didn't look to long you could even miss the huge gap in her thoughts. She didn't have any sense of life, or of wanting life, only an obsession with being intact, being alive seemed to be optional. She ranted about the same themes, recollection of self and immortality (which seemed by her definition to be a great unseeing numb endlessness barring any real experience or vitality). These two themes went together and her voice would drone on and on, piercing a clumsy hole in my skull so the sound bled through at affronted my temples. Her thin childish voice was sharp and painful, searing like a drill behind my eyes. Each time we spoke it pressed harder and harder, the pressure growing insanely until finally I snapped and threw myself to the floor screaming and covering my eyes with my hands, pressing my elbows against my ears as I curled up into myself. I felt hands pawed all over me, arm yanked up and cloth pulled down so a needle could sink in and release its fluid.
I came too with a thick feeling on my tongue, my head ringing like I'd been hit. The therapist was standing by my bed. She said simply, staring down at me metallically (her eyes gleamed in the way coins do, or bits of jewelry, but never anything alive)
"If you tell me what caused it I'll keep you off medication"
She didn't bother to smile even as she said it. My fear of medication was the only thing she'd gotten from me during our sessions. I thought if I was medicated I 'd lose any measure of freedom I still had, unable to even direct my thoughts under their influence. Slow, my muscles moving as if underwater, I nodded. Calmly, knowing she'd keep to her word, I let it all flood out, the visions, my sickness at Matt's place. Even the snake. She'd grinned a bit at that, taking it all in, my need for freedom, my craving of renewal. When I was done she smirked and left without saying anything. The nurse told me the next day that I had graduated therapy.
I felt sick again talking to Ariadne later that day. The disgust wore up in my brain, frustrated. I tried to distract myself by her voice came back again.
"Are you listening?"
"She was in there a long time this morning with you."
"Did you tell her anything/"
"Does it matter?"
My voice took on a confrontational tone, defensive and lazily drawling from my mouth.
"Yes it does, she gets off on breaking people. If you told her anything, you're going to regret it later."
I shrugged "She said she'd keep me off meds"
Ariadne looked horrified.
"You sold yourself for that?"
I shrugged again at her and leaned back, letting her stalk off with a sick look on her face.
That night I couldn't sleep, I rolled heavily twisted in the sheets, eyes open staring out into nothing. The room was so dark I couldn't see my hands in front of me. Days after you've gone without sleeping carry a strange charged energy as if the rest for your restlessness is about to be revealed to you.
Night after night I laid there, mind blank with frustration unable to drift off. During the day I stalked around exhausted, barely noticing that Ariadne avoided me, a worried look darkening her eyes.
I finally asked the therapist to give a sedative. She smirked as she handed it over with a paper cup of stale tasting water. It succeeded n knocking me out and I lay stiffly unconscious in the dark, eyes closed and absorbed in a terrifying blackness. I woke up sick from the sedative and disturbed for a lack of dreams.
Wracking my brain there was nothing, just nothing at all that I could recall, only faint details and pictures from weeks before. I felt sick. There was nothing left of it, quickly receding into a fog of self-loathing, an indelible and inexplicable loss of that small freedom. Why it hurt so much I could not explain, but when I realized all memory of the dreams were gone- short of a knowledge that they had existed and been vivid once- I became immobile, refusing to rise from the bed or look out the window, not knowing what to do with myself without the impetus they provided. I slept frequently, letting a sort of dreamless slumber overtake the haze of frustration too heavy around me. I didn’t want to move, there was no reason to. I thought if the therapist came in I would ask her for drugs as a means of distraction. Watching her gloat over it wouldn’t bother me that cold fish smug smile. It’d be right, I caved too readily. Even so, I couldn’t understand what had spurred me to tell her. Shock seemed to be the best guess. If I could go back into that than I could perhaps justify or forget my disclosure.
The girl’s voice came softly through the fog around me, splitting it apart as I opened my eyes. She was wearing a red coat, glaringly alien in our blanched out surroundings.
“I’ve been discharged, I’m leaving.”
I rolled over, refusing to consider the idea. Not that it mattered to me anymore.
“I just wanted you to know that there’s no reason to lay here. You may as well kill yourself if you don’t get out of this too.”
With that she left, her back receding through the door.
What she had said troubled me. She was right, I had to try for some sort of separation for this if I was going to have any shot at regeneration. I laid there, trying to picture what I could do here. Only thing that recurred was the notion of escape. Unlike before it held no twinge of fear, only relief, the thought of it bringing a lightness to my shoulders, a feel of freedom back to me. To be vital it seems, one must have some purpose, some driving force; I felt if I could get out I could reclaim wherever it was I had been headed to originally, spark a new set of visions. After getting out, I decided, I never wanted to see another human again. If anything, I hoped to regain that quick release and reclamation of self in vision, that strange untouchable self I’d freed myself into. Here, there was no ego, no joy in this suffering void of anything but a stupid delirium or at best a narcotic sanity hinged on deprivation.
I heard the door unlock (somehow with my collapse I’d gained a private room). The walls constricted tight around my veins, my legs surged with adrenaline, impulse throbbing heady through my spine. As it opened I flung myself wildly off the bed, rushing limply towards the door. My legs crumpled under me, weak from disuse, and I stared up at the shocked nurse, laughing softly, the convulsions rocking my head forward as she screamed for a hypodermic and plunged it into my arm.
It all blurred together, bodies wandered across my vision, I caught dim phrases thrown down from their lips
“Well, put it in already”
“Where did she think she could go?”
“Never mind just hook her up”
The IV was thick in my arm, a hot intrusive force pumping into me. I could feel my mind sharpen, terrified, as my body separated, snapped at the spinal cord, and went limp. I tried to keep my eyes open as they went heavy, but I couldn’t and everything receded into black.
Walking around like grim and dusty shadows they limp around me, my legs following in tandem and my fingers clutching at the IV, trying dimly to force it deeper into the vein. The whole world narrowed down to a prick on my arm and variegated wraiths helpless around me. A shot of laughter breaches my narcotic haze momentarily and I jerk upright, caught in a sudden tense revulsion at the sound. It recedes and I shrug back down, calmly returning to my fingers splayed around my IV and the rush of fluids in my system.