My arms are strapped to the chair. I don’t get it. I’m not really in any shape to do anything. But whatever gets me to a phone which has my mom on the other end, I’ll play along with.
The hallway is more of the same. They must love this designer. Grey concrete with grey metal doors. The first door we pass reeks of exhaust and gas. Revving comes from inside. Must be a parking garage.
And a way out.
The next door is silent and so is the next, and the next. And so on. Just a long concrete hallway that finally turns and turns again lined with doors, none of them marked. Finally the woman opens the door with quick, furtive movements.
The room is dark, with a bright spotlight over an operating table. Not good. Definitely not good.
“Where am I?” I clack. God, what is wrong with my mouth?
“You’re in a safe place. We’re here to help you.” GI Alpha says.
“But where?” My voice rises. “And what’s with this?” I tug at the bonds.
GI Blonde cocks his gun.
“I need a phone!” I yell, drool flying, words slurred.
“You need to sit still and answer our questions!” GI Blonde demands, his voice a higher pitch than I expected. It almost makes me laugh.
But not quite.
The black haired girl, who now, on closer inspection looks like she may be Japanese, possibly, comes closer in her quick shuffle step. “What do you remember?”
“About what?” I ask.
“About . . .” She pauses, as if unsure of what to say.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” GI Alpha growls.
“Well after I fell into the crocodile tank . . . “
“You fell in the crocodile tank?” the woman asks.
“Yeah, slipped. Didn’t take the sign seriously I guess.” I try to say this all cool, but it comes out all slurred and toothy. Like my jaw is too big for my words.
“What sign?” GI Blonde.
“Doesn’t anyone read the signs? You know the one that says . . .”
“That doesn’t matter.” GI Alpha snaps, interrupting me.
“So you fell in the crocodile tank?” The lady asks. “And then . . .”
“African dwarf crocodile,” I say, trying to get specific.
“Yes, yes,” she says, her words as hurried as her feet. “And then . . .”
The croc’s teeth sinking into my arm rockets through my mind pouring ice through my mind, freezing. “I. . . I was bitten.”
“Go on . . .” the woman says with her staccato speech.
“Then I was shot in the back.”
“Shot?” GI Alpha asks.
“Yeah. I think so. There was a bang. Glass smashed. My back hurt like the bejeezus. My bones. God . . .” The memories. The pain of twisting bone. It turns my stomach. Makes me sweat. I can’t . . . I . . . just can’t . . .
“Can I call my mom now?” I ask, words hissing, gas leak fashion. “Please?”
“Not quite yet.” The lady pats the operating table. “Come up here, let’s have a look at you.”
“But you said!”
“We said, we needed to examine you.”
“And then I can talk to my mom?”
“There’s more to this than you think.” GI Alpha says, his gravel voice as gentle as it gets. About as gentle as a tank. “It’s best if we wait a while to talk to her. But if you cooperate, and we get things figured out, we can make some kind of arrangement.”
“Arrangement? Like I can see her?”