Chapter 5: Clement Stebbs
Bucky Newcastle woke up in semi-darkness. She was in a bed; that was for sure. She had a blanket up around her, tucked in firm and snug. There was a pillow under her head, but she was somehow not quite comfortable. Her eyes started to adjust to her surroundings and she realized why she wasn’t as comfortable in this particular bed. It was because, indeed, it wasn’t hers, but belonged to Grand Lights Dropley Hospital. A terrible name, she thought, for a hospital, but she was certain that was the one she was in.
As her eyes adjusted better, she could see there was a small television mounted on the wall opposite the bed she was in, which was definitely a hospital bed because she could now see the railings on the sides of the bed and the wire buzzer (that you can press when you’re in the hospital and you need to get a nurse) lying near her pillow. The TV was on, but the volume was really low. It sounded like terrible static and then she realized the sound she heard was her mother. Her mother was sitting in the chair in the corner by the window on her right. She was talking as if she were a news anchor, but very quietly so as not to wake Bucky up.
“It’s not just news,” she whispered, “It’s SPECTACULAR.”
That was a tough word to whisper but her mother managed and Bucky just sighed and quietly sat up. Why was she nervous? She had a nightmare probably. She was in the hospital; why? Did she get in some kind of accident? What was the last thing she remembered? The fan on the table and the red light; that was it, there was some connection there to the feeling of anxiety she was now experiencing. Her heart raced. She broke out in a cold sweat and wanted to call the nurse as the memory of that horrible creature in her backyard came flooding back to her brain.
Two little red eyes and some horrid bundle of flesh and nerves, small and squat with ugly knobby hands and claws for feet, as if it was something that fell off of an old cathedral but lived and breathed; that was what she remembered.
She went to press the buzzer for the nurse when she had that prickly feeling on the back of her neck. Someone or something else was in the room with her and it wasn’t just her mother. She looked around and near the door to her hospital room, which was slightly ajar so there was a sliver of yellow light peeping through, was a living shape. It was still in shadow, so she couldn’t quite make it out, but it looked like it had a large head.
“They’re quite real,” said the large head-shaped living creature.
This caused Bucky to want to scream, but she held her hand to her mouth and just stared. The dark of the room was starting to gray and she could just make out the shape in the corner. It was the shape of a boy, about her age. He was wearing a hat.
“I’ve seen them, too, but I haven’t told anyone. Are you all right?”
Bucky gave a startled silent yelp and caught her mouth with her hand again.
“The nurse let me in. She’s a nice person. Beautiful, really, in all that white.”
“Why are you here? What am I doing here?” Bucky was starting to get really scared.
“I ran home after I heard that voice. As soon as you ran into your street I saw one of those things, just sitting on the corner, looking at me. I thought it was an opossum, but it was not the same kind of ugly and it didn’t have a tail.”
“Why am I here?” she asked again.
“You fainted. Dead away. When your mom brought you here, apparently you were talking nonsense. Your mom told me all of this a while ago. You were asleep when I came in. I kind of feel responsible, a bit. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have scared you, and I shouldn’t have done what I did to Potty. Poor guy. I wonder how he’s doing down there, all alone in the rain.”
“Shh,” said Bucky’s mom in a whisper, “there’s a story about a debutant who divorced her husband after three days. Now that’s important. I want to hear it.”
Bucky smiled at her mother and then turned to Clement and whispered, “You need to tell the police.”
“No one will listen. It’s as if they think I’m lying. Believe me, I’ve tried.”
Bucky thought for a minute, and remembered how hard it was for her to talk to the police at Peter’s house the other day. Or had it been a week? She couldn’t remember, it seemed so long. It was hard to believe it was only two days ago.
She turned on the light near her bed.
“Tell me everything I need to know,” Bucky said to Clement. Before he could speak, however, the door opened and in walked the nurse.
Clement was right, she was beautiful, tall and all dressed in white like an old-fashioned nurse Bucky had seen in photographs. Her eyes were what was interesting and mysterious, for sometimes they seemed blue or green or not quite hazel. Her hair, under her old-fashioned nursing cap, when the light hit it just right, was blonde or slightly reddish, or when she stood in the shadows, brown. She was indescribable and that made Bucky uneasy. In fact, all the events of the last two days were so remarkable and jolting to her nerves, she thought she was going to pass out.
“You look out of place,” said Bucky with a sigh trying, not quite too successfully, to not be dizzy.
The nurse was startled, as if she had been seen digging through the fridge for that forbidden piece of pie.
“How do you mean? What place should I be in?” the nurse replied, looking guilty.
“I don’t know,” Becky was getting frustrated, “maybe in 1965 or some other time.”
“Oh!” The nurse was clearly relieved. “I thought you meant another dimension or something.”
“What?” Bucky noticed Clement just stared and didn’t say anything, so Bucky offered her question again, “What?”
“You know, different worlds, dimensions. There must be, oh,” she wrinkled up her face as if calculating a terrible algebra problem, “dozens of other universes or such that I could be in. I need to be here. Anyway, you look good. How do you feel?”
This woman made Bucky really nervous, more so than she already was.
“Are you a real nurse?” she asked.
“Goodness gracious, no!” said the woman. “I wouldn’t know what I was doing or where to begin. No, I’m the voice you heard from the well. The one who told you to go home.”
Now Clement was more engaged in the conversation.
“I heard you too,” he added.
“Oh good, that means I was loud enough.” She took a long look at Clement. “You look familiar to me. Do I know you?”
Clement was shocked. He had never met this woman before in his life other than when she let him into the room a while ago, and he’d remember her if he had otherwise.
“I think not,” was all he could come up with.
“Oh. Well, as long as you are both all right.” She turned to leave. “I’ll be watching you.”
Bucky gasped again.
“I mean,” said the beautiful nurse in white, “I’ll be watching OVER you; I think that’s the appropriate term.” She looked confused again and then left the room.
Bucky was sitting up straight now and more eager to go home than she had ever been when in the hospital before, and that was to have her tonsils out when she was five.
“I don’t trust her.”
Clement’s eyes were all starry. “I think she’s beautiful.”
“She’s not that beautiful. And I still don’t trust her. Now what were you saying?”
Clement cleared his throat. “The kids were all going to throw me in the well. I persuaded them not to and to attack Potty instead. So I really should be down there, not him.”
The door flew open and almost hit Clement in the face. The beautiful nurse came rushing in, looking all excited.
“What did you say?” She pulled the door away from Clement’s almost smashed up nose.
“Sorry, young man, but what did you say?”
Clement repeated himself, rather embarrassed.
“Tell me, do you have asthma?”
Clement looked surprised. The nurse was looking at him so intently, as if her life depended on it.
“A little, why?”
The nurse heaved a sigh and started to laugh.
“Oh, good. That’s good. For a moment there...”
Clement was now getting a little offended. “Now see here,” he started, “what could be good about that?”
“It means,” said the nurse, “that I was right all along. And so are you. You should be.”
“I should be right?”
“You should be in the well. Instead of Potty.”
“Peter!” interjected Bucky.
“Peter. You should have been there instead of Peter. But what’s done is done, and I’m not going to get in trouble for someone else’s mistake. Anyway, I’m glad you’re both here, and we can start bright and early in the morning.”
Bucky had had enough. She hit the bed with her fist and nearly screamed. Her mother, apparently, didn’t hear any of this but kept announcing the winning lotto numbers in a hushed whisper.
“Get ready for what?” demanded Bucky.
“Why, to save the world, dear. Why do you think I’m here in the hospital? For my health? Now get some sleep. Both of you.”
Then she smiled, turned to Clement and patted him on his hat covered head, smiled again and left the room, almost skipping.
In a wink she was back, all smiles and unnervingly happy.
“I just found out,” she said, “that a certain toothpaste company has gone pro-health. I’m so happy! I bet when they were anti-health it was just horrible. You should use it.”
Then she skipped back out.
Clement took one look at Bucky and whistled. “That’s one strange nurse.”