Chapter 1 - Uprooted
Remy sat on the train. The lights from the subway tunnel flashed past at a monotonous pace. Her eyes drooped and her head lolled back bumping into the glass window behind her. The soft thump from the impact caused her snap awake. Blinking off her sleepiness she shifted in her seat readjusting her med bag that sat on her lap. Though it was filled with all she needed to survive med school, today, it just felt like a ton of bricks.
They had been practicing suturing that afternoon. A classroom full of third year med students meticulously inspecting the inflicted wound on their ham hocks and determining which suture style would be ideal for the depth of the cut. Twenty minutes in Remy stood back – proudly admiring her mended pig leg. The cut had been over an inch deep requiring a more advance technique. Remy always had a natural knack for learning techniques hands on and was able to manage the thread and needle with ease.
Her moment of glory had been cut short. Her instructor, notably her least favourite, paused to review her work. He held a clipboard and tutted in disapproval, “with stitches that large this patient is bound to left with disappointing scar –”
“With a wound like this – a patient should be happy to be alive!” Remy retorted. She instantly realized that she had run her mouth – again. She bit her lower lip to stop herself but it was too late. Her instructor sneered, choosing not to respond but instead scribbled something down on his clipboard.
An audible sigh escape her lips and she hugged her med bag close to her chest. Three years in and she still wasn’t her if med school was for her. Her GPA was amongst the lowest in her class. It’s not that she was stupid, she just wasn’t great with memorization. Remy loved hands on work and in all their practical labs she excelled - but those traits where not “testable” and it was difficult to prove a 90% in quick thinking.
Remy reached in her bag and pulled out a notebook, flipping it open to this weeks notes. There was to be a quiz tomorrow and she would have to review. Her eyes glazed over just looking at the words on the page. Remy had no interest in memorizing notes just to regurgitate onto a piece of paper for some mark. The information before her had such gaps. It never felt like the whole picture and Remy wanted more. She was always keen on asking the question, “why?“. Her friends thought she was crazy and would answer, “well, the prof said he wasn’t going to test us on that - so don’t worry about it.” But Remy couldn’t help but wonder - it was in her nature. Med school, however, didn’t wait for those who wondered.
The train stopped. People shuffled off and on – the crowd slowly thinning the farther they got from the city center. Remy’s eyes scanned through the remaining passengers, the last of the suits had filed off, leaving behind those with a longest commute to the more ‘affordable’ housing. Her gazed was drawn to a man in a tattered trench coat standing by the train doors. He was muttering to himself, the palm of his hand pressed into his forehead covering his eyes, his fingers clenched in his hair.
It was normal to see the odd passenger of this variety. Remy knew she didn’t live in the best part of town, one doesn’t make much on a student salary. She watched the man from the corner of her eye and her mind went to diagnosis – possible mental disability? It was not uncommon for the homeless to go undiagnosed, they lacked proper income, and therefore unable to receive proper treatment. Schizophrenia, maybe? She watched him look up, his eyes wide as if to be focusing on something right in front of him - though nothing was there. He was young still, maybe late twenties – congruent with the typical age for the onset of such a disease.
His fist balled and struck the wall of the train and his voice grew louder. Remy could hear his words now – they weren’t English. If she had to guess she would say Japanese, maybe? The words left his mouth fluently. She watched as he slammed his fist against the side of the train cabin several more times, each time with increasing strength.
The man had collected several onlookers. Some passengers got up from their seats and as casually as they could – moved to the opposite end of the train car. Remy couldn’t blame them – she too found herself sitting attentively, her eyes locked on the man.
The train stopped again – more passengers shuffled off but not the muttering man. He turned toward the people at the end the of the train, his head swivelling and his eyes wild. He appeared to be talking to the whole train now addressing them like an audience – though no one looked to understand him. He was pointing here and there, all the while speaking hurriedly – his tone frustrated and angry. Passengers gasped as he targeted one middle-age woman. He walked over to her and bent to speak to her in her seat. She tried her best to ignore him but he was too close and she flinched at his rushed words.
Remy, though concerned for the woman, was distracted by the man’s other hand which remained deep in his coat pocket. By the way it bulged it seemed that his hand was grasped around something about a foot in length and solid. Remy watched as he pulled his the hand from his pocket revealing what looked like some kind of blade. Before she knew what she was doing, Remy was on her feet – her hand reaching to stop the man’s arm from moving any closer to the woman in the seat.
Sometimes all it takes is human contact. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to show that they care. Remy stood, her hand resting on the man’s arm. He stopped muttering and for a moment there was silence. Their eyes locked. Remy had his attention.
The silence was cut off by the screeching breaks of the train, the bell dinging and a voice alerting the passengers that the emergency bar had been activated. Remy and the man stumbled with the sudden stop. Her eyes went to her feet instinctively but stopped short on the object in the man’s hand. It was indeed a knife. A very strange and very sharp looking knife.
Remy didn’t let go of the man’s arm – this way, if he moved to strike her, she would know and could push the blade away from her. It took all she had to tear her eyes away from the knife back to meet his. To her surprise, they no longer looked wild, instead they studied her. His muttering continued, but it was hushed and steady.
“Has someone contacted emergency services?” Remy’s voice addressed the passengers of the train, not the man in front of her. The train had started up again and was moving slowly toward the next station. She heard a voice call from behind her, “I’m on the phone with them now.”
Good. All she needed to do was keep this man right here until the train doors opened. Officers and emergency personal should be waiting for them when they pulled into the station.
Remy and the man held their eye contact. He wasn’t blinking and his stare seemed to be seeing past her. Though the look felt invasive, Remy held her ground. From the corner of her eye she saw the station roll to a stop outside the train. They had made it.
Her small shift in attention must have been noticed by the muttering man, for his eyes turned wild once again. Before Remy could react the man swung his free arm up and reached for her throat. Remy threw herself backward and out of the way but it wasn’t far enough. The man’s fingers caught the front of her shirt and twisted in the material. He pulled her toward him.
Remy fought to get free and pushed away his arm that held the knife but he was too strong. He thrust the knife forward and into her chest. She was released from his grasped and fell to the floor.
Cold spilled over her. She could feel her mouth form words but could hear no sound, “sixth intercostal… left side… pneumothorax… increased in pleural pressure…”. A collapsed lung. But, it was worse than that – she knew it. The knife had gone in deep – too deep. She reached in the direction of her med bag. Her vision blurred and she watched as someone place the handle of the bag in her outstretched hand. She didn’t need to see their faces clearly to know that they wore looks of helplessness.
Her vision swirled into black and the shouts announcing the arrival of EMTs faded into whispers.
The air smelled sweet and the grassed tickled her neck. The lids of her eyes burned red. She was having a dream. She remember there was a man, he was thanking her for… for doing something, but then he was asking for her help again? She kept her eyes closed trying to remember the man’s face. He was handing her something in the dream, telling her to keep it safe – telling her… Remy tried to visualize the object. Her thoughts were murky. It was…It was a knife…
It was the knife that had stabbed her. Behind her closed eyes a face flashed, the face of the crazed man on the train. Her memories came flooding back - she had been stabbed. Remy’s eyes shot open and she sat up. Sun light burned her eyes and she raised a hand to shade herself, the other feeling at her chest for a wound.
None. There was no wound – none at all. Confused, Remy blinked, frantically trying to speed her eyes’ adjustment to the light. Looking down she inspected herself. She still wore the same clothes she had on in the while riding the train. Her white button up shirt had no signs of blood and bore no holes made by any knife. Remy clapped both hands on her chest. She sighed and laughed with relief.
She leaned back on the grass, resting on her elbows and basked in the sunlight. Her jeans felt warm in the sun and the breeze tugged at the collar of her shirt. She was on a hillside that overlooked a valley. The sky was blue and dotted with clouds and the wind rippled the leaves of the tree and rolled over the grasses that lined the valley’s floor.