I spring off my chair almost as soon as the doctor appears out of the ward. “How is she doc?” We have been sitting here for close to three hours in the complete agony of expectation ever since she went under the knife.
When we arrived at the hospital, she started losing even more blood so emergency repair work had to be done to close up the wound. Once that had been done, they decided to assess the wound again just in case something had gone wrong. Thank God they did that because as it turned out, Alexandria had ruptured a blood vessel dangerously close to her heart when she removed the bandages early and attempted to stretch. As a result, she had to be rushed into the theatre for emergency surgery to repair the damaged blood vessel.
The anxiety is killing us. Dr. Alfred refused to operate on his own sister for obvious reasons, so a doctor he handpicked performed the procedure on her. After a couple of hours, the anxiety got a bit much for him so he decided to take a nap while I continued stressing alone as the operation progressed.
“Well,” the doctor says as he flips close his file. “We did the best we could and thankfully she is performing quite well, despite a few minor... complications during the surgery.”
My heart skips a beat at hearing this and Dr. Alfred also wakes up with an embarrassing snort. “Huh, what is this I’m hearing about complications?” he says after wiping off the drool that had escaped his mouth and was looking for solace further down south around his chin.
“Since she had lost quite a lot of blood before the surgery and she refused to be given any blood, we had to use some other alternative methods,” he says as he wipes the sweat off his forehead with his face towel.
“Like what?” I say almost in the doctor’s face.
“Well,” he says as he takes a step back to get a bit further from my mouth. I know I didn’t brush but I did use some mouthwash in Alex’s bathroom. “We started out with a cell salvage procedure to minimise the blood lost during the surgery. We then we used a saline solution to expand her blood volume. Even though it was a bit of a struggle, we got there in the end,” he says as he wipes his forehead again. My heart cools down a bit after he finishes talking. We shake hands with him and he tells us that we can now go in to see her if we want to.
“Hey guys,” she says very weakly as we enter the ward. She has many tubes attached to her and her face looks very flushed and pale but overall, she’s fine and that’s the good thing.
“I’m so glad you’re okay,” I say as I see Dr. Alfred taking a seat so I also take one. “It seems they have turned you into a live science experiment,” I say teasingly and she bursts into laughter then winces in pain.
“Hey, I’m injured,” she says as she smacks me weakly and continues to laugh but is in obvious pain as she winces and grabs her chest. “I can’t believe I did this to myself. How could I have been so dumb?”
“It wasn’t your fault Alex,” Dr. Alfred says. “Stop blaming yourself. These things happen.” He gets up and goes to hold her hand. “The important thing is that you’re going to be alright.”
“I guess so.”
“So, how long until you’re back on your feet again?” I say after he retakes his seat.
“I keep telling them I’m fine but they insist I stay until I’m fully recovered,” she says stubbornly.
“And how long is that going to take, approximately?”
“They say it could take the best part of ten weeks.”
“Ten weeks?” I exclaim in astonishment. “That’s almost three months!” She nods and keeps looking into our faces.
“I think it’s a good idea, to keep her here until she’s fully recovered,” Dr. Alfred says. “If I know my sister, and trust me, I do, she’ll be ripping those bandages off in three weeks tops, insisting to go out on all those assignments with me and Dr. Blay,” he says.
“Oh Alfie,” she playfully waves away his comment. “That’s not true. Even I learn from my mistakes,” she says and he grunts.
We sit there thinking reflectively about all what has happened over the past day or so and as I replay the conversation we just had in my head, something particular Dr. Alfred just said has captured my attention.
“Wait a minute, hold up!” I say suddenly. “Did I just hear you correctly?”
“What is it Dr. Blay?” he asks me.
“I just heard you say that you and I are going on assignments?”
“Oh, yes, did I forget to tell you about that?” he says and I give him an ‘Uhhh, duh’ look like Alex usually gives me. “My bad Dr. Blay but yes, you did hear correctly, you are going to start getting assignments like everyone around here and finally be of use.” I take slight offense to that statement but still sit there silently, and mostly excitedly.
“Don’t just sit there,” I say while jittery from excitement. “Tell me more!”
“Well, with you being the first person ever among us who has the ability to go outside the Underworld without the need for oxygen, you will be going on some pretty interesting missions to analyse the extent of the damage to the earth, hopefully leading to us restoring it to its former state, which is the aim of the Underworld anyways,” he says as he crosses his legs and relaxes in his chair.
The fluorescent light from the ceiling catches his silver wristwatch at the perfect angle that sends the bright beam right into my eye, blinding me partially. I rub my eyes and shift my sitting position as I attempt to process this new and very exciting information.
“Wow!” is all I can say under the circumstances while trying to look cool and making sure my corneas aren’t permanently damaged from the light beam.
“Yes, wow indeed,” he says. “Exciting times lay ahead Dr. Blay.”
“This is great!” I say while almost bouncing off my seat from excitement. I look in Alexandria and she’s smiling at me; is my excitement so obvious?
I try hard to play down my elation and play it cool but that is such a herculean task right now. I’ve been unmotivated and confused ever since I woke up in this strange place but now my sense of accomplishment has returned due to this news. I have a bit of purpose back in my life again.
“So what is my first assignment?” I say excitedly. I just can’t seem to drop the topic.
“Well, for now, let’s just say it’s one you will enjoy A LOT, I assure you,” he says. “We came here to see Alex through this tough time so let’s focus on that. We will talk more about this subject later.”
“Okay,” I say as I relax in my seat and stare at Alex as she sips some soup provided by the hospital.
“I promise to come and visit you everyday,” I say to Alexandria as we prepare to take our leave of her. We’ve been sitting with her chatting and keeping her company all morning but as soon as noon hit, hunger and tiredness also did, instilling in us a need to leave.
“I’ll be here,” she says a bit sadly as we get off our seats.
“Don’t worry Alex,” I say. “You’ll be out of here in no time. Ten weeks will pass by like that,” I snap my fingers for effect.
“If you say so,” she says as her face brightens a bit. “Bye guys; don’t fight.” We wave her goodbye then exit the ward.
“Where to now doc?” I say to him as we step into the elevator.
“How’s about you and I go for lunch?” he says. “How’s that sound to you?”
“I say, that sounds...good, I guess,” I say. “Where did you have in mind?”
The elevator starts rising. “Oh, I know one place,” he says. “They have the best seafood in the entire Underworld.”
“As good as that sounds, unfortunately, I’m allergic to seafood,” I say.
“Allergies? Nonsense,” he says. “You are a mutant man, immune to all sicknesses now, allergies included.”
“Really? You mean ALL my allergies are gone?”
“Yes, gone like the earth,” he says with a hurtful pun.
“Good one,” I say as the elevator comes to a stop and we step out.
“You mean I can’t get sick, at all?”
“Yes,” he says as we walk and I nod reflectively.
“At all like at all at all?” I say again and he nods.
“That explains why my glasses are useless to me now,” I say. “This is great!” I haven’t really grasped the full meaning of this yet since all I can think of right now is food.
“So,” he says as we arrive before the hoverboard station and presses a button to request one. “Shall we go for the seafood or are you still not sure if you have allergies anymore?”
“Nah, let’s go, why not,” I say. “I’ve never had seafood before so I’m definitely up for this.” He nods and steps up onto the hoverboard that just arrived and I follow.
“This is impeccable!” I mini-yell toward him as he chews some calamari or what ever it’s called. “You are sure this came from an animal?” I say as I suck the meat out of my third lobster. I was a bit sceptical initially when I was brought in here but once this ‘sea food’ touched my tongue, I just cannot stop eating it.
“Yes quite sure,” he says with a snicker. “You’re enjoying this food huh?”
I nod and say ‘uh huh’ but it is quite indiscernible since my mouth-hole is chocked full of shrimp. “But,’ I manage to speak after swallowing the fried delicacy, “There aren’t any oceans or seas to get any sea creatures from so where do they get them from?”
“Oh that, well, before we entered the Underworld,” he says, “we sent out teams to get as many samples of animal species as possible, except insects which I never really cared much for anyhow.” He takes a drink of water from his glass.
“Really?” I say and he nods. “But if you got just one sample from each, then how do they have so many?”
“One word Dr. Blay,” he says.
“Huh? What word?”
“Yes, cloning,” he says. “All the other animals you see are cloned by our genetic engineers at a lab in Sector 2.”
“Did you just say that you guys clone ACTUAL animals?”
“Living, breathing animals?”
“Well, they are living and breathing until they get to the kitchen,” he says with a laugh.
“This is incredible,” I say as he takes another drink from his glass.
“All this, this place, it’s all so awesome,” I say almost lost for words.
“This is a nice restaurant Dr. Blay but that is no reason to get so excited about it,” he replies.
“No, no Dr. Alfred, you don’t get it,” I say. “I don’t mean this restaurant; I mean this...place, the Underworld, with all the flying skateboards, cloning, floating houses, gosh, it’s almost like a science-fiction book being written by a seventeen-year old kid in his bedroom, you know?”
“I do and I have to admit that sometimes I do take a step back and look at this place and become filled with awe.”
“I know how you feel,” I say as I turn my attention back to my food.
“You know, there are other perks to being a mutant besides the ability to scarf down as much seafood in one hour as is humanely possible,” he says as I begin to lick my plate.
“Like what?” I say as I drop the plate and go on to focus on the side dish of calamari and black pepper sauce.
“Well,” he says. “You have the ability to display superhuman traits like advanced speed, strength and ingenuity which enable you to become the perfect candidate for the exploration missions.”
“Great,” I say a bit unconcerned as I deal with the food before me.
“Great?” he says. “Is all you can say about this just, great?”
“Sorry, it’s really great,” I say as I deal with another fist-full of calamari.
“You’re hopeless,” he says in frustration and calls a waitress. “Let’s go back to the lab so that we can learn more about all this in a less, fishy, environment.”
“No way, I’m not done!” I exclaim but in the next few moments, I see a waitress come and she starts clearing the table despite my incessant pleading. I feel a hand start to drag me outside.
“What’s the deal with that waitress?” I say once we exit the restaurant. “I hadn’t finished my food but yet she came and started clearing the table. I am not amused!” I exclaim in outrage as I imagine lustfully the rest of that calamari I left on the table.
“I told her we were done.”
“What? Why?” I say in outrage. “I was just about to finish and now we cannot know if the food is any good or not if we do not eat all the way through the meal.”
“Yes, that is very important Dr. Blay,” he says. “Eating three pounds of food is a priority.” The sarcasm in that sentence was very obvious to me but I just take it on the chin and rub my satisfied belly as we walk on.
“Where are we going to?” I say as we keep walking and he releases my hand.
“We should get back to the lab so that I can look inside you and see what’s making you tick,” he says and starts rubbing his hands together like a mad-scientist.
“Can’t wait,” I say with the most sarcastic tone I have in my arsenal.
“Now, please lay back and let us scan your heart,” says the new woman who is assisting Dr. Alfred in this incredibly uncomfortable examination. The worst part about all this is that he had me strip down to my boxers and I know this wasn’t very necessary since the blonde-haired lady assisting him started to snicker mischievously when he said it.
“Okay done,” he says after a green beam passes over my body. “You may put your clothes back on now.” I do as he says then slowly peek out of the examination room.
I was taken by Dr. Alfred to a whole new part of the hospital which I never even knew existed before. I think it’s purely dedicated to diagnosis and scanning which would explain all the numerous scanning equipment here.
“What do the scans show?” I say after observing them gape at my results for almost an entire minute.
“Come take a look,” he says to me. “These results are intriguing. Look here, it says here that your life expectancy is ‘not available’.”
“Is that good?” I say as I notice my fly is down and quickly zip it up.
“Good? It is if you consider living forever good,” he says. “And look here too, your muscle mass is far above that of a normal man, meaning that with the right amount of focused training, you could have absolutely superhuman strength and speed.” He’s a bit too chipper for my liking.
“Cool,” I say in a bid to reduce his elation but it doesn’t work.
“Cool indeed!” he says excitedly to me then turns to the woman. “Audrey, thank you so much for coming on such short notice to help out with this examination. You’ll definitely be getting my recommendation for your grant.”
“It was my pleasure Dr. Alfred and thank you very much,” she says as she grabs her bag and begins to leave. “Goodbye Dr. Blay.” I nod and wave as I watch the young, blonde-haired lady in a lab coat walk out of the room.
“So what now Doc?” I say once she’s gone.
“Yeah, now,” I say.
“Well, now, I guess we have to begin training to put a little muscle on those flabs you call arms,” he says as he pinches my arm.
“You call this flab? It’s all muscle,” I say as I strike a pose to show off my biceps but unfortunately a cramp decides to strike at that same exact moment leading me to yell pathetically like a girl. Thank heavens the lady is long gone else that would have been an even more embarrassing situation than it is now.
“If you had been a bit fitter, your muscles wouldn’t cramp up like that,” he says as I rub my cramping muscles.
“Oh like you would know,” I say as I stretch my aching arm. “You’re more out of shape than I am.”
“That what you think,” he says as he looks at my results on the screen.
“That’s what I know.”
“Fine, then you wouldn’t mind a bit of a wager?” he says as he turns away from the screen and looks me straight in the eye.
“What do you have in mind?”
“A fight,” he says bluntly with a smirk on his face.
“Yes, a fight,” he says. “A legitimate fight of course. Kickboxing; at the fitness centre tomorrow.”
I think for a few seconds and nod slowly. “And what are the stakes?” I say.
“Ummm, what if the loser has to cut their hair into a Mohawk and dye it pink, keeping it until the other’s birthday,” he says. “Sounds good?”
“Interesting stakes,” I say while rubbing my chin. “I’ll take that action.” A smirk spreads out on my face too. This is going to be such an easy win and it’s even more awesome considering that my birthday is on March 3rd and we are now in mid-June.
“Let’s make it official,” he says and spits a wad of spit into his palm and extends it towards me. There are many things which people find repulsive which I’m okay with but saliva is the one thing that disgusts me more than anything.
In order to look less like a wuss, I oblige and connect my hand which is coated with my own saliva to his and we make this bet official. Unfortunately, his saliva has a ridiculous amount of phlegm in it which prompts me to wipe my hand off on my blue lacoste shirt which is a terrible idea as it leaves a small, sticky stain on my abdominal area.
“It’s official,” he says and looks at my hair as I wipe his nasty spit off my shirt. “It’s going to be a real sight to see your hair all shaved off leaving only a small clump which will be coloured pink.” He gets that mischievous smile on his face again.
“I’m glad you feel you’re going to punch my head off,” I say as I dispose of the tissue I grabbed from the desk.
“I don’t feel, I know,” he says as he throws my words right back at me.
“Ha ha, very funny,” I say sarcastically. “But you’ll be the one laughing at the wrong side of your mouth by tomorrow.”
“We shall see.”
“Yes, we shall indeed.” We stand there staring at each other, pretty satisfied with our trash talk session until we hear a very familiar shrill laughter coming from behind us.
“What are you doing here?” I say as the person whom the laughter came from is wheeled-in on a wheelchair with a nurse pushing her. She leaves after greeting us.
“I was able to convince the doctors to give me two hours a day to take in some fresh air,” she says as she wheels herself beside us.
“That’s great!” I say as I get up and wheel her over to where we are.
“So a fight huh?” she says.
“Yes, Dr. Alfred thinks he can handle all of this,” I say as I flex again but my muscles cramp up once more but I manage to hide it from Alex. Dr. Alfred is staring at me with the smirk on his face and he’s obviously thinking that I’m going to be a piece of cake.
“I’m sure he must be really scared,” she says with a mocking tone in her voice as I rub my sore muscles.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing,” she says as she chuckles.
“Doesn’t matter anyways because tomorrow,” I say as I take a few jabs at the air, “I will let my fists do the talking.”
“We are all looking forward to seeing that,” Alex says sarcastically and I glare at her.
Dr. Alfred isn’t talking much and I can see why since I must have pulled something while taking those fake jabs and I’m currently sitting on the chair screaming my head off.
I know that they see my cramps as a sign of my severe lack of fitness but to me it’s a sign of encouragement because it tells me that those muscles I keep boasting about really do exist for them to get pulled like that.
It’s this kind of positive thinking that will guarantee me victory in tomorrow’s match-up, or so I hope.