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Even without the aid of an alarm clock, Fleischer still wound up waking at the crack of dawn.  It seemed like the crack of dawn, at least – the light from the window was dim, and very slowly getting brighter.  It didn't take long, however, for him to realize that his fingers were no longer just tender, but downright ached.

He wrung his hands for a little while before finally turning on the bedside lamp to get a proper look at them.  Everything looked fine, though, which made the pain when he pressed on and behind his fingernails even more worrisome.  There were no bruises, and he couldn't imagine what he could have done to injure his fingers.

Fleischer finally had to concede that no answers were forthcoming, and try to go about his day.  Making the day any sort of 'normal' was difficult.  He brushed his teeth and shaved (and quietly lamented the fact that, no, of course they wouldn't give him a much-preferred straight razor) before exercising and taking a brief shower.  When he emerged from the shower, breakfast was waiting on the table in front of the couch.

The Medic stole a quick look around the room to confirm that no, in fact, nobody else was there.  Someone had been there very recently, though, because breakfast was still hot.  Breakfast was good, too – bacon, and scrambled eggs, and toast, and Fleischer just wished that it didn't aggravate the pain in his fingers so much to hold the blunt-tined fork he'd been given.  Eating took more time than he would have liked, but it was nice, nonetheless, to have a full belly.

Killing time was very clearly going to be an issue.  Fleischer had never particularly cared for television but he tried, at least, to watch the news.  He had been gone for so long, through, that he could scarcely make heads or tails of any of it, and wound up just shutting it off.  There was at least some reading he could do – the desk drawers were stuffed with what looked like every issue of The Lancet that had come out since he'd been shot.

The downtime was still so unusual, though.  He was used to working – used to the notion that downtime was something earned by working.  The fact that there was no work he could do, however, was of little comfort.  There was nothing of use that he could do while stuck in that room, and Fleischer couldn't imagine that the League would keep anyone around unless they could prove useful.  The question of what capacity the League saw him useful in was becoming increasingly worrying.

It was a question that Fleischer was afraid to ask when Doctor Davis returned to the room at lunchtime, accompanied by his pair of guards.  "I hope," the older doctor started, once his patient was seated on the edge of the bed, "that you are feeling well?"

That was a question that gave Fleischer pause.  He had the feeling that voicing dissatisfaction with his accommodations would not end well.  "My fingers are a little sore," he quietly admitted, having to consciously resist the urge to wring his hands.

Isaac leaned a little closer, then, peering at the Medic's hands and, upon seeing nothing visibly wrong, asked, "only when you move them?"

"Moving does make it worse," Fleischer replied.  There was a constant ache, though, even when he was still.

After a brief inspection, Doctor Davis insisted that nothing appeared to be wrong with Fleischer's hands – that the muscles, tendons, and bones all seemed to be in order.  "It could very well be psychosomatic," he stated.  "After all, you were in the Respawn system for a very long time, and we still don't know all of the ramifications of that.  We'll keep an eye on it," he said with a little smile, before releasing the younger man's hands.  "And, if any other concerns arise, you're always free to use the intercom."

Without any other issues to raise (that he was willing to raise), Fleischer was left on his own, with a bowl of beef stew for lunch.  If nothing else, he was being well-fed, and even that raised some level of suspicion.  It wasn't the hospital food he'd been given during the first leg of his stay, and as much as hospital food wasn't that pleasing to the palate, it was nutritionally sound.  He suspected that he was being fed better for the same reason that there was a lock on the bathroom door – peace of mind.

By the time dinner – and his daily exam – rolled around, Fleischer was trying his best to move his fingers as little as possible.  He couldn't bring himself to be upset at Nurse Hayes for the pain that was elicited as she flexed his fingers, one by one, especially with the sympathetic look on her face.  "I'm sorry, Doctor Fleischer," she started, "but, there's nothing I can see wrong with your hands.  I can get you a mild painkiller if you'd like, though?  It might help," she added with a rueful smile.

"No!" the Medic replied in a hurry, clearing his throat rather awkwardly (realizing how dry it felt, in the process), before giving a much more calm, "no, thank you.  It's not that bad," yet.

"If you're sure," Hayes said after a moment of hesitation, a worried expression forming on her face.  "We just want to make sure you're comfortable, doctor.  If you change your mind, just let someone know."

Fleischer was not eager to take any medication that anyone at this facility offered him.  His fingers hurt, yes, but painkillers would probably make him drowsy, and uncoordinated.  He wanted to be able to protect himself if he needed to – or at least cling to the illusion that he could defend himself against the League staff.

Fleischer's exam, the nurse assured him, showed that everything was completely normal, beyond the fact that his throat seemed a little irritated.  He waited until Hayes was gone, however, before he filled a glass of water to drink.  He wasn't surprised, really – he had been talking to the nurse for some time, and he hadn't wanted to pour a glass in the middle of a conversation.

He finished off the glass before getting in the shower.  Once he was cleaned up, the Medic found himself leaning back against the wall while the water ran down his skin.  He was not surprised, either, by the way the humid heat seemed to ease away the pain in his hands.  It was only when he realized that he was just standing there using up the water that he finally got out, and dried off.

Fleischer would have liked to know what time it was when he finally climbed into bed.  Regardless of the time, however, he was tired, which didn't help to quiet his mind so he could sleep in the slightest.  He was very nearly, finally, comfortably asleep when he started coughing.  Was he getting sick?  That was just what he needed – more unwanted attention from the medical staff.  It was a great relief to Fleischer, then, when a glass of water proved to be enough to soothe his throat so he could get to sleep.

This story is actually a couple of years old. I was feeling very nostalgic and decided to pick it up and re-read it, and I wound up realizing that it had actually been very well-written. This was also my first real attempt at a horror/thriller piece. I'm posting on here, now, because along with being nostalgic, I would also appreciate any thoughts or critique on it. I wrote this not too long after I published Bedside Manner, and haven't really written up anything particularly longer than drabble, since.

Post-Modern Prometheus is a sort of alternative/hypothetical sequel to First Do No Harm… and Comorbidity…

If you want to delve into the back story, I would definitely recommend reading FDNH before Comorbidity. Both of those stories are relatively old, though, and I feel like I have improved my writing and characterization a great deal since then. As a result, if you do like Doctor Fleischer, or my writing in general (which, if you do, thank you very much - my main hope when I post my writing is that people will get some enjoyment out of it) then consider picking up my book, Bedside Manner, in paperback or on the Kindle…

Fair warning, though, this being a horror/thriller piece, expect some disturbing content, though I am not really prone to using a great deal of blood and/or gore.

As a final note, the thumbnail image is in the Public Domain, and was downloaded from Pixabay…

KlayBird Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2014
Oh man, I hate that, night time coughing!! If he picked up some kind of virus I wonder if he got it through respawn from someone else? Creepy..... !!
shadowfire-x Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm afraid it might be more serious than that =3c
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Submitted on
September 17, 2014
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