PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 // PT 48 // PT 49 // PT 50 // PT 51 // PT 52 // PT 53 // PT 54 // PT 55 // PT 56 // PT 57 // PT 58 // PT 59 // PT 60 // PT 61 // PT 62 // PT 63 // PT 64 // PT 65 // PT 66 // PT 67 // PT 68 // PT 69 //
He wandered over to the cafeteria and got some food. As he set his tray down and sat down, he considered conceding to his mother’s second request, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he ate mechanically, working to consume time more than calories. He used a knife to cut meat that tore readily enough. He slowly brought each bite to his mouth and chewed his food. After each bite, he took a small sip of his water.
He managed to make a simple meat, vegetable, and bread meal last 45 minutes. He grabbed up some napkins and a pencil. Then he sat down to work over some formulas he’d been considering. The problem there was that he couldn’t really focus. He frustrated himself for another 30 minutes trying to get his thoughts in order, but after that, he crumbled the napkins up and threw them away rather than even try to review the nonsense he was scribbling.
He tried social media videos next. He watched a few informative videos, trading with some that promised guaranteed laughter. He didn’t so much as chuckle, and he couldn’t focus enough on the informative vids to get anything of value. The process of searching for something that might occupy his thoughts was somewhat useful, but he ultimately only spent another 15 minutes on that.
He looked around, realizing he’d been expecting Nobody to show up. There were plenty of places he could have secretly teleported to. And this sort of thing usually warranted at least a letter. Would he want to talk to Nobody if he did show up? His more recent visits have been much more accusatory than helpful. Nobody always had some angle that seemed to be more about forcing Paul to evaluate his motivations than anything else, but he still visited.
Had he grown tired of Paul? Had he finally given up? He thought about it as he wandered back to the waiting area. He watched his feet step on each white tile of the floor. Paul wasn’t sure if he cared whether or not Nobody had lost interest. The race to figure out how he used teleportation was done. The experiment was cancelled. Nobody’s visits might have been helpful when Paul was a kid, but they’d been more annoying as Paul grew older.
“Probably just tell me more about how we don’t have any say in things,” Paul muttered.
He arrived to the waiting area. The doctor wasn’t there, so Paul sat down and tried to watch some television. It was some sort of soap opera. Five minutes ticked by, and Paul gave up trying to figure out the plot. He stood up, hoping to convince one of the staff members to change the channel, when the doctor stepped in.
Paul smiled and walked over to greet him. “How long until we can take her home?”
Something about the way the doctor’s lips turned downward caused Paul to stop short.
“We got in, but once we saw the tumor and how it was placed, we realized it wasn’t safe to remove,” the doctor said.
Paul stared at the doctor even as questions ran through is mind. What did he mean safe? It was a tumor; how safe was it to leave it in there? What did it matter how it was placed in the brain?
“We’re planning to talk to the oncologist, but my thoughts are we need to do a round of chemotherapy to bring the size of the tumor down. That will make it easier to remove,” the doctor said.
“You’re leaving a tumor in my mom because it’s not easy to remove? I don’t care how hard it is; I want it out!” Paul’s voice grew louder as he spoke.
“It’s too close to the hippocampus,” the doctor said. “One wrong move, and we could affect her memory. One mistake, and she forgets you and everyone else.”
“Then don’t make any wrong moves!” Paul loomed over the doctor.
“There are no right moves, Mr. Autumn,” the twig of a man had no problem staring Paul in the eyes. “The tissue has wrapped around the tumor like a sort of blanket. The only way to get to it is to cut the tissue, which would have consequences. That’s why we need to reduce its size so that we can move tissue.”
“What if your blanket just folds over it more?” Even though the doctor didn’t respond to Paul’s height and tone of voice, he still kept shouting.
“Then the chemotherapy might still just kill the tumor anyway.” The louder Paul got, the softer the doctor’s voice became. “It’s not the immediate fix you wanted, but it is the right thing to do. Of course the oncologist will provide more data, and maybe an even better option will present itself, but surgery isn’t an option right now.”
Paul stumbled back like he’d been punched. The room spun, and it was hard for him to keep his breath. “No.” Paul practically gasped the word.
He reached over and grabbed a chair and somehow managed to fall into it.
“You’re mother is in recovery.” Doctor Feniker remained where he’d been, clearly giving Paul space. “You can go in and be with her, but she’ll probably be sleeping for a while more. I’ll meet with the oncologist, and we’ll present you both with your options. I’m sorry this couldn’t be over as quickly as you’d like, but there’s still hope.”
Hope? In what universe did Paul ever have any real hope?
… to be continued …
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