I had that dream again, the one where I’m being ripped apart. I feel as the claws sink into my chest, rupturing my lung. A decent chunk of my liver is sliced through like warm butter. My stomach burst, spilling warm gastric acid into the my abdomen. There’s a warm feeling in the center of my chest as blood pools where my lung should be. It’s not until I feel the muscles in my arm being torn apart at an awkward angle that I wake up.
My body almost instinctively sits me up right. The contents of my stomach travel up my esophagus, out of my mouth, and into my sheets. There really isn’t much to do but let it all come out. It’s not much, mostly stomach acid, an apple and part of a granola bar. I find it hard to keep anything down, even years after that night.
I try to think of something else. Charlie’s dog, my first kiss, or that time I passed out in the park. Anything to get away from the memory. Anything, just not that night.
Nothing sticks, so I end up getting up to change the sheets. Trying to go back to sleep would be futile, so I stay up going over patients’ files, reviewing previous sessions, looking for anyway to better help them.
When my eyes begin to sting, I know it’s time to officially start my day. I have to see thirty patients before lunch, and another seventy before the end of the day. Seeing at least one hundred patients a day is the only way I feel like I’m actually pulling my weight.
It’s only after my very light lunch that I remember my appointment with the mechanic. As soon as I remember, I regret having lunch. I’d had the usual handful of grapes and a class of apple juice, but Robert had insisted I have his pudding cup. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed anything more in my entire life. It was, for lack of a better word, a mouthgasm. The experience as a whole would have been less embarrassing if Robert hadn’t stared at me the whole time I ate. The very last spoonful of pudding made my inner porn star moan accidentally slip. Everyone at the very full table laughed, but Robbert just looked away, face flushed.
Despite the small amount of food in my stomach, I felt like it was surely to come back up as walked into Billy’s office. I had to shake the embarrassment, but there was no doubt world of the incident had already reached Billy. As a man that didn’t hold anything back, he walked in to the little cramped office, laughing.
Balancing a tool box, a stack of papers, and the biggest mug I have ever seen, Billy walked into his office. “You sure know how to bust moral around this place, doc.” Like a magician, he managed to set everything down on his already cluttered desk, without dropping anything.
"I try." I shifted in my seat, embarrassed. Billy was a tall, slander man, with a bushy handlebar mustache. He reminded me of my great uncle Kevin, who was boxer. Billy wouldn’t hurt a fly, let alone trow punches for a living.
I rolled up my left sleeve, carefully. It’d been five years, but seeing the metallic sheen of my arm still took me off guard sometimes. It still amazed me how far prosthetics had come in just a few years. My prosthetic left arm started about six centimeters from my elbow. It was a perfect mirror image of my right arm.
Billy reached out and I placed out my hand on his. As he examined it, I was glad I couldn’t actually feel with the prosthetic. When I had gotten fitted for it, I was asked if I wanted mock flesh as the cover, but I declined. Even when top of the line, mock flesh looked and felt off. And beside, it would have to come off for routine check ups.
Handing my hand back, Billy reached for his tool box. I knew what was coming next and it made me stomach turn. On one hand, Bill held a small box with a cord coming off the top. At end of the cord was a long, smooth needle. It looked more like headphone jack than a needle.
"You want anything for this part, love?" He also knew what was coming next. "Pills, a hard drink, something to bit down on?"
"Just so it." I opened the panel on the prosthetic and tried to relax my hand. I took a deep breath and held it as Bill pushed the needle in.
A wave of pain shot through my arm and up my shoulder. Bill turned the needle 90 degrees and pushed a button on the little box. Sharp, hot pain seemed to pool where the prosthetic met my flesh. A quick pop later and my prosthetic was off.
Instinctively, I leaned forward and just let my lunch come up. My theory on vomit is that anything good going down tastes equally bad coming up. I was use to the awful aftertaste, I just wished I had missed my shoes.
All Billy could do was laugh as he handed me a towel. I had no doubt this incident would be all over the camp by dinner time.
"Don’t worry, doc, I won’t tell anyone about this." He put on his glasses and sat down to inspect my prosthetic. "I wouldn’t dream of hurting your chances with Robert."