Billions 5

Submitted by Zombieman on Mon, 09/18/2017 - 00:55

Just when things can’t get any worse for Mike Keller—Z-day happens!

Part I

Mike Keller was groggy. He was aware of some light, then darkness, then just pain, pain, pain. During one infrequent visit to the realm of consciousness he saw his wife, Tiffany, standing by his bedside, a grim, dark doctor stood behind her with a nurse wearing a werewolf mask standing to one side. He fearfully glanced at the werewolf and asked his wife, "Honey, where am I? What happened?"

Her voice came through to him as if she were under water, "You were in an accident, you rolled the car over. You are going to be okay."

"Anyone else? Was I alone? Did anyone get hurt?"

"You fell asleep coming home, hit the ditch. Its a miracle you lived. The car caught on fire and burned your legs. You are going to be alright okay?" said Tiffany.

"It really hurts. Was I burned?"

"Just your legs. Your legs got burned, but they saved them, you've been out for a week. I love you!"

Mike lost consciousness, but not before the wolf growled at him, the last thing he heard was the Doctor saying, "He is fading again, don't worry Mrs. Keller, everything will be alright."

When he woke up again only the werewolf was there, she had a needle and she was poking it into a clear tube that seemed to connect to his arm. The clear tube was a fleshy tentacle that writhed as the nurse tried to stab it. The pain was intense. Mike shrank back from the nurse in fear and pain, "What's wrong sweetheart? In pain? Don't worry this will do the trick again."

"Wolf! Wolf! You are a wolf!" Mike said.

The nurse-wolf got a very unwolf like look of concern on her face then bent forward to whisper in his ear, "How can you know that? What do you see?"

Mike, completely afraid, wet himself and babbled incoherently.

"Don't worry love, you won't remember this when you finally wake up. And I won't eat you."

Consciousness faded.

"Mike. Mike Keller. Mike?", he heard a voice calling him, "He should be coming around now, I don't want to cut back too much more on the pain medicine. Mike? Can you hear me?"

The room was dark, the shades were drawn closed and Mike's body ached with a dull pain, he nodded to the doctor.

"Good! Good Mike, try to stay with me, okay?", the doctor said.

The wolf nurse was not there today, just a normal woman in a nurses outfit Mike didn't recognize.

"You had a setback there, your burns were infected, we think we have it sorted out now and you are going to be fine. Okay?"

Another woman in street clothing came into the room. Mike didn't recognize her.

"Hi Mike!" she said, something about her seemed familiar, her brown hair, those eyes... "Mike? How are you?"

"I am fine. Do I know you?"

The woman pulled back, "You don't know me? Its Tiffany, I am your wife."

"I am married?"

"Is it the medication?" asked the woman of the doctor.

To Tiffany the doctor said, "I don't know, he could be confused, he has been out two weeks, give him a few minutes to catch up to us again."

Turning back to Mike, Tiffany said, "Its okay Mike, you were in a bad car accident. You got burned and it was infected. You are going to be okay."

"I got burned?", Mike asked.

"Pretty bad. You won't have to worry about shaving your legs anymore, but you still have legs to walk on. You are going to be okay.", said Tiffany.

"You are very pretty. I think I know you."

"Good baby, good! You just rest now and know that I love you and that everything is going to be okay."

"I got burned?" Mike said one last time, before fading out of consciousness again.

 

Part II

Slowly Mike came around, he raised his head and took stock of his surroundings. Looking at the window he could see the shades were drawn and that there was bright light filtering past the edges. It was daytime. The lights to his room were off, adding to the gloom. The door to his room was about halfway open and he saw a white clad nurse sweep by on some errand or another. A buzzer attached to a long cord was attached to one side of his bed and there was a table tray with a vase of flowers on it next to the left side of the bed. There was also a remote on the table as well. Mike still had an IV in is right arm, there was a steady drip of clear fluid into his arm. Thinking about his body, he started taking stock, he felt numb, almost giddy and like he was on the verge of having a really good laugh. He raised his right arm; it looked okay, a little pale, almost gray in the dim light. He wiggled his toes. The sharp jolt of pain as he did so made him whimper, looking closer he could see where his legs were under the blankets, they looked like bloated sausages, as if someone had transplanted a fat man's ham-sized, lardy legs onto his body. Casts, those had to be casts! This gave him some relief, if he felt the pain and his legs were in casts, that meant he still had legs and they still worked. Continuing around to his left arm he raised it to grab for the remote. His arm writhed out from under the sheet, where his hand used to be were only tentacles, fat, white worms wriggling in the air, each with a sharp mouth questing for food. Mike gasped and brought the tentacles away from his face, they moved away, still under his control. Shaking his head he whispered "No." and closed his eyes tightly, he reopened them, one eye at at time and peered at his arm. It was an arm, in a white cast. His littlest finger was still a questing tendril. He squeezed his eyes closed again, then reopened them. Just an arm. in a cast. No tentacles. The fingers sticking out from the cast were thin and frail looking, but they wiggled when he told them to. He managed to grasp the remote and slide it onto his stomach, where he picked it up with his right hand, ignoring the waving fingers that seemed to be moving in directions that were not normally associated with human articulation.

Power. The television sprang to life. By design or because someone had been watching it while he had been asleep, the volume was low. A news channel came on, they were talking about the latest Israeli crisis. As the newscaster spoke the images in the background showed some street fighting between uniformed soldiers and irregular militants. The soldiers fired and fired at one militant, hitting him with dozens of bullets before stepping over his body and continuing to fire at something beyond the video's range. The body behind the soldiers slowly got to its feet, then turned and jumped on one of the soldiers from behind. All while the newscaster spoke of the continuing problems of governing the region and how with no central government, there could be no cease fire or lasting peace. The militant, meanwhile had pulled the soldier's helmet off and was biting the soldier's skull, each bite coming up with chunks of hair, startling white shards of bone and finally spongy gray matting, that looked almost fibrous. The soldier turned his gun around and fired through his body, hitting himself and the militant, both when down in a heap. His fellow fighters did not even notice or stop firing at the off screen threat.

"Now then! This is not the kind of thing you should be watching Mister Keller!"

The voice startled Mike, he remembered, remembered....the wolf. The nurse looked perfectly normal, a tan skinned woman with long black hair and oddly yellow eyes. The woman placed her hands on her hips and admonished him some more. "The news is distressing! Not good for recovery at all.", she growled, some of the wolf was back and her eyes became more wolf like.

"I remember..", Mike started.

"Good! That is good! Then we will have less problems, you and I. How are you feeling?"

"Numb."

"Hungry?", she asked.

"Not really."

She frowned.

"Well, maybe I could eat something."

The nurse smiled, "Good, that is what I wanted to hear. Let me check a few things and get some food up here for you. Okay?"

Mike nodded, although he knew if he had protested she would have done her job anyway. He watched as she checked his pulse, adjusted his IV drip and then changed what was for all purposes an adult diaper. Noticing his look of embarrassment she said, "Now, now, none of that! You've been hurt and this is my job. I take care of my pack." She leaned forward and looked into Mike's eyes for a long, uncomfortable moment.

The nurse finished up her tasks, putting a new diaper on Mike and covering him up.

"N-nurse?", Mike asked.

"Yes?"

"My legs? How are my legs?"

"Burned. Broken. You are lucky to have them, the surgeons did a wonderful job. The worst part is over, but you will still have months of therapy. I won't sugar coat any answers you want to hear, unlike your wife or the Doctors. So ask away and I will tell you no lies."

Mike noticed the numbness was going away. "What happened to me?"

"What is the last thing you remember?"

Another nurse brought in a tray, she moved around to the left side of the bed and slide it onto the tray, she plucked the vase off and put it on the nightstand. The smell coming from the covered containers awoke a hunger in Mike that he didn't know he had. He moved his hand up to uncover the food, but the wolf nurse gently moved it away. "Hold on big boy, lets get you sitting up before we deal with anything hot, you've had enough burns for one lifetime, right?"

The nurse slowly moved the bed into a sitting position, helping Mike lever himself up, which became more and more painful as he approached a ninety degree angle. Finally it was done and he was looking over the tray, mouth watering.

"So, your first real food for almost three weeks. And what do you imagine they brought you?"

"A cheeseburger? A steak?"

The nurse laughed-growled, "A wolf after my own heart. Well there is beef there, in bouillon form, I'm afraid.", she removed the lids and Mike was dismayed to see only two bowls, one with clear hot water, the other with a brown, oily looking substance. The nurse, seeing his face, laughed again, "There, there poor cub! It won't be so bad. We gotta make sure the plumbing works at a hundred percent before we give you steaks and cheeseburgers. You are on jello and broth for at least a couple of days until we get a more robust urine flow, then we start with crackers and bread, then wait a day to see how your bowel movements are. You had internal injuries, you know."

Mike didn't know and he didn't care, the broth took on glowing proportions as he watched, he wanted it. He needed it. Soon he was lifting a shaky spoonful into his mouth and all too soon after that it was gone, followed by some weak tea. Mike immediately felt nauseous, the nurse must have noticed something because she had a bowl at his mouth before the first of his meal came back up. "Nothing to be concerned about, I think more stayed down than came back up. Do you hurt?"

Mike nodded, something felt like it had torn when he vomited, he had sharp pains running down his legs and the numbness was completely gone. "Well I can fix that.", the nurse adjusted the feed on his IV and Mike's world went black again in moments.

 

Part III

Mike came to himself, he had a piece of bread in one hand, the television was on and he was alone in his room, the drapes were opened and daylight poured in. His blankets were pulled back and he could see the top of one cast on his left leg, it started above the knee and continued under the covers. He groin was uncovered, his penis looked like a withered sausage, curled in a nest of straw. He moved his right hand, still burdened with an IV to cover himself. Modesty restored he looked at the television and tried to remember when he had woke up. The wheat bread in his hand was buttered thinly on one side. On the tray in front of him was a plate which had the remains of some mashed potatoes on it, plus some lime green jello that jiggled when he moved the table. A news story caught his ear and he looked up. Riots in Africa. A UN convoy was attacked and blue helmets were being passed out and raised above a black crowd of people who seemed to be chanting and happy. One of the people in the crowed caught Mike's eye, the man was dressed in olive green rags, he had on camouflage pants cut off above the knees and blue flip-flops. His eyes reminded Mike of those of his dog, who had been hit by a car when Mike was nine. They had a blue-gray film over them and stared sightlessly out past whomever was filming the crowd. The black man's mouth opened in the crack of a smile and Mike saw that his teeth were red. The man raised something above his head, Mike saw it was an arm, a white arm, with part of a sleeve on it, he raised it above his head and chanted with the others. As the camera panned left Mike saw the man put the stump to his mouth...

"You with us ducky?", asked the wolf nurse, her head was furry and silver today.

Mike nodded mutely.

"About ready to go home then?"

"Home?"

"Yes Mike, with your wife, she just left a few minutes ago, don't you remember? The doctors were here. Come on dear, lets get you up."

Mike groaned.

"Now it won't be so bad, the Doctor wants you moving, you've spent too much time in bed. A trip to the bathroom and then a wheel about the floor will do you good.", the nurse rolled his tray away from him, taking the uneaten and forgotten piece of bread from his hand and sitting it on his plate. She threw the covers off of his legs and Mike noticed only one leg had a cast on it, his right leg was scarred and criss-crossed with lines from surgery long healed.

"How long? How long have I been here?"

"Oh dear, you're having a bad day again, aren't you. You've been here seven weeks ducky. Long enough for your leg and arm cast to come off. You had to have surgery on your poor old left leg again, but its on the mend now, don't you worry.", the Wolf nurse's voice was full of optimism at Mike's rate of recovery.

"When...I home?", Mike muttered.

"Two days, that is what we hope. How is the pain today?"

"Feel nothing. I am numb."

"I told them they were giving you too much, a body needs a little pain to motivate it sometimes. You've been all drugged up for almost two months."

"Addic..addicted?"

The nurse paused, then nodded slowly, "That is a problem, they wanted you out, pain medicine is good, but you've been on it a long time. The stuff we use causes physical addiction, opioids, great for short term use. Really great for pain management, but usually not given to non-cancer patients anymore. You, however, were in a world of hurt. Now you might have another fight to recover from the physical ailments with a slight addiction on top of it. You aren't the first to go through this kind of trauma and we will get through this and have you back and on your feet again soon.", the nurse laughed, "We will have on your feet now.", she pulled Mike up onto his cast, balancing him for a moment before spinning him ninety degrees and lowering him into a wheelchair. "There! That wasn't so bad was it?"

The nurse wheeled him over to the toilet and propped him up so he could urinate on his own. To Mike the ability to pee on his own was liberating, despite shaking, he felt a sense of accomplishment. "I never thought peeing would be so liberating. How long since I peed on my own?"

The nurse's muzzle rose at one corner, "About two hours ducky. Don't you remember?"

"No.", Mike admitted, crushed, "Did I have a head injury?"

"No. Not per se, your head, neck and back were all fine, no spinal injury, but you had some down time on the table, the Neurologist didn't think there would be any damage, the time was short."

"Downtime?!"

"Flatlined, dead. Not officially, you came back, through no effort of the doctors either, no heart message or anything like that. You might have some holes in your memory for awhile, until your body fully recovers." the nurse sounded hesitant.

"What aren't you telling me? You said I could ask you anything and you wouldn't lie to me. I remember that."

She brightened considerably, "See? You'll do fine! That was weeks ago. We've been cutting back on your pain medication, things should start to solidify for you now." As she said this she wheeled him passed a patient standing outside his door. His skin was gray, his black hair and dark eyes followed Mike slowly as they glided by. The flesh was pulled away from the man's teeth and his hospital gown was wet with drool down the front of his chest. One hand was curled in a claw like fist, with open sores on the knuckles.

"Whoa. What happened to him?" Mike asked.

Puzzled the nurse turned looking down the empty hallway, "Who dear?"

Craning his head around Mike looked again, seeing nothing he responded, "Nothing. Nothing, just talking to myself."

By dinner time Mike was happy to have remembered the entire afternoon, he switched from the news to a long movie shot over a decade ago. That night a blond haired woman delivered his meal to him, she was not dressed in a nurses uniform or in one of the green orderly gowns either. She bubbled over with happiness at seeing him awake. "Oh Mike! You're up! The nurse says you've been awake since I left! Are you in pain?"

Slowly Mike's brain worked, he churned through his mind looking for a frame of reference. Yes this woman was familiar, she said she had been here earlier, the nurse said his wife was here earlier, but this woman didn't look like anyone he knew, "No. No pain, they cut back on the pain meds, things have been more, lucid...this afternoon. I've watched a movie."

She smiled, "Yeah, which one?"

"Ah, something about planes, Pearl Harbor, I think. Cool special affects and bad acting. And it kind of ended weird. I thought, you know maybe it would end at the end of the war or something, it just kind of stopped after some raid into China or something."

"Oh my God!", the woman squealed, "This is the most conversation I had with you in almost two months! You are getting better!"

Her name came to him in a rush, he remembered a cake, the honey moon on an island off the coast of Mexico. His company had paid for most of it as a form of congratulations on his marriage. A flood of memory came back to him. His father had died two years ago. Tiffany, or 'Tif' for short. She pouted when she didn't get her way. She was twenty nine. She'd be thirty now, if it were July. He'd be thirty one.

"What?", Tiffany asked, seeing his face.

"I missed your birthday!"

"Oh. Well, you almost missed all of the rest of them. Getting you back is worth it to me, I was so mad after the accident, I couldn't believe you would go off and leave me alone!"

"Well it wasn't planned..." Mike began hesitantly.

"Hah! Like our lives then, nothing abnormal there!"

"What about work? What have they had to say?"

Tiffany's face turned into a frown, "I know you are on the road to recovery now, this is the first time you asked about work. What can they do? You are their rising star, you still have a job, they flooded the place with flowers the first couple of weeks. After they realized you were going to be out on disability for six months or so they cooled, but told me to have you contact them when you are up to it. Are you going to be ready to come home in two days?"

Mike thought about it and said, "Can you help me to the bathroom now?"

Tiffany did and once Mike was safely back in his bed he said, "Yeah if you don't mind taking me to the bathroom all the time, I think I can come home."

"Silly! We'll have a nurse there for four hours a day to help out for at least the first two weeks, it won't be that bad."

Breaking a smile Mike said, "Oh, okay then so long as you are not stuck all the time on 'Mike' duty it should be okay. Whose paying for the nurse?"

"Insurance. That's what we paid for, right?"

"Is the wolf nurse going to be the one helping out?"

Tiffany looked perplexed, "Nurse Wolfe? I don't think so, I don't think it is someone who has been caring for you here, this is their job. We'll have a home care specialist, I think, she'll spend half her work day with us and then goes on to another family, at least that is what the doctor's said. So? You gonna eat that dinner or let it get cold?"

"Is it a cheeseburger?"

It wasn't a cheeseburger, however the tender slices of turkey with more mash potatoes and gravy went down well. Mike was famished and even ate the mushy green beans and apple sauce.

 

Part IV

The drive home was uncomfortable. Tiffany's two seater was the only family vehicle, not that Mike's corvette would have been that much more roomy. They pushed the seat all the way back and wedged the cast leg in at an angle and Mike fit. Tiffany had called Mike's company and they had once again filled his room with vases and flowers. Even after she had gone around gifting away most of the flowers to less fortunate patients the trunk was overflowing with them. Mike's angle in the car had his face pressed up the passenger window and he reveled in the cloudy horizon. To the east there was a break in the clouds, it looked like a window into another world, where sunny skies ruled, the shafts of golden light breaking into his world's otherwise gloomy day were an anomaly.

Exiting the highway, they were stopped by a traffic light and Mike saw the usual pan handlers begging for change. One was a short squat man with a blue shirt and a brimless red hat that ended in a point. The guy was insanely small and had a large white 'santa' beard. He was a gnome. Mike closed his eyes and shook his head, peeking he saw the gnome was till there, dirty sign declaring he would work for food. Behind him a dirty, unshaven white guy also held a sign, his declared '!yenom sag deeN !pleH' Ah, it was just upside down, held in one grimy paw while the mans cataract covered eyes tried to focus on the traffic. The hand held out for change looked like it was encrusted with blood, there was more blood leaking through the guys faded, olive drab coat pocket. The gnome and the reverse sign guy approached relentlessly, almost making it to the car before the light changed and Tiffany floored it.

"I hate pan handlers!", she muttered under her breath as they pulled away.

"I am not too fond of them myself.", said Mike agreeably.

They pulled into a nice neighborhood, pausing at a gate where Tiffany spoke briefly with a guard inside a small glass windowed hut. As they drove passed the enormous houses sitting on acre sized lots with sophisticated landscaping Mike was wondering which one was his. Pulling down one street he noticed a young woman pushing a baby carriage down the sidewalk, the carriage looked empty and behind her, dragging on the ground was a lifeless baby, it was attached to her with a pallid umbilical cord that wound its way up one of her legs. Every step she took dragged the lifeless child another pace along the ground. Seeing Mike she smiled and waved vigorously, calling out his name.

Tiffany gave a half hearted wave back and continued on, "You didn't want to stop and chat did you?"

"No, no I didn't." Mike said.

Pulling the car into a wide three vehicle driveway Tiffany paused to let the garage door pull open. There was a blue sedan parked in front of the house on the street and as Mike was struggling to get out of the car a black haired Hispanic woman came up the driveway to assist them.

"Mister and Missus Keller? Let me help you. I am Rebbecca Morales, the nurse from Home Care. I thought I would come by today and help get you settled in.", Rebbecca said.

"Oh, that is nice of you! Call me Tiffany and the hurt guy is Mike."

They pulled Mike free of the car and Rebbecca said, "Thanks Tiffany. Mike how does it feel to be home? Any pain from the trip?"

Mike thought about the gnome and dead baby as he looked into Rebbecca's brown eyes, "No, no pain. It feels great to be here, I expect to be up and about in no time."

"Are you really feeling okay hon?", asked Tiffany.

"Sure. I feel great."

"Want to do a little light work then? Nothing physical, but I have tons of paperwork to fill out and fax to the insurance companies and you would not believe the number of checks you need to sign."

"Well I feel good enough to sign checks."

"Good enough I think we need to get a different car to replace yours, so we have to talk about that too."

The women got Mike into his house and situation on a black leather couch with the television on. Mike flipped to the news and there was a report of some problems in China, some sort of riots and government cover up. Outside the woman with the carriage started past Mike's house, the baby pulled behind her with every agonizing step. Tiffany and Rebbecca went out to see her, they peered into the baby carriage and were in an animated conversation out on the front sidewalk for about five minutes while the news droned on. Mike screwed his eyes shut and opened them again several times, but the baby never disappeared.

The two women came in and Rebbecca brought Mike to the bathroom and then briefed him on the medications he needed to take. For the most part the pills were for pain, he had one pill he was to take every six hours or as close to it as possible and another he was to take if he started feeling pain even with the first pill. Rebbecca and Mike hobbled into the dining room where Tiffany had a table full of checks for Mike to sign. Mike started counting them only to be interrupted by Tiffany, "There are twenty three. Incredible huh? If you had died I could sign them, but as you lived they all came in your name. I almost tried to get power of attorney so I could deal with them, but we hadn't run out of savings and your disability checks were direct deposited, so that kept us floating."

About twelve of the checks were from some supplemental disability insurance Mike had, then there were a bunch from the car insurance company and more from various other insurers. "What a mess! What if I had been in a coma or something? Then what would you have done? Geez and they say our medical care isn't messed up." Mike signed and handed the last one over to Tiffany who put everything into her purse.

"I am going to pop over to the bank and get these deposited. When I get back we'll have lunch and fire up the computer to look at cars. Oh and here.", she handed him a wrapped box.

"What's this?"

"A surprise. Nothing cool, but its needed, so open it already."

He unwrapped the gift to reveal a box, it said 'Blackberry' on the front an it was, indeed the latest model, the box was opened already too and Tiffany explained that she already charged it up and had the plan turned on. "Your old one didn't make it hon, they couldn't recover anything out of it either, I guess fire destroys even little computer chips. I had them send me the best one they had as a replacement and I programmed every number and email address I could think of into it." She smiled and looked pleased with herself.

"Wow! Thanks Tiff! This is great! I better look over the manual and put it through its paces."

Tiffany left then leaving Rebbecca and him alone in the dining room.

"Do you want to head back to the couch? Or to bed? We should get your leg up."

"Oh the couch would be fine. Were you going to stay too? I mean, are you on the clock today already?"

"Yes, I was going to stay, but only for a couple hours today and yes I am billing these hours, so I will get paid for them."

After settling him on the couch and propping his foot up on top of a couple of pillows Mike asked, "Remember that woman you and Tiffany were talking to?"

"Yes."

"I can't remember her name."

"Jessica. Tiffany introduced us, she is your neighbor on the north side. Your memory might be a little sporadic for awhile yet, don't worry about it."

"Oh. How was her baby?"

"Baby? What baby?"

"I thought she was pushing a baby."

"Oh no, that was a bike, I don't think she has any kids."

"Oh."

"Mike, did you see a baby?"

"Well, yeah it looked like a baby carriage. Does my medicine make me delusional?"

"Its an opioid. Your dosage should relieve pain, not cause you to see things, you are not a recreational user. Have you been seeing things?"

Mike's only answer was a brief nod.

"What else have you seen?"

"People with wolf heads, people who look like zombies, a gnome, like a garden gnome, only, you know walking around."

"Did you tell your doctor."

"I don't think so."

"How long has this been happening?"

"Since I could remember waking up."

"Okay, its good that you told me. Medicine is a both an art and a science, some people, a small part of the population reacts differently to any available drug. You must just be part of that unique crowd. I am going to put a call into your doctor at the hospital, if it is okay with you?"

"Yeah, sure. I feel relieved to tell someone. The...visions, they are pretty morbid sometimes."

"Well you just ignore anything that seems out of place, no doubt your brush with death is slanting your hallucinations down morbid paths. Let me call the doctor and we'll see what we can do."

While Rebbecca was busy trying to get in touch with a doctor at the hospital, Mike started tinkering with his Blackberry. He had three hundred twenty seven text messages to read, over a thousand emails and his voice mail had sent him an alert that it was full and needed to be cleaned out. He opened a few text messages to start and after reading a dozen, realized he had no idea what any of these people were talking about. In fact he only recognized two names in all of the messages he had received. Calling his voice mail he was prompted to enter a pin number, which he did without thinking, amazed because he could not remember what he had just entered. The first message he got was one telling him his voice mail was full, then a second stating he could add more memory to his digital voice mail account and listing the costs to do so. Finally he was given a tally of the messages he had in his account that were new, there were over two hundred of them. Thinking he must be a pretty popular guy he started in on the oldest one and moved forward, deleting any that seemed purely personal and archiving those that seemed to be related to business. He spent a half an hour at the task, which, to his surprise cleared up almost half of the messages, before Rebbecca approached him, her ear still glued to her phone.

"Mike, the doctor wants to know how often the hallucinations occur. Do you constantly see them or is it once a day or less often?"

"Ah hourly. Some of them persist, like don't go away at all, does that count?"

She nodded and turned away from him, stepping into the dining room.

'She thinks she was interrupting me on the phone.', Mike realized, pulling his phone away from his head to look at it. 'Well I guess I am.'

By the time Tiffany returned his voice mail was cleared up so he could start receiving messages again and he had started browsing the emails, not looking for anything in particular, but deleting all the spam he could find.

Tiffany breezed in and was stopped in the dining room by Rebbecca, they spoke in low voices just out of Mike's sight. Then the women came in and looked at Mike.

"What?"

"Oh hon, why didn't you tell me you were having problems with your medicine?", said Tiffany

"I wasn't sure if it was just me or not. I didn't want to worry you. It wasn't until I started talking to Rebbecca that I figured out something might be wrong."

"Well you will be okay. Just tell me if you see or hear anything weird and I will tell you what is really there okay? Rebbecca said the doctors are talking over alternative pain medicine, they may have something that works better for you."

"The doctor said to adjust your pills down for the time being. I gave your wife the instructions on what to do, we are going to try going down to half a pill every six hours. You still need to take the others as needed, but save them for when things really get bad, and do not hesitate to call the hospital if things get really bad." said Rebbecca.

"Okay, I won't.", Mike raised his Blackberry, "I'll have this to call you with."

"Fair enough. Mike I will be back in the morning, first thing, but before I go lets get you into the den, and make sure you will have everything you need there." said Rebbecca.

The women steadied Mike on either side and helped him limp into the den, which Tiffany had been working on in preparation of Mike's homecoming. She had known there would be no way for him to climb the stairs and sleep in the master bedroom at least not for another three weeks until the second cast was due to come off. Mike didn't recognize the den, he couldn't tell what had been changed, but could tell by looking at Tiffany's face that she was expecting him to notice the improvements, so he smiled and said, "It looks awesome! You did a good job!"

"I bought the tv and had the guys from the store mount it for me, then the cable guys came out and hooked it up, I wasn't sure how much time you would be in here so I wanted you to have a tv at least. I figured the mini fridge would be easier for you to get to than the kitchen and I just bought a bunch of random books, classics mostly for you to read. Do you really like it?"

"Its great Tif! Really great, the bed still the same?"

She laughed, "Yeah, no improvements there, but I had Jim install two safety bars in the bathroom. Wanna see?"

Mike went over to the bathroom with the aid of Rebbecca and flipped on the light, there was a safety bar by the toilet and another in the tiled shower area. He nodded his approval and then stepped over to the bed and sat down. Rebbecca turned towards him and said, "Mike for the first few days the doctor feels you shouldn't be getting up or going anywhere on your own, so unless Tiffany or I are here to help you just stay put. Next Monday I will be bringing some crutches and a couple weeks after that you should be out of the cast and graduate to a cane, if all goes well."

Mike nodded and said, "Right, I won't go anywhere without one of you by my side. I can't wait for the crutches though, it will be nice to move around on my own again."

Rebbecca went out to the dinning room and came back with a sports bag, emblazoned with the 'Home Care' company logo on the side. She sat the bag on the bed and unzipped it, pulling out various packages until she came up with a bedpan for men. "I know its not ideal, but in the middle of the night use this if you have to. The rest of this stuff is tailored for you specific injuries and we will be using as we need to in the coming weeks, its mostly physical therapy tools and some fresh gauze and burn ointment, look through it and if you have any questions you can ask me about them tomorrow. I am going to take off now so I am not late for my afternoon customer, I'll see you tomorrow and if you have any questions call me."

Mike and Tiffany said their goodbyes and then turned to each other as Rebbecca left the house. Tiffany embraced him and just held him tight, after a couple of minutes in this prolonged hug Mike realized she was crying. He held her tighter and said, "Its okay Tiffany, its okay. Everything is going to be okay."

"I know, I know, but I couldn't, I wouldn't just break down in front of her or at the hospital. Everyone telling me to be strong all the time and that everything would 'be alright', its not alright. I was so scared!"

"Yeah, but I made it, right? I'm going to be fine. We'll be fine."

"Yeah, now!", she sobbed. It took a few more minutes and Tiffany pulled herself together and broke from the embrace.

"You know what would make us feel better?", Mike asked with a light tone.

"Ice cream?"

"Well I was thinking of picking out a car, but there is no reason we can't do both right?"

Tiffany laughed and helped her husband into the dinning room.

 

Part V

Mike woke up during the night, it was raining outside and he was alone in his bed. Tiffany had fallen asleep with him after they had made an unsatisfactory attempt at making love. She had barely touched him after an all too brief session of kissing and he had gone off like a roman candle. Tiffany has shushed away his embarrassment and cleaned him up, and even, delicately, tried to arouse him again for round two, but Mike just couldn't make it happen. She had to settle for snuggling next to him with his arm around her as he faded into a drug laced sleep. Lightning flashed, illuminating the room for a split second, allowing Mike to see that he was alone. He shifted on his pillows and tried to get back to sleep, but the noise made that impossible, so he fumbled around until he found the television remote, then brought the tv to life. Mike flipped to the news first, Fox News had a show on from earlier in the day with commenters arguing about how to spend the money the country didn't have. Everything was the liberals fault, of course. Mike changed channels to MSNBC and got an earful about how the conservatives were ruining the country. Finally on CNN he picked up a live feed. A tired looking newsman was droning on about the problems in China, how they had shut down all their borders to all traffic and issued warnings to the international community to stay out. The rumors were wild that the African plague had hit China hard. Some footage from a boat near Taiwan showed bodies being dumped into the ocean. At least it looked like bodies, the magnification of the camera was up so high that the film was distorted. Then the story switched to Africa, where a South African correspondent was discussing a new plague in Somalia. People dying everywhere, or being killed. Mike flipped up the cable guide to find a movie to watch. His leg was starting to ache, a slow dull pain that he put to the back of his mind. He was sure the pain medicine was messing with his mind and he did not want to deal with that on a rainy summer night.

Finally Mike found a comedy to watch, it was one he had seen before, so he knew it was worth watching again. Halfway through his leg was giving him a lot of trouble, making it hard for him to concentrate on what was being said. It felt like it was on fire, a basketball sized globe of pain was settled right around his knee. He turned and reached for the pain pills on his headboard and happened to glance out his window as he did so. There was a woman there, standing up against the glass dully looking in. Mike yelled in surprise and fright. It was Jessica, Mike's neighbor and she didn't look so good. Her hair was wet and scraggly. She had on a thin Cotton nightgown that her breasts showed through even in the dim light radiating from Mike's television. Jessica's eyes were opaque white, she shifted her head from the television to Mike and then back. Mike shut his eyes tightly and took a deep breath, shaking his head and saying, "Its just a dream. Its just a dream." and then opened them. Nothing. No Jessica. No dead eyes, no wet breasts pressed against his window. Breathing a sigh of relief he yelled anew when the woman seemingly sprang out of nowhere to hit his window. The frame shook as her body slammed into it, however the glass did not crack. Jessica stepped backwards out of sight again, then ran forward towards the glass once again. It was probably the rain that caused her to slip, just before she reached the window she fell out of sight and Mike heard a low thud against the stonework from below outside below the window as she hit the wall.

"Mike, what is it dear?"

His wife's voice very nearly made him pee his bed. He started and turned slowly around, "Tiff, there is someone out there! Did you hear her hit the window?"

"No Mike, no. I didn't hear anything but you yelling from upstairs. Tell me what you see."

"Nothing, there is nothing there, but wait, watch a minute, she'll come back. It is Jessica from next door. She was running at the window, trying to get in.", Mike explained.

"Okay, okay hon, let me take a look and see what I can see."

"Be careful, she looks all weird, like dead, if she breaks the window she...", Mike stopped aware of how he sounded.

Tiffany didn't say anything but walked around his bed and looked outside. "I...I don't see anything Mike. Let me go flip the front lights on so I can see better." She left the room and the lights came on outside a moment later. Jessica stood up from under his window, the rain was pouring down on her as she stared in at him. Mike heard the front door opening the same time Jessica did.

"No! Tiffany! Don't go out there!" Jessica ran off to the left, towards Mike's front door. A second later Mike heard Tiffany start to scream. He could not make out the words, only the shrieking and it did not cut off quickly. The screams carried into the house, into Mike's living room and after a great crash of thunder, they ended. Mike slid his cast off the side of the bed, wishing he had a crutch or a cane.

"Tif? Tiffany? Tiffany!", he shouted. There was movement from the living room. Mike's back was now facing the doorway, with his leg on the floor between the bed and the window. To his left was the open bathroom door. Running on adrenaline he pushed himself up and over to the window, the angle was not good enough to show him the front porch. There was noise behind him, the door quietly opening. Turning Mike saw his wife, throat bitten open, eyes glazed and dead, standing in the doorway, she started shuffling towards him. Behind her Jessica, her nightie now drenched in blood stood and watched. Her eyes were not as opaque as they once were, her movements as she stepped into the room were more fluid.

"Tiffany?", Mike squeaked out, the barest of whispers. He started to step towards the bathroom door, then stopped himself. Closing his eyes he said, "This is a dream, this is not happening, this is not real. This is an hallucination brought on by the medicine." Tiffany grabbed his arm, her fingers were wet and cool from the rain. "This is not happening, This is not real."

Tiffany bit into his arm near his bicep and his eyes popped wide open. Mike screamed at her, "This is not happening, this is a nightmare. This is not real!" Tiffany paid him no mind and burrowed deep into the fleshy part of his arm. Mike unable to bear the pain anymore pushed at her, she resisted and held onto his arm. Mike tried to step back and ended up falling, dragging Tiffany with him. Jessica moved around the bed and got down on her hands and knees moving her mouth towards Mike's free leg.

Mike flailed ineffectively at his wife while kicking at the woman now biting into his leg, all the while screaming about how this was a nightmare and not really happening. A short time later Jessica, now looking much better, although still covered in blood, stood up and helped Tiffany and Mike to their feet. The three of them walked out of the house and into the night. This, definitely, was happening.