Friday, April 1, 2016

Story Fragment: Hospital Bait-and-Switch

This post is a story fragment. It is not from anything in progress. It came to me while messing about late last night. I'm posting it here because I want to see what you folks think of it; put on your reader hats and hit the Comments section.

"He's coming around." the doctor said, "Stand ready."

Robert opened his eyes, slowly at first, as the light hit them as if he emerged into a bright Summer day at midday. As his vision adjusted, he saw the clear, bare walls about him and then a man and a pair of women in hospital garb. Then he saw something hooked to his hands.

"Where am I?"

"You're at St. Hennepin's Hospital, on the campus of the University of Minnesota, Your Grace."

The response struck him wrong, but not fast enough to change his reaction: "Hospital? That figures. Last I recall, my car went out of control when I got on the Interstate and threw me off the bridge. I couldn't get out of the car, or the river, before I blacked out."

Robert looked up, and he noticed the uniforms being out of place. The man--the doctor--had the fancy filigree on the collars and cuffs that he'd only seen in fiction. The nurses were far younger, and far more fit, than he remembered and in uniforms reminiscent of his grandmother's era.

"Doctor, is His Grace awake?" a man said, beyond Robert's sight.

Robert saw the doctor waive the man over, and he wore a different uniform. Fancy, formal, and far more paramilitary. None of the symbols were any he recognized, but the general appearance seemed to be that of a high-ranking official. The man approached him, snapped to attention, and drew his fist across his chest as a salute. "Your Grace, Major Holm of the Imperial Guard, reporting. His Imperial Majesty requests that you contact him at your earliest opportunity." Robert looked at the man, incredulous. "Your father worries."

Robert's thoughts scrambled to make sense of what he heard. Father? What? Oh, and that makes me a prince- prince of an empire. What in the hell is going on? But, for now, play cool.

"Major, your duty is fulfilled. Go inform my father that I live, and shall make contact presently. Dismissed."

Major Holm saluted, turned on his heels and made to go, but first turned to the doctor: "A word, if I may?"

The two men left Robert's sight, and soon his hearing. Meanwhile, the nurses moved closer. Seeing the ruse for what it was, Robert went along with it. "Nurse, how long was I unconscious?"

"Four years, Your Grace." the nurse said, smiling as if a schoolgirl got noticed by her elder classmate, "We got you into a stabilization tank immediately, as we're the only hospital in the province permitted to treat members of the Imperial family, and once an Imperial doctor arrived he got to work treating you. In the last few weeks you progressed enough to be removed from the tank and placed in this secure wing instead."

"Four years? Forgive me, but what year is it?"

"It is the 11th day of Spring, in the year 2770 of the Imperial Calendar, Your Grace."

Well, either I am dreaming or something worse has happened. I'll go with "worse", knowing my luck.

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