Amia woke, screaming and panting. Her eyes frantically searched the room, looking for something familiar. Bright. It was too bright. A nurse darted in and quickly checked her over. The sudden movements, combined with the throbbing fluorescent lights were too much. Amia began to retch. There was nothing to bring up, so she dry-heaved painfully. The nurse, who smelled strongly of something sweet and flowery, patted her back. Amia couldn’t stop gagging.
Another nurse with long curly black hair was using a sy-ringe to put something into the tube attached to her arm. Amia wasn’t sure what it was, and she tried to sit up and pull the tube out. The woman pulled her hand away from it. “Don’t touch … darlin’. You’re gonna … it ....” Amia help-lessly closed her eyes as the other woman put a big cup of sorts over her mouth and nose. It smelled horrible and was making a painfully loud hissing noise. She tried to pull it off of her face, but the nurses held her arms down. Her brain went cloudy. “Daddy…” she sobbed.
For one, there was no way to know what diseases might lurk inside the Dome. Some concerned citizens had called for the whole area to be locked down until it could be better stud-ied. But many of the Domers were experiencing too much physical trauma at the moment to simply treat on site. The sunlight was the most pressing problem, but most of them were also malnourished, and several had significant illnesses that needed immediate treatment. Tony had been sent out three times already.
The inside of the Dome, which he had spent countless hours of his childhood discussing with friends, had turned out to be sad more than anything else. The pale, yellow-green plants were spindly and stunted. The houses that he’d seen were like something out of a history book. The people were thin and sickly. And now it was crawling with soldiers.
The Domers cowered in their shacks and huts, eyes un-blinking, mouths hanging open. They seemed too afraid to speak, too afraid to make eye contact with him, and too afraid to do much more than nod vacantly when he gave them instructions or asked questions. The hazmat suit the hospital had made him wear had probably not helped.
Add to all of that, the mobs of panicking citizens of Wytheville. The realization that there had been a whole un-known civilization living right next to them was leading to chaos. The zealots and conspiracy theorists had come out in droves, climbing onto buildings and declaring the end of the world, getting drunk and falling off of any number of high places, and wandering out into the wide stretch of desert that ran along the border of the Dome lands. The military had at-tempted to put up barricades to restrict access, but it was almost impossible due to the amount of area the Dome cov-ered.
Tony was sitting on the bumper of one of the ambulances with his co-worker Carl. “Nuts today, huh?”
“End of the world, I guess,” Carl muttered. “Just picked a guy up an hour ago who got bean-bagged for dressing up in one of those inflatable sumo wrestler costumes and running around Wal-Mart screaming about the apocalypse.”
“I was supposed to be off today.”
Carl nodded. “Wonder what the hell was going on in there.”
“Yeah.” Tony thought about all those starving, quiet peo-ple and shivered.
• ● •
Amia awoke a second time, only to realize that she had been tethered to her bed by her wrists. The chemically smelling mask was still on her face, hissing softly. The strange black machine to her right was still beeping as a bright green light jerked up and down across it. The florescent lights constantly flickered. People were shouting down the hallway.
She breathed slowly and tried to make sense of her sur-roundings. The man earlier had told her that this was a hospi-tal, which she assumed meant these people were supposed to help her. He had seemed sincere enough. But they didn’t know what she’d done. What they’d done. It was only a mat-ter of time before he found her.
The question was, since she had used fake names for her-self and Sammy, how would he know? How could he find her? Plus, the whole government would be in chaos, wouldn’t it? She looked down at her shoulder over the bulge of the cup tied to her face. She could see that they’d put some form of dressing where the crier had bitten her. It didn’t really hurt. What could that possibly mean? She’d seen two men die from crier bites. They had screamed in pain the whole time. But she could feel nothing, other than the odd cold feeling oozing from the tube sticking out of her arm. Was she going to live? She hadn’t planned for that at all.
The man from earlier passed by. What was his name? Tony? He looked in her room and frowned slightly. She tried to make eye contact, to see if he’d come untie her. His eyes met hers for a moment and then he startled, pulling a small square from his pocket. He glanced at it, and dashed away down the hall.
The nurses came in an hour later and told her something about her dressing. They were touching it. It hurt. When they had removed bandages, she could see that at least one of the nurses felt some sympathy for her. “You’ve … a rough couple of … it seems.”
Everything these people said was a bit too sharp and short. She always felt like they were stopping before they’d finished their sentences. She couldn’t understand, so she just nodded and looked sad, hoping they’d take the restraints off her wrists.
A nurse pointed to the crier bite, “What … you …..?”
Amia tried to answer, but the cup on her mouth was mak-ing it hard to speak. “Crier,” she said.
The woman frowned and said, “Lion?”
Amia shook her head and started to try again, but by then the bandage had been changed and the nurses were gone. She dropped her head on the pillow and stared at the ceiling in frustration.
Having spent her whole life seeing things either in tones of green or by firelight, the sunlight was making it hard for Amia to judge colors and distances. She felt her brain continually swimming as it tried to recalibrate. It was much brighter than she’d prepared herself for. All of the shadows and shading were wrong. People seemed to be really far away and then suddenly right in front of her. It hurt her eyes and head. She wished someone would bring her back those dark glasses. They weren’t near her anymore, and anyhow, she couldn’t possibly put them on with her wrists strapped to this con-founded bed. Time to get free, then.
She began testing both ties. They were too tight for her to simply pull her hands out. She rolled her wrists left and right, looking for any give. She found that there was just a little bit in the right tie. She began to rock her hand back and forth. It seemed to be loosening. She could feel her wrist moving more freely now. She began to twist and clench her fist slowly to see if she could get a bit more space.
“Hey there,” a voice called to her from the doorway. After momentarily freezing, she turned her head to see who was talking to her. Tony. She unclenched her hand and tried to smile at him through the cup.
“You doing okay?” He looked genuinely concerned. Some-thing about his expression reminded her of Justin. She winced. He must have noted the wince because he walked up to her bed.
“I see they’ve had to restrain you. You hit someone?” He pulled a thing of papers off the edge of her bed and flipped through them.
“No. The thing in my arm.”
“Can I take the oxygen mask off of you? I can’t under-stand you.”
“The oxygen mask?” She looked down at the cup, going a bit cross eyed. He reached across her face and removed it.
“Yeah, you don’t actually need it. It says you felt sick?”
“The light,” she said.
“Oh! Of course,” Tony said. He jumped up and touched a switch on the wall. Suddenly all of the big bright lights in the ceiling were gone. He went to the windows with his long, bouncy stride and adjusted the already closed curtains to make sure that there was no light coming in. The throbbing in her head stopped.
“Thank you,” she said.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know why we didn’t think of that be-fore,” Tony said.
Tony looked at Moxy as she was lying strapped to the bed. The chart said she’d been strapped for ‘aggression.’ She looked up at him with sad, pleading eyes. The wild, defiant intensity from this morning was gone. Now she just looked sad and scared. Pitiful, really. He tried to imagine how fright-ening the whole situation must be for her.
“Why did they strap you down?” he asked again.
“I tried to take out the tube,” she said.
“If you promise not to touch it again, I’ll take the straps off.”
Moxy was silent for a moment. “I don’t want the medicine that makes me sleep.”
“The morphine?” he asked.
“You might need the morphine sometimes. It’s to help when you hurt.”
“I’m not afraid of pain. But I don’t like the… the sleepy feeling.”
Tony considered what promise he could give her in regards to the medicine.
“How about this, what if we ask you before we give it to you?” he asked.
Moxy held him in a thoughtful gaze. What was she think-ing about? Maybe she was trying to decide if she could trust him? He gave her the warmest smile he had. Finally, she nod-ded, “Okay.”
Tony reached down and undid the straps. She reached up and grabbed his arm. He jumped slightly.
“Please, the glasses,” she said.
Of course, she’d need those. Tony glanced around the room. They were on the window sill, partially hidden under the curtain. He stepped over to the window and grabbed them. As he handed them to her, his pager went off.
“Moxy, you have to try to trust us. I know you must feel confused and scared, but no one here wants to hurt you. I promise.” He reached over and squeezed her hand and then left.
That night, Tony didn’t get home until well after three in the morning. He fell straight into his bed with his clothes still on and slept dreamlessly for a few hours until his alarm went off at six.
Amia, on the other hand, lay in the hospital bed listening to the constant beeping at her bedside and the crackling of elec-tricity through the lights. Now that she wasn’t drifting in and out of sleep, she realized there was another patient in the room, a heavy-set man who snored. She tried to tune out the rise and fall of his wheezes. At midnight, an old man passed her room with a strange machine that rubbed along the floor. It was huge and a color her eyes couldn’t quite understand. It made a swishing sound as he walked it down the hallway. A nurse held a small device to her ear and talked for almost an hour. Amia fought against sleep until it was impossible to resist anymore. She dreamt about her father.