The visit from my supposed father was anti-climatic; to be fair, I didn’t know who he was and he didn’t talk much. He sort of just sat there solemnly, with both a look of guilt but a touch of softness adorning his face. The few words he said just affirmed his love for me and how if I ever need some support, he’ll be there for me.
After the man left, I was all alone again. Compared to the constant chaperones, maids, and servants that attended nearly every minute of my waking life, the lack of any supervision or companionship was… Different. Not necessarily bad, just unusual.
Even though I had only been awake for a handful of hours by that point, my eyes were heavy and my focus was tiring; whether it was mental fatigue from handling all of these sudden changes and the strain placed on my mind from using my System Specialisation or rather the body I was in was so weak to be tired after only a few hours, I didn’t know.
What I did know was that the bed I was in was far comfier than the one in my own chambers and so, when the abyss of sleep called for me, I dutifully gave way to slumber.
When I opened my eyes, I was greeted by the same, tiled ceiling and pale white walls. It seems this wasn’t a dream at all.
The time, I deduced, was early; the curtains on the window were closed but from the little light that wasn’t caught, it was dim and pretty insignificant. It was probably early morning. Perhaps I woke up at the same time I usually do because it’s more of a mental thing than a physical one?
Around my bed sat the same strange, greyish box as before and the chair the woman had pulled out from the wall. In addition, however, was a metal tray on small, strange-looking wheels with a glass cup of water and more small, unusual boxes.
Thankfully, even with my shorter arms, the cup was in reach but as soon as my hands firmly gripped around it, it crumpled suddenly! How I unknowingly gained immense strength? A crackling sound emanated from when I let go of the cup but it’s deformed shape remained; not to mention my hand was now soaked with water, as well as the tray.
Well, guess I’m not going to be drinking any time soon.
Or, at least, that’s what I thought, for not soon after I dried my hand against the bedding, a woman of short stature but wearing the same blue tunic as the physician wandered on into my room.
After a few customary questions--such as, “Are you okay?”, “Would you like some more water?”, “Do you need me to call the doctor for you”, and, “Would you like to have some breakfast?”--she left with her newly formed goal.
Either the kitchen had already prepared the food or the kitchen itself was nearby--perhaps both--the woman returned rather promptly with a plate in hand and a cylinder of paper tucked under one arm.
While I could identify it as paper, it wasn’t a type of paper I was familiar with but, more shockingly, she ruined it without a second thought! Paper is expensive because it’s harder to make but more versatile than parchment but she soaked it in the water without a second thought. Honestly, the sight alone could’ve sent me into shock if I had not calmed myself down with the scent and sight of hot food on the plate.
Once the frivolous use of paper and the drying of the wheeled tray had finished, she placed the tray she was carrying down onto it, allowing me to fully see what it was; two slices of bread and some hot soup. Small lumps of meat and vegetables could be seen floating in the broth.
As soon as she had set it down, she warned me it was hot--like I would think it was cold when there was steam wafting from it--and then asked if I needed any help.
Now, normally, with my dignity of a prince, I would immediately decline being fed food by someone else but this body was not mine--it was weak, frail, and unfamiliar--and after the incident with the water, I was a little hesitant to ask for help but, after careful deliberation, I did, in fact, turn down her aid. Would I have appreciated it? Most likely. Would it have been incredibly humiliating and embarrassing? Almost definitely so.
Once she left the room, I tentatively leaned forwards and reached out towards the soup, my fingers gently tapping the sides of the tray. I brought my other fingers and thumb into contact, contracted them firmly but gradually, and, once no deformation occurred, lifted the tray up.
Phew; I managed to place the tray onto my thighs with no issues. I’m sure the sweat beading on my forehead was due to the heat of the soup and nothing else.
Surprisingly, the soup was actually tasty! It had a rich texture and the meat tasted deliciously fatty. I wish I could describe it more but my culinary knowledge was fairly limited; I don’t think any of my family members could even cook.
The bread was actually even more surprising; the softness and malleability were far superior to most bread I had eaten and the slices were so neatly cut. From the food alone, I could’ve figured out that I was nowhere close to the Arden Kingdom.
Unfortunately, food doesn’t last forever and after I was done savouring the food, nothing else happened for a while.
I don’t know how long it took but by the time my curtains were thrown aside and bright daylight was shining through impetuously, the same physician from yesterday appeared, wearing the same clothes as well.
After greeting me and asking similar questions to the woman’s, he began to talk about the non-superficial, important things.
“Now, the first thing we have to do is just a scan to check for any cancer cells. Like before, it’ll be a PET-CT scan so it won’t happen right away; in a few hours, there’ll be someone else who’ll take you to the room
“Your mother has already signed a consent form so there’s nothing you need to sign. You’ll be attached to an IV line for around an hour and then you’ll lie down on the table and the scan will begin, just like before.
“I won’t be there but Doctor Joels--the same one who did your scan before the surgery--will be there so don’t worry.”
Once he had gotten all the important information out of the way, he left the room. You know, I’ve come to realise that there’s a certain routine to my reactions when he talks; complete bewilderment. Is this really such a backwards place that pets are used when treating people?
My room is empty and there’s rarely anyone here; the next few hours were arduous! The only thing I could do to while away the time was reading through the transcripts of everything that’s has been spoken so far, seeing if there was any additional meaning or clues or subtext to the words that I could find.
Finally, another blue-clad individual (a woman, this time) came into my room, indicating it was finally time for whatever this ‘pet scan’ was. What was strange, however, was the contraption she wheeled into the room (this place seems very fond of putting wheels on everything).
What she wheeled in looked to be a chair--similar to the one my supposed mother sat on yesterday--but at the front were two small wheels, that could twist as well as roll, as well as two large wheels at the back, a similar height to the seat itself. Apparently, what this was needed no explanation for the woman didn’t deign to give me one. Maybe they’re really common over here?
She wheeled it over to me, her hands clasped on two handles on the back, and asked if I was ready. Ready for what? The pet scan, I presumed. Of course, I struggled to reply--partly because I didn’t want to appear too committal to something which I didn’t even understand--and so simply nodded in affirmation.
“Have you used a wheelchair before?” She asked abruptly. Is that what it is? I suppose it’s a reasonable name for it, if a bit boring. The more important question, though, is am I going to be using it? Why?
I communicated that I hadn’t and so, she began to explain.
“I’m going to use the brake,” she began, reaching down to shift something on the chair, “So all you need to do is lift yourself into the seat. I can help you if you want.”
Honestly, she was very condescending in her attitude but there was just something in the back of my mind telling me that, perhaps, I shouldn’t necessarily be too annoyed at her conduct. I mean, so far, every blue person has given similar offers of help so it’s probably a courtesy thing rather than a humbling one.
Or so I thought. I-I struggle to find words to express the thoughts that were running through my mind--both incoherent and painfully lucid. My brain hadn’t added up the dots and I didn’t even notice it myself; when she lifted my covers and displayed my lower half to my eyes for the very first time, there was one loud, glaring thought running through my head:
I have only one leg.
Sitting up, half of my body ended far away from the end of the bed while the other half continued on like it was supposed to. There was no knee, no calf, no little foot with toes that hurt when you stubbed them; there was nothing on the right side of my body, like a toy someone stopped making part-way through.
The visual shock is one thing but the mental shock is another. I’d been awake for no more than a day but already, I had memories of the feeling of both my legs in this body--the feel of the covers on my legs, the movements and how my sitting positions were dependent on if my legs were comfortable. I could’ve sworn that I placed my tray down on both legs as well.
But… Somehow, that was all false. Those feelings, those sensations, just weren’t real. It seems that I couldn’t even trust my own mind to tell me the truth--it just manufactures stimuli when there is none.
Just who could I trust? Everyone around me? They all seemed to know; even this woman isn’t surprised. Heck, she seems more surprised by my shock than by my lack of a leg.
Was this hidden from me? No; I’ve re-read the transcripts multiple times and it was plain as day--what else could the ‘surgery’ have been referring to? How didn’t I realise that something so vital to me, something so fundamental to a human body, was gone?
It’s unfathomable. There’s so little that I know, even less than I thought.
My mind was clutched in a vice-like grip and all I could do was look at the woman, eyes wide open and moist, and slowly gesture towards the half-empty portion of the bed. Nothing but dry, wordless air left my mouth.
“You want me to help you?” The concern, evident in her voice, was painful.
Whether I'd be able to walk, who knew. Even if I should, certainly not in my current state, at least/
I doubt my head tilt was even visible but, somehow, the meaning was conveyed. She moved round to the side of the chair, holding onto it with one hand and me with another--her arm was grasped around the back of my waist, holding my side.
She repositioned me so my back was facing the chair, with the chair being at a similar height to the bed.
“Don’t worry; just look behind you. I’ll help guide your hands to the armrests and help to lift you into the chair. You can try to keep your balance or feel for the bed or chair with your leg.” She said as I felt her gently guide my hands to the plush fabric on either side of the chair.
Next, she asked me to see if I could lift my legs (both the whole one and the stump) up--I still regained feeling in the remnant that was my thigh and so could lift it as easily as my arms--and placed her arm under my right thigh. I must be fairly light as she, a rather dainty looking woman, found it quite easy to help lift me into my seat.
The experience itself wasn’t something I’d look forward to doing again; having to move your body with only your arms and leaning yourself backwards and downwards is just… Unpleasant and unfamiliar. I was actually grateful she rendered her help in transferring me to the wheelchair. Even with a fully functioning leg, I felt more hobbled than I should.
The last thing involved in the transition, apparently, was her asking me if I was comfortable, after strapping me in, of course. Frankly, my mind wasn’t all too focused on comfort at the moment so I just nodded yes, irrespective of my actual level of comfort--which, thankfully, was pretty good, like I was sitting on a pillow.
My body still trembling with the aftershocks of the revelation, we began to make our way to the auspicious pet scan.