by Carl L. Biemiller,
edited by C. J. Carnahan and Eric Biemiller

lightning Copyright © 2005 by Eric C. Biemiller

Please respect the copyrights.
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Chapter 2

At two ayem in the hospital quiet Connie Kynwood went to bed in the room which Dr. Decker Todd had made available a few doors down the corridor from where her son lay watched by an alert nurse. She went with her husband’s arm around her and together they found deep, if troubled, sleep upon adjoining beds.

At four ayem she sat upright and stared at her upright husband across the space which separated them.

“Did you…” she asked.

“Hear that?” He chorused.

“It was Woodie, and right in my ear he said 'I know you’re there Mom, and don’t worry. I love you and I’m going to be all right now. Don’t worry a bit. I’m just going to sleep a little extra for a time.' That’s what he said, Big Woodie.”

“I know. He spoke to me too. What’s more, he laughed. 'Big Woodie,' he said, 'you’re too hot a shot to cry.' I’m going to be well in no time.”

They strained to see each other in the dim light which came from the corridor.

“Connie, did we dream it? Did we want it so hard that we made it all up?”

“No darling, no,” said his wife, her voice young and strong in the darkness. “I don’t understand it, but Woodie spoke to us. He spoke to us and very plainly. And we must have sat up simultaneously. Explain that Mr. Kynwood.”

“I always sit up when you sit up at night.”

“Well just lie down again, and right where you are, sir.”

“Yes, ma’am, and now that we know, I don’t care what time they call us.”

“And we do know,” she said softly.

At four-fifteen ayem in the resident’s quarters, where Dr. Decker Todd had elected to spend the night too tired to go home, the young surgeon was sleeping a greedy sleep when a telephone bell penetrated his slumber. Decker Todd heard himself say, “Yes, he’s regained consciousness and is sleeping normally. That’s fine. I’ll tell the boy’s parents in the morning. And you think it’s a good idea if I file the electroencephalograph record in my private file and keep it there without showing it to anybody, particularly anybody who might ask to see it. Yes, yes, good idea and I’ll check the boy soon. I’m very glad he’s doing well. Goodbye.”

Decker Todd continued to sleep. Not for another hour would the alarm in his head go off to prepare him for his six o’clock operation. He stirred in that sleep restlessly all of a sudden. He hoisted himself to one elbow. “The phone’s on the other side of this room,” he said loudly. “But I will squirrel away that EEG and I’m sure glad to know the boy’s okay.” He yanked away the support of his elbow and fell again down the well of slumber. Surgeons need all the rest they can get.

They seldom understand the nature of the sleep they need. That knowledge, so far, transcends explanatory science, which was just as well for Dr. Todd who might have been troubled to receive telephone messages without a telephone had he been completely aware of the fact.

Mrs. Bethel Willoughbee, the nurse in the recovery room with Ballard Kynwood Woodie Junior, was both aware and troubled. She was a skilled and practical woman well into her middle years. Despite marriage and child raising, her career was her life and she had devoted thirty years to her profession. They had not been easy years. The human condition under stress which she lived with had seen to that. Those years had almost whittled away her capacity for surprise, almost, that is. Conscientiously relaxed, yet fully alert, she watched the boy in the bed as he lay in his sedated coma, for the time being the only patient in the room.

She half-heard the familiar hospital sounds, even the barely audible hum of the EEG. But she fully heard a boy’s voice, low, firm and distinct.

“May I have some water, please?”

Mrs. Willoughbee leaned forward tilted toward the voice. It came from the boy. There could be no other source, yet the boy was unconscious.

“Water please, nurse.”

Mrs. Willoughbee sat a moment too long. She watched a pitcher from a nearby table rise and pour a small amount of its contents into a paper cup. She saw a straw plucked from a container be inserted into the cup. She stared as the cup left the table, sailed untouched through the air to a point beneath the patient’s chin and inclined so that the straw could reach the boy’s suddenly moving lips. Its job done, the cup swooped back across the room to rest again near the pitcher on the table.

Mrs. Willoughbee moved steadily with measured haste from her chair to the table. She poked an exploring finger into the cup. It was cold and wet and empty.

Deliberately avoiding any acceptance of what she’d seen for the moment, she automatically examined the recorder on the EEG machine by the boy’s bed. The graph line showed a jumble of peaks receding into heavy swells denoting alpha waves. The time stamp device on the moving EEG paper showed 4:18 ayem.

Mrs. Willoughbee turned and moved back to the small table. The paper cup was still wet. She walked to the doorway and stared down the empty corridor, spun and re-entered the recovery room. There was a potted geranium plant on another bedside table near the door. As her glance fell upon it two buds burst their green sheaths and flowered, releasing a fleeting odor of rank spice.

There was nothing of the poet about Nurse Willoughbee but she looked hard at the new blooms, walked away to re-examine the EEG graph paper, and then lifted the chart board from the foot of Ballard Kynwood Junior’s bed.

“Patient recovered consciousness at 4:18 ayem,” she wrote in a firm hand. “Some color. Resting well.”

Mrs. Willoughbee would never lie, but on the other hand unless she were directly asked by someone in authority whether she had noticed anything unusual within the recovery room between, say 4:15 and 4:18 ayem, she thought it best not to mention anything unusual. After all, what might be unusual for her could be perfectly normal to someone else, and the Good Lord had already shown her many mysteries in thirty years of nursing.

“I am not a giddy girl working for my cap,” thought Mrs. Willoughbee. “And it wouldn’t do for anyone to think I’d lost my wits entirely. But I’d give a pretty penny to know how he did it, and he must have done it. Who else was here besides me and the plant? And what was that geranium cheering about anyhow at just that time?”

Connie and Ballard Kynwood left the hospital early, even before Dr. Decker Todd had completed his six o’clock duties in the operating room, for their home in Martenville and a refurbishing of clothing for the day. They went cheerfully, leaving word at the corridor desk with the head nurse of their intentions to return. Their exit surprised Dr. Todd who had stopped by their room en route from the OR to the recovery room for a look at their son. He expressed his surprise to the head nurse.

“Can’t figure why they didn’t wait until I’d seen the boy,” he said ruefully. “I told them I’d check in with them after they had some sensible rest.”

“Well, doctor, they told me that their son was fine, that everything was fine, and that they’d be back after you had a chance to move him into a private room.”

“How they know the boy was doing well? I haven’t seen him as yet this morning.” Decker Todd, struck by a sudden thought, fumbled a bit for words. “Well, well, certainly the lad is fine, fine…” He spun on his heel and churned off toward the recovery room.

The head nurse watched him go, her lips pursed into a thin, severe line.

“Each generation gets worse,” she murmured. “More erratic, more absent-minded, nuttier. I often wonder if all they have to know doesn’t make their brains sag.” She smiled and was comforted by the vision of millions of hospitals administered wisely by head nurses all of which housed doctors with sagging brains.

Mrs. Willoughbee, going off duty and seemingly as starched as her uniform, collided with Decker Todd in the doorway of the recovery room.

“Good morning, nurse,” said the young surgeon. “Take a minute with me before you go?”

Mrs. Willoughbee did not want to take a minute. Not even a second. Mrs. Willoughbee wanted to go home to Marterville and get out of her underwear. She wanted to clean up the breakfast dishes left by her husband the bus-driver and her son the high school student no matter how well they had already cleaned them up. She wanted to lie down in her bedroom with an open window, smell air from the near by ocean and get rid of the absurd notion of pitchers that poured and cups that soared.

“Certainly, doctor,” she said.

She stood silently by Decker Todd’s side as he read Ballard Kynwood’s chart, laid gentle fingers at the juncture of the boy’s neck with his shoulders. She peeled back sheet and blanket and stood aside while the doctor read the patient’s heart action with a stethoscope from three spots on his chest, and ran a hand lightly across his green and blue bruised rib cage. She re-covered the boy and watched while Dr. Todd probed his ears with a pencil light, and then repeat the process with the corners of the boy’s eyes.

Ballard Woodie Junior Kynwood slept sweetly, peacefully and naturally.

“I’ll want that EEG record spool, nurse,” said Dr. Todd. “Just from midnight to now, I think. And we’ll leave him hooked up for another eight hours. But just give me the EEG. I’ll give instructions for the day staff.”

“Certainly, doctor,” said Mrs. Willoughbee.

“By the way, nurse. You didn’t happen to answer any queries about the patient’s condition last night?”

“No sir.”

“Parents didn’t call to ask how he was?”

“No sir.”

“And you didn’t happen to call me here in the house?”

“Doctor,” said Mrs. Willoughbee, and her tone was a chiding.

“Don’t bristle, nurse,” said Decker Todd with a grin. “I dream a lot lately.”

Together they moved toward the door and the morning business of the corridor. Dr. Todd poked a finger at the geranium plant on the bedside table nearest the exit.

“Very vital plant,” he said.

“It bloomed at 4:17 ayem,” said Mrs. Willoughbee absently. Dr. Decker Todd was a sharp young man and a credit, thus far, to his profession. There was speculation in some circles that he might even be the new Mayo brothers rolled into one person if he could overcome certain faults such as a sense of humor. “Hmmmm?” he hmmmmed. “Maybe it thinks it’s a night blooming cereus instead of a weedy old geranium. Nurse, what else unusual went on in this room last night, say around 4 to 5 ayem since you seem to pinpoint time so precisely?”

There it was, thought Mrs. Willoughbee, the direct question that nobody would ever ask, and the one she thought she’d never answer. What made the doctor ask? What was so unusual about a geranium popping blossoms that made this young man ask what else was unusual? Mrs. Willoughbee gathered her forces until she looked like a prissy sniff in a white uniform.

“Don’t look like a prissy sniff in a white uniform,” said Dr. Todd amiably. “Tell me what happened.”

Mrs. Willoughbee told.

Decker Todd listened gravely. He made motions with his hands the way old World War II airplane pilots still do when they talk to each other about World War II. “Tilt, gurgle, gurgle, then zoom, sip, sip and zoom, eh,” said Dr. Todd.

“Exactly,” said Mrs. Willoughbee. “And I’m off duty.”

“But you’ll be back with my patient later. He’s doing just dandy under your care. Good Morning, nurse.”

“Good morning, doctor.”

Decker Todd walked over and looked down at Woodie Junior. He looked long and hard. He muttered as he stared. “Gonna feed you intra-venously a day or so. By that time, the rate you’re going, you’ll want steak. And while you’re poking around in there, make sure that the corpus callosum isn’t impacted in any way. That’s the gunk which separates the two hemispheres of your brain and transfers your perceptions from one side of your head to the other. I want perfect symmetry in there…”

The pixie in Dr. Todd surfaced. He chuckled. “You read me, rap twice,” he said, with his secret grin showing. There were two distinct thunks on the top of his head. “Ouch,” he said. “Not so hard.”

He walked to a telephone on a nearby table. “Switchboard, this is Dr. Todd. I want to speak with Dr. Reginald B. Bailiff, Beetle Bailiff. He’s the director of the university’s Department of Parapsychology. Right. It probably isn’t open yet. Try Marterville 666-6666 and interrupt his breakfast … right, and thank you too, luv… Aye, operator, give him a message. Tell him I’m on my way over to his house for sticky buns and coffee. Some things to do here first and I don’t want to waste time talking. Okay? Good girl. You are now in my will…”

Dr. Todd went about his business.

In a stranger world, others were about other business.

“Has contact been made concerning the neophyte Kynwood?”

“Yes and the precognition events have been set in sequence. The boy has been foolish with the power, but not too much so for a boy with his mentality and aptitudes.”

“Is one of us near?”

“One of the best.”

“There is need.”

The breeze from the offshore Gulf Stream was warm and beginning to fade. The climbing sun bounced off the glistening white façade of the huge hotel which brooded over a blue swimming pool. A man in swim trunks, stocky-blocky and shining with sun-tan oil and sweat lay like a brown sack, flat out on a lounge with an orange colored mattress. The soft voices of hotel attendants carried in the morning quiet. “Very important man, that Gino, very big in everything that’s very big, and one day a week his sun day, all day in the sun that day. Who knows what he does that can prove anything, just rumor is rumor and the big money’s real, all’s anybody knows.” The man’s black glasses were a dark dazzle, and behind them a Watcher watched, and the sun climbed and the dead palm fronds ceased to rattle as the little sea wind died.

On a Manhattan rooftop, in a penthouse garden, its summer furnishings furled for Fall, a thin smartly garbed woman in a gay wool plaid pants suit reclined upon a bare redwood chaise her hawk’s face jutting in the chill of a southwest wind which scoured the island with force and purity. The summit peaks of the building which surrounded her were stark and brightly bold, held fast in this rare, crystal day. She did not see them. The Watcher watched wider ranges.

Chapter One Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six
Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Chapter Twenty Three Chapter Twenty Four Chapter Twenty Five Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven Chapter Twenty Eight Chapter Twenty Nine Chapter Thirty
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