14 December 2004
Roger jerked awake with a scream, and found that he was in the hospital. He sat upright and his eyes darted around the room, crazed and bloodshot. A nurse ran in and began trying to calm him down, but he could barely hear her through the haze of pain medication and his own focus on finding something no one in the room could see. It was a full three minutes before the nurse managed to get him to focus, and he then learned that he had been found by maintenance. There was concern about the notes the previous workers had made about the state of his bathroom floor, and they had arrived to take measurements and make an exact list of things they needed to buy to have it fixed. When they found him they had called an ambulance, and he had arrived at the hospital unconscious five hours earlier.
Now that he was awake, the police wanted to talk to him about what they suspected was a break in. They found no evidence of forced entry, but the severity of his wounds and the obvious struggle told them someone else had been there. He told them he couldn’t remember, that he hit his head after slipping in the shower and nothing after that was clear. The officer left with no answers, and Roger wanted to fix that, but he had no idea how to explain what he could recall.
Every time he tried to sleep that night, he saw Alethea, sitting on his chest, or standing by his side, or floating on the ceiling. It didn’t matter where she was, she was always watching, always smiling that cruel smile, always startling him awake. Usually she was just on the corner of his eye, and if he turned to look she’d be gone. By morning, he was delirious with exhaustion and the night staff were eager to hand him off to someone else. Sometimes, when a nurse came to check on him, they’d find him muttering to himself. Sometimes he’d just stare off into space. But they hardly found a way to interact with him either way.
Over the course of that day, other people made decisions on his behalf. His landlord, after being briefed on the state of the apartment when he was found and the running shower and the water he dragged out that was making the damage to the bathroom worse, moved to evict Roger. The doctor in charge of his case recognized where things were going and, in light of his mental and physical state, submitted an insurance request to move him into a nursing home on his release. With no family to contact for approval, and given his apparent inability to speak for himself, arrangements were made to find him a place to go. His wounds, though extensive, were not something that required any supervision from the hospital that he could not get just as well at a long-term care facility, and frankly they needed the beds. It was decided that Roger Bilson would be released into the custody of a new home as soon as the insurance allowed it and a pickup could be arranged.
Roger, for his part, would find sleep no easier that night than the one before.