Breakfast the next morning consisted of scrambled eggs, plain brown rice, more cookies, and another glass of what Sammy now thought of as birch piss. Nurse Elaine, a plain woman with thin lips and tired steps, considerately closed the window blinds without being asked. Desperately jamming raspberry filled biscuits into his mouth as she took the empty glass to the sink, Sammy chewed and swallowed as fast as he could.
“Got any coffee?” he asked spraying crumbs across the bed. He leaned forward to flick the only vanilla frosted cookie off the plate and onto the floor where it shattered. It made him happy to watch Elaine turn around and frown at the mess.
“Nope, caffeine counteracts the essence.” Using the clipboard containing the gnome’s chart, she pushed the bits of cookie onto a paper and poured it into the waste basket. “When you get bored you can always read your chart,” she said as she hung it back over the foot of the bed. “Lots of interesting stuff in there, especially the part about interactions.”
“Sure,” Sammy grouched, snapping the head off a gingerbread man. “I’ll get right on that.” With a serial killer smile he laid the body of the cookie flat on the bedside table and used the edge to artfully break off the limbs. From the corner of his eyes he could see Elaine toying with the clipboard, watching his progress.
“Your anchor is doing very well,” she said. “I’m no doctor, but if I had to guess, I’d say you’ll be able to leave very soon.” When he didn’t respond she patted the chart, making it rattle. “Okay then, I need to get on with my rounds. I guess I’ll leave you to your… cookies.” Pausing at the door, she turned and stared hard at the engrossed gnome. “Really, Sammy, read your chart.”
Listening to her heels clacking against the tiles, Sammy rearranged the gingerbread man so the limbs were reversed and the head was on the butt. After a few minutes passed with no one new coming into the room, he pushed the tray table away and raised his gown just enough to expose the bandage on his abdomen. Pressing his hands against the white gauze, he closed his eyes and focused until pale, golden light sponged between his fingers. Seconds ticked by and tiny droplets of perspiration popped out on his forehead. Then the light abruptly vanished, leaving him panting with effort and dizzy. He fell back onto the pillow and stared at the silver spots flickering in his vision.
“Impressive.” Stepping into the room Trypette leaned on the door. “Most healing gnomes can’t heal themselves on a good day. That you can Summon the Light with your anchor nearly severed really says something about you.” She walked toward the bed, grabbing his chart as she passed.
“You didn’t see anything,” Sammy whispered tiredly. “No one sees the light but the gnome calling it.”
“True.” She flipped through the pages on the clipboard, her eyes scanning over the writing. “But sometimes another healing gnome can feel it if they’re nearby.” She gave him a toothy smile as he raised his head and stared at her.
“You’re a healer?” His face clouded a bit when she nodded. “Then why didn’t you just heal me? Why am I lying in this bed being forced to drink— birch essence!” He tried to sit up and the spots immediately doubled in size, partially obscuring Trypette’s face as she moved to his side. He felt her hand on his and warmth spread through him, extinguishing the spots completely.
“Healing an anchor is not the same as healing a physical injury,” she said. “Have you ever tried to Summon the Light for someone who had been touched by a Reaper?”
“Can’t say as I’ve had the pleasure.” Sitting up easily now he gazed at Trypette’s golden locks while she dragged the visitor chair closer and sat down.
“Because it never happens,” she said. “A Reaper’s touch is instant death.” Her eyes widened and became almost glassy, her face transforming into an expression comparable to worship. “He carried you,” she gushed, hugging his chart to her chest. “And you survived!”
Sammy’s eyes widened in alarm and he pulled the tray table firmly in front of him, eyeing the empty plate his eggs and rice and been on. The flimsy, plastic spork hardly looked up to the task of being used as a weapon. Trying to look casual, he pointed at the hard, thick, tin clipboard she was holding. “Can I see that for a minute?”
“Of course!” Hopping off the chair she stepped forward and handed the chart across the tray table. “We always encourage our patients to educate themselves about their illness.” Her pupils expanded slightly as his hand closed on the clipboard.
Glancing at the first page he spotted the word oranges scrawled tightly in the left margin. Using the table as a mobile barricade he pushed it gently forward, herding Trypette back toward the chair. “Could you just give me a minute with this?” Her eyes were no longer watching him. Seeing her staring intently at the reconfigured gingerbread man, Sammy’s heart picked up its pace.
“Sure,” she said abruptly and stepped back. “Take all the time you need.” Yanking her eyes away from the table she turned toward the door. “I’ll just go get you some more cookies.” Without looking back or saying goodbye she stalked out into the hall.
Laying a hand over his thumping heart, Sammy exhaled slowly. “Wonderful,” he mused. “Not only have I lost Tink to God-knows-where and had my anchor practically severed, now I’m a cult leader too.”