Another day. How long had it been now? Fifteen, twenty days? Maybe. She didn’t even know since when she was counting the days. Was it since the day she had woken up? Or was it since Baekhyun had come to visit her? She had lost track of time and she had the feeling she spent too much time sleeping. She had started doubting what swam on her veins being just morphine.
They had told her she would get out on Wednesday, but at the beginning she didn’t even know what that word meant. Until one day Seulgi had told her that the seven days of the week, which she only knew by random letter, actually had a name. Wednesday was letter W. Seulgi had told her she mustn’t lose track of the days that passed, no matter what they told her. That had been on Friday- one Friday. She had told Lara she couldn’t say anything else and reminded her to take care with a loving smile.
That was the last time Lara ever saw Seulgi. Right after that the head nurse had come to take her out.
That morning after breakfast- as usual- the doctor came to see her. He was the only man Lara had seen since the Escape apart from Baekhyun.
“How are you feeling today, Lara?” he asked
She wondered about the question. Physically, she was feeling better. Her legs felt stronger and she hadn’t collapsed in some days. She could bear the pain even without the morphine and her ribs didn’t protest every time she breathed. The nightmares, though, kept on stealing sleep hours.
“Great” she said with the sweetest smile she could manage “Yesterday I walked the whole hallway without falling”
The doctor nodded and proceeded to ask her questions about her general health. She thought she had been asked the exact same questions a couple of days ago. Most of the answers stayed the same. But when the doctor asked her if she had been sleeping well she felt her body tensing involuntarily.
Lara remembered empty eyes and blown pupils. Blood in her fingers and running down her skin and strong arms hoisting her up by the waist. She had stopped seeing the walls of the Catacombs devouring her painfully, but that scene still haunted her sometimes. It had come back full force.
-It feels nice going to sleep without thinking tomorrow I will have to fight for my life- literally.
- A nurse told me she heard you screaming one night. Do you have nightmares?
She couldn’t stop herself from flinching. So many days seeing the scar on her left thigh was affecting her. She tried not to look, but as her mind liked to play dirty tricks, her eyes just couldn’t leave it. Sometimes, even if she was just dreaming, she could physically feel teeth buried in the skin on her neck and greasy hands creeping through her body.
“No offense, doctor, if you were shot twice, you would have nightmares too”
“Your psychiatrist told me you don’t remember being shot”
That wasn’t completely true. She remembered a crazed laugh, slow steps and a gun barrel trained between her eyebrows. The face of the shooter was covered by a thick black sort of fog. It felt as if her own mind was preventing her from remembering. Why?
It sometimes came back in dreams. The tunnel twisted when the first shot echoed. The second one never arrived. She sometimes felt soft hands moving her and pressing her wounds so she wouldn’t bleed out. That was just one of the dirty jokes her mind played on her.
“That I can’t remember who shot me does not mean I can’t remember being shot”
The doctor nodded, because he didn’t want to keep on arguing with Lara rather than because he understood her situation. He carried on with his questions, this time only focusing on her physical condition.
“Doctor, what day is it today?” She asked when h was already leaving
“Yesterday was Tuesday too”
“That was another Tuesday, Lara”
Then, with the promise to tell the nurses to come and check her bandages and the wounds that lay underneath he left.
After lunchtime, Lara liked walking outside her room. The floor she was in was just a wide white hallway flanked with rooms, none of them locked, all of them empty and without a window. She had asked Seulgi once why, though there was nobody else there, there were so many nurses. She had answered it has been boss’ orders. It appeared he thought she would feel more comfortable if she had all the space for herself.
Without Seulgi Lara felt lonely. She spent her days counting the threads on her bandages or going through empty rooms she had already memorized. Nothing ever changed, not a single wrinkle on the sheets or the position of the pillows.
Eunhee hadn’t come in a while. The last time Lara had seen her had been before Baekhyun started coming. But at least she had him.
He came to visit her frequently, always smelling of expensive cologne and crisp clean clothes. He spent with what she believed were a couple of hours. Baekhyun had assured her Eunhee was doing well, she was just busy with her new duties.
And Lara believed him. She had always believed in him.
Being with Baekhyun was pleasant. He told her about things he had observed in this new world, like little birds flying and shy children hiding behind their mothers’ legs.
Lara still doubted this oh so wonderful new world. It seemed too good to be true, too bright. She had spent a lifetime dreaming about escaping the Catacombs, but the only thing she knew about the outside world was the little stories her books told her. Some of them narrated impossible adventures in past times inhabited by fantastic creatures, ruthless kings and revolutionary princesses.
Baekhyun would hug her and tell her there was nothing to be afraid of. He told her that if she had grown used to the darkness, she would bask in the light. Lara couldn’t see him, her face buried in his chest, but she knew he wasn’t smiling. There was something cold in his voice, something heartbreakingly sad that made him hold her closer.
Being with Baekhyun was like floating. The rest of the world vanished. When he came by she could pretend she remembered sunlight. She could be anywhere else, not closed in a hospital room.
When he came by nurses disappeared. If they decided to roam the empty rooms, there would be nobody in the front desk. If he showed up in the middle of a checkup, the doctor would quickly pack his stuff and flee at an impossible speed.
The nurses did everything he commanded religiously. If he asked Lara’s food to be brought in thirty-two seconds, they wouldn’t arrive a second late or earlier. If he asked to change Lara’s bandages himself, they would bring the medical supplies without a word.
Lara would have never guessed Baekhyun knew about first aid. Much less how to bandage with such impeccable precision. It felt better when it was him. It was better having familiar hands wrapping her thigh, though he tried not to touch her much. If anyone knew about her trauma it was Baekhyun.
At least it hadn’t been her left leg – she told herself.
But Baekhyun wasn’t there. She was alone, once again roaming the same empty rooms. The same white walls and arranged pillows. In the east corner of the hallway there was a different door. It didn’t have the circular window on its center and instead of having metal numbers it had the letter B carefully painted in pastel blue.
It was the only room that remained locked.
But, as every day, she tried opening the door. Much for her surprise, it was open.
She sneak in the room and locked the door behind her.
The first thing she noticed was the smell. It didn’t stank of antiseptic, but it smelled like something crisp and sweet. It was smaller than the other rooms. The sheets, instead of pristine white, where pastel blue, the same hue as the letter painted on the door. The pillows -white and gray striped- looked older than hers.
That wasn’t a medical bed with metallic bars and banisters, it was a proper wooden bed. On its side, carefully centered, was a gray furry rug, the same color as the stripes on the pillows.
Everything seemed arranged with mathematical precision: the bed on the center, the perfectly aligned rug, the images hanging on the wall on perfect proportion. There wasn’t a single impurity. Not a single dent on the wall, a trace of dust or a wrinkle in the neatly done bed.
Except the picture frame facing downwards on the bed side table.
Skimming the varnished wooden surface with her fingertips, she noted the room seemed to have been abandoned for years, yet there wasn’t a single dust speck. The wooden edges of the frame were slightly clearer than the rest of the wooden furniture in the room, which made her uncomfortable.
Maybe it was older than the room itself but had a special value.
¿Where the hell was her?
The small size of the bed and the delicate illustrations of planes and ships that hang of the walls told her it was a little boy’s room. ¿What boy? It didn’t make any sense there was a boy in the hospital, at least not in her floor. That didn’t seem possible: her room had a lot of electronic devices to control her heart and other fancy medical stuff. But on that room there wasn’t even a TV.
The only personal thing was the picture laying underneath her trembling fingers.
Should she look?
The room being open had already broken her monotone day. Maybe she should leave things as they were and come back another day to spice up her lame routine. What if the room was closed when she came back? It wasn’t her place to be there. Perhaps she was desecrating some poor little boy’s memory. Perhaps that boy hadn’t been able to overcome his illness.
It didn’t look like a hospital room, though. The other rooms were cold and stank of antiseptic, their walls so white they hurt her sight. That one felt much different. It had a cozy look, as if it had been somebody’s home.
May she wasn’t really desecrating anything. How bad could seeing a picture be?
It might even be empty. She grabbed the frame with trembling fingers and turned it around, eyes firmly closed as if a terrible curse could fall upon her.
Too much fantasy books, Lara – she thought – be mature.
Before she could open her eyes, the frame was ripped from her hands. Feeling her heart beating furiously in , she turned around, only to collide with a hard chest.
It was Baekhyun.
“Are you an explorer now?” He said
Lara shook her head and hugged him, melting into him. It always felt good to have him close. “I was just bored. What are you doing here?”
Lara hadn’t even heard the door opening. If Baekhyun had been looking for her he would have entered agitated. She was sure she would have heard him unlocking the door from outside. Maybe she had forgotten to lock the door and she had been too absorbed in her thought to realize somebody had entered the room.
“I was going to ask you the exact same question” he sighed “You are too curious, it will kill you one day.” He pried her off him and took her hand carefully “Let’s go back to you room. I brought you something”
Baekhyun put the frame back in the table, facing downwards. When they were at the door Lara realized Baekhyun turned the lock.
The door had been locked from inside the whole time.