Rafter Fiction is short stories based on songs by Rafter. I am starting the series with the songs from album, “Terrestrial Extras”. This is the penultimate story, “Failed Investigations.” Buy it here
Barry had no way of covering up all of the bruises. They were across his neck, down his arms, and his left cheek was a deep purple bruise that could be mistaken for a large birthmark, one that someone would assume had changed the way he lived his life because to live with such a purple splotch on his cheek would give a childhood filled with teasing and ridicule, maybe as an adult finding some strength to overcome the bullies, pointers, and whisperers but not likely. He wore a long sleeved shirt to the office, and some of the bruising on his neck was covered with a collar, but his face was out for all to see. His only strategy to get through the work day was to ignore everyone.
“Dude. What the fuck happened to you?”
This was less than a minute through the doors of the office building, before he was even to his desk or he had his lunch in the fridge or his bag stuffed into the empty filing cabinet he kept empty for this purpose. He turned toward the voice, knew it was Heath, and knew he was kind of a douche but someone enough to tell him he was not envisioning all of it.
“I don’t know,” he said.
Heath said, “Seriously. It looks like you got fucked up in a fight. Hey Henry! Come take a look at this.”
Henry was some he did not talk to, someone who had been in the office forever, did crosswords most of the day, and completed them with ease. He wheeled his chair so that he could see around the cubicle. “Damn, man. Does it hurt?”
Barry touched the large bruise on his face. “When I press on it it’s kind of tender, but not really.”
“I don’t know. I woke up this way.” Barry rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, showing him the little quarter sized bruises all over his arms. “I have these too.”
“Shit,” Heath said. “That’s crazy. You should go to the ER.”
“That’s what I’d do,” Henry said.
“I don’t know. It’s just one of those things.”
“I’m pretty sure the boss wouldn’t want you working this way anyway.”
While Barry took the subway to the emergency room, he received a few stares but most of the late morning riders minded their own business. He thought of some cool stories that he could tell the ER doctor, that he was really a superhero at night, like Batman, trying to cut down the crime in the city and ran into a really nasty fight. Or he was attacked in his sleep by ghosts. Or he had found a mage in the mountains that had cracked the door to a new dimension and he fought and clawed his way back to his bed this morning. Or he attended a secret fight club, but if there was a secret fight club, he would not be able to talk about it and his bruising would have more swelling and redness. These bruises were more old like a dark wine that he spilled all over himself. Maybe this was what happened. He could tell the ER doctor that he was really out with a woman last night, a woman named Candice that did not go by Candy because Candy was the name of a stripper where as Candice was the name of a film maker. They were drinking wine off of each other’s bodies and it stained, but for work, he was coming to the ER so that he can tell them he was not contagious. He was in fact just in a very loving relationship and Candice liked to do some “Last Tango in Paris” type stuff and pretend that they were in the movies.
The longer he waited in the ER waiting room for the doctor to call him back, the more he started to worry that it might be something serious. He checked his phone for new emails and text messages, but he could not force himself to do an internet search for unexplained bruising. He waited for twenty, then thirty minutes, and grew more and more nervous. What if he had to tell them everything that he had been doing, everywhere he had been in the last few months? He could not really remember it all because had traveled quite a bit for work. He might have picked up some exotic virus in the Caribbean or a parasite from sushi in Japan. He could tell them he had been in both places in the passed few months, even though none of this was true. The reality was that he spent most of his time between work, his couch, his bed, and sometimes the bar down the street where he played a game or two of pool for beers. He had not went to the bar for a few weeks, but that was the most exotic place he had traveled in years.
The nurse called him back, took his vital signs, asked him the problems he was experiencing, had him take off his shirt and pants so that she could inspect all of the visible bruises, asked him again about how these things might have happened, and he told her the truth. “I woke up this way.”
She said, “The doctor will be in shortly.”
The doctor came in ten minutes later, asked him about the problems he was experiencing, looked all over his skin, and Barry thought she might have been counting the bruises for a minute the way that she was slowly looking over the body. She finally said, “You woke up this way?”
“Yes. Just this morning.”
She touched his chin and lifted it so that she could see his neck. “No tossing and turning? No vivid dreams? Nothing like that?”
He thought of telling her about an alien abduction, but seeing the serious look on across her brow changed his mind. “No.”
“And no fighting? No blood thinning medications?”
“None at all. “What could it be?”
“Well it could be a lot of things. It could be that your blood isn’t clotting like it should. It could be a disease. This could be a sign of leukemia as well as a sign of scurvy. We will start marking things off the list with some blood draws before we make any predictions.”
The word leukemia was a little off putting, and he wanted to make up a story on the spot, tell her anything to make it not leukemia, but he said, “But you don’t know.”
“No,” she said with a calm smile. “But I can start my investigation.”