I didn’t see Lily again until a woman told me I was supposed to be at the library. It seemed like something to do, so I wandered out in that direction.
Lily was crossing the plaza in front of the library. I smiled, but she didn’t look happy to see me. She seemed to be about to walk away, but then looked at me again and approached, frowning.
“Matthew? Why are you dressed for bed?” she asked.
I said something back. I sort of remember Lily lifting my eyelids with her thumbs and looking into my eyes. There was a break –
* * *
Lily & Matthew
Lily slipped an arm under Matt’s shoulders. He seemed lighter than he looked, and it took little more than a shift in her stance or tensing her arm to set him walking in the direction she wanted. She guided him toward one of the emergency blue light phones, and pressed the call button.
“Am I in one of your scenes or are you in one of mine?” I asked Lily, but she was talking to someone else.
A crowd had started to gather, people asking what was wrong, offering assistance. Lily waved them away. A few minutes later, a police sedan pulled up onto the flagstones in front of the library.
“We’ve got to get him to the Trask Center,” Lily said as the campus police approached.
They took Matt from her, and helped him into the car. “We’ve got it from here,” said one. “Thanks for your help.”
The other spoke to me. “A little early for you, isn’t it? We usually don’t run into you until after dark.”
“Can you hear that typing sound?” I responded. “I’m pretty sure this response was written before you asked your question. Wait, no, it just changed.”
“You don’t understand,” Lily said, pushing her way into the back seat with Matt. “He’s a subject in a drug trial. Call Professor Harte, tell him to meet us at the hospital.”
They paused in the act of trying to pull her out of the car, their faces blank.
“Forget it,” she said, taking out her cell phone and dialing Harte’s office number. “Just get us to the hospital!”
The cops clambered in; the car sped off. I wasn’t sure whether they’d left me behind until later.
* * *
Now it was later. I was in a hospital bed. Faces and voices moved around me, but they didn’t seem to connect properly.
“I’m running his blood work now, but I’ve given him an anti-nootropic as a precaution,” Professor Harte said, the sound coming from Lily’s worried frown. “His condition is fairly serious, but should be reversible.”
Hector asked in David’s voice, “I assume we’re terminating his course of treatment in Stage Two?”
Lily ran a hand through Matt’s hair without thinking, then pulled it away when she noticed Hector’s curious gaze. “We’re putting the whole program on hold until further notice,” Dr. Harte said. “Now, everybody out. Let’s give Mr. Larkin a chance to rest.”
Hector stopped Lily in the hall outside Matthew’s room, as the others walked off. I realized that I was still inside, so I stopped listening.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Hector said, putting a hand on her shoulder.
Lily looked anywhere but at his face. “The counteragent should offset the Visulex to a degree that his normal perception can...”
He interrupted. “It’s not your fault.”
“Of course it is!” Lily snapped at him, turning on him a red-eyed glare. “If I hadn’t pushed him forward for the next stage...”
Hector pulled her into a hug, and her tears started to flow. “Shh. It’s okay,” he said. “Everything will be all right.”
* * *
Everything wasn’t all right.
Lily paced the length of the lab, ignoring the calls from her mother on her cell.
Hector tried to calm his nerves at the billiards table, but his aim was worthless. He hung up his cue in frustration.
In his office, Professor Harte puzzled over the results of the third round of blood work, which persisted in declaring that there was no Visulex left in my system, despite my worsening symptoms.
Captain Forrest stirred in his sleep.
Now Lily was on the way up to my floor; David was already there, walking toward my room to check on me.
I was in my room, which was also a museum. Artifacts from ancient Egypt were piled up against the walls in no sort of order, so I started sorting them on the long display shelves which ran the length of the room.
David seemed upset when he came in, and sent a nurse running for Professor Harte. I told him to watch where he stepped, but he managed to crash into a miniature sarcophagus, toppling it over. The lid fell open, and the contents escaped. They lurched toward David’s ankles, and he screamed.
The sound echoed in my head; my skull reverberated on the edge of shattering.
Lily ran at the sound of the scream, turned into Matt’s room, and froze at the scene. David, flailing at tiny mummies that were crawling up his legs. Matt, in the full regalia of an Egyptian pharaoh, holding his head. Strange items and new furniture and fixtures fading in and out of view.
Harte appeared next to her. His words were the last I heard before the light in my head burst forth and there was bright emptiness.
“Good lord, he’s shifting into aleph-two...”
* * *
[Go to Chapter 5.1]