Attack of the Wolf/Cat Hybrid, Part 7 (read part 1!)
For Peter, the next chapter careened in and out of focus. Got a little unconventional. Wolfcat = shot. Oh hey, it’s fattie George Sprint, rifle perched on shoulder. Blubbering toward Peter. Then it’s Peter bouncing horizontal to the grass, flying through the upside down woods. “You’re a lucky kid, kid.” That was fattie Sprint. Then Peter’s inside the passenger seat of a new-smelling cargo van—an Amalgamaker service truck, rushing along the gravelly mountain road.
And all of the above had happened like this [author snaps fingers].
“The Crisper boy is alive,”Sprint said into his 1980s walkie talkie. He put an earbud in his ear so Peter couldn’t hear the other side. “Mm hm. Mm hm. No. I haven’t told him. He’s got that shell-shocked look like he’s just escaped a friggin’ Tyrannosaurus Rex that also ate his sister right in front of him. All quiet and serious looking. Yes yes, I’m bringing him there. C’mon, where do you think we’re going, Chuck-e-Cheese?” His voice is husky and full of energy, as if he still couldn’t believe they paid him for this stuff.
Going back? Back where? Peter bopped his head against the glass. Please no. Amalgamaker Labs had blown to bits. That whole part of the mountain had seared itself into a primeval forest of jet black twigs. Thousands of animals of the woods, skeletonized, their babies orphaned and soon to die from not being mouthfed.
Could the med-center have survived? Impossible! Peter’d seen the entire lab literally blow to smithereens. The bricks and the mega blocks of cement thrown into the sky like New Years confetti. Nothing could have survived. Then again, Sprint and his hunters had survived. And the vans. And the copters.
That a single corner, a single flake of paint of Amalgamaker Labs had not as-of-yet been turned to ash sent a shudder through Peter’s slumped body. The shudder ran up through his shoulders, through the tunnel of his neck, and manifested physically as a long streamer of hot drool that dribbled like honey over his sweat-damp shirt. Not only had he thought he’d escaped that dreadful place, but he’d thought it was gone from the earth—extra insurance against ever returning!
Then–poof!–some guys were carrying him via slightly crunchy gurney down a hallway Peter remembered from that time, years earlier, when he’d broken his arm falling from the roof. The ostentatiously named Benedict J. Laird Medical Center (which was really just two rooms and a break lounge). Yes, the center had evidently survived the explosion. And how! Not even any burn signs on the wall or on the pants-asses of the dudes who were carrying the gurney.
This seemed miraculous, but not altogether impossible. The med-center sits adjacent to the proper Amalgamaker building, connected only by a narrow umbilical corridor. From Peter’s angle during the explosion, the explosion itself would have blocked what happened to the med-center.
“Where is the animal?” said a hyper-serious voice just out of view—had to be Dr. Louis Handy, the skinny MD who always looked like he in the process of smiling and pooping and falling asleep all at the same time. Face as smooth as a baby’s recently shaved ass. Receding hairline.
A pause. George Sprint’s voice: “Burt Fitzgerald and some other guy took it to disposal. It’s gone. Destroyed. It cannot hurt this boy anymore.”
Wolfcat! Peter hardened and attempted to lift himself from the gurney.
Sprint made an oops face. “Crap. Kid’s so drunk he’s talkin’ Mexican. I gave him too much sedative. Hell, I only give the kid just one assfull—”
“Shush,” said Dr. Handy. He pressed Peter back down to the gurney and nodded to buxom Nurse Pitfall—who had been part of Peter’s attentive gurney escort—and she leaned in and injected Peter with some medicine. “Based on the bruising I’d guess you have a broken rib or two. You have to limit your movements, kiddo.”
“Señor?” Peter’s voice sounded low and clumsy and faraway. Strong stuff.
Dr. Handy smiled and took a dump in his pants and fell asleep, which is to say: he didn’t alter his facial expression in the slightest. “Buenas noches mi amigo.”
And the next few days played out like those early morning minutes between snooze-button hits. Waking dreams. Some involving Wolfcat, his dead body stuffed into a slightly too-small cardboard box and pushed along a conveyer belt into a searing furnace. Then the conveyor reverses and a big blue urn come out, labeled, in an official-looking font:
Some involving Peter’s father. The day Peter found his acceptance letter to Upright Boy’s Prep Academy all torn up and in the kitchen waste basket beneath some soggy brown banana peels and egg shells. “How could you do this, father?” Peter cried. “Boys who go to Upright go out into the world and do great things! They become senators. They become men of influence!” And his father clapped a hand on his shoulder. “But I need you here at Amalgamaker,” he said. “This is where you belong.”
And sometimes the dream fog would recede and Peter would find himself in the med-center’s small observation room. Heart-rate monitor beeping. Antiseptic smell smelling. Those unfriendly looking vinyl curtains that made you want to wash your body if you touched them.
Ah! Here comes Dr. Handy. Needle in hand! Some time has passed. Today he is auditioning a black, pencil thin mustache. Probably for the benefit of Nurse Pitfall, who only dates men with facial hair, Peter knew. He’d checked her social media once.
“Who is Señor?” said Dr. Handy.
At the mention of the name, Peter started to thrash about on the bed. Ouch. His rib still hadn’t fully healed.
“Calm yourself, son.” He plunged Peter’s buttocks with brainkiller. “Don’t spoil your progress.”
“Release me, knave.”
More dreaming. The skeleton of Wolfcat, reconstructed and hung by wires in the cool, echoey, water-fountain-having halls of the Museum of Abomination. In the section reserved for hybrid abominations, right down the hall from the bronze statue of my father, sponge in one hand, Dove soap in the other. A coquettish grin on his face.
Another thrum of partial consciousness. Hehe. Dr. Handy is in the corner of the room making out with Nurse Pitfall, her leg hooked around his rear end, her arms coiled around his neck.
“Señor,” Peter slurred. Warm drool ran down his cheek.
“Oh for crying out…” Dr. Handy turned, his hair all bunched and messy, his lips vertically lipsticked and swollen. He groaned, stalked across the room—either he had a rabbit in his pocket or it was just a chubber—and crouched down into crowd Peter’s field of view, either to block Peter’s view of Nurse Pitfall’s pink floral bra, or to simply keep his own taut crotch out of Peter’s face. An avalanche of Michael Jordan cologne smell. “Tell me, son. Who is Señor? Is he a man?”
When Peter answered with more thrashing, more drooling, Dr. Handy grabbed a needle from a nearby tray and, thwomp, injected Peter in the ass.
More dreams. A meet-the-parent date with a pretty girl from the public school. Rebecca Citizen. Long black hair. Big blue cartoon eyes. Peter’s father munching on his gourmet beans, then quietly lifting his leg and farting at the table, then going about eating more beans as if nothing happened. Scandalized, the girl’s eyes flash red. She turns her head to young Peter and says in a suddenly Austrian voice, “I disseminate this event at school. You will be embarrassed. You will be bullied. You will quit Dewey Mountain Middle School in favor of private tutoring at Amalgamaker labs, per your father’s master plan. Your social life? Terminated.”
“Which one is Señor?” said Dr. Handy. This is another day. Another week. Peter’s mind was whirling from yet another injection of ass meds. His heavy, languid eyes settle on the doctor’s face. The man has already abandoned his ill-advised mustache experiment. He must have finally realized it made him look like a twelve-year-old trying to look like a 50-year-old carnival barker who likes boys. Today he is holding up two print-outs from a computer. Printed on fast draft mode. Cheap! One is a picture of a late 19th century Mexican paisano, including sombrero and handlebar and sixshooter and pleasant smile. The other is a digital photograph of Wolfcat sitting upright in a hay-carpeted pen, his eyes bright and tongue lagging.
Dr. Handy wasn’t alone. George Sprint was there. And Nurse Pitfall. They were watching him with great anticipation, as if he was about to give birth to a black child (Peter was white). Peter was still too doped figure out what was going on. Before he could stop himself he reached out for the photo of Wolfcat like a man in the desert reaching for the wavering mirage of a desert oasis. “Señor.”
Dr. Handy drops the papers, exchanges worried looks with Fattie and Nurse Pitfall.
Peter had chosen poorly?
Finally, the chapter normalized. For the first time since that day in the backyard, Peter woke up fully restored and sober. The room empty. He could think. Though a great measure of his feelings re: Wolfcat’s fate had been exhausted through weeks of unfocused emotional venting, crying, drooling; there was a bit more in the tank. With a furrow of his brow, a twinkle in his eye, Peter quietly said goodbye. Took his time. Pretended the sprinkler in the ceiling was Wolfcat.
Okay. That felt good. Now…time to get his bearings.
Wha? Peter noticed he has been strapped to the bed. Leather Frankenstein straps around his ankles, thighs, arms/chest. He could’t move. Couldn’t budge. No need to dope him up with drugs; he couldn’t do himself any harm strapped to this bed like a damn mastermind cannibal.
A shudder of frustration worked through his bound arms. If he didn’t need the pain meds anymore, if his rib was mostly healed, then why would Dr. Handy keep him here at all? Did the doctor really believe that Peter, his mind now recovered from the drugs’ deleterious effects, would still go on retardo-thrashing in the bed? Knowingly causing himself all kinds of rib harm?
Vague memories crept into his awareness. Dr. Handy questioning him again and again about Señor. Apparently Peter had been calling out for the hybrid like a bedridden fatman calling out for more butter.
They know, he thought. They know I’d made a connection with Señor. And somehow that matters to them. That’s why they gave me these Frankenstein restraints. But what could that possibly matter at this point?
The next few days fit into a neat routine of occasional check-ins by Doctor Handy, who would run his finger across Peter’s bandage, comment on Peter’s steady improvement, reassure him that the immobilizing restraints were in Peter’s own best interests, and then, unsubtly, try and eek out information about Peter’s experience with Wolfcat. Suspicious of his agenda, Peter would pretend to have no memory of the traumatizing affair.
Nurse Pitfall fed him pea soup three times a day, dribbling it into his open mouth via a silver teakettle so as to save themselves the trouble of loosening the straps which fixed him to the bed. She did this nice and slow so as not to choke him. She was quite considerate in this area.
Bathing would be done via soapy sponge. Peter rather enjoyed it. She would work his arms and legs and feet all with the straps still in place, but she’d actually removed the strap around his chest so as to have an easier time cleaning his torso. For Peter, this two or three minutes sans chest-strap were like Alcatraz courtyard time. For that brief time he was relatively free to slide around. And it was in these moments that Peter humored the idea of slipping his ankle and wrist restraints and writhing his way to freedom.
This was, of course, a daydream. Having finished with her duty, Nurse Pitfall would fastidiously replace the primary Frankenstein strap over Peter’s arms and chest. Then, fixing her shoe against the bed’s metal frame, her soft features wrinkling into a rictus of Rosie-the-Riveter effort, she would tighten the strap to its second-tightest notch, thus fixing Peter solidly to the bed. She took this very seriously, and by the time she was done Peter might as well have been a marble statue ratchet-strapped to a wood pallet, ready for delivery to some rich dude’s mansion.
And anytime Peter asked for information about Amalgamaker Labs (ei: its present state of affairs, its surviving staff) Handy and/or Pitfall would give him an affectionate smile and tell him not to worry about any of that. Just you worry about getting healthy again!
So it was the same old pattern. Familiar as the smell of your dad’s aftershave. Clearly the Amalgamakers were up to something, about which they wanted to keep him in the dark. Clearly, more of the laboratory had survived than he originally thought. It was alive, healthy enough for shenanigans. He had sensed this even when he was all doped up and oscillating in and out of feverish dreams.
At the end of his first full week of bed-internment, Peter had had enough. He knew it would be no use to address the situation directly. They would only take greater means to shut him out. The only way to get to the root of the conspiracy was to escape this damn hospital room and find out for himself just what the HELL was going on. And rest assured: it would be tricky, exciting business to escape from the one-room Benedict J. Laird Medical Center. Peter crinkled his nose and got to work planning his great escape.