The Next Day Part 2

March 23rd, 2012 by Wordsman

The doctor stared at her.  Or, to be more accurate, she stared at a spot a couple inches to the left of her forehead.  Or, to be even more accurate, she started at something that was not in Simon Park Station at all.

“I just got off the graveyard shift at St. Gregory’s,” she replied, with all the emotion of a cardboard tube.  “A twelve-year-old kid came in.  He and his friends were playing by the train tracks.  His foot got stuck.  A train came.  We—we had to take his leg.”

“Oh.”  The obnoxious smile vanished.  Nightmares crept back into the old woman’s waking mind.

“No, they didn’t run,” the doctor continued, answering a question that had not been asked, at least not since she had gotten off the subway.  “They tried to save him.  I was going to either compliment them on their bravery or berate them for their stupidity, but I never saw them.  They went straight to the morgue.”

The doctor stood there for a while longer, her face full of silent horror (inside her head, presumably, it was not silent at all).  Eventually some instinctual urge must have convinced her to keep moving.  She walked awkwardly out of the station, as if she was overly-conscious of her legs.

The old woman remained suitably dumbstruck for a while, but she was able to move on much more quickly than the doctor would.  She told herself that nothing was going to get her down on that day, that it was the first day of the rest of her life, and whatever other positive platitudes she could think of.  Without the task of constantly asking for help to keep her busy, she chose to spend her time simply taking in the organically woven tapestry that was Simon Park Station.

She watched her home for the past seven-and-a-half months go through a morning ritual not entirely unlike her own.  Dragged to reluctant wakefulness at 5:19 sharp, it gradually became more and more active over the hours that followed.  Small-time merchants came down the steps, unlocked their stands, and began to aggressively peddle their remarkably cheap (both in terms of price and quality) merchandise.  A few more dead-eyed overnight shift people fell off the early Outbound trains, but soon the station was taken over by families.  Parents representing the full spectrum of eagerness were dragged by children who had been driven to the peak of hyperactivity by breakfast cereal, early-morning cartoons, and the promise of a visit to the zoo or the aquarium.  Finally, a flow of people getting off of trains developed to complement that of the ones getting on, and the place was truly in full swing.

God, she thought, this is so boring.

Since the woman was no expert observer of the human condition, she eventually fell to brooding.  She believed that her search was over, but what proof did she really have?  The kid had agreed to help her, but those were just words.  She had heard a lot of words during her time down there, and she had seen very little action.  And, just in case that wasn’t a big enough concern, there was always the matter of effectiveness.  He could try to help all he wanted, but would he be able to do it?  The trick with the squirrel had been surprisingly effective, but it didn’t instill her with a whole lot of confidence.

Maybe the doctor was right.  Maybe doom and gloom was the only appropriate outlook for a day like that.  If she had even one tiny shred of evidence to make her think that—

“Good morning,” said Peter, standing above her.

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