This is another that was first published at 365 Tomorrows.
"I'm sorry, Dave. The effects are likely permanent."
Roger looks properly sympathetic as he gives me the news, clutching my chart like a shield and wrinkling his forehead. I'm distracted, not by the bad news but by a green stain on his lab coat that I'm trying to identify. Lunch, medicine, or something else? Dave nods at nothing in particular, glances around the ward awkwardly and takes a step back.
"Well... I'll leave you to... process all of this. I, uh. I'll be around if you need me." Presumably Roger has mistaken my silence for shock or something. If he had been Kathy she would have sat down on the bed next to me and offered a shoulder to cry on. If he had been Jake he would have suggested we sneak out and go to the bar.
I know, because he's been both of them before.
I shuffle down the hall (flip-flops only, nothing with laces in case someone decides to do something drastic) and lean on the window at the end. I can see the lab building from here; feel the warm rays of the device reaching out to me. It's like ripples on a pond, expanding outwards from the big splash. The metal meshwork embedded in the safety glass presses against my skin, making a pattern of red indentations. I push off of it and stand upright, careful not to let my feet slide too close to the wall. There's a door next to me and I take the handle in hand – it's locked, of course, but I need support for this next part...
Dangling by the knob, I lean through the wall – high above the sidewalk I reach back through and unlock the door from the other side. I pull myself back and open it – the alarm sounds as I step through, but four out of five times the orderlies won't find me before I reach the street so I remain calm. The exit is facing the lab, unfortunately, so as I step through my feet sink into the liquid earth. Some interns walk past halfway between me and the lab, laughing about something, but they don't notice my stumbling, half-swimming sprint.
Finally I reach the corner and step around onto solid ground. I've lost both flip-flops, probably somewhere in the manicured lawn. I suppose I could make metal shoes and gloves at some point, armor myself against the effects of the device like an astronaut going on a space walk and head ever closer to the lab. Not that it would do any good. The device is destroyed, its ripples only felt by me.
Instead I turn towards home and...
"David? We've run every test we can." It's Kathy this time. She's looking at my chart even though she's probably memorized it. This was the shortest yet, maybe ten minutes. Hardly worth sneaking out at all.
"I'm afraid that the effects are probably permanent. The... the dementia and disorientation will never go away."
There has to be a pattern to it. Why the little things change, why it lasts longer some times than others. Unless I'm actually crazy, but that's a dead end anyway. Kathy sits next to me on the bed and drapes an arm around my shoulders. I think she's wearing different perfume than before.
"It's okay, David. We'll figure this out. Somehow."
Well, time for plan 'B'. Let's see her reaction to something impossible. I take her hand and point to the hallway. "Will you take a walk with me? I want to show you a magic trick."