The Temporal Chapter Three by CJ Martin (Right click to download)
(If this is the first section you’ve heard, start with the Prologue Podcast)
Looking around, Sam thought he had to be in the States. The buildings up and down the street were American style with English lettering. But something was wrong. There was smoke, confusion, and a teary-eyed mother searching frantically for her child. An explosion. Screams. Some horn was blasting, building in volume and depth. Sam arched his neck in the direction of the sound. A creeping darkness encroached upon the periphery of his field of vision like an old-time photograph.
Something was terribly wrong.
Another explosion. More screams. A gaggle of people ran down the street toward him. In the distance, there was a ball of fire consuming everything in its path—as high as the sky, as wide as the buildings containing it. It grew larger heading—no, aiming—directly for Sam. His legs defied the command to move. He threw up his arms in a futile attempt to fire-proof his face.
Sam awoke with a gasp of air and labored breathing. He was in a hospital room, and through the half-curtained window, he could see it was a moonless night. A bathroom mirror light gave the room a subtle illumination—the kind that make shadows seem to be more than shadows.
He noticed there was an ancient night drawer opposite of the bathroom. The large sliding door to the room was closed. A thin, translucent bag in the trash can near the door twitched ever so slightly. There must be a draft, he thought. But then his eyes and ears made out a fan on the floor quietly circulating the air.
As his breathing returned to normal, he heard a voice to his left. A woman’s voice was speaking quickly and softly. He could only recognize scattered words here and there.
“Ikanakereba naranai—I must go…”
He turned but saw nothing.
Another voice, this time of an older man, came from the direction of the window. Sam jerked his head quickly, adjusting his eyes to the darkness. He heard one word:
Just then, the door cracked open, and he heard a third voice say, “Shitsurei shimasu.” The door slid open fully. A man very much visible walked in. The bathroom mixed its dim light with the bright hall and Sam could see it was a doctor.
“Ah, you are awake. We were very worried.”
The doctor flipped the light switch, illuminating the room and causing Sam to squint his eyes slightly.
“Doctor, wh… what’s going on? Where am I?”
“You were very lucky. Do you remember earthquake?”
Sam was unclear what happened at the beach, but, yes he nodded, it must have been an earthquake.
“It was shindo six—in the Richter scale, I don’t know, but it was big. We found you the next day. In fact, how do you say, the center of the earthquake was close where you were, maybe exactly where you were. A small hole opened under you and things fell over you. We had dogs and one of them found you. There was some fear of tsunami but it’s okay now.”
The doctor smiled quite a bit. He was very pleased that his English was being put to such good use. It was fairly rare for the doctor to have a patient with whom he could practice his English. It was a small village and the tourists were usually healthy.
“Ah, pardon me. I am Doctor Watanabe. And more importantly, you seem to be in good shape. You have some bruised ribs and mild dehydration, but considering, you are in excellent health. I’m not sure why you were out so long—I didn’t find any evidence of head trauma. Just be sure to drink plenty of water.”
Next to a pitcher on the side table was an upside-down cup. The doctor flipped it over and poured Sam a drink.
Sam took the small cup and drained it in one gulp. For a few moments, he just looked at the empty cup unable to process what had happened.
“Are you all right?” The doctor’s smile changed to a concerned frown. “Do you have any pain?”
Sam shook his head and focused his eyes and mind on the current situation. The earthquake made sense; the voices did not.
“No. Arigatou. I’m fine. Doctor, are… are there other people in this room?”
Dr. Watanabe seemed puzzled at first, but quickly stooped under the bed and obligingly peeked in the closet.
“Nope. I believe we are alone.”
“I know this sounds crazy, but I heard a woman over there and an older man at the window just before you came in.”
The doctor’s big smile returned.
“I’m sure you heard a patient in the next room. This is an old hospital. The walls are quite thin. We Japanese have a saying, ‘The walls have ears and the paper walls have eyes.’ Better not tell any secrets here!”
With that he gave a big chuckle. He told Sam to get some rest and that he would be around in the morning. A nurse would be on hand if needed. Her English wasn’t great, he said, but better than the day nurse’s.
Sam, slightly reassured, smiled back. The doctor turned off the light, and as he slipped out, he pulled the door shut. “Shitsurei shimasu,” Sam heard muffled from the hallway.
Sam closed his eyes, half expecting to hear the previous conversation continue. It didn’t, and Sam soon drifted off into a deep and pleasant sleep.