There was the dark, but the silence that came with it faded into a soft beep, regular and steady. The tone seemed to call him, urging him back to the surface. He thought about opening his eyes, but his heavy lids gave him pause, closed proved to be exactly how they wanted to stay. A gentle but firm touch near his wrist startled him ever so slightly from the brink of another dream. His head floated in a dizzy haze as he forced one eye open.
“Well, hello there,” Amanda Pike said with a slight smile. She finished taking his pulse and marked her chart.
“Sh…, Mr. Elk, you’re at Cardington Memorial. You’re a lucky man. You’ve been through quite a lot.”
“What … happened?”
Nurse Pike hung the chart at the end of the bed and stepped to his side. “The storms have caused substantial flooding and power outages all through the valley and the surrounding areas. After the evacuation orders posted, volunteers and authorities went house to house to make sure people were getting out. That’s when they found you. They thought you had a heart attack.”
“Heart …,” Chalmers muttered.
“No,” Pike said. “Like I said, you’re a lucky man. I would let the doctor explain it, but with so many coming in, it would some time before someone got up here. The doctor’s found no evidence of a heart attack. They are running a few more tests to make sure it wasn’t a stroke, but, it looks like with all the excitement of the storm, you had a pretty good anxiety attack.”
Chalmers closed his eyes. His head swam against the medication.
Nurse Pike checked the monitor and adjusted the tube of oxygen under his nose.
“Where …,” he muttered, unable to get the whole thought pulled together.
“Where, what? The flood? Everywhere. The water is just everywhere and still rising. They say it might just breach the hundred-year mark. It’s sad. I’ve never seen so many people displaced. It’s just crazy.”
“No…,” Chalmers said. It was hard to pull the words together when the sedatives urged him back to sleep. ”Where is …”
“Where is what Mr. Elk? The doctors? They are most likely tied up in the ER. Your clothes and belongings, well at least what they brought you in with are there in the closet safe and sound.”
Nurse Pike turned to him and glared at the connotation.
“No …,” he tried again. His head sagged in frustration. “The doll. Where is the doll?”
“Why, what doll Mr. Elk?”
“I’m sorry Mr. Elk, There was no doll.”
His thoughts swirled back to the storm, the incredible rain, the lightning. He remembered unwrapping the thick brown paper, and the dirty gingham. He remembered the stare of the small, black soulless eyes – one that sat at half-mast. They stared at him. They stared into him. There was a doll, Paisley’s doll.
“No doll?” he whispered.
“No sir. The crew said they found you right by your front door, slumped over clutching your shirt with both hands. That’s why they thought you had a heart attack. There was no doll.”