Forrest woke in a bright fluorescent hospital room. He blinked his eyes several times and examined his hands. He wiggled his fingers; he chuckled and grinned at the sensation of his joints. The door opened and admitted a matronly nurse with long silver hair. She smiled and her eyes widened when she realized he was awake.
“Mr. Bloom! Good morning!” she reached his bedside and smiled down at the mid-20s man with light brown hair. “Glad to see you awake.” Forrest nodded and returned the smile.
“I’m glad to be awake but, what happened to me?” Forrest realized that was the only question he had left. He felt like he could see everything for what it really was now. He noticed a faint purple aura around the nurse that she probably didn’t realize she had. He knew what it meant on an instinctual level, but he had trouble putting the thought into words.
“What a disaster it was!” she exclaimed and began to tell Forrest about the six-car pile-up that sent him to the hospital. He listened politely even though, ‘car accident’ would have been enough of an answer. The nurse seemed to take joy in embellishing her tales, and “disaster” seemed to be her favorite word. “One of ’em had a tiny piercing that we almost missed before she went into the MRI, that was almost a disaster and a half, let me tell you. Luckily I noticed a small sparkle,” she explained how she was the hero while taking his blood pressure. Forrest idly wondered how many times she’d said “disaster” in her life. Then he noticed purple numbers gather above her head. “30,728”
“And then after that disaster was sorted…,” she said. The number counted up. “30,729.” She put a thermometer in his mouth and kept talking.
“Huh,” Forrest noticed the number changed. “I wonder how old she is,” he thought. The numbers above her head rearranged themselves into the number, “53”.
“Goodness I’ve rambled on too long, I wasn’t expecting you to be awake,” she said then glanced at the clock. “But it’s great that you are, your friend should be here soon.”
“My friend?” Forrest asked. No one came to mind. He lived a quiet, peaceful life and did not socialize much. He had work acquaintances but he could not imagine any of them visiting him in the hospital. Certainly not on a regular schedule. The nurse nodded and tapped Forrest’s forehead.
“He decorated your scar for you…,” she paused and suddenly looked worried. “37 is your favorite number, right?” she asked. Forrest nodded, he did not immediately see where her question came from. “Good good, well he should be here any minute now. I’m sure he has a lot to catch you up on.” She turned and left his room. Forrest sat in silence
“Decorated my scar?” he wondered. His hand drifted up to touch his forehead where the nurse tapped him. he felt a dry, rough scab under his fingertip. Then he hopped off his bed and dashed to the restroom mirror. A small black “37” showed on his forehead, the ‘7’ was a crease of his scar filled in.
“Mr. Bloom?” A deep male voice called out from his room while Forrest was in the restroom. Forrest stepped out of the restroom; then, his arm flew upward to shield his eyes. The room glowed with intense white light. The light carried a warmth with it that he did not feel alone in his cold hospital room. “It’s okay, just give your eyes a moment to adjust,” the mystery voice said. Forrest nodded and lowered his arm but kept his eyes closed. he slowly lifted one eyelid to let in the tiniest amount of light. He inched his eye open a little bit at a time until, after several dozen seconds, he was able to look at the stranger with both eyes.
He looked like a tall, humanoid lion, with a mane of thick golden curls and a beard to match. The man wore an elegant black suit with a gold vest, and every bit of his body glowed with dim golden light.
“Mr. Bloom? My name is Regal.” He walked to Forrest and extended his hand. “I’m a -” Forrest grabbed the man’s hand and shook it.
“You’re #46, El Sol. Forget ‘Mr. Bloom’,” he said as he released the warm handshake. “You can call me Mundo.” Regal nodded.
“I need your help, Mundo. I’ve heard that when a Mundo is awakened, they remember everything for a time before the memories fade away again forever. Do you remember?” he asked. Mundo nodded cautiously. He remembered everything but did not want to accidentally over-share information.
“I need to talk to a Middleman,” Regal said. Mundo sighed and nodded.
“Isla was my caseworker, I think she’ll meet with you.”