Earl, I’m coming for you. I’ll find you.
Earl woke with a start in his grey and mauve bedroom at the hospital, the moonlight streaming through the window and casting linear shadows on the floor.
Earl, can you hear me?
He could. He sat upright and rubbed his eyes hard, squinting into the dark. The room was silent, save for the buzzing of the air conditioner working overtime in the 85 degree July heat. Yet Earl shivered, his hands and arms exposed from under his warm fleece blankets. He glanced at the clock; it was 3:19 a.m.
Earl. I need you, Earl.
The voice was back again. Earl cocked his head to the left, examining the shadows for some clue who was talking, but the room was empty. He swung his feet down out of his bed gingerly, the aches in his knees coursing up and down his legs as he tried to stand on his own two, arthritic feet. With a struggle, he slowly walked over to his closet door and pulled his bathrobe over his hunched back, contorted downward by gravity as it was by his eight decades of life; each year seemed to pull him closer to the earth, closer to the grave.
I need your help.
The voice sounded familiar, like a person he once knew who was now buried in the depths of his memory; his dementia told him he recognized the voice, but it refused to identify it for him. He knew it was a woman, and probably an older woman judging by the shakiness of its sound. But he didn’t know any older woman — did he?
After carefully tying his tennis shoes and pulling his socks halfway up his legs, Earl opened his creaky bedroom door carefully and peered down the empty hall. The small hospital employed several night staff in case of emergencies, but they were usually down in the opposite end of the Memory Care Wing, oblivious to Earl’s meanderings.
“Where are you?” Earl said out loud, his voice soft and croaky in the early morning hours.