Jason and the Hospital
His name is Jason Winters, and he is only thirteen years old. Jason comes from a family of normal means, with nothing special to its name or its property. Jason is of modest height for a thirteen year old boy, just a bit over five foot five, with brown hair and sparkling blue eyes that scream "I'm up to something, but you'll never know what". He bears no scars, no birthmarks, nothing to distinguish him from any other boy beyond the name his parents gave him. He's not stocky, nor is he particularly thin; no overwhelming definition to his muscle, and he can do anything any other boy does. He goes to school with other children, does his chores and works on his homework just like any other child. He gets along alright with his parents, although at times they make him madder than a hornet on steroids, and he never does anything too outlandish. All in all, Jason is the most normal kid you could find in all of Trencher County, except for one very minor detail: Jason has headaches.
Now these aren't your typical headaches, no sir, these are the kind of headaches that one could only describe in words that at thirteen-year-old boy ought not to say around anyone who could catch him. They were the kind of mind-numbing pain that couldn't be surpassed by his father's whippings, or his grandfather's whippings, or his own misfortune of having fallen out of a tree when he was nine. In fact, all three of those put together at once could not compare to his headaches, they were that bad. But, to understand why these headaches are important, one needs to go back a few years into Jason's past.
Jason's headaches started when he had fallen out of that tree some years back, just after he'd woken up in the emergency room surrounded by all the machines and gleaming chrome. His headache, which started just behind his right eye, quickly spread to both eyes, and within about half an hour had moved on to surround the whole of his head, as if someone had tied a blindfold too tightly. Shortly after that, he had to call the nurse, and by the time she'd arrived, which had felt like a short eternity later to poor Jason, his headache had become the nightmare of pain that he would soon come to know so very well; as if someone had taken the whole of his skull and set it into one of the presses they had for those huge stamping machines he'd seen in the TV shows about how they made sinks and the like out of steel.
The nurse had never encountered this kind of pain before, being new to the nursing field and all. She knew what she suspected it to be, and the thought alone made the poor woman pale as if she'd seen the ghost of Christmas Future floating about the room just now. She gave Jason a shot of children's strength painkiller; the gooey kind one finds in the grocery store, colored red and claimed to be "cherry" flavored, but really tasted of stale medicine and old socks, and ran off to find the doctor on duty.
The Doctor, a kind man by the name of Nicholas Mann, who had a white beard and often liked to play Santa Clause during the winter months for the local children's hospital wing, came as soon as he heard about Jason's headaches. This wasn't the kind of thing that one should let sit for too long, he knew, because there could be "complications". It was best to use the word "Complications", instead of things like "Tumor" and "Terminal", as those often caused more "complications" on their own among the parents and patients. He hurried in to Jason's room, and examined him right away. Jason continued to complain weakly of the headache, and how his head felt like it was going to explode. And it did too, Jason honestly felt as if his head was going to burst from the inside out, like one of those cartoons he'd seen on TV from Japan.
"IT ACHES!" Jason exclaimed in a weak voice, "It feels like my eyeballs are going to 'splode out of my head."
The doctor wasn't amused by his exaggerations, not one bit, and he let Jason know this under no uncertain terms.
"Yes, I'm sure it does. That's no reason to tell me your eyeballs are going to blow out of their sockets, Jason. That just doesn't happen, not to anyone, not for any reason."
Jason didn't agree, so he shook his head furiously, which sent the room spinning on it's own around him. He gave the doctor a sickly stare and waited for the merry-go-round room to stop before he continued on.
"Does too; I've seen it on the TV."
"That's nonsense, Jason. Even if it really feels that way, it still won't make your eyeballs explode out of your head. Now just lay back and let me take a look at your charts."
Jason still did not believe the doctor, and he knew what eyeballs about to exploding out of your head should feel like, and it certainly should feel like he did right then! He crossed his arms and sat back, pouting as the doctor checked the charts, took his vitals, and generally did what doctors do. Finally, the old man scratched his head and grunted in a satisfied manner and looked to the nurse that had summoned him in the first place.
"It looks like our friend here is going to need an X-ray, nurse. Would you mind wheeling him down to radiology while I get the paperwork? We'll get this done in a jiffy, and put to rest all this nonsense about exploding eyeballs and the like."
Jason's eyes went wide when the doctor mentioned getting him an x-ray and the radiology department. They were going to get him an x-ray, which meant this was much more serious than he'd been told! Nobody just gets an x-ray, his mother went on and on about how those things were dangerous, and could make you glow in the dark if you'd had too many. Maybe his skull was broken open, and his brain would pop out of the gap in his head? Or maybe he had some kind of weird slug in his head, like in the movies, and they were going to check and see if it was squishing his brain. Or maybe he was going to become a mutant and shoot lasers from his eye sockets, and the doctor was hoping to catch it before it happened!
"Cool," he muttered to himself as they started to wheel his bed out of the room.
As they wheeled Jason from the room, the kindly doctor started working on his paperwork. He shook his head, frowning, as he couldn't figure it out. The boy had been fine, save for the fact that he'd passed out on the ride over. Managed to survive the fall without a single injury, earlier tests had proven that beyond satisfaction after his admission. There wasn't anything he was going to find on this x-ray, he was convinced, but he wanted to be sure that it wasn't some kind of cancer or internal hemorrhaging they'd missed on the initial checks.
"Kid was damn lucky; it had better not be cancer."
Needless to say, the doctor would turn out quite right and yet quite wrong. Jason would not ever have cancer in his life. That much is quite certain, I can assure you.
Jason marveled at the X-ray machines when he arrived down in the radiology lab. A young man with a big white smile and bright blue eyes greeted him. He wore a lab coat, but under that he was wearing a black skeleton shirt and some black scrubs bottoms, so he looked rather like he'd been X-rayed a few too many times himself. His face was rather thin and skeletal as well, but the shock of dark black hair with blue streaks made him look less so. In fact, it was almost as if he'd snuck in, stuck the real doctor away in a closet, and made himself right at home. This thought made Jason smile wide, and he instantly decided that he liked this doctor much better than the old man who did not believe that his eyes were about to explode from his head. So naturally, when the young radiologist asked Jason if he had anything to say about himself before he was put into the machine, he responded quite quickly despite the pain.
"My eyeballs are going to pop out of my head! They want to make sure they don't, so they've sent me down here to have my head x-rayed." He nodded enthusiastically after this, which once again sent the room spinning around him. "Ugh," he moaned, and then sat still once more, hoping to stop the spinning before he managed to paint the poor doctor's shirt with a Technicolor yawn.
"Right out of your head, huh sport? Well, that's a pretty big problem! We're going to have to nuke your head, and quick! Here, put this apron on, and we'll get right to it, okay? Can't have your eyeballs making a mess all over my machines, right?"
The radiologist grinned wide as he spoke, which of course made Jason all the happier despite the pain. This man agreed with him, and was one of the few adults besides his Grandfather who ever did! He believed that is was in fact possible to shoot his poor eyeballs right out of his head if he didn't immediately find the cause of this terrible pain and pressure in his head. While the man in the skeleton shirt made adjustments to his machine, Jason tried to hurry with the heavy lead apron. The nurse took Jason's arm and led him over to the chair that he was supposed to sit on, then helped him settle in and readjust the apron around him. The black and blue haired man came back over and smiled down at him in the chair.
"You bet! Will I glow in the dark after this?"
"Hmmm," the radiologist pretended to stroke a beard he didn't have for a moment as he walked over to the light switch on the wall. "Let me think. You mean like," he paused, then flicked off the light, making his skeleton shirt glow in the dark, "this?" He posed dramatically for Jason, showing off the glowing bones of his shirt.
"COOL!" Jason grinned and stared in wide-eyed fascination at the shirt, immediately thinking it would be the neatest thing ever to glow in the dark like this man's shirt did.
"Don't play with the kid, Richie. Just take the X-rays so Doctor Mann can have them looked at right away."
The radiologist glowered. "You're no fun, Marie."
After that exchange, Jason felt as if someone had drained all the fun out of the room. The man named Richie went over and flicked the lights back on, and walked over to his console, immediately making more adjustments to the settings, which in turn caused Jason's chair to recline slowly, and rotate like he was on some kind of alien examination table. He wondered at how everything was moving and rotating slowly in almost exact opposition to the natural rotation of the room-spins he'd been experiencing today. There was some humming, and the lights around him dimmed a bit before there was a very loud click.
Then another click
And another soft click.
Finally, the chair started spinning slowly again, sitting up on it's own and bringing Jason back to the floor where he was helped out of his lead apron and back to his original seat on the hospital bed where he'd been. He was singularly disappointed at the lack of flashing lights, green glowing waves, or mutations that failed to occur during his brief interaction with the X-ray machine. This kind of thing was supposed to come with a whole array of special effects that should have made him feel as if he were being abducted by aliens or perhaps turned into some kind of radioactive monster. Instead, he barely felt anything beyond his splitting headache, the mild discomfort of being rotated for whatever reason, and the annoyingly loud click of some sort of camera.
"There you go, sport, all done."
"I'm not even glowing," Jason pouted from his bed, looking betrayed by the doctor who he thought was going to make him into a monster.
"Yeah, I'm sorry buddy. Marie said I couldn't make you glow in the dark."
"Stop filling his head with that kind of nonsense, Richie." Marie was clearly not any fun at all, and thus became the least favorite of all the nurses and doctors here in Jeremy's eyes. "X-ray machines do not make you glow in the dark, Jason. They only take pictures of your bones and certain parts of your insides so we can see if you're hurt."
"They do too," Jason protested, "They make you glow and if you have too much they can make you become a huge monster from outer space!"
"No, sweetie, they can't."
"Of course they can. I've seen it on the movies all the time!" Jason was not about to give up on this one, he'd seen it happen countless times in the movies, and they couldn't just make that stuff up all the time. At least once it had to actually work.
"Those are the movies. Make believe. And of course, we can't spend all day worrying about make believe, we need to get you back to your room right away so the doctor can look at your pictures and tell you what's wrong with you."
"Fine. Whatever." Jason pouted openly at the nurse, whose insistence that the world of movies was completely fake was only serving to make his head hurt even worse than it had before. Actually, as Jason thought about this, he realized that his headache had actually stopped hurting as badly while he was talking with Richie and while he was under the X-ray machine, and so he felt the need to inform the nurse right then and there. "It's not so bad. I think the radiation made the headache go away, sort of."
"Really?" Richie leaned down and patted Jason on the head gingerly, "That doesn't make much sense, little guy. But hey, if it works, I could always put you back in and give you enough to make you
" But Richie was cut off by the always unwilling and unhelpful nurse Marie
"No. You'll do no such thing; we're going to leave the diagnosis and cures to the real doctors." She crossed her arms, and Jason could tell by the look on Richie's face that this was the end of the discussion. Defeated by an unhappy nurse, what a fate!
Jason waved goodbye to Richie rather forlornly, wishing that he could go and hang around with the radiologist that seemed so much more knowledgeable about the world than the stuffy Santa Doctor and the rather dour Nurse Marie. By this point, his headaches were starting to lessen steadily, the pain now more of a low throbbing than the screaming stabbing they were before. Jason had decided that radiation had somehow destroyed the alien slug that was in his head, and that he would no longer have to worry about how he would see the world if his eyeballs were dangling from his head like a pair of paddle balls.
The nurse wheeled him back into the room where he had woken up earlier, and left him there with strict orders not to do anything silly. This of course included anything fun, like getting up and climbing around, or watching the TV, or getting any of the comic books that his mother had left for him before she went to work.
"Anything might trigger another headache, and if the last one has gone away, you don't want to get another one, right?"
"I don't want to be bored either," he muttered in response in his most pitiful of pouts.
"Bored or not, young man, we can't risk you getting another one. So sit here and just relax while the doctor figures out what to do, okay?"
Jason decided right then and there that he would never complain of headaches again, simply because it caused more trouble for him than he was willing to put up with. Being denied his TV, his comics, and his right to climb around was simply too much for him to bear even once. Having nothing else to do, Jason did what all kids do when left alone for too long; he began fidgeting in his bed. Eventually, he got up and made his way to the bathroom, deciding that if he were to be in trouble, he'd rather be in trouble for getting up to pee than peeing in a hospital bed. Once he was done, Jason continued to fuss about in his room until he heard the clack clack clack of someone's shoes coming towards his room. With a quick motion that managed not to reignite his headaches, he leapt into bed and covered himself up quickly. He was rather relieved to find out that it was his mother, having come in to check up on him now that her shift at the diner was over.
Jason's mother was a woman just like any other, nothing too terribly different about her to speak of. She was tall enough for a woman, roughly five foot two, and had the usual shoulder length hair of a faded yellow that spoke of a woman who had a rambunctious son who was often in trouble. Faded blue eyes that gave you the impression that she simply hadn't gotten enough sleep in the last few days fell upon Jason, who at that moment was half hiding under the covers of his bed in a failed attempt to look completely innocent. She shook her head and clicked her tongue in that way that mothers do, walking over to pull the blankets away and stare down at her son.
"Jason, what are you doing this time? What trouble are you getting into while I'm at work now?"
"I swear, Mom, I'm not doing anything. I just needed to use the bathroom, and the cranky nurse said I wasn't supposed to. I didn't want to pee in the bed, that's all."
Jason's mother shook her head, frowning at the boy as he tried to look innocent in the bed sheets, pulled up to his chin and his knees to his chest. She knew that Jason wasn't trying to get in trouble intentionally this time; that look on his face told her everything she needed to know about that. Whatever he was up to, it wasn't upsetting anyone this time at least. She slowly sat down on the edge of the bed next to Jason and reached out to gently brush back his hair.
"Sweetie, you know you need to listen to the nurses here. They're just trying to help you get better so you don't have to stay here for very long. Your Dad has been going insane at work all day, wondering if you're alright. I even took time off from work to bring you in while you were knocked out."
That was news to Jason; Mom never took time off work for anything that wasn't a real emergency. He paled and looked down at his lap, frowning like he'd been caught stealing cookies from the jar again. Jason's lip trembled as he thought about what his mother had done for him today, about how often she told him that she had to work so much to support the family because his father's job doesn't pay so well. It didn't take long for poor Jason to start crying into his blanket, sniffling and going on like a baby. He hated when this happened, but there wasn't anything he could do about it.
"I'm sorry," Jason sniffled as he tried to compose himself, "I didn't mean to fall out of the tree. I didn't mean to hurt myself. I didn't mean to get the headaches and have my brain x-rayed or make the nurse lady mad
"You did what?" Hit mother interrupted his sniffling and whimpering with a shrill exclamation of the word 'what', her face turning that deep red color that mean Jason was about to be in a world of trouble for something.
"I got these *sniffle* headaches earlier and the nurse got all flustered and called the doctor, and he told her to take me to radiology and there was a guy in a skele
She cut Jason off with a stern look; her eyes locked to his with this death glare that he knew meant trouble. Big trouble!
"They did what to your head? Where is that doctor?"
She was getting shrill again, and that make Jason's headache start to come back. He decided it would be best to tell her the whole truth and nothing but the truth about everything. Everything except his headaches, that was.
"The doctor's in his office, looking at the X-rays of my head right now. They told me that it wouldn't make me glow in the dark, or turn into a super monster or anything."
That was enough for Jason's mother to storm out of the room at full tilt, saying quickly over her shoulder that she'd be back shortly and she'd take care of all this.
"And don't you move."
Jason frowned as the door closed behind her. The ringing order of "don't you move" echoed around in Jason's head, reminding him that he'd been told once already not to play about while he was here in the hospital. The boredom started to creep slowly into Jason's mind, and he began to fidget in his bed. For now, at least, he would remain in that position on the bed, fidgeting to himself, until later that afternoon. But before he would continue on to make a bigger mess of things than he already had, his mother would make a far larger mess than Jason ever could.
Jason's mother, who was rarely seen to be anything but the nicest and most mundane woman in the entirety of Trencher County, was on the warpath. It would be one of three major episodes of anger that she would have in the whole of her life, this one being only second to the penultimate explosion of anger that would come much later in life, when Jason would bring home something his parents could neither understand, nor reasonably be expected to accept, but that is much later in the story. No, for the moment, we are focused on that second most foul of conniption fits she would ever have, and it occurred on that very day, in the office of Doctor Mann, just a bit after three in the afternoon. She burst into his office in a small flurry of paperwork that flapped about in the breeze from her abrupt entrance, and glared at the doctor in his chair.
"What is the meaning of this?" She shouted at him, despite the short distance between them, and the fact that he could hear perfectly fine.
"The meaning of what, Mrs. Winters?"
"My son is going to start glowing in the dark because you couldn't just leave him alone! You already knew that he had no broken bones, you told me so earlier! Why did my son go back into that damn machine?"
Mrs. Winters' face was turning a shade of red that reminded Doctor Mann of a red onion, which in turn reminded him that he was hungry and shouldn't be having this argument now, because he wouldn't have time to eat. This prompted the worst decision about Jason's health care that would ever be made, and would ultimately lead to the series of events to unfold in Jason's life that would leave him forever changed.
"You know, you're right. I'm sorry Mrs. Winters; I was only making sure that he did not have any kind of head trauma. Your boy was complaining about some headaches, but it's clear from these most recent x-rays that there is nothing going on in his head. We'll leave it be, and you can take him home."
Unfortunately, this wasn't enough for Mrs. Winters, and she proceeded to rave out on poor Doctor Mann for the rest of his lunch hour anyway. Her shouts, although muffled and incomprehensible, could be heard as far away as the diner where she worked, or so people claim. During this angry scene, it would be Mr. Winters who would arrive next in Jason's room; a man of average height, with jet black hair that was going grey slightly around the temples. He wore a stained pair of coveralls, and a coat with his name "Don" embroidered on a patch over his left breast. On the back was the logo of the Lube n' Brew that he worked at, the local garage slash gas station and mini-mart. He came in, his hair mussed and his bright blue eyes shining, and made his way to Jason's bed with a thin wry smile.
"Heya, Champ. I heard you got into some trouble today." His voice was that of a southern man who loved to indulge in the occasional fit of mischief himself, with a hint of a drawl that would make even the sternest of matrons give a grin and shake their heads as if he were only a boy and not a grown man.
"Yeah. Mom's real mad, she's probably screaming at the Doctor for giving me another x-ray."
"Another one? What happened? I thought he told your Mother that you were fine earlier."
Jason considered his options. He knew that if he tried lying to his Dad, he'd just find out and properly punish him later, but if he tried to tell him the truth his Dad would insist on more tests and junk, and that would make his Mom even more upset. There weren't any good answers, so he just made a face. Faces always made everything better; he screwed up his eyes and pursed his lips, trying to look as ridiculous and unwilling to talk as possible.
"They didn't tell you anything, huh? Well that's okay, sport. Your Dad'll figure it all out and we'll go home tonight. After your Mother is done with the Doctor, that is."
Jason was glad that his Dad came to that one on his own. If he'd been telling him that he hadn't been told anything, it would be a lie. But if Dad decided that was the answer on his own, then it wasn't his fault and he wasn't lying. He stopped making the strange face, and smiled at his dad.
"Didja bring me a new comic?"
"I don't know, Son. Did I?"
"Yes you did! You always bring me a new comic when I'm sick!" Jason was up on his knees now, hanging onto his Father's shoulder. "You had to!"
" Jason's father started, looking as if he were thinking very hard about something, "I suppose you aren't exactly sick, so I really shouldn't have gotten you one."
Jason's lip quivered and his father smiled slowly at him, reaching down into the pocket of his coveralls and pulling out a rolled up magazine sized object. He handed it to him with a wink and a grin, letting the pages unfold as he did so to reveal the latest issue of the Green Lantern, complete with Jason's favorite hero on the cover. He gave a shout, and immediately sat back to open the cover and read through the latest adventure.
Jason's father's face lit up in a smile as his son started reading the comic, leaving the rest of the real world behind as if it didn't matter at all. He could remember a time when he could do that as well, but that wasn't here or there. The business at hand was to find Jason's mother and attempt to remove his son from this place before they stared x-raying him more. He did wonder why they felt the need to do it again, since the original ones had revealed no damage to bones or internal organs. A grim feeling welled up in Mr. Winters then, a chill that ran from the tips of his toes all the way up to the ends of his hair; he began to worry that they had found something later. Something serious, that would spell certain doom for his only son. Donald Winters went pale, and clung tightly onto the side of Jason's bed.
"It couldn't be
" he began, and trailed off into the silence of his mind, where gears and cogs of thoughts
Mr. Winters' thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a door opening and closing loudly, and the very familiar sound of his wife's work shoes clack-clacking towards him. He looked up to her eyes, and saw something he hadn't seen in a very long time. His wife, beautiful as she was, was red-faced and furious.
"Oh dear," He frowned at her as she arrived. "What happened to you?"
"It's that Doctor! He's to blame! Sending our boy through that horrible X-ray machine again, even after I told him it wouldn't be necessary!"
Jason chose that moment to start paying attention without lowering his comic book. He found that if he kept the book up, where it appeared that he was reading it and not paying attention, adults would treat him as if he were invisible; a very handy thing to be when eavesdropping, as he was right now. Jason wanted to know what was going on, and why everyone was getting all upset over his headache. As horrible as it was, he didn't think that it was worth all the things they'd been putting him through, and he deserved an explanation. He peeked over the edge of his comic, checking his father's expression as he spoke with his mother.
Jason's father wore the kind of expression that he often used at work; careful, collected, and calm. Usually, this was the face he'd have to make just before telling someone that they'd be paying "an arm and a leg" for the repairs to their car. His father continued to stare at his mother for a long few moments before starting up again.
"Well," he began, and then cleared his throat once before continuing on, "I don't suppose they found anything, right? I mean, you wouldn't be this pissed off if they found something, I would think you'd be in tears."
"Of course they didn't find anything! There wasn't anything to find! They just wanted to take advantage of us while he was here, and give him pointless and radioactive tests that would drive the bill through the roof so that fat fu
Jason's father cut her off just as she was getting to the good part with a sudden embrace and light shushing. He held her very close as she shook with renewed rage, and then went slack into his arms.
"Now darling, let's not say this kind of thing where Jason can hear."
"Of course; you're right, my darling. You know how I feel about these doctors and their tests though."
The nurse who had attended Jason earlier arrived shortly after Jason's father had managed to calm down Mrs. Winters, and immediately told the parents that the doctor could not find anything further wrong with Jason, and that he would be discharged before dinner. Overjoyed, the parents left together with the unpleasant woman to sign the paperwork and hand over insurance cards and the like. This left Jason once again alone to ponder his predicament; his headache was starting to come back, and it made the images in the comic book swirl with strange color. He couldn't tell the nurses or the doctor, they'd insist that he just lie still and make him do more tests that would get his mother screaming again in a heartbeat. This time, while he was dealing with his headache, the characters in the comic book seemed to come to life, and start walking around on the page. They seemed to conduct themselves as they would any other day in their strange world of superheroes and saturated colors, and for a moment, Jason felt as if he could reach into the book and join them. The feeling did not last however, as he proceeded to become quite ill, and vomit all over the book. He failed to do anything more than cover the book completely in his sick, and he briefly tried to see if the people inside were still moving.
Jason would be discharged that very night, with the instructions to be more careful with new comic books, and to be sure that if he feels a headache again, to tell his parents right away. The doctor gave his parents a small bottle of white pills, along with the instructions for them to give Jason one pill if he ever gets those kinds of headaches again, and to call him if they persist for more than a few days. Jason resolved to never mention them again, if he could help it.