Nothing better than waking up at dawn.
In the yard.
With only pajamas on.
Having no idea how you got there.
Especially because you are a TBI patient that can’t even walk more than a few steps without help. Plus you fell asleep in your bed and haven’t woken up since. Yet somehow you’re still outside, meaning you must’ve somehow gotten past the stairs and the entrance which is guarded by the porter.
Sounds… Absurd, right?
Yet that’s exactly what happened to Keith.
Fortunately, a nurse found him and brought him back to his room before alerting the doctors.
He spent the rest of his morning in bed, constant visits from both doctors on the second floor, Dr. Trigel and Dr. Sendak. Dr. Sendak had assured him that sleepwalking -because that’s what he did in their opinion – was a good sign: that meant he was physically capable of traveling such distances.
At least Shiro checked in every ten minutes. Keith didn’t know if the nurse was trying to calm him down or show him that he was on the verge of a mental breakdown.
“I swear, Keith if you wake up anywhere but your bed one more time, I’m going to Dr. Trigel myself and I’ll ask her to get you one of those beds for people with special needs,” Shiro said with a frown while checking if Keith had a fever. The whole staff was afraid Keith would get pneumonia, and there was no way they would let him out of his bed that day.
And that’s why Keith was stuck in his room, with nothing to keep him company besides his head. He would expect that at least his head would come up with something fairly interesting, but no.
The voice was like a broken record, repeating the same thing over and over again.
‘Why don’t you change things up a little?’, Keith thought, staring up at the ceiling. ‘Like gray. Say gray this time, just like you did yesterday. I already know what somnambulism is, but I have no clue what you mean by gray; nothing in this room is gray. Explain that to me.’
The fact that he was sleepwalking bothered him too, but not as much as the voice in his head. It may have surprised him at first, but it was not a big deal. Normal people sleepwalked too sometimes. It was a rare thing, but sleepwalkers weren’t insane.
A few minutes later, Shiro paid him a visit again, bringing him his medication and his breakfast. It was already 8 am then, Keith guessed.
“There, you can try to do it alone this time. Rosehip tea and ham sandwich. I hope you like it.” He placed the food in front of him with a smile.
Keith eyed the food mistrustfully, asking himself if his motor skills were good enough to actually do this. Sure, he was already trying to walk, but grabbing things was a completely different thing, especially if he had to use his fingers instead of his hands. It’s not like he wanted his nurse to watch as he tried to get the sippy cup full of tea to his mouth, nor was he particularly eager to show off how many tries it took him to grab a small piece of the sandwich from his plate.
But he forced himself to try it, and although some of the sandwich ended up on the floor, Shiro was really proud of him after he finished.
“So, I heard you joined the club of the sleepwalkers,” Lance grinned as he entered Keith’s room alongside Pidge and Hunk. He seemed unaffected by yesterday’s happenings now, though Keith suspected that he completely forgot that his parents had visited him or that Blaytz had been taken to a hospital. If Keith remembered correctly, Lance had a complete breakdown last evening, even refusing to eat after his family had left. They had looked just as bad as him, with his mother straight up sobbing on their way out. Everyone was wondering what had gone down inside Lance’s room while his family was here, but Keith wasn’t sure if he really wanted to know.
Keith nodded, although not as fast as usual, slightly averting his gaze. Yeah, he wasn’t that worried about this ‘somnambulism’, but that didn’t mean he was proud.
“Literally half of this floor has done that at one point or another, you don’t have to be ashamed,” Hunk made a dismissing hand gesture. “I’ve done it before, Lance too, and Shay, Ina, Nadia, Ryan… You get what I mean, right?”
Keith didn’t even know who half of these people were, but he got the point. Counting himself, a total of seven people have sleepwalked before. Eight if Keith hadn’t been hallucinating, but Lotor was actually sleepwalking that night. It was a weird concept, but not impossible… Right?
“Anyways,” Pidge interrupted. “Shiro told me his idea of getting you a ‘special-needs bed’. I would stop sleepwalking if I were you, Shiro is usually true to his word… Those special need beds are pretty like adult cribs...” She grabbed the tablet that was laying in her lap and quickly googled what she was talking about so she could show it to Keith.
Those beds really did have some similarities to cribs. But that wasn’t even that important right now. The important thing was that Pidge had a tablet and that tablets had keyboards. Virtual ones, at least, and those were perfectly fine. Keith reached out his hand for the tablet, silently asking Pidge to give it to him.
“Uhm, TBI patients aren’t supposed to use the tablets because-” She was cut off by Lance, who just took the device out of her hands and handed it to Keith.
“Maybe he just wants to look up something really quick.”
Keith nodded and went to the home screen. He was desperately looking for a notebook app of some sorts. It took him several tries to scroll through the apps. Once he finally found it, he tipped it – that also took him more than one try - and opened said app.
“Huh? The notebook app? Are you trying to communicate this way?” Lance asked confused while peering at the tablet over Keith’s shoulder.
Keith tipped on the screen again, causing the keyboard to pop up. What would he try to tell the others? ‘There’s a voice inside my head that tells me some weird stuff.’ would be too long, while ‘I hear voices’ would be too vague.
‘A voice talks to me.’ and then point to his head. That would work.
He just had to find all the letters first.
S. Great. He messed up right at the beginning. He tried to go back but instead pressed enter, causing a line break. That would work. Keith simply couldn’t understand how he was doing so well at walking yesterday but failed to type one letter on a tablet today. TBI seemed more and more like an unbelievable nightmare.
This time he pressed the A after the first try. Pressing space was quite easy after that, that button was way bigger. In the following minute, he messed up quite a few times, but the result was somewhat okay, it wasn’t that hard to figure out what he meant.
‘A vioicce talkstto tp to mre.’
“A… voice? Talks to more-… to me?” Lance tried to decipher what he had written while the others leaned over the tablet with confused faces as well. “What do you mean? What voice?”
Keith pointed his head with slow motions.
“Oh, so you hear voices you aren’t supposed to? Don’t worry about that, it’s just your meds. They can give you some pretty strong stuff at the beginning...” Pidge smiled.
Was that supposed to mean that all this was just his imagination on drugs? Pidge was right most of the time, and it sounded plausible.
“And what does the voice say to you?” Lance seemed a bit worried, almost shaken up.
Keith was about to start typing on the tablet again, but Pidge grabbed it.
“Stop it, Lance, you’ll just make him worry even more.”
“But-” The boy sighed and glanced at Keith just long enough for him to notice.
Yeah, weird hallucinogenic drug, that’s Lance, what about him? He did react so strangely, maybe he knew something about the voice? Maybe he had it too, then Keith could just let him explain. But how could he ask Lance, when Keith couldn’t speak and Lance would forget they had this conversation?
The rest of the day just went downhill from that. Keith apparently managed to catch a cold or something and had to stay in bed a bit longer than he would’ve liked. At first, it didn’t seem like it was anything serious, but it was just enough to make him fragile and weakened again. He couldn’t even sit up and his grip was weak, to the point where he couldn’t even eat independently. He was back to square one when it came to his recovery.
He laid in his bed all day, facing away from the door and Lotor, pretending to be asleep. This way at least nobody was bugging him, except for the coldness and nausea. He had all the time in the world to sulk about how great he was doing yesterday compared to today’s setbacks.
His hearing, however, was still completely fine, meaning he could hear the whole conversation between the two nurses when they came to check his temperature and blood pressure. The only reason why he didn’t get much of what they said was because he was too confused and tired to concentrate.
“Yeah, Dr. Sendak is worried that it’ll turn into a lung inflammation… He has already informed Professor Zarkon, he might visit us to check on Keith.” From all of the small pieces of the conversation, Keith was absolutely sure he heard this part right. Although vaguely, he did remember a certain Professor Zarkon from the hospital he had stayed at. It was the surgeon who had been in charge of his brain surgery. But why would he visit Keith here?
Soon after that, Keith drifted off to sleep. Still, he was restless, his shivering waking him up every fifteen minutes or so.
It must’ve been around midnight when he turned around to lay on his right side and finally noticed that his roommate was gone.
Lotor’s bed was empty, but unlike last time, Keith didn’t see him anywhere in his field of vision. The door was slightly open however, the light from the hallway peering into the room. It was obvious that Lotor had left and was now wandering around somewhere.
His first impulse was to reach for the button under his hand that would call the nurses. He wasn’t surprised to find that it wasn’t there but disappointed nonetheless.
Despite his headache, he tried to sit up, reaching for the little triangle-shaped thing above his bed to pull himself up. He… He did it without any trouble. This should n’t have been possible, considering that he hadn’t been competent enough to do it this afternoon.
He wasn’t going to question it, though. It worked, that was the only important thing at the moment.
As the covers fell off him, his body started to shiver a little. Black dots danced before Keith’s eyes before his head could get used to sitting upright again. After the sudden nausea had passed, he reached for the rails at the side of his bed and pulled himself to the edge, his feet now dangling off the bed. He tried to find his slippers to put them on, but there was no chance he could spot them in that darkness.
So he went with the only other alternative: walking around in socks. The floor was cold, almost making him miss the warmth of his covers again. He could just stay in his bed…
The sudden appearance of the voice still surprised him. It really needed to get out of his head. But it was right. Find Lotor. That’s what he had to do. Maybe there wouldn’t be a next opportunity to catch Lotor if he didn’t do it now. The least he could do was to show his empty bed to someone.
He set his feet back on the floor and tried to stand up. Big mistake. He immediately stumbled forward, landing on all fours before his arms gave out under him and he was laying flat on his stomach.
That wouldn’t stop him. If he could crawl everywhere when he was six months old, he might as well do it now.
Except that babies were apparently better than him. That was the harsh truth, but Keith didn’t have time to think about that. He did his best to get from his bed to the door.
He clung to any object closest to him and pulled himself up while he pushed himself with his legs, repeating this sluggishly over and over again until he got to the door.
After a few attempts, he pushed the door open and peered into the hallway.
The whole hallway was dimly lit, except for the nurses’ office at the end besides the elevator and the staircase. He could see dark silhouettes walking around in there, but he came to the conclusion that they weren’t going to leave the room anytime soon.
Keith sighed and continued his crawling, this time towards the office.
He wasn’t going to make it far.
Because as long as there was someone who didn’t want him to get there, Keith wouldn’t. There were far fitter patients, and Keith was powerless against them.
A door on his left opened, and a dark figure stepped out. Keith didn’t recognize them, but judging from the broad shoulders and their height, it was a young male.
As he got closer, Keith could see his brown, slicked back hair with one-sided bangs. It was a lot shorter than Lotor’s, maybe even shorter than Keith’s, but darker than Matt’s.
He didn’t speak, he just approached Keith, arms spread out in a weird pose, kind of reaching for Keith as if to pick him up.
Abort mission. Keith pushed himself backward with his hands, attempting to crawl back into his room. The unknown man was faster and got to Keith in a matter of seconds.
All right, this was beginning to resemble a horror movie or something.
“Gray.” The guy said, his voice lacking any emotion.
Keith’s eyes widened in surprise. This again. Did this guy have something to do with the voice? His didn’t resemble the voice in Keith’s head, however. It was more similar to Lotor’s voice.
While Keith was distracted by what he had said, the boy grabbed Keith’s arm and dragged him back inside the room. His grip wasn’t strong at all, but Keith didn’t bother freeing his arm, mainly because he knew he was just as weak.
A few seconds later, Keith was back on his bed. Everything was a mess in his head; his perception sloppy, having no idea what was happening but having no will to actively change something about the situation he was in. It was probably because of his fever. Or this all was just a fever dream.
The guy disappeared out of his field of vision for a few seconds. When he reappeared a few seconds later, he was holding a pillow. Oh no.
Keith still remembered Lotor’s threat. How could he forget, it was a pretty serious one after all. And now he would suffer the consequences of not listening to him after all.
He raised his hands to his face to avoid the pillow, but the brown-haired guy easily slapped his hands away and pressed the fabric against his face. Keith automatically gasped for air, a stupid decision as he was thereby only making it worse for himself.
No matter what he tried, he couldn’t wriggle himself free and he was slowly starting to panic.
There was a weird feeling in his head that he couldn’t describe. It hurt, but it wasn’t like a usual headache. His mind went completely blank, except for one thought: He had to do something or he’ll die.
“Hey! What are you doing here?” A voice seemed to come from somewhere near the door. The pressure on the pillow ceased and Keith found himself gasping and coughing. Whoever had been smothering him disappeared, along with the other person who had – knowingly or unknowingly – saved him. Keith felt like he knew the voice, but he just couldn’t put his finger on who it was.
‘Out of control. Blaytz is dead. They’re out of control.’
Keith didn’t even comprehend what the voice was saying. He was confused, he almost died, and he really needed some rest right now.
The next day, he felt definitely better. That didn’t mean much, but at least he could get out of bed again. As he discovered, walking still wasn’t as easy as it had been the day before yesterday – not that it was easy then, just a lot easier than it was now – but he was able to feed himself again.
After ergotherapy, Shiro brought him back to his room. That was good. He could ponder about last night’s adventure alone.
Lotor had been there that morning, still unconscious, although moving his head a bit. That was normal though, Keith had nothing to worry about.
Keith still didn’t know who the brunette boy was. Or why he was acting the way he was. It seemed unlikely that he and Lotor were simply both jerks. But even if they were, that wouldn’t have explained why Lotor was awake during the night. Where had he even been?
The only thing that worried Keith even more was the voice. It gave him a headache to think about what was out of control or how Keith’s mind would know that Blaytz had died. All the questions, in general, caused Keith a huge headache, but there was not much he could do about it. He couldn’t ask anyone, speaking was still not working. At all. Of all the therapies Keith had to take, logotherapy had been the worst so far. He couldn’t even say his own name. At least he had small successes with Romelle and Coran, while poor Adam just had to endure all his temper tantrums after he failed at saying some words.
Another day had passed, and Keith was finally allowed to hang out with the others again in the common room. Walking was still not an option, so Shiro had to bring him there, though.
The common room was pretty full at this time since most people had finished their therapies for that day. Keith could see some people he hadn’t met yet, none of which was similar to the guy from his last nightly adventure.
Shiro wheeled him to the table where Lance and Matt were sitting.
“Oh, hi, nice to meet you,” Lance smiled at him.
Keith looked over at Matt. “Lance lost his notebook yesterday. He doesn’t remember some of us.” Matt shrugged. “Lance, you already know him, his name is Keith. He can’t speak and had trouble walking in the past few days. Apparently still does.”
Keith pressed his lips together. He didn’t have to be reminded of that. “Lo… Liooo- Liteio...” He realized his attempt at telling the others about Lotor had been a bad idea. Both of them looked at him in confusion.
“Wait, I think he means Lotor,” Lance slapped his forehead when he finally got it. Keith debated with himself whether or not he should be offended about the fact that Lance remembered Lotor but not him. Either way, he nodded with a smile to signal that his amnesiac friend was right.
“What about him? Poor guy can’t even eat. No one says it aloud, but he’s a hopeless case.” Lance sighed, fidgeting with a single puzzle piece he had found laying around on the table.
Keith nodded slowly, even though he did definitely not think of Lotor as a hopeless case. He was fit enough to leave their room after all. That definitely meant something in that brain of his was still working.
And Keith would find out what was up with him. Sooner or later, but he would not rest until he caught Lotor and showed his empty bed to a nurse or a doctor. Literally. He would stay awake each night as long as he could, waiting till he’s gone before pressing the button that would call Shiro.
“Besides, you should avoid such topics around Ryan.” Matt motioned towards a different table with his head, one occupied by only one guy. He was looking at the table in front of him, seemingly lost in thoughts. “James is getting worse. And Ryan is worried that he will end up like Blaytz.”
“Why, what happened to Blaytz?” Lance asked with a frown. “And who’s James again?”
Keith was still staring at Ryan. Or rather, his eyes were still hung up on him while his mind repeated a single sentence, four words, over and over again.
‘They’re out of control.’