Authors: Clark Graham
A Loop in Time
© Clark Graham 2015
All Rights Reserved
“We’re losing him!” came a frantic voice over the headset.
“I’m still here,” the pilot insisted.
“We’re losing--” the voice cut out and then there was silence.
“Control, do you read me? Control?” the pilot was panicking. All of his warning signals were going off.
There was no answer. Suddenly flames burst out all around him. The last thing he remembered was reaching for the eject switch, before his thoughts devolved into an inky black void.
Nurse Susan Phillips watched the man toss and turn in his bed. She had seen it all before. He was young with sandy brown hair, tall and well toned. All the men in the hospital were young. She had seen so many come and go. They had shattered arms, shattered legs, and shattered lives. They were the casualties of war. Vietnam War was still going strong.
The evacuation hospital was stateside. It handled the hard cases. It patched up the soldiers with the worst wounds as best as they could. Then they would send them home to an uncertain future.
This one was different. He had some burns here and there, but other than that there was no sign of real trauma. He had been brought in without dog tags, so his chart showed him as a John Doe. He had lingered for days on the edge of consciousness, tossing and turning and sweating, but he would settle back down after a few minutes. Nurse Susan wondered what horrible thing he had gone through that kept his mind from letting him wake up and face it.
He had crashed nearby; they had brought him here as it was the closest hospital. His craft had exploded but the pilot managed to get out before it crashed. The problem was no one knew who he was or what he was flying. What was left of the airplane, if that was indeed what it was, had advanced avionics and systems that no one had ever seen before. When the local Air Force base was notified of the crash, they had sent an investigator out. Lieutenant Granger was convinced that the craft was some super- secret Russian spy plane. He had posted two MPs to guard the patient until he could be questioned.
The hospital room was a long row of olive drab metal beds. There were ten beds on each side of the ward. Each bed had olive drab curtains that could be drawn around to give the patient an illusion of privacy. Most of the time the curtains were pulled back so the nurses could see along the entire row at one glance. The beds had cranks on the front of them to raise and lower the head for the occupant’s comfort, the only controls they had.
Susan adjusted her nurse’s cap on her head. She hated the thing because it crushed her black naturally curly hair. It also made her head itch. It didn’t fit right, so she had to wear a myriad of bobby pins to hold it in place.
She had dark brown eyes that a man could get lost in, and a perfect nose. It was not too small and not too large. All of her features together made her a very good looking. She turner heads when she walked down the street. She never let it go to her head though.
Suddenly the patient’s eyes popped open. He sat bolt upright and yelled, “Control, do you hear me?”
Nurse Susan rushed over to him. One of the MPs grabbed her arm to stop her, then thought better of it and let her go. He then said to the other MP, “Tell the Lieutenant that the prisoner is awake.” The other MP went running.
Another nurse came running. Susan turned to her and said, “Tell the doctor the patient is awake and he needs to get here before the Lieutenant does. The man does not need to be interrogated before we get him stabilized.”
The MP scowled at her but said nothing. The other nurse scampered towards the doctor’s office.
He woke up confused, thrashing a little bit until Susan held him still. Her gentle touch calmed him. “Where am I?” he asked.
“You are in Arizona, at an army hospital,” Susan replied.
He still looked confused. “Who am I?”
Susan just smiled at him. “We were hoping you could tell us that one.”
The MP scratched his head. It was going to be impossible to get information from the guy if he didn’t even know his own name. He sounded sincere; the man didn’t act like he was playing stupid.
“How did I get here?”
“There was a crash; some sort of craft that you were flying in went down. You got out just in time.”
The doctor was the first to arrive. Doctor Ralston was just starting to go bald and was a little overweight but was as sharp as a tack. “How are you doing, Son?” He said as he knelt by the man’s bedside. He was checking the patient’s eyes as he spoke.
“Neck hurts and my head is pounding.”
“You do have a bit of a concussion and probably whiplash.” Doctor Ralston turned to Susan. “Can I get a set of vital signs from him now that he is awake?”
“I’ll get right on it,” she replied.
When Lieutenant Granger arrived, he looked angry. “I am going to want to talk to the prisoner alone,” he said to the Doctor. The Lieutenant was a ninety- day wonder. He was one of those men who had gone to Officer’s Training School straight out of college and then was shipped over to lead troops in Vietnam. He had served two one- year deployments where he had been equally hated by his superior officers and his men. He landed in the Military Police where he could feed his ego by throwing his weight around. Granger was thin and tall with short cropped brown hair and a rigid back. His back was almost as rigid as his adherence to the rule book.
“Of course you are, Lieutenant,” the Doctor paused on that word so as to let Granger know that he was a Captain and outranked him. “You can talk to the patient,” again he paused as he emphasized the word ‘patient’ instead of ‘prisoner’. “You will not be talking to him today, however. He has a concussion and is dazed.”
“I really must protest, Doctor. I need information.”
“You can take it up with my superior, but it will do you no good. As the attending physician, I deem the patient unfit for your interrogation.”
John Doe just watched the conversation, wondering what he had done to have an MP guarding him. The other MP took back up his position at the foot of the bed while the Lieutenant stormed off.
Susan put a blood pressure cuff on John and a thermometer in his mouth and then started to take his pulse.
Her warm hand felt good against his wrist and John just smiled to himself. Whatever he had done could wait until tomorrow; today he had a pretty woman touching him and he liked it.
She notated the chart and handed it to the Doctor. He looked at it and then nodded to her. Susan had always been his favorite nurse. He had even asked her out a time or two but she seemed to be always busy. He took it for a nice way of her saying ‘no’ to him. Still he would not give up completely.
“I prescribe bed rest at least for one more day. Put a neck brace on him and see if that helps his pain any.”
“Yes, Doctor,” Susan replied and went off to get the collar.
The Doctor turned to the MPs and said, “You leave him alone. He has been through enough and does not need you harassing him.”
They both nodded. They didn’t like the lieutenant any more than the Doctor did so it was easy to agree with the Doctor.
After Nurse Susan and the doctor left, John Doe was left by himself with just two silent MP guards to keep him company. He looked around the hospital ward and could not help but notice how dated it looked. It was like it was out of a psycho film where one of the patients goes crazy during the night and starts killing all of the others, one by one. The floor was grey painted cement that looked like it had been painted over and over again so the paint was extra thick. The walls were white and there was a window over every bed, but the window shades were drawn so just a little sunlight came in. The florescent lamps hung straight down from the ceiling on long chains.
Every once in a while a patient would moan or groan. It all contributed to the eerie feeling of the room. John sat there bored until Susan made her rounds later on in the afternoon. He motioned her over when she got close.
“Is there something I can read? I have nothing to do here.”
Susan smiled; her whole face lit up when she did. “I do have a book that I just don’t have time to read. You can borrow it if you want, but I have to warn you, it’s a little naughty.”
“What’s the name of it?”
Valley of the Dolls
. It just came out.”
“I guess it’s better than sitting here looking at MPs,” John replied.
“I’ll go get it.” She was a little embarrassed at having to admit she was reading the book, but didn’t want John to be bored so she was willing to share it.
When she brought the book back she went to the foot of the bed and started rotating the lever so John could sit up better.
“Isn’t the bed electrical? Why do you have to crank it?”
“You are a funny guy,” she replied. “Is that good or do you want the back higher?”
“No, it’s good.” It really wasn’t but he didn’t want her to have to crank anymore. “Thanks for the book.”
“I hope you enjoy it,” she replied and then continued with her rounds.
When he started reading, it all sounded familiar. Not that he had read the book before, but it seemed like he had heard the story, at least. He was still reading when the doctor came back to check on him. He was with another doctor.
“Hello, this is Doctor Dalton. He specializes in brain trauma and amnesia cases.”
“A little light reading, I see,” Doctor Dalton teased.
“It’s better than staring into space,” John replied.
Doctor Dalton read through John’s chart and then started asking questions. “What do you remember? Times, places or things?”
“I am flying a plane when I hear over the headset, ‘we are losing him.’ When I try to respond, no one hears me. Then the flames start and everything goes black.”
“Do you know your name?”
John sighs, “I feel like such an idiot, but I can’t recall it. I think and think about it but it just isn’t there. I assume I’m a pilot of some type because of what I do remember, but other than that, I have no idea.”
“I see.” Doctor Dalton started examining his eyes. “Does your neck still hurt?”
“The brace is helping.”
“Good. Is there anything else you can recall?”
“I was reading this book the nurse gave me, and I kind of remember the movie. Has this book been made into a movie?”
Doctor Dalton shook his head. “No, not yet. It just barely came out.”
“Enough excitement for one day. We are going to let you get some rest,” Doctor Ralston said. The two doctors left, discussing the case as they walked down the hospital ward.
John went back to his book until he got too tired to read. He then drifted off to sleep.