Trying to find a comfortable way to rest, I reviewed the events of the last day or so. Either I was certifiably crazy, and probably doped up in a small padded cell even as I think I'm typing this, or somehow that amulet had transported me to an alternate reality, one where animals walked and talked.
I felt like I was in a bad movie.
Relaxing, tried to get some rest. Not able to fall asleep, I decided to try some meditation. That might help me get a little insight on what was going on. Regulating my breathing, I concentrated on clearing my mind and turning my sight inward, seeking my spirit guide.
I awoke feeling refreshed. Somehow I had fallen asleep while meditating. It wasn't the first time for that to happen so I wasn't too surprised. It wasn't until I took a deep breath that I smelled the grass and flowers. Waking up a little more I became aware of a breeze and the sound of leaves blowing in the wind along with the chirping of birds.
Opening my eyes I saw that I wasn't in a hospital, but laying in a small glade. As I sat up I realized that although I still hurt, I could move freely. Looking around, I saw a small hut built on a wood frame with skin hides stretched over it. Coming from a hole in the top was a small column of smoke. I smelled fresh baked bread.
As I approached the hut I realized that I still wasn't entirely myself. I was still covered with fur. Looking around I spotted a small pond with a stream running through it. I walked over and looked down into the water.
It was not me looking back. Not as I remembered myself. I looked like some parody of a polar bear drawn to human proportions. I now understood why I had such a hard time speaking, since my mouth was no longer shaped the same.
I experimented with my tongue, seeing how versatile it was. I could reach it out almost far enough to lick my eyebrows. Smiling to myself I thought, "In my old world, I would have been MOST popular." It was along that line of thought it occurred to me to check out other attributes. Raising an eyebrow I was rather impressed. Then it occurred that in this world, I could be runt. As Mr. Spock was fond of saying, "There are always possibilities".
Standing I proceeded over to the hut. As I approached, the door swung open before I touched it, bringing with it an intense feeling of familiarity and of being at home. As I entered I saw a table with two chairs, a fresh loaf of unleavened bread, two wooden cups and an adobe pitcher. I sat down at the table and waited. I knew there should be someone. The bread was familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. It reminded me of something....
"It reminds you of your last visit child." A female voice said.
Turning I saw a tall female bear. She was formed similar to the way that I was, human, but still clearly animal. Smiling, she walked over to the other side of the table and sat down.
"The last time you sat here, and ate my bread was on your vision quest, do you remember my son?" She asked.
It hit me bolt of lightning, all my memories of the quest flooded back into me. "Nanuk, how did I get here?" I asked.
"Child, don't you remember meditating in the hospital?" Namuk asked me.
I quickly looked down at my left hand, now a paw. It was bare.
"I will not allow the mark of one such as that in my domain child. You are free of him while you are here." She told me.
"Nanuk, what is happening to me? What have I become?" I asked.
"I told you on your first quest, that one day you would take a journey, and that journey would allow you and I to become one. You have now embarked upon that journey." Nanuk answered.
Stunned, I couldn't believe it. I remember her saying it, but I just assumed it would be some ritual. I had no idea until now, what she had meant.
"Will I ever be able to get home?" I asked her.
"I can not answer that. You will have the chance to go home. The choice will be up to you, but it will come with a heavy price." She told me, then began cutting the bread and pouring the drink, she placed some upon my plate.
"Eat now my child. You are injured and we must make you well. Your journey awaits." Nanuk said.
Taking a bite of the bread, my mouth was filled with the flavors of grains, honey, meats and berries. Each bite tasted different and yet the same. The drink was a wine that washed my fears away. When I finished she took me by the arm and led me to a small cot.
"Now my child, you must sleep. Let Nanuk sing to you and heal you, for you will need your strength in the coming days." She began to sing.
When I lay back on the bed, my nose was filled with the smell of fresh flowers. As she began to sing to me, I recognized the song as one she sang to me the last time I had come. Listening to her song, the ache in my bones faded, and my muscles relaxed until finally I fell asleep.
As I lay there, I realized that the pain had faded. My ribs were but a dull ache, rather than the sharp stabbing pain and my shoulder didn't throb. Flexing the muscles in my leg brought a dull throb to it, but nothing like what I was feeling before. Nanuk had sung her song to heal me, and this time I remembered it.
Looking out the window, I realized that it was morning. The way the shadows had fallen, I figured that it must be about nine or ten in the morning. They must have decided to let me sleep.
As I lay there resting, the nurse came in. "And how are we this morning?" She asked.
She was cute, for a rabbit. As she came over I tried to squint, so as to get a better look at her. It was difficult.
"Not bad. I sure slept well last night. I definitely feel ten thousand percent better than I did yesterday." I told her.
Taking my left paw and referring to her watch, she took my pulse, and then using a digital thermometer, my temperature. Checking under some of my bandages she got a most curious look on her face.
"When I saw the write up on your condition, I thought you're abrasions were worse than this." She told me. Placing new bandages on my arms, backs and legs, she then told me that someone would be in presently with my breakfast.
From the rumbling coming from my stomach, I couldn't object to that, even if it was hospital food.
"Excuse me, is this the room with the bear that was hit last night?" The voice was a female, definitely one that had the sound of being professionally trained.
"Ah, yes it is. Do you know him?" That would be Her Doctor speaking.
"Um, no. You see, I'm the one who hit him yesterday." She sounded apologetic. Glad to know whoever hit me didn't enjoy it.
"I see. Yes, this is his room, would you like to speak with him?" The doctor asked my guest.
"Was he hurt bad? Last night when I left, they were taking him up to surgery." She said. Wow. She actually sounded concerned for me.
"Do not worry about that. His leg was broken by the impact, and he had a dislocated shoulder. They took him to surgery to set his leg properly in case a pin was required, that's all. I spoke with him earlier this morning when he woke up. He will be fine." Answered the doctor.
"You have no idea how much of a relief that is. It was traumatic enough just getting in a car wreck, but to find out that I had hit someone..." She trailed off. Now I was really hurting for this chick. My appearance had caused an accident. I wondered if she was the one who was injured.
"I think you will find that he hold no grudge against you. Please, I am about to check in on him, would you care to join me?" The doctor asked her.
"If you're sure it would be ok, then yes, I'd like that." She told him. Bingo.
I watched the door as they entered. The doctor in the lead, and a tall black and white tiger stripped cat following. As they came closer the doctor smiled at me. "How is my favorite patient today?" He asked me.
"I'm feeling a lot better today doc. I don't know if you guys gave me something last night, but I slept like a rock, and I sure feel a lot better." I told him. As my brother always said, shovel it heavy and deep.
"We gave you nothing last night. It was your body's natural healing mechanism. Your species tends to enter a hibernation state when they need to heal. Frankly I'm surprised you're awake now." He said to me. While speaking, he had been checking under the bandages that the nurses had replaced. With each one, his brow would furrow for a second and he would glance at me.
"Well my boy, it looks like you're healing up much better than I had expected. We shall have to discuss your progress some other time. Right now I have a surprise for you, you have a visitor." He announced.
Moving to the side, he motioned the tigress to move forward. Squinting, I finally got a decent look at her and realized it wasn't a tiger, but none other than Zig Zag.
Now I must admit that I had gotten used to dogs, cats and rabbits coming around, but to have Zig Zag show up.... I just about passed out.
"Are you ok?" She asked. She put her hand down on mine. Proof that she was real.
"Ya. Sorry, I just never expected to meet up with you." I told her.
"I get that from a lot of men." Zig Zag said with a chuckle. The doctor's ears perked up a little bit at that. It occurred to me that he didn't know who she was.
Smiling, I quipped, "That's an understatement." I could see that Zig Zag was still uncomfortable. She was clutching her handbag in front of her with both hands.
"Look, I'm sorry about what happened. I don't remember how I got there, and I know you would have done your best to avoid me. I want you to realize that I don't hold anything against you." I told her reassuringly.
A look of relief came over Zig Zag's face, "You have no idea how glad I am to hear that. My lawyer tried to talk me out of coming to see you, but I just had to know that you were going to be alright." She said.
Smiling, I replied, "Please, don't worry about me. I'm very resilient. Would you like some water, maybe a chair? I hate to make a lady stand."
An honest smile broke her face, "A true gentleman." She said wryly. I scooted my good leg over to make space for her and gestured for her to sit down. Sitting down she looked a little more relaxed.
Putting the back of my bed up a little more vertical, I explained, "You'll pardon me, but I lost my glasses in the accident, and I'm near sighted. It's hard to see you from the other end of the bed when it's down like that."
Her eyes got wide and she opened up her purse. After digging around for a few seconds she pulled out a pair of glasses. "Are these yours?" She asked me.
Taking them from her I tried to put them on. Mind you, it's hard to put on glasses when you're used to your ears being at the side of your head, and not high up. After a couple of false tries, she leaned over and with both hands settled them firmly on my head.
Looking around I could finally see everything in focus. "Where did you find them?" I asked.
"While I was unloading my car this morning, I found those sitting in the back seat. Apparently when we hit you, they came in through the broken window." She said.
"Thank you. You've given me back my sight. Who knows how long it would have taken for me to get them replaced." I told her.
At this point the doctor intruded, "I must beg your pardon my boy, but I must check up on my other patients. You appear to be doing well. I will check in with you later. Goodbye madam." He said to Zig Zag, and with that he left.
His mention of other patients reminded me of something he told me last night.
"Zig, the Doc said that someone else was hurt. Who was it and how bad?" I asked her.
Her head bowed for a few seconds and then she quietly spoke, "It was one of my employees, Sheila Vixen. When you struck the door, it caved in. She's got some cracked ribs and concussion." While she was saying this, I watched her slowly turn a lace handkerchief into a small chunk of rope. I could see that she felt responsible.
Leaning forward I put a hand on her knee. Startled she looked up at me. "It wasn't your fault. You hold no blame. From what you describe, she's going to be all right. Do everyone a favor and don't beat your self up over it." I told her.
As I leaned back, she put her head back down and held very still. "I can still see it," she began quietly, "there was a flash of lightning, then all I saw was you in the middle of the road. It looked like you were on fire, then we were spinning out of control." At this point she put the handkerchief to her face and quietly began to cry.
Quietly I spoke, "As the car spun around, it struck something as the passenger side was beginning to come parallel, you felt it as a heavy thump. Terror gripped you as your car skidded off into the ditch, you both where stunned by the impact. When you realized you were alive, your first thought was to check your passenger. You're relief that she was alive was only temporary, as she was hurt. Then you looked for whatever you had hit. To your horror it wasn't some miscellaneous object that had fallen off of a truck, it was a person. The rest of the night was a waking dream, or nightmare. Every time you close your eyes, you relive it. It's an event that will haunt you for ever."
Slowly she looked up at me. "How do you know all this?" She asked me.
"You have no idea how lucky you are." I said. As I put my head back on the pillow, trying to stop the rush of emotions, "The person you hit survived."
In the back of my mind, I could hear that little bastard laughing at me again....