When Finnian awoke after his surgery, he found himself in a green room.
He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling, waiting for his mind to clear. It was a strange sensation – having no idea where he was. Or why he was there. There was no panic, but the confusion was a thick fog dragging in and out of him with his breath. He looked around to his right and saw a monitor that beeped gently and blinked rhythmically with a small yellow light. There was a wire and a bag of liquid and a tall metal stand, all of which reminded him that he was in hospital. He remembered. His foot. The knife. The basement.
He shifted his weight and tried to sit up. His body felt slow and unresponsive, but there was no pain, just a hypersensitivity. The sheets were crisp and rough against his skin. Was he wearing any clothes? He looked down. Yes. A blue gown of some sort. His eyes snagged on something and he realised that someone was sitting on the end of his bed. A boy. It was the boy with the crutches, though the crutches were leaned carefully against an armchair beside the bed. Finnian looked at him, but couldn’t speak. His mouth felt dry. As though he had been eating cereal without milk. Or paper. Or dirt.
They looked at each other in silence. The boy was about his age, slightly smaller, but perhaps older. He had rough, uncut brown hair that fell across part of his face. His skin was pale. Not just light-coloured – pallid. He had the same yellowish olive skin that Finnian himself had. He looked as though he hadn’t seen the sunshine in a long time. His eyes were a dark brown and had shadows beneath them of an even darker hue. He would have seemed a tragic figure if it wasn’t for the expression on his face. His head was tilted slightly to one side and there was a smirk that hit the side of his mouth. There was something about him that Finnian liked. And something else that made him very nervous.
Finally, Finnian worked up enough saliva to manage a word.
“Hello, Finnian.” The boy’s voice was deeper than his own, but still sounded youthful. It had an accented lilt, perhaps English. Perhaps Irish. Finnian wasn’t sure.
“You know my name?”
The boy’s smile hit the other side of his mouth as well as he gestured to wall above Finnian’s bed. “It’s right there.”
“Oh, of course.” Finnian noticed a glass of water on the table beside his bed and reached for it, careful to avoid tangling the wires that connected his hand to the medical apparatus. As the water slid down his throat it was pure relief, the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to him. He spluttered as it bubbled up, but drank until the cup was dry. The boy watched him silently. “Are you in here too? What did you do to your leg?”
“It is broken.” It was all he offered.
“Oh. How did you do that?”
“I fell.” His smile vanished. “I was pushed. And I broke it. We are the same.”
Finnian was confused. “I helped you? What do you mean?”
The boy smiled. “My brother pushed me. Your brother stabbed you.”
“No. My brother didn’t do this. Why do you say that? Did the doctor say that?” Finnian looked around but the hallway through the door looked dark and empty. Where was everyone? Surely a nurse would have checked on him by now. Where was his mother?
“I saw him. He stole my knife and threw it at you.”
“Your knife? How… what? Who are you?”
When Finnian awoke after his surgery, he found himself in a blue room.
His mother was on the other side of the room. Even through the crack in his bleary eyes, he could tell it was her. She was talking to someone. Two people. Men. He blinked rapidly to try and clear his eyes. They reluctantly focused. Policemen.
“There was no trace of anyone in that basement. We searched the entire hotel – even the areas designated unsafe, and found nothing. There is evidence of vagrants being in and out of the last decade but nothing recent. And no knives. Your son is adamant he saw someone?”
“Absolutely convinced,” his mother sounded concerned. “He says there was someone there and they threw the knife at Finnian.”
“Have you considered that perhaps he threw the knife himself, never intended to cause injury – perhaps as a joke – and is making up the story to stay out of trouble.”
“Of course, I’ve considered it, he’s a kid. And they do foolish things without thinking.” She bit her lip. His mother always bit her lip when she had too many thoughts and not enough answers. “But I know Jack very well and he just doesn’t lie. And he knows us – he knows that if he accidently hit his brother with the knife when he dropped it, or threw it or whatever happened, that we would understand that. Even if it was prank that went wrong. Even then… he knows us. He just wouldn’t lie. If he says he saw someone there- he really believes he saw someone.”
The policeman made a sound in his throat and looked his fellow officer. They clearly didn’t believe Jack was as honest as his mother thought.
“Well, either way – we don’t believe that basement is a safe place for children. Officer Emery has a badly burned hand after an unexpected burst of steam from your boiler and Peter,” he gestured to the other cop, who now displayed a bandaged hand, “cut his hand quite badly on some broken glass on that staircase.” He looked at her with an almost disapproving look, as though his mother was personally injuring police officers.
He paused and his mother raised an eyebrow. “Sorry? I mean – I’m very sorry that your officers were hurt. We haven’t started the renovations yet, and we know there is certainly a lot of work to be done. We’ll keep the boys clear of the dangerous areas. Sir.”
“Thank you. Can you read this statement and if you are happy with it, sign at the bottom, please?” He handed her an electronic tablet and his mother read it silently before glancing up at the officers. “I want you to change this part to reflect that my son Jack honestly believes he saw a boy with brown hair pick up the knife and throw it at Finnian.”
When Finnian awoke after his surgery, he found himself in a grey room.
It was dimly lit and mostly empty, aside from the bed that he was lying in. He remembered immediately why he was there and sat up to take a look at his foot. There was a drip line running from a clear plastic bag into a cannula in his hand. He touched it, but there was no pain. He pulled back the blankets on the bed and looked at his foot. It was tightly bandaged but when he shifted it from side to side there was no pain at all. It felt as good as ever. Perhaps there hadn’t been any ligament damage after all.
“Hello?” He called to the dark doorway. “Mum? Are you there? I’m awake.”
There was no answer and complete silence from the hallway outside his room. Was this a ward? Or a recovery area? Why was there no staff. Finnian unclip the drip from his cannula and climbed out of bed. He was surprised to find that he could walk on his foot with no pain. It seemed perfectly healed. Dr. Neptune was very good. He took a step towards the door and kicked something soft lying on the floor. He looked down.
On the slate grey linoleum of the hospital room floor lay his brother Jack, face down and completely still.
“Jack?” Finnian waited for a response and then kicked him gently. “Jack? Are you asleep? What are you doing here? On the floor?”
There was no response. Finnian crouched down and pushed his brother onto his back. Jack was quite a bit heavier and taller than he was so it took all of strength to roll him over. Jack’s eyes were open and they looked directly into Finnian’s but the boy said nothing. Finnian had a moment of panic and reached out wildly to feel for a pulse in his neck. He couldn’t find one, but he didn’t really know where to look either. He leaned over to see if he was breathing. He definitely was. And his skin was still warm and tanned. He didn’t look dead. But he didn’t really look unconscious either. He looked like… he wasn’t there. AS though his body was on the floor of the room with Finnian but the rest of him, the part that made him Jack, was gone.
“Uh, are you alright?” Finnian looked down into his face. “Are you… are you there?”
The eye looked back at him, unblinking and Finnian felt as though there was something that he wasn’t quite catching – something different about his brother that he hadn’t noticed, or couldn’t remember. “Jack? Come on, Jack – this is super weird. What is going on? Where’s Mum and Dad?” He looked towards the doorway again, but it was still dark and empty.
He looked back at his brother, this time leaning close and whispering, “Did you… did you see something in the basement?”
The eyes stared straight up at him and this time Finnian noticed what was wrong. His brother eyes, usually a bright sky-blue, were now a dark, depthless brown.
When Finnian awoke after his surgery, he found himself in a white room.
“Hey baby, you’re awake!” His mother leaned over him and kissed his forehead. There was a dull throbbing in his head, his throat was dry and he could feel a heavy, deep pain in his foot. “Surgery went well. You’re all stitched up and everything will be fine. The knife only nicked the edge of your tendon so Dr. Neptune repaired that and he says it will be as good as new. In six weeks. They’ll leave it for a week or so, until the stitched heal, and then they put a cast on it.”
Finnian sighed. Six weeks. That would take him in the summer holidays. And they lived in a four story hotel with no elevator. This was going to be hell. Why him?
“Is Jack okay?” he whispered. His voice didn’t seem to be working properly.
“Oh, he’s here actually.” His mother smiled tiredly. “He hit his head quite hard when he fainted, so your father brought him in. The police insisted.
“Yeah, James called them because Jack was frantic when he woke up. He was sure there was someone down in the basement with you. Did you see anything?”
Finnian had a rush of thoughts and pictures flood. Did he see something? There was that door. That rush of wind and dirt and … something. “I don’t know. I don’t know what I saw.” But he did. He did know what he saw. He had woken up with a very clear memory of someone picking up the old knife and throwing it directly at him. The only other person who had been in the basement. Jack.