While eagerly partaking of the academic essays in The Atrocities of the Ameran State, a book which could not even be found published in Amera but which Asmodeus owned a certified copy of, Ackley paused to watch her new, seemingly inhuman nurse as she hung a new schedule on the wall. Schedule papers contained a week’s worth of activities and appointments for the sick children, and helped bring order to their life in the hospital. Nurse always either forgot to put them up or did not fill any at all; Asmodeus was always prompt with them. Afterwards she gravitated toward the back table in the room, where she would ready Ackley’s doses for the week in a little blue box.
Ackley put down her book, turned slowly around, and slid herself to the edge of the bed. She wanted to read the schedule, but to do so she would have to stand up from her bed and walk.
Her feet touched the ground, and the chill of the cold, baby blue floor tiles traced its way up her legs and then across her spine. Long sleeping muscle and sinew resented the concept of feeling, and for a moment her whole body was wracked by a sharp prickling sensation. Her every movement seemed to flare up an intense stinging, like a mound’s worth of ants devouring her body. Slowly her flesh awakened and the phantom needles blunted against her skin. She nonetheless moved slowly, her lungs working hard, and dull pain settling in her lower back and across her knees.
Standing off her bed, Ackley moved slowly, shuffling her feet up to the wall. Her bedside liquid nitrogen extractor realized she was moving, and automatically began to extend the cords hooked into her lungs. Asmodeus was alerted, but Ackley silently waved her away, and focused on getting herself to the wall. One foot in front of the other, settling into a rhythm that kept her muscles from locking up or stopping, she crossed the few meters to the wall. She slumped on it, hands scratching the paint, desperate for a good grip. She caught her breath, and examined the schedule posted.
For a whole week, the schedule consisted of non-stop appointments with Dr. Ferguson.
Ackley looked it over again in disbelief, but this did nothing to alter its contents.
“Asmodeus, what is this?” She shouted, loud as her weak lungs could.
Asmodeus blinked. “It is the schedule for this week.”
“Why am I seeing Dr. Ferguson every hour of every day for a week?”
“You can ask her when she arrives in a few minutes.” Asmodeus replied.
“You mean ask him? Dr. Ferguson is a man.” Ackley said.
“It is entirely possible that he or she may or may not be one.” Asmodeus said.
“No, I’m fairly certain–”
The door slid open, and a tall, dark, elegant-looking woman entered. She had very long red hair, and she was tying it up a she went along, humming the hospital’s elevator music. When she entered the room she looked over the premises quickly and with a smug little grin on her face. Ackley had never seen the likes of her in all her very long time at the hospital. Ackley had to acquiesce that she looked more vivacious than the other doctors, to her credit. Her lab coat was clearly not hers, it was so overly large that she wore it almost like a cape over her turtleneck sweater, giving her the look of a pharmaceutical super heroine. Clipped to her flat skirt she had a variety of mysterious, sleek tools and devices. She had tied her hair in a ponytail with a very dishonest-looking pink ribbon. Her skin was a rich brown tone, and seemed all the more healthy and human after weeks of staring at the ghostly paleness of Asmodeus, and her own sickly gray-looking pallor.
“Who are you, and why do they keep letting people into my room?” Ackley said.
“I am Dr. Ferguson!” The woman declared, almost as if to herself.
“You are a liar.” Ackley said dryly. “I’ve seen Dr. Ferguson before, and you’re not him.”
Asmodeus interjected with feigned shock. “What is your basis for saying that?”
“She looks nothing like him. She is like a supermodel or something.” Ackley replied.
“Oh, you flatter me, I’m not that lovely.” Dr. Ferguson said. She hugged herself, reveling in the perfection of her own body. “I was just grown in a high quality vat with very good DNA.”
Ackley’s mind failed to comprehend what was said. All she could muster was a flat, “What.”
Asmodeus interjected again. “She is Dr. Ferguson. Drugs have affected your perception.”
Ackley scoffed. “My perception is entirely sound, Dr. Ferguson was my old doctor!”
Asmodeus nodded. “Drugs are affecting your perception right now.”
“No they aren’t, Asmodeus!” Ackley lashed out. “You’re trying to confuse me!”
“How can you say your judgment is sound? What is your basis for thinking anything is sound?” Dr. Ferguson said. With a flourish, she threw open the room curtains. “How can you say anything out there is structurally real? How do you define your own experiences with such clarity that you can definitely say that Dr. Ferguson has always been a big round man, and not a woman of impeccable breeding such as myself? How can anyone be certain of anything?”
“I’m scarcely thirteen years old!” Ackley said, her only defense at the time.
“Thirteen year olds! Hmph! Widely known for their solipsistic attitude. You will not even remember any of this when you are twenty-six. Memory is a fallible record. No use in a scientific substantiation of facts. You’ve no evidence as to whether I’m the real Dr. Ferguson, or some other Dr. Ferguson, or really Dr. Cruciere, or anything.”
“Did you just call yourself a different doctor name?” Ackley shouted.
“Can you say, with authority, that I have?” Dr. Cruciere said.
Ackley sighed deeply. “I can say with authority that I don’t care anymore.”