Though it made no sense to tell a senseless man any and all manner of his dreams and woes, Jimmy Ess found himself talking to the John Doe as if that slight man, as sinewy and dried out as a twist of jerky, might wake up and tell Jimmy what he needed to do and how to do it. No one knew anything about the man. He was already so far down into some dark pool of unconsciousness when the EMTs brought him in that the docs didn’t dare guess what might be troubling him. Clueless as to his medical history and comforted by his vitals, which were strong enough all things considered, the docs tethered the man to a saline drip and put oxygen tubes up his nose, determining that unless anything more serious began to manifest itself, the best they could do was keep this strip of sinew hydrated and oxygenated.
“Call me a cynic,” Jimmy told the John Doe, “but I think the only reason they got this drip going is to limit their exposure to any liability that might come their way if your heart bursts and you die in the throes of some convulsive fit.” The man lay calmly under the blue hospital sheet. “It’s happened before,” Jimmy said. “Too often if you ask me.”
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The man’s impassive face, as slack and blank as any other insensible patient’s, struck Jimmy as tranquil for some reason, like the man had found rest in the comfort of some hard-won knowledge and, exhausted, was now just recharging. “You’ll be as dry as dust when you wake up, my friend,” Jimmy told the man as he tipped the wastebasket into the trashbin he wheeled from room to room. “The saline plumps your cells, but those oxygen tubes are sandpaper on the throat. You’ll squawk like some kind of pink monkey-bird when you finally tell us who you are.”