Emergency Room

And then it happened. “Where does it hurt,” she asked, her lab coat white under the light blue body of her inner consciousness. “I think it’s here, at the center,” I replied. “Where?” she asked. “Is this my heart?” I asked, pointing to an area in my chest. “You could call it that,” she said, smiling a little. “I see in your records that this has happened before.” “It happens a lot,” I said. ‘Yes, I see this is the 43,780th time in the last year,“ she said. “I’m calling the mathematics division. It’s late and someone may still be on staff. Let’s see if they can reduce these numbers.” “How long do you think this will take,” I asked. “You should be fine in about an hour, we’ll see, ‘l’ll be back after the professor meets with you, don’t worry.”

I waited for what seemed like hours, but looking at the clock on the wall, I could tell only five minutes had gone by before I was interrupted from the stark boredom of the emergency room. Then suddenly, a man came in, pushing a chalk board on metal coasters. it looked from a quick glance that he must have been an apprentice professor, maybe a substitute teacher, not like the doctors I’d seen before. “Hey,” he said. “This shouldn’t take too long.” He reached into his pockets. “Oh, wait!” he said. “I need to find my chalk.” 

Two hours went by, or at least I thought it did, again, by watching the clock. It looked like it was only a few minutes. He walked back in the room just as I was about to fall asleep. “Here, let’s see what we can do about this,” He said, beginning to draw on the board. 

“OK, so I read here that you’ve had these disturbances 43,708 times,” he said, drawing the figures on the board. “Yes I have,” I said, “At least that’s what the system recorded.” “OK, so lets divide that by 3,708,” he said, the percussive beats of each line of chalk as it appeared as sound throughout the echoing room. “That leaves you with 11.78748651564185 breaks, and 11.78748651564185 recoveries, but let’s just round that up and make it 12.” He smiled.

I was speechless. “What does that mean?” I asked. “It means,” he said pausing, “that you’re a caterpillar, with 12 segments.”

“But I’m not a caterpillar,” I said. “I’m human.”

“So what!” he said. 

“You’re still a caterpillar. Have you ever noticed that it takes you a long time to get through hallways?”

“Um, now that I think about it, yes,” I said.

“Are people always opening doors for you?”

I thought for a moment. “Now that I think about it, yes,” I said. 

“Did you ever think before that this is because you are…a caterpillar?” he asked.

“No, not really,” I said.

“That’s all the proof you need,” he said. You’re a twelve segmented caterpillar, and with each break you’re able to stand more strongly. You grow with each step, retracting and expanding as you move through the world.” He smiled. “You’ll never be broken.”

I looked at him, in complete shock. Not a distant shock, but a warm glow of energy through my body. I’d never felt this way before.

“I think that’s all we needed to discuss!”, he said, wheeling the chalkboard out of the room. “And please remember to tell the doctor that I was able to help. I’m just a substitute teacher.” 

As I watched him wheel the chalkboard out of the room, he stopped, turned around, and smiled. “Oh, and just between you and me,” he said, “I’m a caterpillar too.” “Takes one to know one!” I said, smiling, “Have a good night tonight, and thanks for coming out this late.” “No where else I’d rather be,” he said. “Science is magic, and magic is real.”

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