Eternal Quest – Excerpt #2 (preview)

“Not much, really,” she continued, taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly. “All of his bodily functions are fine. Despite his physical appearance and obvious dehydration, they can’t find anything wrong with him. His vital signs are normal, and his mental activity as evidenced by the EEGs they’ve run seems, if anything, abnormally high.”
“Wait a minute,” Phil again interrupted, “How can he be in a coma and have high levels of brain activity? And why the hell is he in this state of near starvation? God, he looks like he hasn’t eaten in weeks.” Phil’s voice rose in keeping with his growing frustration and anger. “What kind of hick quacks are examining him? How can they . . .”
“Calm down, Phil,” Chrissie interrupted in a soothing, gently admonishing tone, fighting her own weariness while struggling to remain in control of her emotions. “He’s in good hands here, and they’ve already called in two specialists neurosurgeons, I think from New York City. They should be here later on tonight. Since last night, they’ve run all sorts of tests on him to try to determine what’s wrong. So far they’ve come up empty, but we’ve got to be patient; they’re doing everything they can for him with very little to go on. “
“But they must have some idea of what might be wrong with him, at least,” he pressed, still angry, but a bit calmer.
“No they don’t. They simply have never seen a case like this. He will not respond to stimuli, and his body will not even carry out its autonomic functions unassisted; he will not breathe without the respirator, his pupils will not dilate, and even his kidneys have shut down, yet his brain appears to be hyperactive and they can find no physiological reason for his condition.”
“How did they find him,” Phil asked. “And why wasn’t he dead if he needs a respirator and a dialysis machine to live?”
“I found him, Phil,” she replied, looking back at the figure in bed, then continuing with some difficulty in a strained voice. “It’s strange, really. I hadn’t seen him in years, not since . . .”
“I know, Chrissie,” Phil interrupted, the harshness and anger gone as quickly as they had arisen, displaced by a growing tenderness. He gently placed his hands on the woman’s shoulders, and helped her sit down on a chair by Tom’s bed, pulling a chair for himself from several feet away while continuing to speak in a softer tone. “Next to you, I’m the closest friend Tom had, and I hadn’t seen him in at least five years. He was too busy with his work to socialize. Nothing personal, of course he just had no time for friendship or other distractions,” he trailed off, a touch of bitterness returning to his voice. Then, softly brushing a tuft of hair from Christine’s eyes, he added, “I’m just surprised you stuck around so long.”
Chrissie’s eyes narrowed for an instant, but she held Phil’s gaze and quickly replied in even, restrained tones, “He was the gentlest, kindest friend that you or I have ever had. There was nothing in this world he would not do for us, or for any of his many friends. Have you forgotten the time of your motorcycle accident, how he stayed by your side for ten days while you were near death? They wouldn’t let your father stay, but he alternately pleaded with and threatened first the head nurse, then the doctors and finally the hospital administrator until they let him stay. He slept by your side, strung out over two wooden chairs until they discharged you, and watched over you every minute he could stay awake like an overzealous bodyguard. And that was by no means the first time he’d proven his friendship to you.”
“I know, I know” Phil replied, mollified and somewhat embarrassed. “I guess I just resent his having cast us aside. It’s not easy being told that you’re a distraction. I’m sorry, Chrissie. Please go on. How did you find him?”
“I was driving home from work when I got an urge to see him. I can’t explain it; you know I’m not impulsive. I simply knew that he needed me. It’s as if he had called out to me, drawn me to him. I had thought of him often, but had never felt that way before. I was several miles from his house, down by I88, but I got there very quickly. When I arrived, he wouldn’t answer the door. I knew he had to be in; you know he was a virtual shut-in—he even had his groceries delivered and his dirty laundry picked up by a service. But more importantly, I felt that he was there. When he did not answer the doorbell, I did not ring again. I found his spare key in its usual hidey-hole by the front door and let myself in. I called out to him again, but there was no answer. I could see his study light was on and made my way to the study quickly. He was slumped over his desk, his face on an open book. I touched him; he was warm, but I could not see him breathe, and could not feel his pulse. I dragged him to the floor, laid him on his back and began administering CPR. I couldn’t yell for help, since his nearest neighbor lives about a quarter mile away, but I managed to call for help on my cell phone and continued CPR until an ambulance arrived about 25 minutes later. I rode here with him and called you, leaving you voicemail messages at home, work, and on your cell.”
“Did you see anything while you were there that might explain his condition?”

[End of Preview #2 – excerpted from Eternal Quest (C) 1978, 2011 Victor D. Lopez]

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