]

 

 

The Other World

John Robert Schuller


The sun was bright in the yellow twilight, catching a few rays as the dust kicks up from the road. Marshall blinks slowly trying to clear the clouds from his vision. All he sees is the dirt the road staring nose to nose back at him. His only sensation is the dirt bike pinning him and Michael behind him down against the dirt. Vince is running down the dirt road towards the two of them in a panicked waltz. His camera bag over his shoulder swings from side to side as he moves, giving a rhythm to his dance. Marshall starts to yell.


“Fuck fuck, god damn it.”


Vince is coming towards the pair under the bike with the driver of his scooter, Pete, not far behind. Marshall unclips his helmet and throws the bike off of the two of them. Michael rolls over from his spot and stands up, only reaching his full height for a second before losing his balance. Vince picks up his pace meeting Michael as he stumbles.


“Mika, you’re fine, just lay down for a second. Let me check out your cuts.”


While Michael is getting examined, Marshall turns to his rented dirt bike. What was once shiny and new looks broken and badly beaten. The handle bars are crocked and the left panels broken to shreds from the rocks. Marshall continues his verbal assault on all around.


“God damn it man, why did you stop so fuckin’ quick Pete?” “I didn’t think I did, we missed our turn...I...”
Michael is lying back on the road with his knees up in the air and his hand over his face blocking the sun. Vince stands up from his position next to Michael and walks towards Marshall, carrying his first aid kit and water bottle.


“Marshall, look at your leg...”


Marshall looks down and tugs at the holes in his shirt from the crash.


“I never should have brought this shirt with.”


“Marshall...”


The lines on Vince’s face start to dig in and a frown breaks through as he continues to walk towards Marshall.


“It’s fine. Michael...I’m sorry I didn’t mean to...fuck!”


Marshall starts to walk in circles examining the scene. Pete is standing beside the broken dirt bike staring at Marshall as he walks. Michael is still laid back on the ground still in his gynecologist office pose. The ground beside him is surrounded with parts of the bike thrown about. Vince, Vince surprises Marshall when he grabs his arm.


“Marshall, look!”


He looks down at his knee and instantly his head is put into a spin. Marshall’s leg from knee down is dripping in crimson, with tracks of blood oozing like open veins down his shin. His left knee itself is torn apart and looks like ground beef rather than human flesh.


“Gan!”


Marshall starts to feel his heart beating against his ribs and he can’t help but stare wide eyed at the wound. Vince crouches down to get a closer look at the injury, examining the wound in utter detail.


“We need to wash your knee off, sit down.”


Marshall crouches down, grunting as the pain from his knee shoots up his thigh. Locals are stopping now along the road to look at these westerners strewn about the road. They seem to just stop and look at them from afar, gaping at the accident, not offering any aid to the visitors. Vince pours the water over Marshall’s knee and he bites down.


“I’m sorry, but it has to be cleaned. Pete, grab my shirt out of my bag.”


A dirt bike stops right in front of the makeshift wound cleaning. A man is driving the bike with a woman on the back. The man speaks first.


“Is everyone ok?”


The man turns out to be French, asking his question while his eyes shift around the scene, confusion on his face. His eyes examine the blood and water over the ground around the pair, his eyes start to soften. The woman on the back, however, seems to be leaning closer to vomiting than helping. Vince starts pulling out his native tongue with the couple to break the tension.


“êtes-vous François?”


Marshall looks off into the distant landscape for a moment not trying to figure out what they are saying. He fails to concentrate long enough to even pull a French word out. His eyes start to wander towards the bike the couple is on, noticing the HD camera on the front of it.


“Dude! Is that a Go-Pro?”


The Frenchman looks back at the camera, pausing for a moment before looking back to Marshall wide eyed on the ground.
______________________________________________________________________________


Yellow light coming from the ceiling fan creates shadows with each rhythmic pass of the blades over the bulbs. The shadows gave a dark pulse to the room sweeping around in circles. Only half of the room is well lit. Marshall lays back on a doctor’s table that had seen its better days, having the luck to be on the side of the room in the shade. The room is the size of a regular doctor’s room in the west, but is far from it in every other way. There is only one real interior wall that is covered floor to the ceiling with medical supplies in bulging drawers. No rhyme or reason to the organization, yet everything is where it needs to be. The only other interior wall has bare studs, the kind you see in houses as they are being built, acting as a window to the stairs on the other side. The other two walls have windows, attracting the sound of the ocean into the room.


The doctor has a spot light directed to onto Marshall’s knee, examining the wound for what it is. Marshall feels the heat from the lamp against his exposed skin, burning as he stares up at the fan blades sweeping around the room. The doctor pulls latex gloves over his dark hands and places a mask over his face, allowing just his dark eyes and black hair exposed.


The doctor leans over to gently touch Marshall’s skin, breaking the silence of the fan blades as he talks.
“I am going to have to cut all of that skin away.”


Marshall sits back up in a start, looking down at his knee.


“No, no, no. I can’t.”


Marshall’s heart starts to beat loudly out of his chest. The doctor gingerly moves his hands off Marshall’s knee to point out the injury, speaking calmly.


“You see that gray skin covering your knee? It is all dead from scraping against the road. If I don’t cut it away it will get infected rather quickly.”


Boom, boom. His heart pounds with every pass of the fan blades.


“Can it wait until I’m back in Taipei?”


Boom! His voice cracks a bit as he talks.


“No. The closest hospital is 60 kilometers away, which at this time of night you won’t find a van to take you, it is a gamble too with your knee the way it is.”


Boom-boom, the shadow of the fan blade spins around bringing the only noise to the room for a moment.
The doctor breaks the silence again, pulling his mask down past his nose to reveal his wrinkled face.


“Either I cut or you take a chance with a rather bad infection.” Marshall’s heart skips along, slowing down for a moment as he takes a breath.

 

“Let’s go.”


The doctor says an order to the nurse in his native tongue while putting his mask back over his face. He leans over to Marshall, placing his hand on his shoulder to ease him back against the table.


“I need you to make sure you keep your leg still and lay flat on your back. I can give you something to make it numb, but you will still feel it. You’re going to have to ignore it best you can.”


The rhythm of the fan creates shadows to distract Marshall the doctor takes the scalpel to his knee, slowly tearing away parts of flesh one thin slice at a time. His mask over his face only adds to the determination in his eyes, keeping his hand still with each methodical pass.


"Doc are you a surgeon?"


"I'm retired now, I was a gynecologist before."


Marshall can’t help but laugh, twitching for a moment as the doctor hits a spot on his knee, shooting pain to his hip. The scalpel feels cold and sharp as it tears into the skin, being more brute force at times than the precision cutting tool it is. But with the right hand, the wrong tool can have elegance through its instruction.


"Were you a good doctor?"


"I finished at the top of my class."


The doctor directs Marshall to a certificate on the wall, University of Manila, summa cum lade. The doctor mumbles to the nurse in tagalong. She then pours a solution over Marshall’s knee causing him to wince as the cascade falls to his wound.


“Please keep still, I know it’s hard but I don’t want to slip.”


Marshall turns his head to the right, focusing on a desk in front of the wall with studs. Pausing for a moment he looks up through the wall to see what the doctor’s family in the living room watching a large flat television. The language is foreign the images are the royal wedding sliding through the screen. For a moment Marshall is distracted from the doctor scraping and pulling at his skin, as if trying to trying to brush all of the knots out, like a child does with her hair.


"You like bourbon? You're really fixing me up doc, give me your address I'll ship you some from the states."


"Yes, yes, that would be nice."


The doctor speaks in an ambiguous tone, as if he has heard similar broken promises from westerners before. The doctor cleans off the wound again with some water and has the nurse help him wrap the knee up. The doctor leaves the nurse finish up as he walks over to the desk. He slowly takes his gloves and mask off, to wash his hands and face off. The nurse finishes her part, never breaking her hard stare. The doctor directs Marshall to a seat next to the desk he is now sitting behind. Marshall hobbles over to the doctor, wincing each time his left foot hits the ground, barely able to walk. He needs to use his arms to lower myself down onto the seat, an act that leaves him feeling foreign.


“You need to take these antibiotics three times a day. Be sure to stay out of the sun and don’t open the bandage up until you get back. The less you walk the better, and keep your knee straight. I’m giving you something for the pain too, but try not to take it because it will thin your blood more.”


The doctor hands over the medication in a little white paper bag. The medication is in the normal tin and plastic packaging as if it was taken out of the box packaging, but is devoid of any information or label.


“Do you have insurance?”


“Ah, yes. I have blue cross.”


The doctor opens the top drawer of his desk to pull out a pad of paper and starts writing. His hand writing is neat as his pen flows through the paper in circles and bubbles.


“I’m going to write you a note with a description of the cost and what I did. I’m putting it down as a fall because insurance companies won’t pay for it if they know it is a motorbike accident.”


“Thanks, I appreciate that.”


He turns back to the paper and writes down a few more sentences before ripping the paper off of the pad. The yellow copy on the back he keeps for himself and hands over the top one to Marshall.


"That will be 4,000 pesos." Marshall flips through his wallet, handing the doctor the rest of the money he has.


“Vince, can you help me out, I’m out of cash. I can pay you back when we get home.”


“It’s no problem.”


Vince hands over the rest of the money needed and as Marshall lifts himself out of the chair, attempting to walk out of the room. Michael starts to walk into the office, his turn with the good doctor.


"Salamat doc, salamat."


Marshall walks out of the house to a bench between the house and the water, waves hug and retreat from the rocks. A Great Dane is licking a little boy’s face. Marshall watches feeling numb, lost in the moment.

Euphemism Campus Box 5555 Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790