Anna watched sleepily through her dark eyelashes as the nurses worked, wondering what they would find out. She was no longer afraid or nervous about it. Though she was aware that she wasn’t completely safe, she simply hoped that they would figure out what was wrong with her eyes and her skin. Music played in her head and she closed her eyes again, sinking into a dreamless sleep.
“Well, there’s not much we can do,” a voice made its way through Anna’s veil of sleep.
“What do you mean? We can hold her for 72 hours. Shh,” another voice said, and both were silent. Anna sighed deeply, half-tempted to open her eyes, but she really wanted to stay asleep. She felt like she was waking up in the middle of the night and definitely wasn’t prepared to function.
So she rolled over and went back to sleep as a door clicked shut.
Anna stretched as she woke, light streaming into a window to her left and illuminating unfamiliar surroundings. Her eyes shot open and she sat up, the sudden movement making her head ache as dizziness washed over her. She found herself in a sterile room with light green walls and sparse furniture. She lay in a hospital bed.
“Shit,” she muttered. Should’ve seen this one coming, she thought cynically. Note to self: don’t expect anyone to actually help you. If you think your problem is crazy, chances are the hospital will, too!
Anna let out a sigh and plopped backwards on the bed. She idly wondered if they locked the doors or not. It looked like a normal enough room. Maybe they didn’t lock patients in. She’d never been in a psychiatric ward before.
She got up and went to the door to see if it would open. Sure enough, it clicked open easily. She smiled.
Peeking out into the hall, Anna watched as a few people walked by her. Two of them were nurses, one blonde and another with dark hair. They both smiled at her. The others looked… off. One girl walked by with her head down, looking through a curtain of greasy blonde hair at the floor immediately in front of her. She didn’t seem to notice Anna.
Another girl walked by, no older than 22, and she muttered something about a little boy holding a rose over and over.
Anna stepped out into the hallway from her room, taking care to remember her room number: 513.
Turning toward the nurse’s station down the hall, she walked at a normal pace, taking in everything around her. Some of the room doors were left wide open, while others were cracked with curious, demented eyes staring out. Anna didn’t feel like she was in danger from the patients, though. She was more skeptical of the staff at that point.
“Excuse me,” she said as she arrived at the station. No one even looked up. There were two female nurses working busily behind the partition. Anna cleared her throat loudly.
“Excuse me,” she said more forcefully. That got their attention. The dark-skinned nurse walked over to where she stood and just looked at her with tired amber eyes, waiting for her to say something.
Anna offered a nervous half-smile. “I was wondering if I could speak to someone about why I’m here,” Anna said.
The nurse just looked at her at first until she realized that Anna really didn’t know why she was there.
“What’s your name?” the nurse asked in monotone from her seat.
“Alright,” the nurse said, clicking the computer mouse and reading the screen. “It says here that you potentially have a condition we need to monitor and you’ll be seeing a doctor tomorrow morning.” The nurse looked up at Anna, still expressionless.
“Tomorrow? I have to get home before then,” Anna said, starting to feel a familiar knot forming in her chest.
“I’m afraid we’re holding you for 72 hours to monitor your condition,” the nurse said mechanically.
Anna’s eyes grew wide as she realized how long 72 hours was. “What am I supposed to do about work? I have clients who depend on me,” she stated, a hint of panic in her voice. She racked her brain to remember whether she had an art lesson with Sophia or not.
The nurse looked at her wearily. “Your clients will just have to wait, Ms. Reynolds. That’s all I can tell you right now.” With that, she looked at the monitor and proceeded to ignore Anna, who turned around and stalked back to her room.
Once there, she wasn’t sure what to do with herself. She lay down on the bed and listened to the whirring of fluorescent lights, steady background noise accompanied by muffled scuffling, conversations, and the occasional yelling match beyond her door. Though she was feeling a little tired, she knew that sleeping during the day would only make her restless at night.
She was bored out of her mind within thirty minutes.
If people aren’t already crazy when they get here, they sure as hell will be after being here for a while, she joked with herself.
Her door opened with a click and one of the nurses poked her head in.
“Anna Reynolds?” she said. Anna nodded. “It’s time for group therapy. Follow me.” The nurse seemed friendly enough (unlike the snooty bitch at reception), so Anna got up from where she lay and followed the petite brunette woman in pastel pink scrubs down the hall to a larger room where a number of patients were gathered in a circle, all sitting in folding chairs. There was an empty chair for Anna and another empty chair for the doctor, who had chosen to stand. She immediately noticed the faint scent of too many people in one room, a stuffy blend of body odor and greasy hair. She tried not to make a face.
It was easy for Anna to distinguish who the doctor was as she saw the other patients. Some of them looked like they were just there to sleep, while others had strange looks in their eyes and scratched or picked at their skin or clothes. Most had messy hair, some short and some long, and they all wore very basic clothing. She wasn’t sure what to make of any of it, but then again she’d never been deemed potentially insane before. She slouched in her chair and sighed, waiting for the doctor to start talking.
He turned around and smiled as he looked at a room full of patients.
“Hello, everyone!” he said cheerfully.
“Hello, Dr. Mitchell,” the room replied. Anna slouched more, wishing she were invisible.
“Who do we have today that’s new?” the doctor asked. “Let’s see some hands.”
Anna halfheartedly raised her left hand, dreading what singling herself out might provoke. Was this like prison movies? Or was a psych ward another beast entirely?
“Alright, we’ve got one new face with us today. What’s your name, miss?” Anna lowered her hand.
“My name is Anna,” she replied softly. And I shouldn’t be here, her thoughts grumbled as if she were attending some deranged AA meeting.
“Welcome, Anna,” Dr. Mitchell said with a warm smile, flashing his straight, white teeth. “I hope you’ll participate with us today, but I won’t require you to until tomorrow. Sound fair?”
Anna nodded and let out a tiny sigh of relief, hoping that no one would bother her. The doctor pushed up his glasses and took a seat in his chair. He seemed pretty young, but Anna couldn’t tell for sure as he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees while clasping his hands loosely.
She zoned out for a while, staring out the window at a lone evergreen tree in the middle of a manicured lawn. They had made her put on hospital clothes, which she hated because the sleeves were too short to hide her wounds. She couldn’t believe that they just stuck her in here with no explanation.
“Anna?” the doctor said warmly. Anna jolted back to reality and gave him a deer-in-headlights look.
“Yes?” she said, looking around. Everyone was gone. Dr. Mitchell looked down at her and offered his hand to help her stand up. The sleeves of his pale blue button-up shirt were partially rolled up and she noticed that he wore a gold and black watch.
“I think you dozed off there,” he said with a slight laugh. “Are you okay?”
She took his warm hand and let him help her up, wondering how that had happened. Sudden lapses in consciousness? Maybe she was supposed to be here. She had a bewildered look on her face and realized it when the doctor stopped smiling.
“Anna... are you okay?” he asked again, concern veiling his usual cheerfulness.
“I—I don’t know,” she replied, cautiously opting for honesty. “I didn’t even know I fell asleep.” She looked down at her hands, picking at a hangnail. Dr. Mitchell put his hand on her shoulder and gently led her to a plain desk at the front of the room. There were two chairs there, one behind the desk and one facing it. He motioned for her to sit down.
“Have a seat for a few minutes, okay?” he said with concern in his voice. “I understand you were just admitted, not of your own volition?” Anna nodded. She observed his face and noticed how sincere his gentle brown eyes were. At first, she almost thought he was a little too chipper for working with crazy people.
“The front desk clerk,” Anna began, “she just looked at the guards and they grabbed me. All I needed was a lab or some kind of testing done so I could figure out what keeps coming out of my body.” The doctor furrowed his thick eyebrows and absently tugged at his goatee.
“What do you mean, coming out of your body? Can you describe that for me?”
Anna sighed. She didn’t know if she should be talking about this with anyone now, especially a doctor. He would just confirm that she was crazy. But she felt enough of a combination of trust and doubt that she decided to open up after several moments of pulling on her earlobe in deliberation.
“Alright,” she said. “But you’ll probably think I’m crazy, just like all these other people in here.” Dr. Mitchell chuckled.
“Honestly, I don’t think anyone in here is crazy,” he replied. Anna raised her eyebrows. He let out another short laugh. “I think that people deal with emotional hardships and trauma very differently. Those who deal with things too differently for others’ comfort are sent here because they make so-called normal people uneasy.” He air-quoted the word ‘normal’ and then crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. Anna was pleasantly surprised.
“But aren’t you... a doctor? I thought your job was to diagnose people.” He uncrossed his arms and sat forward again, resting his elbows on the desk and loosely clasping his hands.
“Well, yea,” he began. “But my job is also to help people, and no one’s helping anyone by calling them crazy or judging them.” He said this with a conviction that made Anna’s stomach flutter with hope. Could he be someone who might understand? Help, even?
Anna nodded her head slowly. “Okay,” she said, visibly relaxing. “I think I understand,” she added.
“Good,” he said, the beaming smile returning to his face. “Anna, why did they admit you?” he asked, genuine interest and curiosity in his brown eyes.
“My eyes were bothering me when I was walking home,” she began. “So when I got there, I went to the bathroom to see why my eyes were so irritated. I thought that maybe I had an eyelash in my eye or something. Pinkeye. Whatever.” She paused and took a breath, looking down for a moment. “When I looked in the mirror, my lower left eyelid was purple, like I hadn’t slept in a week. It was also tickling or twitching or something, so I leaned in to get a closer look.” She paused again and looked up at the doctor, who was studying her as she told her story. “There was a weird string-looking thing in the corner of my eye. It was blue. At that point my eye felt like it was on fire. Then I saw another string and it was red, next to the blue one.”
“What did you do?” Dr. Mitchell asked. He was somewhere between morbid curiosity and concern, but Anna wasn’t sure. She had told enough of the story for him to think she was a weirdo already, so she launched into the rest hurriedly.
“I tried to get it with my fingers and it didn’t want to move. So I got some tweezers and started pulling, which was agonizing. I splashed my eyes with cold water, braced myself, grabbed the weird string, and yanked as hard as I could.” Dr. Mitchell raised his eyebrows.
“It was painful?”
“Of course it was painful,” she replied. “I woke up some time later sprawled across the toilet. I was lucky I didn’t injure myself,” she realized out loud, nervously twirling her brown hair around her finger.
“That you were,” the doctor agreed. “And was that when you came here to see if someone would test the thing you pulled from your eye?” Anna nodded.
“Yep... and now look at me. In a psych ward talking to a shrink.” Dr. Mitchell touched her hand and she looked up.
“Where is it now?” he asked, lowering his voice. Anna furrowed her brows at him.
“What?” she whispered.
“The thing you pulled from your eye,” he replied. She narrowed her hazel eyes at him, wondering what he was getting at and why he was suddenly so hush-hush about it.
“Why?” she asked.
“Well... you’re here, in a building with a laboratory.” A sly smile tugged at one corner of his mouth.
“Are you suggesting—”
“Of course not,” the doctor cut her off. “But I do want to help you, and I’ve never seen this before,” he said. “If what you’re saying is true, then it’s my duty to find out what it is that’s causing this.” He gestured toward the blotchy, misshapen wounds on her arms.
“So you’ll help me?” she asked. Dr. Mitchell smiled.
“Yes, Anna. I’ll help you.”
“How?” she asked.
“Where was the last place you had the specimen?” he asked. He stood, so Anna stood, too.
“In a zippered baggie in my jeans pocket,” she said. He started toward the door.
“Alright. I don’t have anything going on up here for at least an hour,” he began, the animation in his voice betraying his calm exterior. “I’ll get it and take it down to the lab for testing.”
“What will you say it’s for?” Anna asked curiously.
“I’m not sure yet, but I have a friend in the lab. We’re going to figure out what this is.”
Anna smiled and thanked him as he walked out of the room. She stood there for a moment, unsure of what to make of the situation. On one hand she was glad that he was helping, but on the other hand... well, she didn’t know what was on the other hand, but it made her feel conflicted and she had no idea why.
She sighed and made her way back to her room, thinking about home and Casey. Anna didn’t even have her cell phone on her because they confiscated it when they admitted her.
When she got back to her room she crawled into bed despite it being the middle of the day, letting her eyelids close and focusing on the sound of the lights whirring overhead, trying to clear her mind and relax. She was just sliding into hypnagogia when a distant but familiar voice broke through the monotonous hum of the lights.
“You can’t keep her here!” Casey shouted.
“Ma’am, you can’t come in here without signing in,” a nurse said sternly.
“I don’t care! Did she check herself in? No? Well, then why is she here?”
Anna’s door opened and slammed almost immediately after that. She hadn’t even bothered to sit up on the bed as she opened her eyes. She knew that she was trapped for at least a few days.
“Anna!” Casey said, relieved. “You’re okay! I was so worried when you didn’t answer your phone, I thought something horrible happened!” Casey sat down on the edge of Anna’s bed and took one of her hands.
“Nothing terrible happened. It’s just something that’s been going on for a few months and I finally tried to get it checked out....” She hesitated at Casey’s puzzled expression and knew she’d have to tell her about her mystery condition.
As Anna told her best friend what had happened leading up to her admission, Casey’s green eyes widened.
“Can they even legally do that?” she asked in disbelief.
“I didn’t think so, but apparently they can.”
“Well, are they at least doing something to help you?” she asked. Anna sat up and put her index finger to her lips.
“One of the doctors took the sample down to the lab to be tested,” Anna told her quietly. “I don’t think anyone knows and I know he didn’t get permission, so don’t say anything.” Casey had a weird smile on her face.
“You’ve been here for a day and already have a doctor flirting with you?” she teased. Anna blushed.
“Of course not! I fell asleep in group therapy this morning and he woke me up. He seemed really concerned so I told him what happened.” Casey smiled.
“Whatever you say,” she said. “But I bet he’s hot,” she added. Anna hadn’t even thought about it.
“You know,” she considered, “he’s attractive in a very proper kind of way. But I wouldn’t call him hot, he’s more... handsome. Like a prince with a goatee,” Anna added with a wink, and they both giggled.
Casey stayed for an hour and they talked. Anna had already told the staff that she hadn’t signed herself in so she wasn’t paying for anything. She’d also mentioned that they should be grateful if she didn’t sue the hospital for the stunt they pulled to admit her. Anna honestly wasn’t sure if they could even keep her legally, but she let it go. There was no use arguing with people who thought she was crazy.
Anna’s mind drifted as she tried to fall asleep that night. She was acutely aware of crawling sensations and various open sores. She felt itchy all over. Between that and her brain refusing to shut up, she wasn’t sure how long she’d be awake.
She must’ve laid there for a good hour before she got up and started pacing. She wondered if they would give her some sleeping pills so she could just pass out. Her forearms itched and she rubbed them delicately, careful not to catch any of her open wounds with her fingernails.
As she ran her hand down her arm gently, her fingers caught on something. There was a new clump of fibers protruding, and it felt like there was some kind of lump underneath her skin.
“Great,” she mumbled. Looking at her arm in the dim light coming from the window, she started pulling gently at the fibers, hoping to pull at least some of the mess out of her arm. They were still pretty stuck. She would have to wait until her body pushed them out more.
She sighed as she sat down on the bed, a weird feeling of being watched washing over her. The room was dark, so she couldn’t be sure of anything. Shadows always played weird tricks on her, especially after she started seeing moving ones, and she had asked herself a million times if she was perceiving them more often simply because she thought she’d seen them before. It was a vicious cycle.
Unsure of what else to do, she lay back on her bed and closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing. The feeling of being watched grew stronger as she tried to relax, and a knot began to form in her stomach. The bridge of her nose tickled the way it does when someone is really close but not quite touching it.
She opened her eyes quickly and saw a black shadowy silhouette floating inches above her face. Her eyes widened and she stayed quiet, but fear gripped her with its icy fingers and she felt paralyzed as her breathing became shallow. The shadow above her looked like a face, but not entirely human. Its eyes glowed a dim red and it was staring directly into her eyes. She couldn’t make out any distinct facial features, so she focused on her breathing... and not having a heart attack.
After what seemed like an eternity of being unable to move, Anna squeezed her eyes shut and mumbled, “You’re not real, you’re not real, you’re not real....”
She opened her eyes and there was nothing there.
Anna woke up in a daze, feeling groggy. As she forced her eyes open, she could make out Dr. Mitchell looking at her with a soft expression as he sat next to her bed.
“How are you feeling, Anna?” he asked. She groaned and tried to sit up, but ended up laying back down. “I feel weak. What did they give me?” she asked.
“Just a mild sedative,” he answered. “Don’t worry; you’ll be back to normal in no time. You were very distraught last night.” The doctor smiled at her gently as she felt her eyelids getting too heavy to keep open.
“This is remarkable, though,” a voice broke through the darkness of Anna’s slumber.
“How is it remarkable? It’s just one more nut case trying to get attention.” The second voice sounded irritated and stressed out.
“That’s why I feel like we need to run more tests,” the first voice said. “There cannot be thousands of unrelated cases involving people who simply go crazy and then end up with the same exact symptoms.”
“Why not? People go nuts all the time,” the second voice retorted.
“But normally a mass hallucination or disorder is linked somehow... location, another disorder, a disease that would show up during testing... something. None of these cases have been related and they’re all so similar.”
Anna stirred and opened her eyes, ready to find out what both of these doctors had to tell her.
“So, what’s wrong with me?” she asked them sleepily, propping herself up on her elbows in her disheveled hospital bed.
They both sighed and walked over to her bedside, so she sat up. She stretched and let out a big yawn as they prepared their respective spiels about her condition.
“Well,” the skeptic began, “we’ve only seen about fifty thousand cases with these sets of symptoms show up nationally since 2002,” he stated. “That means whatever you have is rare.”
“It’s also mysterious,” the enthusiastic doctor said. “No one is sure yet what’s causing this or where it comes from, so there’s a lot of speculation. People are calling it Morgellons disease.” I was right, she thought.
“The good news,” added the first doctor, “is that there’s nothing physically wrong with you that we can tell right now. What kind of symptoms are you having besides the sores?”
Anna was quiet for a moment. “Well,” she began, nervous about sharing too much, “I’ve been feeling like my skin is crawling... and have had an increase in anxiety over the past few weeks especially,” she told the doctors. “Other than that, my muscles feel a little tired but I attribute that to not being 21 anymore.” She smiled, opting not to tell them about the ominous shadows and nightmares.
“Have you been scratching your skin?”
Anna shook her head no.
“Alright, Anna,” the first doctor’s blue eyes softened. “My name is Dr. Rogers, and this is Dr. Peterson,” he said, and Anna shook hands with both of them.
“Let me ask you this,” he went on. “When the sores begin to form, how does that feel?”
Anna frowned. “Like something is trying to break through my skin really slowly,” she stated. The doctors exchanged a look.
“Alright, Anna,” Dr. Rogers said. “Here’s what we know and what your options are at this point.” Anna leaned back and listened. “Morgellons isn’t fatal, so you don’t have to worry about this disease killing you. The most common symptoms are the crawling skin feeling, open sores, and colored fibers that appear inside the sores and eventually come out. Other symptoms are short-term memory loss, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.” Anna’s eyes widened. That definitely sounded crazy when someone said it out loud.
“But what causes it?” she asked.
“That’s where everyone is having trouble. The people this is affecting are otherwise completely healthy people, save for some history and inclination toward mental illness and-or addiction. Because some Morgellons patients have a history of mental illness, I don’t find it surprising that the issue is so controversial.” Dr. Rogers was calm and professional as he spoke.
“Okay,” she replied. “So what are my options?” she added.
“You can do one of two things,” the doctor said. “You can stay here for more testing just to make sure, or you can go home and get an occasional checkup because we’ve already tested others and found absolutely nothing out of the ordinary except for their symptoms. The most common misdiagnosis is delusional parasitosis, which is why you were detained in the psych ward for testing.”
Anna lowered her head and stared at her hands for a moment. After a considerable pause, she said, “Okay. I’ll go home and get checked periodically.”
“Alright. I’ll draw up the paperwork.” Dr. Rogers walked away, but Dr. Peterson hesitated in the doorway. He walked back to Anna’s bed and asked to sit with her for a moment. She just nodded and gestured for him to have a seat.
“Anna, this a disorder that I’ve got an extremely active... personal interest in,” he confided. “Because it’s such a mystery and no one can explain it, I’m hoping to make progress on what causes this and how we can cure it.”
“What are you saying?” Anna asked, intently focused on his face. He was an incredibly attractive man, which made it more difficult for her to concentrate on his actual words.
“I’d like you to consider staying for a few days,” he said. “I could be the doctor who treats you; I’ve been researching and studying this disease since it first caught my attention in 2004 and would like to explore all of the options I can.”
“Um... okay,” Anna replied. “What about missing work and my financial situation? I mean, I can’t afford to be here long-term, both because of time and money.”
“You’re right, that could be an issue.” He paused, thinking. “I could treat you at your house if you wouldn’t mind… come by after work free of charge. Would you be okay with that?”
Anna’s eyes grew wide and she smiled. “Really?” she asked.
“Sure,” Dr. Peterson said. “I’m taking a personal interest in this disease, so it would only be fair.”
“Okay,” she replied. “And I won’t be charged for anything?”
The doctor shook his head. “Nope,” he stated with a smile. “I would just come by to check on you a couple of times a week, draw blood or take samples for further testing, and we’ll try to figure out what’s really going on.”
Just then, Dr. Rogers returned with Anna’s discharge papers.
“All set?” he asked. Anna nodded and took the small stack of paperwork to fill out.
“It’s good to be home,” Anna mumbled with a relieved sigh and a smile. Her paranoia had subsided almost completely and the doctor had written her a prescription for the itching, the pain, and a topical ointment to help the sores heal... at least they hoped that would happen.
Anna was grateful that she’d stumbled upon a doctor who would explore this instead of just telling her she was crazy. She’d almost started feeling crazy when they detained her at the hospital.
As soon as she entered her house, she went for her laptop in the living room.
Morgellons, she typed into the search bar quickly, hoping to get more information from the internet this time. The results loaded and she began browsing through various websites and support groups, looking for anything that might indicate what was happening to her and where this disorder came from.
There were many mentions of delusional parasitosis, a psychological affliction that causes people to think they have bugs underneath their skin. An overwhelming number of people had been turned away by doctors who stated that their symptoms were psychosomatic.
Anna searched and read for a while before realizing how tired she was. She let out a yawn and looked at one of the sores on her forearm. It still looked moist and one of the fibers was protruding from it. Unsure of whether it would hurt or not, she started to pull at it.
The tiny string loosened a little. It was dark blue and extremely small, difficult to grasp between her fingers. She got up to find some tweezers, but stopped short when the doorbell rang.
She spun around and went to answer the door, pleasantly surprised to see Dr. Peterson standing there.
“Well hello, Doctor!” she exclaimed with a smile. He nodded his head politely.
“Good evening, Anna,” he said, returning a warm smile.
“What can I do for you?” Anna asked, motioning for him to come in. “I wasn’t expecting you for at least a couple of days.”
“Well,” he began, “I was in the neighborhood and wanted to stop by to make sure you’re settling in back home alright. I also wanted to see if you’ve found any more fibers in your wounds yet, since they probably didn’t care about collecting specimens for testing in the psych ward.”
She couldn’t help but chuckle.
“It just struck me how ridiculous everything that just came out of your mouth sounded,” she laughed. “I’m sorry,” she said, becoming more serious again. “As a matter of fact, I was just noticing some new fibers.” She pulled up her sleeve to show the doctor how her wounds were doing.
“Do you mind if we get into some better light?” he asked. “I’d like to take a closer look.”
Anna led him into the kitchen where she sat down and rested her arm on the table. She watched with curiosity as he examined her wounds, surprised that it didn’t hurt as he carefully pulled and pushed on her skin. There was just more itching, and she couldn’t decide whether she felt pain or annoyance.
“Do you mind if I try to take some of this out as a sample?” Dr. Peterson asked with a quick glance at Anna’s face. She nodded.
“Go ahead,” she said, intrigued to see what he might find and what the whole fiber would look like under a microscope. Would he let her see?
Dr. Peterson smiled as he opened his bag and pulled out a case, unzipping it to reveal a number of small medical instruments.
After washing his hands at the kitchen sink, he snapped on a pair of rubber gloves and examined her further.
Curious but wanting to keep her mind off of blood and disease, she studied the doctor’s face as he pored over her skin abnormalities intently. He was quite handsome, with dark brown hair and blue eyes. He had a compassionate face and full lips that revealed straight, white teeth when he smiled, one dimple magically appearing on his left cheek. She guessed that he was in his early forties.
“What’s that?” she asked him suddenly, gesturing toward the supply kit with her head.
“That’s for emergencies when a hospital isn’t nearby,” he replied. His voice was even and balanced, almost monotone as he spoke to her. He’s cute when he’s concentrating, she thought. Anna found it interesting that, no matter what you do best, you can still do it with some distractions around you. Apparently it was no different for a doctor.
“Do all doctors have these?” she asked.
“We’re all supposed to....” he trailed off.
Pausing for a few moments, he seemed especially intent on what he was doing. She was so enamored with watching him that she didn’t feel a thing as he pulled out the fiber.
“Here we are,” he said softly, holding up forceps grasping a long, dark blue fiber. Anna smiled.
Working quickly with dexterous fingers, Dr. Peterson placed the fiber into a vial carefully before snapping on a lid.
“And there we have it,” the doctor said. “Other than that, have you noticed anything else? Anything strange, maybe?” he questioned, taking off his gloves and throwing them into her kitchen trash can.
“Stranger than strings coming out of my body?” she asked. “No, not really. I mean, I’ve felt a little under the weather, but I figured that was just stress or a cold or something.”
“Okay. I’m going to ask you about some specific symptoms,” he began, scooting his chair a little closer to her and taking one of her hands in each of his.
Anna was acutely aware of his touch. She briefly wondered if that was acceptable for a doctor to do, but she dismissed it because she was enjoying it. Her worry still managed to break into her thoughts, though. I don’t need any more bad news, she thought as her face visibly fell into a less cheerful expression.
“Have you felt overly tired or exhausted?” he asked. She nodded. “Okay. What about your ability to sleep?”
Anna maintained her expression. How would he know about that? she wondered. “It’s okay… a little insomnia from time to time, but okay.” She found herself questioning his motives a little.
Dr. Peterson smiled sympathetically. “Is that everything?” he asked. “I know it’s a weird th8ing to focus on, but there was a previous individual who had intense waking nightmares, so I’d like to be aware of that if it happens in your case.” He was still smiling, although there was a sorrowful quality to it. Their eyes met for a moment before they both looked away and cleared their throats.
Suddenly feeling awkward, Dr. Peterson stood up and began packing his medical bag.
“How’s your ability to focus?” he asked, neatly placing his supplies back into the bag. He ventured another glance at her and she smiled.
“My focus is fine,” she replied. “I’ll let you know if that changes, though.”
“Good,” Dr. Peterson stated, returning her smile. “On that note,” he stood, extending his hand to Anna, “I’d better get going. I’ll give you a call next time I plan to drop by so I don’t startle you,” he added with a chuckle.
“No problem, Doctor,” she said, shaking his hand. “I look forward to hearing what you discover about this illness.”
She accompanied him to the front door.
“Please,” he said as he stood in the doorway about to leave, “call me Andrew.”
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