“Uggghhh… unnnhhh… aggghhh…” the noises that came out of his mouth had been words in his head. His tongue felt fat the way it always had after he’d come home from the dentist. Anxious nerves were eating his insides and his head pounded as his blood pressure increased. The beeping from the monitor next to him was firing as rapidly as an assault rifle, and as his vision cleared his eyes were greeted with metal, everywhere. Still unable to move any part of his body he figured he must be in some sort of makeshift hospital.
“Whoa! Whoa! You okay there little fella?” A man’s voice echoed through the stale air of the dastardly looking medical facility. The beeping increased.
“Easy kid, I’m not gonna hurt you,” a man with a scarred face appeared above him. Jack-o stared into his eyes and a strange feeling washed over him as if he knew the man and had for a long, long time. The heart monitor slowed and the man smiled as he dabbed a warm cloth across Jack-o’s frightened forehead. “See, not so bad huh?” His voice was kind and there was an aged wisdom in it that made you think he probably had the answer to life itself.
They sat like that in silence for a bit, examining each other the way animals always do when they first meet. Finally, Jack-o’s heart monitor reached a normal rhythm and the man put the small bowl of warm water and cloth aside.
“Unnnkkk… Aooouuu…” he tried to push the words between his lips and fat tongue with all his might, but still it was no use.
“Shhh,” said the man. “You don’t need to waste your energy on talking now,” he chuckled warmly. “Look, kid, I don’t know who you are or how it is you got on my ship, but we can figure all that out when you move something more than your eyelids again. I’ll be checking on you, if it’s an emergency try to make some noise. For now I gotta get back up front before we end up part of a black hole.” He dabbed Jack-o’s forehead with the cloth soothingly one more time before getting up and heading out of the room. The boy’s mind raced, black hole? Ship? What had happened after he passed out in his house? And what about the man in the red cloak?
“Oh yeah, and once you can talk again you can call me Rona,” echoed the man’s voice off the metal interior. Jack-o choked when he heard the name and the cough that followed hurt his body.
“There’s no way,” the boy told himself. “It has to be a coincidence.” But in his heart, he didn’t know how it could be. Rona wasn’t a common name, and the only place he’d ever heard it before was one of his favorite choose-your-own-adventure-books. Captain Rona Ehti was the name of the legendary hero in Saving Esrevinu.