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Fruit of Labor
Blinking her eyes open, Sharmaine found herself in a lifeless, white-washed room. There were several empty beds lined up on either side of the one she was lolling upon. Suddenly, her muscles tensed up with a sense of anticipation. She shot upright to survey the expanse of the room through squinty eyes. It just appeared as a blur to her. However, when she settled back into the comfortable downy pillow, a splash of contrasting colors came into view. Blotches of yellow, green and purple revealed themselves from a corner of the room. It looked iridescent as Sharmaine stared hard to fathom what it was. Her curiosity was piqued so with hesitant steps she floundered towards the spot in question.
Sweet aromas wafted into her delicate nose and to her surprise, the sensuous fragrance was from a tiny basket of fruit on a table. A note dangled from the handle of the basket with the words ‘To: Sharmaine’ printed in bold letters on it. She figured that it was not strange for her to receive presents in the hospital however, the basket was peculiar. It was missing something. The passionate color of red was not there. Apples were not placed together with the bananas, grapes and unripe mangos. Sharmaine was always cautious of the signs that seem out of place to her. Intuition told her that she was being tested again and this time she was bound to be infallible.
Sharmaine rummaged through the cabinets for a flashlight and pondered the problem over. A flurry of ideas whizzed past her mind but only the most prominent one led her to the apple orchard situated at the back of the hospital. A thin strip of moon illuminated the orchard sufficiently that a flashlight was unnecessary. The malicious-looking branches of the apple trees seemed to grab at her, trying to pull her lithe body into its mangled interior. The marble foot path under her bare feet felt as cold as the dread Sharmaine experienced on the inside. Despite her tangible fear, she continued along the foot path with dogged efforts.
Sure enough, another clue was waiting for her. It was in a shape of a ping pong paddle. The play thing was perched precariously on the edge of the stone table. Sharmaine snatched it up in her excitement, examining it for any other vital indications. But there was nothing. It was just an ordinary, ping pong paddle. She tossed the useless thing aside and slammed her fists down onto the stone bench in her frustration. Her pale face was twisted into a grisly rage which echoed the disappointment she had in herself. Sharmaine knew she was naïve to think that the intelligence that she had lost in the car accident would speedily be recovered if she tried hard enough to gain it back. If only the wretched accident did not happen, she would have the key to this problem almost immediately.
Suddenly, Sharmaine’s glazed eyes lit up. She picked the paddle from amid the shrubbery gently and studied its shape. It resembled a key hole. The discovery rekindled the hope in her. Sharmaine continued her minute examination eagerly but found nothing else. Then, she thought of the way the paddle was placed on the stone bench. That should symbolize something.
The paddle fell to the marble floor with a clink as Sharmaine wound her way back to the entrance of the hospital. She run as fast as her legs could carry her to the top floor. The silhouettes of the huge double doors loomed over her but she had conquered the phobia of darkness already. The only thing on her mind was to find the door with the keyhole.
When Sharmaine eventually found it at the end of the corridor, the burning imminence of success gnawed at her insides. She placed her hand on door knob, ready to greet the benevolent Doctor Simone.
“You’re late.” She purred, tapping her watch.
“Well, I’m sorry!” Sharmaine replied with a snarl, staring defiantly into the doctor’s eyes.
“Such a pavlovian answer. What do you expect to gain from that rebellious attitude?”
Anger swept through Sharmaine’s body and surrounded her like a foul stench at the nonchalance of her doctor. She wanted to be congratulated on her improvement and not lectured on ethics.
Doctor Simone strolled over to a table stacked with volumes of books. She pulled a black notebook out of them and began reading numbers which snapped Sharmaine out of her reverie.
“ 20:00, 17:45, 19:56, 17:37, 19:00, 13:56, 15:23, 14:24, 10:09” Doctor Simone droned.
“What does all of those numbers mean?” Sharmaine asked reluctantly.
Doctor Simone shot her a sly smile, peeked at her watch and wrote on the black notebook. “These are the past timings of all the tests you did in the year you spent in the hospital. The most recent one was 14:05. Remember that our goal was to solve a problem in 9 minutes. That was the longest you initially took to decipher a conundrum before the accident…”
“I know, I know!” Sharmaine cried out in exasperation.
“You can do it.” Doctor Simone whispered, patting Sharmaine’s head affectionately. The sign of encouragement was enough to fill her with renewed confidence. She lifted her head to face her friend.
Next, in a blink of an eye, the cold Doctor Simone returned and she proclaimed with twinkling eyes, “Are you ready for your next challenge?”