His visitor cocked his head and regarded him in all seriousness. “Who am I? You might say I’m your temporary guardian.”
“My guardian? What’s going on here? I was taken to surgery. I remember going under…I think…Where am I?”
The little man stood up and began pacing back and forth with his hands behind his back.
“A cogent and relevant question to be sure. You’re in the hospital, that’s the short answer. What you might ask, were you so inclined, is where you will be in a few minutes.”
Robert shook his head from side to side. This must be some sort of dream state he was in while undergoing the surgery. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. This little man didn’t look the least bit real and the fact that the room had no door…well; it had to be a dream. He relaxed and decided to go with the flow.
“Well all right then, where will I be in a few minutes if not right here in this bed?”
The little man stopped pacing and grinned again. He approached the bed and put his gnarled hands on the rail. Robert cringed inside but maintained a placid appearance. He reminded himself he was dreaming.
The little man leaned forward in a stage whisper. “That’s entirely up to you at this point, though I must say the window is closing fast.”
Robert blinked and tried to figure out what his mind might be trying to tell him and then decided to take another tack.
“Okay, if it’s up to me then I choose a rapid recovery and a quick exit from this place.”
“Well now, that’s what I supposed you’d say but you see it’s not quite that easy.”
Robert shrugged and held his tongue. He was certain there was more to come.
The little man’s demeanour became serious and he went back to his place on the floor and sat down. “Are you happy Robert?”
“Happy? About what?”
“Robert, listen to me. The clock is ticking. The next thing you say might well decide your fate. I’ll ask you one more time, are you happy?”
Robert considered the matter and couldn’t escape the conclusion that this might not be a dream after all. He searched his memory again. He was certain he remembered being in the surgical theatre and feeling the anaesthetic taking him under. He looked at the little man again and somehow knew he needed to err on the side of caution.
“Before I answer I need to ask a question.”
The little man nodded.
“Am I currently in the surgical theatre?”
A sinking sensation in his stomach told Robert he needed to reconsider several things. Myriad questions arose but he fought them down. He needed to concentrate on the moment. He felt raw emotions overtake him and he knew all at once what the whole thing was about. It shook him to the core.
“No, I’m not happy.”
The little man grinned. “What do you suppose should be done about that Robert?”
He didn’t hesitate. “I need to do an honest assessment of myself and come to an understanding of why I always look on the dark side.”
The little man approached the bed again. “Will you do that Robert? Look me in the eye.”
Robert looked and spoke, his voice cracking with emotion. “I will.”
The little man faded from view, his grin the last thing to go, just like the Cheshire cat.
The surgeon rubbed the defibrillator paddles together. “Clear.”
He applied the paddles and Robert’s body jumped. The nurse looked at the monitor.
“We have a beat doctor. Pulse is sixty and rising.”
The doctor nodded and breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay, let’s close up and get this man to the recovery room.”