STARTING ANEW

Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future
Starting Anew

(Authors note: Not connected to any other Max Headroom stories I've written in the past. Also, this story contains disturbing content related to automobile accidents.)

-Chapter One: Self-Blame, Regret, and a Sensible Nurse-

While Bryce slept, Edison sat in a stiff-backed chair beside his hospital bed. His heart ached with guilt and contrition.

"We have a more comfortable chair," a nurse offered as she unwrapped a disposable thermometer patch and placed it on the sleeping boy's forehead. While it was working, she took a kit of bandages and began to change the dressings on the stumps of Bryce's limbs.

"Why should I be comfortable?" Edison asked her. "He isn't. Yes, he's on painkillers right now so he's not feeling it too badly. But he can't stay on them forever. And that physical therapy is going to be a long and painful experience."

"There's nothing you could've done," the nurse told Edison as the thermometer let out a soft tone to let her know it was ready to be read. Ignoring this for the moment, she worked on bandaging up the stump of Bryce's upper arm while the unfortunate youth slept.

Edison looked sadly at the place where an arm should've been. "No. There is something I could've done. I could've not pressured him into go with us to that Scumball game. He said he didn't want to. I made him go. Don't you get it? This is entirely my fault."

"So you don't think that at least some of the blame might fall upon the shoulders of the driver who was behind the wheel even though they were exhausted at the time." She finished rewrapping the limb she was dealing with and checked the thermometer strip. "Ninety nine," she said. "Within normal range."

"Edison," Theora suggested, "you need to eat. Let's get some breakfast in the cafeteria while the nurse finishes up here."

"Might as well," Edison decided, morosely. "I'm probably the last person Bryce will want to see when he wakes up anyhow. I wouldn't blame him if he never wanted to see me again."

"He doesn't really blame you," Theora told him.

"You heard him, Theora. Before they sedated him he said himself that this was my fault."

"He's upset and scared and angry right now," Theora told him.

"She's right," the nurse said as she worked on the last set of bandages. "While all this is going on, your young friend is going to experiencing a lot of pain and negative emotions. He's going to be angry, confused. He'll say things he doesn't really mean. I deal with a lot of lost-limb and amputee cases. Most of the ones I've worked with have had a kind of stage-fright. They feel like the whole world is looking at the scar where the limb was reattached, even if it's covered. It's worse if they're left only with a stump or an obvious prosthesis."

"You mean paranoia?" Edison asked.

"No. They don't feel the staring is directed at them on a personal level," the nurse told them. "Quite the opposite. They feel depersonalized. Like people are focusing on the stump rather than on the person."

"So then I should probably..." Edison began.

The doctor shook her head as she returned to the room with a clip chart in her hand.

"You don't want to overcompensate to make him feel better," she said. "It'll only make him think you're babying him. The best thing to do is to just continue being his friend. Don't walk away for the sake of your feelings of guilt about what's happened. He'll just misinterpret that as rejection." She turned to the nurse.

"I just changed the bandages," the nurse told her. "No sign of infection. Temperature slightly elevated but still under a hundred degrees."

"Excellent," the doctor smiled. "I just came back to tell you the prosthetic leg just arrived and the biological replacements are also ready. So we'll be bringing him in for surgery within the next hour."

"I was just going to take Edison to the cafeteria," Theora told her.

"Very good idea, Miss Jones," the doctor agreed, peering at Edison's midriff. "I think I can see a few ribs too many. You need to stop mourning the living and get some food in you." She turned to Theora. "Get this man some food, then take him home and make him go to sleep. I don't want him to be the cause of somebody else going through what your friend is now dealing with."

"Bryce.." Edison said.

"Bryce will be in surgery by the time you've finished eating," the doctor informed him. "We'll keep you posted on his condition and I promise you we'll let you know when it's over."

"Thank you," Theora said, as she led Edison out of the room and down the hall to the lift.

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