Bob Bennett woke up on a hospital bed in complete confusion. His hair was grey and his pale white skin was aged with wrinkles. As he became more conscious, he realized that his right hand was replaced with a mind activated mechanical hand.
"Nurse!" screamed Bob at the top of his lungs.
A middle aged black woman dressed in white uniform scrubs rushed into the room.
"Relax Mr. Bennett, long stay coma patients must not stress during recovery time,"said the nurse in a gentle manner.
Bob jumped off the bed frantically. He paced back and forth while running his hands through his hair. His eyes caught a mirror located above the sink near a supply cabinet of the room. He froze in disbelief.
"Nurse!" Bob cried. "What happened to my face?"
The nurse stood motionless with a blank stare upon her face. Her mouth opened but no words came out. She closed her mouth and walked towards the door of the room.
"I'll get the doctor, he can explain better than me,"said the nurse as she exited the room.
Bob flopped butt first onto the bed and rested his hands on his lap. He raised the mechanical hand in the air as he observed closely. He moved the fingers on the mechanical hand as he opened and closed his grip.
"What in the hell happened to my hand?!" said Bob out loud, but to himself.
"You were stuck by a public transportation vehicle. Your hand was severely damaged. Unfortunately, we couldn't save it. But at least you're alive, Mr. Bennett," said Dr. Martin as he crept in the room without notice.
Dr. Martin startled Bob as he jumped back to his feet to see an elderly Japanese man standing before him. Dr. Martin smiled at Bob as if he saw an old friend.
"Good to see that you're up and alert. The nurse said that you had some questions," said Dr. Martin as he continued to smile.
"Why am I an old man? I remember being 32 years old and then I wake up 30 years older with a robotic hand. I want answers, Doc!" said Bob as he raised his voice.
Dr. Martin walked closer to Bob as the smile on his face turned to a closed lip grin. He put his hand on Bob's forehead.
"No fever," said Dr. Martin.
Bob swiped Dr. Martin's hand off his forehead angrily. Dr. Martin remained calm, he showed no emotion. Dr. Martin's calm demeanor transferred over to Bob as he sat down on the bed focusing on Dr. Martin's eyes.
"You look very familiar, Doc. Do I know you?" said Bob inquisitively.
Dr. Martin grabbed the left wrist of Bob and checked his heart rate.
"Of course you know me, Mr. Bennett, we've spent many years in this hospital together. You in a coma and me as your doctor. Your health seems to be normal. All your tests have come back satisfactory over the last week. Your heart is strong and you have no fever. You are free to leave whenever you like," said Dr. Martin as the eerie smile appeared back on his face.
"Typical hospital procedures, kick a man out soon as he's well enough to speak!" screamed Bob.
"Mr. Bennett, I assure you that is not the case. You requested---"
"Save it, Doc! Fetch me my fucking clothes. I'm getting out of here!" yelled Bob as he interrupted Dr. Martin.
Dr. Martin left the room and came back moments later with a blue metallic jumpsuit.
"Here are your clothes Mr. Bennett. Be safe out in the world," said Dr. Martin with his signature smile on his face.
"What the hell is this? Get me something else to wear, this jumpsuit looks ridiculous!" replied Bob aggressively.
"Since you've been in a coma things have changed, Mr. Bennett. This ridiculous jumpsuit must be worn out in the public by every citizen of this country. It's the law, Mr. Bennett," replied Dr. Martin.
Bob Bennett removed the hospital gown with force and put the blue jumpsuit on. He stood in front of the mirror in disgust. He stormed out of the room just as Dr. Martin was opening his mouth to converse a little more. Down the elevator and out to the exit door Bob went. Once outside, Bob realized the world had changed even more than he thought. Flying cars whizzed up and down the streets. The sky was red and gloomy. Reptilian humanoids walked the pedways along with humans. Bob ran back into the hospital in fear. He was met by Dr. Martin as he stood in front of the elevator doors.
"How long have I been in a coma, Doc?!" said Bob in a panic.
"Which coma are you referring to, Mr.Bennett?" asked Dr. Martin
Bob stood in complete shock. His palms began to sweat followed by his forehead. He leaned back against the hallway walls as he wiped the perspiration from his forehead.
"What do you mean by which coma? How many comas have I been in Doc?" asked Bob.
"You've been in 3 comas, Mr. Bennett. All voluntary, of course. Your first coma was at age 21, a duration of 5 years. Your second coma was at age 26, a duration of 6 years. Your third was at age 32, a duration of 31 years. You signed up for the voluntary extended stay program. It's a program for individuals who want to escape their time for whatever reason. I tried to inform you before you stormed out of your room, Mr. Bennett. Things have changed drastically while you were in your third coma. Are you okay, Mr. Bennett?" said Dr. Martin
"Yes, I'm okay. The memories are starting to come back to me. When I was 21 years old, my life was in shambles. I signed up to the program to escape. And every time I was released back into the world, things would go well for a while. But whenever I was faced with hardship, I gave up and came crawling back to the program," said Bob calmly.
"I know Bob, you were extremely depressed before your last coma. I urged against your 31 year request but you insisted. It's all voluntary, so we granted your request. What do you want to do now, Mr. Bennett?" said Dr. Martin as he put his hand on Bob's shoulder.
Bob looked Dr. Martin directly in his eyes and nodded his head. Bob and Dr. Martin got on the elevator together.
Voluntary is a short story from Hom Bobbi's collection, "Stories from a Psychedelic"