AT THE TOP OF THE HILL
By Doc Walton
An ice blue sky still as stone rests above the small rural hospital as Jack pushes through the fog and begins to regain his senses. Unaware of winter bleak and cold outside, his eyes open slowly but his focus lags. Soft humming and beeping sounds play their tuneless notes around him and Jack strains to grasp their meaning. A blur of intermittent color registers against a pale backdrop. Jack’s head hurts like hell and the room’s brightness is hindrance, not help. He wants to close his eyes and go back to wherever he had been, that quiet, painless place, but first, he tells himself, I better figure out what's going on. He pushes to a sitting position with an effort that triggers swirling pain and instant nausea. He snaps his eyes shut and remains still for what seems an eternity of waiting for the comets of hurt to cease streaking through his skull. When at last he is able to reopen his eyes he does so in increments, a tiny bit at a time, adjusting to the light little by little. Consciousness and clarity return with his vision. He is in a bed, in a hospital. But what in God's name has happened to him? He brings a hand to his forehead and feels heavy bandages there. Alright, he thinks, I've taken a blow. But how had it happened? Across the empty bed to his left a window is cut into the whiteness of the hospital wall. Jack’s gaze rests there. Icicles hang outside the glass. Icicles. Icicles telling him something. His memory is beginning to come back, to sharpen. Icicles. Icicles. Ice! And there it is: Ice. He had fallen. He had slipped and fallen and he had slid out of control. Faster and faster. He couldn't stop. She was there too. Sliding along with him. A huge rock loomed. A boulder projecting from the snow. He couldn't stop. And then there was nothing. Until now.
Entering the room, a nurse sees Jack and says, "Well look who's up. You gave us a real scare young man. You took one serious bump to the noggin there. How do you feel?"
Jack ignores the question and asks one of his own. "How long have I been out?"
"Three days counting this one, but that's not important,” the nurse answers. “You're back and that's the main thing. I've got to go find your Doctor. He will want to see you right away. Try not to move much until we get back." She scurries from the room.
Fully conscious now, vague memories return and Jack struggles to access them.
Pipes frozen and bursting. No water to the farm. Juice and milk for the family and even a few bottles of water in the fridge, but not nearly enough for the animals. He and his sister sent by his parents to fetch some from the old well at the top of the hill that had been there for ages before his family bought the place.
It had been slow going up the steep, slippery hill carrying empty pails, but impossible with full ones coming down, so of course they had fallen. The whole thing was a bad idea. And why would anyone put a well at the top of the hill in the first place? You would just have to dig deeper to find the water and it would always be a chore to go there. It was crazy, Jack thought, crazy.
He looks up then as another person enters the room. It is his sister Jill. She has a clunky looking cast on her arm but doesn’t seem to mind. She is all smiles.