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83 Doctor and the Garlic Dryad

    --Eira? POV ~ Date ??--

    My vision is blurry as I look around confused and dazed, 'Where am I?'

    "Robert... Robert..." Someone repeats the same name, "Robert."

    Suddenly, everything clears, and I find myself sitting on the floor in a colorful room. There is a rug made up of various puzzle pieces with toys strewn around me. Along the walls, posters of children striking poses with texts such as, "We can do this together", "One step closer", and other such encouraging slogans are commonplace.

    "Robert, did you hear what I said?"

    Looking to the side, a man in a white coat with wrinkly skin, short black hair, and round glasses stares at me intently. He sits in a brown leather chair with his legs crossed with a notepad in his lap.

    "W-What? Did I... hear what you said?"

    "It seems like you weren't paying attention, I asked if you've been taking your medication?"

    "My medication?"

    "Robert, have you been having episodes again? Perhaps, we should move up your draw date..." The man in the white jacket stares at me, before sighing, and pressing a button next to his chair, "Nurse, please retrieve the needles."

    "Yes, Doctor, right away." a perky voice responds.

    'Doctor? This man is a Doctor. That seems right. Wait, but did he say...'

    "Needles?" For some reason, the idea of someone 'stealing' my blood makes me sick, "Wait! No Doctor, I'm fine, I swear!"

    "Don't worry, Robert, you've had this done several times before."

    "I have? Am I Robert? I don't feel like him, though."

    "You don't feel like him?" The man in white asks questioningly. I nod, and he pauses for a moment before leaning back in his chair and writing something in a notebook, "Depersonalization, perhaps." he mutters to himself.

    "Anyway, yes, you are indeed Robert, and, though, you never remember we've used the needles on you several times already. It's essential if you wish to get better."

    Confused, I tilt my head at the man in the white coat, "Why wouldn't I remember doctor?"

    "It's an effect of the process, but don't worry, you'll feel better for having done it. If we do this enough, you'll be able to grow up to be a normal adult."

    "Normal? Am I not normal?"

    The man raises an eyebrow, "You're not what most would consider normal, no."

    My face drops, and my cheeks turn wet, "Oh." I whisper

    "Uhm... Hmm." The man in white gets up and walks to one of the cabinets and takes something out, "Here you can have this; it'll help you not be scared."

    The man in white holds out his arm, revealing a stuffed animal, "A bear?"

    "Most of the children love teddy bears, don't they? Don't you like them to?"

    "I..." I look at the bear, a bit confused, "I like it, but is it okay for me to have it?"

    "Yes, it's okay for you to have it. Oh, and please don't cry this time."

    "T-T-This time?" I stutter with quivering lips.

    "I give this bear to you every time, and for some reason, you keep leaving it here. Please, make sure you don't leave it again."

    I shake my head vigorously and squeeze the bear to the point the doctor seems nervous that the stuffing may explode from it.

    **Knock. Knock.**

    "Yes, yes. Who is it?"

    "It's me, Doctor." The perky voice from earlier announces, "I brought the equipment."

    A nurse walks in with a child-sized white bed with colorful blankets, and various cartoon character stickers scattered along its edges. However, behind her, I think I see something gray, and the room becomes shimmery before the thing quickly ducks from view.

    She rolls it in on the tile floor and stops it directly in front of me, "Did you see something, honey? You shouldn't worry; no one else is here besides the children who live here and us."

    My attention returns to the bed next to me, and my heart starts to race, 'That's what they're going to use on me!?'

    My eyes are wide in disbelief as I see the nurse take out a case of thick long needles. She hits some switches along the side of the bed before pulling at some loose metal rods inserted in pipes beneath the bed. The rods unfold, revealing robotic-like arms, and she removes a long needle from the case and mounts it to the end of the arm. When they are at their upmost position, they click, and she moves onto the next one until thirteen arms, each with its own needle, surround the bed.

    The Doctor begins to inspect the arms with an admiring gaze, "These arms really are amazing. It'll be at least another ten years before this technology gets out to the general public."

    The nurse nods and glances back, smiling when she sees my tears, "I see he's crying again." She says while laughing before pulling out the last arm and clicking it into place, "Okay, honey. Please lay on your tummy. Mr. Bear will keep you company, so again don't worry."

    Something about the nurse's smile seems insidious, giving me a horrifying feeling, "I-I don't want to."

    "Robert, don't do this again; just let the nurse do her job." the Doctor says sternly.

    **Coo. Coo.**

    Something coos and cries on the door outside, causing me to flinch, "Ugh, not again." the nurse states, rolling her eyes.

    "It's probably that same child." The doctor nods while thinking, "Nurse, see if you can catch them, so we can stop them from doing this every time. I'll take care of the procedure myself."

    "Yes, Doctor." The nurse replies before leaving the room quickly.

    The Doctor lets out an exasperated sigh, "Every time we do this procedure, some child runs up and tries to stop it. It's gotten out of hand. Now lie down."

    "That didn't sound like a knock... it sounded like something squawking."

    The Doctor raises an eyebrow before picking up a piece of paper, and scrawling something, "Possible schizophrenia from the procedure?" he mumbles to himself.

    Putting down the paper, he claps his hands together and looks at me with a smile, "Okay, let's get started."

    I shake my head as hard as I can, "I still really really don't want to, Doctor."

    "Please, lay down, or I'll be forced to take the bear away from you until you do."

    "...B-But you gave him to me."

    "And I'll take him back if you don't lay down."

    We sit staring at one another until the Doctor leans forward to rip the bear from my arms.

    "Wait! I'll do it. I'll get in the bed."

    The Doctor nods and places a stool in front of the bed, which I struggle to climb up. Laying in the bed, the Doctor motions for me to roll over, so I do so, placing the bear under one of my arms. The Doctor walks to each of my arms and legs and straps them into restraints.

    "Don't be afraid. You'll forget pretty much everything, so it'll be over before you even know it."

    "O-Okay," I say, breathing heavily.

    The Doctor pulls up my shirt and begins to manipulate the arms with something that resembles an Atari joystick. The machine makes a low hum as the arms swing around and move into what seems to be their designated positions. A cold point touches my back followed by a piercing pain. One at a time, I can feel each of them being inserted into my back along both sides of my spine, causing the pain to increase upon the insertion of each needle.

    I push my face into the bear, and beg, "Please! Please, stop! This hurts."

    "I'm sorry, but it can't be helped. The needles should have an anesthetic, so it shouldn't hurt too bad."

    "But it hurts! I think I might throw up!" I cry.

    "No one likes a fibber, Robert, and if you feel as if you'll vomit, please try to hold it."

    Tears wet the bed, but things continue until a final needle is placed near the base of my neck. Another machine resembling a pump begins to rise and fall, and a blue liquid begins to fill a clear tube nearby.

    Behind me, I hear the Doctor begin to whisper his notes, "Patient Robert Adams. Seven years old. Patient does not have any physical alterations associated with his abnormality, as some children do, allowing him to live within the foster system."

    'There are others like me?... I'm not alone?'

    "The patient produces substance 'Caerulus' at a moderate rate, but the patient's specific abnormality is not fully understood, and after the incident with his birth parents and his first set of foster parents, further experimentation and Caerulus stimulation is not advised. To add to that, the patient's 'Caerulus' is inert like most patients and not worth regularly withdrawing unless necessary, and as implied previously, it is certainly not worth stimulating."

    'Incident with my birth and foster parents? No, that doesn't make sense.'

    "The procedure is being performed today, six months ahead of schedule, due to the possibility that the patient was not taking the medication provided to him by 'Big Mountain Pharmaceuticals'. Upon completion, the patient shall be returned to the foster parent... Note: Foster parent seems to be a different person once again; believe it is a widowed woman this time around. It is her responsibility to make sure the patient is taking his medication, and this is why we pay her extra to do so. Perhaps threaten to cut her pay if she will not make sure the patient is taking his medication properly."

    'I don't understand anything. I don't feel good... I'm sorry, Mr. Bear, but I can't hold it.'

    Vomiting, I lose consciousness.

    ...

    ...

    ...

    "Is the horror child ready to go?" A woman asks.

    "The horror child?" A familiar perky voice laughs with an annoying giggle, "That's great. I almost forgot he had that nickname. Yes, you can go ahead and take him to whoever his foster parent is now... Oh, but he can't take that bear with him; it's Consortium property."

    "But, it's covered in puke?"

    "Doesn't matter!" The perky voice snickers, "Consortium property is Consortium property."

    The woman sighs, "Well, whatever; it���ll probably just come to life and attack someone anyway."

    Feeling someone ripping the bear from my grasp, I use all my willpower to hang on and open my eyes. A tearing sound echoes in my head as my eyes shoot open, I find I'm in a wheelchair about to be rolled through some glass doors and the only thing remaining of the bear is one of its arms. Groggily, and with bitterness, I lift my head toward the glass door and gaze into the reflection of the glass, finding a girl with glowing blood-red eyes staring back. Turning my eyes upward, I see an outline of a tall, slender creature standing behind her with its hands raised and palms facing her.

    Suddenly, the moment the wheelchair pushes through the doors, the corridor shimmers, twisting and shifting as my mind becomes clouded while my thoughts seem to slip away to be quickly replaced by new ones.

    'What's happening?'

    A strong aroma fills my nostrils, and the muffled sounds of someone speaking in Blood Language fills my ears.

    "Hello, Miss. Are you okay?"

    My vision clears, and I find myself standing in the center of a small dirt road. It appears to be dusk, and when I turn from left to right, I can see a few small fields with enormous trees surrounding them.

    I sniff the air, 'Is it perhaps...'

    An enchanting and polite voice rings in my ear, "Miss, I know the smells are delightful, but this garlic isn't going to get to where it needs to go if you don't tell me if you're okay." it says with a laugh.

    I turn around, revealing an unexpected sight, a woman of short stature, and light green skin. Clearly not human, her hair is made of vines that twist together, and parts of her skin are covered in a red bark. Her eyes are a tad bigger than that of a human's, with shining blood-red pupils. What resembles tree limbs with red leaves jut from the sides of her head and runs away from her face before arching upwards. Similarly, branches also extend from her collar, wrapping around her neck before turning downward and running into her dress. The dress consists of various leaves in different states and colors. The dress runs to her knees like a skirt and covers her torso tightly as if perfectly crafted for her body.

    The woman stares at me, stunned, "A Vampire, wait no, you look like a mix of several races now that I get a closer look? Either way, it's rare for another Blood Race to be all the way out here. Not to mention one that could give the Mother Goddess herself a run for her money!" she shouts before pausing and looking awkwardly off into space, "I shouldn't say that out loud... my deepest apologies to both you and the Mother Goddess."

    Vaguely I think I recognize what this person is, "Are you a Redwood Dryad?"

    "Of course, Sister, but some people actually call me the Garlic Dryad." She laughs cutely, and points at a ring on her vine-covered finger, "This garlic needs to get to the Capital before this summer's blood moon."

    I point at the ring, "That entire ring is full of nothing but garlic?"

    "That's right! This is the only place in the entire world capable of growing Crimson Garlic! Unlike the stinky and tasteless human garlic, this stuff is a highly sought after commodity, which is why humans spread their stupid Anti-Blood Race propaganda! Can you believe it? That we don't like garlic! Nope, wrong! We just don't like their garlic, because it can't compare!" The dryad woman huffs, "Anyway, it's only for special occasions since growing it is difficult... Say, would you like to hear the story of how Crimson Garlic was created?!"

    "No, thank you, Daughte... Sister."

    'Did I almost call her Daughter? Wait, who am I?... Callista? Is that my name? I don't feel like that is correct, though. Ah, but Goddess, Mother Goddess, for some reason that sounds accurate, I think?'

    She looks at the ground with disappointment, "Well, I guess it's fine."

    Glancing at the dangerous surroundings a bit of worry comes over me, "Do you often travel alone?"

    "Uhm, well, to be honest, this is only my second time out of the forest, so I'm a bit nervous... But it's normal for a Dryad to travel alone."

    "Is that so?" Thinking and looking around at the unfamiliar trees and fields, I come to a decision, "Mind if I join you?"

    She nods her head excitedly, "Yes! That sounds great! I'm on my way to Methusal than I'll leave from there to the Warping Capital."

    "Methusal, is it?" I say while trying to remember it, before giving up, "I'll come with you."

    She laughs happily, "This is great. My name is Holly Bitterroot, by the way!"

    "Just call me, uh, C... I guess."

    "C?... Well, that's a little strange but okay...."

    Side by side, we walk the dirt road to whatever this city Methusal is. Along the way, Holly continues talking about garlic, "Did you know garlic, even human garlic, has seventeen health benefits that help the fangs of Blood Race alone!? Oh, did you know garlic mixed with gray griffin blood gives both the clove and the blood a delicious, unique flavor!? Ah, which reminds me, did you know garlic can help stabilize mana injections for a member of the Blood Race!? Oh, yeah! This is a good one..."

    This goes on for hours, but I don't particularly mind as something about this conversation makes me extraordinarily nostalgic and happy.

    "Oh, my." I giggle with my hand over my mouth, "That's so interesting, Holly. I'm sure the Goddess would approve of your garlic and enthusiasm.

    Her eyes light up, "Do you think so!? Do you really think so!?" she shouts.

    I nod with a gentle smile, "I really think so... In fact, could you tell me how Crimson Garlic was created? I'm very interested."

    Holly looks like she might faint, and her mouth begins to move at an incredible speed. I smile the whole time soaking in the atmosphere and conversation, nodding and laughing along with Holly; it almost feels like having a gnawing yearning finally being satisfied... However, a feeling of dread and sadness sits in the pit of my stomach, confusing me.

    Suddenly from the forest nearby, a squawking and cooing sound echoes from the trees.

    "Holly, do you hear something?��

    "Hear something?" She goes quiet, listening intensely, "No. I don't think so."

    "You don't hear that squawking sound?"

    "Squawking? Like a bird?"

    "No, not like a bird."

    "Well, either way, I don't hear it."

    Curious, I try to activate my detection skills, but oddly I can't use nor remember how to use them. Worse yet, I can't even remember most of their names, much less how to use them.

    "Are you okay?" Holly asks with concern.

    "I-I just feel very disjointed right now..." Holly just tilts her head, so I retract my thoughts, "Nevermind, but I'm going to go check out the noise."

    "Okay, well, I'll come with you then, but I'd rather not take too long, or it'll be daylight, and I really don't feel like walking in the sun."

    "I'm not going to go in very far."

    In the forest, the massive trees tower over everything blotting out the moonlight; however, this is not a problem for Holly or myself.

    "We shouldn't go any further."

    With Holly's statement, the world shimmers, and for a moment, I think I see wooden boxes.

    "Did you see that?"

    "See what?"

    "Those boxes?" Holly just stares at me with raised eyebrows, "I suppose we should just leave."

    "Yeah, that's a good idea. I really don't want to run into a manticore or something."

    I nod, and we exit the forest before continuing to make our way toward Methusal along the dirt path.

    "So you probably already know, but Methusal is the Blood Race's military city."

    "Military City?"

    'This place just sounds so familiar, but for the life of me, I can't remember. Whatever it is, though, it seems rather critical.'

    Holly looks at me with curiosity, "Yeah? I mean, we aren't exactly known for our military affairs, but I didn't think it would be that surprising."

    Stopping, I try my hardest to remember what it is I'm forgetting, but my concentration is broken when I notice Holly fidgeting.

    "L-Listen, C. We can't keep stopping. I never mentioned it, but I'm sorta racing with a Red Hulder friend of mine to see who can arrive in Methusal first. I'm pretty sure I have it in the bag since she's rather slow and easy-going."

    "Oh, yeah? We should keep going then. I guess." I respond reluctantly.

    "Yep! Methusal is just over this hill here, and then..." She pauses for dramatic effect, "Eira will owe me the most expensive bottle of blood she can afford!"

    "Eira?"

    Suddenly, the world shimmers once again, and in my peripheral, I swear I see creatures with vague gray figures. The figures hold their hands in the air, and faces upon their palms gaze at me, but abruptly they vanish.

    A light green hand waves in front of my face, and I flinch before noticing Holly with a serious expression, "C! We need to go! If I don't make it to Methusal because of you, I'm going to make you buy me the bottle instead!"

    I look around warily, "S-Sorry, I thought I saw something again."
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