“So, uh… did you guys get all that from our scents as well?”
“What do you mean?” James replied, failing to keep a slight quaver out of his voice.
“All that instinctive stuff about mating and crap. Gods, I thought my ovaries were about to strangle me.”
There was a pause of about four seconds, and then the three of us all burst out laughing, more out of relief from tension than from humour. When the chuckling finally tumbled to a stop, we tried to figure out what else we could test from our hospital bed.
Hearing was an easy one. I found that straining to hear something sort of turned up the volume selectively. By concentrating, I could hear the rumble of engines moving around the base, and form a rough map of where they were, or listen for human voices – too distorted to hear conversations, but easy to tell directions from. Footsteps were everywhere, but I found that the most useful sound was the gentle sigh of wind, marking the corners of buildings on my worldview. After two minutes of quiet listening, I could have found my way around blindfolded.
It seems weird to say, but those minutes lying on our backs in a makeshift hospital ward on an army base were some of the most magical of our lives. I rediscovered every sense I had, and some I hadn’t even noticed. Who really pays attention to proprioception? You just know where each part of your body is, roughly, and it’s enough to reach up and catch a ball, and then one day you get an injection and suddenly you can sense exactly where your liver is. That time made things I’d thought were impossible seem ordinary enough that I could cope with them.
After half an hour, Crenshaw had obviously had his fill of microphone surveillance, and we all heard the latch as the door was opened. I followed each part as it slid and rolled into place, then turned my head as James’ curtains were pulled back a little, noticing two sullenly glowing shapes where the people should be. Infrared too, then. A female voice asked James a few inane questions, then footsteps moved down the ward towards me. The person drawing back the curtains was an attractive female orderly, about 25, and I realised my new senses gave me an excellent idea of the shape of her body under her clothes. I kept my eyes on hers and breathed through my mouth. This could get really, really embarrassing.
“And how are you feeling, Mr Masters?”
“Oh, just fine. Fine. Itching to be up and about, really.”
She was making notes on the little clipboard hanging at the end of my bed. I could imagine what she was writing: Patient seems extremely distracted and is pitching a tent. Observe for priapism.
“I’ll bring you some clothes and get that catheter out soon. In the meantime, there’s a glass of water by your bed. I’ll just check on your friend there. Is there anything you need?” I shook my head quickly, focussing on her left earlobe. She gave me a smile and pulled the curtains to, walking down towards Alex, and I started concentrating on cold things and all my turn-offs.