March 15, 2018 CE
When Caesar woke up from his medically induced slumber, his head was hazy but the pain in his body wasn’t as severe. He managed to sit up to see that the room was quiet; the other two people were asleep and there weren’t any nurses or doctors present.
Near one of the beds, a pile of clothes sat unattended. Slowly, Caesar rose to his feet. Weak and off-balance, he took a moment to steady himself. When settled, however, he found that his faculties were beginning to clear. He walked towards the clothes which caused a pain in his arm, not knowing that there was an IV drip attached to his arm. Quick to anger, Caesar yanked the needles out. He then tried pulling the coated paper bracelet off of his wrist, but it was much stronger than it looked. He decided to leave it there for the time being.
He quickly stripped away the patient’s gown, leaving it on the floor. He peaked down his body to see the bandages that covered his rib cage. He was impressed by how neatly the work was done. He wanted to look underneath the dressing to see what the doctors did but forced himself to focus on the task at hand.
With some struggle, Caesar put on a long-sleeved black shirt and jeans that he found in the pile. Both were slightly too tight for him, but this served to show off his muscles. He felt a little uncomfortable as he was used to the loose fitting toga picta. It’ll do for now, he thought to himself. The shoes were also a little snug, but close enough of a fit for him to walk without pain in his feet.
Caesar scanned the hallway. He saw a person convulsing on a stretcher. Two doctors hovered over him, trying to stop the man from hurting himself. Blood pooled underneath the gurney. Further down the hall, a man in a wheelchair shouted for help. A nurse walked towards him, to see what was wrong. Caesar marched in the opposite direction, towards the waiting room, hoping that the staff was too busy to notice him.
Once in the waiting room, the woman at the front desk took a quick glance at his wrist, noticed the bracelet, and asked, “What are you doing out of your room?”
“I needed to get up for a minute,” Caesar half lied.
“You need to go back. The doctor hasn’t released you yet.”
“I will. Please, I just need to move around for a moment.”
The clerk sighed, “Fine. But don’t be long. I’ll get in trouble if you’re gone when they get back.”
“Just a few minutes. Thank you.”
Caesar didn’t know which way to go from here. He couldn’t ask the clerk where the exit was so he looked at the signs posted on the wall and decided to head towards Triage.
Briskly, he continued on his way. When he arrived in Triage, the scene looked more familiar to him than anything else in New York. There were more wounded and sick people in the room than there were seats. A number of individuals had to sit on the floor or stand. This looked like a battlefield hospital. He took a second to appreciate it. Then, Caesar spotted an Exit sign. He was desperate to get outside. As he approached the glass doors, they slid open for him. He found that most impressive.
Once outside, Caesar took a deep breath. The anxiety that he felt while leaving the hospital was unnecessary, but with the day’s events, he felt it best to be ready for anything. Now, a new problem faced him. He had no idea where to go. At least in the hospital there was an objective. Out here, he was lost in a world where he knew very little. The only thing of which he was certain was that he needed to get away from the hospital. So, he walked.
Caesar ambled on for hours, noting how the tall sky scrapers shrank into smaller, more dilapidated structures. They further he walked, the uglier things looked. People on the streets looked different too. They didn’t dress as nice and found them to have a slower, less determined stride. He noted the similarity to Rome, where the most impressive buildings and richest people could be found in the Forum which eventually gave way to the slums which were writhing with plebeians shacked up in cramped, wooden houses.
The march lasted nearly four hours. It was dark outside. Even Caesar, a warrior, was beginning to tire and his side was getting sore again. He stopped in front of an old warehouse that was boarded up, abandoned, and decided to go inside. There was a door off to the side that was already bashed in, so he used that as an entrance. Inside, there was a dusty concrete floor with large metal support beams. He heard rodents scurrying around. Rats and mice were nothing new to him. While he didn’t like the creatures, they didn’t scare him. Much.
Moving slowly inside the building, Caesar found an old mattress. He reasoned that someone else had brought it in, someone in a desperate situation like his. This forced him to contemplate further about what happened to him today. But he couldn’t grasp onto what that was. “What did happen,” Caesar whispered into the darkness. Hearing his voice helped him to relax. He sat on the mattress to start making a plan. He needed to get back to Rome.
Before he could start to form one, a dim light appeared from the entrance. Heavy footsteps echoed in the building. Caesar called out, “Hello?”
The footsteps stopped momentarily, replaced by a shuffle. A muffled grunt rang out as the man cleared his throat, “Hello,” a raspy voice called back. “I’m just here to sleep. I’m not looking for trouble,” the wise voice answered.
“Good. Good,” he continued to walk, closer to Caesar.
“I have some food with me, if you’re hungry,” the man said.
Caesar’s belly grumbled when food was mentioned. He hadn’t eaten since the morning but it felt like a year, “If you have some to spare, then yes.”
The man came into Caesar’s view with a Coleman lamp in front of him. The light revealed dark, sunken eyes. His face was leathered by time and Caesar could have sworn that he was over a hundred years old. Cheek bones jutted out the sides; in fact, his entire face could have been a skull with nothing more than colored plastic wrap stretched tightly across his visage.
“Of course I have some to spare. Look at me, how much do you think I eat,” the man laughed. He reached into a ratty satchel that hung from his side to produce half a loaf of bread and a hotdog. He gave the hotdog to Caesar, “Eat this. I don’t really like meat.”
Caesar examined the food, never seeing anything quite like it before, “What is this.”
The hermit laughed, “You aren’t from around these parts, are you?”
“No. No, I’m definitely not.”
“I didn’t think so. Looks to me like you’re someone that is lost. That’s okay though. We’re all a little lost, I think.”
“Where are you from,” Caesar asked.
“Where am I from,” the man mused, “I’m from everywhere, I suppose. Nowhere in particular. Right now I’m from here,” he laughed again.
Caesar was puzzled by the vagrant’s odd answer. He stared at the man for a moment then took a bite of the hotdog. It was an amazing ride in his mouth. There was more flavor in that single bite than in his previous fifty-five years of life combined. Mostly, he loved the salt but the added bang that the ketchup provided elevated the taste to unimaginable levels.
“How about you? Where are you from,” the man leaned closer towards Caesar, as if he was about to hear a secret.
“Rome,” Caesar managed to say with his mouth full.
“Rome, you say. Well, that sounds like a splendid place. I bet it was full of amusement.”
Caesar nodded, stuffing the rest of the hotdog in his mouth.
“Well, I envy you. To say that you are from somewhere with such confidence. Can I tell you a secret, though?”
Caesar nodded, chewing down the last morsel.
“I doubt that you’ll ever think of Rome the same now. I can tell, you’re a man meant for a mission,” the man eased back a bit, “I mean now that you’re in New York. Who knows what’s next for you.”
“I am always a man of action,” Caesar declared, “Do you know who I am?”
The man laughed, “Oh, I imagine you are someone of great importance. You are sleeping in this abandoned building, after all,” he laughed harder, causing him to cough, though Caesar thought it sounded fake.
“And how about you? Why are you here?”
The old man looked deep into Caesar’s eyes, as if trying to see into his soul, “I’m here for the same reason as you. I chose to be here.”
Caesar grunted, “This wasn’t my choice. I’ll deal with it, but I didn’t choose to be here.”
“If you insist,” the vagrant smiled.