Mario was glad to have a moment alone even if it was in a dimly lit shower stall.
According to Nathan, the dormicile for the human slaves commanded by the king was actually outside the main castle or palace or wherever they were—not inside, like he originally thought. A few of the passageways leading there must’ve been underground because he had no idea he’d left the main building.
Was this a good thing? He was guessing yes because there were creepy over-sized dragon people in the castle or palace or whatever, and he’d had about enough of them for one night.
When the dragon jailer had finally left, Nathan showed Mario to the a shared men’s room of eight beds and the accompanying amenities—including a single 1.5×1.5 meter shower stall which consisted of three high walls, a curtain, and no ceiling.
Mario sat on the stool in the shower stall for a while without thinking about anything. In the back of his mind, he kinda hoped he would simply wake up and find he had fallen asleep in his car and had a weird stress dream.
He had removed and folded his scrubs, and placed them neatly on a shelf built into the wall. He didn’t know why he folded his scrubs. Because he didn’t want them to get wrinkled? Was there a use for scrubs in dragon people land? Why would it matter if they got wrinkled?
In front of him, a round knee-high basin was filled with water for him to use to wash, under his bare feet was a drain, in one fist a crude bar of soap, in the other a threadbare washcloth. An burlap curtain formed the door behind him and a lantern hung on the wall overhead.
Mario felt lightheaded, and nauseated. Bits of recent conversations began replaying in the back of his mind, disjointed and out of order. He felt a nagging compulsion to decide if what he was experiencing was or wasn’t reality, or if he was in a dream state or comatose—or decide which was more likely—that this was something he had to figure out right now. But he couldn’t reason his way through any of it, which pissed him off the most. He felt uneasy. Creeped out. Like he was losing his mind.
The snatches of past conversation were replaying louder now and getting in the way of his own thoughts, drowning them out. The dragon jailer’s departing words rang loudest: “Well, whatever’s going on, at least you don’t have to return to that place.”
Wait a sec. Mario blinked. He’s right.
The implication of that one sentence hit Mario like a ton of bricks. He swore under his breath in astonishment and a smile cracked his face.
No matter what was happening, real or imagined, at least one thing rang absolutely and beautifully true.
“I don’t have to go to work on Monday.”
The smile spread. He looked up at the stars and laughed.
And he didn’t even have to submit a request for time off.
Oh, crap, I should probably wash up instead of just sitting here. He lathered the bar soap in the water basin and got to work.
[to be continued…]
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