A clanging ruckus shook Jason out of his sleep. At first, he wondered if his roommate had once again come in late, but Omar’s bed lay vacant. He lowered himself onto the floor and tiptoed out of his room. The metallic banging came again. He stumbled barefoot out of his room, stepped on something sharp in the hallway, and hopped on his uninjured foot towards the dormitory’s kitchen. Jason clicked on the bright light, half-expecting to find a cat knocking things off the counter. He blinked and covered his mouth with his hand.
Huddled in the corner beside the dish washer, Chad Rodgers lifted a stainless-steel mixing bowl and dropped it into a larger one. The cacophony filled the room once again.
Chad’s pale skin glistened with sweat. Dark circles lined his bloodshot eyes. The athlete’s movements seemed labored, but he was determined to bang the bowls together again. He showed no sign of noticing another human being standing over him until Jason wrenched the bowl away. Chad hissed like a defensive possum.
“What are you doing?” Jason hefted the bowl onto a shelf as Chad reached for it with childlike neediness. “You’re going to wake the other guys.”
Jason noticed how his friend’s pupils were dilated. He placed a palm to Chad’s forehead as a mother might. The warmth radiating from Chad caused Jason to withdraw his hand in moments. “What’s wrong, Chad?”
Standing, Jason reached into his pocket for a cell phone only to realize he was still wearing pajamas. “I’ll be right back.”
In the hallway, he bumped into the floor’s Resident Assistant. “What’s that noise all about? People are trying to sleep!”
“It’s Chad. There’s something wrong with him. I think we need to get him to a hospital. You have your phone on you?”
Jason snatched the device out of the R.A.’s hand and called the emergency number. After relaying what symptoms he had observed, the operator asked whether Chad had taken any drugs.
“Chad? No way. He’d lose his basketball scholarship.”
“Don’t cover for your friend, young man. If you know something and you don’t tell us, that could endanger his life. You’d be responsible if—”
“I swear I don’t know of any drugs! Would you just send someone?”
The same commotion of abused mixing vessels sounded. Jason gave the operator the dorm’s location and hung up. He dashed back to the kitchen where Chad had decided to wear one bowl as a helmet while striking it with a metal spoon.
“It’s broken! It’s broken! It’s broken!” Chad chanted the words between swats with the spoon.
“What’s broken?” Jason asked as he attempted to wrestle the spoon away.
“It is!” Chad declared.
“I think his mind’s broken,” the R.A. muttered.
“Chad, did you take anything? Drugs? Medicine? Anything?”
“Your nose looks all shiny, Rudolph.” Chad fell back into peals of laughter. He sounded like a toddler telling a joke no one could decipher.
“I need you to focus, Chad!” Jason grabbed the sides of his friend’s face so that their eyes would have to meet. “Tell me what happened.”
Chad’s tongue lolled out. “Bet you can’t say thunder cracker five times fast!”
“Yep. Definitely his mind.”
Jason could not disagree, though he wished the R.A. could come up with something helpful to say or do. His brain swam laps but came up with nothing better. “Tell me what broke, Chad. Maybe we can fix it.”
Chad turned his head and smiled at some invisible object to his right. “The itsy-bitsy spider went up the water’s house. Down came the rain and washed the spider’s mouse. Out came the sun that dried up all the grain. And the itsy-bitsy spider ate up my big fat brain!”
“This is useless!” Jason felt a jab in his stomach. “He’s delirious.”
Ten minutes of Chad’s raving brought out every dorm resident. Most demanded a return to silence. A few asked what they could do to help. Three recorded video of the chaos and uploaded it to NAYA. Another five minutes later, paramedics arrived to take stock of the situation. They strapped Chad to a stretcher and loaded him into the back of an ambulance.
“You ever see anything like this before?” Jason asked.
“Did he take any hallucinogens?” The paramedic frowned as he prepared to close the back door to the vehicle.
“I don’t think so.” Jason shook his head. “He keeps saying that ‘it’s broken.’ I don’t know if that—”
“We need to get going.”
Once the ambulance door cut off any further information, Jason watched as the emergency vehicle drove away. The siren blared, and red and white lights flashed through the midnight’s dark.
To Be Continued…