Time: 15 minutes
Prompt: "He picked up his walking stick to steady himself as naturally as if..."
Source: Ginger Stuyvesant and the Case of the Haunted Nursery by Mary Robinette Kowal
When Tafferk put on the old man, Baeli could not help but admiring the apparent ease with which he made the transition to the body of an aged biped. Tafferk sat up from the bed, looked around at the sterile hospice room, and swung his two feet round to the floor. He picked up his walking stick to steady himself as naturally as if he had always possessed grasping appendages, and his shamble toward the door suggested decrepitude rather than inexperience.
Baeli, far more practiced with the human form, followed Tafferk down the hallway to the common dining area. It was small. The facility comprised sixty guest suites, three exam rooms, a minor procedures room, administrative offices, two family conference rooms, an interfaith chapel, a big-screen TV room that could double as a performance venue, a kitchen, and this dining room. The home maintained maximum occupancy. There was always a waiting list.
In the three months since Baeli had taken up residence in the body of her emphysematous and demented assignment, she had never seen more than three of the residents in the dining room at a time. Most ate in their rooms—of those who ate at all. It was common for the guests of Sustaining Peace Hospice Home to refuse food. Especially those who would be staying only a short time.
"Well, Tafferk," Baeli said, her scratchy wisp of a voice still a surprise to her own ear with every use, "yoru initial impressions?"
Tafferk grunted, took a deep breath, opened his mouth to speak, and made no sound. He leaned the cane against a table and lowered himself into a chair. He closed his eyes. Baeli sat across from him. After several minutes of silence, Tafferk tried again.
"This brain..." he said, "this brain has so much..." Tafferk rested his forehead in his hands for a few moments, then continued. "I don't... I can't..." He took several deep breaths as though the effort of speech had exhausted him.
"It's alright, Tafferk," Baeli said. "The tumor has taken much. Don't try to speak if it's difficult or painful. Give it time."
"Not painful," Tafferk said. "Just so little... so few words. So much life. Memories. Cannot say."
"It might improve as you grow accustomed to the brain and the body," Baeli told him. It had certainly taken her some time to adjust. "When I came to this one, it was a terrible mess," she said. "I spent a week just getting the memory fragments sorted chronologically and then I had to repair and reconcile them all." It had been the hardest job of her career... and the most satisfying. Baeli could hardly wait to see the reaction of the brain's owner when she returned.
"Memories clear," Tafferk said. "Clear. Clean." Then, after a few moments, "Talk is hard."
Baeli laid a hand on top of Tafferk's and gave it a little squeeze. "You may not have time to repair everything, you know. Just do what you can. He will appreciate it when he returns for his end."
[about my timed writing exercises]