The Restless Legs

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Sylvia thinks her legs cramp up every night as a result of Restless Leg Syndrome or a vitamin deficiency. This is far from the truth.

Submitted: February 21, 2017

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Submitted: February 21, 2017

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Sylvia glared at her rebellious legs as she got dressed each morning. They looked ordinary; pale, hairy because she hadn’t shaved for about a month, and decorated with the scars of a happy childhood. On her right leg, she could still see where a barnacle-covered rock had drawn out ribbons of blood. That had been a good day. She and her friend Ashley had gone swimming in secret, bobbing in the glassy, frigid water in their underwear and gently splashing each other. Sylvia remembered floating over a cold undercurrent that chilled her back while her stomach basked in the August sun. She lifted up her leg and saw the red blood running across the white leg and into the blue water. Red, white, and blue. How patriotic. She and Ashley never spoke of that day again. When Sylvia asked Ashley about the day they snuck out of her house and walked the mile and a half to the beach and walked back with Sylvia dripping watery blood, Ashley stared at her blankly and said:

“I don’t think that ever happened, Sylvia. We always wanted to go swimming the summer before ninth grade, but we never did.I would have remembered you getting cut and bleeding like that. I’ve no idea what did that to your shin.”

Besides that scar, there were the little pock-marks of scratched mosquito bites from summers gone by and a faint line on her kneecap that was all that remained from the carnage of a badly skinned knee at age six. And there was still the relic of what she thought of as the Spider Bite from Hell. They were nothing special, those legs. They would not star in an add for razors or socks. Sylvia could walk and run without any problems. But they tormented her every night.

It started with an odd dream. She was running in a “Stair Marathon” while holding a laundry basket filled with weights. Her goal was to reach the top of the staircase with her burden before her competitors did. The staircase was rickety and wooden like the one at the beach where she went swimming with Ashley, only it went up to the sky. Sylvia huffed and puffed until she heard a nasty tearing noise in her right leg and fell to the ground screaming, her fingers locked around her right calf.

She woke up with tangled sheets and a cramped right leg, whimpering to herself. She massaged it and walked in circles around her dark room. Ah well. Exams were coming up so she wasn’t exercising as much as she normally did. She would go for a run tomorrow and stretch before bed. Months later, it happened again. This time the dream was as if she had been inserted into a bad war movie.

Sylvia was wearing desert camouflage and holding a M-16. She and her squad rushed over a sand dune and opened fire. Their enemy shot back, and Sylvia fell down with a bullet in her left calf, of all places. She gritted her teeth and tried not to scream as a concerned voice asked: “Sarge?! You all right?”

“I’m fine,” she managed. “Get under cover. Leave me.” The pain was sharper this time. Sylvia walked up and down the stairs, paced the hall,massaged her leg, and stretched. Thankfully her room-mate slept through it all, even her cries and muffled swearing.

The cramps increased in frequency, from monthly to weekly to nightly. She worked out daily at the gym, took vitamin pills, gave up coffee,and did yoga, all with no effect. Her nightmares had worsened-- faceless tormentors would interrogate and torture her, inflicting all sorts of inventive cruelty on her legs and feet. Sometimes they beat her and stretched her legs on a rack; in other little rooms in her dreams they cut into them with scalpels. In the middle of the worst nights, she would wake up in a cold sweat, her heart hammering away, and her rigid legs twisted like pretzels underneath her.

Finally she went to the doctor. The doctor listened sympathetically. “It must be awful to have the cramps come on so suddenly, especially in your sleep,” she said. “Have you ever had injuries that required surgery or torn anything?”

“Not that I know of,” she replied. “I do have some cuts that left scars, but I don’t think they should be causing this.”

“Hmm.” the doctor thought for a moment. “Could I look at them? They’re probably nothing, but at least we can rule things out.”

Sylvia rolled up her pants and stood awkwardly on her wicked legs as the doctor inspected their paleness, their hairs, and their scars.”Turn around, please”, said the doctor.  Confused, Sylvia did. “Ah. Now I see it.” The doctor smiled. “Now the question is what is happening to your right leg,” she said. “Why didn’t you tell me you had an old bullet wound in your left calf?”

“WHAT?!” shrieked Sylvia. “I think I would remember getting shot. It’s not the sort of thing that’s easy to forget.” She rolled up her left pant leg and looked at the calf. There was nothing there but an old scar in the back of her leg. Maybe this one was the spider bite…”It’s a spider bite that went bad.” she stated firmly. “It was a brown recluse, I think. It got all swollen and infected.”

“I’d like to see that spider,” the doctor remarked dryly. “If it were a bite, it wouldn’t be that sunken unless you scratched a giant hole in your leg.”

“Knowing me, I probably did.” Sylvia was in denial now.

“You would have had to tear a hole through muscle a couple of inches deep at least. It’s odd that there is no exit wound. From the way it looks now, the bullet likely stopped and was surgically removed.”

Sylvia gulped. Yes, there was another dream the night after she dreamt of the Iraq war. It was about getting an operation on her left leg without anaesthetic. She woke up with a cramp. Again.

The doctor gave her a strange look and asked her about her vitamins and exercise habits, then described Restless Leg Syndrome. Apparently Restless Leg Syndrome was either a muscular or neurological condition that caused leg cramps like Sylvia’s. As her father had complained of similar things, it made sense for Sylvia to have it as it could be genetically linked as well. She listened to the doctor go on about reducing her caffeine intake, drinking more water before bed, trying a spinning class for her legs, and taking sleeping pills if needed. It wasn’t a serious problem after all, though an annoying one. The doctor was confident that she should have made her patient feel relieved, though she wondered how that bullet hole got there and why Sylvia either didn’t remember it or lied. If she was feeling the effects of old tissue damage, she should have complained about feelings of numbness

But for Sylvia, the visit confirmed her worst suspicions. If the bullet hole was real, then so was the sand in her sheets that she found the morning after she dreamed about it.

 


© Copyright 2018 Alard Ermentrud. All rights reserved.

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