More than two years have passed since Chapter xii. In that time, the only landmarks from the outside world have been a night nurse falling down once, and Joe's removal to a new room. Then, one day, Joe feels himself being prepared to have visitors. He feels four or five people come into his room. First he hopes that it is Kareen and his family, but then he feels ashamed of his body and hopes that it is not them.
Joe begins thrashing in an attempt to hide the horror of himself from the visitors. He feels a hand on his forehead and more hands folding down his blanket. First He thinks that a team of doctors is examining him, curious about the live dead man. Then he feels something being pinned onto his chest and someone kissing his head. Joe realizes that the visitors are generals decorating him with medal.
Joe becomes gradually furious at the hypocrisy of the generals—who never actually get injured in battle themselves—decorating him with a medal. He thrashes in bed, this time attempting to thrust his mangled body into the generals' view. Joe feels a vibration in his throat and he knows that he is making a sound they can hear. He feels the vibrations of the men leaving. Joe suddenly realizes that, if he himself can gather information about the world through vibrations, he might potentially use vibrations to communicate with others.
Joe remembers telegraphing with Bill Harper over their wireless sets. Joe decides to tap his head in Morse code to try to get a message to his nurse. But when his nurse comes in she does not understand his "SOS" message and merely rests her hand forcefully on his brow to calm him.
Joe has lost all track of time, as he is constantly tapping out messages. His day nurse continues not to understand, and instead tries to soothe him. She bathes him, adjusts his bed, and massages him, but he keeps on tapping. One day, Joe feels a change of attitude in the touch of her fingers. There is a new tenderness and a strange kind of servicing love. The day nurse begins to masturbate Joe; despite his immediate disgust at her misinterpretation of his need, he responds to her touch.
Joe remembers the first girl he was with sexually—Ruby. All the boys in town had begun with Ruby because she made them comfortable. Eventually all the boys felt ashamed of Ruby and would not speak to her again.