This story is by Tom Housden and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Huh? What’s going on? were Simon’s first words as he got out of bed and made his way downstairs to make a cup of tea. Taking it back upstairs to drink while getting dressed, he noticed something odd – he was functioning normally, no wobbles. Before, he would definitely spill the tea on a few stairs!
He had always been body-conscious, but this morning moreso, as his body was acting strangely, not as he’d ever known it before. He was feeling a mixture of dread and anticipation as he went back upstairs. He wasn’t holding on to the handrails on the stairs, wasn’t reaching out for the rail opposite the stairs to steady himself, didn’t have to hold the walls to steady himself. He wasn’t sure if he liked the feeling it gave him. It made him scared but excited at the same time. He decided to rationalise this “new normality”- to himself.
I can walk without wobbling, or falling over, or spilling tea! I don’t need the handrails on the stairs anymore! So this is what it feels like. 41 years of my life I have Cerebral Palsy, I go to sleep, and wake up the following morning as if I haven’t had it at all? This is so weird and kinda scary! I don’t really know how to function without it. It is part of me, and now it’s been taken away? What the hell is going on? It’s as if I am in a science fiction movie, but somehow it is playing out in reality. Or maybe it is all a dream, and I will wake up soon and find that nothing has changed? I have often wondered what it would it be like to live without it, so maybe this is some higher being’s way of showing me?
But I don’t understand, something must have happened between last night and this morning that made me lose my Cerebral Palsy. Did someone, or something, put a spell on me? I don’t know what happened, or why, but it happened. It feels good, but do I want it to?
I have to tell somebody about this. Or maybe I don’t. Maybe I can just show everybody what ‘miracle’ has happened to me. They won’t believe it, they have to come to know and love me with Cerebral Palsy and now they will have to get used to their friend without it, with nothing holding him back. But how will they react? What will they say? Will they call me a fraud and accuse me of making it up for the past 41 years, or will they see me as plain old Simon? And if they do, either way, how should I respond? I truly wouldn’t know how to, because I don’t even know what happened myself? I could tell them that an alien beamed me up to their mother-ship in the middle of the night, experimented on me, and then beamed me back down to my earthly bed. Imagine the looks on their faces if I told that story! Anyway, the simple fact of the matter is that I cannot explain what happened, not to them, not to anyone. I don’t understand it myself, so how can I expect anyone else to understand it?
I suppose you could call it newfound freedom. In a way, it is. I mean, I have lived with Cerebral Palsy all my life and suddenly I don’t have it. The definition of freedom is that. Well, it isn’t really, but for this situation I like to think it is. I am free from my disability – it was a part of me, but I am so grateful not to have it anymore! But there is a downside to it, I won’t get any financial help anymore – that isn’t good, but maybe the powers that be don’t need to know – no, I just won’t tell them. As long as no-one blabs, it will be alright.
Oh, just enjoy your new-found freedom as you call it and get on with your life.
Simon told himself off for wasting his time. As he didn’t know how he got to this point, or even why, this new ‘gift’, if it was one, could be endless or it could last a week, he didn’t know. He could push the boundaries of not having a disability, and act like he was limitless, but did he want to?
So what shall I do with this new-found freedom that I have somehow got? I need to make the most of it, and if there is a time limit, I don’t really don’t want to waste it.
Oh, Simon, get dressed and stop procrastinating. Step out the door and don’t prejudge what people will say.
Simon was anxious – the only time in his life that he had felt anxious – and nervous. Not the kind of nerves you get when you go on a first date or take an exam, but nerves that people will stare at him and be judging him. He decided that he would take the risk and go out.
He stepped out the door at the same time as his neighbours went for a walk, something he did not want to happen. Being the considerate person he was, Simon greeted them.
“Hello, Mike. What a lovely day it is today.”
Mike noticed a different spring in Simon’s step today but decided not to say anything as he didn’t know what to say!
“Yes, Simon. It is a beautiful day for a walk. You’re very welcome to join us.”
He would normally have accepted their offer, but not today.
“Thank you, but I’ll have to pass.”
“That’s a shame. Anyway, have a nice day.”
Did they notice my disability had mysteriously vanished? I hope not. Anyway, I’ll carry on as normal.
Because it was such a lovely day, lots of people were walking, or out in their front gardens. The village-folk were always nice and courteous, but today they seemed to Simon to be judging him. He could see them staring as he walked past them, as if to say, There’s something different about you. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling at all. Most of them stayed quiet, carrying on staring, their eyes seeming wider than before. Simon felt like he was in a parallel universe, and that all the villagers were monsters who were chasing him for committing a heinous crime. If he had committed a crime, though, he didn’t have any explanation for it! He started feeling like he was a stranger in his own village. He walked past the house of one of his oldest friends, Sam.
“Hello Simon. Um, I don’t mean to be rude, but you look different.”
“Different? I’m not different – I’m still the same lovable Simon you know and love.”
“It’s your movement, somehow you seem to have lost your Cerebral Palsy!”
Not knowing what to say or do, he swiftly walked away.
That afternoon, he answered one of the earlier questions he had asked himself – am I brave enough to be limitless, and to hell with what other people think? So he did just that – he played some football on the local recreation ground, he joined in a basketball game, and he ran home instead of walking. All the time people were staring, wondering just what was going on? Had they just witnessed a miracle?
Sam saw Simon on his way back.
“I saw you on the football pitch. That was some rather impressive skill you’ve got there. There’s only one thing I can’t work out – you’ve had a disability since I have known you, how come you were so good at football earlier? And I know you walk fast, but since when could you run?”
Sam turned to his plants to water them again before turning back to Simon, but Simon had gone, feeling rather embarrassed at not knowing how to answer the question.
“Hello there Simon.”
Mike was watering his plants in his front garden.
“You still look different Si. You don’t seem to be, excuse me for saying, wobbly anymore.”
Simon didn’t know how to react, so he walked away and go back home.
Sitting down to dinner that evening, Simon was more conscious of his body than ever before. He was feeling a range of emotions, but mostly hurt. Hurt because his friends didn’t see him as him anymore, or at least he thought they didn’t. He was also a tad hurt because he thought he would be brave and push the limits of not being disabled, but he had failed.
He returned home, feeling depressed.
“Maybe I’ll go to bed. I’ll have another go at being limitless tomorrow.”
The following morning, he got out of bed and made his tea, the wobbles reappeared -his Cerebral Palsy had returned.
On his walk that morning, he educated some children he met about his disability. Life was back to normal – and it felt great!