This story is by Paul and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I used to think the ultimate fate worse than death was the loss of function and control, but I was mistaken.
It’s been a year and a week since they laid me here, 372 days and at 2PM it’ll be 8,928 hours, but no one has mentioned the time so I can’t calculate it exactly. From the breakfast noises it’s between 8:30 and 10:00AM.
I spend most of my time with my eyes closed and live in the world of sound, building images in my mind about what’s happening. I don’t know when I’m being fed unless they forgot to close my eyes, then I can see shadow figures screw with my PEG tube. I heard them explain it to Mavis, it’s a Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy tube they use to inject some kind of ground-up slop directly into my small intestine.
I create peoples faces to look like what I think their personality’s are based on the sound of their voices. One nurse always shows up with a negative attitude, angry about something. I’ve made her image with frown lines and a scowl, but pretty because her periodic laugh rings like an excited child’s voice and gives me internal smiles.
Others range from older and stern to bright and young. I think one is a candy-striper, her voice is young and in my mind she’s beautiful. She tells me about what’s happening in the world I no longer live in while she bathes me. I know when she washes my butt and other things, I can’t feel it, but she apologizes,
“I know this is embarrassing, but we have to do it. I promise I won’t look.”
I wish I could thank her for what she does and tell her I appreciate her gentle and kind demeanor, but I don’t have words any more. She treats me like I’m a real person and I wish I could tell her I love her for that.
I spent time counting the holes in the acoustical tile ceiling the first two weeks I was here, it resembles dark stars in a white universe. I could still slightly defocus my eyes and it became three dimensional giving it depth so it more closely resembled looking up at the universe. They used drops then to keep my eyes moist and left them open long enough for me to figure out the patterns and count the holes.
At first glance they seemed random, but they’re not, each tile has the same hole pattern and they rotate them to appear random. When I noticed the hole pattern was the same I counted holes in one tile then counted the tiles I could see and multiplied them. I can’t move my eyes. I was an engineer and math problems help me stay sane.
There are 230,492 visible stars in my very confined universe. Now that’s gone and the world is only a blur of grey fuzziness when my eyes are open and they’re cleaning them and putting the salve in they use now. It goes dark when they shut them.
My family comes to visit, but most only once a month, except Mavis. Beautiful, loving, Mavis is here every day and sleeps here many nights. I wish I could tell her to go on. I wish I could just die so she could, but I can’t, a bunch of damned machines live for me.
If you could call being a fucking carrot living. They should paint me orange and dye my hair green. I yearn for a power failure, but there’s backup power on the ventilators so all I can really hope for is that someone kicks the plug out and it’s not noticed in time. The regret for not filling out the Do Not Resuscitate directive eats at me now.
I’ve never believed in gods, but I hope for one. I beg for it to just let me go, kill me, and I do not give a particular damn if it hurts, nothing happens though. A month after I got here a nurse was cleaning my eyes and I heard her say, “Look, tears, he must be sad.” She laughed after that and I prayed for her death. Me! Praying! What a joke.
I forgave her later, how could she know. I don’t want anyone hurt, but they have no idea what it’s like beIng aware of everything and unable to tell them. I hate the nights, I get very little sleep.They salve my eyes because I can’t blink so everything is a vague, grey blur if they don’t close them, but at least there’s shadows of activity and light.
“This must be how Stephen Hawking lived,” is a thought and I wish for his mind, his ability to visualize the entire universe and walk around in it. That must be how he kept his sanity. He could communicate though, I can’t. I am holding more in my mind now and so far I think I’m okay, but I’ve read you can’t know if your insane.
Two detectives came while I was in the emergency room and showed me pictures of the guy that did it, asking if I knew him, I didn’t and couldn’t respond anyway. They discussed it and said he was 200 yards away and fired his 22 randomly into the air from a parking garage because he was pissed at the government. Pure chance it hit me.
A damned .22 caliber bullet, why couldn’t the geeky little bastard have used a 9mm and killed me. Hell, I’ve been pissed at the government for decades, but I never shot anyone. I think about the damage two and a half grams of lead and copper can do.
One tenth of an ounce traveling a couple hundred feet-per-second entered my head at the base of my skull and severed my spinal cord rendering me totally paralyzed. I’m a vegetable now, while that little prick can still laugh and enjoy life. I heard he got ten years, but he’ll be out in six and I fervently hope he becomes Bubbas girlfriend and they take a lot of pain filled time killing him.
I won’t say his name, but he’s a tooth-pick thin, ugly little shit that hates the world because it didn’t give him what he wants. If I could talk I’d tell him, “Most of the world doesn’t get what they want, asshole, but they don’t shoot anyone. Just get the fuck over it!”
For the first time in my life I hate. I detest that son-of-a-bitch so much I hope and crave, dream for an excruciating, long-term death for him. Not because of me, for what he’s done to my family; Mavis the most, this is destroying her.
I was always stronger than any situation I ran into so I never feared much. I knew my strength and used it to help, not destroy. The only thing I really dreaded, was being paralyzed and conscious and not being able to communicate. What I should have feared was time.
That gentle old man with the sweet, longing smile and long, silky white beard and robes. We all felt sorry for him because the baby new year had arrived and he was on his way out, “Lying bastard! It’s not a gentle exit!” Time is what I dread now. I have a very deep emotional understanding of that word as I unblinkingly stare up into the fuzzy grey universe I live in.
But wonderful, beautiful Mavis, the bigger half of my soul and the place I could always go, curling into her warm embrace until whatever was bothering me faded. Mavis talks to me for hours each day, reads to me and comforts me which I think is the only reason I’m still mostly sane. I adore her. She believes I’m still here. She’s reading my collection of Hawking’s books to me
“I know you’re there, Ian, I love you and I’ll be here until you don’t need me any more.”
The need to not need her, to die, eats at my mind like acid. I overheard one doctor say totally paralyzed patients typically only live for two years and the fact I’m half way there brings hope. I beg at times, grovel and plead to a fantasy, “God, if you’re there and compassionate, please let me die and send me to wherever I belong so Mavis can move on to a life.
There’s never an answer.
There never will be.
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