This story is by Eve M Wile and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The sound of buzzing in my head jolts me awake. I feel like a dozen bees are swarming around, picking at the inside of my brain—one by one, leaving their stingers inside my mucus membranes. The pain is intense. I want to reach up and press my palms to the side of my head. I need to make it stop.
Desperate for relief, I reach my hands up to cradle my head. No matter how hard I try, I cannot get my arms to do the work. I begin to panic, my heart racing. The thumping in my chest drumming against my ribcage drowning out the buzzing in my head.
I try again to move my body. This time I try to lift one hand at a time. First, the right. Nothing. I can feel my arm next to my body, the feel of cotton underneath my skin. I close my eyes for a moment, trying to will the opposite arm to move. This one, my left arm, is sitting atop my chest. I feel the edge of my thumb touching my neck. But no movement, utter stillness. A cold sweat forms on my forehead and underneath my arms.
“Help, help.” I try to scream. I hear the scream inside my head, but no words leave my mouth. The only words I hear are the ones playing ping pong inside my mind. For the first time, I notice my breath, quick and uneven. I try to look up to the ceiling but cannot move my head from its position to the left. Maybe I can move my feet or my legs. I try to slow my breath, but it is as if someone else is in the driver’s seat; I have no control. It is no use; all I feel is the stiff starched cotton underneath and against my body—the smell of bleach and antiseptic wipes floating around the room.
Suddenly I hear a door slide open. It sounds like the sliding glass door on my grandfather’s back porch. Click, click, the sound of spiked heels meeting with the hard floor echoes in the room. My eyes focus for a moment, the image blurry. A blonde-haired woman comes into my peripheral view. Her hair is slicked back and pulled into a tight bun with a single ringlet framing her face. She’s wearing a white lab coat, the kind I remember seeing my doctor wear. But she is not my doctor.
The woman stands over me, holding a pen in her hand—a bright light streams into my eyeballs from the tip of it. I try to squint, to no avail. I have no control over my eyelid muscles either.
“She is awake,” I hear her say to no-one in particular.
The sound of more feet walking into the room echos off of the walls. It is as if someone has a megaphone pressed against the side of my head.
“Look, Rick, she is awake. Her eyes are responding. This is our 16-year-old gunshot victim. The bullet entered here at the left temple and left out the back of the skull. She is brain dead”.
“No, no, I am not brain dead.” But the words only do a slow dance in my mind. Oh my god, please, someone hear me, let me move. Where am I? Why am I here?
“Her parents have signed her over, and they understand that she will never be normal again.”
What do you mean, signed me over? Gunshot wound? Was I shot? But I am not brain dead. I am in here. Alive in here. My parents wouldn’t just leave me, give up on me!
“Get six cc’s of the vegetable and vitamin mix for her feeding tube. Even though she is brain dead, we still have to nurture her body for our studies.”
With that, the woman walks away. I try desperately to move my body, my head, my fingers, any part of my body so they understand I am in here. I am alive, and I am here. I scream over and over, the sound of my voice breaking my eardrums.
No one comes back into the room. I watch the fluorescent light turn to darkness. I feel exhausted and depleted of life. The room is quiet, only the consistent sound of a beeping monitor next to my bed. I want to close my eyes, but I can’t. Will I be able to sleep? Will my eyes lock on their own once I am tired enough?
I cannot remember how I got here. The woman today said gunshot wound. Was I shot? I guess It must have been right inside my head. I shudder at the thought. I wish someone would come in and turn my head to the other side of the bed. It has been cocked to the left all day.
I have pain in my lower belly. I need to urinate; I hope they come in and take me. I feel a warm trickle leaving my bottom. Miraculously the sheets remain dry. Maybe a catheter is inside me; I can’t feel it.
Just as I am about to go into complete darkness, a terrifying image comes to mind—a man with a sawed-off shotgun entering my classroom. Short and stocky, screaming vulgar words to all the girls in my small classroom on the hill—shots flying everywhere.
My friend Suzy, oh my god, Suzy. He got her. I feel my throat heating, and my breath becomes shallow. My head thumps, the ringing inside intense. A thousand bells are chiming at once, bouncing off the inside of my skull.
Oh my god, make it stop. I am here, and I am in here; I am not gone. Please help me.
Eventually, I drift off. I wake to the same pounding inside my mind. The lights are blinding my sight again. Today there are a million tiny men swinging bats against my brain. The woman from yesterday returns. I hear her voice, a soft mature voice.
“I am going to turn her bed so you can view her better.”
I don’t know who she was talking with. Within seconds I feel my bed skate across the floor as if it were in the middle of an ice rink. My eyes are blurry for a moment before I focus on the glass wall in front of me. Just outside of it are men and women all holding clipboards.
I stare into the eyes of the only woman I can. Begging, pleading for her to see I am not gone, I am not brain dead. I am alive and well. She carries on looking right through me, scribbling notes on her legal pad.
It is an experiment; I am an experiment. This is my life now.