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I heard the slow, repetitive breathing of my wife peacefully settled next to me. Slowly, as she began to stir her breathing became more rapid as her body was reconnecting her with the mortal world. Doing her usual ritual she turned over and, breathing a deep sigh waited for me to respond. I couldn’t. I was trying with all I had. I felt tired, and stars of colours began to form and jump behind my eyes.
I could feel the heat beginning to rise from my feet, slowly working its way up.
Trapped inside my own body, nobody could hear my screams.
As a child I had hated the smell of disinfectant. “A clean home is a happy home!” my mother always told me. I had unmasked it within seconds as the pungent smell corrupted my nose. The buzz of a fly hovering by the light was a constant tap hitting the bulb. The next layer of sound was easier to find, but harder to distinguish. A beeping. It came perhaps, every three seconds, but had no harm in the sound. If anything it was relaxing me, keeping me trapped in this dream.
Everything seemed to ache, a deep throbbing pain I couldn’t quite place. I was still a prisoner. I couldn’t move my eyes, or anything else no matter how hard I tried. Footsteps? I was sure of it. They were beginning to get louder and louder till they reached its crescendo. I held my breath. They carried on till they were distant and unfound. Leaving me here all alone. I listened, not allowing my concentration to crack. I was becoming drained, my eyelids became heavy as they were closing and my body felt ten times heavier. Slowly drifting and falling into the darkness, everything around me became a haze.
“Bradley, Bradley can you hear me? It’s Jenna”
The loud sobs had diminished into quiet gasps of breaths. I had woken to find myself still trapped, but there was someone next to me.
“Squeeze my hand Bradley, are you still there? Marcus is stuck at work you know he’s a busy man. He takes after his father. He’s in India for the next 6 months, the cricket tournament has begun and he can’t get any time to come here. But you know, if he could, he would.”
The sobs had begun again. This time deep growls began to vibrate the room. I couldn’t move, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to.
Abruptly the creak of the door echoed in the room.
“Mrs. Greenford, sorry to disturb you but we have some test results. From theses we can see that all is fine for now, with breathing on his own, and his heart is working fine. We will work to getting a CAT scan to see if he is mentally fit. But for now, at least we know he is physically fine”
Tearfully and sniffing slightly, Jenna replied “Thank you so much doctor, you don’t understand how much he means to me”.
I was becoming drowsy again, I didn’t want to leave Jenna, but felt the growing ache of my muscles beginning to reside in every inch of my being. I had to leave her, allow myself to once again fall into the darkness.
I was awoken. It felt like I had been asleep for days, not that I had neither any idea of the time nor where I was. The noises started to break through again, and I realised I hadn’t moved from the prison I had previously left.
There was no sense of anyone else in the room; usually there was a nurse jostling around, or the slow breathing of Jenna. This was very unusual. I lay there listening for something, anything.
Abruptly I started feeling something different. It felt like someone was pushing me into a fearsomely hot shower of acid. I needed to scream out. I needed help. Where was Jenna?
The machines became agitated, screaming out as loud as I wanted to yet I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. I could hear the doctors and nurses running in. I couldn’t feel anything. Were they even helping me?
“Mrs. Greenford it has been 3 months. We have had to put Mr. Greenford on a life support machine because of how the disease is spreading. We need to have the discussion. I understand it will be very difficult, but it might be better to not keep him suffering for any more time than he needs to.”
Jenna could never do this to me; she had spoken of our future, how we could get through this together. I heard the chair brush the floor swiftly as Jenna turned towards me. I could almost hear the tears that were caressing her cheeks.
“But you said yourself, on the CAT scans, there is a chance.”
“Yes, but after this amount of time the chances are minimal if not none. I understand this is a great responsibility, but the decision should be made soon. Even if he was to recover, the chances of his motor skills coming back will not be possible.”
No. For the first time straight fear had taken over, my mind began reeling. I was still here, I could learn everything again. I’m only 50.
With that the creak of the door sounded again, and all that was left was Jenna with her deep sobs.
“Bradley something bad has happened I don’t know what to do. You’re the one that understands how to sort things out when they’re bad. Why aren’t you here helping me?”
Would she tell me even if she doesn’t know I can hear her? My wife of 25 years was sobbing her heart out. It was killing me. All I wanted was for her to know I’m still here. I could hear her, even if I couldn’t say it myself.
I just needed a way to tell her I was here, just move a finger or open my eyes. I had been trying for over three months, the doctor said it himself. I was just an old man trapped with no hope of ever getting out.
“Bradley, I need you to tell me if your still there. If you can hear me at all. Losing you will be like losing my best friend.”
Jenna broke down. Nothing but hollow weeping, every time she calmed down they would begin again. She was stuck in a sick cycle, not able to break it.
“Bradley. Marcus was in an accident, I don’t know what to do. They took him to the hospital but they don’t know if it could be too late.”
Jenna was a strong women, I knew she was trying her best to handle things. Going into her paralysed state where she didn’t allow any emotion to pull through to the surface. That was the worst. I always tried to talk to her when she was upset, but she would never do it until she was ready to confide in me.
I felt sick. Even if I could speak I wouldn’t know what to say. My son. My only child. I was never a strict man where religion was concerned but I prayed, I prayed that God would see my son in the way I did. I wish I could be there for Jenna, reach my hand out and let her know I was here for her. I couldn’t believe this was happening, not now. I was meant to be there for the family, the rock they called me.
Over the last month, more and more times had I felt the increasing fire that took over my body. Each time it seemed to get worse, taking longer to surrender. I screamed in my mind for someone to stop the pain. Kill me if they had to.
I couldn’t leave Jenna. I just couldn’t do it to her. But would she make that decision for me and turn of the only thing keeping me here, with her? She left me. I suppose she couldn’t make the decision while watching me lie there.
I felt weak. This was what I was afraid of. My body was giving up on me; its thirst for life had disappeared. The fire that usually raged inside me for those split seconds always had that premature burning that slowly built up.
It differed this time. The heat began at a mesmerizing high. I couldn’t believe it could get any worse than the time before. I was wrong. The pain was consuming my body inch by inch. I wanted to arch my back and scream to the high heavens. The usual bright lights jumping behind my eyes were as black of the night.
The machine made a sickly low sound. This was it. This was the end.
“No, you can’t take my husband! I can’t lose him as well.”
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