Gasp

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story of a man who struggled with loss and the crippling guilt and regret of not having been the man he needed to be.

Submitted: January 30, 2010

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Submitted: January 30, 2010

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“It’s cold, so very cold.”

His teeth chattered and his voice warbled as the words stumbled from David’s lips. His skin had already begun to turn a sickly blue hue, pale and plastic. He looked as though to touch his fragile skin would cause it to crack and shatter, like an egg shell.

The moisture collected on his brow had long since crystallized into tiny icicles. His hair was frosted, stiff with glimmering specks of ice throughout. His eyes were red, bloodshot, perhaps from the blustery cold wind combined with fear. His lips were a dark shade of purple. To the common eye, David appeared to be dead already, if not for his still animated body and limited ability to speak.

At first, David put all of his energy into staying awake, alert of his surroundings. The time spent out in the open cold, below freezing temperatures, had clouded his memory and stifled his ability to think clearly. His body has spent vast amounts of energy staying warm. His motionless body has expended valuable resources, like wading in place in water for hours at a time.

The landscape surrounding David was vast and white. There was nothing but white, all around. As far as his naked eye could see, he found no sign of life or civilization. The terrain and climate was clearly too harsh to support such expectations. Flat, barren and wind-blown white; as far as his eye could see.

David recalled visiting his wife in the hospital. The large, sterile building was overwhelmingly white. The floors, walls and ceilings were white everywhere. The only color was the occasional God-awful paintings, typical of what was to be found purchased in bulk order and displayed in corporate buildings.

He had thought on numerous occasions how anyone could heal in a place so absolutely devoid of color and life. David resented that his wife had to spend her final months of life locked away in this sterile prison, limited by pre-determined visiting times like an inmate doing time. The very thought of this injustice made him sick to his stomach. In the end, he could hardly bear the sight of her suffering.

The hospital was mostly silent, except for the random and spontaneous raucous that would appear suddenly whenever a patient was crashing. These were relatively short-lived moments of organized chaos. Before long, David managed to block them out of his mind, like commercials interrupting a favorite television show. His attention was focused on his dying wife, attention that – so far as David could tell – was lost on an unconscious soul, laid flat on her back and motionless as her eyes stared blankly at the ceiling.

David could no longer feel his fingers or toes. This was a sensation he had never experienced before. Frost bite meant that parts of his body were dying, gradually. Despite the clear and present inevitability of his pending death, David felt no fear or anxiety. He found this strange, even inhuman.

“Is anyone out there,” David mustered enough breath from his diaphragm to belt out into the cold, white emptiness.

No response. David allowed himself a small, uncomfortable chuckle. He knew no response would come, but it gave him a feeling of having some control. He looked down at his own situation as best he could with his dry eyes. David could turn his head from side to side and look up, but his chin was to close to the ground for him to look down.

He could tell his body was buried, somehow, within the ice. His head remained above the ice though a hole just large enough for his neck. David could feel the dry, chapped skin on his neck crack when he turned his head. His thoughts begin to wander, contemplating how he had come to be in this place in such a way.Part of him knew such curiosity was pointless, perhaps less important than asking himself why he had been placed in these circumstances.

“What kind of person does this to a man,” he asked himself.

The question seemed rhetorical and pointless. David could feel the muscles in his legs cramping. He focused on his legs and tried moving them. He could flex his muscles, but the space beneath the ice was too confined to move his joints.

A sense of claustrophobia began to take hold on his mind. His body felt strapped in place, tightly bound within the ice. David felt an uncontrollable urge to move and be free, but he could not. David allowed himself to close his eyes in an attempt to relax his mind. In his head, he went somewhere else.

David felt helpless as he watched his wife’s body slowly entering the MRI chamber. It seemed like such a small, uncomfortable tube to be confined within for the sake of a diagnosis. He wondered how she felt being submitted to such an alien device, having radiation thrown at her to collect images of her condition.

His wife had always been a healthy woman. They had met in college, spent years living together, developing their careers, before finally deciding to make the commitment to each other and get married. This was more an act of appeasing their families than securing the way they felt for each other.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, shortly before the lunch hour, when David and his wife awoke naturally from a pleasant night together. David had stayed in bed for a bit, while his wife had gone to the kitchen to make them both some coffee.

David lay on his back, his arms stretched up with his hands tucked beneath his pillow. He recalled thinking how lucky he was to have such a wonderful woman at his side, a beautiful woman to spend the rest of his life with. He smiled as he realized how much he truly loved his wife.

A crash sounded from the kitchen and David sprung naked out of bed and ran to the sound. He stopped suddenly, but briefly, at the entrance to the kitchen where he found his wife on the cold, tile floor.David rushed into the kitchen to his wife and cradled her head in his arm. She was still conscious, but barely. David saw no blood, no wounds or evidence of someone else having been in their home. He looked straight into his wife’s eyes, nervously.

“What happened? Can you hear me?”

His wife’s eyes were glazed and she responded only with a subtle moan. David felt he was losing her, that she wasn’t fully conscious. He gently laid her body down on the floor and scrambled to the phone and dialed 911.

A tear formed at the corner of David’s eye, then froze to his cheek as quickly as it had been produced. David began to feel frustration. He wondered whether he was being punished for something, or if this was just some insane act of random torture.

He imagined some psychotically twisted serial killer adding him to his profile of ingeniously demented kills. David then realized the absurdity of such a notion; equally as absurd as the scenario in which he found himself. David allowed himself to relax for a moment and felt his eyelids get heavy.

David forced himself to stay awake. He had lost track of his time. He was sure he had been like this for a few days, but the lack of night has skewed his sense of time. He placed himself somewhere in the arctic, given the climate and the lack of night, but something wasn’t right.

With the sun glaring in his face, he has not gone blind. Despite being deathly cold, it seemed the extreme temperatures would have killed him before now. His worries once again subsided to his exhaustion and his eyes slowly closed.

David had pleaded for his wife to consider alternative methods of beating her cancer, but the disease had progressed so quickly her fear propelled her to what seemed conventional as her best option. David wanted what was best for her, but realized fighting her wishes and arguing was the last thing she needed.

They had gotten accustomed to getting up early to give themselves plenty of time to prepare for his wife’s treatments. David was nervous and scared, but masked these emotions behind a false sense of urgency and order. He had never been the type of person to rely on structure and organization, but now felt like he needed to manage his wife’s actions as a way to protect her. David became bossy, barking orders of when and where she needed to be and what she needed to do, like a family-friendly drill instructor.

His wife followed orders, likely because she hadn’t the energy to argue with David. In his heart, he could feel she was not happy, but convinced himself it was the cancer and not his distorted sense of being helpful.David watched his wife whither away over time, like seeing a delicate flower wilt and decay in fast-motion. He often had the urge to cry, but fought this urge. He felt it was his place to be strong in his wife’s presence.

A time or two, David resorted to the bottle to ease his pain. It wasn’t until he realized his drinking was affecting his ability to efficiently manage his wife’s pain that eh vowed never to drink again. This only led to his becoming a more stringent dictator over his wife’s regiment of treatments.

He came out of his uncomfortable slumber suddenly, gasping for breath. David felt a sensation he imagined similar to being revived from a drowning accident. He inhaled, taking several deep, wheezing breaths. His eyes were large, his pupils fully dilated as the blinding sunlight reflecting off the ice blinded him. David blinked rapidly, trying to force his eyes to readjust to the light. His vision slowly returned, only to reveal his situation unchanged.

For the first time, David now felt a new sensation. Before he had focused on the cold and the fits of claustrophobia, but now for the first time he felt the worst feeling of all. The loneliness finally set in.He realized at this moment of brutal clarity, that he was on his own in this bleak landscape of endless sterility.

“Nothing can live in these conditions,” he thought to himself.

David exhaled, releasing a short revelatory laugh of resignation. He began to question reality, or at least the veil of reality he was experiencing, trapped in the ice. The sun – what David assumed was the sun – was still bright and intense. He figured in the natural world, even in the extreme cold, this direct and intense sunlight would produce some minimal melting of the ice against his relatively warm body.

David realized he hadn’t felt wet. Not once had he experienced the sensation of water against his skin, only cold. His body felt dry, dehydrated like dead wood. He moved his fingers and they felt less rigid than before. He moved his toes. The feeling had begun to return to his extremities.

The sensation of being resurrected ran through David’s mind. He felt that maybe he was going to escape. This was a ridiculous assumption. Even if he did somehow emerge from the ice, where would he go? He figured he must me hundreds of miles from the nearest civilization, separated by freezing cold wind and ice.

Still, David struggled to regain control of his body. He twisted and squirmed, desperately inching his way up through the softened ice as it crumbled slowly around his shoulders. His movement was slow as an earthworm burrowing up through the dirt to reach the sun-drenched surface, unwittingly ensuring its own demise.

David remembered the cruelty of his wife’s stints of remission, instilling the false hope of recovery in her mind, only to watch her lapse once again into that dark void the cancer created in her mind. The first time, David was fooled just as easily as his wife, joyous that the treatments had worked. After that, he became disgusted by arrogant ignorance he placed upon the doctors’ shoulders for making his wife relive this vicious cycle, over and over again.

His wife asked David to remain positive, but his primal emotions of anger and fear were stronger than his capacity for compassion. David regretted this. He felt guilty for not having been more considerate with his wife’s condition and what she needed from him during her struggle. He felt partially responsible for her death.

His wife on her death bed in that awful hospital room, David was not by her side during her final moments. Alone in the sterile room, David stood out in the hall, arguing with her doctor over the course of treatments and their failure to cure his wife’s cancer. David’s furious drive to blame the doctors and hold someone – anyone – accountable for his wife’s losing battle, his wife’s eyes opened wide. She took a final gasping breath before the life slowly left her devastated body. She died alone.

An aching weight bore down on David’s heart as he reached the surface of the ice. With one last strained motion, David thrust his arm up, followed by the other, splaying them out like an eagle preparing to take flight. With both arms anchored on the surface, David puts all his remaining might into heaving himself up out of the hole.

His back lay against the cold ice, David finally feeling the elusive sensation of moisture on his skin as the ice slowly transforms to water. The weight on his heart had released. He felt light, as if he was nothing at all. He stared into the source of the light, bathing his naked body with increasing warmth.

David remembered his wife in all her beauty. He remembered her kind nature, her positive attitude and her soft, warm touch. David recalled all the time they had together before the cancer set in and took her away. He felt her love one final time. It filled his empty, weightless body as the ice around him gave way.

Inebriated by the warmth and glorious sensation of his wife’s memory, David remained limp as the waters of the melting ice engulfed his body. He sank slowly into the unknown depths of the brilliant blue water. David no longer felt anger for his loss. He no longer suffered the guilt of not being there for his wife. He felt gratitude for the doctors and everyone who helped to ease his wife’s pain. David felt free. His gaze still fixed on the light shining down through the surface; David fell away into the depths of the abyss with a smile of relief.


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