in the aftermath of a life-changing accident.
Authorís Notes: Many
thanks to the TIWF for their encouragement, and to LMB for
once again being my literary crash dummy and helping me out
with this right from the beginning. Big thank you for the
title as well!
There is a woman.
She has curly red
hair and green eyes. A light shines just above her head and it
makes her look like an angel. Thatís funny, and normally Iíd
make a joke; but Iím too tired.
Thereís a lot of
noise. People are talking, and moving, and saying lots of
important things, but the woman is silent.
Sheís staring down
at me, and holding a bag next to my face which she squeezes
every few seconds.
The bag is yellow,
and hisses whenever she squeezes it.
The room is getting
Sheís talking to me
She keeps telling me
to stay awake.
I donít listen.
Iím not sure how
much time has passed.
I vividly remember
that woman with the red hair, and then an odd sinking feeling
that seemed to last forever, but after that there is an
indeterminate gap where I can remember nothing at all. Only
Iím not sure when I
arrive at the path, yet I find myself walking along it now as
though itís the most natural thing in the world.
The path is an old
dirt road, with hayfields on either side. Thereís no noise
here, just the soft occasional breeze that sweeps past me and
moves the grass gently. The sky is blue and clear, and the
sunlight is so warm and hazy it seems to have a physical
presence. Itís just like where we grew up, only better -
heightened somehow - with all the best bits and none of the
I walk down the road
and Iím filled with the same sense of confidence I get when I
play a practical joke on my brothers.
Iím being bad by
following this lovely path. But not bad in a terrible way,
just like Iím being cheeky and mischievous, like a naughty
schoolboy disobeying the teachers. That sounds just like me.
For a long time the
mood is calm and indulgent, and I can just enjoy my journey in
relative peace. Iím happy here, and I donít want to give in to
the people who are a bit cross about my journey.
I still have no idea
what Iím walking towards, but I know that with every step, I
become more and more relaxed. I keep thinking about how mad my
brothers will be when they find out what Iím doing, and I feel
like laughingÖbut that feeling doesnít last long.
As I continue to
walk down the path, I begin to realise that Iím really
At first, thatís
fine; I donít really care what anyone else thinks. Iím tired,
and itís nice here. Itís a nice, easy route and I can just
drift away if I want to.
Thatís what Iíve
decided to do.
Itís my path and I
decide the rules. Iím too tired, so Iím going to enjoy myself,
and drift off to the comfy place.
I walk on, at peace
with myself and my surroundings. And yet something is starting
to change. I can feel the humour slowly draining away. The
mood, which had been so loving and tolerant before, is now
angry and scolding.
I immediately stop
walking and try to listen. Itís a strange sensation. I canít
hear anything, but somehow I know that Dad is mad at me. I
donít want him to be. He doesnít get cross unless Iíve done
something really bad.
As soon as I realise
this, I come to my senses a little. I look ahead to the
horizon - my goal - and somewhere deep down, I register that
this is really wrong.
I shouldnít be
joking about this, and I definitely shouldnít be on this path.
Iím in serious
trouble, and I need to listen to Dad.
So, I stop messing
about and do as Iím told.
I turn around.
Going back is
incredibly difficult, for some reason. Itís agonisingly hard
to pull myself away from that comfortable place, but I force
myself to continue.
It feels like Iím
hauling myself, flat on the ground, with only my fingernails
able to propel me forwards.
After a lot of time
passes, the path slowly disappears and dissolves into darkness
and I feel like I've achieved something.
Now, there are brief
periods of awareness, where voices filter into the inky
blackness. I canít hear what theyíre saying; just the sound of
their voices. Sometimes theyíre familiar, and that brings me
some comfort, but Iím far too weary to respond.
Most of the time it
just sounds like a low echoing murmur, a wonderfully familiar
hum that sounds exactly like being underwater. I donít think I
am underwater though. Because, as good as those periods of
wakefulness are, I always return to a numb and silent sense of
The whole thing is
I try to understand
why Iím feeling like this, and I come up with nothing.
I eventually recall
the woman with the red hair, and someone else talking urgently
to me. There was a helicopter, and waterÖbut then there are
lots of pictures that donít seem to make sense.
When I think about
it, nothing really makes sense at the moment. I know I need to
return to somewhereÖbut for the life of me I have no idea how
to do that. As I become gradually more aware of my state of
mind, I get more concerned. Iím not frightened, as such,
thereís just a nagging sense of doubt at the back of my mindÖI
shouldnít be like this. Things shouldnít be this confusing.
Something bad has
I try to think: to
understand how I got to this point.
It takes a long
time, but distantly, a picture forms in my head and I begin to
The hydrofoil had
I had been fighting
to save it. Something had gone wrong, and there hadnít been
time to figure out how to fix it. I could feel the adrenaline
surge as I desperately tried to correct the problem, and then
I remembered that sense that I was losing the fight - and I
had to give up trying to stop it happening.
I was going to die.
I didnít panic, and
I didnít pray. I wasnít even scaredÖjust sad. All my choices
were taken away, and there was nothing more I could do but
I thought my life
would flash before my eyes, or Iíd see Mom waiting for me, but
nothing like that happened. I just remember feeling sad, and
closing my eyes.
Thatís the last
thing I can clearly recall. After that it gets hazy
ÖIs this death?
Iíve never tried to
define death before, but Iíve always assumed it was a stop; a
definitive, and conclusive cutting off of life.
This canít possibly
Things are different
now, but Iím fairly sure I havenít stopped. Iím still me, I
thinkÖSo whatís happening to me?
Iím in a strange
kind of stasis where Iím aware, but at the same time
completely oblivious. Part of me knows that I have to return
to the place where my family are, but another, stronger part
of me just wants to drift in this void and mend.
Thereís no pain
here, and I know enough to realise that that is a very good
thing. I can dimly recall screaming, and blood, and agonising
convulsionsÖ but that's all gone now. Here I can just relax.
I feel weak. And I
need strength for thisÖso I sleep.
I donít like this
Itís exhaustion like
Iíve never felt before. A bone weary, enervated sensation that
I canít escape from no matter how hard I try. Facts, ideas and
meanings slip from my grasp despite my best efforts to think
even the simplest of thoughts is almost impossible.
I feel a strange
sense of detachment about everything Iím experiencing. If I
had the energy, I think I would be in a state of frantic
terror over my situation, but as it is, Iím too tired to
indulge in wild emotions like that.
Time doesnít really
mean much to me at this point, but Iím aware of it. Thatís
whatís so easy about this place. No specifics. Nothing as
complicated as facts or emotions. Just a vague sense of
I like the periods
when I can hear the voices - even if I canít understand what
theyíre saying; their presence brings a vague sense of relief
that is quite soothing. The voices remind me that Iím still
alive, and I try to hear them more often, but that is a
monumental struggle. For some reason pushing myself to do
anything other than drift takes a great deal of concentration
and effort, so I do nothing for a long time, enjoying the
I could happily stay
this way forever.
After some time
passes, a voice permeates the darkness. Its quiet and sombre
tone holds my attention; though Iím not sure why. I canít
recall the name of the person talking - or even his connection
to me - but I know I donít like hearing him cry. Heís speaking
softly, his deep voice intimately familiar even in the
confused state I find myself in.
I havenít really
tried to do anything for a long time, but for some reason
hearing that voice galvanises me into action. That voice is
important to me, and I want to hear it more clearly. I want to
talk to him.
I decide to fight a
little harder, and sacrifice a little of the numbness Iím
feeling. I devote all my energy to fighting to pull myself
closer to the voice. Itís draining, but I feel that if I relax
for even a moment, then Iíll sink further into the darkness.
Sometimes, I think back to the path and how relaxing it had
been, and the idea of just letting go is so inviting; but I
know I have to continue on. I donít have a choice.
Eventually all the
struggling pays off, and there is a small success: I become
aware of a new sensation.
There is a heaviness
that wasnít there before. Itís difficult to describe the
sensation, as itís something I always took for granted before;
the feeling of being present in oneís own body. I focus on
that indistinct sense of weight for a long time, trying to
remember how to use it to my advantage. Nothing happens, but
there is a familiarity to the sensation that is comforting,
and it means that Iím a little closer to coming back.
When I begin to hear
that deep voice again, I find it clearer and sharper than
before. I still canít really understand what the person is
saying, but I donít think itís because I canít hear him; I
think itís because I canít focus enough to listen to the
words. Does that make sense?
This is my first
real achievement since the hydrofoil, and I feel like I should
celebrateÖbut Iím tired.
I only begin to
listen again when I realise that the voice has changed. This
new voice is quite soft and quiet, and I find myself
connecting it to all sorts of strange things in my head. The
voice reminds me of the smell of oil paints, for some reason,
and music. Calming music.
In a flash, I am
taken back to my childhood. Iím ten, and the owner of the
voice is picking me up and throwing me into a pool. The memory
comes back so strong and immediate that I can almost taste the
chlorine. I remember the splash as the person jumps in after
me, laughing along with me as I surface and splash him in
Itís a tiny,
insignificant memory, that has now become more important to me
than anything else in the world. I cling onto that memory for
a long time, remembering that sensation of happiness as
different voices fade in and out.
Itís a little easier
to focus now.
That fuzziness that
made thinking impossible is now gone, and I can concentrate on
hearing. Iím quite content as I listen, but one thing I begin
to notice is that these voices never sound happy, and I never
hear laughing. Thatís strange. Iím used to laughter.
Thatís who I am - I
think - Iím the guy that makes people laugh.
Maybe thatís why the
voices are unhappy, because Iím too tired to tell jokes at the
moment. I donít mind that theyíre sad though, because any
noise is nice - or at least it would be nice, were it not for
the regular interruptions.
I donít know how
long itís been going on - maybe I just wasnít aware of it
before - but the strange woman turns up pretty regularly now.
She asks me to do things; little things, like squeezing her
finger, or opening my eyes. Even if I were able to do what she
asks, itís impossible to fathom why sheís asking me to do
something so stupid and trivial; so I donít respond.
She doesnít like
Whenever I donít
respond thereís a sharp pain from somewhere, and I can feel
myself jerk in response. I think sheís doing that to me to
punish me for not responding the first time. What kind of a
cruel woman would do that? And why are the other voices
letting her do it?
See, itís things
like that which make my existence at the moment incredibly
confusing. I donít like feeling confused.
I really feel like I
should be making a joke about this. If my brain would work
properly, Iím sure Iíd come up with something genius.
I think that itís
time to wake up.
Iíve never been a
patient person, and Iím sick of things not making sense. I
donít want to just hear the voices, no matter how clear they
are. It isnít enough any more. I want to feel everything.
There are people who are waiting for me, and I want to see
My thoughts spur me
into action, and I once again struggle to claw my way back.
Itís draining. I canít describe the mental strength it takes
to return. Small flashes of consciousness and memory begin to
merge together out of time and sequence, and soon I start to
feel a little more like myself. I find myself focussing on the
most trivial of recollections, simply to give me the will I
need to continue on.
As time passes, I
begin to feel myself recover.
I remember my
brothersí faces, and my gold medal hanging on the wall, and
dozens of little moments in my life that Iíd almost forgotten
about, but I first notice something is different when I think
about my father. Up until now that word has just been a vague
term that I didnĎt really associate with myself, but now I can
picture him. My Dad. He has blue eyes and a quiet, chuckling
laugh that sounds exactly like mine. He always listens to me,
even when Iím being an idiot, and he ruffles my hair when heís
proud of me.
I donít know how,
but somehow I know heís sitting right next to me, willing me
on and supporting me, just like he always has. Heís waiting
for me to come back.
It gives me renewed
strength, and I take comfort in Dadís unwavering faith in me.
intermittently, and each time I awaken, I feel a little more
Thereís still a
comforting sense of numbness, but now I can feel the important
Thereís a whole
world that Iím now aware of. I can not only hear new sounds
and noises - but I can also connect those sounds to tangible
things; to facts.
billowing sound of a curtain blowing in the wind to the left
of me, and a steady beeping noise from a machine beside me.
Thereís the hum of a computer, and something that sounds a bit
like bellows. And then thereís a voice. I can understand them
now, and it was worth the effort.
Iím filled with a
delirious sense of euphoria that my fight is nearly over: I
can finally hear my brother.
Itís Alan. Alan is
speaking to me. I feel like jumping for joy at the sound of my
little brotherís voice, and allow myself a moment just to
relish in my own achievement. I want to hear him talk about
that ridiculous red sports car, and all those little
mechanical details that he rambles on about. I want to know
how his last race went. Did he win? I must have missed so
Iím so happy and
excited that it takes a moment for me to realise that
something isnít quite right. I pause, listening to him as best
That elated sense of
triumph slowly fades as I concentrate on my brotherís hollow
voice. Iíve never heard him sound like that before. He sounds
as tired as I feel, and his voice is almost completely devoid
of feeling. Why is he talking like that? I try to focus on
what heís saying, instead of just the sound of his voice.
ď ÖHe wasnít happy
about us making him leave, Gordo, you should have seen his
He sounds like heís
smiling, but thereís no humour in his voice.
ďHe needed the
sleep, though,Ē he continues numbly. ďWeíve all been a little
off the past few weeksÖif I were you, I wouldnít want to wake
up to the atmosphere round hereÖĒ
He tails off into
silence. I wish I could see him. Knowing Alan, heíll be
fidgeting and trying not to look at me. He was never good with
heart to hearts. I want to tell him a joke to cheer him up,
but thereís nothing funny about this.
ďHeíll be ringing
soon to check in with the doctors,Ē he continues, his voice
still in that quiet dull tone that sounds so unlike him.
ďWould you like to talk to him on the phone? Heíd love to talk
to you again. Imagine if you woke up at the one time he leaves
you. Thatíd be some practical joke. Your best everÖall you
have to do is open your eyes.Ē
I think about that.
He wants me to open my eyes. It doesnít seem like something
Iím capable of. I try a littleÖI canít do it. I can almost
feel Alanís eye boring into mine as he wills me to respond,
and I so want to do what he asks, but I canít.
There is a long
ďÖPlease open your
Alanís plea is
whispered so quietly itís almost inaudible. Thereís a
desperation in those words that shocks me to the core. I try.
I really try to force my eyes open, but I canít. Itís like I
canít connect my thoughts to my body; the numbness is still
There is silence in
the room, and I can sense Alan is waiting for a response that
will not come. I hear him sigh quietly, and he doesnít speak
for a long time.
I donít like this.
I donít like making
my brother sad.
Why canít I move?
I listen to the
silence, straining to hear Alan say something else, but he
doesnít. I can hear a hitch in his breathing, and then a
sniff; then thereís a quiet breathy noise as my little brother
cries beside me. The sound is muffled slightly. I think his
hand is over his mouth to remain as quiet as possible. He
doesnít want me to hear.
I donít like this.
I thought I wanted
to hear the voices, but this hurts. I want to talk to Al and I
canít. Why canít I do it? Whatís happened to me?
I start to panic.
I want to see Al and
Whatís happened to
I try to take a deep
breath but I canít do that either. Something is in my throat.
I canít breathe. A machine starts beeping loudly next to me,
and I can hear Al shouting something.
I canít breathe.
I want to wake up.
Why canít I wake up?
When I come back to
myself, the first thing on my mind is Alan. I hope heís okay.
I donít mean to make him upset like that, but I canít help it.
I donít know how
much time has passed since he spoke to me and, for the first
time, I find that alarming. How long have I been putting him
through this? Alan never cries, and that emotional outpouring
must have been building up since this first happened.
Guilt weighs heavily
on me now. Alan is upset, which means the whole family must be
upset too. Without realising it, Iíve been making them all
Iím so caught up in
considering the events of earlier, that I almost donít notice
the change in sensation that has occurred.
The darkness is gone
and soft light penetrates my eyelids. Itís strange to see
light after so long in the dark, and it takes a little while
for me to adjust. I want to open my eyes so desperately, but I
still find myself unable to do so.
I listen out for any
familiar voices around me, for some indication of where I am,
but I find myself in a silent room; well, not completely
silent. There is still the sound of a computer, and that
beeping noise, but if anyone is sitting with me then they
arenít in a talkative mood. I can hear movement though; Iím
sure someone is standing right beside me. I gradually become
aware of the scratch of a pen on paper, and then a rustling
sound as the person moves around me. A womanís voice breaks
the silence and I listen closely.
ďMr Tracy, itís
Doctor Bradley. Itís time for your GCS tests again.Ē
She has that same
dull tone that Alan had before, only sheís a little better at
hiding it than Alan. Sheís not fooling me: she doesnít want to
be here any more than I do. Itís strange how I can hear little
things like that in a personís voice now. I donít think Iíve
ever been so perceptive: maybe itís a superpower? I feel like
laughing at the thought as the doctor moves around me, and
eventually stops, sighing wearily.
ďOkay, letís get
this underway. Can you feel my fingers on your hands?Ē
I canít feel my own
fingers, let alone hers. What a ridiculous question. And why
is she calling me Mr Tracy? Thatís my father. Iím Officer
TracyÖor Gordo, if you like. She sounds quite pretty actually.
I wonder what she looks like?
Iím thinking about a
tall blonde woman with blue eyes when thereís a sharp pain
from somewhere. Without thinking, I yank my arm away from the
pain. That hurt! Suddenly Doctor Bradley isnít sounding all
that hot, why did she do that?!
ďVery good, Gordon,Ē
she commented brightly. ďYour father will be pleased with
that. Youíre up to a four now.Ē
A four in what? What
am I a four in? I wish she would stop talking in riddles.
First sheís causing me injuries, and now sheís confusing me
with random numbers. Iím starting to feel tired again, and she
is not improving my mood in the slightest.
ďNext one is a
little trickier, Gordon. Can you open your eyes for me?Ē
I pause and think
carefully about what sheís asking. Sheís not the first person
to ask me to do this recently. I really want to open my eyes,
if only to prove to Alan that Iím still in hereÖbut with every
passing moment Iím growing gradually more weary. Even if I
werenít so tired, I donít think I could bring myself to do it.
Thereís a loaded
pause, until the woman moves again beside me.
ďGuess not, huh?
Donít worry, youíll get there eventually. How about speaking?
Do you think we can get some noise out of you today? Can you
say your name?Ē
Gordon. My name is
Gordon. I say it over and over again but the numbness prevents
me from making a sound. Itís frustrating to the point of
madness. I canít help but think that if I could just keep
myself awake then I could do as she asks, but that's proving
ďIf you can hear me
make a soundÖjust a little sound, thatís all I want.Ē
desperate for her to hear me, but she remains completely
I hate this.
I donít like this
Doctor Bradley, and I donít like having my limitations laid
out so bare in front of me. All these questions have exhausted
me. I donĎt want to think anymore. This is a miserable state
of affairs, and I want to sleep again.
If Doctor Bradley
asks anything more of me, I donít hear it. Iím completely
drained and, for once, I welcome the darkness as it sweeps
over me once again.
When I wake again,
the first thing I am aware of is a familiar voice talking in a
monotone. It is muffled at first, but becomes gradually more
audible as I return to this peculiar state of consciousness. I
can hear him clearly now, and I realise that I haven't heard
his voice in a long while. Itís a similar feeling to when I
first heard Dad; hearing my big brotherís voice is incredibly
comforting in a way it has never been before.
I listen to him
speak for a while, and feel a little like when I used to wake
up after a training session in the pool. I ache, but not to
the point of agony. Itís just a sense that Iíve been working
hard, and my body is letting me know that it disapproves. I
used to love that feeling, but now it seems out of place. I
havenít done anything to warrant feeling like this.
Slowly, I stop
listening to Scott and turn my attention inwards. It takes me
long moments to realise why I ache like this.
Suddenly, I want to
cry in relief.
I ache all over, and
I canít move, but for the first time since this happened, the
numbness is gone, and I can feel again. Iím lying on something
soft, and I can feel my chest gently rise and fall as I
breathe. There is a dry sensation at the back of my throat,
and someone has taken my hand and is running their thumb up
and down it. Itís not just that, though. Something else feels
different. Something in my head. Iím not just stringing
together facts anymore. Instead, I can connect those facts to
memories and sensations. For the first time in a long time, I
feel like Gordon Tracy.
Iím elated, and
desperate to share my happiness with the people around me. I
want to jump for joy! Thatís probably pushing it a bit,
though. I think Iíll wake up before attempting any complicated
acrobatics like that.
Scott is reading
from a book about marine life. I can hear him turning the page
as he talks about deep sea exploration. He sounds incredibly
bored, and I really want to laugh at him. Thatís one good
thing about being sick, I can get my brothers to do things
theyíd never normally do.
Iím tempted to
torture him for a little while longer, and let him read right
to the end of the book, but I think the poor guyís been
No excuses now. Itís
time to respond.
Iím not going to be
beaten by a silly little carbon fibre boat that didnít even
work properly in the first place.
Iím a Tracy. And Iím
not going down that easily.
My first step is
something simple. Iím going to move my hand. Moving is almost
impossibly difficult, but itís not painful; Iíve just
forgotten how to do it. I think for a long time about it,
trying to familiarise myself with my own body again. That
sounds strange, doesnít it? But itís true. Iím just not sure
what muscles I need to move anymore. After long minutes of
being unable to move, I begin to think about the injuries Iíve
sustained...what if Iím paralysed?
I banish that
thought from my mind as quickly as it appears, and focus all
my attention on my right hand: I need to move my fingers. I
try to picture myself moving through water, trying to mimic
the movement, but that doesnít work. That hand just doesnít
want to respond. The person holding it is oblivious to my
struggle. He is gripping it softly, moving his thumb steadily
up and down. Somehow I know itís Dad. He hasnít said a word
but I know itís him.
This is my final
I steel myself, and
summon all I have left, channelling all the energy I can
muster into forcing my fingers to move. Success! I can feel my
index finger jerk in response at first, then my hand slowly
curls around Dadís. I feel him jump, and the room goes quiet.
ďWhat is it?Ē
Dad is silent,
gripping my hand experimentally.
ďDad, what is it?Ē
Come on, Dad, tell
them. Tell them Iím here.
Dad is apparently
ignoring all the questions, and heís leant closer to me,
whispering my name hesitantly.
hear me, son?Ē
I can. I can hear
you. Why canít I talk? Iím so tired after that effort. I want
to drift again, just for a little while, but Dad is still
talking to me.
ďSon, come on now. I
know I didnít imagine that.Ē
ďImagine what, Dad?
ďHold on, Alan,Ē
John interrupts. Thatís not like him at all.
Dadís voice is quiet
and determined as he continues, ďGordon, I know youíre tired,
butÖyou can hear me. I know you canÖSqueeze my hand again,
son. You can do it.Ē
He wants me to do it
again? It was difficult enough the first time, but my fatherís
unwavering faith in me makes me steel myself to try again. Now
I know the parts that need to move, I remember a little
I try for several
moments with no response, and I can sense my brothers sitting
back in their seats, clearly thinking their father is going
insane. Dad is silent, and I know why; heís waiting for me to
That spurs me on
and, drawing from reserves of energy I didnít know I had, I
curl my fingers slowly over. I hear a choked gasp from
someone, and a beep as someone else presses a button by my
head. The boys are all moving around me again.
Gordon,Ē Dad continues, his voice still lovely and calm. He
sounds like heís smiling. ďThatís really good. Can you open
your eyes for us?Ē
Eyes. Right. This
time Iíll do it. I try, but my eyelids feel incredibly heavy.
I donít succeed, but there is an audible reaction from the
people around me. Clearly I did something.
ďCome on, Gordon,
keep trying. You can do it.Ē Thatís Virgil! Are they all here?
I try again, and manage to open them just a crack, the blurry
lights flickering in my sight for only a moment. The light is
painful, so I shut them again almost immediately, but the
reaction from everyone is amazing. They cheer, whoop and laugh
loudly, and the noise is completely overwhelming, until Dad
When the room is
once again silent, I open my heavy eyelids slowly, blinking as
I get used to the new sensation. The room is blurry, but
becoming clearer with every passing moment.
There are people
standing around my bed. They slowly come into focus. Dad is
there, and all my brothers. Theyíre all looking at me with
tears in their eyes. Thereís another man, too. Heís wearing a
ďHi, Gordo,Ē Alan
says. He looks nervous. I try to smile at him, but thatís
difficult. Now Iím awake the tiredness has hit me like a
freight train. I breathe in, and feel something in my nose
thatís supplying me with oxygen.
I try to respond to
Alan, but my voice so cracked and hoarse itís barely audible,
even to me. I feel like thereís barely enough strength in me
to even stir the air. Dad turns to the doctor, still holding
my hand gently.
ďCan I give him some
The doctor nods and
Dad turns away from me, only to return a moment later with a
glass of water.
ďSip it slowly,Ē he
gently instructs, putting a straw at my lips as dad works his
hand under my neck and gently lifts my head.
I do as he says, and
sip the liquid slowly. The cold water is heavenly but, as I
swallow, I feel how dry my throat is and I canít help but
cough weakly. I am reminded of the aching sensation throughout
my entire body, but I am somewhat removed from it now; I don't
know whether that's tiredness, or if it's due to whatever
medication they have put in the IVÖor it could be a sign of
something worse. Before I can even begin to dwell on that, Dad
takes the drink away and lowers me gently back onto the
pillows. He quickly resumes his position in the chair beside
me, taking my hand between his.
ďBetter?Ē he asks. I
try to nod, but canít find the energy. I try to say Ďthank
youí but it just comes out as a murmur. Everyone smiles,
though. I think they understood.
I look at Dad
wearily as the doctor steps forward and starts to examine me.
Dad looks tired and worn, and since the last time I saw him it
would seem heís lost weight. The lines on his face are etched
deeper than normal. I look at him and try to speak, but again,
it seems to be quite difficult. I wonder why? Dad notices the
movement, and smiles, looking as though heís about to cry. I
just watch him as he gets his emotions back under control.
ďYouíve done so
well,Ē he says gently, brushing a strand of hair from my face.
ďIím so proud of you.Ē
I shut my eyes, just
focussing on the feeling of his hand in mine as the doctor
checks the many monitors around me. I curl my fingers around
his again gently, and he squeezes back. Itís strange how that
little action takes so much energy.
I know that Iíll
sleep soon, but thereís one thing I need to do first, if only
I slowly open my
eyes again and look over to my brothers, all of whom look as
though theyíre torn between bursting into tears and exploding
with excitement. I smile without even thinking about it, a
lopsided, weary smile that sums up how the entire room is
The boys all grin
back at me, though itís apparently too much for Scott, who
quickly turns his back to me. Virgil laughs and puts a hand on
his shoulder sympathetically. Scottís never been big on public
displays of emotion. John has tears running down his cheeks,
but I donít think heís noticed, and Alan is just grinning from
ear to ear; I canít help but respond in kind.
ďWelcome back, bro,"
Alan says, still grinning. I slowly inhale the cool oxygen,
ďThanks,Ē I breathe.
My voice is slurred and cracked from lack of use, but it
doesnít matter: Iím back with my brothers. Thereís a choked
noise from Scott as I speak, and Virgil nudges him in a half
affectionate, half joking manner. I laugh breathily at that.
Thereís so much I
want to say, but the effort of waking has finally caught up
I know that, now Iím
awake, the real recovery begins; but I donít worry about any
of that. I close my eyes and drift into a calm and contented
I know that my
family will be here when I wake up.