"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)


Don't Worry

My vision came slowly into focus, the blurry edges pushing outward, fading, until I could see around me clearly.  I looked through a maze of wires and tubes.  Machines encircled the head of my bed.  A monitor showed lines dancing across its screen, smooth and then jump!  a happy little leap.  An accordion-shaped cylinder trapped in a glass tube inflated and collapsed in rhythm, I realized, to my breathing.  I tried to move, but found I could not, and suspected clamps and restraints held my body in place.  My mouth felt dry, and I looked around for someone I could ask for a drink of water.

My husband sat in the visitor's chair at the foot of the bed, his head in his hands.  I tried to speak, but my lips wouldn't move, not even a rumble or squeak came from my vocal chords.  The doctor walked in, wearing a crisp white coat and a stethoscope around his neck, carrying what must be my chart in hand.  My husband looked up when he entered, and I noticed how haggard he looked, his eyes red-rimmed and darkly circled.  How long had he been sitting there, watching me?  How long have I been here?

The doctor's voice was kind, but distanced, a professionalism that comes with practice.

"Mr. Collier?"

Eric stood, shoved his hands in his pockets, and waited.

"Mr. Collier, you know your wife has suffered substantial brain damage.  We've waited four months to see if she would come out of her coma.  We have no reason to suspect that her condition will change, and even if she did miraculously come out of her coma, we would expect her to remain in a non-communicative vegetative state."

What?  No, I'm here, I have come out of my coma.  I'm not vegetative, you idiot, I can understand every bit of your medical mumbo jumbo.

Eric simply nodded.  The doctor put his hand on Eric's shoulder.

"You knew this day would come, but I know this isn't an easy decision for you.  Have you talked it over with your family?"

Eric nodded again.  "Yes.  They all agree it's the best thing to do."

The doctor patted Eric reassuringly.

"Yes, it is for the best," he said.  "I'll give you a moment alone with your wife."

He left the room, and Eric shuffled to the side of my bed.  Carefully pushing aside the wires and tubes connected to my body, he joined me.  He slid his arm underneath my neck -- no restraints, after all -- and pulled me into his chest.  He stroked my hair, caressed my face.  His voice broke when he spoke.

"Jenny, I love you.  You have no idea how much I love you.  I don't know how I can do this without you."

Eric, I'm here!  Don't give up on me, please don't give up on me.  I want to come home with you.  I want to see my girls again.  Please, Eric, our girls need their mom.

"I won't let Maia and Kirsti forget you," he said.  "I'll show them pictures, I'll tell them stories, I'll tell them you were the best mother in the world, and you loved them.  I'll do everything I can to make sure they grow up to be just like you."

This isn't real.  This can't be happening.  Eric, please stop, please make this stop.

He kissed the top of my head, my forehead, my cheeks, and finally he kissed my still, unresponsive mouth.  Then, he pushed himself out of bed, leaned out the door, and nodded to the nurse waiting outside.  He sat back down in the chair, his head in his hands, no longer looking at me.

I heard a strain of music above my protests, faint at first, but louder when I quieted and listened for it.  The nurse began turning nobs and flipping switches.  Eric didn't move.  I turned my head -- it turned, this time, I could move -- and looked for the source.

The tune was familiar, jaunty with a Jamaican beat.  I slipped from my bed and moved towards the sound.  I walked out of my room and into a soft, golden meadow.  I was barefoot, and the grasses tickled my feet.  Glancing around, I noticed all the colors, wildflowers of fuschia, yellow, violet, and orange.  A small, black dog with white patches around his eyes came bounding up to me, nipping at my feet and wagging his tail.

Don't worry.  Be happy.

I smiled.  I reached down to pick him up, and he wiggled in my arms, squirming as he licked my face.

"Scamper?  You silly dog, is this really you?"  I looked around, wanting to see where he had come from.  I saw my grandma walking toward me from the distance.  She had her arms outstretched, and I ran to meet her, throwing myself into her familiar hug.  She smelled of lilacs, but her face looked younger and happier than I remembered.

Don't worry.  Be happy.

A crowd gathered behind her, and I knew them all, even though many I had never met or even seen a picture.  My grandmother took my hand.

A heartbreaking wail pierced the serenity around me, and I looked back.  Eric sat in my bed, my body limp in his arms.  His shoulders shook as the sobs broke through his stoicism in ugly heavy groans.  I started to walk back to him, but my grandmother pulled me back.

"Don't worry.  He'll be all right.  They all will be.  And you'll be here for him, waiting."  I hesitantly turned back to her, trusting her.  She led me to the waiting host of welcomers.


Today's prompt:

Strains of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” floated into the room.

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh I'm crying. I mean, Oh Shelli! I would have never been able to place that song with such a tragic event. But, oh you did it so beautifully and captured the moment so reverently. Wow. I Way to go. (no pun intended)

Adam Byatt said...

A clever set up. There was a sense of claustrophobia as I was expecting the woman to be trapped in her body. But, nice ending to create hope and warmth.
Adam B @revhappiness

Melissa said...

I actually got misty-eyed. So amazingly written. I wanted to yell to her husband that she was out of her coma. I like your portrayal of Heaven too.
Keep up the good work!

Nikki~Down syndrome Storyteller said...

You keep getting better and better!

Laura Rachel Fox said...

This is a beautifully sad story with a soft message of hope. Nice use of the prompt. You really captured the feeling of being trapped and unable to effect your surroundings.

John Wiswell said...

One of the most common fears is to be trapped in a coma-like state when you're not actually unconscious. A lot of writers have started with that item, but I like where you took it.

John Pender said...

Shelli, I think this is the best of yours I've read yet. You tapped into one of man's most primal fears flawlessly.
Great work this week.

Shelli said...

Just got back from my big weekend! Thank you so much for your wonderful comments.

anastasia_wolf said...

Oh wow, like Adam I was expecting her to be trapped in her body, but you wrote it beautifully and yeah, great use of the prompt!

NewToWritingGirl said...

Now I've wipped away my tears I'll comment. That was amazing, you created so much emotion in such a short piece. Brilliant!

Aniket said...

I'm glad I made it here for more treats. You have a gift with narration. Loved this one too. In ways, its a bitter-sweet ending. Well okay, more bitter than sweet. :) You put the darkest of things so very subtly and somehow it works great for you. And for readers like me.

You've got a nice place here. In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: I'll be back!

Shelli said...

Anastasia -- Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for taking the time to read it.

NTWGirl -- Thanks so much! I' working on "emotional resonance." I'm glad I'm making progress.

Aniket -- Thanks for finding me, and welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I'll look forward to having you back!