The Hero awakes from a deep slumber. He is not in his bed. He actually has no clue where he is.
There is an intrusive beeping of monitors and hospital equipment all around him. The room was not black, but it was dark. Lights flashed on machines and noises echoed in the room. He notices a cup of water a few feet from where he lies, and thinks how his mouth feels rather dry. The cool liquid would feel fantastic at this time.
He tries to lift his arms: no luck, for some reason.
He then tries to call out for someone.
He has no voice.
He strives to run out of the room and down whatever hall is in front of him. He wants to flee from the threat of something he does not understand. However, his legs are as lame as his arms.
Confused. Alone. He cries silent tears for what feels like an eternity.
Finally, his mother and father come into frame. Their faces gleaming with joy, tears in the crevices of their faces. This made him cry harder. He tries to ask what happened. He tries to offer some form of condolence. He tries to do pretty much anything to gesture that he is okay.
He is unable. His arms are paralyzed and he is mute.
Defeated, he closes his eyes again and hopes that either everything changes when he awakes. That, or, he never comes to consciousness again.
The Hero awakes from the quick bout of overwhelming reality. He is still confused, but his parents are around him.
They explain how he died.
They explained that he is physically unable to do anything right now.
They show him the tube coming out of the front of his throat his throat and explain that is how is breathing now.
They try to keep their spirits up, but the Hero can see their confidence faltering in their expression.
They explain that something happened. He got sick. He was asleep for a long time. He died. Twice. Now he is back and they were happy. They explained how the medical personnel wanted to pull life support weeks prior but they refused to let them. Then, they explained that life support was pulled anyway, but he did not die after a few hours. They explained that hundreds of people have been through the room to either wish him condolences, or wish him back to life.
The Hero still just wanted a drink of water.
His parents finally try to explain the beginning. Apparently, he contracted some sort of flu and his body reacted by inducing encephalitis.
Encephalitis is where the fluid surrounding the brain collects and crushes the grey matter. In his particular case, it crushed the cerebellum and effected a good portion, if not all, the major motor and health functions. Primarily, those dealing with limb control, nerve reaction, heart rate, and heat regulation. In a way, the Hero was lucky. If it had been the frontal cortex or any of his memory functions, it would have destroyed who he was. Who he is. His memories, personality, and humour would all be lost.
Legally, he was a quadriplegic. He has no ability to move his legs or arms. Even the movement of his neck was very difficult, if not impossible. The Hero was unable to swallow. He dreamed of drinking water, but was then informed that he would most likely choke. Even the movements of his tongue could be fatal.
That is when the Hero noticed all of the metal. He counted four long bits of medical steel jutting from each of his forearms. They punctured on the perfect angles to avoid nerves, so they did not hurt.
Maybe he could not feel them, anyway.
The Hero was not new to the idea of metal piercing flesh. He had received over fifteen body piercings in his life: something he was quite proud of. It was a kind of identity for him. Everyone was the same, but he had shit in his face.
Enter the health care professional. They just came in to check the Hero’s vitals and breathing machine. They were surprised that he was as responsive as he was, and started immediately asking a million questions. That was when the Hero was unable to move his middle finger to gesture them on their way. They left, eventually, and immediately the Hero started silently crying again.
The Hero was an hour from home, laying in Toronto Western Hospital. He remembered that he was somewhat close to people he knew. He wondered if they would know where he was or what state he was in. The door burst open at that point, and Luka ran in.
Luka was the Hero’s greatest and longest friend. She had lived in Toronto for a number of years at this point, and he had attempted to make it out to see her and her dog at least once a week before he wound up in hospital.
He was ecstatic to see her, and tried his best to put a smile and a brave face on. She took one look at him and immediately burst into tears of celebration.
It turns out that she was informed the Hero had died about a month before this day. Then, she discovered that he was alive not a week later: close to death, but also down the road. She had been there most days, talking to the unresponsive body. Wishing him back to reality. She told him over and over again how she couldn’t bare life without him. When he was informed of all of this, he cried again.
He felt pathetic: crying three times in (what he assumed was) one day. He was just so happy to see her.
He was just so happy to be able to see everyone again.
Luka hugged him. He tried as hard as he could to hug back. He tried to call her a fool for thinking he was gone. He tried many things.
Luka was no where near the only visitor that the Hero was happy to see. While in a coma, he had apparently shut down the main waiting room with all of the people clambering to see him for, what they believed to be, the last time.
That is when the Hero had discovered that the idea had gotten around that he died. Many people came to pay their respects, to both him, and his family. When it was reported that he, in fact, did not die: more people came around out of celebration. Benefit concerts that would be held in his memory were simply forgotten due to redundancy.
A great percentage of the people the Hero had interacted with came out to wish him well: to remind him just how much he meant to them.
It was January.
The month was even lonelier than usual. People popped in and out of existence all the time. The Hero would live, for what seemed like days, alone. In reality, it was just a few hours. Time drags on and on when you are in a hospital. Even the sweet embrace of sleep would not save the Hero feeling truly alone. He spent a lot of time imagining fantastical worlds.
In one such day dream; he was a hunter. He would venture out of his holdings to find rare and mystical beasts to kill them. He remembered vividly thanking them before he ate them. He was a decent chef, but he would cringe when biting into the meat he prepared. A cool breeze would float between the sea of green leaves and across his face.
Once, while he slept, he dreamt that he was flying through the skies. Observing the world around him, drifting between trees and hills. He saw valleys that were coated in green grass, clouds as large as he could picture, and mountains that were red and towering. His speed never held much concern, for the air around him was always warm. He never got lost, for there was no destination. On occasion, his arms were massive wings, twice the size probably needed to hold one human. He rarely landed, and simply got sustenance while soaring around in the clouds.
The dreams reminded him a lot of what life was. He felt like life was just a series of events not narrated by anyone or anything. Everything happened by accident. All you could do was learn from an experience and move on.
Then he would wake. It was still a jarring resurrection. It often involved tears and frustration. When the dreams ended, he would have to face a version of reality that he did not want. He wanted to escape into that world that he was just in and get lost in it forever. He knew it would be an end, but that did not bother him. He just did not want to find that end.
The nurses would come in. Check vitals. Talk at him (never to him). Leave the room. This was a fate worse than death, he would think. At least if he was dead.
Oh; at least if he was dead.
Bad days seemed to trivial before. He would forget something important, do something stupid, or say something regretful.
Now, bad days were because his body would not let him do what he wants to do. Now, bad days were because he felt trapped. Now, he could not even escape to his old stand-by of driving for a great distance to avoid life. Before, he could leave if he got upset by someones arrogance or crude depiction of the world. He never saw himself as super intelligent, but he regarded himself as extremely open-minded and he was always willing to do research to elaborate on topics he was uneducated about. He had to accept what was around him. He had to endure the oppressive hate and malice that the world contained.
People pretended to be understanding about his condition, and the Hero could sense this. They would put on a brave face, say things that they thought were politically correct, and carry on with their interpersonal relationships.
The Hero could see through all of this. He knew that people were frightened, that they were curious how this would effect their life. Even his parents, who were nothing but supportive, were concerned about how their life would change. How he changed their life.
It was, after all, his fault.
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