You’re (still) Not Dead

Chapter -1 :: Ordinary

The Hero was sick.

His head hurt and his world was spinning. He awoke in his basement feeling lethargic and slow. The stairs to the main floor were narrow, old and daunting. He ascended them as deftly as he could, avoiding steps that were notoriously weak. 

He made his way to the landing. His mother was already awake and ready to face the day. With a warm smile, she greeted the Hero.

“Good morning, Love! You look like hell!”

Not exactly the first thing he wanted to hear in the early afternoon, but he said nothing to discredit the statement.

“Yeah. I was worried about that.”

He then poured himself a cup of coffee and sat quietly in the corner. This raised even more alarms for his mother, who instantly started on the motherly tirade of  “did you get enough sleep? Are you hungry? I know that is your first cup of coffee, but did you want me to ready another? Drink some water.”

“I’m fine.” He finally mustered, sounding rather defeated.

He stared at the trees and could almost watch their leaves changing to a bright orange colour. He hated this city, but it was quite beautiful in this season. The air was brisk, but not yet intrusive. Grass was still covering the lawns, and the world was covered by a light dew. The sun refracted over every angle that was within view. Pedestrians on the sidewalks had billows of breath hanging from their mouths. The Hero sat in awe at how incredible the world looked. Everything had a yellow hue to it from the light and the leaves.

He did not want to worry his Mother, but he had arranged an appointment with his doctor for later that day. At 24, it would be his first venture into a doctors office as an adult.

The idea excited the Hero: he looked forward to the future where he could, not only look after his own affairs, but execute them with little interference from anyone in his immediate life.

He finished the coffee and got out of his chair. If he left at that moment, he would still be thirty minutes early. That seemed like a good plan.

He ventured towards the vehicle he would take for this stint. The car was exactly what you would expect from a family dwelling: grey, four door, cloth seating, nothing exciting. The Hero still loved it. The speakers were decent and could go loud. This was perfect for listening to music at an inappropriate level.

He was the reason that the volume laws existed.

What was he listening to today? He was a manager at a music store, and had worked there for nearly a decade at this point. His collection was huge and varied. With that said, he put on Bibio’s Ambivelance Avenue very often. It had a fantastic collection of sounds and ideas.

He started to feel cold. That was weird because it was his favourite weather: sunny with mild overcast, and a temperature of about 15C. His sweater seemed like it should have been enough. He put the heaters on high as he started his journey with a hope that he would warm up soon. The chill just would not leave his bones. He visibly shivered behind the wheel as he merged onto the empty road.

Arriving at the doctor’s office, the Hero found a seat in the waiting room. The chair was warm and inviting, which is unusual for a doctor’s waiting room. There were four rows of chairs, all the same in build: a metal frame with nylon upholstering. Their use was not for long term, as the Hero could already feel his feet swelling due to the way the edge of the seat was cutting off circulation at his knees.

“Just a few more minutes, and I’ll say my bit, then go back to bed.” Said the Hero under his breath. His brain felt three sizes too big for his skull. He wanted another coffee.

They called his name and the Hero jumped up with a start. The “few more minutes” had clearly been long enough for the Hero to fall into a light sleep. The Hero was a strange combination of embarrassed and surprised.

“What time was it, anyway?” He muttered aloud, not caring if anyone overheard him.

He was escorted into a room and asked to sit on a bed. It was cold, and there was paper as a kind of guard against infection. The slab was cold, but it was good to sit down.

Why was he feeling this way? He woke up less than two hours ago, and was in the waiting room for what felt like forever! He should not be so excited for the embrace of yet another apparatus for sitting.

Finally, the Doctor came in. Small world: the Hero went to high school with his daughter. That was far from news, but it is a fact that he never quite got over.

“Hey! How are you? It feels like I have not seen you in forever!” the Doctor was short to start the small talk. He has been the family doctor of the Hero for just shy of twenty years. Some could view him as a part of the family.

He knew the Hero was not a fan of medicine, but he took care of himself. He also knew the Hero was usually a bit more peppy than he was displaying today.

“Hey Doc. I feel horrible. My head and throat hurt, and I am all stuffed up.” Cried the Hero.

“Well, let’s see what’s wrong with you.” The Doctor said while preparing a bunch of medical equipment. He did not sound concerned, which the Hero was thankful for.

The Doctor slid a light into the Hero’s nose. Then his ears, and down his throat. He straightened up, cleared his throat with a cough, and smiled.

“Well, you have the flu. You’ll get worse, but you’ll get better. I would stress a flu shot, but it’s a bit too late. Go home. Sleep. Eat something. Do you need a note? You should not go to work for a bit.”

There was much relief and a bit of disappointment felt in the Hero’s everything. He would have made the appointment earlier if he knew that he would be given a clear bill of health! Yet, he could not help fearing that it felt much worse than what was being let on.

“That’s it?” The Hero said as calmly as he could muster. “I’m going to get worse, but I will get better?”

“Yes.” The Doctor stated bluntly.

They then exchanged pleasantries, and then the Hero was on his way. It all seemed too simple, but he was not going to cause a ruckus. If the Doctor said he was fine, there was no use arguing over it.

The Hero then headed back into his car and started back on the short drive home. He could not get the idea out of his head that things are worse than they appear.

“Was it really just a flu?”

The Hero then pulled into his driveway and went back to bed. If the Doctor was right, he could sleep this off.

He has pulled through worse in the past, and should not fret so intensely.

Then, the Hero lay down in his bed and simply went to sleep.

Chapter 1 :: The Rude Awakening

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.
Anyone.
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.

Chapter 2 :: Manta Rays & First Contact

On the ninth of February, out Hero ventured into the world for his first time since the end of October. He was brought to an aquarium about twenty minuets from the hospital. He was placed into a wheelchair, hooked up with oxygen, and had several IV bags. 

Oh, what a spectacle he must have been to the uneducated! A collection of flesh surrounded by machines and tubes. He could not help but speculate that they assumed that he was victim of some sort of accident.

They would be as clueless as him. No one had told him, definitively, what happened.

…and they probably never would…

He had an exorbitant amount of medical equipment with him. He also had a registered nurse, his mom, and his brother by his side. What an excellent state he was in for his first public outing. More machine than man. This was also his first time being in the public eye since he turned a quarter century.

It goes without saying that is was not what he imagined for himself four months prior.

The aquarium was amazing. He saw aquatic beings the size of homes. He got to touch Manta Rays. He got a stuffed toy and a cup. It felt like a constellation prize for living through the day, but it still brought a smile across his face.

That event also marked the beginning of the end of the Toronto part of his adventure. He had been in the same place for four months, only two of which he had even the mildest recollection of. Even though this hospital was the place that saved his life time and time again, it would be foolish to imagine that he would be there forever.

Home.

He was going home.

Kind of.

He was going back to the city he grew up in, at the very least. At that point, they were unsure for how long or even what he would be doing when he got there. He still could not move, speak, or swallow. Nutrition was still administered through syringe. Communication was a combination of blinks and attempted groans. A machine still passed oxygen though his body.

The next note-worthy adventure would be travelling between hospitals. They arranged for a Medical transfer which required a vehicle similar to an Ambulance. He was strapped to a cot, because he was still unable to sit erect long enough for the trip.  His view for the next hour or so would be the ceiling of a metal coffin.

The journey felt like it took ages. He was alone in the vehicle. He tried to think of something good, anything good, to escape the crushing isolation he was experiencing.

There is something to be said about silence, relative stillness, and isolation when you have been run ragged by the times at hand. He had been, however, in relative isolation for almost half of the year at this point.

There was still an annoying noise resonating from the machines that helped him to breathe and the roar of the road under the tires. He was a drummer: he noticed when the sounds were not in beat. It sounds petty, but he was aware of it, and could not ignore it no matter how hard he tried. He was unable to find even a mild syncopation between the bumps and drops in the road and the constant meter held by the breathing machine. 

The breathing machine.

That horrible, and heavy, assistant to his life. He knows that, without it, he would be dead. It does not mean that he likes it. Quite the opposite: there was a sense of Stockholm Syndrome that has become apparent to him. He knew he owed his life to that thing, but he hated it so much.

Was he suicidal? No. Did he wish he died? Yes. His life was not fantastic before this point. He worked an entry level job that he was comfortable being in because it was easy. He played in the local music scene with little success and stubbornly held onto the idea he could survive on nothing more than dreams. He had wronged a good portion of people in his life by either promises that he never came through on or he betrayed them. So many things that built up to make days just bearable until his next adventure but…

…this was a whole new low.

Since he was lying down, he was not able to see where he was going. He just stared at the cold metal casing that would move him from one city to another. He was still strapped into oxygen and still have a plethora of IVs and monitors. He was too far away from the nurse and driver who also occupied the vehicle, or he would have asked what everything he was hooked up to was for. Call it morbid, but he wanted to know, not just speculate, what all the tubes were doing. He wanted to ask so many questions, but he could not even produce a heavy sigh.

Maybe it was for the best that he was alone.

***

The arrival back in Cambridge was without fanfare or celebration. The administration was completed by the Hero’s parents while he was whisked away to a room. Within an hour of him being placed into a bed, there was a massive collection of doctors and nurses all being briefed on what the situation could be.

They were all given tasks and goals and dispersed almost as fast as they had gathered. For the Hero, it was all painless. He was, by all definition, mute. Any questions about treatment or pain were answered by speculation, clipboards and charts. Plans were drawn up immediately for new treatments and plans were executed without input from anyone, and execution started quickly.

Today was they day the hospital wanted to try to remove the breathing tube from the Hero. He was nervous. As much as he hated the tube coming out of the front of his neck, there was comfort in it. He knew that as long as it was there, he could breathe. He knew that when it was removed he would have a very evident and very prominent scar.

He felt very vane thinking about how the removal of something like that would effect his appearance, but he already had lost 15 piercings through this ordeal. He felt out of control of his identity and worried that he would have little say in how things went forward.

He had to wonder if it was unnecessary to focus on how little input he had in his appearance with everything he had gone through. Maybe he should be focused on how his life will change. He could not fathom how difference life would be, but he knew that he wanted to look his best. He could not express himself in audible tones, so the very least he wanted was to have a kind of say in his appearance.

The tube coming out was the worst thing, arguably, that he had experienced since he regained consciousness. It was a long process over a period of a week.

First, the medical staff would remove the tube for an hour and put a kind of cork in the orpheus. This would force him to breath in the conventional sense. This would take some level of training. Breathing should be natural, but the Hero had not done this process for months at this time.

For that hour, the Hero felt like he was drowning above water.

For that hour, the Hero wondered who was strangling him.

For that hour, the Hero wanted death.

This process continued over the next week. Some days he would go half an hour, some days he went several hours as doctors pushed his body further and further. Some days the cork would be in place properly, some days the Hero could feel it slipping out of his windpipe.

The worst for the Hero was when they would put the cork in place and ask him to swallow. Always just water, but it did not go well on occasion. They would force him to sit upright, he would take a sip. The muscles in his mouth were so weak, sometimes it would go right and he would get to feel the fantastic elixir to his stomach. More often, however, his mouth would betray his trust. When that happened, the water would try to go to his lungs. He would cough and sputter. Being too weak to do anything himself, someone would have to bring his head forward as he tried, with everything he had, to try to get the liquid out of his throat so he did not drown.

Chapter 3 :: Home

Cambridge.

The Hero spent the majority of his life loafing around the centres of that city, and he loathed that place very much.

It was horribly arrogant, and had little reason to be.

Oh: it was pretty. It was at the intersection of two rivers, and forests lined the banks of the water. That was, however, being destroyed in attempts to make everything more commercial. More “convenient” for residents and tourists alike.

Forrest were destroyed at a rapid pace. Rivers were exploited for their eye-candy, and ironically treated horribly during their exploitation.

He was brought into Cambridge Memorial Hospital. It was explained to him that this was his second time inside that building since his journey started. He cannot remember the first time.

He finds that haunting – wrong almost. He feels like the month before he fell into a coma was narrated by someone else, but he still acted out the conclusions of his actions. He was left to wonder: did he really mean everything his husk did?

The first room he was placed into was a grand size (or at least he thought it was). He had two other roommates, which was something he was very not accustomed to.He had been kept in solitary rooms until this point in his journey. They kept to themselves. He never did hear much regarding their stories.

The one guy was about ten years the Hero’s senior. He seemed very sick and was quarantined several times in the week they shared that room. The other gentleman was much older: probably in his 60s. The younger gentleman had a few visitors, mostly friends and family, that seemed to come on an almost daily schedule. The older patron had, what the Hero assumed, a wife that came when she could. She came out to be a healthy amount, but the man was left alone more often than not.

There was a sense that whatever the older man was in the hospital for was acute and he would be out in time. The Hero had the feeling it would not be to his house, but at least back into society.

Not so much with the other gentleman. The Hero wished he knew what was wrong. He was under quarantine most of the time.

This was all just speculation made by the Hero, however.

The nursing staff was horrible. They were clearly overworked.

Or they were just incredibly apathetic.
Or they were just horribly stupid.

One such nurse seemed to mean well, but would just say and do all the wrong things.

The Hero was reminded of that person who would be in your high school class that, no matter how right or wrong she was, you would just cringe with every noise she made. She would always speak to everyone else in the room, and talk to the Hero as if he was a child.

He wanted to tell her off. He wanted to remind her that he was human.

He still could not speak.

The Hero was visited several times by his friends Shannon and Ryan. He loved them both very much, and was glad every time he saw their faces. They would crack jokes at everything they could, and kept everyone in good spirits. Shannon, in particular, has been a friend of the family for many years. Her presence was greatly appreciated by the present company.

During one visit from the pair, the Nasal Gastric tube that was in the Hero was bothering him.

A Nasal Gastric tube is a tube that travels through a nose, down a throat, and creates a clear path between a face and a stomach. It is used to administer medications and some paste that is meant to pass for food.

It was annoying and obstructive. there was a chance that, if he got food into his mouth somehow, he would choke and die.

The Hero still did not have movement in any part of his arms. So, in pathetic attempts and whimpers, he gestured towards removing it. The nurse he did not like refused on multiple occasions.

“It’s necessary.” She would harp without further explanation. This statement was usually followed by a sharp turn to anyone else and disregard for any further attempt at communication made by the Hero.

The Hero hated her so much.

Shannon noticed how uncomfortable the tube made the Hero immediately. Carefully, she removed it. The Hero could feel the plastic rubbing against the inside of his throat, which was mildly uncomfortable. The hated nurse stood and watched as the tube came out.

She waited for the tube to be fully removed before making her presence known.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” The nurse shrieked as loud as she could. It was piercing. “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE DONE?!”

She ripped the tube from Shannon’s hand and grumbled as she left the room. Funny enough, the Hero never saw her after that. He hoped that event caused some sort of hammer to be brought from on high to get her in trouble. He kept wishing she would just stick her head in and apologize so he could refuse her existence entirely, but he never wanted to see her again.

The Hero was moved around the hospital often. He had a constant worry that something would vanish, and stuff did, but nothing important ever got left behind.

He did loose a stuffed toy that his friends Chrissy and Adam had given him. It was a Narwhale. He was fantastic, and the Hero was not above admitting that. Yes, it was juvenile, but he breathed through a machine. The Hero doubted that anyone would give him a hard time right now.

The exact time or place that went missing is unknown. The Hero assumed that is had been gone since he left Toronto.

The hospital in Cambridge, though close to friends and family, was lonelier then his solitary room in Toronto. The fanfare of his survival has subsided, and he was reduced to spending much of his time alone.

To be clear, he did have a few visitors, but not as many as he would have liked.

He felt selfish. He knew that it must have been far from entertaining to talk to a lifeless lump, but he still wanted someone to talk at him. Yet, day after day, he was left alone with nothing interrupting all of his thoughts.

***

The medical staff decided that he needed what they referred to as a “PLEX” about a week or two days or a few hours after he got there.

PLEX is the removal of the Plasma from his blood followed by its reintroduction within seconds. It is kind of like a blood transfusion mixed with a blood cleaning. The Hero did not quite understand, but he was in no position to object.

Another needle: after what the Hero had been through, he was far from afraid.

He should have been.

He still did not know his age and barely knew his name.

On a winter afternoon, or day, or night, or morning, the Hero was wheeled across the hospital. It was quiet, and the wing he was brought to was relatively empty. He was deposited into a room where he waited for the specialist.

The Hero was in and out of conscious during the whole ordeal. After all was said and done, he was assured that he missed little, but the following he remembered all too well.

The PLEX required a major artery. They went through the Hero’s jugular. For the uneducated, that is the major artery in the neck.

Surprise!
The Hero had feeling there.

He really wished he did not have feeling there.

After the piercing of flesh, the machine turned on. Out of view of the Hero, the machine made stereotypical machine sounds: a constant buzzing and whirling permeated the room with a great weight and volume.

The needle hurt. Even after all of his piercings and two tattoos, the needle was the worst pain the Hero had ever felt. That time he broke his ankle was preferable to this. It was probably not five inches long, but you could have fooled the him.

There was a sharp sting as they pierced the flesh in his neck. He stayed conscious, but just barely. Everyone involved looked incredibly bored, like it was just another day at the office.

The nurses, who were normally smiling, had faces of stone. His mother could do nothing but hold his hand and reassure him that everything would be over soon. His brother remained stoic in the corner of the room.

He was completely unaware of how long the procedure actually took, but it felt like an eon.

People swear the room was well lit. It was in a hospital, and they have very sterile lights that light the corners with uniform persuasion.

He remembered it as a dull grey room full of hate, despair, and pain.

The sounds from the machine coupled with the long shaft of metal in his neck probably altered his view on the situation slightly.

“Why me? Why now?” He thought to himself while trying to distract himself from the pain. The whole thing was horrible. He wanted to scream out. All he could manage was darting eyes from corner to corner of the ceiling while tears were streaming from his eyes.

This was horrible.

He already had a blood transfusion back in Toronto.Apparently, he has a very rare blood type for no good reason. His mother is A+. His father is A-. His brother is A+. The Hero, for some reason, is O-. Less than 7% of the world population is O-.

The first donation of blood came to him because that night a man died in a motor vehicle accident. Not ideal, but it came at the eleventh hour, apparently. He was in the coma at the time, and heard the story from a doctor who was having a particularly bad day. The blood donation involved with the “PLEX” came in a similar fashion: someones death.

Now: he could claim to be a new man, and mean it! He died twice, he had the blood of at least two other people in his veins. This came with new responsibilities, however. Now, he felt the burden, of not only being the best he can be for him, but of also the best for everyone involved in his life. He was given a second and third chance.

Finally, the machine wound down, the needle was removed and he was set free. The nurses moved the Hero from where they were doing the operation back to his room. Luckily for him, his bed had wheels. This meant that he never had to try to hobble down halls or be awkwardly placed into a wheelchair. He could not help but feel a twisted sense relief in this situation.

Back to his corner of the world, surrounded by a thin curtain. He laughed at its existence. It was supposed to somehow guard against infectious diseases and viruses. The Hero could make shapes of people out through the pale yellow veil it cast in the room. The curtains did nothing to inhibit light from outside gracing the corners of his bed.

It was around this time that he was fit with a (temporary) wheelchair. Hospital grade, it gave him some sort of mobility. He still could not move his arms, legs, or neck. He still could not speak. The Hero still did not know what was actually going on, even though he had heard the stories, and every time he has to remember they are about him.

Chapter 4 :: Another Hospital

When the Hero was growing up, there was a building up a hill that he was always curious about. It was large, much like a mansion you would see in old pictures or period films. He never knew what it was, but he assumed it was some sort of government building or office.

Luckily, and unbeknownst to him, it was the destination

It was a rehab facility called Freeport. The building was up on top of a hill, surrounded by forests and train tracks. This position kept it very isolated from the rest of civilization, in a good way. It was beautiful, for what it was. The low rumble of the freeway was still audible from the grounds, but the view from windows was breath taking.

The inside of Freeport was four floors. Very well kept. Very clean. It used natural light, when it could. This made it look like an old picture or a model found in an attic.

The best part was a fish tank right by a set of doors that lead outside. The Hero felt like an old man. He would park his wheelchair in front of the glass and watching the fish for hours.

Really, the Hero wishes he was able to enjoy this facility from a different stand point. There was no point to be healthy here, unless you were visiting someone or this is where you worked.

The main floor is full of shops and administration rooms. The second floor is spinal issues, third is cancer and other permanent conditions while the fourth is children who were dying of various illnesses. The building was beautiful, but far from happy.

The nurses were friendly here. The Hero did not talk to many of them, but his interactions were pleasant whenever he did. He spent a lot more time interacting with the various therapists on the floor.

He still could not speak. His conversations were little more than eye gestures.

It was great: he had many friends who came out to see him here. It was right in the middle several areas where they all lived, and was quite accessible from everywhere. This meant that he would have friends and loved ones dropping by very often. They would mostly talk at the Hero, for his responses were little more than inappropriate hand gesture attempts and angry facial expressions.

One such day, while a few of his friends were around. The Hero was laughing as heartily as he could. Suddenly, he did it. He told his friend, in a loving manor, to “fuck himself”. His first words. The first he spoke in over three months was inappropriate and glorious. It shocked everyone near by.

“Was… was that… me?” The Hero whispered

Tears erupted from every angle. The Hero was beside himself with disbelief, and his friends were no better. For as hysterical seeming that everyone was, the look of joy on every face was staggering. Nurses and Therapists ran in to make sure everyone was all right, and were immediately humbled by the outpour of excitement and joy being expressed.

The Hero was asked all sorts of questions.

“What was it like to die?”
“Do you remember anything?”
“What can you and can’t you feel?”

He tried to answer every question, but his voice was little more than a whisper. Tears still stained the pillow under his face. As happy as the Hero was, he was angry. Now he could express that better. There was no stopping him now from going on tirades. Oh: the things he wanted to say!

Then: sleep. Pretty much mid thought, the Hero passed out. Maybe the excitement got to him? Maybe he just exhausted using his voice for the first time in months? Even he would not be sure when he finally gained consciousness over fourteen hours later.

The room was still black. Early winter mornings are very isolating. The Hero was alone, and he did not know why again.

The Hero had a roommate. His name was John, and he was much older: 40 years older, give or take. He was a harsh man. He made his opinions known. He was loud and he would get very angry if things did not go the way he wanted them to. He did not give the Hero much time, but was always friendly enough whenever he did.

John liked to listen to sports on the radio pretty well all of the time. It was rather annoying to the Hero. It was totally lost on him, as the Hero did not care about sports. Not in a malicious way, it was just never his forte.

He was not at this facility long, either. Maybe ten days, and he was off to a new adventure. This time, he would be going to Hamilton, Ontario: less than an hour away. Now, able to speak, he was ready to express himself.

It is hard to fathom, not being able to express any emotion or thought outside of depression and despair. The Hero was still paralyzed pretty well everywhere. He finally could speak, but he still could not make rude gestures with his hands the way he would like, or even refuse something without whispering and hoping they understand him. Luckily, he was not faced with many choices yet, and everything was taken care of for him. Much like how a parent would do things for a young child.

Here he was, 25 and having people help him to get dressed in the morning. It was horribly demeaning and incredibly awkward. It was only one event of many that the Hero did not like, but it will stick with him for a very long time.

Chapter 5 :: The Magical Hamilot

Another patient transfer across hills and valleys. This time, the Hero was traveling to the far away land of Hamilton, Ontario. The Hero had recorded an album there long ago, and had very little to say that would be considered nice. The city was tired. It had a couple major factories that probably contributed half of the countries pollution, one of the only high security prisons in the region, and holds the prize of being the only city where the Hero was offered Heroin upon one of his first visits.

The positives? It had one of the most fantastic views in the country. The escarpment (or lovingly called “The Mountain” by locals) provided many jaw-dropping views of the entire city. Hamilton also could brag about having one of the better art scenes in all of south-western Ontario. The Hero played many concerts there just a couple of years prior, and two of his close friends had entrenched themselves deep in the local Punk community.

He would be going to a rehab facility located directly across the road from the aforementioned prison. Sure: there was always a risk of an “undesirable” stumbling over, but the way the sun reflected off the chicken wire was absolutely amazing.

Again, he was transferred in a lying position. He should be getting used to this, but he always felt like he was missing something amazing.

He used to love the drive to Hamilton, even if he did loath the city. The journey up was beautiful. Farms and old buildings littered the country side between the regions. Fields and fences separated by rocks and small forests. That does not even bring the plethora of random animals into the mix.

The Hero liked barn-yard animals.

All in all, the trip took about an hour, maybe a little less. The driver and two nurses then wheeled the Hero into the room that would be his home for the next several months.

He was examined almost right away. It was confusing for the Hero, as he still did not know quite where he was. Doctors looked him over, checked his charts, then looked him over again. It turns out, because of the coma followed by paralyses, the Hero had developed quite the pressure sore in his coccyx region.

A pressure sore is deterioration of tissue due to an extended bit of, well, pressure being put on an isolated area with no chance of breathing.

The coccyx region is the area of flesh at the base of the spine, right at the tail bone. Basically: top of the butt crack.

Since the Hero was lying on his back for literal months, one had formed. It was deep enough that you could see his spine and, if you wanted to do something gross, you could fit a whole finger in there.

Just what I fucking needed.” Thought the Hero as nurses and doctors swarmed around his butt deciding what to do next. It had been five months, and the Hero was getting very sick of the entire medical adventure.

The Hero was then introduced to the whole nursing staff on shift that day. They seemed like a lovely bunch of people, and much closer in age to him. Not that the Hero had anything against the older generation. He was just finding it very hard to relate, in any capacity, to people that were close to twice his age. In this place, most of the nurses were within ten years of him. This made him happy and more comfortable.

He then met his roommate, Paul.

Paul was a very lovely, and very rude, British gentleman. He is not one to bite his tongue, and took great pride in being able to make people smile at very inappropriate things. He had damaged a spot in his spine while doing house-work. It left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Mary, Paul’s wife, was in the room as often as she could be. Together they went out of their way to make the Hero feel welcomed after the dust settled and everyone returned to their shift.

Shortly after the fiasco of settling, the Hero’s parents showed up. The trip was at least an hour from home, so they made quite the journey to come down. Luckily, it was a beautiful day. The sun was out, the temperature was quite pleasant. There was little to no wind. It was picturesque.

The Hero was set up with a time-table for daily activities. Physio (or Physical Therapy) twice a day, and Occupational Therapy between these sessions. At this point, however, the Hero just wanted to know when dinner was: he was starving. He had left Freeport right around lunch and got to Hamilton just after, so he was ready to consume something.

Alas, he was told he had to wait a few hours for the kitchen staff to prepare the next event.

He took this time to get to know Paul and Mary, and to make sure his parents had a good ride over. Paul and Mary were natives to Hamilton, which meant that Mary would be in the area if the Hero ever needed anything.

Finally, dinner time. The dining hall was just a big room with rows upon rows of temporary tables. Far from the lap of luxury, but it worked. There we not many chairs, for most of the patrons were also in wheelchairs.

The Hero got everything on the menu and was horribly disappointed.

It was pork. They said it was pork. It was tough, rubbery, incredibly thin, and just wrong. The vegetables that the Hero ordered were soggy and depressed looking. The peas were hard. For someone with little motor-control of their arms, it was difficult for the Hero. He did it himself, but barely.

Then he went back to his room and his parents went home. It was a very underwhelming first day at a new place. For the staff and patients, it was business as usual. For him, it was an adventure into the unknown.

There was a machine on a track with a nylon restraint that came down to a bar. It had three hooks to attach to a sling that would be placed under the patient. The machine would then lift the patient high enough that they could be placed into bed without manual lifting. The purpose for such a device was to assist those who could not weight bare at all.

It was like a ride. A very uncomfortable ride.

The beds were comfortable enough; if you do not mind sleeping on and in plastic. The nurse came around with the nightly medication. The Hero was just taking the same things that anyone else would: vitamins and supplements. He was very proud of the fact that he did not need anti-inflammatories, pain killers, or anything of that nature.

Maybe pride was the wrong emotion to feel. “Lucky.” That is a better way of putting it.

There was one pill that the Hero had never taken before. It was a sleeping aid. He was skeptical that something that small could help him sleep at all. He figured that it was safe: It was, at all, being offered in a Hospital. He scoffed at the notion that he was offered a half.  How could half of something so small be enough to render him unconscious?

He was asleep within fifteen minuets.

Chapter 6 :: The Next Day

Everyday started the same way. The morning nursing staff came in, helped the Hero into new clothing for the day, and used the mechanical lift to get him into the chair. They got his breakfast, then, they left.

He could find them if he needed them, but he was left to his own devices. The concept, after the prior five months, was very alien to the Hero. The furthest thing from insulted, he took a sip of coffee.

Or at least, they claimed it was coffee. The Hero was instantly offended again. This time, by the flavour of what they gave him. It had the consistency of coffee. It even smelled like (cheap) coffee. It was sour but weak.

The Hero drank black coffee. He has for years. He took a trip to Iceland a while back with his brother. The Hero claimed it was the worst coffee he had and will ever try.

He was proven wrong that day.

It tasted like nail polish smells with a hint of coffee. The sour flavour with an immediate pungent aftertaste. Drinking it actually made the Hero depressed.

After asking a few employees, it was explained to the Hero that the coffee came in frozen blocks. Those blocks were put into boiling water, then served to the patients. This was because it saved literally pennies per cup, and the hospital thought that was worth it.

The Hero had a thought: everywhere with bad coffee was assuming that cream and sugar was being used. No one took into account that someone could drink black. Due to this fact, no one would worry about flavour, and just attempt for the most liquid for the dollar.

The Hero felt arrogant for thinking this, but he could not find any other reason. Why else would they serve something to rancid?

****

Waking up to nurses scurrying around will never be comfortable to the Hero. They try, so very hard, to not be disruptive. Yet, try as they might, anyone not deep in slumber will be awoken to their motions.

In this case, it was a nurse hovering over the foot of the Hero’s bed. She was checking his bags of life juice. He was not mad, but still glared at her. He could not help it.

He was having a magical dream where he was running around a music festival. In his dream, he knew he would be performing soon. In his dream, he was advertising a new album that was available to the interested. In his dream, it was life as normal, with no horrors of reality, or at least his current reality.

That is one thing that the Hero took great pride in: he never had dreams about being sick or in a wheelchair. He saw the wheelchair being a part of his subconscious as an acceptance of where he was. He saw dreaming of such a thing was a kind of an endgame. That was a concept that he kept to himself for a very long time.

Today was as exciting as any of this had been. Due to his condition, they borrowed him an electric wheelchair. The Hero felt like a boss. It was huge, but quiet.

The Hero sat roughly at the height of 5’2” in the chair. The seat was on top of an electric motor which was attached to a joystick. There were six tires: four larger ones for motion, and two smaller for direction. The difference between them was mostly ignorable, as they just were a few centimetres in size different from each other. There was a slider between two different speed settings: Rabbit and Turtle. The animations to signify the two were simple, yet adorable.

This new chair gave a freedom to the Hero that he craved. No longer did he have to rely on others to move him from point to point. The controls were simple enough that he was accustomed to driving within a few moments.

He liked Turtle mode.

After the day-two introduction, they brought him breakfast to his bed. The Hero was excited. They offered breakfast at Freeport, but he was forced to go to a dining hall to get it.

“Wow. I am complaining about that?” Thought the Hero.

In his defence, he was in a manual wheelchair then without even the ability to feed himself. Over the week, he had regained a lot of his strength. He still could not move himself in a manual wheelchair, but he could mostly feed himself, kind of.

After the nurse left and breakfast was consumed, and he was left alone with his roommate for the first time since he got there the day before. The Hero and Paul had a few hours before Physiotherapy, so it was time to converse: time to get to know the other entity in the room.

Paul was born in England. He was married to Mary, who was older than he. He had worked as a landscaper for a while. Doing work on some pipes in his bathroom, he had twisted weird and done something to his spine. He had been in hospital for a month at that point, living in the same room for “too long”. Paul was in a manual wheelchair, and was quite deft at motions in said chair.

Their introductions were cut short when the nurse came to put the Hero in his chair. The lift thing was fun. The Hero was afraid, at first, but it did not take long and he forgot his fears. It felt like a very slow rollercoaster. The reality, however, was that it was more like a ski lift: slow, gentle, and out of necessity.

“Wheee!” The Hero exclaimed, as his body was moved from bed to chair. The nurse just rolled her eyes and smiled to herself.

Up for the first time in over twenty-four hours, given relative freedom for the first time in five months: what is the first thing the Hero would do?

Find a window and look out it. PLANS!

The Hero realized that it was a simple pleasure, but one his has not partaken in for quite some time. It was magnificent.

It was ten. The sun had risen a few hours earlier, and light penetrated the leaves to produce pale shadows on the earth. There was a slight breeze, but overall, it looked very hot out there. Based on what the Hero had heard, it was the warmest March in several years.

The Hero moved away from the window, and proceeded out the door. This was a new adventure for him; new halls and destinations awaited him. Out the door, he noticed that it was a ghost town at that time around the facility. There were empty showers across the way, and his room was the middle of two others, but no one was nearby to say good morning to.

The Hero felt happy for the first time in months. He was on his own an hour from anyone he knew. He did not feel any judgement or pressure. He was not made to feel like he was being pitied. The Hero knew that it was not the intent of his family or friends, but they would show it in their face. Their eyes would be full of tears as they asked how he was. There was very clear intention about not talking about the very recent past. The Hero had many questions, yes, but he was tired of getting half answers. He was tired of being called a miracle. He was tired about hearing how he should have died.

Suddenly, a wave of panic. He just realized that he had to make his way over to the gym to start physiotherapy.

It was explained to him that physiotherapy was like going to the gym. The classes were structured around trying to get the body back up to strength. The main purpose was the ensure that muscles would not atrophied and bones would not deteriorate. The Hero had lost almost half of his muscle mass by this point. He was the smallest that he had been in a very long time, and this caused him almost as much grief as not being able to walk did.

He arrived to find a very busy room. There was people everywhere doing some form of exercise. There was a line for the parallel bars and a large group of people gathered to try to out do one another with weights. Paul was right behind the Hero.

“Out of my way!” He barked. ‘Physio’ was his favourite part of the day.

The Hero came back to reality to notice that one of the therapists had come up to him.

“Hi! I’m Michelle! Let’s get to doing stuff!”

Still taken back, the Hero let Michelle take control of his chair, and bring him over to a large machine.

It was a universal weight machine. The part Michelle wanted the Hero to do was just a simple pulling exercise. The Hero was very interested. He still had little to no movement in his arms, but he knew that working them out would increase recovery ten-fold. The Hero was then fit with gloves that were fastened with velcro strips. They had a ring for the machine to attach to, and they let the Hero operate without fingers.

The initial test was a flop. There was no weight attached, but the Hero could not pull at all. He felt very depressed. He felt like he had failed, not just himself, but everyone who knew what was going on. The anger and anguish was far too much for him, and he left the machine quickly: saying it hurt him in some way.

He then moved over to free weights. The Hero had been using 10 lbs weights for years before this, so he had a sense of pride going into the situation, even though the previous use of arms went so horribly.

He was handed 2 lbs weights. He could not lift them at all. He was destroyed spiritually and emotionally. He could not hold back the tears, and he fell apart. Some people go to the gym and sweat pours over their brow. The Hero left with tears pouring off his eyelashes.

Embarrassed, he rolled his large chair to the hall. At least there, he could be out of the eyes of everyone. At least out there, he could look out a window and fantasize about running into the horizon.

He hated this. He hated all of this. Why him? When will it end?

He was lost into his head. He had spent so much time in his brain, he almost forgot how to express himself externally. A whirlwind of self pity and self loathing, the Hero thought about killing himself for the first time since he got to Hamilton. He could not even see straight. Everything went black.

The Hero did not remember getting back to his room. He was even back in bed which could not have happened without him knowing, could it? Paul was still out of the room. The Hero was confused and just wanted to ask someone what happened.

Just then, a nurse came in to check in on him.

“You’re awake! How do you feel?” She asked, breathing a sigh of relief.

It turns out that the Hero passed out. He was found by the therapists and they directed his chair back to his room several hours prior. It was now after seven, and diner was wrapping up soon. She joked about him making an interesting impression on his first full day.

He started crying again and nurse had nothing but sympathy in her eyes. That made everything worse for the Hero. He did not want pity. He did not want people to have to micromanage his life.

Realistically, he was unaware of the months between November and March. He just had other peoples stories to go off of. He could recall parts of things, but everything was so surreal that he had no clue what happened. As horribly bored as he was for months, he did not retain much of it. This means that he was not the slightest bit adjusted to the whole situation. He had heard what happened, kind of. There was still a part of him that was expecting to wake up and walk out of the room. He had all but convinced himself that this was all just a horrible dream. He still could not feel his legs at all, and his arms were still rather pathetic. These facts, and the fact that this cannot be his reality, helped prove the nightmare concept that the Hero came up with.

He pulled himself together. The nurse was saying something about how she understands, but he has to be strong.

The fact of the matter,” the Hero thought, “is that you will never understand. No one will.

She was right about one thing, however. He needed to be strong.

He straightened up and cleared the tears from his face. Just moments later, Paul came back in the room. He had been down getting dinner and was mildly curious where the Hero had run off to. Apparently, no one had informed him that the Hero passed out earlier.

“It was ‘kind-of-chicken’ and carrots!” Exclaimed Paul, actually making the air quotes to emphasize that is was horrible. “You missed out on a delicacy!”

The nurse made sure the Hero was okay, checked his vitals, then left the room. Paul shuffled back into his bed and turned on his TV.

“What a bizarre Tuesday” thought the Hero. He then put his head back on the pillow and started to dream.

****

Dragons. Dragons everywhere. The knight was tasked with the mission of killing every single one of them. Cue bad-nineties action movie themes: the knight rode towards the crowd of snarling teeth and fire on his horse, sword drawn. Sweat beaded down his face and forced his shirt to stick to his torso. The horse kept a steady beat, though it was very apparent to the knight that he was hesitant.

Now, within striking range, the knight let out a mighty battle-cry as he brought his sword down on the head of the first scaled beast. Blood and flames sprayed across the valley they were fighting in. The first dragon fell with a mighty thump. Mighty enough to attract the attention of several more that immediately started to move towards the knight.

Nurse comes in again. So much for the ending of that battle.

Paul was awake and up already. The Hero was informed that breakfast and coffee were on the way. The Hero shuddered at the thought of the black paint they passed off as coffee. Paul piped up suddenly.

“He doesn’t need a coffee. Mary’s got ‘im”

Confused, the Hero just accepted and placed his “order” for the rest of the meal. He really hoped that Paul was telling the truth: It was very hard for him these days to function without coffee.

Mary came in baring the black been juice. This was the greatest moment that the Hero could remember. He sat up in bed, said thank you and drank a good portion of it very quickly. Mary and Paul laughed at him.

Mary was a lovely woman. Hair to her shoulders, soft expression, and tall compared to the Hero, it was clear that she loved Paul and Paul loved her. They explained how they had been together for a long time. Mary was a cancer survivor. Her story was full of depressing anecdotes and horrible experiences.

Paul had nothing but hilarious tales. It was a strange juxtaposition, the Hero thought. It was almost like it was made to be.

It was almost like it had to be.

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