There was darkness, thick and inky, all around me. And there were other things in the darkness with me. I felt their fingers, or claws, tearing at me, it was the most awful sensation I’ve ever known. For what seemed like ages, I could not move and was at the mercy of beastly things which knew of no such thing.
I believed I was in Hell, that this would be my eternity, ravaged and violated until the end of time. I wanted to fade into that darkness. I wanted to become nothing. And I almost did.
But there came a light into this horrid Hades. Brilliant and pure, it held a power in itself like the rays of a million suns. At its touch, I could move and I fought and fought, scratching and climbing toward the light.
I found myself in a hospital bed with a mob of doctors and nurses scrambling around me. They said it was a miracle, that I had been in a coma, one from which I was not expected to recover. But when I asked what happened, how I got here, they looked at each other. In silent agreement this question they declined to answer. It would not be until I saw a psychiatrist that those details would be discussed.
But I had enough to keep me occupied. My body had atrophied while I “slumbered”. I had to learn how to use my arms and legs again, how to make my fingers work… It was slow and humiliating, but I was determined.
The doctor who saw to my mental state, Dr. Elizabeth, as she liked to be called, was a renowned expert, a specialist who helped battered women. Apparently, my boyfriend had tried to kill me. Something about this revelation rang true, I could almost remember fists and knuckles, hands around my neck… Naturally, I didn’t want to dwell on it. Dr. Elizabeth disagreed.
I was happy to forget. To think that someone I loved could do that to me is what really hurts. Why the doctor wanted me to regain these memories made no sense to me. She even went as far as to imply that my mental state might delay my eventual release. She seemed determined to “empower” me by dragging me back to a place I had no desire to revisit. She crossed a line when she slid a photograph across her desk to me, a picture of him.
I looked at it, at him. I felt nothing at all. There was no anger, no fear, no sadness. He was just a man. I almost laughed when I wondered why I would be with someone like him. After the attack, he had been tried and convicted of attempted murder. I didn’t care.
The life I had was over. Maybe the person I was really died or something. I felt no connection to that old life, no affinity for that person I once was. All I wanted was to move again, to walk and to walk out of that place. Once again I surprised the staff by making rapid progress. I was so proud when I could finally make it all the way around the floor.
I often passed an elderly man, a patient like myself. He had a kind, smiling face and he always encouraged me, as though my struggle was his own. Reaching his room felt like visiting an old friend. He always met me at the door. It was only when I spoke to the nurses about him that I knew something was wrong.
There was no patient by his name, at least not anymore. A man with the same name, one known well by the staff, had died two months before I woke up.
I knew what was happening. I knew to hide it from everyone, especially Dr. Elizabeth.
story by Joe Stanley