Someone slowly opened the window to let him drink in what he knew to be his very last sunrise. It was time. It was about time.
The someone spoke. ‘Are you ready, James?’
He was. He’d never been more ready.
While they faffed about, as always, he thought about his decision. It was right, not rushed. They’d be disappointed but still.
They’d done their best. It had been hard for them, of course. Always saying – pretending was how he saw it at his lowest points – they wanted to involve him. Almost like he really had any say in what they did or when they did it. Until now.
They’d say, ‘We’re going to insert this drip now, James. It does blah, blah. Are you ready?’ Like they would have stopped if he’d shaken his head. No, they knew what he needed so they did what they did.
And they would have done it even if they’d known the pain every needle caused him. Every touch. He was never ready, that was the point. If he could have screamed he would have screamed them to a stop. But screaming, like sex was now an experience of the memory only.
That was another thing with them. Their optimism. Either they said crap like, ‘When you’re better…’ or ‘When you start walking…’ Or they said nothing, just smiled. Like it was all ok. All so natural. Nothing was going to stop them running his inert megaplegic life. The ultimate medical blank canvas, that was him.
And still they kept on touching him, prodding him and poking him even though each touch radiated agony across his whole being. They’d scanned his brain and seen nothing, no sign of any reaction. Their machines were godlike in their infallibility. He believed that even had he been able to describe what was happening to him, they’d think he was making it up. Fuckwits. Surely there had to be a sign for what he went through? Didn’t they see his pain sensors beaming lasers of hate at them? Were they so useless? Or was it him? Was his pain silenced too, just a memory, real though it felt?
It seemed like forever that he was stuck on his bed surrounded by his oh so caring torturers, planning their next assault and sharing their plans with him. And all the time he had tried to think himself dead.
But you can’t, can you? You can’t think life away. You can’t reject nutrients when they’re dripped into you; you can’t stop breathing when you’re on a ventilator.
Yet from the bottom of the bottom of that silent pit the only way was up and somehow he rose. All it took was one twitch of one finger, involuntary perhaps but suddenly they all talked about it was an ‘if’. If he can move his finger he can control a mouse. If he can control a mouse he can communicate. If this and if that.
He longed to tell them but he just knew they’d invested too much in his survival to let him go. Telling them of the unbearable agony would just delay matters. He had fought his body, until finally his finger did his bidding. They built him an empire of electronics, slowly giving him mobility and a voice.
They wanted his story but they had forfeited their right to know. He kept his pain secret as he learnt new skills. Holding onto pain meant he wouldn’t lose focus.
And today, this day after so many, after trial and error he was going to be allowed to medicate himself. Another machine, another step for them, a giant leap for him. At last he controlled his destiny.
Inside he smiled. On the screen he smiled.
The someone spoke again. ‘Glad to see you’re jolly today, James.’
‘I’m going to re-assess your motor function. It’s improving a lot. Who knows….’
A face appeared and smiled at him. ‘What would you like to do today?’
James tapped the pad. ‘Any chance of sex?’
Ms Scott smiled and waged a finger. ‘Not with me,’ her face became conspiratorial, ‘but these days, I don’t see why not. There’s a way for most things and it’s just an auto response after all.’
If James could have frowned he would have. That was news. Maybe he did need a rethink after all.
Susan held a question in her gaze. ‘So, any other questions?’
He tapped again. ‘I need to explain about the pain so we can talk about pain management.’