April 27th 2015
Tuesday, April 6th, 2004
Shattered light and pale shadows swirled before Gary’s eyes. He couldn’t remember opening them, could barely remember a time when they weren’t open. Slowly he was able to resolve the image. He could see that he was looking up from underneath at a molten drift of ice cubes. Something hard and intrusive was pushing air into his lungs in a rhythmic pumping that was not so much painful. No, his body was half-frozen and he didn’t feel any pain at all. But it was incredibly uncomfortable.
He reared up so fast that spots swam before his eyes and with cold-numbed fingers tore at the mask taped across his face, tore it away and then pulled, pulled at an impossibly long length of tubing that came out of his chest, from somewhere deep down with a tugging sensation then a tearing but still there was no pain.
He looked around at the bathroom tiles, at the tub full of ice and yellowish water. At the tubes attached to his left arm. He tore those away too, leaving a deep gouge in his arm when the shunt there tore open his rubbery wet skin. No blood seeped from the wound.
No. No, of course not.
Gary began a careful self-check of his faculties. The spots that danced in front of his eyes to the tune of tinnitus weren’t going away. There was a buzzing at the back of his head. It made him want to reach for the telephone. Not a sign of brain damage, that impulse, just simple Pavlovian response, of course. You heard a ringing tone in that particular frequency and you rushed to answer it, the way you’d been doing all your life. There weren’t any telephones anymore, of course. He would never hear a ringing telephone again. He would have to unlearn the behavior.
His legs felt a bit weak. Nothing to panic about. His brain… had survived, had come through almost unscathed. It had worked! Before he could celebrate though he had to assuage his vanity. He stumped over to the sink, held onto the porcelain with both hands. Looked up and into the mirror.
A trifle cyanotic, maybe. Blueness in his jaw, at his temples. Very pale. His eyes were shot with red where capillaries had burst open… perhaps that would heal, in time. If he could heal anymore. A vein under his left cheek lay dead and swollen so blue it was almost black. Peering, prodding, stretching the skin of his face with his fingers he found other clots and occlusions, web-like traceries of dead veins. Like the veins in a piece of marble, he thought, or a nice piece of Stilton. Without the veins a piece of marble is just granite. Without the blue veins a piece of Stilton is just plain cheese. The dead veins gave his face a certain character, maybe, a certain gravitas.
It was better than he’d hoped for.
He pushed against his wrist with two fingers, found no pulse. He closed his eyes and listened and realized for the first time that he wasn’t breathing. Primordial urges swelled up in his reptilian cortex, inbred terrors of drowning and suffocation and his chest spasmed, flexed, tried to suck in air but couldn’t.
Panicking—knowing it was panic, unable to stop he knocked over the stolen dialysis machine and heard it smash on the floor as he pushed his way out of the enclosed bathroom, pushed his way out toward light and air. His legs twisted beneath him, threatening to topple him at any second, his arms stretched out, the muscles straining, stretching taut as steel cables beneath his cold skin.
He stumbled forward until his legs gave way, until he smashed down onto the white shag carpet. His body heaved and shuddered trying to catch a breath, any puff of air at all. Just instinct, he screamed in his mind, it’s just reflex and it’ll stop, it’ll stop soon. His cheek rubbed back and forth across the shag and he felt the heat of friction as his body moved spasmodically.
Eventually his system quieted, his body gave in. His lungs stopped moving and he lay still, energy gone. Kind of hungry. He looked up, looked at the bluest sky beyond his windows. The white fleecy clouds, passing by.
It was all going to work out.