The room was filled with the sounds of the secret life of machines. There were hums, whirs, bleeps, and a gentle whoosh-hiss, that rhythmically kept time; as ventilators are known to do. Thin bars of light slit into the room through the few gaps they could find in the tightly drawn curtain. Overall, this place had a dark and somber feel to it. The only source of light in the room came from the numerous screens that filled every place that was not already reserved by vital medical equipment.
In the midst of this machined room lay one of the foldable beds that can be seen advertised on breaks during the sacred “Wheel Time” at your grandmother’s house. Upon purchase this bed had been placed into a dentist chair position and the gears had long since rusted tight due to severe under use. They fulfilled their purpose in life, but once before being left in purgatory, while watching the bed be used constantly.
It has sat in the same place since it was first moved in, slowly sinking into the floor, since it was carefully set up for maximum efficacy by two very caring PSW’s. Once positioned perfectly, its place was never questioned. It just spent its days as a silent sentinel forever supporting its owner whom rarely moved off of it.
As was custom it’s owner was currently laying down in the bed awash in the glow of all of the screens that now made up the life of Brandon Owens There hasn’t always been so many screens, in fact, there was a time where there was only one, yet it was a time that Brandon could hardly remember.
There was a time when he had been normal, had been an active part of society, yet an unforeseen accident changed all of that one sunny afternoon. He remembered the incident clearly because he relived it every time he closed his eyes, even after all these years. The doctors had said that as he got used to his new condition the nightmares would stop, well he certainly proved them wrong. He was a “special” case as his doctors liked to say. He was one of the rare few that would always relive not only the pain but the horror of that day, again and again for the rest of his life.
At the beginning of his new life he used to drive himself mad with thoughts of what if. What if I had just stayed home that day? What if I hadn't tried to be the hero? What if? What if? What if? In those days he would often think that if anxiety were a person, it would be a frail old man with a cane, flinching at every noise, and only able to say “what if”, while looking at you with haunted pale blue eyes that look like they have seen it all.
In the beginning, Brandon spent a lot of time with that old man and his big black dog of depression. They were his closest and most reliable companions; most of his friends could not handle the fact that he was no longer the old Brandon and had left.
After a while, those who stayed and tried to be understanding were quickly shown to the door by Brandon; they were too much a reminder of what he had lost. His old life was gone and now he was left to deal with his new life. His new life would not be an easy one to deal with, that’s why in the end he decided to cut off all natural human contact; even that of his therapists and doctors.
His days were filled with silent suffering while machines kept his vital organs operating as naturally as possible. It was within this new artificial, cold, machined reality that he made himself his new home. It had been long years since he had lost the ability to speak. With everyone cut out of his life he had no use for spoken word and his abilities gradually faded.
The keyboard now spoke for him as his hands whirred across the keys so swiftly, he often imagined them as his thrumming vocal cords. The key clicks had become a language that he now spoke. Connecting his ever racing thoughts to the outside world; he may not have a physical presence yet his virtual presence was larger than life.
To be continued...
Tracey woke up sprawled across the half-empty bed; languishing in the beam of early morning sun that splashed across the pillows. She stretched and tried to remember what her last dream had been. She could not recall its content, yet she knew it must have been sweet due to the smile she awoke with.
It was lazy mornings like this that made it not so bad when Gary had to travel for work; sometimes for weeks at a time, as was the case currently. It seemed as though he had been travelling more and more recently, but that was to be expected when you are upwardly mobile in a company. Still, she loved him and missed him dearly, which is why she felt guilty on days like this, where the empty bed felt more a treasure, than a sad reminder of his absence.
As she lay in the sun basking in its warmth she recalled her conversation with Gary from the night before with a smile. They spoke every night before bed while he traveled, each night as sweet and loving as the last. He was currently in Europe this trip, trying to save some company from going under, something to do with mismanaged funds. Gary had hoped that the trip would not be long, however, according to the last conversation things were going from bad to worse. All he knew was that he had weeks left at least. Tracey knew it would be tough, but they would get through it. They always did.
She suddenly sat up in bed, her dream smile still beaming, even as the fog of sleep was slipping away. She remembered that as they were speaking last night Gary had said that he had sent her a package that should arrive today. He would not tell her what it was, not even a hint, but he seemed excited and begrudged the fact that he could be there to see her face when she opened it.
This new mystery added a spring to her step as she jumped out of bed to head for the shower. She paused by the full-length mirror on her way to check herself from head to toe. There was more silver mixed with her auburn hair than yesterday, yet it still looked great falling just past her delicate chin to frame her porcelain features. Her blue eyes sparkled even as she noticed new wrinkles framing them and her mouth. She stepped back, smiling as she took in the full picture. Her body was still lean, even if the skin did seem a little looser in some areas. Still, she thought she looked pretty fit for a 53-year-old, leaning in closer she bared her teeth in the mirror and gave them a good once over. Seeing that all looked good, she headed off to the shower and the start of her day.
Taking her time, she slowly dressed and went into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee. The whole kitchen and breakfast nook were flooded with early November sunshine. She raised her black coffee to her nose and inhaled deeply, letting her eyes close and body warm in the sun again for the briefest of moments as the earthy, spicy notes of the coffee gently chased away the rest of the morning fog; bringing in focused alertness, walking over to the round glass table of the breakfast nook, she let her eyes roll across the cluttered chaos sitting upon it.
Normally this type of mess would drive her crazy, however, this was her mess, and a mess of love. For the past year Tracey had been using each business trip as a chance to chronicle and scrapbook their 19-year marriage. In a sense the trip being extended was a bit of a blessing. She had been feeling rushed trying to finish it before Gary got back, and she hated feeling rushed. Now she had time to finish it calmly to be able to surprise him for their twentieth anniversary when he got home.
She sat at the table and grabbed a stack of movie stubs and tried to organize them chronologically. This proved to be tough on two fronts. The first being the wave of memories that would whisk her away as she remembered each date. The other issue was her mind constantly wondering what Gary could have sent her.
Their anniversary was in three weeks, hopefully he would make it back in time. 20 years; it seemed so quick, yet the stacks of memories laid out before her on the table told another tale.
To be continued...