I forget your name. What was it? I cannot read. Cannot speak. Oxygen mask in the way of my words. They are swallowed and shot right back at me, my own musty breath into my nose and into my lungs. It is like being inside an old library book. I have half an hour here, then half an hour outside, then another half an hour here, then another half an hour outside. I am a gazebo. Put me up for half an hour. Pull me down for half an hour because my joints are hurting badly and my temper is fraying at the edges. I am dressed in a green gown, after all. I feel like awning.
Well, I cannot actually feel anything at the moment. All the feeling I have in my body is confined to the first and third fingers on my left hand. I cannot even feel my lips, and I am usually able to do that. It is the drugs. The drugs they pump into me to stop me from turning. I do not know what they mean. I have always been like this.
My shoulder was fixed. I do not know what happened, but it is fixed now. Of course, I cannot move it, and it hurts. Or it would if I could feel it at all, which I cannot. I kind of wish I could, because then I could lie on my side all I wanted before nurses came and rolled me back. Even when they touch me it feels like a tonne on my side. I feel pressure on my body, but nothing more. Right now, lying here, I can explore the world with two of my ten fingers. Uncomfortably slippery bedsheets stretched tight over a bed coated with what feels like varnish.
On my back I can see a ceiling. It is not particularly interesting, but it is white, and that gives my eyes a chance to play. Any blip or spark I see within my eye is projected onto the white canvas above me. I should take up painting when I get better.
My sanity ebbs, I know that. Ebbs and flows. That would be a great band name. I find it particularly hard to focus on any one thing in my head. I can think I am awake, but as soon as I try to move my leg, I become fully awake and whatever I was thinking about is gone forever from my brain. That is normal. I am glad that is normal. It means I am.
I have a new counsellor. He is okay and he makes me talk. He leaves me having to say something, rather than not wanting to say something, like my previous two. So I told him everything. I told him how it started and I told him how it ended. I told him how my monstrosity started. I don’t understand. Was I really a monster? I am pure and good. I am golden-hearted. Maybe that heart has corroded a little, though, revealing oxidised iron that represents my jealously. I am jealous.
According to my counsellor, admitting it is the first step on the way to defeating it. But I don’t want to defeat it, I want to relocate it. I want to take it out of my head and put it in my body, so that my body feels so jealous of other people’s walking and working bodies that mine starts to strive to want to be human again, instead of a vegetable, which is what it is. Impossible. Yes, I know. But it’s how I feel and how I feel is jealous.
My half an hour away from the maddeningly sanitised curtained off room starts now. Disconnected from the oxygen tanks and drips, but still closely monitored. Sitting a few feet away from me is the person watching me. I do not mind this at all. In my head, I am the only one on the grass. I take a single step. My fractured ankle has nearly mended. The physiotherapist said I had to keep moving and strengthening it, so that is what I am going to do. I want to be strong again. I want my bones to be able to withstand a tank falling on them. I want my muscles to ripple with energy and brim with power. I want to feel strong. Strength. It is what I desire most now. Strength with keep the monster inside me, if I can supress it. Mental and physical. If I can prevent the creature from taking me over, I do not have to stop it, but if I can’t do that, I will have to try to physically restrain myself somehow. Maybe building up my body is the wrong thing to do. If the creature takes me over, becomes me, then…
Sorry, I mean if I become the monster, I will use that strength I built up over the hours of exercise. I will have to talk that over with myself. My counsellor will be no help here. This is not something he can help me with.
The grass. The grass. Soft. Silky. Cool. All the sod’s cruel coolness had gone. Replaced with sympathetic coolness instead. The parts in the sun are even warm, but I do not intend to go there. Who knows, I might faint if I go there. The heat could rise and rise, through my legs and up through my torso to my head, boiling my blood and dehydrating my brain. I am not going to risk that.
I stay in the shade, sensitivity gradually returning to my body, working upwards from the soles of my feet. It is a good feeling. I can feel. I can sense again. I walk around the tree that offers the darkness of the shade and raise my right hand to its trunk to feel its bark. It is rough, grooved, trenched as it should be and not just neutral, like everything else I can feel when I am lying down.
My nostrils flare as I breathe in deep, deeper than I have ever breathed before, it feels like, and my lungs fill to the brim. I notice the sensation, hold my breath for a few seconds before letting it out through my mouth. The breath is not musty anymore. I can taste the nature of it. That might come from the fact that it is becoming winter, and summer freshness is making one last effort especially for me before it cradles down into the soil to make way for its brother, the winter freshness. But the winter’s freshness is not the same. It stings and it glimmers, inviting children to play on its blank slate. As I child, I liked to take slow steps, thinking, hearing the compression of the snow beneath my wellies. Compression was the right word. I used to look behind me, seeing the once-fluffy snow crushed into the shape of the tread of my wellies. Some people say the snow ‘crunched’ underfoot. Some say the snow ‘gave way’ underfoot. Snow does not do either of those things, unless it is not snow but frost, or if the person is suddenly walking on an overhang of pure snow without realizing, then falling to their freezing deaths.
Like you did.
Well, you did not take a tumble off a precipice, or slide yourself to death on ice by breaking your skull open. To be honest, how you died has been shut off. It was cold. I know that. It was cold when we held your funeral. I say ‘we’… I was not invited. Why was I not invited? I can demand an answer from you for all eternity, only to be faced with your silence, but I still blame you for not inviting me. Was it your family? Did you turn them against me? What did I do wrong? Tell me! Tell me!
Oops. Did I take a fall onto the ground? Turns out I did. I face the dappled tree leaves. The word they always use is ‘dappled’. I guess I know why. The light is dappled. Yes, I face the dappled tree leaves, lying once more on my back in the shade. I wave my hand and try to laugh my predicament off. I just fell, I just tripped is all. They still insist on examining my shoulder, which is plastered in place so that all I can move is my lower left arm. They examine my ankle more closely though. I understand that, too. I took a fall, and it would have been my ankle to bear the brunt. Nothing had broken though. Life has some mercies at least. They decide to take me back in, but I try to argue, say I’ll sit down against the tree and won’t try to walk.
They agree to let me sit on the bench with my minder. At least I get to stay outside. Optimism. They said I should try to use it.
My minder asks me if I want to talk, but I shake my head. I have things to think about. However, he has different plans and starts blathering. Rather annoying. I nod occasionally. Shrug occasionally. After a while, he must be able to sense I don’t want to talk at all, and falls silent once again. My head wants to fall to the left, onto my aching shoulder. I make it, force it, to fall onto the other side, trying to make it look natural. I do not want to use any of my body muscles that are not necessary. I want to relive our time together. I want to ponder. Maybe think of what it would have been like if we had not split so soon. Could we have held hands more? Could we have actually kissed? Could we have actually made physical contact while lying in the same bed? Not that we ever lay in the same bed, but maybe that would have happened too. We lay side-by-side once. Once. And I was so happy. So very happy that night. Five days later, it was clear to me that we would never do that again. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that, but I kept trying. I kept trying for two more years to get close enough to you so that you would ask me the fateful question, ‘do you want to go out with me?’
You never did, and, fair enough. I understand that perfectly. I cannot try anymore. No way would your corpse rise up to ask me something like that. You have more important things on your mind. Like… death and being dead. What do you think about when you die? Do you just stop? Or is there more? Do you get another life? Do you get another body, another life to live? If you did, I would hunt for you. You would probably not remember me. And if I found you, you would probably be a baby-child or something, therefore what I wanted to do would be rendered illegal.
Best I don’t find you.