An Unwelcome Visitor
There were sounds. Voices. Calling out. Then whispering. One minute loud in my head, the next as unnervingly quiet and eerie as an untouched snow covered field. It was confusing. I could feel the increased urgency of blood swirling around my system, literally sensed the red cells moving through my arteries as they circled around, seeking their return journey through my veins, craving the oxygen that fuelled them around and around.
I laughed, inwardly. Visions of the Circle Line dawdled for a while, an early childhood nightmare of being trapped in one of the tube carriages, alone – and the underground train going on and on. Around and around. Bayswater, Gloucester Road, Temple, Aldgate, Baker Street. They all flashed past as the train kept going. On and on. My plump, young fists pounding on the doors. But the train never stopped. The doors never opened. And then I’d wake up, pouring with sweat. I never told my parents about the dreams. It wasn’t something we did. Sharing those kinds of things. And anyway, the Circle Line nightmares left me in my teens and never returned.
And whatever this state I was in meant, it felt similar to my Circle Line, but not exactly the same. More hollering. More whispers. I heard myself groan and try to gargle some words out. It hurt. My eyelids were closed, but I could see something. Through my eyelids? Can eyes do that?
There was a chair. An open framed chair. High-backed with a cushioned seat, light blue in colour, beech-wood arms. A figure reclined there, head bowed, legs crossed, relaxed, waiting. My eyelids felt closed, for sure. So eyes could do this! But no detail, only shadowy outlines. The figure moved, trying to gain more comfort. It spoke.
“I know you can hear me.”
My body reacted. I felt my legs splay out ahead of me, the muscles tightening. My arms tensed, although remaining in what felt like a horizontal position.
It spoke again.
“It’s always like this. Pretending that you can’t hear me. But you can, can’t you? Always wanting to ignore what I have to say. We’ve been here before, haven’t we? You there. Me here. Just the two of us. So I will ask you once again. Are you ready?”
My body jerked. My throat wanted to spasm. Am I ready? Am I ready?! I remember now. Yes, this figure had asked me before. I felt the answer deep down inside of me. I felt the answer welling up, my lungs working hard to push the air up and outwards, burbling up through my throat. I heard a noise. A guttural, raw, Neanderthal-like noise that forced its way into the space around me. It didn’t sound like me at all.
It also didn’t sound like ‘No’, but that was the answer I was trying to give.
The figure understood. It understood many sounds and many languages.
“I see,” it said. “This is my last visit for a while. I hope you have considered your answer carefully. We shall see.”
A bell. An alarm bell! And a loud ‘beep-beep’. People rushing. Running. Moving. Many hands. Voices. Loud voices, but caring voices. I felt myself being moved, ever so slightly. A hand on my forehead. Mopping. Me pouring with sweat. But no Circle Line this time.
“We have you, we have you, David,” I hear a female voice say. “Kat, can you please move that empty chair out of the cubicle – we need some more room in here.”
I hear the high-back chair scraping its way along the floor. It leaves my life.
“There, now we can properly concentrate on you, David. Can you hear me, David?”
I think of how to nod my head. It’s been a long time. My neck muscles respond. My head nods. Just the once. It hurts. Like hell.
“Good, good.” I hear sighs and sense muffled, gentle laughter. Feet are padding around me. I work hard to open my eyelids. They crack open like eggshells. Everything is blurred, but there’s a face.
“You’re in Intensive Care, David, and you’re OK. We’ve had you on a ventilator unit for quite some time. You had us scared there for a while, but all your signs have just begun to point in the right direction. Well, done, David, well done! Now, please stay as you are. Rest there a while, we still have to look after you. But you’re going to be fine.”
I hear more feet shuffling, more voices, quietly asking for readings, measurements. Other voices adding agreements to this or that. Someone whispers: “Thank God.”
I try to utter a ‘Thank you’ but the tubes get in the way. Instead, I work on another nod. It comes and again I feel a warm, soft hand on my forehead.
A voice says: “We know, we know.”
I think I’m smiling. I’m happy that no one asks me: “Are you ready?”