Darkness. Emptiness. Desolation. I feel something slate-like under my bare feet; cold, slick, impenetrable. The air is stale and clammy. My hands blindly lunge into obscurity; nothing within grasp, only the vacuum of the dark barren. The cold emanates from within my soul and spreads through the fibers of my nerves, embracing every inch of my body. I call out; my voice falling flat, no walls to echo my shout. I shiver, not knowing if this is from the chilling dankness or my own fear and fall to the ground.
Sobbing, I crawl through the misty darkness for hours. The floor is slick from the dewy mist. Jagged edges puncture my flesh like painful needles. Blood oozing from torn flesh. Pain is my only useful tool in this endless void. My knees are raw and swollen; my hands slick with dew and blood. I creep forward slowly, my outstretched hands trying to guide me. I slide them along the ground in front of me, searching for large ridges to avoid. I feel around, searching for anything in the darkness to give me a clue as to where I am, in this eclipsed limbo of obscurity. My body spasms from pain and exhaustion, already weak from dehydration and blood loss. I collapse and my face crashes into the rugged rock. As my mind struggles to remain conscious, the metallic taste of blood and the agonizing pain and cold are the last things I recognize before my mind turns black.
Confused and scared, I reach for my throbbing jaw, as I slowly enter consciousness. It’s covered in a thick, gelatinous clot of blood. My jagged teeth rub against swollen lips. I don’t dare scream out, for fear of bringing myself further pain. Strands of matted hair stick to my face, dried in place with sweat or blood or... I don’t want to imagine what more it could be. I am encompassed in cold, wet pain. Nothing more exists at the moment. I am blind, deaf, defeated. Tears stream from my eyes; I blink them away and light streams back in. Light. So blinding after the darkness.
I need to move. Pain. My body demands I scream, but only a broken sob escapes. My mind spins and, for a moment, I am terrified as I feel the bile rise in my throat. Breathing slowly, deeply, I swallow it back down. I raise my head and push against the slick slate with my hand. I can see the jagged ridges in the light and use them as leverage. My arm trembles as I struggle to rise. The pain fills my body with adrenaline. I can hear it roaring through my veins, my heart beating faster, my breath coming quicker, my pain disappearing into a tingling abyss.
My body comes to life as I spot a tunnel ahead. It’s walls covered in thick green slime. Algae. Algae grows in sunlight, and the end of the tunnel is the source of that light. I find my legs and rise. I look down, my naked body is torn and covered in blood, some smeared, dried, dark brown; others seem to ooze thick black tar. I have no memory of how I came to be here in this cavern; how I came to be in this state somewhere between life and death.
I stagger towards the light, losing my footing. As I drag my battered body deeper into the tunnel, the light grows brighter. My ears detect sounds, familiar, but buried deep within myself somewhere. Beep. Beep. Beep. Voices in hushed whispers. Footsteps on hard tile floors. Familiar, but unknown.
I continue my trek, my surge of adrenaline wearing thin. I am weak. I am thirsty. Every inch of my body throbbing and shaking, but I push towards the light. I can see the opening now, not so far ahead, but I am so slow. I want to lay down, to rest, but a voice inside me warns that I will never rise again. I push.
I reach the opening, blinded by light. I reach for the edge and I pull.
My mind spins, I’m no longer standing. My nostrils fill with the antiseptic smell of sterilization. The sounds, so clear. Beep. Beep. Beep. More voices. More footsteps on hard tile floors. I’m reaching for the edge again and feel cold steel in my fingers. I pull.
My mind spins as I try to blink my eyes open. I can make out shapes. Movement. Voices. Antiseptic. Beep. Beep. Beep.
“Ms. Harlow, slowly now, it’s ok, shhhh.” A woman in blue pajamas says softly, gently.
The room comes into focus. Beep. Beep. Beep. Machines. Wires. Tubes. A mirror. I pull.
I see myself. Battered. Bruised. A tube in my nose, another taped inside my mouth. Tubing in my arms. Flowers.
“It’s ok, Dear” the woman in the blue pajamas says to me. Her words pouring over me like warm honey. “Your plane went down over the Grand Canyon. You’ve been in a coma for 3 weeks, completely unresponsive. It’s a miracle you’re alive.”
By Tracey Koehler
From United States
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