Prompt Day #283: Page randomly through a nearby book, magazine, or newspaper, and make a list of ten people, places, or things. Add the phrase “of the dead” next to them. Though the result might be too derivative for a title, see what ideas occur.
So, as is usual, the nearby book is one on writing, I’m sure you’ll notice by some of the words that got picked. So, we’ll start with my list and then I’ll write the little story I came up with.
- Notebook of the dead
- Hemingway of the dead
- Antagonist of the dead
- Dream of the dead
- Element of the dead
- Space of the dead
- Victim of the dead
- Roof of the dead
- Flashback of the dead
- Beach of the dead
Dream of the Dead
When you are in a coma, you don’t dream. You don’t even exist in your own mind. This I know. For six months of my life, I did not exist. After the accident, no one thought I’d survive, but there I was waking up confused and frightened. Mom and Dad were there sobbing and hugging me as if I’d come back from the dead. I guess, I did. They looked so much older, the stress of my accident had aged them.
Two weeks later I was on my way home; back to my room, back to all the things that should have seemed familiar to me. Instead, I felt as if I was walking onto a movie set where everything was staged to look like my life but it was all just a two dimensional façade. I wandered around like a zombie, I tried going back to school for a while; I quit after a week. I couldn’t concentrate, everything the teachers said was just white noise. And I didn’t remember any of my friends. The doctors and my parents decided that it would be best if I took the rest of the year off and repeat it when I was ready.
The dreams began shortly after I got home, they were more real than anything in my conscious life. They were terrifying though. The first dream was like one of those waking ones where you can’t move or breathe. I awoke, or thought I did. I could smell a vague plasticy smell, like when you are blowing up a new pool toy but when I tried to take a breath, inhale it more, nothing happened. I panicked but couldn’t move. There was blackness. And the sensation of being completely covered. I felt hot and sweaty and trapped. I lay like that perfectly still and paralyzed for who knows how long.
When I could move again, I got up out of bed and went on to my day full of pretend scenery and people. The next night it was the chill that woke me—or at least I thought I was awake. I had gone to bed that night in sweats and a tee-shirt as always, but I awoke completely naked. There was no bed, no blankets and the bed wasn’t soft, it too was hard and cold. Then, I was stabbed. I deep pain shot through my neck and into my chest. I wanted to sit up and scream, but again, I couldn’t move. I could do nothing but feel. Feel the pain and the emptiness it brought with it. It sucked the life out of me.
My dreams continued, and every one of them were more real than the life I was currently living. They scared me, and yet, they felt right in some way, in some way waking felt more like the dream. Sometimes, it was so dark and warm and other times it was cold and moist. The only thing that was the same in every dream was that I couldn’t move and I couldn’t breathe.
I began to wonder if I was having memories of when I was in the coma. The pain and stabbing might have been surgeries, the hard tables and the chill would be CT machines or the operating room. I decided that made a lot of sense. I relaxed a little. Life went on, days made of paper turned over, one after another and I was nothing but words on that page.
The dreams changed then. I still couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, but instead of darkness there was a single shadow. It stood at my door, staring. Each dream it came closer. This should have frightened me more than the other dreams, but it didn’t. The shadow brought a kind of peace with it that I hadn’t felt since I awoke. I had to tell someone. My parents were so caught up in the “miracle” that was my awakening, they treated me like a porcelain doll. Instead I told my therapist, the one the hospital assigned me when I was discharged. They said I would need to see him weekly as I “re-acclimated.”
As I sat on the couch and told my stories, he mumbled uh huhs and hmms. I looked over to see nothing more than a shadow, an outline of a man. I sat up and screamed. The therapist’s office was gone and I was back in my bedroom. My mother came running in.
“What’s wrong?” She asked.
“I think I was supposed to die in that accident, Mom. Nothing feels right anymore. There is a shadow following me.” I said. She began to cry and nod her head.
“You did die in that accident. You died, and we had you buried. But then, a week later, we found this website. There was a company saying they’d found this “cure for death”. They were looking for volunteers; families who had recently lost a loved one unexpectedly. We contacted them, we spent everything we had.” She was sobbing now, her hands over her face. I understood why, but I also understood that I would never feel normal or real again.
“Mom, I don’t belong here. I’m not happy.” I said “I need peace”
“Oh God, I know” She said “Your father and I were so selfish to bring you back like that. It seemed like such a miracle, but I’ve seen you wandering around the house, so restless, so out of place. I’m so sorry, Sweetheart. So sorry.”
“What do I do?” I said. “How do I go back?”
She didn’t answer. She just held me for a long time before kissing my forehead and leaving. I think I know what she was telling me. I think it was an apology for not having the strength to fix her mistake. It was her way of saying goodbye. I forgive her of course, and I will always love her and Dad for trying so hard to save me. But now, I have to do what they couldn’t. I have to go back to sleep, back to my dream.