I hear everything: the soft cry of my mother, the beep of the heart monitor, the whispers of the nurses, and the subtle hum of the air conditioner. I feel the rough texture of my hospital gown against my skin, the cold hand of the doctor every morning when he visits, and the warm hand of my mother every time she touches my cheek. I am awake. Wide awake.
“Please, wake up,” my mom whispers to me while she stifles her cry. She talks to me every day and says the same exact thing.
I am trying, I yell to her. But she can’t hear me. How do I get my body to follow my brain? Every day, I would sleep and hope that the next day I can just get up. I have been counting, it’s been two years and forty-eight days. I should give up but I can’t. I am suspended between life and death.
“We have to let him go.” I hear a voice.
“You said we will wait.” I hear my mother.
You can’t let me go, I scream. Mom, don’t let me go!
“Elle, even if he does wake up, he’ll only be confined to the bed.” This was my father. He didn’t come very often. But when he did I could sense him around even if he didn’t say much.
“No, no…,” my mother cries. “I can’t…my baby…,” she cries harder. I hear her cries become muffled as she sobs into my father’s chest.
“Elle, come on,” my father tries to convince her. “It’s the best we can do for him, now.”
Don’t, mom, please, I yell my brains out. Don’t listen to him, I will wake up! I promise you!
I summon every ounce of strength to move, but my body fails me.
Her warm hand touches my cold arm. I want to hold her. I want to reach out to her. Don’t, mom, I whisper in my head. Please.
She leans over me, her tears absorb into my hospital gown. She caresses my forehead and I sense it in her touch; she is going to let me go. She regrets it but she has no choice. At first, it infuriates me, but then I realize what can she possibly do? How long can she wait? Maybe it’s the way it is and I have got to accept the reality.
When they do let me go, I wonder when I will be dead. Like, really dead. I still feel and hear everything even after they pull the plug. The coffin is nice but they are not very gentle with it. As they lower it into the ground, my left arm slides against the coffin wall and I feel a protruding nail. Although it hurts, it doesn’t bother me much. I know I will lose this consciousness soon and then nothing will matter. Not the nail, the claustrophobia, or the unsettling dread. It will all be gone soon. I hope the worms don’t find me in my coffin, at least not while I am still awake. Patiently, I wait for the light to go out.
It’s dark and quiet in here except for the sound of scratching emanating from underneath my coffin, but I really don’t care for it. Whatever it is, it won’t matter when I am finally asleep. It’s like solitary confinement but with full body paralysis. I have nothing but my memories; I remember the bad ones more prominently than the good ones, but I try only to think of the good ones: grandma’s 90th birthday, my first bike ride, playing fetch with Sam—our dog—my sister’s recital, my prom date and…That’s it? That can’t be it. I have got to have more good memories. What was I doing all those years? The more I think the more I realize that there is only a handful of them. What would keep me company if I lost those memories? The thought distresses me. I revisit each memory over and over again, carefully, hoping not to forget them.
Why am I still conscious? I shouldn’t be aware. How long has it been? That unsettling dread becomes a full-blown panic attack. The nail pokes my arm and it hurts like hell. I try to focus on the memories. I try to remember the details: grandma’s laugh, the bruise on my knee when I fell from the bike, Sam licking my hand, the pink flowers on my sister’s dress, and my first kiss with Laurin.
I revisit each memory, waiting for my awareness to shut down. It doesn’t.
What if this is death? The thought perturbs me.
Slowly, I get tired of rethinking the same memories over and over. I decide to quit. I think nothing as I wait. But wait for what? If this is death, what am I waiting for? My mind races but I seize the thought process. Maybe I need quiet. Maybe ‘the silence’ will put me to eternal sleep.
The silence is profound.
Wait, not so profound…
That scratching has gotten aggressive. I hear something hissing and it feels like more than one. I listen. Worms can’t scratch, they can’t hiss. I recognize the sound of nails against the wooden coffin. Maybe this is what death is like for everyone. I tell myself. But it doesn’t comfort me a bit. I feel something pulling at my coffin and it’s not gravity. I want to be dead; at least before whatever is scratching at my coffin gets to me. Something pulls the coffin down, first, gently, and then with a sudden aggression.
My coffin sinks deeper into the ground and with every downward pull, my heart sinks. The force of the jolt pins the nail deep into my arm. I wish I could scream out loud. Again, I try to focus on my good memories, my only possession. This is what death is like for everyone. You are not so special. I remind myself.
One more jolt and the coffin falls into a tunnel that never seems to end. I hear them hissing as they run alongside my coffin as it falls. The sound of their feet feels like hooves on a rough terrain.
In a few days, my mom would stand by my gravestone, praying, crying, and unaware of what is happening to me. What will happen to me? I don’t want to know. I hope her prayers can put me to sleep.
My coffin lands on the ground and I feel the wooden pieces obliterate. Something pulls out the nail from the coffin and that’s not the only thing they are pulling out; they rip off the coffin bit by bit until only I remain.
I don’t see them, but I hear them; I sense them around me. There’s more than one and they seem hungry. I feel a stinging warmth on my skin as their long, spiky tongues lick my flesh, and I wonder why am I still awake?
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