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Finally Awake

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I

Pain. That was the first thing he noticed. Not just in one place, but all over his body. Everything hurt with a piercing agony. He tried to let out a muffled cry but felt only emptiness where his vocal chords should be. And why couldn't he open his eyes?! All he could hear were a thousand voices and a repetitive metallic squeaking sound—Squeak, squeak, squeak. He felt damp all over as if he had been sweating profusely. How long had he been unconscious? What happened?

Then it hit him. There had been someone else in the car with him as he drove down the dark and deserted two lane road that connected his hometown to the city. It was a dark figure in what looked like a robe. He couldn't remember the face. Only long black fingers—no, they were claws! Long, sharp, black claws that curved slightly downward and shown in the scant light of the moon as if they were polished. And the awful sound of its breathing (if that is what it was!). It sounded as if there were a thousand beetles crawling through the throat of the creature as the air moved in and out of its body and then what? Darkness. He couldn't remember.

He struggled as hard as he could and finally was able to open one eye. It was his left. Not even his good eye. He peered out of it and saw that he was surrounded by faces. A young woman, her brown hair pulled tightly behind her head looking at him with a shocked expression. Her face looked very pale and he could almost read her mind. "What happened to this man?" The man across from her was older. He could see gray streaks in the man’s hair interrupted only by his black-rimmed glasses, similar to the ones they give new recruits in the Army these days. A blue face mask hung just below the man’s chin. He could see two more men further away from him, but they were facing the other direction. Squeak, Squeak, Squeak. He was on a gurney! He looked back at the man with the black rimmed glasses.

“Everything is going to be OK,” the man said. But his eyes told a different story.

He wondered what had that thing done to him. "Why can’t I open my other eye?!" he thought and struggled so hard that he felt the veins on his neck begin to protrude. He felt a renewed sharp pain in his good eye, and decided that it was better to at least have one eye to see what was going on than to make his pain worse. He felt his body becoming weaker.

II

The doctor was enjoying a cup of coffee (black, just the way he liked it) in the lounge when the nurse poked her head in the door and told him that his help was needed at the emergency entrance immediately. He could see the panic in her eyes and decided now was not the time for questions. Seven years in the trauma ward of the hospital taught him that there were times to stop and ask questions and times that you just listened and moved quickly. He set his half empty cup of coffee down on the cold granite counter next to the copy of the local newspaper and darted out of the door into the lobby.

When he reached the emergency room door, the paramedics were just wheeling the bed into the building. They gave the doctor a brief description of the patient’s status and everything they had done to keep the patient alive as they transported him to the hospital. What they could do anyway. There was no telling what happened to this man. It looked as if he got into a fight with a meat grinder and barely escaped with his life. Two orderlies ran up and helped guide the gurney toward Trauma Room 1 while the nurse that had alerted him stood next to the man’s shoulder and checked all of the interventions the paramedics had performed.

The doctor began to assess the patient’s condition. The first thing he noticed was the right eye. It was completely removed from the socket! All that remained was a gaping hole lined with reddish-black chunks of jagged meat where the eye had been. He was covered in blood. His throat was ripped open, but the trachea looked intact. Whatever it was had just torn the skin from the front of the man’s windpipe, but the doctor would hardly call him lucky. The rest of his body was covered in deep lacerations and hanging pieces of flesh and muscle tissue. He looked back at the patients face and noticed what appeared to be clear fluid coming from his nose. He checked the ears and saw the fluid there as well. It was a sign of brain trauma. The doctor knew this one was probably not going to last through the next hour, let alone the night.

The man opened his left eye. “He is responsive! Hopefully I can stabilize him at least until we can find out who his family is,” the doctor thought. He knew he couldn't keep the man alive long, but hopefully he could bring a little closure to this man and his family. It was always harder telling someone their loved one passed when there was never a chance to share those final moments. To say I love you, everything will be ok, or I’m sorry I was so angry when you left. The man’s veins began to stand out on his neck and a small amount of blood sprayed out from the socket spattering the doctor’s gown with dark red splotches.

III

He saw a large wooden door at the foot of his hospital bed forced open quickly, banging loudly against whatever stood behind it. Then there was a blinding light above his face. It was very bright and caused him to close his good eye quickly to avoid the new pain he now felt. He heard the doctor calling for various instruments. He tried to follow what they were saying, but it was just a bunch of jargon to him. Besides, he felt as if he was going to drift off. His weakness was quickly increasing and he knew he would soon be unconscious. But he welcomed this. At least if he could sleep he wouldn't have to feel the awful pain that plagued his body. He slowly opened his left eye again. This time, thankfully, it wasn't so difficult.

He began to hear a steady beeping sound as he was hooked up to a heart monitor. He couldn't see the machine because it was off to his right side somewhere, but he could imagine the peaks and valleys that the lines on the screen made with each beat of his heart. He felt a tube being forced down his throat. The scratching was uncomfortable, but the rest of the pain he felt was far greater. He felt his gag reflex kick in slightly and then it was done. The tube was in. The man with the black rimmed glasses was moving quickly. His latex gloves were covered in blood. The nurse lost her scared look. It was replaced with one of determination. She was following orders as quickly as they were given and so were the other three masked and robed people that had joined them.

Suddenly he heard the heart monitor begin to beat slower. The lid of his left eye began to get heavier. He heard the man with the black rimmed glasses begin to shout for the paddles.

“Give me the paddles, he’s coding!” he shouted to one of his robed helpers.

“NO!” the man thought as he felt his body shutting down. “I won’t be able to warn my family! To tell them about the strange figure that appeared behind me as I was driving home! What did it do to me?! What was it going to do to THEM?!”

He heard the slow beeping noise turn into a continuous sound. He saw a cold, dark face with large black eyes and deep vertical wrinkles that looked like crevasses. No mouth could be seen as he finally remembered what the thing that did this to him looked like. He closed his eye.

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