Argh. This traffic is ridiculous. I'm going to be late.
Then–there. A spot of car-free road.
Edging forward, I turned my indicator on. Checking both side mirrors, I eased into the next lane, taking up the free space.
Yes. Maybe I'll finally get there on time.
Approaching the last stoplight until I arrived at work, I sped up, seeing that the light had just changed to yellow. I reached the edge of the crosswalk just as the light turned red. I slammed on the breaks, but the car kept moving, skidding forward, finally coming to a stop in the middle of the road.
I dimly heard the honks, panicking and not entirely processing what had just happened.
My left shoulder was on fire, and my leg crumpled underneath me and twisted at an odd angle. Jagged pieces of the window pierced my skull, and I felt a stabbing pain that felt like it had hit my brain. The metallic taste of blood filled my mouth, and suddenly I couldn't breathe. The smell of burning rubber filled my nose, and as I choked, an excruciating pain penetrated my chest. I tried to call for help, but I couldn't manage even a croak.
I felt a mind-numbing sensation, then drifted off into darkness.
I slowly came to, feeling a cool surface under me, and slightly stiff, unyielding cloth above. A white glare filled my closed eyelids, and a strange humming noise penetrated the air. My entire body felt numb.
Where am I?
I tried to open my eyes, but they felt unnaturally heavy, and I eventually gave up. Working my way down my body, I tried to move my arms, my legs–anything I could think of. Even being able to move my toes would have given me some comfort, but as it was, I couldn't move my body at all. I tried to open my mouth, to try and talk, call for help, maybe? I wasn't really sure, but I had to try.
I tried to open my mouth, but it, too, wouldn't yield. All I could really do was breathe through my nose. I couldn't even move my eyeballs.
Then, a thought occurred to me. Work.
No. no, no, no! I'm going to be late, and get fired, and then I won't have a job and have to live on the streets! This can't be happening!
I struggled to make a noise, any kind of noise. I tried to make some kind of hum with my throat, but I couldn't vibrate my vocal cords, either.
I sensed a slight vibration, as if people were walking.
"How is she?" Was that–my mom? What was she doing here?
"She has three broken ribs on her left side, two fractured ones on her right, her left lung was pierced, her left arm and leg are broken in two places, respectively, and her right leg is fractured. Her left kidney is also not functioning properly, along with a few other organs. Shrapnel from the window punctured her skull, and a miniscule amount entered her brain. Because of that, we'll have to do brain surgery to extract the shards," another, unfamiliar voice answered her. "Currently, we are not receiving any brain waves from her, but we cannot be entirely sure until the surgery."
There was a faint gasp, then my mother answered in a wavering voice. "Yes, of course. And did you set her . . . other injuries?"
"Yes, of course we have," the doctor replied in a mildly offended tone. "She didn't come to the hospital for nothing. As it is, we are about to commence on the surgery . . ."
Are they talking about me? I wondered dimly.
Suddenly, it all comes rushing back-the red light, the other car, the shattered window–and, most importantly, the agonizing pain.
In a detached sort of way, I realize that I'm in a hospital.
Realizing that the doctor and my mom are still speaking, I pay closer attention to the conversation, reeling from my epiphany.
". . . sign this, and you can talk about the insurance to the lady at the front desk. She'll help you with anything you'll need," the doctor continued.
"Okay, thank you so much," my mom said in a tone that I couldn't place.
"We are going to start shortly, so if you wouldn't mind standing–"
Something sharp pricks the inside of my arm, and as I am getting rolled into the hallway, I drift back into the black abyss from whence I had woken in the first place.
When I wake up, the first thing I register is the pain in my arm. The rest of my body is still numb, and the pain is the only thing I feel. Somehow, that calms me, knowing that even though I can't move, I can feel . . . something, at least. Eventually, I realize my discomfort is due to the fact that someone is holding my hand.
"I'm so sorry that it came to this, Kayce," it is my mother, and I relax, knowing that she'd be there for me, no matter what. "I never thought that you would be on life support, but . . . well . . . we decided that maybe it's time for you to leave us. It has been practically three years, after all," she adds, sounding like she is trying to convince herself. "And I know that the doctors haven't seen any brain waves, but I still like to think that you can hear me–wherever you are. Just . . . just know that I love you, and always will."
What! Life support!? And what do you mean, three years? I can't have been comatose for three years! That's impossible! And what do you mean, take me off life support? I'm alive!
I panicked, trying to move, talk, anything–but to no avail.
Cursing my luck, I realized what this meant. If I had been on life support for about three years, then that meant that the car accident I'd been in was three years ago.
Okay, calm down and think this through, I told myself.
Also, the fact that I had been on life support for that long indicated that my organs hadn't healed enough in the three years for me to be able to continue functioning without it. I recalled the doctor mention something about brain surgery and shrapnel, and it occurred to me that perhaps something had gone wrong, causing me to stay unaware for so long. At the moment, it was the only reasonable explanation I could think of, and I was going with it.
I was pulled out of my thoughts when I heard the tread of someone–or, really–some people come into the room.
My other hand was taken, and I felt yet another person stand by my head. I surmised them to be my dad and sister.
"I love you," my sister said, her voice catching. "We love you. And . . . well, we think that this is the best for you . . . and for us." she added the last part more quietly, as if she were ashamed of it. "I just don't think . . . that you would want to continue living like this, not being able to do anything . . . just lying there . . ." her voice broke, and I could hear her muffled sobs.
I'd probably feel the same way, too, if one of them were in this situation, I reflected, deciding not to be upset enraged or upset with them.
"Are you ready?" a kindly voice asked, and I realized that it was a nurse.
"Yes," it was my dad who spoke this time, with less confidence than I was used to him having, seeing as he was one of the most outgoing people I knew.
"I love you, Kayce," he whispered, squeezing my hand one last time.
I love you guys too, I thought, hearing a distant beep and a sharp intake of breath.
Somehow, I ended up hovering over my body, and just had enough time to hear the nurse, sounding on the verge of tears, say, "I didn't see the brain activity until it was too late. I'm so sorry."
Reflecting back on my life, I regretted that I had spent so little time with the people who mattered–mainly, my family, and instead spent the majority of my time worrying about little things. I spent some time watching them grieve over me, and felt a pang of sorrow–I wouldn't see them again for some time, I knew. Eventually I felt as if it was time for me to go. I knew that I'd see them again eventually, and leaving wasn't as hard as I had thought it would be.
Goodbye, I thought, knowing it wouldn't be the last time we saw each other, and wished them happy, prosperous lives.
And something whisked me away, to where, I knew not–but I knew that I would be happy and safe there, wherever it was.