"...what...what happened to me?"
Philip's first moments of returning consciousness come with a bewildering tone. It is hard for him to cope with his current state, let alone reflect on his memory. "Where am I?" It is still a black stage for Philip's vision, or lack there of. He is blind, so he must make up for it with his other senses. He reaches up his arm with his curious fingers. A plastic tube, thin and professional, was prodding into his elbow. The tones and smells of the room were at last coming to Philip with familiarity. He was in a hospital, an American hospital.
"You are back in Oklahoma." Says a nurse, "Is there anybody you would like us to call?"
"Don't call my parents."
"Is this a military hospital?"
"No. This is Saint Anthony's in Oklahoma City. You have been honorably discharged. Whatever you did over there must've been courageous. They brought you here a couple of days ago and since then we've conducted every test we've got on you to see what's wrong."
"Have they found anything?"
"Not yet, Corporal but we're doing everything we can." Says a new voice entering the room, "I'm Dr. Fitzsimmons, I'm working with the rest of the hospital to figure out what you've got."
"Are you with the-"
"Yes, I'm a military scientist. I have been with you since you were found in the caves."
"So what do I got?"
"We haven't been able to diagnose your particular...ehum...ailment, yet."
"The Plant. Did you find that plant? Did you find it? Is it still real?" The BP monitor starts sounding off frantically.
"Plant. What plant?" Dr. Fitzsimmons is trying to get one last crossover in before he plunges back into unconsciousness. Philip's BP rate gets worse and his body starts convulsing as the nurse interrupts by rushing over to Philip's aid, "Corporal Dresden needs his rest. You two can talk in the morning." The nurse concludes while pinning Philip on the bed, lifeless, as if. "You should feel lucky you know. They haven't told us much, but of what they did...you have survived a lot. You should be so lucky that your still alive,"blessed the Nurse, "Not only that, but your grandfather is here in the hospital living out his last days. He has stopped eating, a tell-tale sign that the end is near. You will be able to see him before he passes. Now sleep corporal, you need your energy." He stops trying to keep his face above the surface and drowns his swallow in the black abyss.
Philip falls back into his other darkness. He still feels alive, awake. Lucid. And the fact that he was asleep was slowly...fading....away. He's walking in the dark. The dark he should be getting used to. He is not afraid to walk without seeing. He triumphantly marches through the night. Suddenly, he is walking on a field. A field he can see. Is he no longer blind? Not right now. The cascading infantry of grass rolls underneath a black sky. All of which under an eccentric horizon. He feels somewhat askew, but all his indicators read truth and sincerity. And so he walks on in this strange grass below a shadowed sky. Slowly, the moon rises from the horizon. It takes up his entire view. Massive, illuminating, it compels the darkness into hiding. Philip stands in the lunar light. It feels good. A feeling he has not experienced in what seems like a lifetime. He is relieved. Relief, what, for heavens sake, has he gone through? For what? If he could only remember. Philip looks deep into the moon. It has now become too close to be real. It looks as though if he were to jump, with all his might, he could land on the moon's platform. Philip closes his eyes, bends his knees, and launches his feet into the air. He is propelling forward across the dim space. He opens his eyes, and the moon is nowhere to be found. He begins to come down from his arc. Plummeting into nothingness, his relief turns to panic.
where you have gone;
but below my feet where I cannot see.
Alas, he lands in lunar comfort. There! 'What I can accomplish if I just trust in the dark of my own mind.' His first successful feat, since...what? His promotion to corporal. Too long has he been a victim rather than a victor. 'But to trust in the darkness?' In this dark world...of quantum imagination, where only the absent rules, he could be king. Philip sits on the moon and stares at his world. The bright light supporting the back of his shoulders. Huddled around his knees he wants this feeling to last forever. The murky shadow world on the viewing deck. His realm of eternal solitude making the grade.
Fizzling away, another blackness comes alive. The dark force of blind nature awakens Philip. Once again, the fumes and sounds of the hospital come back. He can practically see it in his head. One room, one other person. His nurse sounds like a sweetheart.
"How are you feeling, Philip?" the infuriated voice invades his re-entrance. A voice that is familiar, but not the nurse's. "Philip, they told me you could hear...they told me, you were back..." She lets out a gentle whimper and quickly pulls it back in. Her footsteps move towards the door. "...I...I am here." Staggers Philip.
"They told me you were tortured, that you are blind...that..."
"JUST TELL ME! Please, just say it."
"...unless they can find out what's wrong with you...you're going to die."
"I'm already dead."
"Why would you say that? What is wrong with you?...I mean...Why can't you just be happy? What more do you have to go through before you can see your life for what it is?" the woman clamors up as she purges out one more tired question. A question she has been holding onto for a very long time, "Why did you leave me?"
"You want me to...see my life for what it is...ALL I CAN SEE IS BLACK, SARAH! MY LIFE...IS HELL!" The monitors in the room start going off. It must be his heart rate again. The woman steps back. Nurses rush in and stabilize him. His hear rates returns to a mild condition, The nurses leave, all but the one Philip met before. She approaches the woman, Sarah.
"Are you family?"
"I'm his wife."
The next day, Philip wakes up. It is becoming increasingly easier for him. But it is still difficult to tell in all this darkness, whether he is really awake or still in his dreamland.
"Good morning Philip, it is eight o'clock in the morning, on Friday, October 20th. You are sitting in a hospital room on the fourth floor, at Saint Anthony's, here in the great Oklahoma City..." The Kind Doctor exhales as he flips open his chart and continues, "Your file says this is your place of birth. I am a local too. My name is Arthur Randolph, I am your attending physician. How are you feeling?"
"What is wrong with me?"
"We don't have all the answers yet. Your wounds from Afghanistan have all healed. But your blood...well your blood is infected with some unknown toxin and your body is slowly rejecting it. Soon your immune system will fail and eventually the toxins will shut all your entire system down."
"What about a blood transplant?"
"We have thought about that already. It would most likely kill you. These ailments you have been exhibiting show every symptom found in patients going through withdrawal from major narcotics. The only difference is your symptoms are far worse. They are more ramped and seem to be permanent."
"Are you saying there's no hope for me?"
"As of right now, my medical opinion is no. But my personal beliefs always leave room for hope."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
"No, I was just-"
"I jumped on top of a grenade for my troops, thinking it would kill me. I thought that would be the worst suffering I would ever have to go through. I thought that would be the end of it. I couldn't have been more wrong. I was tortured for what seemed like twenty years after that. And every time I was at the brink of death, they brought me back with that godforsaken plant. Until, they gauged my eyes out, and my rescue finally arrived just in time to keep them from healing my face. They saved me...I was...saved. Ha! Doesn't that make you laugh doctor?...saved. Now I'm stuck in this darkness," He mumbles to himself like a lunatic, "...wretched curse..."
"Are you saying that they used a plant on you to heal your wounds?"
"You think I'm crazy. I would think I'm crazy too after hearing the words I just said out loud."
"I don't think your crazy. I think you have been through a lot. But mostly, I think this plant has a direct correlation with what's wrong with you. It could be the mystery toxin that we've been searching for. What else can you tell me about it?"
"Not much from what I can remember. It looked like any other plant. Wait, the interrogator...told me that it had blue veins. Blue veins, and it sparkled under the light. The leafs were glossy, they felt almost of wax. And the sensation, the feeling of being healed by the plant. It was...amazing. It burned...furiously, but it was a good burn. A soothing burn. There were days where i craved it. That's when I realized that my humanity was lost. I was an animal, a slave to their convictions. I was okay with it, with them torturing me, Doc. I was sick. I was obedient. Just as long as they fed me more of that cure afterwards."
"I understand. That must've taken a lot to open up to me, thank you. This information is going to help me save your life."
"There is nothing worth saving." His meager tone lingers on,"...just let me go."
"Your wife was in here yesterday, you left her to go into the army...what for?"
"I'm done opening up, Doc." He snaps his mouth shut and imagines giving this pretentious doctor a cold stare. For the moment it does him good to remember the feeling of sight. But then his self-loathing turns the celebration into a mockery. And he becomes sick of everything altogether, once again.
"Then I shall go get some more inconclusive results. Till next time..."
"Wait! Doctor...where is my grandfather?"
"He's on the top floor, geriatrics, Room 713. I can arrange for a visit."
"That won't necessary. I have nothing to say to him that can't wait until later. Ha."
"As you wish, Corporal."
"Don't call me that."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Dresden." The doctor pauses to say something else, but decides not to and walks out of the room. The tight air settles and Philip returns to his unconscious fields.
He wakes up again, it's a beautiful sunset. The sweltering light pierces through the seventh floor window. Philip wants to feel it on his face. He knows it's there. It all makes sense. How does it make any sense? How did he get to the seventh floor? It makes sense that he was a jerk to his doctor. And his doctor's retribution was disobeying a direct order (something a good soldier would never do). Philip was in his grandfather's room, it has to be.... "You there grand-pop?"
"Yeah, I'm here, my boy."
"I can't see anymore."
"Your doctor told me. He also told me you didn't want to see me."
'That prick' he thought. "That's not what I meant."
"What did you mean, Philip?"
"We're dying grand-pop, I was trying to bring acceptance to our situation. We would most certainly have met each other in heaven."
"Heaven, Philip? I never knew you as the religious type."
"Well I always had your example to follow grand-pop. Sure, I don't know much about Jesus and the Bible. But I have faith. And they say, 'faith alone can get you to the afterlife.'"
"Who says that?"
"I don't know, but it sounds right."
"Are you afraid to die grand-pop?"
"I have made my peace with this life..."
"How? I need to know."
"Did I ever tell you that we are of Cherokee descent?"
"No. I thought I was just German and English."
"Your father's family is German, but your mother is both English and Cherokee. My parents were from the Cherokee nation. And my wife, your grandmother was from an English family who came from Massachusetts to Oklahoma."
"I didn't know all that."
"It is almost the Harvest Moon."
"October, our ancestors celebrated the Harvest Moon. They would not eat for seven days in preparation for the ceremony."
"Is that why you're not eating? Because you're getting in touch with your roots. This is your peace? I should never have been brought up here."
"We should be giving thanks to all the forces that have helped us live."
"Five days of fasting and all of a sudden you're a medicine man? NURSE! This is ridiculous."
"Your cynicism will not save you in the end, grandson."
"I'm not looking for salvation."
"No, you're looking for condemnation, and you're not going to find it here." The nurse comes in and wheels Philip out of room 713.
Philip is brought back to his room and soon after falls back asleep. He cannot keep track of time like this. He has no will over his days and nights, when all he sees is darkness. Who knows how many hours have passed. When suddenly he is startled awake by a sharp pain daggering into his chest. He screams in torment. An action he is used to. The nurse runs in and sounds the alarm.
"My hnph- My chest!" cries Philip. Doctor Randolph comes rushing in.
"What's wrong?" he asks.
"It's his heart, he's going into cardiac arrest.."
"Get me the paddles. Nurse start CPR," Doctor Randolph turns his head towards the door as his hands scramble around Philips seizing body, "AND PAGE DR. FITSZIMONS TELL'EM TO HURRY! WE NEED TO DO THE PROCEDURE NOW!" The defibrillator paddles get placed into Dr. Randolph's hands..."CLEAR!"
Caught in a current.
Brief. Shock. Light can be where.
Syringe felt surrender.