Chapter 7: Dreaming of Infinity
"How long has it been?" I ask, fed up with my helplessness.
He scowls at me. "Twenty-nine days."
He's been in a bad mood since he helped me straighten the one leg. Of course I don't think either of us is in a great mood.
I hate depending on him for everything, and he won't let me move my leg for thirty days. Apparently it takes thirty days for a bone to heal. He won't tell me how he knows this, just that we have to wait thirty days before I am even allowed to look at my legs.
"What is wrong with removing the bandage one day early? One day can't make that much of a difference."
"Thirty days. Every day makes a difference." He shrugs and continues his pacing back and forth.
He's been doing this for a little while now. Whenever he stands up he starts to pace back and forth. Its like how I make time pass by letting the world go blank, but he does this while pacing. He started it to keep warm, but now it seems to be something more. He can't seem to function anymore without the pacing.
I hear the chattering of his teeth again, and realize that he is shivering again. "Do you want to borrow-"
"No," he interrupted me, "I told you already that I won't take your shirt."
They hadn't given him another shirt. I guess they didn't care if he died because of freezing conditions, and he refused to remove his shirt from my leg. It was as if he was afraid of what he would see.
"You don't need to worry about me, I've gotten used to the chilly air.” He pauses, looking down at me, at my leg wrapped in his shirt, “I'm just afraid they will come for me before your leg has finished healing."
He turned toward the door, his eyes staring at that door. I knew of it only as a portal of light, but he imagined some world beyond it.
“I won’t let them take you.”
He made a strange scratchy breathy sound, and I realized he was laughing, a mocking laugh. “You? Hope, you can’t even walk. You can do nothing to stop them.”
I shook my head. I’d grown attached to him. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, something was telling me that this was wrong, that he would be taken away like everyone else, and I would forget him again. That I should go ahead and forget him.
Stubbornly I clung to my desires, “I won’t let them take you.”
He turned back to me, his face showing pity, “You will probably continue to sit in this cell, meeting people dumped in your cell, and forgetting them for the rest of your life.”
I look over at you for support against his claim, but you solemnly nod, your own face showing pity at my condition. I don’t need your pity! This wasn’t to be the rest of my life. This couldn’t be the rest of my life.
“No! I won’t let this be who I am. I won’t let them take you!”
Stop looking at me like I’m crazy! I know I can stop them, and I will this time. I don’t want to forget again!
“Hope, how do you plan to stop them?” Nathan’s voice breaks through my inner struggle
“I… I don’t know, but I know I can stop them.” Why does no one believe me?
“Hope, I’m sorry, but I won’t hold out for your miraculous ability to stop trained guards from taking me out of this cell. It’s going to happen, and there is nothing either of us can do about.” He looks down at my leg sitting straight out in front of me. “If the resetting of this leg worked, I will reset the other leg, so that maybe, one day, with a different cell mate, you will be able to escape. I,” he pauses, staring at me. “Just promise me you will try to escape. Promise me that you will remember your promise to me, and I can leave you with peace of mind.”
“I promise that both of us will escape.” I glare at him, daring him to deny me.
He laughs again, “I guess that will have to do for now.”
He walks back toward me and sits down next to me. When I grab his arm I feel the cold of his skin stabbing through my hands, and wrap my arms around him. It’s habit by now to try and stay warm in the cold cell. It didn’t used to be this cold. It used to be a comfortable temperature, and it still seemed fairly comfortable, until I touched his skin and felt the cold invading my warmth.
His breathing slows, and I can tell he’s sleeping again, his head leaning against my shoulder. He sleeps more to pass time, and I struggle to sleep watching time slowly crawl by in mind numbing hours. I feel as if I am waiting for something.
You looked bored, tired of watching me sit here, awake and staring into the nothingness that is my future, and your future. This can’t be my story. There has to be more. I look down at my legs, one wrapped near the ankle in a black shirt, the other bent at a ninety degree angle. Tomorrow we will remove the wrap. Tomorrow we will reset my other leg, and after that, I will stand.
Two bowls are pushed into the cell, but I don’t want to wake Nathan. He looks less troubled, lying there against my shoulder.
My stomach growls and I can feel my hunger gnawing at me. I shake him awake for fear of losing even a meager meal.
The next morning he is waiting for me with a bowl of food in his hands. I reach out to take the bowl, and realize my hands are shaking. They fall back down uselessly. Food isn’t what I want right now.
“Could I… Can I look at my leg?” Why is my voice so unsteady? What am I afraid of? It can’t be worse than it was.
He nods, not saying a word, and puts the morning porridge on the ground next to me. He carefully unties the shirt, and peels it away from my leg. Dried red blood is smeared all over my leg, but it chips away to show a wide was scar, and a straight looking leg.
He holds the shirt, hovering over my leg, his eyes wide with disbelief.
“It… it worked. How?” He whispers to himself.
I want to test it, to stand on this straight leg.
“Will you help me stand?”
He nods, and it seems as if words are evading him. He lifts me up by my shoulder, until my straight leg is under me, and he holds me, letting me wobble on my one leg, so close to the ceiling. The ground is so far down! I feel as if the cell shrunk in the moments since he lifted me up. I reach one hand toward the top of the cell, feeling as if I could touch it if I stretch just a little more.
The muscles in my leg holding me up give out, and his hold is the only thing keeping me upright. Gently, he lowers me back toward the ground.
I feel as if the world is new, as if there is nothing holding me back, my lips turn up, and I realize that I am smiling, and he is smiling back at me.
“I stood,” I whisper.
He nods. “Its possible Hope, it’s possible that one day you will walk again, and one day you will leave this cell.”
One day. One day didn’t feel like such an impossible future anymore.
His shirt is in a ball next to me, so I pick it up. It is stiff, and seems to want to hold the shape it’s been holding. The fabric is stuck together in some areas, so I pull it apart until I held a wrinkly and stiff shirt.
I hold it out to him, and he holds it, staring out it with mild disgust.
“Why are you not putting it on?”
He looks at me like I am crazy, which I might be, but why is he giving me that look over a shirt?
“It’s covered in your dried blood.”
He shakes his head. “Sometimes I forget, you don’t remember the outside world and you don’t understand some inhibitions. In the world outside this cell, you try to touch other people’s blood as little as possible because blood carries disease.”
Disease? Another of those words he says that doesn’t make much sense. I just shrug. He is willing to touch other people, but he is afraid of their blood. Such a contradictory way of life.
“Eat your porridge; then we will reset your other leg.”
I grab the bowl still sitting next to me, and gulp down the meal the fastest I’ve ever eaten. I want to reset the leg. I want to walk out of here with him.
When he pushes down on the second bone, I hear the snap when it gives. I stare at the leg; focusing on it being straight. I want to walk again!
I feel the bone grinding, and I feel as if the desire for my leg to be straight is being pushed out of my eyes like little fingers, pulling the bone straight. My head feels strange, as if everything is floating and nothing is tethering me down. Nathan wavers in front of my eyes, his form blurry.
Then everything focuses, and I can see him clearly again. He is crouched over my le, just staring at it. He looks back at me with a puzzled look, and then back at my leg. He wraps his shirt tightly around the ankle we just straightened, and ties it on.
He looks back at me with that puzzled look.
“What’s wrong?” Did something go wrong? Was he worried about those moments when I felt like I was floating.
“Ummm,” He pauses, looks back at my leg, and then back toward me. “No, I was just surprised. Your leg… It straightened easily. It didn’t puncture your skin this time.”
“Then why did you wrap your shirt around it this time?” If it wasn’t necessary he should be wearing it.
“I’m using the shirt to hopefully stabilize it so that it won’t heal misaligned again.”
He moved over to sit down next to me. “One day Hope. One day I will introduce you to the world beyond this cell.”
You are staring at the door. Do you know what is out there? Or are you like me? Do you only know this cell? Will you be able to leave this cell with me?