Mike opened his eyes in the dark room. He wondered if it was still the middle of the night. He turned over and looked for the familiar red glow of the clock numbers but they weren’t there. He sleepily considered the idea that Evie had accidentally turned it off. He reached out his right arm but didn’t encounter her body; she must already be up.
He groped down the side of the bed in the blackness for the switch to his lamp. He clicked the button but the lamp didn’t come on. Maybe there had been a power cut? He sat up feeling more alert and looked around the room. He couldn’t see the lighter area of the curtains or the usual faint glow under the crack of the door. There was only darkness. Was he still dreaming?
Mike lifted his hands to his face and waved them around but there was no shadow. He checked to see if his eyes were actually open and succeeded in poking himself painfully in the pupil. He shot out of bed feeling that all too familiar panic.
He stumbled blindly across the room in the direction of the door but his right leg clipped the bed and he veered off course. Suddenly he felt completely confused. Which way was the door? He took half a step forward and struck his head on the wardrobe. He fell backwards in shock and landed awkwardly on the floor, against the bed.
‘Evie.’ He choked out but he couldn’t hear if the sound left his throat. His tongue felt numb and the moisture had been sucked from his mouth. Dear god, he was blind.
‘Evie!’ He screamed as hard as he could.
He felt a tearing pain in his throat and knew it had been loud. He lay sprawled on the floor, too afraid to get up again. He prayed that this was just a nightmare. That he would wake up safely in bed in a minute with his eyesight returned to him.
A warm hand touched his bare shoulder and he jumped with a cry of surprise. The hand shook him roughly in panic. He reached out and felt Evie’s arms then moved his hands up towards her face. His fingers found hot tears on her cheeks.
‘Evie.’ He whispered, hoping that she could hear him. ‘We’ll be ok.’ He tried to reassure her.
Inside he was screaming. He’d never felt so scared and lost in his life. He couldn’t see or hear – how was he going to communicate with people? How could he live?
‘We need to go back to the hospital now.’ He told her in what was surely a quivering voice. ‘I seem to be having trouble seeing.’
It was an understatement; he could see nothing at all. The world was completely black.
They stayed on the floor for a little while. Evie lay sobbing against him, trying to pull herself together. Eventually she tugged at his hands and he understood that she wanted to help him get up. She led him a few steps then let go. He stood, uncertain, looking around but seeing nothing. Without feeling around he didn’t have a clue where he was standing. If he was even still in the bedroom or if they were now in the hall.
Evie took hold of his arms again and she put something in his hand. It was soft and warm. A jumper. Of course, he would need to put on some clothes before they left the house, he couldn’t show up in just his boxer shorts. Together they awkwardly dressed him. He had to lean on her when he put on his jeans and she tied his trainers for him.
She sat him on the bed for a little while so she could get herself dressed. Mike stared straight ahead. He could feel each blink of his eyelids but there was no contrast between them being open or closed. Finally they were both ready and Evie led him downstairs and guided him to the car. He waited with his arm on the roof while she presumably went back to lock up the house. He could feel the strong, cool wind on his face but couldn’t hear the rush of it past his ears. Evie came back and opened his car door and he slid into the seat and fumbled for the seatbelt.
The vibrations of the car engine travelled up his legs as it purred to life. He felt Evie’s soft lips kiss him gently on the cheek before she reversed down the drive. A lump formed in his throat and he swallowed it back down. Now was not the time to get upset. They might get to the hospital and he’d be given some drugs that would make him better straightaway.
A little voice in his head whispered that it was wishful thinking but he firmly shut it out. Everything would be all right. It had to be. He couldn’t comprehend the idea that it wouldn’t, he didn’t have the strength to cope with it.
What if you stay like this forever? The little voice crept through again.
It was suddenly difficult to catch his breath. His heart was pounding painfully in his chest and there was too much blood rushing to his head.
The movement of the car slowed and he knew Evie would be staring at him with her concerned expression. He forced himself to take slow, shallow breaths until the moment passed.
No more adding to her stress, he scolded himself.
He needed to get better by the time the baby arrived and having a panic attack wouldn’t help anyone. He couldn’t be selfish any more now he had a family to think about. He calmed himself down and by the time they reached the hospital, he was ready for the numerous tests he anticipated would follow.
There was confusion from the moment they entered A & E. He knew when they went into the building because of the change in air temperature but that’s all he was certain of. Evie had a firm grip on his arm when they walked in but then she let go. He felt other, stronger hands on his shoulders and he was manoeuvred into a sitting position. A waiting room chair he thought, until it started to move. No, a wheelchair. There was light air on his face for a while then the chair stopped. He didn’t know who was pushing him or where he was now.
‘Evie?’ He whispered.
Her warm hands were immediately on his arm and he felt some comfort that she was near. The fact that he couldn’t see what was going on made him more nervous. There was no way to communicate with anyone, no chance of using the pad today. He could speak still and even write a note or type a text message on a phone’s keypad without looking, but no one could relay information back to him. All he had was touch. He prayed again that they would be able to cure him quickly.
His nerves were on edge and every poke and prod made him jump. His body was twisted and moved around; he felt fingers on his eyes, ears, nose and throat. Metallic tasting instruments were pushed in to his mouth and there were some sharp jabs of needles in his arms. It felt like there were dozens of people examining him but in reality it could only have been a couple. There was an enormous sense of claustrophobia, as though he was being smothered in a dark, silent room.
Eventually there was one final pat on his arm and he was left in peace for a while. He felt a small hand creep into his own and squeeze. Evie. She stroked his hair with her other hand and buried her face in his neck. He lifted his arms and held on to her tightly.
He didn’t realise that he was crying until she brushed the tears away from his cheeks. He’d give anything to be able to see her right now or hear her voice. This was torture. He reached out and found the bump of her belly. He caressed it gently, wondering if his son or daughter felt the same in there.
Something sharp touched his lips and he jolted slightly. It pushed into his mouth and his tongue went to investigate the alien object. It was long, round and plastic. A straw. He sucked thirstily, realising that he hadn’t had anything to drink all day. The liquid that invaded his mouth was cool but tasted of nothing. It could have been water, juice or medicine for all he knew.
A little while later he was changed in to a hospital gown that felt papery to touch and put into a bed. The pillows were hard and the bed covers scratchy, but he lay there silently. He closed his eyes, not that it made any difference.
Someone fussed with his left arm for a bit and he felt a slight sting. With his right hand he found that they had hooked him up to something. A machine or a drip? He couldn’t feel that far along without risking a tumble from the bed.
Evie was beside him again with her warm, little hands. He curled his fingers around hers and whispered that he loved her. He drifted off into a silent, dreamless sleep.