The whole world fits into a single room. It is mostly silent—a residual hum floats outside—but the most intriguing thing about the world is what is on its wall.
Perhaps the psychoanalytical ink blot wasn't invented by a university graduate, or even by an insightful three-year-old child. Perhaps it was invented by someone like you; someone who had been confined to a hospital bed long enough to examine all the flaws of the painted walls, and had been intrigued by one flaw in particular, where a small amount of paint had been chipped away. First it looked like a toppled birthday cake, but on continued inspection you can make out Britain in its shape.
You've been staring at it for hours. Maybe two. Maybe ten.
You can't quite grasp time anymore. It's left you behind, and you can't decide whether that's good or bad. You've found a fold in time's fabric you can wrap yourself up in; where for a while you relax in the ignorant bliss of not knowing.
You don't know. That's the point.
Of all your surroundings, this flaw on the wall is what you know best. Even as you hear the clinking of cutlery as a woman takes away your barely-touched tray of food, you hardly notice her presence. She's saying something to you, but with your attention centred on the flaked spot, you don't understand, or remember. All you see is this darkened spot occupying your concentration, and the lethargic idea that it now resembles a grenade is your last thought before your eyes close again, and all you see is blackness, and you remember nothing.
When your eyes open, you see that the world is different. You've been moved from your cocoon, and are in another room. A much larger one. This one has no flecked paint, but there are many more shapes for analysis in the scrap yard you can see out the window. You know the scraps are car bodies, and you know that should mean something to you, but you don't know why.
People sometimes appear at your door, interrupting your blank reveries. You don't mind. They smile. They shower you. They dress you. They bring food to you. Most are your friends. Smiley friends.
All but one.
One makes you hurt, and she doesn't leave until you are crying. She's the only unpleasant thing about this world. The only thing you fear. She visits you every day, when nobody else is there.
Your dread of her is new. It's evidence you're thinking ahead; you're recognising each moment has a future. That there isn't just Now.
You don't like it. It doesn't feel safe.
You find comfort in the space of your bathroom. The confines of the shower are safe. The bar you hold is secure. The hot water is soothing, running down your back and through the holes of your chair. Pulling on the bar, you raise yourself on unsteady legs and drag a soapy flannel across your thigh.
In the next moment, you are startled into stillness. Your bathroom door has opened, and one of your smiley friends enters to wash you. When she sees you, she looks surprised, then contemplative. She quickly leaves.
You wonder why your heart is beating so strongly, and when you look down you see that you've tried to cover yourself, carelessly. As much as you could, with your hands and your flannel.
Why did you do that? This smiley friend has showered you many times and you'd felt nothing. Now, you're embarrassed. She must have known this, because she left you to wash yourself, and to wonder what just went wrong.
You fear more, now. You fear the terrible things that you see, but your smiley friends don't believe you when you warn them of the danger. They continue to smile while they insist it's not real, that it's just a dream, but you know your world is no longer safe.
Questions matter, now. You want to know things.
Why are you here? Why do you feel distress? Why didn't you before?
There is a hole in your mind, the shape of an answer, and you only know you don't have it. What have you become?
You don't know. Of course.
So in catatonic wonderment, you cry, you cower, you curl up tightly and hide your face, and you just don't know.
And the doctors say it is a good thing.
When you find an answer, it doesn't help. All your questions had culminated into one: Why has everything changed? But even as you had thought it, you had known that it hasn't changed at all.
You are aware.
Awareness makes everything more sombre. Gone is the feeling of adventure, where you were happy and peaceful, enjoying meals in bed and service at the touch of a little black button, having no anxieties—except for the visits of the lady who makes you cry, but those vexations had disappeared from your mind as soon as she left for the day.
Now you can piece together fragmented facts—from the few things you can remember and from what you can deduce.
A car had crashed.
Doctors say you have a head injury.
Your brain is broken.
You can't trust the very thing that makes you who you are. If the body is the machine, then the brain is the person who drives it. Yours is damaged and different. Does this mean you are somebody else, now?
Already you know that it lies to you. It cannot discern the difference between dreams and reality, so responds to both with equal conviction. It believes in those terrible things. And so you do, too.
Awareness has chased away your peace.
One of your smiley friends—one of the nurses—enters your room and tells you to get ready for bed. She looks different to you now. She seems distracted. Impatient. As though this is a routine she has done with you many times before. And of course, she has. She remembers more than you do.
Perception changes everything.
"This is really happening, isn't it?"
At your question, she stops her routine of organising your clothes for tomorrow, and looks at you. Calculating. She looks at you as though you are someone else.
Maybe you are. Maybe she's been waiting for this step; for awareness. You imagine that while she compassionately tells you that, yes, this is really happening, she's making a mental note to write this interaction down in your file.
That's her job, after all.
"What's going to happen now?"
She doesn't know, but she tells you that this part of your life will be around for a long time. Your brain will continue to heal, but nobody can tell you how far it will get, or what it will look like.
The next day, your new awareness tells you that your dreams were not real, so you are spared the fear. You are at the beginning of a day that, in schedule, is no different from another. But of course it's different. Because you are different.
The busted car bodies outside the window are a reminder of what brought you here, and now a reminder of what has to be overcome—and there is much.
Your damaged brain doesn't know how to drive your body, so you must re-learn. How to write. How to co-ordinate your limbs so you can dress yourself. How to walk. Yes, to get out of here and regain your life, you must learn to walk. Even though it hurts.
Your physiotherapist knows that you dread your sessions together, so she announces her visit today with a regretful greeting and a wavering smile, sounding poised for your usual protests.
But you must learn to walk.
You slide yourself off your hospital bed, to stand shakily before her.