Seven hours later...
Two nurses walked out of the double doors carrying bloodied sheets, their grim expressions hidden behind their masks.
His mother covered her mouth, stifling a gasp. His brother put an arm around his mother and let her cry into his shoulder, tears stinging his eyes.
A moment later, a man in blue scrubs walked out, peeling off his gloves. He stopped at a nurse station and grabbed a squirt of hand-sanitizer. Rubbing his hands, he nodded to the two of them.
They came closer, hope written all over their faces. It was an expression that the surgeon was used to seeing. He pulled down his mask, showing the light smile etched on his lips.
“He’s going to be okay ma’am. He’s going to be okay,” he said kindly to the patient’s mother.
Her mother let out a gasp of relief, collapsing in her second son’s arms. He held her up against him, eyes lighting up as he gave a nod of thanks to the surgeon.
“We’re going to bring him out right now. He’s stable, but it’ll be awhile until he’s going to wake up. I just need a little more of your patience Mrs. Reed.”
Mrs. Reed nodded, “No of course,” She smiled, wiping her tears away, “I’m just so thankful.”
The surgeon nodded, “Another thing and I know his doctor will talk to you guys about this, but what he’s gone through is a huge emotional hit as much as it is physical. I’ve seen this so much. He’s going to need 100% of your support at every second. He’s going to be struggling with himself. His life has just fall apart. Everything he’s ever known no longer matters to him.”
Mrs. Reed nodded again, smiling through her wet face. “I completely understand. Eli won’t be alone.”
“Thats the thing,” the surgeon said, gentler, “He will be. He won’t be the same person. He won’t be your son. He’s grown and faced a crucible. He will change. Just understand that and change with him. He’s not normal anymore and you as his mother, most of all, need to understand that.”
Her smile wavered, but she nodded. “Don’t worry doctor. We’ll be okay.”
The surgeon turned away, even more worried than before their talk. Their mother wasn't understanding what he meant. She thought she was getting her son back, whole and happy.
Eli’s brother sat beside the bed, his hand entwined with his unconscious older brothers hand. He wished he would stop looking at his brothers lower body, but he couldn’t help himself. They were covered with sheets, but the shape was obvious. Or the lack of.
He blinked away the tears threatening to spill, and rested his head on his brothers shoulder.
A few minutes later, the body stirred, his head shifted towards his brother's.
“Ben?” he croaked, a low rumble and scratchy from the lack of speaking.
“Eli,” Ben’s head shot up as he took in his brother, “Your awake! Let me get Mom.”
He reached out and grabbed Ben’s wrist, “Wait,” he said quietly. “Tell me what happened. Why can’t...I don’t understand...” he looked down to his lower body and gulped.
His grip tightened, a vein bulging on his muscular, tanned arm, “I-I Ben tell me this is a dream,” his voice turned pleading, “Please.”
Ben sat back down, “I’m sorry Eli. I’m so sorry,” he whispered, as the realization hit Eli.
His face paled, his grip slack and he let his head hit the pillow again. “I’m so sorry,” Ben said, tears in his voice.
Eli didn’t reply. Didn’t respond to Ben. The voices had drowned out. There was a loud roaring in his head. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t breathe. He didn’t think he wanted to.
Ben's screams for help, the machine beeping, the nurses chatter it was so distant, it didn't matter. They were a world away. He liked where he was right now. Flying through blackness.