A Trace of Life
The room was white. A sickening white. I hated it. The sunlight against its walls were almost blinding. The ceiling was so plain, but I couldn’t help but stare up at it. I focused on the nails that were coming through due to age. This way I did not have to stare at the damn white.
Every day was the same. They would lift me up from the bed and place me in this damn metallic chair. They would change me and force feed me. They would give me daily injections, as if they were going to cure me. They knew the truth, and so did I. There was only one cure, and he kept me waiting for a very long time.
Every afternoon, my husband would show. He would sit in the metallic chair beside me. He would look at me, lost for words, and I would just return his gaze. We waited together in silence for the nurse, who would come in shortly after with those damn wires in her hands. I hated those wires. Didn’t he? I thought that I couldn’t feel pain anymore, but I felt that wire pushed into my right temple. It hurt. It hurt a lot, but he merely winced. And then after a long moment, he would talk to me, thought to thought, but it wasn’t talk. It was bullshit. It was always bullshit. How are you? How are you feeling? Did you have a good day? Would you like to know what is happening with your family and friends, who have not visited me in such a long time because they cannot stand seeing me like this. Can you, I asked him, and that’s when the conversation would normally come to an end.
Today was different. Even after the wire was pushed into his temple, he just sat there. He looked away, almost like he was wishing to be somewhere else. He didn’t touch my hand. I might not have felt it, but he always touched my hand. Today, he didn’t. Then, I saw the tears, and I realized this was it. This was the end, and he had to tell me that. But he couldn’t, and if I could cry with him, I would. But I couldn’t.
“This is the end,” I thought, and now he looked at me, slowly nodding in response. “This is it. This is good-bye.”
“It is,” he thought, “And it isn’t.” If I could look confused, I would. “It is the end.”
“I said that.”
The nurse returned. Our session wasn’t over yet. I wanted to know about my family, my friends. If this was our last conversation, our last time together, then I wanted to know about their lives. Were they happy? What were they doing? Did they miss me? Did they talk about me? Did they forget me? Then, I noticed a strange, small black square in the palm of her hand, and she was bringing it toward me. And if I could feel terror, I would scream. But I could not.
“It’s okay,” he thought. “There is a way to save you.” My eyes darted back to him. “They would put your consciousness into that,” and he pointed to the small, black square.
“My body,” I thought, but what about my body? It began to fail me five years ago, and slowly, so slowly, it became my worst enemy, my prison. All this because of a drug that the government had approved. I just had a cold, and they gave me that pill, never telling me what side effects awaited down the road. This was an escape. Finally, an escape, but to what? “What will happen to me in there,” I thought.
“As they explained it to me,” he thought. “You would be as you are now.” I tried to frown but failed. “But you would be free.” I tried to feel surprise but failed. “You would exist and never die.”
“Never die? Would I still see you,” I thought, and he shook his head. “Then, what would be the point?”
“You can hear me like now. You can be with your family and friends again.”
“But inside a black box.” He looked away. “I’ll trade one prison for another.”
“Your time is up.” He didn’t mean to snap, but he did. “They can’t do anymore for you. The injections are done.”
I realized then that they had not given me any injections today. They barely fed me. There was something in the nurses’ eyes, but even if I wanted to hear their words, I could not. They couldn’t tell me, but they did. Their facial expressions gave it all away, but I missed it. Until now.
“I’m sorry,” he cried. “It’s the box, or… Or…”
“Or Death finally stops keeping me waiting.” He looked at me in surprise. “I suppose… It wouldn’t be all that different.” He looked hopeful. “We could still talk and be together, but what happens to me if you die?”
“I never thought of that,” he thought. “I guess your kids and grandkids would take care of you, or maybe when it is my turn, I can join you in there.” He smiled. He smiled for both of us. “I would like that.”
“So would I. It’s just… I don’t know.”
“What?” Now, he took my hand, and I could almost feel him gripping it tight. Almost. “What?”
“My soul.” He looked surprised. “My body would be dead, and my mind would be in there.” I looked over at that black box, which she brought closer. “But what about my soul? Do I leave that behind, or would I be as they say a ghost in the machine, or in this case, a little, black box?”
“I don’t know,” he thought. “I could ask them, but they might not know.”
“I just want to be me, but the me from before. Before that damn cold.”
“You are you, and you will stay you.”
“How can you be so sure,” I thought.
“Because you are already inside that black box,” he thought back.
The room was white. A sickening white. I hated it. The sunlight against its walls were almost blinding. The ceiling was so plain, but I couldn’t help but stare up at it. I focused on the nails that were coming through due to age, but then he walked in. He stood before me with an open hand, and I reached for it, feeling his flesh against mine. And I cried. It was great to be able to cry again, and he held me. And as he held me, he thought to me, and I returned his thoughts with a smile on my lips. I was not in prison anymore. I was finally free.