Thursday, December 16, 2004

Well, the moment you waited for. The debut of my work-in-progress:

The Empty Man
(makes me all tingly inside)

Simon Carter, five feet and ten inches tall, woke up in St. Mark’s hospital, Salt Lake City Utah. He woke from a white sleep to a white room, covered in white sheets. He wore gray hospital clothes. White noise filled the room: the vents, the fluorescent lights, the machines whirring and humming, counting things, softly ruminating about him.

Simon lay there and wondered why. He could not remember any reason to go to the hospital. He felt fine, if not a little confused. Am I sick? he thought. I don’t remember being sick. Simon could remember everything else quite well, although it did seem hazy, like a dream or a flashback in a movie.

He reasoned it out. I must have had an accident, he thought. Must have hit my head or something. That’s why it all seems so fuzzy, real and unreal at the same time. He wondered: have I lost any long term memories? He dug deep into his mind, through the white haze of his thoughts and found a memory:

…whitewhite memoryflash and I can see it now so clear like I was dancing with a girl in a blackwhite photographmovingimage no. no. no wait: not a picture but a realthing with the colors bleeding off the edges but still a realthing not a dream I really danced with this girl…and they called her Sara(h) with cream skin and yellow hair and gray eyes and white teeth and light everywhere like shining warmsnowflakes…

Yes Sara(h) was really real in his memory, not a boyish fantasy. He felt that much-- even through the grayish soup of his memories. So, he thought, my memories are still intact, but a little dusty too.

At least my long term memories are fine. What of my short term, or of myself? He thought, and instantly recalled the information from the white hole in his head, in his mind:

…I AM Simon Carter I work at Geneva Steel Foundry but I’m thinking of quitting,

because maybe I have a job offer with the Lumine plant and the last thing I remember doing was shopping for Christmas Gifts for my cat, the Russian Blue named Gracie…

His senses seemed intact. He could remember everything prior to…whatever happened to get me here, he thought. The newer memories came in stronger, but they still felt a little odd at times. Well, I suppose it just goes with whatever happened to me.

Then the handle turned on the wide gray hospital door and it slowly swung inside. Simon thought about that: the door swung into the room. It would be a lot harder to leave if they didn’t want you to, because you couldn’t push or ram it, and pulling just wasn’t as easy. Because if you pulled too hard the handle would break and the door would still be closed. So they could keep me hear if they had to, if they wanted to, and I couldn’t just kick the door down because it’s not built like that.

They build us in.

So we’ll stay here until they want us to leave.

Simon was a little surprised at this: that his own thoughts would turn this way. In the next instant, after the door was swung wide and Simon’s dark thoughts were shambling, a young girl nurse in blue hospital scrubs entered the room. She pulled a cart through with her; it was cold metal and noiseless, perfect and clean. Like the room, he thought.

Like me.

The cart had a plastic cup and some food wrapped in saran. The Nurse in Blue Scrubs placed the items on a tray attached to his bed. Simon expected smells of Salisbury steak, because that’s what it looked like, but he only smelled saran wrap and cleanness.

The nurse looked at him with her blue eyes and spoke: “How are we feeling today, Mr. Carter?” She smiled sadly, but her voice was sweet and good.

“Do I have a personality complex?” He asked. “You asked how ‘we’ feel, but I still feel like an ‘I’.”

“Oh, it’s just an expression I guess,” the Nurse in Blue Scrubs giggled. “But you must be feeling better, if you’re already making bad jokes.” Her eyes were like cobalt.

“Yes, I do feel fine. But I don’t know why I’m here. Maybe ‘we’ could explain it to me?”

She giggled again. “You slipped on some icy steps and knocked your head on the ground. You were out for a whole week.”

“Must have been a good one, because I don’t remember a thing about it. What icy steps?”

“The steps to your apartment. One of your neighbors found you and called for an ambulance. He visited you and told me all about it. Of course you were still unconscious when he came.”

“Have I had any other visitors?”

“Not that I can remember.”

Remember. Simon couldn’t remember either. He remembered his whole life and all the minute details; his first crush, first kiss, first job. He remembered birthdays and pets and toys and comic books. He remembered rock concerts and parties and road trips. The perfect patchwork of memories with no holes and no rips. Still it seemed unreal to him, like all his memories came from a newspaper or a book. And the pictures were so clear, but all the color was bled from them. He couldn’t say how, but something was wrong with his head.

He looked at the Nurse in Blue Scrubs, asked “I don’t have amnesia, but why do my memories seem so…”

“Fuzzy?” She offered. The Nurse in Blue Scrubs watched him with her blue eyes. “It’s very common to feel out of place after head trauma. It’s really nothing to be worried about. It might take awhile for you to get back in the swing of things.” She placed a white cardboard box on the stand by his bed.

“These are your personal things. You get to go home tomorrow morning, if you feel up to it.”

“I’ll feel however you want me to feel, if it means I can leave.” He really felt uneasy here; like some white shadow loomed over him, and if he could just get out of the hospital the shadow would go away.

“We’ll just have to see in the morning, Mr. Carter,” she smiled again, sadly. “But for now, eat your supper and try to sleep. We’ll see you in the morning.” The Nurse in Blue Scrubs turned neatly and left the room. The door closed noiselessly after her.

Simon eyed the food on the stand, next to the white box. That steak isn’t really brown, he thought. It looks more like gray than brown. In fact, he noticed, all the food looks dull, like it has no color. It didn’t look very tasty, and Simon felt little desire to eat it. He left it on the stand and tried to sleep, like she told him to.

He closed his eyes and let the thoughts come in. This time there were no memories. The thoughts that came in were new and white like shiny pearls on a silver ocean. Each thought came at him with a sort of hazy intensity, like an old war film all black and white but brimming with story:

I guess I’ll be here one more night. Not that I remember any of the other nights. But maybe I’ll forget this too. Maybe I have this thought and this dinner and that conversation with the nurse every night, and maybe I’m never hungry for gray steak and they have to feed me through my veins. Maybe I can’t remember anything past my accident, whatever that was. What do they call it? Goldfield’s syndrome, I think. Maybe I have that and the nurse won’t tell me because it wouldn’t be very nice. Or something.

I don’t know I don’t know.

Maybe that’s not true, and I couldn’t say anyway.

Well, that's it for now. I'll try and write some more in a couple of days. Feel free to comment.


Blogger dave of daveness said...

wonderful. beautiful initial charecterization. perfect imagery of the hospital. i patiently await the continuation, my friend.

2:58 PM  

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