Stephen’s eyes flickered open as the sleep gave way to a blinking light. A bleeping machine brought him back into consciousness. His blurry eyes tried to focus on the white ceiling and the light bulb swinging back and forth.
Easing his head to one side he watched the green lines jumping like tadpoles up and down the black screen. Wires and drips fed both his heavy arms. Stephen attempted to initiate movement, slowly lifting up his hands. It took it out of him. There was a white gold ring on his left index finger. He tried to picture his wife’s face, but drew a blank as if the memory of being married had been erased.
Stephen tried to move his toes but they failed to engage with his brain. He looked at the clock on the opposite wall. It read 7.30. Damp light seeped through the misty window. Stephen couldn’t be sure if it was morning or early evening. The seconds no longer ticked by, time had ceased a long time ago.
Pulling the wires out of his skinny and pale limbs, he massaged his thighs and willed the blood to bring them back to life. Stephen could not tell when he had gone under or why but he was acutely aware the world was not as he had left it. It was too visceral, surreal and for all he knew he may still be in that coma.
Stephen lurched aimlessly out of the sterile room and into a corridor. Boxes of medicine emptied over the floor, overturned wheelchairs and abandoned trolleys created obstacles for his ailing legs.
“Hello?” Stephen croaked, but only his echo responded. His throat stung.
There was a chill in the air, Stephen felt the cold zip up his spine. He staggered his way through the hospital corridor in bare feet and a gown loosely hanging over his frame. Recognising the urge from his bladder, Stephen headed to the nearest bathroom. Looking in the mirror, he searched the reflection for something familiar, but it may as well have been a stranger looking back. Pale, gaunt and in need of a clean shave.
His stomach twisted into knots. Stephen knew he needed to eat and drink. He felt lightheaded and his heart pounded. Leaning on a nurses station to rest he helped himself to a chocolate digestive. It tasted like soil.
On the floor were a few handbags and a camera nestled in between them. He picked up a camera, a good looking one with a screen and big lens. There was no film inside nor a place for it. He had never seen one like it before. There was a lead attached which led to the power socket in the wall. Stephen unplugged it and hung the camera and strap round his neck. There was a TV on a wall bracket, he tried switching it on but only got static. Not tuned in, he thought.
Stumbling out into the street, Stephen took a deep breath, refilling his lungs with air. It was not at all as fresh as he remembered, the smell was sulfuric and made him gag as it hit the back of his throat.
Stephen walked into the park with the camera hanging loosely around his neck. It was a placed he remembered, but didn’t know why. He recalled how it was usually brimming with people picnicking and sun bathers. What was once an oasis in the middle of the city, now lay abandoned and not even the hum of traffic lingered in the air.
Knees weak and ankles ready to buckle, Stephen let out a long scream. He wasn’t sure whether it was terror, frustration or an attempt to eject himself from the nightmare. He collapsed on the grass and looked up at the sky. It was blue, but the clouds were yellow. A small rumble rippled across the grass, just as a beautiful rainbow cascaded past the clouds. Stephen stood up, a deep hum demanding his attention. He lifted up the camera and adjusted the zoom. In the distance he could just make out a figure standing near a group of trees. Zooming in closer he saw two more figures in blurry outlines. They were running towards him.