After the darkness, there was a faint glow. He was living in a dim soundless world. He couldn't remember the gloom but he knew it was there. What was that faint glow? What did it all mean?
He felt a pain in his head and he tried to lift his hand but it wouldn't move. What the hell -- he tried his left hand but that wouldn't move either. Nothing would move. He tried to think. His brain wouldn't work. He was scared. He felt the fear descend on him like a thick cloud that seemed to clutch at him as he felt his heart race out of control.
Control your fear. Think, think, think. What was his name? He didn't know. What did he know? He couldn't see properly -- he couldn't hear -- he couldn't move. What was that? A shadow passed in front of his eyes, he could feel something in his throat, then his chest felt clearer. There was a warm feeling in his hand and someone was stroking his arm. He could feel it and tried to squeeze the hand as he heard a faint noise. Soon there was a lot more squeezing and noise. He tried to squeeze back a few times but soon he became tired. He had no idea what was happening; maybe they were trying to kill him.
When he awoke the light was brighter and he could hear a noise, a type of rhythm. He felt his chest rising to the rhythm. There was pressure on his hand again so he squeezed feeling the pleasure of human contact, and heard a faint noise of someone talking but he couldn't make out the words. Then he saw the face of an older woman.
He felt his body being turned over and someone wiping his bum, he felt embarrassed. There was the feel of hands on his bare body. More human contact; it felt good. Tiredness overtook him and he slept again.
He awoke and the noise crashed into him like a runaway train and the light was like a thousand suns assaulting him. He closed his eyes and tried to go to sleep again. A voice was saying, ‘Shane, you're awake. Can you squeeze your mother's hand?' he squeezed. She leant over and kissed him on the cheek. He wanted her to wrap him in her arms to keep out the fear.
‘Shane darling, you're in hospital. You were in a bad car accident and hit your head. You've been in a coma for three weeks. You're getting better. I was so worried. I love you so much darling.'
He tried to talk but choked at the effort. ‘You can't talk dear. You have a tube in your throat. It's in your trachea which interferes with your voice box.'
Shane looked around the hospital room, a ventilator was breathing for him. On the other side of the bed a nurse said, ‘You're doing very well Shane.' She removed the ventilator connection from his neck. ‘Time for you to breathe on your own for a while. We've been weaning you off for a week. You're up to five hours a day. You'll soon be breathing on you own all the time.'
A week later a much-improved Shane dozed in a relining chair next to his bed. The dream started again. A woman's face looked fearfully at him as blood squirted her and covered her face. He awoke.
He no longer needed the ventilator but he still had a tracheotomy tube that allowed the physiotherapists to clear his lungs with suction. His cough response had almost returned, which meant he could clear his lungs himself. The changes were remarkable; he was moving his arms and hands, his head was following sounds and he was trying to place his legs to allow him to stand. The cloud of fear was rising as he felt the love of his mother and it seemed to cradle him in a cocoon of contentment.
His mother was massaging his hands to stop his fingers from deforming. ‘Do you remember anything about the accident?' Shane squeezed her hand twice. It was a code they had worked out -- one squeeze for yes twice for no.
‘Do you remember me?' Shane squeezed once.
‘Your wife?' He squeezed twice. He looked quizzically at his mother. He had a wife? Why couldn't he remember her? Something was there. He remembered a lady in a white wedding dress but he couldn't see her face. His mother had been talking to him for days. Why was this the first time she had mentioned his wife? He couldn't wait to see her. Why didn't she visit him?
Two days later the doctor removed the tracheotomy tube. His dreams were now tormenting him. Since his mother mentioned his wife he had thought of nothing else. He wondered if he was dreaming about her. He had no way of knowing. He couldn't remember what she looked like. Why didn't she visit him?
Frustration was causing him to lash out at his therapists because his stupid body wouldn't work. He felt like screaming, "Tell me about my wife." No one would tell him. The part of his brain that reasoned was working perfectly and he could think as well as ever. But he couldn't communicate or ask his mother about his wife. His only communication was to answer questions by squeezing his hand.
Shane felt a rising rage: he had to know. Anger was the only way he could let them know. He lashed out with his arms feeling like he was in a deep dungeon, no, it was worse than that. His thoughts were intelligent and firing on all cylinders but his body wouldn't co-operate. He must look like a blithering idiot; he wanted to scream.
He had noticed a policeman sitting outside his door. Why were the police here? Where was his wife? What did she look like? How long have they been married? Were there any children? What was it like to have sex? Did he have sex with his wife? He couldn't remember. Shane put his hand to his face it was wet with tears.
The nurse came to him with a tissue, ‘I don't blame you for being upset,' she said. ‘I don't know if you can understand me. It must be dreadful for you.'
"The silly bitch," thought Shane as he lashed out with his arm and sent her sprawling on the floor. "Serve her bloody right. Tell me about my wife for Christ's sake." The nurse called for assistance. No one was going to help him so he had to help himself. What he wanted to know was in his brain. He had to find a way to extract the information. Concentrate, what did he know?
He remembered he was an only child with a devoted mother. The last three or four years were blanked out. A nurse came to change his urine catheter, he felt her soft hand on his penis. He remembered the pleasure of another soft hand on his penis. Two naked bodies rolled on the bed. One of the bodies was his. He looked into the eyes of the beautiful woman. It was the woman in his dreams. The nurse finished with his catheter. ‘There that's better,' she said as she walked away smiling at his erection.
His mother came into the room followed by two men. ‘Hello dear. This is Inspector Daly from the Police and this is John Mason our lawyer.' She leant over and kissed him. ‘The Inspector wants to ask you a few questions.'
Inspector Daly was a tall man, he was broad across the shoulders and Shane was surprised at how gentle his voice was. ‘Mister Hewitt, I understand that you can answer questions by squeezing your mother's hand. Is that correct?'
Shane squeezed and his mother said, ‘Yes.'
‘I advise you not to answer any questions,' said John Mason.
‘Did you know that your wife Catherine is dead? She was murdered.' Shane squeezed twice as he felt numbness enter his body and tears appear in his eyes. He rubbed at his face and looked longingly at his mother hoping she would tell him it wasn't true. Her face was grim.
Inspector Daly hesitated, then said, ‘We have a witness who claims that it was you who murdered her. He was also injured in the attack, but he is alive. Do you wish to comment on that.' Shane squeezed and his mother shook her head. Shane felt stunned. They must be mistaken.
‘They are just fishing,' said John Mason. ‘The witness might be lying to protect himself. You don't have to answer.'
‘This man claims he was having sex with your wife when you caught them,' said Inspector Daly. ‘Have you anything to say about that?' Shane's mother shook her head as Shane's body rocked with sobs and the nurse laid him down and wiped away his tears.
‘Thank you Mister Hewitt. I hope you feel better soon.' The Inspector left the room with the lawyer.
Shane's mother leant over him and whispered, ‘Don't worry dear they won't touch you while you're in here. You didn't do it. The other man did. He's lying.' She left to join the discussion outside the door.
Shane lay back and forced himself to be calm. He tried to make sense of what he had heard. He would never harm his beautiful wife. The devastation engulfed him again as he felt sorry for her then for himself. Was she having an affair? He had to know. It was too much for him to grasp. His mind started to race with thoughts as he tried to remember. Nothing would come. Finally, after many hours he slept.
When he awoke the next day, he thought about the cop. Catherine was beautiful. The pleasure of their lovemaking on the bed came back to him. Then they were arguing. Catherine was saying something about him working too hard and not being home enough. He yelled they needed the money as he stormed out the door.
A frenzied man with a knife came into his mind. The cloud of fear started to descend. There was blood everywhere. Catherine was yelling, ‘No, no, no.' There was a man moaning. He was slumped on the floor holding his stomach as blood oozed around his fingers. The man with the knife wouldn't stop stabbing Catherine. Then the man looked up. It was Shane. He was looking at himself.
Shane remembered driving as fast as he could onto the highway. He was yelling and pounding the steering wheel as he saw the bridge in the distance and knew he had to kill himself. The railing splintered as the car crashed through. He saw the railway line rushing at him from below.
He lay back in the hospital bed and wondered if his memory was playing tricks on him. Was he a crazy murderer? Shane longed to be back in his coma. He questioned why did they save a crazed butcher like him? They must have known what he had done. He found his voice had returned as he whispered. ‘I couldn't even kill myself. Why am I alive?' Then the cloud of fear turned to abject terror.
Shane watched his heart monitor as the rate shot up. He had to calm himself or the alarm would sound. He was relieved as the rate came down. Then he was excited again as he saw the way out. The nurse had left adhesive tape with scissors on the side table.
Stretching his damaged limbs he clasped the scissors. He thought of driving them into his wrist. He held them poised above his arm.
He thought about Catherine. The frenzied man with a knife came into his mind. Catherine was yelling, ‘No, no, no.' He wouldn't stop stabbing Catherine. Then the man looked up. It wasn't Shane. The door crashed open and Shane grabbed the murderer and threw him on the floor. Somehow Shane had the knife and plunged it into the man.
He stared at the scissors and threw them away. Was that the truth or did he kill her. He didn't know. He would never know.