The scream seemed to come from the far distance. It was coming from nowhere and everywhere around him all at once. The darkness was almost impenetrable, seeming to almost claw at him. He finally realized that the screaming was coming from him. He was finally able to force his eyes open. He was unexpectedly assaulted by intense bright light, forcing him to lower his eyelids, which then caused him to fight to be able to keep them open. "What in the hell is going on," he struggled to think to himself. He tried to sit up, and felt as if his body had been nailed to the strange bed that he found himself in.
He slowly began to look around the room, trying to get his eyes to focus, and trying to force his mind to process the information being feed to it. None of this made sense to him. It appeared that he was in a hospital room of some sort, suddenly a nurse burst through the door needle in hand, she walked up to the side of his bed. He tried to speak, but his mouth felt like it had been stuffed with cotton. His tongue felt like it belonged in an orca whale, at least five times too large for his mouth. Before he was able to get anything intelligible out, his eyelids slammed shut, and he was once again conquered by darkness.
He could hear voices around him, a woman sobbing deeply, a male's voice could be heard saying, "...We tried everything we could to save them, but they were too far gone. It was either them or his life..." He attempted to say something, anything, trying to figure out what was going on. The best he could manage was a low moan, his eyelids refusing to completely respond to his demands to open, only fluttered rapidly, and strained to remain closed. "Nurse." It seemed more like a commandment than anything else, and the darkness claimed him once again.
He stirred, briefly a low moan again escaping his lips. This time his eyelids did not refuse to respond, they opened slowly. It felt as if they were attempting to protect their owner from unknown horrors. They opened to reveal his young wife, hand on his chest, head hung at an odd angle, as if she were resting. He could not remember how he came to be in the hospital. But he knew that all he wanted was to reassure her that he was okay. He went to place his hand on hers. But his arm and hand were not responding to his commands. Drawing on his rage as he attempted again and again to reach for his loved one, but failing to accomplish this even simply task All he could do was think, all of his logical thoughts failed to understand why he was not able to move his limbs. He then looked at where his arms were supposed to be and they were gone. A sickening feeling washed over him. He became worried that the sensation or lack there of coming from his legs would result in the same horror.
"Sweetness?" He was finally able to find the skill to speak the one word that she knew only meant her. The word brought her awake with a snap of her head. She attempted with all her might to put her best face forward and smile. But her tear stained face betrayed her. Neither said anything for the longest time. She hugged and kissed him repeatedly and they both cried.
That evening his father came to his room. Though they had not seen each other in years, both being too stubborn to admit that they were both wrong, only allowed them to drift further and further apart until they no longer spoke on a regular basis.
His father pulled a chair up to the side of his bed. "Dad, I can not do this, I am not a quitter, but I can not live without being able to touch those around me. I can't hold my sons, I can't touch my wife, and I am no longer even able to take care of myself. I refuse to be a burden on those around me. I have worked too hard to soak up all the money that I have saved up for my loved ones." Tears streamed down both of their cheeks. "I can't teach my boys to throw a ball. I can't play with them. I can do nothing for myself." All his father could do was sit there nodding his head.
"Son, you are a fighter. When someone has told you could not do something, you made it a point to set them straight, by not only succeeding, but going further than anyone else. If anyone can do this, then it is you."
All the son was able to do was shake his head in frustration. "Dad, you of all people should be able to understand that to go forward, that I need to be able to be a man. I can no longer be an asset to anyone. I am a burden to those around me. I refuse to do that. Please help me! If you can not then I will understand." He said turning his head, almost as if he had dismissed his father.
The father was racked with sobs; his large frame shook over and over again as he realized what his son was asking him to do. He could not possibly let his son down. He knew that he had failed his son before. How could he fail him now, at a time when he was needed most?
He stepped to where his daughter-in-law had made a makeshift cot up for herself. Would she be able to forgive him if she ever found out? Would he be able to look her or his grand children in the eye ever again for what he was about to do? How would he be able to look at his sons eyes ever again if he did not do what was asked of him?
He took a pillow, tearstained, from the cot, and almost robotically moved to the side of his sons bed. The son turned at the sound, as the darkness of the pillow moved in on him, the father heard a muffled, "Thank you!" He completely broke down crying at this point.
He jumped awake, the sun streaming through their bedroom window brightly. "Oh my god," he panted to himself. "A dream, sheesh that is the most realistic thing I have ever dreamt," he thought to himself as he tried to roll over to his lovely wife. But his arms were sluggish to respond. A bird could be heard singing in the background. A cloud passed in front of the sun causing the room to grey slightly. His mind panicked. "What is this?" He thought to himself, as he continued to force himself to not be caught in the nightmare that he had just awoken from.
This time there was a tingling pain in his arms, he grasped at that like a man grasping to a piece of thread to pull themselves from the clutches of an undertow. "Pain? If I were truly missing my arms then there would be no pain. I have to get off of my stomach so that I can really assess this situation." He tried to remain logical; knowing that to panic would do him little use.
He again tried to push himself up and again there was a tingling pain shooting through his arms from the shoulder down. They felt as if they had casts made of lead on them. Finally he was able to roll his body over with a great deal of effort, using leverage that he got from his legs. He struggled to move his arms, they screamed in protest, but sluggishly responded to him this time. "Oh, thank god. They are just asleep." He reflected to himself with a huge sigh of relief.
This gave him some time to consider the dream that he had just awoken from. He pondered the deeper meanings of it. He realized that he had in fact gotten so caught up in the day to day living that he was no longer able to enjoy the life that he had made for himself or the ones around him.
It was a bright spring morning; laughter could be heard coming from the yard. The light hearted kind of laughter that whenever it was overheard, brought a smile to all those around them. Every now and then a man's voice could be heard, as he played with his sons. They rolled around the yard, pretending to be a variety of beasts, mystical, historical, and just plain made up, re-enacting their own type of wrestling match.
The woman looked on, smiling to herself as she sipped her coffee, watching from the kitchen window. "Boy, all three of them will take a nice long nap today," she chuckled to herself. She counted herself among the lucky ones. It wasn't until recently that her husband had really taken an interest in the play time with the boys. She could not put her finger on what changed him, but was thankful none the less.
Finally, having exhausted the three and five year old boys, their father brought them back into the house. Lightly he kissed his wife on the cheek, carrying one boy on his shoulder, the other on this back in a pony ride fashion. The boys finally broke free from their father's arms, and rushed off to the bathroom.
Breakfast was already on the table when they returned. Tyler, the oldest, helped his baby brother into his high chair. The boys took so strongly after their father at times it was uncanny. Matthew, the baby, waited for his big brother to sit down before diving into his bowl of cereal. The father reached around his wife and poured himself a fresh cup of coffee.
"Sweetness?" was all he asked, and it was all that she needed to hear to know that for the remainder of their tomorrows would be a thing of enjoyment and happiness.