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Drama Fiction Contemporary


Images light-blink on and off. Squares, rectangles, elongated Dali-like drippings, funhouse distortions, negative spaces. An internal e-frame sliding life moments across a warped screen. Discomfort in my left hand. Tingling. Warmth. A needle protruding from a vein. White tape, blood smeared. Thin tubing, plastic bag, dripping hydration, the smell of disinfectant. Cold. Distant sounds. Voices, unintelligible, just pitch and notes. No meaning. Closed eyes, flashes of color in the blackness. Reddish, greenish, white tendril like floaters, glowing paramecium. A point of warmth on my forearm, a touch, fingers. Sound, deep, slow, playback at half speed. Eye slits opening, a rush of light and air. Clamping shut. More sounds. Words? Darkness. Silence. Sleep.  

Aware. Lips dry. Swallowing sand and air. I hear my eyelids like a broken blind, creak. Rewind to last known moment. Where? When? Nothing. Fragments of thoughts float confetti-like in slow motion, tipping back and forth as if from an unseen breeze. No past. Just now. No thread. Just moments. No names, places, memories, faces. Just amorphous blackness. Can blackness have a shape? Can a void? A thought! Hold it! Press it. No substance. No texture. A cloud. Fog. Dizziness. Shifting, sliding, falling. Fear.  


I just can’t believe how fast he went downhill, she said. He was absolutely fine and then suddenly he wasn’t. She turned her head and looked over at the small frail body overwhelmed by the hospital bed and machinery. His blue flecked hospital gown loose and exposing protruding collarbones. His chest, patchy white hair covering bony and age spotted skin. She sighed and looked away.  

I’ve seen this before, he said, it’s scary how quick it happens. But to be fair, there were some telltale signs. Little lapses in memory, hearing issues, losing the thread of a conversation. He’d joke about it and laugh at inappropriate times when he realized he hadn’t been following, but he knew. 

It’s so sad, she said. He was such a bright man. It’s sad and scary to see what happens to a person. I guess this is what waits for most of us. In a way it’s good, he doesn’t realize what’s happening. First you lose them mentally then you lose them physically. You lose them

twice. She sighed deeply and dug for a crumpled tissue in her jacket pocket. 


The Doctor pulled the two of them aside. 

Listen, he said, we’re testing a new experimental treatment for dementia and I believe your father is a good candidate for it. After your visit come see me in my office and I’ll flesh out the options for you. 

They both cringed slightly at the use of the word flesh. 


Awake. Fetal. Gauzy light filtering. Eyes heavy, lifting lifting.   White glare. A face. Large. There. Filling my sight. Eyes, hair, mask. Mask? I know that word. Mask moving, puckering. Muffled sounds. Talking? Blue eyes large and wide. Blinking. Blinking. Fear, concern, surprise. I know this? How? Mmmm. Mmmm. I hear and feel in my mouth. It’s me! Mmmm. Warm hands on my face. Cold, wet, smooth slides between my lips. Ice. It’s in my mouth. Melting. Water drooling down my chin. Swallow. Pain. Breath in fast gulps, grunts. Warm hands press harder. Now on my shoulders and arms. Pressing. Firm and comforting.  

So, there you have it, the Doctor said, take some time, but not too much, and decide our course of action. You’re both his healthcare proxies, correct?  

Yes, yes we are, she said. 

Good then, let me know what you decide as soon as possible. He stood, shook both their hands and led them out of his office.  

In the cafeteria, over cups of slightly burned coffee, they talked. 

It might buy him a few years of clarity, of life, he said. 

Or it might not and may even facilitate his death sooner than it should, she said. 

Yeah, nothing’s guaranteed but I think it’s worth a shot. How he is now is not living. He doesn’t even know who we are, or who he is for that matter. I think it’s a no brainer, no pun intended, he said half smiling. Okay then?



The nurse stepped away from the bed after having given him a few ice chips and swabbing his lips with a lemon-glycerine swab. She touched his arms and gave a slight squeeze to let him know she was there.  


Swimming. Bay Beach. Low tide. Tide pools and children. Salty air. Wind blowing. Exfoliating sand breeze. I know this place. My place. Linger in the memory watching it, feeling the air on my skin. Deep breath. Eyes opening. I can feel the crust in the corners as they open. Rolling head on the pillow. Neck crackling. A window. Dark. Nighttime. A doorway of light. The hospital floor. Tubes, bags, monitors. Beeping. I am aware. My lower back aches. How long?  


Rachel stood by the head of the bed looking down on her father. He was very pale with red blotches around his cheek bones and nose. Rosacea. His white hair shaved down to a severe crewcut. A few dark scabs visible through the brush. 

Joel sat by the window, mindlessly scrolling on his phone and looking up occasionally to check for any changes.

Rach, you okay? He asked. 

Yeah, just wondering what’s going on in there? She pointed to her father’s head.

Time, Joel said, give him time. 


I swim. It’s high tide now and night. I can hear waves crashing above me. I am submerged. I fight the pressure and pull of the ocean and struggle towards the surface. Breath throbbing in my chest to escape. Don’t inhale! Darkness skewing to grays. Looking up I can see light. I break the surface. Deep gulps of air. Coughing. Chest rasping in and out. Heaving.  


Joel! Rachel screams. 

Dad, Dad, Joel yells, jumping to his feet, we’re here, we’re here. 


I am hyperventilating, drawing in lake fulls of air. Blinking. Clearing. The disparate pieces of a magnetic puzzle clicking into place to form a whole. 

Dad? Rachel asks.  

A nurse comes running in, having been alerted by a monitor. It’s blue eyes. 

Dad, Dad! Both Rachel and Joel yell. Are you okay?

I look up to their faces, panic masks. But I know who they are. 

I croak out a greeting, my throat a rasp of muscle and flesh. 

Rachel, Joel, I love you.

February 21, 2023 19:38

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1 comment

Mary Bendickson
21:58 Apr 18, 2023

Another touching story. All in fragmented pieces. Says so much. Glad I stopped by.


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