I have been held captive for a long time and have come to realize that my interrogator is really the Devil himself. I question him on this when I realize that I have been tied to the chair for over six months, without any food or water. The basement is filthy, covered in dirt , cobwebs, and trash. I am in a low fury, telling him “I know you’re the devil, since how could I have lived for six months without any food or water.” I then curse him and tell him how rotten he is. He laughs and tells me to call my wife. I tell him “No. You just want me to call her so you can kill her.” He replies, “No I don’t. Isn’t there anyone you want to call?” In a corner is a dirty phone, lying on the floor. He keeps telling me to call my wife, and finally I call her. When she answers the phone, she says, “George! I’ve been trying to reach you! Where are you?” I scream back, “Don’t come for me! He just wants to capture you, too, and kill you!” The connection is then broken. I then hear a car outside. A friend suddenly enters the cellar. I try to warn him of the devil and the plot to kill all my friends. He unties me and leads me outside. He suddenly disappears and is replaced by Martha. We jump into the car and roar off as I tell her again that the devil wanted her there so he could kill both of us...
I open my eyes. I am back in the room with the bed. There are people and things around me. Someone asks: “How are you?” I try to focus and can’t. A male nurse is there, too. Is he “the devil”?
“Where are my glasses?”
“Here they are.”
I try to reach with my right hand but it won’t move. Neither will the other one.
“Owww!” Trying to move my right arm produces a bolt of pain.
Someone puts my glasses on. They feel funny, or perhaps it’s my face and head that feel funny. I look about and see a whiteboard at the foot of my bed. On it, written in green marker, is:
“Today is xxxxxx, 1995.”
“Your nurse is: xxxxx”
“Where am I?”
“You’re at xxxx Medical Center, in xxxx.” The last word slips away before I can secure it.
“You were in an accident.”
“What kind of accident?”
“An airplane accident.”
“I don’t know; just that you were in an airplane crash. You were very lucky. Do you remember anything?”
I try to think. “No.” I don’t feel very lucky. I am confused and becoming acutely aware that everything hurts. Not being able to move is making me anxious.
“Is my wife here?”
“Yes; she’s down the hall. Do you want me to get her?”
“Yes, please.” Tears are starting to fill my eyes.
She leaves and a moment later returns with Martha. She leans over and kisses me. There’s something wrong with her eyes, too.
“How are you feeling?”
“Confused. Everything hurts. I can’t move anything. The nurse says I was in an accident.”
“Yes, but you’re going to be all right.”
A weight eases. A moment later, I am asleep again.
Having escaped the Devil’s basement, Martha and I come across a small, dusty motel where a women wordlessly rents us a room. We enter our room, which proves to be a strange hospital room. It is one of three or four rooms scattered haphazardly around a small central corridor. A male nurse tells me that for the night I will be staying in this room. Instead of beds there are a collection of painted wooden crates on the floor. The place is filthy, with tiny flying bugs swarming everywhere and piles of dirt in the corners. I try to fit into one of the boxes, but it is too small, so I sort of fold myself over the edge and try to sleep with my top half in the box and my legs dangling over the edge onto the floor. Sleep is difficult with all the bugs and dirt. Looking at the tiny, swarming bugs, the phrase ‘exquisite filthiness’ keeps repeating through my head. Just as I finally begin to drift off, I become aware of Martha softly stroking my eyes and forehead. Although all I can see is her hand and one foot, I realize that Martha is lying nearby...
“How are you feeling?”
My voice is dry and cracked. “Everything hurts. Where am I?” The whiteboard has its daily information on it. The nurse’s name looks familiar.
“You’re at xxxxxx. Do you remember anything?”
“No, but I know I’ve been in this room before. I was in an accident, wasn’t I?”
“Yes, and you took quite a blow to your head, but they didn’t have to operate on your head. The doctor says it will be OK with enough rest.”
“What about the rest of me?”
“The doctor will tell you about that.”
“Why can’t you?”
“The doctor will talk to you about that.”
“I’m right here.”
Seeing Martha, I start to cry.
“Your plane crashed, but you’re going to be fine.” She kisses me. My lips are cracked and my mouth hurts where she touches it. I can’t feel my tongue. Tears blur my vision. I feel about five years old.
I try to shift in bed and find everything immobilized except my head and left leg. I use it to push myself a little higher in the bed. I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. Or something bigger.
“Do you remember anything?”
“You were flying with a student and another plane hit you from behind.”
Behind? I don’t know what to say. I think about past flights and can’t imagine a crash.
Martha tells me who I was flying with.
“Is she OK?”
“She died, Honey. I’m so sorry.”
Overload. I start crying again and can’t stop. My mouth is stiff and my nose is blocked, so as I cry I choke and plugs of something coppery tasting and thick start pulsing out of my nose and down my face. Then, fatigue; I do a back flip down a deep well and...
I remain in the strange hospital for days, sleeping in a different box every evening. I try in vain to rearrange the crates more comfortably. Several of the male nurses question me about wanting to sleep so uncomfortably, but I do not see any alternative. I spend one afternoon watching TV and talking to a nurse who seems very accommodating and tells me that he was a medivac flyer in the Army. We discuss military aviation.
“How are you feeling?” It’s a doctor; my glasses are on (who put them on? Why does my face feel numb?) and I can see his nametag. “I’m Dr. Meigster.”
No disorientation this time. I know I’m in xxxx Medical Center in (where?) and that I’ve been in a plane crash.
“How are you feeling?”
“Like shit. How bad am I hurt?” When I try to move my arms or right leg I find them all immobilized and very painful.
“Well, you had a lot of trauma, but you’re looking a lot better than when they brought you in here.”
“How long have I been here?”
“A few weeks.”
“I was in a plane crash, wasn’t I?”
“Yes. I don’t know the details.”
“How bad am I hurt?”
“Well, you have multiple fractures to your arms and legs. You also broke your nose and jaw, your collar bone, your shoulder blade, a lot of ribs. You bit through your tongue. You also had a pneumothorax, sepsis, and facial lacerations. You also had a subdural hemmatoma and a moderately serious closed head injury. Your left knee was impaled on wreckage.”
Holy crap. That explains it.
“Am I going to die?” I feel sick thinking about all the damage. I flash back to the sanctuary at Temple Emmanuel when I was a kid in Hebrew School. Quick visions of my parents’ markers in the cemetery where they are buried. God? Did you do this?
“I don’t think so.” (Hint of a smile? I hope so.) “Try to open and close your hands for me.”
I try. I can’t feel them or tell if anything moves.
“They feel numb; like they’re made out of clay or something.”
“That’s fine.” He pokes at them with some sort of metal probe. “Feel that?”
A little on my right hand. Not on my left.”
“Try to move your toes.”
More poking, out of view.
He seems to be thinking. “OK. Try to rest.”
‘Yah, right!’ I think. When I’m this scared?
But a moment later, I’m asleep again.