(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
This is darkness, and it is pain.
I think I moaned just
now. I canít be sure, because this throbbing in my head is so awful I donít
think Iíve ever had this bad a headache, not even when I had migraine. What on
Is it a hangover? I donít
think Iíve ever had this bad a hangover. Besides, I donít remember drinking.
I donít remember
The darkness fades to
reddish brown. How did that happen? I canít think how it happened.
I hear a voice, faintly
through the pain. It seems to be a very long way away. "Sheís awake," it says.
The reddish brown goes
redder, brighter. "Can you hear me?" someone says, closer than the other voice.
I think I just moaned again.
"Open your eyes if you
can hear me," the voice says.
My eyes? Of
course. That reddish glow must be a light, shining on my eyelids.
"Open your eyes," the
voice repeats, insistent.
I try. My eyelids wonít
open. They either weigh a ton, or else someoneís kept them tied down with
"Her lashes moved," the
first voice says. Itís lighter than the second. Female? Who is she?
Where am I?
Who am I?
I canít remember.
"She probably has some
pain," the second voice says. Itís heavier, more formal-sounding, probably
male. "Thatís why sheís whimpering."
Some pain? Thatís a laugh.
"Monica," the second
voice says. "Monica, can you try and open your eyes please? Just for a while?"
Monica? Is that who I am?
He wants this Monica person to open her eyes, and if Iím Monica, then I ought
to try and open my eyes. I make a superhuman effort.
The dull red glow is
split in two by a dazzle of yellow. It sears through to the back of my head,
turning the throb into white-hot agony.
This time I do scream.
I can hear it, echoing in my head. But nobody else seems to hear me.
"Thatís very good," the
male voice says. "Now open just a little wider."
Wider? Dear gawd. I can barely make it this far.
"I donít think she can,
Doctor," the female voice says.
Whatís happened to me?
I have no time to ponder
this question. "Sheíll just have to do it next time then," the male voice says.
I feel a touch Ė a very slight one, filtered through the pain Ė on my eyelid
and the band of dazzling light banishes the red glow completely.
normal," the male voice says, letting go of my eyelid, and the red glow returns
immediately again. Itís a familiar friend by now, as is the throbbing pain. Both
are preferable to the agony that comes with the blinding yellow light. "It must
have integrated, then." Thereís a lot of satisfaction in his voice.
"Youíre a lucky young
woman, Monica," a third voice says, of gender undeterminable."If it hadnít been
But the darkness is
creeping back again, like an old friend, and I donít want to listen. Letting
myself go, I sink away.
This time the pain is much less, down to a dull ache
around the circumference of my head. And the weights are gone from my eyelids.
Opening them isnít easy, but the white-hot agony doesnít burn me like last
At first I canít see.
Everything is blurred, wavering, as though Iím under a waterfall looking out. I
can make out something off-white, looking very far away, and a couple of dark
masses closer to me. Then, like a camera focussing, my eyes suddenly adapt, and
my vision clears.
Iím in a bed, on my back,
looking up. The off-white thing is the ceiling, featureless white concrete. The
two dark masses resolve into people. Theyíre nobody Iíve ever seen before, two
women, one in a white coat, the other in a nurseís uniform. They both have
surgical masks on, and are both looking at me with peculiar attention.
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