Bewildering Stories



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I'm Only Sleeping

Perry McGee

From time to time, I hear my wife and my mother discussing the weather. Occasionally they speak of store specials and what the best feminine protection is, or how to cook a fine pork chop dinner, but mostly it's the weather.

Like now. I hear Jill telling Mom about the show on The Discovery Channel last night. "There were nasty waves hitting the shore. Andrew killed a lot of people."

My mother replies, "I wish I got that channel. Not so much for the bad shows like that, but the ones about nature and flowers."

My mother has always been an out-doorsy sort of woman.

Even after Dad's death, she still maintains the cabin at the lake. We spend many a great summer out there.

Then I hear Dr. Rodgers come in. "How are we today, ladies?"

Although I have never seen Dr. Rodgers, I have a firm mental interpretation of him; suave, debonair, and greedy as a spoiled child.

Mom answers, "Good, my arthritis is acting up a little, but I'm good."

My wife says nothing right then.

After a terminal pause, Dr. Rodgers says, "His EKG shows signs of sever deterioration. I'm afraid that we need to talk"

Then Jill says, "Mrs. Workman?" Her voice drags out as if in plea.

Mom answers, "I've been against killing him since the beginning, and I'm still against it. But I don't think I can stand to see you cry any more. I'll sign the paper."

Then I hear sobs of sorrow.

***

The only things I can do are listen and think.

I can't see because that section of my brain is gone. Probably rat salad by now; I don't think they'll ever find all of the missing parts.

I can't breath without the aid of a machine and my kidneys are bypassed as well.

I have no legs.

I learned all this a few days ago. During one of Jill and Mom's discussions, Jill mentioned the life-support machines were costing way too much. Mom answered that she'd help with the bills, just please don't shut them off.

When my Mom told Jill about prosthetics, that's when I learned of my missing legs.

"He's too active to be laid up in a wheelchair Jill. He'll be walking and running in no time," Mom had said that day. That was back when she would not sign the paper.

Well, that doesn't sound like the case now. Here's my mom, only a few feet from me, telling Jill that it's okay to kill me.

Dr. Rodgers closes the deal with, "It'll be for the best, he has too much damage to ever recover. The accident was far too sever."

Then I hear all three step outside.

I can't make out the words, but I feel the impression. This is my death they're discussing. Not the weather, not a hurricane.

My death.

***

The door glides shut on well oiled hinges. I no longer hear conversation or the breathing that accompanies it. I don't hear the squeak of a chair or the small thud of a purse being sat down. I don't hear the labored words that try to express the sympathy of emanate death.

But I do hear a machine humming. Several machines in fact. From one, I hear a feint whoosh. The hushed sound is in tandem with my breathing. It whooshes as I sense air coming in, then whooshes again as it releases the pressurized offering.

Poor Jill, only sixteen and not old enough to sign a legal document, has cried for as long as I can remember. And the only memories I have are from right here. I can't recall why I'm married to Jill or why my legs are in a biohazard bag. I don't remember the accident or what my favorite color is. I am only artificial intelligence waiting for a ride home.

***

Then I hear footfalls; two people. I recognize the walking pattern of Rodgers, but the other sounds unfamiliar. I do notice the person walks with a slight limp.

"That one first," Rodgers says.

"Yes, Doctor," a lady's voice says. A pretty voice.

The whooshing slows...then stops.

I feel my thoughts getting ringed with blackness, like the first stage of drunkenness.

I welcome it.

Rodgers says, "Time of death, eight-thirty three PM. Friday, the sixth of November, two thousand-two."

The ring of blackness swells around my thoughts like an inflating tire. The sounds of my visitors are coming from far away now.

Another hum ceases as another machine is deactivated.

Before the blackness encompasses everything, I hear these last words, "Think it'll rain?"

Copyright 2002 by Perry McGee.