Here’s submission #3 for #nycmidnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2011. Prompts were open (genre), a physical rehabilitation center (place) and a poisonous [sic: venomous] snake (object). I kind of shit the bed on this one, I think. Not too worried about it, though. I was pretty happy that I made the cut to get to the second round (there are three rounds total – scores are added from the two parts of the first round to determine who gets into the second round).
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Trapped in a broken body, a man tries to make contact with the world outside him and avoid going insane.
WINDOWS TO THE SOUL
“And a one, and a four, and a ching-chong potato! Hahahaha, look at that retard,” giggled Kevin, pointing at me as the orderly wheeled him by me, his left leg sticking straight out, parallel to the floor with the Ilizarov apparatus encircling his shin. A car accident six weeks ago left Kevin’s tibia and fibula broken in several places; well over a dozen stainless steel pins connected the circular frames at his knee and ankle to various points on those broken bones, holding his leg together as the bones knit.
Great. Only another 14 weeks of Kevin’s genius to endure. I remember when Kevin came in: the painkillers he was on at first left him as much of a drooling mess as I am. It’s been barely a week since he’s been able to feed himself. The meds he’s taking now have his verbal diarrhea scale set at approximately that of a wasted college kid who’s one drink away from getting punched in the face or kicked out of the bar. I’ve seen this happen before. They’ll switch his meds again in another few weeks and he might get some social skills back, but it’s pretty obvious what kind of a guy he is, and that won’t change.
We get all kinds in this rehab. Jimmy over there was bitten on the hand by a venomous snake and suffered nerve damage in his fingers. He thought he was getting a baby ball python, but it turns out the pet shop made a pretty big mistake. Jimmy’s only here on Saturdays, so that the doctors can keep tabs on his recovery and give him new exercises to do for the following week. He’s usually nice to me; sometimes he’ll sit next to me and talk a bit about his other snakes while he does his finger-articulation exercises. His hand is recovering quickly, so I’ll probably only see him once or twice more.
I’ve met guys like Jimmy before, too. He’ll probably stop by to say goodbye on his last day – give me a couple of words of encouragement and tell me to look him up when I get out, even though he wouldn’t have noticed any change in me over the course of spending 10 Saturdays here. The doctors probably explained to him that they expect me to die in here, anyway.
I’m getting sharper every day. Smarter, it seems. I’m more attuned to the world now than I ever was when I could walk and talk and move. I can smell Nurse Diane when she walks through the door behind me at the other end of the big common room, and I can play out a hundred games of chess to the end when I watch Darryl and Susan practice their finger agility two tables over.
By and large, the doctors think I’m a vegetable, though Dr. Kline seems to know there’s someone still alive in here: besides the fact that he’s the only one to make eye contact with me, he actually looks into my eyes. Every time he does, I stare back as hard as I can and focus all my will on blinking. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m getting closer. The doctors say it’s physically impossible for me to be able to blink (or, for that matter, do anything) voluntarily, but I’m sure I’m close. If I can do that, then maybe they’ll believe there’s a person inside this broken body of mine.
I’ve been here for twelve years.
My friends stopped visiting ten years ago, my family six. Still, enough happens here that I haven’t lost my mind or started thinking about suicide (not that I could do anything about either at this point). My only worry is that new things will stop happening: that it’ll turn out that I’m stuck in some loop of Kevins and Jimmys and Darryls and Susans – the same people over and over again, just different faces. The chess matches I’ve watched so far point to that realization happening just about any minute now, but I really try to avoid thinking like that.