And thus we enter the last month of this challenge!
This week’s story may seem to be a little late, but as we established in the Oslo example back in August I am allowed to work on the time of the country I am in and I am currently in America, so ner ner.
Anyway, this story was suggested by the most metal Karl Routledge and goes a little bit like this: A man awakes from a coma to find he’s now a small boy. He remembers aging, working, the technological advances, having his own family and the accident that knocked him out, but now he’s back to being a child in the 60s who’s just woken up in hospital.
2014 – A Year In Stories
Forward to the Past
Odd, he thought. My alarm clock didn’t go off. It wasn’t the first time; the damn hing had been playing up for months, arbitrarily deciding on any given day that he didn’t actually need an alarm after all.
Harold yawned, swung his feet over the edge of the bed and went to stand up. Instead of achieving this desired effect, however, he found himself sprawled unceremoniously on the floor.
Taking the opportunity of this new perspective, he surveyed his surroundings. This did not look like his bedroom. It was much smaller, for one, and there was only a single bed. The biggest tell that he wasn’t at home, however, was the plethora of hospital equipment that surrounded the bed and, in some cases, intruded on his person.
Harold struggled to get up, but his strength failed him and he remained in a heap on the floor.
“Mildred!” he called, hoping that his wife would be able to explain the circumstances to him. “Mildred where are you?”
His voice sounded to him; more high pitched than usual. He supposed that if he had been in the hospital for some time that his vocal chords may have tightened somewhat.
“Mildred!” he yelled again. Eventually the wooden door to the room burst open and a young woman ran in. It wasn’t Mildred – the woman was 30 years too young to be his wife, and it wasn’t either of his daughters. The woman’s manner of dress was odd, reminiscent of s time long past in Harold’s life, and the face looked oddly familiar, though in his present state he couldn’t quite place it.
“Oh Harry, you’re awake!” the woman shrieked with joy. We were so worried that we had lost you!”
“You’re not my wife!” Harold blurted out. “Where’s Mildred?”
“Wife?” the woman asked, looking rather confused. “Harry, you’re 12 years old. You’ve been in a coma for 6 months. I think you’ve had a few more important things on your mind recently than getting married.”
“Who are you?” Harold demanded.
“Harry, it’s me,” the woman said, smiling. “Don’t you recognise your own mother?”
And suddenly he did. Harold knew he had seen the face before, but he hadn’t seen it in that form for many decades. It was his own mother, as she had been in the 1960s. He should have known; nobody but her ever called him Harry.
Harold decided that this must all be a dream. It would explain it all. Why he had woken up before his alarm in a strange room hooked up to all this hospital equipment. Why he couldn’t walk or use his arms. Why his mother, who had been deceased for 10 years and decidedly not in her 30s for many more than that, had appeared at his bedside. No doubt he would wake up, for real this time, back in his bed at home in Stourbridge, imminently.
Several seconds passed as Harold lay there on the floor looking resolutely as though he was expecting to PPP out of existence any second.
“Are you OK, Harry dear?” the woman who purported to be his mother asked, looking concerned.
A moment later a couple of orderlies came in to the room. Seeing Harold in his state on the floor, they immediately went over to help him up.
When he was safely back in bed, though still very much not his own king sized one in the house on Rectory Lane, Harold decided that if he was going to be in this dream then he might as well play along.
“What happened to me?” he asked. “Why am I here, in the hospital?”
“Oh Harry,” his mother began, dabbing away a tear with her handkerchief. “It was awful. You were on the way to school one morning when Johnny, the milkman, who was running late on his rounds, came careening round the corner in his milk van and hit you. We thought you were dead for sure, but Dr Forsyth here at the hospital patched you up. They wanted to turn off the life support after three months, but your dad and I, we knew you were a fighter. We knew you’d pull through.”
His mother gave him a bone crushing hug. Harold would have returned it, but for the fact that his arm muscles had wasted away through 6 months of inactivity.
It was so strange to him, seeing his mother like this. He didn’t think he remembered her that well, especially not when she was this young, but it must have been a powerful image burned in to his subconscious to be so accurately recreated in a dream like this.
There was some silence for a while as his mother got to grips with having her son back. Eventually Harold felt like he simply had to question things further. In this dream, or whatever it was that was happening, none of his life since the 60s had happened, yet he could remember it all vividly.
He risked a glance up at the mirror on the wall opposite his bed and sure enough there he was, a 12 year old boy with a mess of tangled dirty blonde hair. Now that was something he hadn’t had for a lot longer even than his mum had been gone.
Harold thought about his wife, Mildred, his daughters Lucy and Kayleigh, about his house, his car and the dog he professed to hate but secretly loved.
What if this wasn’t a dream? What if he had been cursed to live his life again, knowing of the life he had before? Perhaps he would never meet Mildred, and the girls would never be born. He had certainly never been hit by the milkman in his previous go round, so who knew what else could change.
It must be a dream, he insisted. It must be. He had had a bit of a skinful at the rugby last night, perhaps that was why he couldn’t wake up at the moment. Perhaps the real Harold was in a coma himself, and this was some weird Life on Mars style situation where he would only wake up if he jumped off a building or something. There was no way to find out at present, as his legs were about as much use as a chocolate teapot. Anyway, if he was wrong…
Harold simply did not know what to do. The longer it went on the more he became convinced he wasn’t going to wake up at home. The more he became convinced it was all real.
His mother fawned over him for a few hours until his father finished work. She had called the factory straight away from a pay phone in the corridor, but he had been unable to get away until the end of the day.
“I’ve brought you something,” his dad said as soon as he walked through the door to the hospital room. “I know you will have missed him.”
He reached in to his briefcase and pulled out a tattered teddy bear.
“Mr Buttons!” Harold exclaimed. He hadn’t seen this bear since he had been lost when they moved house in the 60s. There was always some suspicion on his part that one or other of his parents had thrown the bear out and merely reported it as lost. Whatever had happened then, that was still several years away, and here Mr Buttons was, right now, in his hands.
“I knew you’d be pleased to see him,” his dad said.
“Come on George,” his mother cooed. “The poor boy has been awake for a while now, he probably needs some rest.”
“You’re right, honey,” his dad replied. “We’ll be back to see you in the morning, but you should get some sleep. It’s so good to see you up and about son. We…we were really worried for a while.”
The whole display was very uncharacteristic of his father, who usually kept his emotions bottled up.
After his parents left, Harold sighed. This must be it, he thought. I must be bound to live my life through again. He wondered if he would make the same mistakes over again.
As he drifted off, he began to think of all the different things he would get to experience again throughout his life. He clutched the teddy bear tight as his eyes finally shut and he succumbed to sleep.
Harold awoke with a start as his alarm blared noisily at him from the bedside table. Bewildered, he looked around the room to see that he was back in his house in Stourbridge. Mildred, his wife, lay next to him, snoring gently and the dog, who was definitely not allowed to sleep on the bed, raised his head and woofed at the sudden movement.
“It was all a dream!” he shouted joyfully. This woke Mildred up, and she sat up in bed next to him.
“What was a dream, dear?” she asked.
“It’s a long story,” Harold replied. “I’ll explain over breakfast.”
“While you’re at it would you care to explain where you got that mangy old teddy bear?”
Harold looked down. Sure enough he was still clutching Mr Buttons tightly to his chest.
“I…uh…” he began. “Someone I haven’t seen in a very long time gave it to me,” he settled on eventually. “Someone I haven’t seen for a very long time indeed.”