Too much coffee?
That night, fear came in through the window and found my open, somnolent mouth. Dusty, alien wings flutter against calcium rods. I watch the duvet vibrate in the watery morning light.
At the hospital, the doctors are delighted and a troupe of clammy-handed students come to grope and question.
A splash of joules across my chest is indicated and a nurse wires me up, the watching cardiologist nudging a female student.
“Ever see this before?”
“Just on TV.”
He winks at her and promises that she can press the red button.
She looks at me lying bare-chested in the bed and giggles into her hand at the prospect.
These strangers are the last humans I will ever see.
Milky peace sliding into a wrist. Darkness seeping into my eyes. After all my bravado, in the end, how meekly I succumbed like some ailing pet.
When I wake, they are gone. A passing nurse glances at the steady stream of spiky, phosphorescent facts above the bed and tells me I am fine.
My tongue is swollen. Bitten.
The metallic aftertaste of blood and drugs.
I am afraid.
* * *
The next day.
“I shaved his groin for you Bridget.”
I smile at the relief evident in poor Nurse Bridget’s voice. The groin in question vaguely but effectively dodged all morning.
They want to thread a tube through an artery there and go look for the fear.
Poke at it in a darkened room, amid machinery hum and cathode glow.
I can’t care, filled to the hairline with anxicalm.
Afterwards, I am deposited back in a busy hallway, on a trolley with a single sheet of paper no-one can read. Nurses huddle, deciphering in whispers, nervous of the author. He must be an awkward sod.
Non-cardiac origin, they decide eventually.
“Coffee,” I tell them, tired of being afraid.
STEPHEN O’REILLY lives in Galway. He has previously been short listed for both a Francis MacManus and a Sean O’Faolain Short Story Award. He is a recipient of a Molly Keane Memorial Award and his work has been published in various collections in the UK and Ireland.
Image via Pixabay