[Trigger warning: Prescription drug overdose, hospitals]
Endless black. Smoke, or shadow, or ink. I try to look at my hands, but I can't see anything at all. It's darker than it should ever naturally be. I try to scream but I can't hear it. I'm deaf, blind, it feels like I'm at the bottom of the ocean, or floating in outer space. But there aren't any stars, and I'm scared. I'm all alone. I float in the darkness for what seems like a long, long time.
Eventually I see a tiny point of light far away, it looks like a star. It's the only thing I can see in the unending darkness, the only thing there is to focus on. It feels like hope. I know that I need to go towards it, but it's like I'm moving through mud, and it's the hardest thing I've ever done. I have to reach that light, no matter what. I don't want to be here anymore, I don't belong here. I have no real sense of time, but it seems like I'm hardly making progress.
I'm pushing against the heavy blackness, and I hear something. A voice? Someone talking, a woman. Sometimes she cries, and sometimes she just speaks in a low voice. She sounds sad. Her voice gets less and less muffled as I get closer. She keeps saying the same name, and it's barely clear enough to hear. The star is so close now, just a little further, I reach out and try to touch it with everything I have. It feels like the woman is so close, like she's whispering in my ear. She keeps saying that name, and I feel like it's mine.
"Cosmo. Please wake up... Please."
My fingertip touches the star. It explodes into white light that consumes the darkness, and it burns me away.
That's the dream I had while I was in a 12-day coma from overdosing on prescription narcotics.
After I woke up, my throat burned so badly I couldn't make any words come out. (Later I'd find out I'd been intubated and on a ventilator for a long time after I came in, before I started breathing on my own again.) I breathed slowly and forced my lead-heavy eyelids open just a little. I was in a hospital room, machines and monitors beeped slowly in the background. My arms felt so heavy, but I managed to move my fingers a little. I was so confused, I had no idea how I got there. Suddenly Anderly is there, holding my hand and sobbing over me.
"Cosmo! Oh my god! You're okay, you're okay, hold on, let me get a nurse." I rolled my head to the side to see her, but I still couldn't talk. I didn't know why she was crying. I wanted to tell her I was okay. I managed to squeeze her hand.
She pushed the red call button on the wall.
I was so disoriented it took me several days for my memories to start coming back. My last memories were of a Friday evening, almost two weeks ago.
I didn't understand parties. The twenty or so college-age kids talking, drinking, and swaying to the loud music were all strangers, Hex and Anderly's friends. I felt so alone and just, separate from everyone else there. Disconnected, like the chattering people filling the apartment were on the other side of a glass wall that I could never hope to break through. The nerve pain in my arm was starting to act up. I felt the cold tingle of panic start to crawl up my neck. Anxiety meds wearing off.
Damn it. Be normal. Socialize, you fucking loser. No wonder you're all alone.
I knew even this one drink was a bad idea. I looked down into the red plastic cup, I didn't even know what was in it. Cheap vodka? I set it down on the coffee table and stood up, swaying. Fucking medications made me into a lightweight. People were too close, someone bumped into me as I looked for Anderly in the crowd. I had to get out of there. I spotted Anderly from across the large room, and when our eyes met, I gave her a look and pointed above my head to the door. "Sorry." I said, knowing she'd have to read my lips over the music.
The look Anderly shot me didn't help; Pity. I felt nauseous from the shame of it as she mouthed back "Okay." She held her hand with her thumb and pinky out against her ear, the universal sign for "Call me." I nodded and smiled before I wove through the strangers and escaped.
We both lived in the "Old Town" part of the city, where the original Main Street was, in the historical district. Her place was in an actual apartment building, while mine was the ground level of a big Victorian building that had been separated into flats. The walk between our places only took about fifteen minutes. I kicked my shoes off by the front door, took my PM meds, and collapsed into bed immediately; the stress of trying to be normal just sapped my energy away.
I slept terribly, on and off, but I finally had to get up around 2 am. The pain was so sudden, so severe, it jolted me out of sleep completely. I was sweating, shaking. My vision blurred. Is this a nightmare? Where is my phone? It wasn't on the nightstand.
I stood, and paced back and forth. It was like my brain was shorting out, and a panic attack swallowed me whole so fast there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was clutching my arm as if that would make the pain go away, digging my fingernails into my skin. I crawled my fingers up to the top of my shoulder- Burning, stabbing, electricity shot down my arm. This was the worst pain I'd ever felt in my 24 years of life.
Shit, shit, shit-
I made it as far as the hallway before my shaking legs gave out. I was on my knees, my face down to the floor. I didn't even try to hold back the tears or the agonized sounds that were coming out of my mouth. I was hyperventilating, my breath coming in tight gasps. My vision darkened around the edges, and I felt the lightheadedness that comes right before you pass out, but another stab of pain down my arm pulled me back.
I crawled to the bathroom. Thankfully I had left the seat up so I had time to puke, a benefit of living by myself. One thought was ricocheting around in my skull, multiplying, getting louder and louder until it became a cacophonous roar that blocked out everything else;
Make it stop.
At this point, the memory gets a little weird, because I felt like I was outside my body after that. I know that's cliched, an "out-of-body experience", but it was like my body didn't belong to me anymore. It seemed like a husk, a hard shell of pain that I needed to escape from to survive. My body (I?) managed to crawl up the bathroom vanity one-handed, my bad arm hanging limp, fingers tingling like a thousand stabbing needles.
Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop, please-
I didn't think about the consequences of the actions I was about to take. I couldn't even think beyond that moment. I was trapped in that frame of time, I was pain and the pain was me. I was sure, completely, that I was going to die; no one could possibly experience agony like this and survive it.
I clawed open the medicine cabinet and dug through the several orange bottles of pills. Oxycodone. I opened the bottle and chugged the pills down, choking, I took a sip from the sink faucet before my knees gave out and I was on the floor, the remaining pills scattering on the beige tile. My ears were ringing so loud, I was shaking and sweating and it was so cold, and I was so, so tired.
I vaguely remember a muffled scream, far away. Panicked voices. It sounded like I was underwater. I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore, and I didn't really want to.
The noise in my head quieted. Finally, finally, the pain faded to a dull warmth.
After this point, I have no memories until after I wake up in the hospital. Just the dream.
Hex and Anderly both visited me in the hospital in turns (apparently one of them was always with me while I was in the coma) After I woke up, and my voice came back a little, I asked Anderly what had happened. My muscles were so atrophied and weak I could only lay still in bed while she spoke.
Anderly told me she had found my phone at her house, and knew I'd need it the next day for work. It was around 1:45 in the morning. Hex drove her to my apartment since she'd been drinking, and she let herself in with her key and put my phone on the kitchen counter where I would see it. As she turned to leave, she saw my feet sticking out of the bathroom doorway. She screamed out the open front door to Hex, who was waiting in his car in the driveway.
They found me on the floor, my lips and fingertips already turning blue, my clothes soaked through with sweat. Hex pulled my eyelids open, my pupils were tiny pinpoints, like they were far away. He rubbed his knuckles on my sternum to try and wake me. He was saying, "No, no, Cosmo, please. What did you do? What did you do?" as he checked my pulse.
Anderly paced frantically just outside the bathroom door, her shaking fingers dialing 911.
I had a pulse, slow, faint, but still there. I had stopped breathing. Hex rolled me onto my back and tilted my chin up.
"You looked dead. You didn't respond at all." Said Anderly, later in the recovery ward in the hospital. I had been moved there a couple days after I woke up. Her voice shook as she continued recounting what had happened. She'd had to tell the story in two parts since the hospital staff had needed to move me. I patted her hand and kept any emotion off my face. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I couldn't make eye contact with her, or else I'd cry. I gritted my teeth and let her continue.
"You were so... limp. And blue. I saw the pills on the floor and... the fear just- it was like my blood was frozen." She gestured with her hands curled towards her chest, her ring-adorned fingers hooked into claws as she struggled to describe her emotions. The guilt that had been chasing me since I woke up was like a noxious black cloud, encompassing me, squeezing my heart.
Hex breathed into my lungs, and roared out to Anderly to call an ambulance. "I already did!" she cried back. Hex kept the rescue breaths up for 10 agonizing minutes, one breath every 5 seconds. 120 breaths. He checked my pulse again, shaking, and all the color drained from his face. He looked at Anderly. She told me she'd never forget the look of sheer panic and horror on his face at that moment. It made her drop her phone on the floor, her hands flying up to cover her sobbing mouth. She screamed.
"No, no, no!"
Hex interlaced his fingers, one hand over the back of the other. He did CPR and breathed for me for 8 more minutes, begging me, until the paramedics came. They yelled for Hex and Anderly to get out of the way so they could work in the small space. My friends held on to each other, stunned speechless, crying. The first paramedic checked me, and then brought out the portable defibrillator. It took two tries to restart my heart.
[Hello! Author here. This is the very first book I've felt good enough about to post, and it's really close to my heart. I'd love to hear comments and feedback about the story, so I can see if I need to change or explain things. :) I'm always willing to improve my writing!
On that note, I do edit a lot, but I never change anything important to the story. Usually just small stuff like spelling or punctuation, or maybe to move words in a sentence around so it flows better. Sometimes I change minor details for the sake of continuity between chapters. 😅.
I hope you enjoy Chronic, and I hope you'll continue on this journey with me!]