Written by: Personalias
Blackness. Dante Willis was surrounded in blackness. The first sounds that came to his ears were screaming. Horrible, terrified screaming. Then the jumbled mumbled walla walla of a crowded room, and the deafening silence of speakers being cut off. He vaguely thought he heard some kind of bizarre gibberish screaming hysterically.
“Blah blah blah not breathblah” he thought he heard, “Someblah blah 911.” Then Dante went deaf again, swimming through an ebony morass.
Blackness. It was nice. This is what death should be. Just silence and stillness, with nothing to bother you. OW! FUCK! A giant cat had landed on his chest and was kneading it like bread dough.
“And 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and 8 and 9 and 10 and 11 and 12 and 13 and 14 and 15.”, the cat meowed.
The silence in his ears was replaced by a steady ringing that made Dante feel hung over. Great, that bell meant he was late for school. He was late for school and a giant cat was trying to rip his chest off. He opened his eyes to scowl at the cat.
What he saw in the cat’s place was a woman, looking into his face. She seemed pretty old. Late 50’s or early 60’s. But she looked to be in good health. Must’ve worked out and laid off the cigarettes and booze. Her hair was mostly gray, but Dante could make out a few strands of blonde. Weird though. She had the most familiar eyes. She was wearing a uniform of some kind, complete with a badge and everything.
Dante struggled to look at the badge. His eyes felt so heavy and hard to focus. He thought he could read the name “Caroline” on her badge. His eyes scrambled, nothing around him but mattresses and cramped metal walls. The sound of a siren hurt his ears.
“Blah blah blah pulse”, she said “blahing blah recoverblah position.” Dante bounced up and down and was vaguely aware of a loud THUMP. “Blah! Watch those blahing speedblahs!” the woman yelled. So tired. Time for a nap. Time to go swimming again.
Suddenly, Dante was engulfed in a bright light. A burning bright light that threatened to steal him from his comfortable dark home. He swung at the light, bashing it away so that he could crawl back into his hole and go swimming in the morass. He was rewarded with the light shouting “Whoah!” Dante was instantly awake.
Dante was no longer in his crib, he realized. He looked around and saw a black man in a doctor’s coat, a bemused smile on his face. The man looked to be fairly old, what hair he had left on his head turned white, but he had a youthful air about him.
“You got quite an arm there, son,” the doctor said, sounding oddly like Morgan Freeman (why can’t more of everyone have that amazing voice?) “You almost nicked me, there.” He smiled a devilish grin. Dante took a moment to take in his surroundings.
He was in a hospital bed, laying down at a 45 degree angle, wearing a green hospital gown. He was hooked up to some wires and surrounded by machines; his ears greeted with the steady beeps and boops as each machine measured a different statistic of his heart rate and breathing. Dante looked around.
The left wall had been painted with a big picture of happy children playing in the grass, with blue skies ahead. The right wall, had a picture of different animals from around the world in their natural habitat. The details were so intricate. Each painted habitat couldn’t have been more than a square foot. The entire room had a border depicting smiling cartoon characters.
“What happened?” Dante asked.
“ I was shining a light in your eyes, to see if you’d respond, and you decided right then to take a swing at me.“ The doctor told him. Seeing that he had not answered Dante’s question satisfactorily, he added “You woke up.” Well duh Doctor Asshole. “Don’t look so smug,” the doctor told him. Damn, he had to work on that poker face. “It could have just as easily gone the other way.”
Dante stared straight ahead. “I overdosed, didn’t I?”
“That’s what the tox screen says, young man.” The doctor nodded. “If one of your little friends hadn’t fallen over you and noticed you weren’t breathing anymore, you and me wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. You’re lucky to be alive.” Dante averted his eyes in shame.
“Where am I?” he asked.
“You’re in the children’s ward of the county hospital,” The doctor explained “Our ICU unit is over populated right now. Once you were stable, we moved you here, instead. It’s not the most dignified of spaces for a man of your age, but one way or another, we figured it would only be temporary.” Dante felt a twinge of anger and it must have shown. Doctor or not, this guy was beginning to push it.
“Well, you don’t need this lecture from me right now,” the old man in the coat went on. He smiled a little. “I’ll leave that to your folks. I’ll bring them to you.” Then he walked out of the room, leaving Dante to his thoughts.
HIS PARENTS! Holy shit! They were here! They were here and he was okay! He wasn’t dead, after all. He had swum in the black morass of death and come out the other side alive. He breathed a huge sigh of relief. He really had been too young to die.
So it had all been a dream, he thought with a little bit of sadness. Everything: Limbo, Lysa, Midori, the Judy’s, everything. A crazy, fucked up, at points wonderful nightmare of a dream. But a dream none the less. Still, he was glad to have dreamt it. He had faced his inner demons and won.
Dante’s parents came rushing in, the doctor close behind him. They looked like they hadn’t slept in days. Both rushed in immediately and gave him a giant hug. PAINPAINPAINPAINPAINPAIN. Dante gasped through gritted teeth.
“Careful,” the doctor warned them, “the EMT’s had to administer CPR. His ribs cage is in pretty rough shape. Nothing that won’t heal though.”
“Mom. Dad.”, Dante spoke up. “I’m sorry. For everything. I really have taken you guys for granted, and I abused your trust while you were away.” His mother wiped tears from her eyes.
“Apology excepted,” his mother said, “but we’re still going to be having some serious words once you get home.” Dante smiled and nodded. He deserved it and would take whatever punishment they had for him like a man. It couldn’t be any worse than what he had already thought he endured.
“And you’re going to be doing a lot of table bussing and dishwashing, buddy,” his father chimed in. “I’d say, oh I don’t know, for the rest of the school year, and through the summer till you leave for college just oughta about make us even. Oh and you’ll be waiting tables too, except I get to keep the tips.”
“Sure dad,” Dante sighed with satisfaction. “I deserve that.”
“And more,” both his parents said in unison. They were clearly upset with him, but just as clearly relieved that he was still among the living.
A strange and familiar figure walked through the door. She wore short shorts, and long socks. A black T-shirt with glow in the dark paint splattered upon it was cut open and drooped, showing hints of the dark purple sports bra she was wearing underneath. Her wrists were covered with glow in the dark bracelets that shook whenever she walked.
Her ebony hair was kept back with a hot pink bow. Her smile seemed silly and bashful and flirty all at the same time. Even from across the room, he could tell that her gaze was directed only at Dante. Her smile looked vaguely familiar, but it was the pink pacifier dangling from her neck that gave her away.
“Dori?!” Dante exclaimed
“This was the girl that saved your life.”, Dante’s mom said. “She’s a foreign exchange student, from Japan.”
“Her exchange family told us that she crashed your party, thinking it would be a rave or something, and fell onto you when you were on the couch.” His dad told him, “When she realized you weren‘t breathing, she screamed so loud the entire party stopped dead in its tracks”.
“私はあなたがより良い感じて嬉しいです.” The girl said with a slight bow. Dante didn’t speak Japanese though, so it all came out as gibberish to Dante’s ears.
“Mr. Willis, Dr. Willis, I’m sorry to interrupt,” the doctor butted in. “I’m Doctor Jamal Adams, and I’ve been watching over your son for the last 24 hours since he lost consciousness.” Wow, so he had been unconscious for over a day? Trippy. Wait. Dr. Jamal who?
“Your son was legally dead for nearly 20 minutes before we managed to revive him. The human brain can go up to six minutes without any oxygen before it suffers permanent damage. Your son’s brain went over 3 times as long. Now I just got the scans back and we know what parts have been affected.” Brain damage? Dante didn’t feel brain damaged. He could think just fine.
“Give it to us straight, doctor.” Dante’s dad said, already his jaw was clenching as if bracing for impact.
“Well for starters,” the doctor began, “most of his fine motor skills and coordination are shot he may never walk again. With some physical therapy he can manage a crawl, but not walk.” What…?
“This goes for when he sleeps, too.” the physician continued. “I’d recommend getting him some bedding with a railing so he doesn’t fall out. Perhaps a crib of some sort. He‘ll need to be strapped in when he eats too, and spoon fed. I doubt he‘d be able to get the food to his mouth otherwise. He may drool a little bit too, so don‘t let that surprise you.” Was this happening? Was this seriously happening?!
“The language centers of his brain took some damage too,” the old quack continued, ignoring Dante’s look of distress. “He’ll have a diminished vocabulary that may or may not ever rebuild itself.” Doctor Adams looked at Dante.
“Young man, can you tell me another word for… potty?” he asked. Dante couldn’t. All he could manage to do was sign “potty” with his hands. “Hmm,” Doctor Adams arched an eyebrow, “there’s an idea. You may want to each learn sign language as a way to communicate to each other, if Dante is unable to regain his old vocabulary. Which brings me to the last part.” The doctor said as he ripped the sheets off of Dante‘s leg. “He’s also completely incontinent.”
Dante looked down. To his horror, cherubs playing on rainbows and puffy clouds stared up at him from his crotch. He was wearing a diaper, the same baby diaper that he had dreamed about. Dante felt a wetness spread in between his legs.
“That’s the hospital’s special incontinence brief for children that can’t get up and use the bathroom.” the doctor said pointing to Dante’s mid-section. “They seem to prefer that to bed pans when given the option. That’s the largest size we have. If you like it, we can give you a discount if you buy in bulk.” Dante waited for his parents to say something, anything.
“This is great!” His mother beamed. Wait what?! “I’ve been reading about experimental regression therapies for years, but never got the opportunity to try it on someone. Dante would make the perfect test subject! Plus I get to be a mommy again!” SERIOUSLY?!
“Aaaand,” his father added, “now that Dante is 18, we could make a few extra bucks by setting up a site on the internet. There’s a demand and market for everything these days.” FUCK A DUCK!
Midori stuck her pacifier in her mouth and began sucking. She squatted and started to grunt.
“Uh oh,” Dante’s mother cooed, “looks like Dante’s little friend wants to be a big baby too.”
The doctor, unfazed just said, “Yes, I’ll call the nurse. Nurse Judy!” Oh. My. Fucking. God. No.
A very familiar looking woman, with bleach blonde hair, wearing nursery scrubs came in. She looked to be in her mid thirties to early forties. She was beautiful, but not necessarily hot. Kind of like the way you could look at a statue and think “That’s a pretty statue”, but you wouldn’t want to bone the Venus de Milo.
“Uh oh!” Nurse Judy exclaimed in mock surprise. “It looks like two someone’s had an accident! Don’t worry, Mama Judy will make it aaaaallll better! Time-for-a-change.” From behind her back, she drew out two very babyish looking diapers, one for Midori, and one for Dante. She laid them there by Dante’s feet, as Dante found he couldn’t move from his hospital bed. His body wouldn’t cooperate. It was like parts of him were stuck to fly-paper.
All Dante could do was close his eyes as he heard the scritch scratch of Velcro tapes being torn off a diaper.
Dante sat bolt upright in his crib. The lights were still out in the giant nursery. He was still dressed in Dr. Dentons, covered with sweat and could tell that his diaper was soaked. Lysa and Midori were in the cribs right next to them. Both were snoring softly in their footed PJ’s.
So. It had all been a dream. The recovery, the rescue, him getting to say sorry to his parents. Everything. Figures. No happy ending.
There was no such thing as a happy ending. Only happy pauses. Dante grabbed the bottle of angel milk that he had left by his feet and put it to his lips. He had grown a lot as a person already. He had matured. But he was dead and stuck as a baby in Limbo. It didn’t matter if you learned your lesson and became a better person when it’s already too late.