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Nash opened his eyes and blinked slowly. A ceiling. It was blurry. Someone moved into his vision, someone wearing a face mask and glasses.
“Nash, squeeze my hand if you can hear me?”
Nash wondered if the woman was talking to him. The woman used his name, but he felt completely detached from reality. Like he was there, but not in a body. He was unaware where any of his limbs where, so he told his brain to squeeze a hand. To his surprise, he felt some pressure in his right hand. It exhausted him. The lights were bright and thinking was hard. The beeping was annoying. There were other people…figures…somewhere.
“Very good Nash,” the woman with the facemask and glasses said. “Can you say something for us?”
Nash made a vocalization in his throat. His whole mouth was parched; there was a bitter, stale taste and his tongue felt like cotton. “Water,” he mouthed. Out of the left side of his vision, a straw came into view and was pressed to his lips. He latched on with a baby’s instinct and drank. It felt like he was drinking silver, cold and bright, down into his stomach. Nate closed his eyes. Everything was so bright. He was also becoming aware of a dull pain in what he was pretty sure was his leg.

He worked his mouth a few times, and felt like the Tinman from Wizard of Oz working himself after a good oil. “Where am I?” Nash slurred.
“You’re in St. Mary’s Hospital. You were hit by a drunk driver last night, coming home from a New Years Eve party. We’ve kept you in a coma overnight, but we’ve woken you up now that your brain scans are better.”
Nash wondered if the woman in the facemask and glasses was talking to him or someone else. He wasn’t in a car accident last night – he didn’t remember being in a car accident last night.
“My leg hurts,” Nash said. He wasn’t sure why those words came out of his mouth, but perhaps it was to remind this doctor person that he was a different patient and give him the real story.
“We can give you some more morphine. You broke your femur, Nash. You had surgery on it, but it will still hurt although it’s put back together.”
“Are you…talking to me?” Nash managed, although it came out in one word.
“Yes,” the doctor said with a chuckle. Her eyes crinkled at the corners.
“My leg hurts,” Nash repeated. It was becoming uncomfortable now.
“The nurse is coming to give you more pain relief, don’t worry. Anything else hurt?”
“My head. It’s so bright.” He raised a hand to rub his chest absentmindedly.
“You hit your head on the windshield, so you have a bruise there. Does your chest hurt?”
“Burns a little,” Nash answered.
“From the seatbelt, or the airbag.”
“Oh.” He felt himself drifting off. “I’m tired.”
“You can rest. Your family is on their way here.”
“Sounds serious.”
The doctor chuckled again. “It is.”
“What about the man?” Nash squinted up at the doctor.

The doctor’s forehead crinkled like a bulldog’s. “What man?”
“The man – the man, who was with me.”
“You mean one of the medics who rode with you to the hospital? There weren’t any passengers in your car, as far as I’m aware.”
“No,” Nash insisted. He still didn’t remember the crash, but in this memory he was in a car. Or at least he was pretty sure it was a car, but it didn’t quite look like one – the angles were wrong and stuff was in the wrong place.
The edges of the memory was dark and grainy. He exhaled and winced. His chest hurt. Nate rubbed it again and left his hand there. “The man- he was talking to me. In the car. He was all white.”
“I can see if one of the medics was a white man,” the doctor suggested.
No,” Nash insisted. This was so frustrating and he was so tired. “He was all white. Like a lightbulb. He kept telling me to stay still and everything was going to be ok. I was going to be ok.”
“Your medic was probably wearing a headlamp, or it may have been the ambulance overhead lights backlighting the paramedic.”
Nash whined in irritation. This was maddening. “No. He was glowing, like a lightbulb. He said…he apologized, that it had to be this way so I could meet my soul mate.”
The doctor was out of Nash’s view, typing something on a computer. “Soul mate?”
“Yeah. Said there was a man. We’d been together many times before, but the story line was wrong this time so they had to fix it.”
The doctor stopped typing. “I’m sure the medics in the ambulance gave you a drug like ketamine, and that can be a trippy experience, Nash. Your brain had a hard bang against your skull too. You will likely not remember anything of the crash, and your brain will try to fill in the gaps, sometimes incorrectly. The nurse is going to give you more pain killers. Try to rest ok? We’ll wake you again when your family arrives.”

Nash sighed and closed his eyes again. He was too worn out to be frustrated. He’d try to think of a way to make the doctor understand that she was wrong, completely wrong.

The background beeps and foot shuffles and chatter melted into white noise. Something cold began to circulate through the tube in his arm, up his arm, into his body. The pain in his leg faded and it was sublime. Nick exhaled again, in relief this time. The memory was solidifying a bit.
The white man was sitting on the crumpled hood of the car, talking to Nash. A classic American boy with a nice smile and tousled brown hair. So bright…yet it didn’t hurt to look at him, Nash realized. He felt peaceful looking at him. Nash was sure the medics would have seen him too and spoken to him. They’d clear this all up. Ah, peace.

Nash fell asleep.

When he was woken up later to meet his family, Nash was more coherent. One of the medics who had been with him had brought another patient in the hospital in the meanwhile, and was questioned. The medic hadn’t seen what Nash described. A traumatic hallucination, they called it.

That night in the hospital, Nash had dreams. Dreams of being in different places, wearing different clothes, talking in the different languages. Like flicking through the TV, just lingering on channel long enough to decide you don’t like it and click! new channel. But Nash wanted to stay on the channels. There was another man with him in each of the “channels”, one he hadn’t seen before but who looked familiar. So familiar. Not the lightbulb man. Different man. The man in his dreams had a beard.
Nash thought if he could just stay on a damn channel long enough, he’d identify him. Get a name. Clear it up. But he never could. The dreams stopped after Nash was discharged home two days later.

Four years later, Nash met a bearded man with the same face as the man in his hospitals dreams. He said Nate looked familiar too, and asked if he wanted to get a coffee. Nate agreed as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Captions are fictional.


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