I know I’m hurt. You don’t fall that kind of distance without some consequences. I have phantom pain in both wrists, and a dry hard lump at my Adam’s apple. There’s still a tingle in my left knee, a ghost in the machine the technician can’t seem to clear out of the chip in my spine from a soccer injury in high school. Then the doctor materializes. She’s older and plumper in person, perhaps more so since I haven’t talked to her in years. It’s against policy these days for staff to mix with the patients. “What’s the damage, doc?” I ask, trying to be lighter than I feel, seriously concerned I might be crippled.
“You may wish to sit down.” I blurt, “Oh god, not my spine.” “I’m afraid it’s worse.” I fall back into a chair, “Oh.” “I’m sorry.” “I didn’t realize you could still-” “The technology’s relatively new, but essentially it’s an iron lung for your brain.” “What’s an iron lung?” “Before your time. But you haven’t long. I have a minister on hold.” “Does this… does this count?” “The Vatican doesn’t endorse the idea, but your file didn’t say you were Catholic.” “No. Um… thanks, doc.” “You’re welcome,” she said as she faded to white.
“Hello,” said the man in black. “Hi. I’m, uh, I’m not very good at this. How should I-” There was a twinkle in the old man’s eye “You say goodbye to everything that made you happy, apologize for the mistakes you feel you should, you take in one last deep breath until you feel it in your toes, and then you let go. Everything after that is out of your hands.”