Exercising the craft—February 22, 2016

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: You were involved in a terrible car accident and have been in a coma for the past three months. What your family and the doctors don’t know is that you can hear everything that they say. Write the scene.



Ginny’s arm ached. No, it wasn’t her whole arm, she decided. Only one specific spot on her arm ached, a pain that throbbed in time to her pulse. What made it feel like that?

She couldn’t see anything, and a mild panic began to edge her brain. After a moment, she realized her eyes were closed. Her palpable relief made her smile.

But wait. She didn’t smile. She couldn’t. She couldn’t open her eyes either. Why wouldn’t her eyes open?

Voices broke into her internal dialogue. They sounded far away at first, and she didn’t want to pay attention to them. She wanted to open her eyes. She wanted to smile, and laugh. If she couldn’t smile, how would she ever laugh at anything again?

The voices continued, and they got closer. No, not closer. Louder. Her brain hadn’t picked out individual words at first, but she admitted defeat in her mind to the smiling challenge and directed her brain power to the voices.

“…color looks better today…IV fluids…difference…Q-four…”

“…Dr. Halley…else?”

IV fluids? Whose color? Wait, are they…they’re talking about me. Oh my god, the car crash.

It came back to her then. Her fight with Eric. Charging out of the house, barely taking time to grab her keys and a coat too thin for the extreme winter weather. If she frowned in thought—but she couldn’t really frown, so she imagined herself doing it—she could still hear Eric yelling. Telling her she was bat-crap crazy to leave the house during the heavy snow.

Bat-crap crazy. That’s the nicest thing he’s said to me in months.

She should have expected his request for a divorce. Maybe she had. Even if she had, however, she could never have anticipated just how much it had hurt.


That’s Eric. He’s here. Now.

Memory rolled over her body then, so much so that she wanted to scratch her skin. Of course she couldn’t. But she could remember. She could remember the loud screech and grating of metal against metal in the crash. The crying and Eric’s pleas for her to come back, don’t go, don’t leave him, he’d make it right. The nurses talking to her in calm, soothing tones as they explained what they would do, what needles would go in her arms, how they would bathe each of her body parts before doing it. Her mother, sitting—she must have been sitting; her voice came from a lower level than many others—patting her hand, telling her she loved her.

The tramp.

That woman had had the nerve to come to the hospital. She came every other day, it seemed, although, really, Ginny didn’t know. She didn’t have any way to mark time in this weird space between her body and her mind. A few times Ginny fought to resolve the two, to shade the intersection of the two Venn circles, if only to have the ability to tell that side chick just what she thought of her.

It hadn’t happened yet. The Venn circles had come close, had touched once or twice, Ginny now remembered. But her body still didn’t have enough strength to make them overlap.

“…Eric, honey…how…today?”

“Doctor …color…face…been three months…so sorry…lost…months of her life.”

That last part sounded as if Eric had said them loudly right in her ear. The words didn’t sound so far away. Their edges seemed more distinct too, like real words instead of sounds that had somehow morphed into meaningful expressions of thought.

“…hope…does…better, but, honey, we have…decision…us.”

Anger flared inside Ginny. She still couldn’t command her limbs or even her eyelids to move. She imagined her anger as a hot fireball burning a hole through her chest. The fireball, she noted wryly had gotten much bigger than on the day when Eric’s words had shot an arrow of betrayal into her heart. That’s when the anger had first begun.

“…not right…almost died because of me. How could you even think of asking me to leave her?”

“But, Eric, we don’t know…she’s…a coma…stay…rest of your life?”

“I made a mistake, and the universe is giving me a chance to make it right.”

“…thought…loved…our future?”

“I couldn’t build a future with you if I knew I’d taken Ginny’s future away.

Ginny’s breath caught, and a machine began beeping. Commotion. She heard a little squeaking and recognized it as belonging to the shoes of one of the nurses.

“Is she okay?”

Eric’s voice. Worried. Concerned. Full of love.

Something stung in Ginny’s eyes, and she tried to purse her lips in reaction. A tube in her mouth kept her from closing it all the way, and the stinging turned into wetness. Tears. Ginny was crying.

She tried to swallow, and the nurse’s voice turned and called to someone. More footsteps. More voices. Ginny thought some of them directed questions at her. The words came at her faster than she could understand them. She wanted to answer them, to let them know that she could hear them. Once again she fought her eyes and her brain’s command to keep them closed.

Softness pressed against her forehead. “I love you, Gin, and I’m so, so sorry. I’m here, and I know you are too. Please come back to me.”

Someone huffed, and for the first time Ginny heard high heels thock-thock-thocking across the floor. The softness pressed against her forehead again, and then she felt breath. She knew that breath. She knew its warmth and the way it undulated when they had made love in the past.

She pursed her lips again and made her decision then: She would not die.