Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: AMAZING (04/19/18)
- TITLE: Broken
By Tracy Nunes
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Pain shoots everywhere at once as I claw at the shallow recess intended for my grave. Weight on my chest eases with each desperate drag of my fingertips. My legs are mostly free except a small tree branch, thick with leaves of summer, hastily laid over them. He was rushed. Like a bone half-buried by a dog, I’m not completely entombed.
How long has it been? Minutes? Hours?
Each breath drags in and out like an ocean being strained through a sieve. Air is exchanging but the torture of each pull of oxygen makes me question its usefulness.
Was that his aim?
Memories of treating him in the ER for a collapsed lung he got in a barroom fight play across my mind, only I have no one to give me pain relief.
Will I live like he did? Someone help me!
My frantic clawing slowly eases as my senses come back to life. I let my head fall back to the earth, attempting to make my breathing regulate. Panting will just make each breath less efficient.
He was young but the grit on him seemed permanent; it layered on him and permeated his soul. Resisting all attempts from my staff to comfort him, I finally ordered them to restrain him. Which only enraged him more but at least I could treat him. The arresting officer hovered nearby as the drugs gave him superhuman strength and made him unaware of how badly he was injured. Or so I thought.
We did our job. He was just one of dozens that night. The compassion that took me to medical school and drew me to the ER now barely simmered below the surface. Compassion killed by evil and a never-ending cycle of violence. A sea of faces and names that blended into a fog of denial. I didn’t remember his face when he grabbed me in the hospital parking lot.
Then, he sat above me as I lay hogtied on the ground. His painstaking, drugged-filled recollection of that night in ER just barely brought his treatment back in my memory until his description of me puncturing his chest and inserting the drainage tube into his lungs shook loose my recall.
“Do you remember what you said to me?”
No, no I didn’t. I started to tell him that he was barely a blip on the screen of my life but thought better of it.
“What did I say?”
“When I screamed my guts out in pain, you said, ‘Go ahead, die if you insist. I don’t care anymore.”
Now I remembered. The night my brother died, killed by a madman over a parking stall at the supermarket. I should have called in a replacement that night, but I was on automatic pilot. Stopping to feel wasn’t an option. The mourning came later but that night I pressed on.
“I’m sorry I hurt you.”
I was sorry. When I first went into medicine I’d had this innate ability to see even the most hardened criminal as suffering little children, knowing that they didn’t become monsters by accident. I’d lost that. I was sorry…and I wanted to live.
I said it again, “I’m sorry,” I sobbed as wires cut into my wrist. “I was trying to help you!”
“Ha! My pain made no difference to you!” He leaned in and slowly spit out the words, “Yours don’t matter to me.” I lost count of the blows. Eventually, the release of blackout mercifully swallowed me.
I’m going to die, I think. My parts seem intact, but I can’t get up. I surrender because I have nothing left.
The gentle sing-song voice of my kindergarten teacher, Miss Sophie, sinks into me over the years, whispering into my child-heart, “He loves you, Shawna.” Somehow, I’d forgotten - like it didn’t matter. But, oh… it did. I reach up one feeble hand to Him.
The sound of dogs barking bursts over the dense forest hills. Voices rise and fall amongst the trees like echoes of hope. I imagine that searchers are determined to reach me. At least my last memories will be good.
But then someone shouts, “She’s over here!” and I realize they’re real.
Broken but unburied, I'm saved...and found.
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