I Can Hear You



A short piece on hope and determination in the midst of an extremely distressing situation.

“John? Can you hear me?”

The voice cuts through the white noise like a knife slashing through a crisp white sheet.

Blinding light fills my vision and the world keens in agony.

A hum begins in the centre of my skull and vibrates down my spine. Tingles shoot out through my limbs, right down to my fingertips and toes setting my nerves alight.

I clench my hands and feet trying to push the prickling sensation away.

Nothing. No twitch or even a spasm registers in my limbs.

I try again.

Still nothing.

My stomach fills with cloying dread as the taste of smouldering ash fills my mouth. The dazzling light fills my vision and morphs into psychedelic colours and shifting shapes. Their insane movements make my head spin.

I squint to shield my eyes but my face is dead.

“John? If you can hear me, give me a sign.”

The voice is so familiar but I just can’t place it.

My mind tries to slip away. Back to the white noise where problems and pain were just faded memory.

I strain against the cage of my flesh and the keening recedes, bringing the world into focus for the first time.

I see a room full of people. Men and women huddled together in a corner whisper silent words over the gentle rhythmic hum and beep of machines.

One face stands out from the rest framed in hair the colour of a sandy beach reflecting the afternoon sun.

Her eyes are the ocean and they swallow me whole.

Her name is…

I can’t remember her name.

I know her but I can’t remember her name.

Frustration roils through me. I grit my teeth so hard I’m like to turn them to dust.

Only, I don’t.

I want to, but I can’t.

What the hell is wrong with me?

“Come on John. I know you’re in there. Just give me a sign, anything. Just a blink, please John. Just blink.”

Just blink? Might as well ask me to jump the Grand Canyon.

Those beautiful, sad, sea green eyes vanish as she moves away out of my line of sight. My eyes try to follow her but they’re glued in place. Some sick bastard’s idea of a joke.

A dark haired woman approaches with a needle in hand. She flicks the fluid filled canister with a neatly clipped fingernail and squirts a little juice onto the floor.

I watch as she deftly pushes the needle into my arm. My flesh parts before the sharp point and I don’t feel a thing until whatever shes pumping into me ignites, filling my veins with scorching flame.

In my mind, my back arches as my body bucks wildly against the gunpowder coursing through me. I scream my throat raw and bloody.

But of course, I don’t do any of those things.

My body’s tearing itself apart and I can’t even bitch about it.

One of the white coats approaches.

“Is it working?”

“His heart rates elevated but his EEG is unresponsive so far.”

The man’s intense grey blue eyes stare at something above my head.

“If it’s going to work we’d expect to see some response by now.”

Another coat joins him, a short woman with grey hair and a young face.

“Your certain he’s awake?”

“The EEG shows brain activity concurrent with wakefulness, if he can’t hear us now then he never will.”

The first doctor kneels down so his ice cold eyes meet my own.

“Please listen to me Mr Simmons. It is very important that you try to give us some sign you can hear us. A blink, a twitch, a flick of a muscle. Anything. Try as hard as you can.”

The grey haired woman steps around to the other side of the bed.

“Mrs Simmons, can we speak privately?”

Mrs Simmons? My God. My wife.

I can’t decide what’s worse, the lava broiling under my skin or the gaping holes cut out of my memory.

What kind of man forgets his own wife?

Shes back, sitting beside me. She leans into my vision clasping the weak, withered hand of a stranger.

“John. Do you remember that first winter up at your brothers cabin? The time we had that big snow storm and your brother had forgot to restock the firewood?”

Oddly enough I can. How could I forget? That stupid son of a bitch.

She smiles, as if she can read my mind.

“You remember how you stomped out into the snow and all you could bring back were a bundle of soaking wet twigs? You spent hours trying to get us a fire going. We didn’t have any gas and no lighter either. God, how stupid were we?”

“But you didn’t give up. Didn’t matter how hard it was you kept on rubbing those damn sticks together like you was possessed. And when that first wisp of smoke sparked to life God I was so proud of you.”

“You’re a fighter John. You never give up and you can’t give up now. Give us a sign John, show me you can hear us.”

She’s right. Trish always was right about me.


My wifes name is Trish.

I say the name over and over again just for the sheer joy of it.

I cling on to her name like a drowning man clings to a life raft. If my mind is still here, maybe my body is too.

I put everything I have into moving my withered frame. Just a twitch, thats all I need.

The fire in my veins pulses with the rapid hammer thud of my heartbeat and the machines around me begin to sing.

“His heart rates rising rapidly.”

Heads swivel to screens I can’t see. Must be a good sign.

I push as hard as I can. If I could grit my teeth and scrunch my eyes shut I would for all the good it would do.

“EEG is spiking. It’s working.”

“John? Can you hear us? John?”

They’re all staring at me now, expectant.

Oh, I can hear you alright.

My vision flickers and Trish gasps.

The doctor is staring down at me again, his voice excited.

“Mr Simmons, please blink again if you can hear us.”

It hurts like hell but I do it, my vision flickers and tension bleeds from the room.

“John! Oh God John.”

Trish wraps her arms around me, sobbing into my shrunken chest.

I keep on blinking through the pain and my eyes cry tears of blood.

But in the midst of all the agony, there’s joy.

Such sweet joy.


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