Decamot inspired by the following items: unknown figure, director, parachutist, Scandanavia, hospital, table salt, clock, door stop, skylight, a rake He saw it. It was an average day. Average rain drumming on the roof of an average car with average people inside. There was nothing remotely out of the ordinary about the rain pelting the window of the black, well-worn car. He saw it. “Isaiah, could you turn that music down? We can hear it from the front.” His mum poked her head round the seat head, her wan smile hiding her not-so-secret hatred of her son’s music taste. Really, Isaiah, what kind of band calls themselves that? You’ve got that music on awfully loud, Isaiah. Please, Isaiah, don’t argue back! He saw it. Isaiah slid the volume down a fraction of an inch and leaned his head against the cold, smooth glass of the window as an old Beatles song started playing. He caught his dad’s eye in the rear view mirror and a smile tugged the corner of his lips. His dad always had his back, even when Isaiah was blatantly wrong. He stared out the window without seeing anything, letting the music wash him away like the tide. He saw it. Isaiah didn’t see a lot of things. He didn’t see why girls lost their minds over Justin Bieber. He didn’t see why his friends turned up their noses at 80s music. He didn’t see the appeal of showing up at a stranger’s party, drinking a regrettable amount of booze and waking up with the feeling of your brain being extracted through your eye sockets. But he did see the lorry a split second before it smashed into his car. * Isaiah’s head felt strange. As a matter of fact, his whole body did. It was as though his skin had hardened into some sort of case – he couldn’t move a muscle. Weird. He squeezed his eyes to try and get rid of the feeling glue sealing them shut. Tentatively, he peeked through his lashes. The first thing he saw was the clock. Plain and simple, it hung gloomily on the wall and started monotonously back at him, as if waiting for some sort of grand revelation. Isaiah frowned at the clock and someone touched his wrist. “Isaiah?” The voice that spoke sounded like cheap praline – sweet, brittle and distrustful. It belonged to a stranger, and Isaiah realised, for the first time, that he had no idea where he was. He craned his neck and, shakily lifted his head up and cast his eyes around the room. The bed he was on was covered in a soft white blanket that was too small to be classed as a duvet. White seemed to be the colour scheme for the entire room; the floor was a mass of white tiles littered with black and grey scuffs and scratches. The door sat diagonally to Isaiah’s right and was propped open with a splintering door stop, and the window on the wall beside him was encased in a white plastic frame. Rain was spattering it pitifully, as if it couldn’t gather enough energy to rain properly. It was a hospital. The voice appeared to have come from a doctor who seemed to desire to blend into the room as much as the clock. On top of his blading head was a cloud of hair that looked too grey to belong on his head. Perhaps the stress of his job had caused all the colour to leak out at an early age. He wore very light blue trousers and top and a white overcoat. He looked exactly as one would expect a doctor to look and for this reason Isaiah did not trust him. Nothing in reality was ever what was expected – everything had flaws. The doctor’s face twisted into what Isaiah assumed was supposed to be a comforting smile, but it only served to make him look exceedingly uncomfortable. He sat down in a rickety plastic chair by the side of the bed that looked as though a good gust of wind would demolish it. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. It was the kind of position adopted before the breaking of bad news, the kind of news that could destroy someone. “Mr Newman, I know you must be feeling a little confused right now, but everything is going to be OK”. Isaiah fought the urge to roll his eyes at the cliché used in every hospital scene in almost every film in existence. “You were involved in a car accident. There’s no lasting damage – a broken leg, three fractured ribs, a broken arm, a sprained wrist and some severe bruising around your torso. You’ll need to -“ Isaiah remembered. The lorry. Broken glass. Sirens. His parents. “Where are they?” He demanded. His voice sounded like it hadn’t been used in years. “My parents!” “Mr Newman, your condition is not entirely stable – the last thing your body needs is stress -” Isaiah opened his mouth to protest but all that escaped was a broken sob. Raw, paranoiac fear swallowed him whole. He felt as though his brain was unravelling. Snapshots of the accident flashed in front of him. Nausea rolled through his stomach, as powerful as tsunamis. Questions bounced around his mind but he seemed unable to voice any of them. What happened? Where were his parents? How long had he been there for? Were his parents okay? What if they weren’t? The doctor seemed to sense his state of mind and studied him carefully. His eyes seemed almost mechanical – like some unknown figure was trapped inside, analysing Isaiah’s every move. He blinked wearily and sat back, crossing his legs. “Mr Newman, I need you to take some deep breaths and calm down. Your heart rate is far too high to sustain consciousness and you need to recover. Once you’ve calmed down, I will tell you the answers to your questions.” His perfect English was marred by the faintest trace of a European accent, but Isaiah couldn’t place it. Greek? Italian? Austrian? Isaiah closed his eyes and focused on not vomiting. In through the nose, out through the mouth. That’s what his mum used to say when he was little after a nightmare. In…out. Slowly, the frantic beeping calmed, although it only just masked the panic that had settled in Isaiah’s stomach. The doctor looked at him again with that analytical gaze. He sighed heavily. “Mr Newman, your parents are in the hospital and recovering. Your mother is doing well – she, of all three of you, sustained the mildest injuries. She’ll visit you until your leg heals, which should only take three weeks.” Isaiah interrupted. “I thought badly broken legs took three months to heal.” “They do.” The doctor smoothly replied. “You’ve been in a medically induced coma for six weeks.” Jesus. The doctor continued. “You don’t appear to have any serious head injuries, but you’ll be staying here until you fully recover, just to check. It was a nasty accident. You were very lucky.” His eyes twitched. Isaiah wondered if his eye always twitched when he lied, or if it was just a coincidence, because there was no way in hell Isaiah felt ‘lucky’. He felt…numb. The doctor shot him a wan smile that looked as brittle as his chair and stood up. “The nurses will do routine checks on you. The next one should be in about an hour and a half. Unfortunately, you’ll have to be fed by the nurses since neither your arm nor your wrist is strong enough to do so yourself. You may experience pain in your leg, but it’s nothing to worry about. The nurses will administer a painkiller if it gets too strong. Get some rest.” The doctor turned his back and began to amble towards the door. “Wait!” Isaiah called. “You haven’t told me where my dad is.” The doctor froze in the doorway. Silence covered the small room like a coat, thick and oppressive. Robotically, he turned back to face Isaiah and walked back through the door. He did not sit back down. “Mr Newman, your father was driving the car and so sustained the worst injuries of the three of you. He was unconscious when the ambulance arrived at the scene of the crash and,” he paused, “he has not woken up.” Isaiah swallowed. The silence continued to stifle him. He couldn’t breathe. “So when will he wake up?” The doctor looked at Isaiah. His voice was quiet and gentle, as if trying to detract some amount of pain from his next sentence. “We don’t know if he will.” When he was seven, Isaiah had tried to climb to the top of the tree that was rooted just beyond his garden. His foot had slipped just at the peak and he had fallen down, down, down. The impact of the landing had knocked the breath out of him and he had just laid there, paralysed, unable to move or breathe or comprehend was had happened. That sensation was incredibly similar to what Isaiah was experiencing now. The sentence stabbed him like a rake, its prongs leaving a throbbing pain in his chest and an aching grief in his belly. “I think I’ll get some rest now.” Somehow, the words peeped out his mouth and left a sour taste on his tongue. The doctor nodded and silently slipped out the room. Isaiah waited until the door was closed before he let the tears slide down his face. * Days and days passed without meaning. Isaiah felt empty. Hollow. Nothing made sense anymore. Occasionally, he registered things the nurses told him, but only snippets and snapshots of monologues they would feed him to make him feel better. “You’re doing very well, Mr Newman. Your mother will be visiting today, Mr Newman. Would you like anything else, Mr Newman?” Yes. My dad. “No”. Faces, meals, machines all blurred into each other. The only thing Isaiah ever enjoyed was his mother’s visits. She would come down every day and Isaiah was relieved beyond words to see that other than a broken arm and some cuts and bruises, she seemed relatively unscathed. On the outside, anyway. She refused to talk his dad. Every visit, Isaiah would ask desperately, “How is he?” but the reply was always the same, and always delivered with an acidic edge that told Isaiah not to ask again. “The same.” Time dripped on, and took a little more hope each time it did. Isaiah had heard people talk about personal loss in the news before. How it was like losing a part of your heart or your soul, but Isaiah didn’t feel like that. It wasn’t like losing his soul, it was like losing a limb. He was unbalanced. He couldn’t function properly. He needed his dad. He couldn’t imagine life without his dad’s terrible jokes. His even worse dancing. His glasses that always sat slightly wonkily on his nose. His sarcastic remarks about the state of the British government, or the state the American government would be in if Donald Trump won. The thought of living without those things was a cold embrace, it’s thin, knotted arms snaking through Isaiah’s veins and absorbing any happiness or hope inside of him. He couldn’t believe this was real. Maybe it was some sick joke. Or the universe just hated him. Perhaps he was a serial killer in a past life and karma was catching up with him. Don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about it. Do. Not. Think. About. It. The doctor with white hair visited every three days or so. Isaiah had grown to like him, although maybe it was just the bleakness of the hospital making him desperate to find a friend. The accent was neither Greek nor Italian nor Austrian. Born in Scandinavia, the doctor had grown up with very high-class parents whose massive wealth had been only surpassed by the horror at their son’s dream of becoming a parachutist. Isaiah had never met a parachutist, but he certainly could not picture this man floating in the sky for a living. It was like eating marmite and ice cream. They just did not belong together. It made Isaiah’s dream of being a director seem bland and ordinary. Today was like every other in the hospital. Isaiah’s leg had healed, finally, and his chest no longer burned acidly when he inhaled but there was one thing that he wanted more desperately than any of that. He wanted to see his dad. Suddenly, a loud clattering echoed from the hall outside the hospital room and someone swore loudly. A few moments later, the doctor appeared with his ribs clutched between his hands. “Bloody nurses.” He muttered darkly as he entered the room. “Nearly broke my ribs”. His frown melted into another of his fragile smiles and he ambled over to Isaiah’s bed. When he spoke, it was gently, as though to a child. “Mr Newman, we believe the time has arrived for you to visit your father.” Isaiah choked on his water. “Really?” He wheezed. “Seriously?” The doctor nodded. Isaiah launched himself out of bed and threw his arms around the small man. Wow. Guess he really was desperate for a friend. “OW!” The doctor yelped and hopped back, massaging his side. “Sorry!” Isaiah felt like the sun had risen for the first time since the accident. The doctor studied Isaiah carefully and sighed heavily. “Mr Newman, this visit does not mean your father’s condition is improving. We still have no indication as to when…or even if…he will wake up. And even if he does, there is a chance of extensive brain damage. I don’t mean to discourage you but…just don’t get your hopes too high.” Isaiah swallowed, although it was with difficulty given the large lump now wedged in his throat. His sun had now slunk behind a cloud, never to appear again. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and the doctor guided him us three floors to the top floor of the hospital: Intensive Care. Isaiah did not like the sound of that at all. The journey from Isaiah’s wing to his father’s was probably about seven minutes, but to Isaiah it felt like an eternity. He hadn’t seen his dad in so long, it almost ached to think about him. “Just through this door”. The doctor pointed towards a grey door that was closed shut. Isaiah stopped dead. His heart was beating a drum roll in his ears. His head was pounding. His legs were numb. What would his dad look like? Would he be unblemished, free from any scars of what had happened? Would he look like a sleeping zombie, his skin more purple and blue than flesh coloured? “Mr Newman?” Isaiah inhaled deeply through his mouth. He pushed them door open. His heart stopped. Lying on the bed was his dad, but at the same time not his dad. Wires snaked around and out of the body, attached to various machines that had names that Isaiah didn’t understand. There were no casts or bandages or blood. The glasses were clean but cracked beyond repair, lying on a stand beside the bed. The body was like a plank. The arms were straight, the hands facing down. The face was not his dad’s. It was white, stiff, cold. These were not the arms that held Isaiah when he was younger, these were not the hands that squeezed Isaiah’s when he was on the brink of crying and this was not the face that had glanced at Isaiah’s in the car. This was not his dad. It was a shell of him. A plastic copy. Soulless. * The desperation that had hung around Isaiah like a bad smell had given way to a blanket of depression. Isaiah didn’t want to eat. He didn’t want to listen to music. He didn’t want to talk. He just lay and stared at the ceiling, his mind taking him miles away. He refused every opportunity to visit his dad. He couldn’t. The man lying on the bed didn’t feel like his dad. Grief ached in Isaiah’s belly, as painful as though he had already lost his dad. Every day, the nurses urged him to go to his dad, sit with him, hold his hand, talk to him. Isaiah knew he was being selfish. The thought of his mother sitting there every day, isolated in a terrible blend of grief and hope, haunted him. But he just couldn’t do it. Whenever he closed his eyes, images of wires and bloodless hands flashed in his mind, and there were frequent nights when Isaiah had woken up, sweating, and had vomited violently. Nine days had passed since the visit. Isaiah longed for the outside world. The bubble of the hospital was quickly becoming suffocating. He wanted to see his friends, to play football, hell, even school seemed like a glorious prospect at this point. The idea of walls and floors that weren’t white even cheered him. Isaiah’s thoughts were interrupted by a small hand on his shoulder. He jumped, whacking his elbow against the railing of the bed. “Sorry.” His mother murmured. She fidgeted on the spot. “The doctors think we can go home. We’re both well recovered and with your father being…well,” she swallowed, and Isaiah prayed she wasn’t on the verge of tears, “the, uh, doctors don’t think any change will arrive soon.” Isaiah’s heart soared. Home! TV! Food that didn’t look as though it had already been eaten! He could have cartwheeled all the way back to his house, but reigned in his excitement for the sake of his mum. He managed to suppress a Cheshire cat grin and said simply, “I’d really like that Mum.” Her response with a small but genuine smile. It was the first real smile Isaiah had seen for almost three months and washed through him with warmth, a sensation that he had forgotten. “There’s one condition.” Isaiah’s smile faded a little. “Visit your dad before we go. Today.” Isaiah opened his mouth to protest. “Mum, I-” “Do it, Isaiah.” The icy tone of her voice warned Isaiah not to ask again. He closed his mouth and his protest bubbled back down his throat. Meekly, he nodded. His mum smiled again, although it was the smile brittle smile he had been receiving since the accident. * Isaiah felt sick. He was leaning against the wall by the door to his dad’s room. He felt all feeling sap out of his limbs. Breathe. In through the nose…out through the mouth. Don’t vomit. Don’t faint. Breathe. It’s your dad. Your own dad! Breathe. He braced himself. He walked in. Wires. Machines. Hands. Cold. Isaiah took a few shaky steps and slowly sat down in a chair next to his dad. What was he supposed to do? “Hey. Um, this is weird. Like something out of Casualty or one of those crappy shows Mum likes.” Isaiah let out a short, choked laugh. “Remember when we used to sneak up on her as she was watching them and yell in her ear? There was that one time when she spilt an entire pot of table salt on her and she ruined that shirt. She was so mad at us she didn’t speak to us for a week. You bought her three new ones to make up for it.” The laugh that escaped this time was genuine and full. Isaiah reached out a hand, fingers trembling, and laid it on top of his dads. It was the first time he had recognised it. Blinding light suddenly poured into the window. Isaiah glanced up and noticed a skylight in his dad’s room. He never noticed that before. The sun had glided out behind a mass of clouds, although the tears that were hanging on the edge of his eyelashes had nothing to do with the luminous rays pooling in the room. “You were always that guy. You got me out of stuff. You probably can’t even hear me, but, um…I miss you”. Isaiah cleared his throat to try and swallow back his tears. “I really miss you”. Isaiah squeezed his dad’s hand. Isaiah stood up. Then he stopped dead. Because his father was squeezing back.