Sunday, February 19, 2012


I thought I'd try my hand at a short story...
I'll never forget my 21st birthday. A day that was set to be most ordinary turned into the most memorable, and puzzling day of my life so far. For it was the day that I was shot. Let me tell you the story.
I'd been away from home for a few years, doing my national service. Unexpectedly the army sent me home on leave the day before my 21st birthday.
I thought I should celebrate, but when I phoned around none of my old school friends were in town. So I had a quite celebratory breakfast with my parents, and that was my birthday.
It had been a tough tour, I was probably depressed, so 8:30 that evening I decided that I would simply go to bed.

But I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned. Sleep just didn't fall. After what seemed like an eternity I reached up, grabbed the dangling Victorian light cord, and switched on the bedroom light. The clock on the wall read 9:30. “Ah, I might as well get dressed and go to the pub” I thought. “I'll find someone to talk to.”

I found the pub unexpectedly crammed, full of people, strangers, shoulder to shoulder, beer to beer.

What's going on?” I shouted at the closest person to me. “Why are you all here?”
Conference. University.” he shouted back at me “Wonderful town!”

I waved my thanks at him and elbowed my way through that laughing happy crowd to the bar. The lone barman was struggling with the crowd, racing from customer to pump at the far end of the bar.
The clock behind the bar read 10:20. There'd be plenty of time for a few beers. As I waited for the barman to get to my end of the bar, I pulled a cigarette and out and lit it.
I was tapped on the shoulder: the woman next to me at the bar, blond and vibrant, asked “Can I have a light?”

Sure” I replied, and held my lighter up to her proffered cigarette. She put her hand on my shoulder to steady herself as she lit her cigarette. My 21st was suddenly looking up!

Are you part of the Conference?” I asked.
No, my husband and I moved here a few months ago” she shouted back.

At that moment there was a disturbance in the crowd to my left.

You!” a man popped through the crowd, shouting, angry, pointing at me: “You! You're the person who's sleeping with my wife!”
No!” I shouted back, quizzically. “You're wrong!”
I'm going to kill you!” As he made the threat, unbelievably, surreally, he pulled a gun out of his jacket and prodded my chest with it.

I felt the woman's hands digging into my shoulder.

No!” I shouted, now desperate. “You've got this all wrong. It's not what it seems!”

BANG! The bastard had pulled the trigger.

My first reaction was anger. A deep anger at what the stupidity of the whole thing.
But quickly the anger was washed away by a wave of pain. Pain at a scale that I have never felt before or since. It was as though someone had plunged their hand into my chest and pulled a large chunk of it out. Which, in a way, I guess they just had.
And with that wave came powerlessness. I was no longer in control. I was falling, not just physically to the floor, but far worse, the world was falling away from me. Reality was closing down, the light and screams at the end of a tunnel that I was being pulled back into.
The physical world around was gone long before my body hit the floor. All that I had was pain. Excruciating pain. And then that faded away, leaving me as nothing more than a speck of consciousness in a vast empty void.

I tried rationalising.

I'd been shot. I must have died. There was life after death! I was initially triumphant. There is life after death.
But no relative came to take me elsewhere. Just the unrelenting nothingness, that went on and on and on.
I suddenly knew that this must be hell. An eternity of nothingness. I ranted and raged. I didn't deserve this! But no one can hear you scream in a vacuum. Not even yourself.
I calmed down. I tried remembering scenes from my life, remembering people, songs, places. Anything that could occupy me.

Then the insanity hit. If there was nothing but my consciousness, then I could create things. Like hands. I don't know why, but I fixated on hands. I worked really hard on feeling what it would be like to have hands – and I had hands!
I put them together, feeling, treasuring, the sensation of them touching. They hungrily explored each other. They had arms attached. And the arms connected to a body. My body!

But there was a sheet over my body? Why?

I rationalised again. I must be in a hospital!
I lifted the sheet felt underneath, where the wound would be. There was no wound!

But I was blind?
I opened my eyes, and in that infinite darkness, touched my eyeballs. They were there!

I rationalised, yet again. When I fell, I must have hit my head and suffered brain damage. Now, many months later, I had come to, my wounds healed. But my ability to see had been destroyed by the brain damage!

Nurse” I shouted, “Nurse!” But no one came.

It must be night. It must be night, and the staff were sleeping. In a hospital, there must be an alarm bell, to call the staff.

I felt above my head. And there is was, hanging from a cord!
I pressed it. Light flooded the room. It was my bedroom. The clock on the wall read 10:30. 10 minutes ago I had been in a pub, lighting a cigarette.

You know, there are people who say that if you dream of dying, then you die. I have to disagree with them. For if they are correct then this world we stand in is one I constructed in my death.

Regardless, I have been shot. And yet am here to share the tale.

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