I kept hearing it over and over.
“What is that? It's going to drive me crazy.”
“Why is it so dark? How long have I been like this?”
The next thing I heard was the beeping.
It was steady.
Incessantly, over and over and over again....and they were in rhythm.
After a while I realized the thumping was my heartbeat. “Can I open my eyes?”
I could and all I could see was white.
A white tile ceiling.
I moved my eyes to the left and I could see one of those monitors that checks your heart rate, pulse and oxygen. It was then that I realized the beeping was the monitor in time with my heart.
I was in a hospital.
I moved my eyes to the right. I could see a wooden door, with a pane of frosted glass, which led to the hallway. The standard art deco wallpaper with the matching framed boring pictures you see in every hospital.
Looking down my right side, I could see my wife, Angela, sitting in a chair, but slumped over the edge of the bed with her arms folded to hold her head up.
I tried to call her. I couldn't. I tried again. Nothing would come out. Maybe I had a tube in my throat. I tried to lift my hand and I couldn't. I tried to lift my other hand and I couldn't do that either. “What is going on?” I took a deep breath. It was enough to awaken Angela.
She rose out of her slumber quickly when she realized I was awake, standing over me and holding my face with both hands. "Baby? Are you ok?" I couldn't respond. She shook my shoulders some, but I couldn't respond. "Barry? Talk to me."
After a moment, Angela ran into the hall, yelling for a doctor. Moments later, a doctor, followed by a nurse close behind, began checking on me.
The doctor spoke first, "Mr. Collins, can you hear me?" All I could do was blink.
"Blood pressure and vitals are normal, doctor," the nurse said.
The doctor waved a small flashlight in my eyes. I followed it back and forth, back and forth.
Angela asked, "What's wrong with him? Why can't he talk or move?"
The doctor gave the nurse a quick gaze before speaking. "It's too early to tell without further testing, but I think, and this is not conclusive yet, but I think he's suffering from cerebromedullospinal disconnection." He turned to my wife, "In more common terms, he's locked in."
That didn't sound too good to me. In fact, it was frightening.
The doctor continued, "He was poisoned. A snake bite. I'm told he works at the zoo?"
"Yes," Angela agreed. "He's the head of the reptile department."
"I see. Apparently, according to witnesses, he was handling a species new to the zoo. Something called a krait. K-R-A-I-T. Rhymes with kite. It's part of the Bungarus family of snakes. Highly poisonous. He's very lucky, but paralysis is one of the symptoms."
The doctor turned back to me. "Mr. Collins, I believe you can hear me. Let's start slow. One blink for yes, two for no. Understand?"
I blinked once slowly.
"Very good," the doctor said. Angela breathed a slight sigh of relief. "We've started a regiment of cholinesterase inhibitors to help with the paralysis. Only time will tell, but you're very lucky, normally eighty per cent of people die at the first onset. You should congratulate your team for their quick response."
I gave a very slow blink in thanks. The doctor understood.
"Well, nurse. Let's give them some time, shall we." With that, he and the nurse left the room.
Angela reappeared in my eyesight. "Oh, honey. We'll get through this. Together."
"Do you remember what happened?"
I blinked twice.
"That's ok. You've been through a lot. It will take time."
I began to contemplate my situation. I was paralyzed. Not just from the neck down, but everything except my eyeballs. I'm trapped inside my own body. I don't want to live like this.
This situation could not be any worse.
Then it got worse.
At that moment, Kimiko burst into the room, hesitated with a shock when seeing me in the bed, then ran around Angela to the other side, grabbed my face and started kissing me all over, screaming "Akachan! Akachan!" which is Japanese for Baby.
Angela pushed her off. "Excuse me! I think you've got the wrong room."
Kimiko looked back and forth to Angela and me. To me she said, "Kore wa daredesuka, Bare-ree?"
Angela looked at me, "You know her? Do you know what she said?"
I did, she said, "Who is this?"
I couldn't blink. I thought my eyeballs would pop out of my head. I could only look back and forth between these two women.
Between my two wives.
Angela, on my right, the first woman I ever loved and Kimiko, the woman I fell in love with on my trip to Japan. I brought her back, placed her in an apartment a few counties over and set up shop. I never wore a wedding ring with Angela and I married Kimiko in Japan. I thought I was good. How did Kimiko find out I was here?
They both looked at me, but it was Angela that spoke. "You know her?"
"How do you know her?"
I could only look over at Kimiko, who was confused. She pointed at Angela and spoke in her broken English. "Who you?"
"Who am I?" Angela was taken aback. "Who are you?"
"Wife." Kimiko said.
"Yes, that's right."
Angela pointed to herself. "I'm his wife."
Kimiko pointed to herself. "Me wife. Bare-ree hus-band of Kimiko."
I closed my eyes.
Kimiko stroked my head, "I saw on Tee-Vee. On news. Say you bitten by snake."
That explains that. I opened my eyes.
Angela smacked her hand away. "Don't touch him."
"You go now, hussy. I here. Take care of Bare-ree."
"Trick, I will break you in half."
"I beat you down, stupid ho!"
Then it was on. What a fight it was. I thought I would only see something like this on TV. It must have lasted for three minutes. Punches, scratches, hair pulling. All I could do was watch.
Most of it. Sometimes they went out of my view.
Eventually, they got tired and both ended up in chairs opposite each other, breathing hard.
Angela held a hand up in negation. "Wait. Why are we fighting?" Then she pointed to me. "He did this to us." Both women turned to look at me with realization.
"Uh-oh," I said to myself.
They both got up, each taking a side of the bed. The evil look in their eyes was evidence of their intent.
"Yes, Barry. You did this to us."
"And Bare-ree, you gonna pay."
“Can I just die now?”
“Please, Lord. Just let me die.”