Flash Fiction Death and Dreaming by Carl Teegerstrom

I lay here, in my hospital bed, quietly, with each soft breath aching the feeble muscles left on my old withered body. Much has fled from me in these last few years; my strength, my health, my hearing, but the sight of my eyes and mind were the first to flee. My imagination once had been a fantastic realm that always welcomed the intrepid traveler. But now I can only take solace in remembering a series of small, disjointed details, and think back to old dreams that have been eroded by the tides of age with melancholy sighs. I became wise, but it brought me no peace because it pushed aside my dreams whose value I did not appreciate until I could no longer fully remember them. I used to keep a dream journal of my imagination’s sleep-drunk escapades, but I gradually forgot to record dreams because I did not have the time, then I couldn’t remember them, and finally I lost my dream journal. I lost my faith in dreams just as I had lost my faith in my sight, my hearing, my strength and my health, until I slept for the last time.

When the night fell and I could finally shift onto a cool spot of my sweaty, hot hospital sheets, and I closed my eyes. I opened my eyes when I felt a bump on my head. I stared into a dark, empty space, and I would have thought I died if it were not for the cold glass pressing against my throbbing forehead. I felt dreary, and my back was sore from sleeping in a cramped seat. I was on a bus, and apparently we just drove over a pothole in the road. Lights passed by the window through the dark night; the headlights of cars, trucks, streetlamps, and shop lights. They shot through my field of vision like yellow, shooting stars. I felt a buzzing on my side, followed by a distant, shrill ring, and I remembered that I was driving home from University. I pulled out my iPhone from my pocket and saw that my mom was calling me. I smiled because for a moment. I thought she had been dead for years, when in fact I was on a bus to see her. My heart grew heavy with the deep grief of my dream and the longing of my University days while I was studying in the musty shelves of the library. I looked out into the night speckled with the flickering of LED stars and briefly closed my eyes as tears started to well in the corners of my eyes. I looked back at my phone to open it and answer my mom’s call, but all I saw was a screen with vitals, each irregular, and the ringing that was so distant in the buzzing of my iPhone shrilled at a higher and higher pitch, blaring like an alarm. I looked away from the screen and saw a bright light.

I was back on the hospital bed, my weak muscles were pitifully convulsing as I heaved for breath. Doctors shouting at each other surrounded me. I couldn’t hear them and I could barely see them. I heaved and started grabbing the bed sheets; I could feel the rough fabric, partly drenched with sweat or crusted with dry puss and blood. I was sure I was in this bed, but I could still feel the cold press of the glass on my forehead, and the room seemed so dark, dotted with the dim lights of different lamps and lights, but those lights did not pass through my field of vision. I could remember my whole life leading to the bed where I lie; I could taste the ice cream of my home town, I could see the dorm of my college, I could feel the gold of the wedding band, and I could hear the first cries of my son, but I can still feel the phone buzzing in my hand despite the fact my hand was grabbing at the sheets. I felt a needle in my side, my muscles relaxed, and my eyelids started to close.

My eyes opened, and my head was resting on the table. My face was on its right side; wrinkled and warm from the uncomfortable friction of the laminated wood. I scanned the table and saw that my left hand was resting on The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy. I saw an old receipt near the end of the thin book. My breath became slower and slower. I could not raise my head to look about the room, which was dark and nebulous. I closed my eyes.

I opened my eyes, and I was back at the hospital. I looked at my left hand, and I could feel the paper of the book, but I could not see it. Everything became darker, and my body felt like it was being coated in a smooth fabric; thin that one wouldn’t notice but thick enough that one could not feel heat, cold or anything. My mind started to wander as my vitals beeped slower. Am I dreaming? Do I wake when I die? Is death waking from a dream you don’t remember? Was the me on the bus dead? Where will I be when my eyes close?

 

I lurched up from the table of the coffee. I checked my left hand and I saw my book; The Death of Ivan Ilyich, was still there, and my bookmark was still in the right place. I smiled when I felt that the coffee in my right hand was still warm. I had a busy week, and I should really get some more sleep.