It’s now day fourteen of this new life and I was here in the hospital for ten days before I even knew I was here, or anywhere. For me it was a not so good shot, a run back to midfield, a kick-out by the goalkeeper, seeing the girl with the orange-yellow hair, a kind of dizziness, seeing two of everything, and then the strange smell of the hospital. To me it was a series of events, just one odd procession. To everyone else it was chaos and shock and worry and will he pull through or not and how could a thing like this happen? But I missed that. Dad Person was with me all the time here in the hospital. There was nothing he could do about the passing of Dear Departed Mother, though I know he doesn’t always believe that, and, to be honest, there was nothing much he could do about me. But he was going to try. If death came to take me it was going to have to get past Dad Person and that was going to be some fight. Boyish Girl and Girlish Boy were here too, of course, and had to be told to go home, and had to be told often. There’s no getting away from those two and I think that if I had died they might have tried to jump in the grave with me. Boyish Girl would never admit that, of course, she’s all blowing and tut-tutting and dismissing any attention and concern as fuss. Girlish Boy has no problem admitting it.

That was four days ago, the waking up in hospital. I would have come around sooner naturally, like on my own steam; but they kept me down to give me the best chance to survive as myself. The risk in something like this is surviving with pieces broken or missing and waking up as somebody else altogether. That must be weird for all involved and I know I am lucky to come back as me. Not that I’m a splendid fellow and that it would be a shame to lose me or change me or anything like that; I don’t mean it that way. But I still know who I am and I remember the things that make me. There are some changes though; an attack like that leaves damage. But that, according to the doctors and nurses, is normal. Normal? I guess I will have to get used to a new normal.

But there is one change that is not normal. At least, I think it is not normal. Nobody has mentioned it; not the doctors and not the nurses and not the therapist. And I haven’t mentioned it to them. Well, I did tell one of the nurses about the weird stuff but she said it was nothing, that it was probably the drugs and the shock. And she said it would pass. But it hasn’t.

Day 15

Mr Daniel Bradley is beside my bed and listening. He is a tall, stooped, angular cardiologist with a bony face and a pointy nose. He stands with a leaning slant, with his left shoulder lower than his right. He could do with putting on a few kilos; a little flesh would hide some of the bones. Dr Mavis Davis is reading my charts. She is a mousey-blonde with chubby fingers and she moves with a bit of a plod. It is fifteen days since the big event and they tell me I’m doing well ‘considering’ and they ask if I have any questions.

‘Why is the sky blue?’ I ask.

‘Mr Bradley is a busy man, Kyle,’ Dr Davis rebukes with a sharp look and flicking her tongue off the top of her meaty mouth.

‘It isn’t blue at all, my young friend,’ the big bony face answers. ‘It is just a scattering of light. More than other colours, blue scatters across the air molecules because it has a shorter wavelength.’

‘Good man, Doctor Dan,’ I tell him. ‘So you’re not just a pretty face. But if that is so,’ I ask, pushing on now I have him on the ropes, ‘then why is the sun yellow?’

‘It’s just yellow because it’s yellow,’ Dr Mavis Davis snaps with a shake of her head. Her name isn’t really Mavis, that’s just my addition. Her real name is Dr Darcell Davis. Like what? Darcell? But, Mavis works better, so I go with that.

‘Well, Mavis,’ I ask her, ‘is it? Or is it actually white? Or what’s going on? Is it all codology or what?’

But she just shakes her head again and ushers Dr Dan from the room.

‘And it’s Mister Bradley and Doctor Davis,’ Mavis Davis says turning back. ‘You may be unwell, Kyle, but that is no excuse for insolence.’

I give her my best frightened-face look, grab the sheets and pull them to my chin. She gives another shake of that not so pretty head and stamps away off.

‘There she blows,’ I call after her.

Day 16

I have the dream again. I think it’s a dream. No, that’s not true, as I’m not sure if it is a dream. It’s hard to explain what I mean. Like, I know it is a dream as I was asleep and I remembered it when I woke up; but I’m not sure if the dream is made up of dream stuff, the way some dreams are, or if is made up of memory stuff, the way other dreams are. And, also, I don’t usually remember my dreams beyond the first minute after waking up. But this one I remember; and I remember it because I think it is true, like it really happened. And the dream is that I was dead. Hey, I know that I was dead, like really dead, like it did happen and that’s why I’m here in hospital. But in the dream I am dead and I know that I’m dead and yet I am aware of it and I’m still there, not there as in here in an Earthly alive kind of way, but there as in elsewhere, like that I still exist but different. And I think it might be real, I think the being dead part is coming back, but only in my sleep. Weird or what? But I’m saying nothing until I get it figured out.

Day 17

I can now walk. Not long treks or anything like that, no mountaineering or cross-continental escapades, but I can walk around the hospital. It’s a big deal, apparently; and I am being congratulated by the staff here. Who would have thought that I would win praise for a slow fifty metres saunter down a bleached corridor? But there’s one of the changes straight there. And I’m answering the questions correctly; again, apparently, that’s a thing worthy of great praise. Again, who would have believed that it would be such a big thing for me to know my name, and where I live, and who my family are, and where I go to school, and lots of simple stuff? The family question isn’t difficult in any case; it’s just me and Dad Person.

Day 19

Dr Dan and Mavis Davis are above me doing their thing. He is prompting and she is reading my charts.

‘Any questions?’ he asks, turning to me with that bony face.

I give Mavis Davis a quick smile before I ask. ‘Where does sound go Doctor Dan? Like, I mean, does it keep going on forever and ever and ever, travelling out into the infinite? Or does it falter and weaken and fall? Does gravity get a hold of it and pull it down? Gravity is a tricky thing. Is there some alien campfire out there where the gathered are puffing weed and having a singsong to Bowie’s Hunky Dory, or is sound hauled down to a silent buried nothing?’

‘Well, Kyle, science tells us sound doesn’t travel through space. And, anyway, sound waves attenuate, that is they weaken and diminish until they are nothing at all.’

Attenuate,’ I say to him. ‘That’s mad fancy. But are you sure?’

‘Yes. Well, that’s what they say. But who knows anything? So I’m going with a couple of kooks around that campfire,’ he says as Mavis Davis shuffles him out the door.

‘You’re the man, Doctor Dan,’ I call after him.

Mark Mulholland

Mark Mulholland is not from the USA or the UK or even Australia or anywhere snazzy like that. Mark, through no fault of his own, was born and raised in Ireland. However, when fifteen, as luck would have it, he underwent a stroke of genius and left schooling to linger around a second-hand book store. By further miraculous intervention he slipped his way into local employment and with his small earnings bought books by their cover or title or by some indefinable inclination. The whole world was to be found in that book store, he says, and everything a boy needed to learn could be learned there. He has been educated in this way ever since.
Mark writes about light, gravity, God, purpose, belief, behaviour, death, good, bad, all the goofy stuff, and he comes at these questions from odd angles. Because what Mark eventually figured out is that nobody knows anything about everything. So he might as well have a go at it.
Mark is the author of the acclaimed novel A Mad and Wonderful Thing and his short fiction has been published in the USA, Ireland, and the UK. He has been shortlisted for the Dorset Fiction Award. He lives in rural France.