Falling… Drifting… Endless… Wind rushing past… A cold, icy sting in the air… Nothing but darkness… The howling drone… Unrelenting… An infinite void… Never ending… Eyes open to a spiralling blind oblivion… A constant piercing whistle … Senses engulfed in pain and discomfort all at once… A huge pair of arms catch me… Two balls of light hover dead ahead… Blackness blends into the shimmering outlines… Tightens… Crushing… The agony... The excruciating agony!
“No! Goddamn it, no!”
His outcry faded as he found himself sitting upright, supported by two outstretched arms on the bedsheet. A bead of perspiration rolled down the side of his face. To his left, the first traces of a crimson morning sky illuminated the room and cast pale shadows upon the wall. His jaw hung open, listening out for that familiar voice call out his name. "Mama? You there, mama?” he muttered aloud.
The lacquered wooden door opened inward and a fair-haired, petite girl no more than thirty, sauntered in. The purple bathrobe clung to her damp body as she made for the dressing table opposite their bed. ”Did you say anything? I thought I heard you shout something as I stepped out of the shower.”
James looked over his shoulder and saw the silhouette of a round sweat patch imprinted upon the pillow where his head lay. Reaching out a hand to feel at the soft indentation, it was already cold to the touch. ”Nothing, darling.” He replied, squinting back at her whilst attempting to rub the sleep away from his eyes. ”Just another god awful dream, that's all. Well, nightmare would be more appropriate.”
Dolores wrung out the last remaining droplets from her hair using a tasselled white towel and squinted at him through the dim light. ”You alright, honey? You look like you just saw a ghost.”
”Maybe I did.” His voice was groggy and hoarse, but James continued before she could respond. ”I just wanna get today over and done with. I’ve had over four months to prepare but still feel I'm no way even near to being ready yet.” He passed a finger over the nape of his neck and felt the rough, uneven scar tissue of an incision made long ago. A tiny flap of residual skin bend to one side under the pressure.
”It’s gonna be fine, James.” She reassured. ”Painless and an extremely productive experience overall. For the both of us.” She pulled a blow dryer from the table drawer whilst simultaneously searching for an available plug near her feet.
”I guess so.” He said, climbing out of bed with a feeble groan. ”Are you all done with the bathroom yet?”
She replied with a sudden roar of hot air bellowing out from behind him. James rolled his eyes as he left the room.
Dolores spent the next half hour preening and prepping before making her way down the stairs and into the kitchen. James was already sitting at the dinner table, munching on a buttered slice of toast. ”There you go.” He motioned towards another plate with the same contents. ”Thought you might fancy some too.”
”Oh, you’re a sweetheart.” she said, smiling at his thoughtful gesture. ”Makes a change from the usual bland cornflakes and milk, right?” She poured them both a glass of filtered water from a jug in the fridge. ”So my hubby’s gonna be a busy little bee today. Am I right?” She glanced over and noticed a subtle shake of his head. ”I saw that, James. Come on, cheer up now. It won’t be half as bad as you think it will. The clinic opens in the next couple of hours, OK?”
”I know when the damn place opens!” He snapped back. ”I’ve read enough online articles and journals to start up my own practice by now.”
Doloroes placed the jug down on the counter and turned to him. Her furious scowl undermined most of his frustrations in an instant. She took a sip of water before letting loose. ”Is our marriage of any importance to you, James?” He continued to stare at her without saying a word. ”You just gonna sit there gawping at me like that? You've been promising to get this over and done with for about a year now and it took “me” to book you an appointment with that nice Dr. Gray. Why do I feel I’ve got to do everything for you, James? I’m following the path you and I agreed to before getting married was even on the agenda so the least you could do is work with me a little here!”
James shifted his gaze over to the meshed kitchen window and bit at his lip. ”Look, Dolores. I took a day off work to go to Digital Realities later this morning. During my time at O' Brian's, that's something I haven’t done in over three years now, with the exception of my holiday’s owed.” He turned back to Dolores looking calm and composed. ”I wouldn’t have done that if I wasn’t serious now, would I? Can’t you see I’m nervous. Scared of what I might see. Things I wanted to forget but will be reminded of as clearly as you stand in front of me right now. I’m 36 years old and have gone through so much in my life.” He tapped his fingertips upon the shallow recess of his temple. ”So much information all tucked away up there. Most of it cluttering up my subconscious, thrown into some dark abyss never to be remembered again. And now, Dolores… And now…”
”And now you have me.” She interrupted and hurried over to him. ”Darling, we share over six glorious years of memories together. I apologise for what I said earlier. You got me frustrated but I didn’t mean any of it. It’s just… I know this is such a great opportunity. We can hold on to so many of those precious memories forever and view them anytime we want. Grow old with them. Show them to our children. Think about it. Our marriage day, the time you proposed to me out in the middle of the city square. Our first date together. You and only you have access to everything I hold dear in our relationship, James.” He watched her eyes glazed over, about to spill themselves down her smooth, willowy cheeks. ”It’ll be fine, James. We’ve talked on more than a few occasions with Dr. Gray. You’re in good hands. He’ll take care of you every step of the way.”
He looked down at the floor contemplating as she stroked the matted brown hair collapsing onto either side of his head. The tension upon his face was still evident. ”I know, honey. Believe me, I know. But… The last time I saw… My mother… Looking back at me and waving. Such love in her eyes. I miss her so much and don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over it. I don’t know if I can… face reliving that scene all over again. Like, what it’ll do to me inside.”
Dolores cupped his face with a hand and locked her sights on him, wiping away at his one, solitary tear. ”I know it will be hard, my love. You were only fourteen at the time. What a tender young age to go through such a tragic ordeal. But at the same time, you can’t let it hold you back for the rest of your life. Though it's now all the more provident that she decided to bestow you with such an amazing gift. This hidden ability most of your colleagues can only dream of possessing. If you find that seeing Debbie again will bring about any intense emotions afterwards, I’ll be there for you. Like I always am. I’ll always be there for you, James. You do know that, right?”
”I know, Dolores.” He responded. ”I’ve got to be strong and face up to my fears. I tend to forget I’ve even got these chips buried within the walls of my brain. How ironic, eh?”