Between the Darkness and Light
Kelly was surrounded by gray, foggy silence. He could hear the occasional voice but was calmly disinterested. He thought that he was dead. That’s the only thing that made any sense.
What happened, he asked himself. Try as he might, he could not focus. Remember, he commanded himself but he simply could not.
A memory did come to him: trig identities from Dr. Johnson’s class. He tried to remember as many of them as he could before the darkness took him.
Was it a memory or a dream? He was riding his bike on a rough trail behind his friend. It was more the sort of trail that made the ride a long series of controlled crashes. Another friend berated him from behind to pick up the pace, slacker.
Someone was reading Tolkien in a friendly familiar voice. Oh good he though. One of my favorites.
He listened intently as The Fellowship of the Ring endured the long darkness of Moria and Gandalf fell into shadow while staring down a balrog at The Bridge of Khazad-dűm. Occasionally the voice reading the story would change.
After the disaster at the bridge, the Fellowship found respite in Lothlórien. Ah, Galadriel’s land he though as he drifted off to sleep. He wished that he could be there.
Kelly was aware of someone holding his hand. He heard a voice, young and sad. He tried to focus on it but the gray mist shrouds around him were like a thick, heavy May fog. It sounded like his brother Todd.
Kelly knew that Todd would take his death hard. He though of what a cool little brother he had. Pesky and annoying at times but he was a senior now. He had grown up in a lot of ways in the past couple of years.
He heard another voice that had to be his best friend Blake Tanner. Inwardly he smiled thinking of “Too-Tall” Blake. He was so awkward and clumsy when they were kids- all legs and arms it seemed. Now he was still tall but he had grown into a confident and poised young man.
Blake sounded bad. Hang on Kelly, he exhorted. Don’t you dare leave me slacker!
Only Blake called Kelly that. He silently wished that he could remember the punch line that went with the nickname.
Kelly’s Mom and Dad took turns staying in the room: reading, talking or just tuning the TV to Kelly’s favorite programs. Although Kelly loved them dearly, he didn’t like the way they sounded. Their sadness made Kelly sad. His mother Sara couldn’t hide the edge in her voice.
He knew that his big sister Jessie was there too. Even unconscious, he could still annoy her as he secretly relished the memory of every one of her shrieks and screams that one of his pranks would elicit. The frog stashed here, the white mouse in her dollhouse and that wonderful slime in a can. He wondered if they still made the stuff and made a mental note to get some more of it at his first opportunity. Pranking Jessie was just entirely too much fun.
He woke one afternoon to the sound of his friend Marcus Smith reading a passage from the Two Towers. King Theoden of Rohan had been delivered from Saruman’s evil minion Grima Wormtounge and was setting the defense of his kingdom.
Marcus would make a good Ward of the Riddermark. Honorable to a fault, trustworthy and could probably heft a lance with some power. He wasn’t bad on a mountain bike either- at least when he was paying attention.
Kelly and Marcus met by literally running into each other riding their BMX bikes on some wooded trails near their neighborhood. They both came around a blind turn and SMASH! They had seen all manner of stars because of the crash but got up laughing all the same. Kelly and Marcus were like that- always crashing into things and laughing about it.
After Marcus’s voice had finished reading, another one of his old friends picked up where he had left off. Hiro Ozawa’s voice reading Tolkien was the highest comedy. He had been a baby when his family had moved over from Japan but he still had a major accent that made Tolkien sound like anime.
After Hiro, it was Lisa Boyd’s turn to read. She was the big sister of Todd’s best friend Frank. Kelly had dated her occasionally. They were good friends but things were complicated. Lisa had made it clear that she wanted to be more than friends. She has a very pretty voice but it was very emotional like she was almost on the verge of tears.
Kelly drifted off into unconsciousness again.
When he became aware again he heard his Mom and Dad talking to what must have been a doctor. He told them that Kelly’s condition was dicey. Head trauma was very tricky. He could wake up now or next week- there was just no way to know. The Doctor said that all signs were steadily improving and that given his youth and vitality that he was cautiously optimistic.
He drifted off again. Doctors were boring anyway.
The next time he became aware, there were people and voices around him that were unfamiliar. They were having a friendly chat with his family. They spoke in low, hushed tones that were both respectful and sensitive.
Kelly was glad that someone was talking to his parents. He could easily sense how worried they were. The oldest of the Yates boys, Kelly was absolutely fearless on his bike. He could do tricks that would make his Mom faint. Of course he had paid the price learning them in pain and road rash.
He had a dream about the time that he had gotten caught in a sudden storm out riding on trails. He got soaking wet and worse, everything was so slippery that he crashed three times getting home. When he did finally get home, his Mom hosed him off in the yard before she let him back in the house.
Someone brought a jam-box into his room with some of his favorite tunes. They played his favorite Nirvana CD, then Pearl Jam, Korn and Tool. Not as loud as he would have liked but it was sure better than nothing.
That had to be Blake or maybe Marcus. Screw it, bless whoever did it.
Kelly wanted to fall off into his CD collection. He didn’t realize how much he listened to music until he missed it. In fact it was almost constant. In his car, on head phones riding his bike, while he was on his computer- all the time.
The next time he zoned back into consciousness, his friends were reading from the Two Towers again. He listened to the saga of the Battle for Helm’s Deep.
Ouch! Something stung his arm. There was someone hovering over him doing something- something that has caused pain. Come to think of it, that had been the only thing that he had felt since... when?
How long had he been here? He had no idea. Long enough for his friends to read at least half of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy out loud. A week? Maybe two? There was simply no way to tell unless he woke up to find out.
Something was in his mouth and he was choking on it. His body told him that he was choking but somehow he was getting air.
The Doctor’s voice was strong and reassuring. Kelly was off the respirator and breathing on his own. It was an excellent sign. He heard his Dad thank the Doctor and his Mom sobbed softly.
His friends were reading from the Two Towers again. The Ents were laying waste to Saruman’s stronghold of Isengard and Merry and Pippen were enjoying the spoils of the battlefield. He opened one of his eyes and saw Marcus reading and Hiro sitting beside him on a small sofa. The room was dim but there was a lamp behind them. They did not notice his brief foray into consciousness. It didn’t last too long and it made him very tired.
Kelly thought about Blake and their history together. He had been a very good friend for a long time. Considering how he felt about hospitals, his mere presence was proof of how good a friend he really was. Blake’s mother had died after a protracted fight with breast cancer when he was fourteen. It had been very hard on him. Kelly’s Mom Sara had been wonderful to him and had treated him as if he was one of her own.
Hiro had come into their circle when his family moved to Springfield during their sophomore year in high school. His Dad was a representative for a giant Japanese industrial combine that made everything from stereo receivers to dishwashers to heavy industrial machinery.
Not everybody appreciated Hiro. He was so smart that it was scary. In high school a lot of kids hated him for blowing all the grading curves in math. Kelly and Marcus just weren’t that type. Rather than alienating Hiro, they gathered him into their small circle of friends where they benefited greatly from his inclusion in their study group- and found that he was a stand up guy despite the cultural differences.
He went back to sleep.
Blake’s voice stirred him to consciousness. He didn’t like the tone of it. Kelly knew that his old friend was tired, stressed out and sounding frazzled. He was sitting in a chair close to the bed and he was talking in a low voice.
Kelly couldn’t really understand what his friend was saying but he knew that his friend sounded exhausted. He opened his eyes and saw him sitting beside the bed slumped over in a chair looking down with his elbows on his knees with his hands on the rail of the bed.
Kelly wanted to speak to him but his mouth was too dry and his throat hurt. He told his hand to touch Blake’s hand and miracle- finally something worked.
Blake looked up and saw Kelly with his eyes open and trying to smile.
He grabbed Kelly’s hand and said, “’Bout damned time you woke up Slacker.” He then punched the nurses call button and said, “I think you might want to send someone down here. Kelly Yates is awake.”
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