Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Triangle: Excerpt #7

Excerpt #7 Copyright 2013
by Stephen Reid Andrews
All rights reserved in the author
Chapter 3

Four months later, I am lying in my old bedroom at my parents’ home in Freeport, Illinois. Although this is the home I grew up in, I don’t feel like I belong here.

Sports posters purchased when I was in middle school hang on the wall next to pictures of me at various high school dances. In most of the pictures, I am standing next to Jennifer. At the time those pictures were taken, Jennifer and I were planning to grow old together just like the typical couple that has been married sixty-five years after being high school sweethearts.

Baseball Trophies line a shelf above my bed and cover my dresser. The dresser drawers are still full of my high school wardrobe. From the state of the room, it is apparent that my mother was in no hurry to have me get married and leave the house. In fact, I am sure she wanted me to stay seventeen for the rest of my life.

I am unshaven and probably resemble a mountain man. For the past four months, I have not moved from my bed except to eat, go to the bathroom, take an occasional shower, go to my medical appointments, and, for a few hours each week, go jogging or lift weights on my old weight-lifting set in the basement. During this time, I have simply been unable to find any other reason to get out of bed – with Jennifer gone, there has been no purpose. I didn’t even get out of bed for more than an hour when I turned twenty-one two weeks ago.

If I had not been as embarrassed as I was the first time I tried to walk after my coma, I most likely would hold myself back from lifting weights or jogging. But, when I attempted to walk for the first time again, Trevor had to hold me up on one side, and my dad had to hold me up on the other. In the off chance I would ever go somewhere in public. I did not want to repeat this experience. I already feel helpless enough.

My family has continued to treat me like a ten year old, and I decided that I at least wanted to be treated like a ten year old that can walk. Because I have to travel to appointments with Dr. Jensen, I’m glad I decided to learn to walk again so my family doesn’t have to carry me to his office like an invalid.

Regardless of the progress I’ve made, if I could disappear, I would. The depression of Jennifer being gone has unfortunately, or fortunately, consumed me. Most of the time, I simply lay in bed looking up at the ceiling and hoping I’ll die.

I like to sleep because then I forget reality and dream about better things. I have had the same dream where Jennifer gives me the gift at least one time a week for the last month, which is every time I have had a seizure during that period. I think that my dreams are a result of my medication, but I like the dreams because they make it seem like I am actually with Jennifer. Even if I can’t talk to her or touch her, the dreams seem real enough that they bring me comfort.

Although the intensity of my seizures has been successfully tamed by the medication, I still seem to have my fair share of seizures. The seizures were annoying at first, but I’m getting used to them.

Physically, my seizures mostly consist of my muscles tensing up and losing control of my senses. The sensation is difficult to explain, but I feel like I am somehow in limbo between consciousness and unconsciousness – like I am zoned out. After a while, I’ll snap out of my zoned state without knowing exactly how much time has passed unless I looked at the clock right before the episode. I usually am only zoned out five to ten minutes on average.

My family says that when I have a medicated seizure, I freeze up and stare straight ahead or my eyes glaze over like I’m a zombie. The first time it happened my mom rushed me to the hospital, but the seizure was long over by the time we got there. The staff told my mom it was normal and that, if I didn’t snap out of one of these episodes after more than ten minutes, she could worry. I am sure that I would be having more seizures if I actually left my room for more than just doctor visits and jogging.

For the first month after my coma, my seizure dreams – I call them seizure dreams because they feel different than my normal dreams – were all the same. Repeatedly, I had the dream where Jennifer was giving me the gift in the endless white room and telling me that I can’t waste time mourning for her.

After about a month of only having that dream, I had a dream where I was running on an empty street with a huge dark shadow pursuing me. Because I was out of shape from lying in my bed, the shadow would catch me every time. Before the shadow would reach me, I would be running towards a female jogger who seemed to get farther and farther ahead of me the more I tried to catch her. I have no idea who the female jogger was supposed to represent because I could not see any of her features, but before the figure would get too far from me and before the shadow pursuing me would inevitably consume me, I would be able to make out a series of numbers on her back: 5677999091.

Because I figured that the dream was a result of my subconscious letting me know I needed exercise, I decided to go running three or four times a week. I go out at four o’clock in the morning so no one sees me. The last thing I want is for old high school chums to think I am back from college to be their best friend.

To my relief, after three weeks of jogging, my dream about the shadow chasing me and about me following the girl with the number on her back was replaced by the dream with my wife and the gift, which is much better.

However, when I had a seizure two nights ago, my dream of Jennifer was replaced again. Only, this time it was swapped with the lame dream about the graveyard, the twenty-two headstones, and the man with the scar – the dream I had in the hospital four months ago. For the most part, the dream was exactly the same, but, when I got to the first of the nameless headstones, something different happened. As the dream concluded and just before I felt myself regaining consciousness, a name – clear as the names on the other headstones – was slowly etched into the stone’s surface. The name was Marjorie Dunnison.

Today I have a follow-up appointment in Chicago with Dr. Jensen. Depending on Traffic, Chicago is an approximately one hour and forty-five minute drive from my parents’ home in Freeport. Because my mom and dad are both working today, they asked my sixteen year old sister, Liz, to drive me to the appointment. This should be interesting as I imagine that it will take two hours longer to get there with my sister driving. I am not concerned though – I have nothing better to do.

Trevor is in Chicago for school and told my mom that he would meet us for lunch. I have one other brother, Jacob who is twelve. Jacob won’t be coming with us. Sadly, Jacob keeps asking my parents when I’ll be happy again, but I don’t have any aspiration to be happy.

Knowing that my mother will be pounding on my door in ten minutes like she did when I was trying to sleep as a young teenager, I sluggishly drag myself out of the double bed and rub my eyes while slouching my shoulders in defeat.

After pausing for a minute, I pull myself to my feet and open the top drawer of the dresser. Moving myself from drawer to drawer I dress myself in some of my high school clothes. Although the clothes are three years out of style, they still fit, and I don’t really care how I look.

I don’t know exactly what my family did with all the things I accumulated over the last two years of my life before the massacre. I think my father tried to explain to me once that my things were in a storage shed in Chicago, but, because too much of Jennifer’s stuff would also be there, I haven’t had the desire to ask for details or to make an effort to retrieve my things.

Money is not an issue for me because the life insurance policy Jennifer and I took out on each other several months before the shooting paid out almost two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money, but I would much rather have Jennifer alive than have the money.

So far, I’ve refused to spend any of the money because I feel guilty – like spending the money would be disrespectful to Jennifer. And besides, if my family is going to treat me like I am ten years old, I might as well have them provide for me like I am ten years old.

On cue, an abrupt knock comes at the door and startles me in my thoughts.

“Dave, are you ready to go?” my mom asks in a demanding voice. “Izzy is waiting for you in the car.” Izzy is what my mother calls my sister – her actual name is Elizabeth, and I usually call her Liz.

Not in the mood to argue with my mom today, I finish tying my tennis shoes, get up from the end of the bed where I was seated, and move to the door. I open the door just as my mom is about to give a second knock.

“Good morning sunshine. It’s good to see you today,” my mom says with a mocking tone, most likely calculated to inform me once again that she is not happy that I never come out of my room.

I ignore her and methodically head to the garage after grabbing my wallet from a small table stationed awkwardly in the hall.
This will be fun, I sarcastically think to myself as I make my way out into the garage and into the passenger side of the family sedan.

Kindle Giveaway! Remnant of the Beast

"Remnant of the Beast" is free on Kindle tomorrow. Remnant of the Beast is a great spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale (occurring two generations after). I've received a lot of positive feedback on it. So, check it out tomorrow!! And what's better? It's free.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A look at the Cover to Recoil

Subject to Change, here's a look at the cover for my next book.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Reid Andrews

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Triangle: Excerpt #6

Excerpt #6 Copyright 2013
by Stephen Reid Andrews
All rights reserved in the author

Chapter 2

Doctor Jensen is explaining my medical condition to me and my parents before he returns home for the night. My parents are seated to my side with my mother holding my hand as if I am a little child. Trevor is no longer in the room, most likely because he is trying to find something to eat.

“You seem to be doing fine, David. Since we increased your medication, we have seen no sign that you might have another seizure even when you were…excited,” Dr. Jensen says in a monotone voice. “We are going to keep you over the night to monitor you, but I would imagine you should be able to return home tomorrow.”

My mother looks at me with a smile that radiates her relief. “How long will he have seizures?” my mother asks, still acting as if I am a ten year old child for whom she is responsible to provide every need.

Though I am annoyed that my parents are treating me like a child, at the same time, I am relieved that my parents are providing Dr. Jensen with someone to talk to besides me as I am content to look out the window into the darkening night and sulk.

“Hard to say. He could suffer from episodes for the rest of his life.” Dr. Jensen puts his clipboard down and looks at me without showing emotion. “The bullet that struck you last year missed your Occipital Lobe by only a few millimeters. You’re a lucky young man David.”

Lucky? I think to myself. I am anything but lucky. I have lost my wife, and I have missed the last ten months of my life. Basically, I have nothing to live for. I would have been lucky if I would have died.

Despite my pessimism, it is pointless to say anything to Dr. Jensen as he doesn’t understand what I have lost.

Dr. Jensen continues, turning his look back to my parents. “I am confident that the dosage of medication we have prescribed for him will control his seizures. The seizures may not completely go away, but I believe we have sufficiently limited their intensity. I’ll schedule David for a checkup at my office in a week so we can see how he is doing.” Dr. Jensen instinctively looks down at my wrists.

The nurses took the straps off my arms, legs, and waist when I got emotional about my wife without having a seizure. I suppose Dr. Jensen must have believed I was stable enough to be released from my medical captivity.

“Do we have to be concerned with anything?” my mother asks without changing her tone towards me.

“Well, for the immediate future, at least until we can determine how severe his condition is and how well he will function out in the world, make sure he doesn’t sleep around any sharp-cornered furniture or loose objects that could hurt him if he has an episode.”

Great, I think. Twenty years old, and I won’t even be able to sleep without my mother coddling me. I wish Jennifer were here, and I wish I could see her. I wish that I could disappear with her and that she could take care of me.

“Oh, and of course,” Dr. Jensen continues, “don’t let him drive or operate any machinery.”

My mother and father nod their heads in agreement, but I feel like I am going to throw up.

“If you don’t need anything else from me tonight, I am going to head home,” Dr. Jensen concludes, speaking to my parents while turning to me. “David. We’re glad you’re finally back.” Dr. Jensen fakes some emotion for my benefit.

“Thank you, doctor,” My mother says as she looks to me and smiles. My mother certainly is not hiding the fact that she’s happy I’m alive and awake.

With my mother’s concluding words, Dr. Jensen nods his head and turns to walk out the door. I glance back to the window, staring blankly through the nearby trees and into the sky. My mother can sense my disinterest with living and rises from her seat. She moves closer to me still clutching my hand like only a loving mother can.

“David. I am so sorry about Jennifer. But…” she pauses, and I can tell that she is sincere in her feelings. “But, your dad and I, we are so glad you are with us again.”

Without responding, I watch the scenery through the window, wishing that I could escape. I am frustrated with my mother’s behavior towards me, but my inner depression prevents me from censuring her.

“We’ll take you back to Freeport tomorrow,” she says like she believes I would like to go home with them and that doing so will make everything better. “You can stay with us and get your feet under you.”

Because the last thing I want right now is to be babied by my mother at my childhood home, I respond, although I do so quietly and with indifference. “Thanks mom, but I think I’ll just go back to my home.”

Jennifer and I lived in a small townhome just outside Chicago in Woodridge, one of Chicago’s suburbs. Although I was attending the University of Chicago, we wanted to be as far away from the city as possible without making my commute more than forty minutes.

Disturbingly, at my request to return to my own home, my mother remains completely silent, and I realize there is more news that she was not looking forward to sharing with me. Concerned, I look from the window to my mother.

“Mom?” I whisper, feeling like I am going to cry again.

“David, I’m sorry. We sold your home,” she says somberly. “I’m sorry David,” she repeats making it obvious that she does not want to provide me any time to respond. “But, the doctors didn’t know if you would ever wake up, and your father and I couldn’t carry the mortgage.”

My mother looks back at my father, and he looks at me ashamed that he ever doubted that I would wake up.

With all of the bad news and all of the agony I’ve been experiencing today, I forgot that I had been asleep for the last ten months. I should have anticipated this news about my home, but I have been unable to convince myself that anything should be different than it was ten months ago. I keep expecting Jennifer to walk in the door and greet me with a loving hug and kiss. Unfortunately, I am gradually realizing that, of all my dreams, my past life is the most unattainable and unrealistic of them all.
      Instead of saying anything to my parents about the townhome – instead of telling them that I understand why they had to sell my home – I lay dejected. Maybe Dr. Jensen will let me stay in the hospital for a few more months. Maybe I can stare out this window at nothing for the rest of my existence.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Triangle: Excerpt #5

Excerpt #4 Copyright 2013
by Stephen Reid Andrews
All rights reserved in the author

Opening my eyes, I discover myself resting in the same hospital bed I woke up to after the dream of Jennifer in the white room.

My brother Trevor, looking older than I last saw him but similar to how I just saw him in my dream, is sitting across the room thumbing through a Sports Illustrated Magazine with LeBron James on the cover.

Trevor is wearing the exact clothes he was wearing in the dream. Wondering if I am still dreaming, I shake my head in disbelief. Confused, I also try to sit up, but I am unable to adjust my arms and legs because they are still strapped to the bed.

Suddenly, my brother looks up in the same manner in which he looked at me at the graveyard. I am definitely having one of those déjà vu moments.

Trevor promptly stands up and walks towards me with a half-smile on his face. “You gave me a scare there bro. We thought you might not wake up again.” With these words from Trevor I am certain I have lived this moment before.

Although I am puzzled and scared, the presence of my brother comforts me. “What happened?” I ask while still in a daze.

Trevor responds. “You had a seizure.”

“A seizure?” I question out loud. Since when do I have seizures? I think to myself.

“Yeah. I’m sure Dr. Jensen will be in to talk to you in just a minute. They’ve increased your dosage of Topamax, so, hopefully, your seizures will be under control,” Trevor explains as if having seizures is a normal part of everyone’s life.

I follow up with Trevor, trying to get as much information as possible. “Trevor, why am I having seizures, and how did you get so old?”

Awestruck, Trevor asks as he moves closer to me. “Don’t you remember?” He awkwardly leans over to examine me. “You were shot in the back of the head. The bullet barely missed ending your life, but it really messed you up.”

Casting my mind back, I remember the shooting, but I don’t remember being shot. I give Trevor a look to let him know that I am uncertain. “What do you mean?”

Trevor reaches out and touches my shoulder in an odd attempt to comfort me, an obvious look of concern on his face. “Dave, you’ve been asleep for ten months,” he says deliberately and cautiously but with conclusive intensity.

In complete disbelief, a pit of emotion swells in my chest. “What are you talking about?” I ask.

“You’ve been in a coma since the shooting.” He pauses for a moment apparently pondering the significance of his next words. “It’s been exactly ten months today since the shooting,” he says hesitantly as if he does not want to provide further information.

“Ten months,” I whisper as I close my eyes and put my head back on the uncomfortable pillow.

My mind rapidly files through all the lost time. I missed my twentieth birthday, I missed Jennifer’s twentieth birthday, I was supposed to start my junior year at the university, I have bills that are past due, debts to pay, and – I suddenly remember the headstone from my dream and think about my wife on the mall floor. Gruffly, I look at my brother with my eyes stretched as wide as they will open.

“Where’s Jennifer?!” I almost yell as every muscle in my body tightens and as I hope beyond hope that the dreams I’ve just had have nothing to do with reality.

My brother looks at me with an expression of unadulterated sadness. Somehow between my dreams, my memories, and the events of today, everything is coming together, and the tears form in my eyes before my brother can respond.

“Dave. I’m sorry. She didn’t make it,” he says as I see that he has tears in his eyes that mimic my own.

His look of despair does not comfort me at all, but I imagine he is unable to control his reaction.

“No!” I scream through sobs as I clench my fists.

Trevor moves a little closer to me with obvious concern. “David, calm down, or you might seize up again.”

Although the only person or thing I care about right now is Jennifer, at this statement from Trevor, I try to calm down because I don’t want to have another seizure, and I don’t want to have another dream. I simply want to cry.

Trevor is now sobbing almost as much as me. His sympathy for his older brother is admirable. He wraps his hands around my wrist and puts his head down. “Mom and Dad are on their way from Freeport, they should be here in just a few minutes. I was hoping they would be here to tell you. I’m so sorry David….I’m so sorry,” he concludes as the tears flow freely from both of us.

Dr. Jensen rushes into the room with one of the nurses – a different nurse this time – but I can hardly see him or the nurse through my tears.

“Is everything okay?” he asks as he enters the room. “Nurse Hansen heard a scream.”

Neither I nor my brother can respond immediately as we are both lost in our despondency. My brother, however, momentarily gathers himself enough to move away from the hospital bed and explain the situation to Dr. Jensen and the nurse.
I remain oblivious to their conversation. All I can do is think about Jennifer and what has happened to her. I want to wail at the thought of having been unable to save her – of having been next to her for her last breath – of not having the opportunity to hold her one more time.