The second Claire woke up, she knew something was different. It wasn’t the constant steady beeping of the machines next to her bed, tubes snaking to her nose and wrist. It wasn’t the smell of disinfectant and coffee from the hallway outside the door (coffee? was there really coffee here?). And it wasn’t the starched feel of the sheets that lay loosely over her legs, not that she could feel them. No, Claire expected all of those.
What she didn’t expect was the light.
How Claire knew to look at the light that streamed through open institution-green curtains at the broad windows spanning one wall of the little white room, she didn’t know. But there it was. It wasn’t that it was more golden than before, or more pinkish, or even more blue. Light contains all those colors. A spectrum of colors. No, it was more the absence of color. Yeah, that was it. The light was….clear? How could that be.
The coffee smell got stronger. Claire remembered coffee, hot and bitter and milky-sweet, a gift and a punishment at the same time. Coffee meant mornings, and cars, and a desk in an office filled with clacking typewriter keys and ringing telephones. Coffee meant phone calls and memos and kicking off of shoes under the desk. Coffee meant regular, normal, before.
She never should have let them do it.
They said it was an experimental procedure. There weren’t any options, they said. It was either the surgery or…nothing. Literally nothing, as in Claire herself would be nothing if she didn’t agree to let them monkey around in her head. She had a good chance, they said (a good chance of what?). But still, experimental. So no one knew for sure.
Was it really the light?
Now she tasted coffee. Just the way he used to make it for her, so hot and so strong she had to douse the bitter fire with clouds of cream and what he always teased her as a whole tree’s worth of maple syrup. Coffee? Maybe it was the tube in her nose.
Was the light…moving?
The beeping slowed.
The light beckoned. So bright.