I opened my left eye first; my right one held out, permanently rooted down and refusing to see the astringent room. As soon as my body awoke, I felt a sharp pain and braced as it spread through me like a sea of fire. It slowly started dawning on me—where I was, and why—but before I could think, I pumped my PCA and felt my body relax back into the bed. The white sheets enveloped me and I drifted back to sleep.
I couldn’t have been out for longer than a few hours when I heard muzzled voices over the distinctive sound of the wound vac. They had come around to clean out what was left of my right leg, and I kept my eyes shut even though I was wide awake and in full panic. The stench of burning flesh traveled up to my nose and I was instinctively ashamed that my body had produced such a rot. In the past week, I’d been on Vicodin, Morphine, and Dilaudid, but no cocktail of narcotics took away the dull ache that I felt on both of my legs. I wasn’t sure anymore if I was imagining it, or if it had always felt like that. I pumped my PCA again.
When I did the balance exercises during physical therapy, there’d be moments that I’d forget what had happened. I’d feel my fleshy feet hit the ground as they always did, when I was young, when I played sports, when I was normal and whole, before the war. But when I looked down, I saw the metal contraptions that had replaced much of my legs and I chuckled to myself. The brain could play cruel tricks.
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