The second my alarm went off this morning, I knew something was wrong. I felt that old feeling, the irrationally scared tension of anxiety creeping over me, its long, cold fingers wrapping slowly around my mind. Before I even swung my feet out of bed, before I had rubbed the sleep from my eyes, my heart was beating fast, already in the throes of a panic attack.
I placed my hands on my knees and tucked my chin down towards my chest and took some deep breaths. Closing my eyes to focus on my breathing with The Boss still sleeping under the covers next to me, I try to think about what could have caused this early morning attack. After a few moments my mind flashes back to a dream...
I see myself, lying still under the thin cotton sheets on a hospital bed. The top of my head is wrapped in gauze, and there is an oxygen mask covering my nose and mouth. An IV bag hangs near the head of the bed, slowly administering fluids through a line in my right arm. A harsh glare is cast on me from the fluorescent light on the wall above me. On my right side is a rolling cart with a variety of different machines, controlling and monitoring my breathing and brain activity.
To my left is my wife, trying in vain to clear the cascade of tears from her eyes with one hand, while holding the hand of our five-year-old daughter in the other. Our daughter, her brunette hair and brown eyes borrowed from her mother, looks on, confused as to why her father won't wake up. Mother had talked with the doctor in hushed tones for a long time this morning, but no one would tell her what was going on. She continues staring at her father on the bed, not sure why his eyes wouldn't open, and not sure why Mother was crying.
A man walks in the room, looking somber and pale, no contrast to the white lab coat he's wearing. After checking the time on his watch, he sets a sheaf of paperwork down on top of one of the monitors. He clears his throat quietly and says, "It's time."
My wife nods slowly, and picks up her daughter, turning her face away from what is about to happen. The doctor reaches over to a large button on the side of the rolling cart, and pushes it down. With a hiss, the breathing machine comes to a stop, and the heart monitor flat lines. The doctor shuts off the displays and other machines on the cart.
I flash back to the present, hands still on my knees. I open my eyes and try to rid myself of the memory of that horrid dream, but the image of myself dying has been seared into my mind's eye. This isn't the first time I've had this dream, and I don't think it will be the last.
Even now, as I process the dream and try to tuck it away, I realize that I've taken an inadvertent step back. After so many days of being strong, all it takes is the figment of my subconscious imagination to send me reeling and gasping for air.
It's okay, though. I'm only human.
I'll get through it.
P.S. Don't forget about the contest!