Nights of Paralysisbyoggbashan©
Copyright Oggbashan July 2014
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.
I'm a hero. A nearly dead hero but a genuine hero, front page on most newspapers for a day. I'm also stupid and paralysed.
I was minding my own business, walking from Trafalgar Square to my destination in Westminster near the Abbey when a crowd of people got in the way. I tried to squeeze through them to get across Parliament Square. I failed. I walked back down Whitehall aiming for the Horse Guards. Then I saw him.
He was carrying a long sports bag. Everyone else was going towards Parliament Square and wouldn't have noticed him as he stood with his back to a bus shelter. He opened the bag and pulled out a Kalashnikov. Even I know that our security forces don't use them. I started to run towards him as he fitted the magazine. I hit him with a rugby tackle just as he was lifting the gun.
He snatched the trigger, spraying the pavement with bullets. I punched him hard in the groin. He tried to line the gun on me and nearly succeeded. A bullet creased my skull before he was buried in a heap of police and security men. I sat up, said I was OK, before I slumped to the street in a faint.
From what I have heard on the radio, his intention had been to kill as many passers-by as possible and divert the security forces from the real threat in Parliament Square where his co-conspirators aimed to bomb the assembled Heads of State attending the funeral of a minor elderly Royal. I hadn't even known that there was to be a funeral that day.
The other terrorists had been arrested before they got anywhere near Westminster leaving him alone. He was providing a diversion for an attack that wouldn't happen. He might have killed a dozen or more people uselessly but I had stopped him.
The consequences of my assault were serious for me. The bullet crease had bruised my brain. My brain swelled inside my skull. As a result I was paralysed. My basic functions kept working. I could breathe; my blood circulated; my arms, legs and neck didn't respond to any stimulus. I couldn't eat, drink, speak or even move my eyes. The worst part for me was that for the last two days I was almost conscious. I could hear clearly and see someone who moved in front of my face. I could hear the doctors discussing me. I could hear the nurses' comments. I couldn't tell them that I was wholly aware.
Outside my room there were two armed policemen. Sometimes I heard them talking. They discussed almost everything but never said a word about me or why they were there.
The radio was constantly playing quietly in my hospital room. Some foreign terrorist groups had threatened to kill me for interfering with a martyr. I heard that the press had dug up all the recent facts about me. I was an orphan in my early forties, single, unmarried and never married. Recently I had had one unsuccessful date with the woman the Press described as my girl-friend. She was grilled by the media about me until they found she knew less than their researchers.
Almost everyone who seemed to know me was found and became minor celebrities for a few hours. I was the mystery man. Who was I? Why had I tackled a man with a Kalashnikov? Nothing in my revealed past indicated that I would be likely to do something heroic. I was just a nonentity who hadn't done anything much.
People from the security services came and went. They were baffled by my lack of previous military training. I couldn't answer their questions. I couldn't respond even by blinking my eyes. I was just an apparent vegetable. The doctors said I might recover when the bruising and swelling gradually healed. Their tone of voice implied that I would recover when pigs learned to fly.
One thing that bothered me slightly was that I was naked. I suppose it was for the medical staff's convenience, to monitor my life signs, but I felt helpless and exposed as my body was scrutinised several times a day, checking for movements that never happened.
One evening before I was due to have another blanket bath I had a visitor. Her face appeared before my eyes. Her blonde hair swung against my cheek. I felt her hair's gentle caress. If I could I would have smiled. I recognised Carol. She had been one of my first girl friends in London, years ago. I had been working on my PhD. At the time she had just qualified as a nurse and intended to study to be a theatre nurse. I didn't know whether she did, or anything about her since we parted as friends.
I had wanted Carol. I didn't do anything much apart from holding her hand and giving her a goodnight kiss. She had scared me. She had been so competent, so in charge of herself and so determined to make her career successful. She made me feel inadequate with my limited ambition. All I had wanted was a comfortable quiet existence.
Carol had wanted to change the world. She had tried hard to rouse some enthusiasm in me for her politics. I could have been enthusiastic about her. I couldn't be enthusiastic about the poor and deprived. I had been broke myself and building a career slowly until a runaway truck killed my parents. Their insurance policies provided me with a mortgage-free house and a reasonable sum of capital. I worked to provide the basic necessities of life. I didn't have to seek promotion or ass-lick.
Carol had tired of me after a couple of months and we had split up. I wished that I could have had a more physical relationship with her. I still dreamed about the body I'd never really known and her silky blonde hair against my cheek. It was there now. Her head was alongside mine on the bed. She started to whisper in my ear.
"Hello Martin. Remember me? Carol?"
I wished I could respond. Of course I remembered her. Her perfume was unchanged. She was lying on my hospital bed next to me. I'd never got Carol to bed with me. My frustration was intense. I'd wanted Carol and here she was, closer than she'd ever been. I could feel her warm breast pressing against my side. Before, a fleeting touch as I pecked at her cheek had been the most I'd experienced of her breasts. Now one was held against me. If only I could move an arm to wrap around her and hold her there...
"What a pity," Carol continued, "We could have done so much together. I wanted your body. You were so shy I was afraid to make any advances because I thought you would run a mile. Now you don't even have the memories of us to warm you. When you recover I'll come to you and make up for the time we wasted."
I would have groaned if I could. I heard two nurses enter the room. Carol swung herself off the bed.
"Is it time?" she said.
"Yes, Sister," one of the nurses replied. "We give him a blanket bath every evening about now. You know how it is. It is the only quiet time we have on this shift."
"I know. I'm off duty but I'll help. I used to know Martin years ago."
"You did?" The nurse's voice was more animated. "Why weren't you interviewed by the Press? Didn't they know?"
"They knew." Carol replied. "I wouldn't tell them anything. I told the security people but I didn't think Martin would appreciate me telling the Press. Most of his real girlfriends didn't say a word."
'Thank you, Carol,' I thought. I wondered who were the real girlfriends who had kept quiet. I made a mental note to review them later and try to guess which of them would have blabbed to the Press and which wouldn't.
My body was uncovered. I heard a gasp.
"Look at that!" Carol exclaimed.
"I'd better call a doctor," said the nurse who hadn't spoken yet.
"Do! Now!" Carol ordered. The two nurses left the room at a run.
I wondered what had caused the panic. Carol's hand stroked my forehead below the bandages. She moved her hand away as the doctor entered alone.
"Can I see?" said a female voice. I sensed Carol move away.
"Impressive," the female doctor said. "And how did that happen?"
"I was talking to him," Carol said nervously. That didn't seem like Carol.
"Just talking?" the doctor queried.
"I was lying next to him on the bed and whispering in his ear."
"Can you show me?"
I felt Carol move beside me. Her breast was pressing my naked skin. Her head was next to mine. She turned her head towards my ear. Her blonde hair stroked across my lips.
"A very good reaction, Sister," said the doctor. "Can you see it?"
Carol lifted her head and looked down my body.
"Did I do that?" She seemed incredulous.
"No one else -- except Martin that is," the doctor replied. "I think we can safely assume that Martin is aware of you and is showing his pleasure at your company in the only way he can. It is a very effective response, wouldn't you say, Sister?"
"I was his girlfriend -- once, some time ago," Carol said.
"And I think perhaps his body remembers..." the doctor had a smile in her voice.
"We didn't!" Carol blurted out before she could stop herself.
"Perhaps you didn't but Martin certainly wants to, doesn't he? Can you visit him again?"
"Yes." Carol replied. "I can visit him again. What should I do?"
"I think it is more what you SHOULDN'T do. He is in no state for physical exercise. You can lie next to him, as you are now. You can hug him gently. You can whisper in his ear. You can arouse him with words and caresses but not to ejaculation. While his blood is down there it will be reducing the pressure inside his skull. That is a minor effect. Even minor effects can heal given time. Do you want to be assigned to him?"
"I'd love to but I have several wards to manage. I can give him some of my off-duty time. My patients need me as much as he does."
"I understand, Sister. I know he had other girlfriends. Could they help you to heal him?"
"I can ask them," Carol replied slowly. "Whether they will..."
"Please try. They could help him to recover and we want the nation's hero fighting fit again, don't we?"
"Sod the nation," Carol snorted. "I want him."
"Then you know what to do, Sister."
I heard the doctor's shoes clacking out of the room.
"Martin," Carol said, "I can't stay long. I'm due back on duty in an hour and I have to change first. In the meantime..."
Her face appeared before my eyes. Her lips pressed against my unresponding ones. I could breathe her perfume and feel her hair. My brain was whirling trying some way to tell her I appreciated her kiss. There was nothing I could do. Carol's lips and face withdrew. She settled down against my flank.
"It seems that you can hear me. So..."
She snuggled close to me. Her lips pressed to my ear and she began to whisper.
"Once upon a time -- you know that all good fairy stories start that way -- there was a princess who lived in a palace waiting for her prince to come. He never came even though she prayed to the gods she worshipped for a kind and handsome prince. She began to despair and her prayers changed. A kind prince would do. Whether he was handsome or not no longer mattered. He must be kind and he must love her.
Her ideal prince would have been like the statue that stood in a courtyard in the palace. That statue was of a tall slim man with curly hair -- just like yours, Martin."
Carol's hand ruffled my hair slightly. She had to be careful. There wasn't much of my hair uncovered by the head bandage.
"When she knew she was alone she would talk to the statue as if he were alive and her lover. She would ask him how she looked today, whether he liked her dress, whether her hairstyle suited her -- that sort of thing. Of course he never answered. How could he? He was a statue made of stone. Unlike any real prince he was stark naked. The artist had made him well-endowed but his tool hung limply between his legs. No live woman could arouse a statue of stone so his tool always pointed down towards his feet.
No matter what the princess said to him, no matter how direct she was in her desires, no matter how rude and coarse she was in expressing her needs... You realise, Martin, that a princess's idea of being coarse and rude was far beyond what you or I might think would be appropriate language. Princesses even when letting their hair down remain refined and well spoken by normal people's standards... As I was saying, the statue didn't reply or give any sign that he heard her words.
The princess continued to pray to the gods but her prayers changed again. She started to pray that the gods would animate the statue to become her prince. When the winter came she would wrap a cloak around the statue and put a hat on his head. People at the court began to notice her attentions to the statue and whispers started. Perhaps the princess was going mad. After all she had been of marriageable age for ten years and not even the most unsuitable prince had sought her hand in marriage. There was nothing wrong with her. She had blonde hair..."
I sensed Carol move as she stroked her hair against my cheek.
"...she had a reasonably curved body with bumps in the right places..."
Carol's breast pushed harder against my side.
...and people said she had nice legs."
Carol's stockinged leg slid over one of mine and withdrew.
"One day she was talking to the unresponsive statue when she noticed something different. The tool that had been pointing towards the statue's feet was now pointing to the floor about a foot in front of the feet. At first she didn't believe it. Despite her prayers and her fantasies, statues couldn't change. She knew that. She didn't want to know that even while her intellect... Did I say she was an intelligent princess? ...Or that she was highly trained? I didn't? Well she was. ...Her intellect rejected the idea of change in the statue as impossible. Her eyes and her daring hands proved that the impossible had happened. The statue's little bit had changed.
That night she prayed to the gods again. Could they? Would they? Please would they make her statue come to life? As she went to sleep she had a dream of the statue riding across the castle's drawbridge as he came to claim her as her bride."
Carol lifted herself to an elbow and leant across to kiss me.
"And now, Martin, I must leave you until tomorrow. Sleep well. If you do dream, dream of me and what we could do together that we didn't do. In dreams anything is possible."
Carol left the room turning the overhead light off. There were still other lights but the room seemed dark. I would have closed my eyes if I could. I tried to shut off the impulses on my optic nerves. That was enough. I dozed.
I would like to record that I dreamed of wild passionate couplings with Carol. I can't. I did dream about Carol. My dreams were revisits to my real life experience of her when I was a nervous boyfriend too scared to make a move. Carol was as unattainable in my dreams as she had been to me when we had appeared to others as if we were a couple. I still felt the pressure of her soft breast against my side, the touch of her lips on mine, the silky sweep of her hair against my cheek. All those reminders did was intensify my frustration about my immobility and increase the regrets for past opportunities lost.
I was woken the next morning by the rattle of the tea trolley bringing early morning tea for those patients who could drink. Me? A drip feed in my arm provided my nourishment. A cup of revolting hospital tea would seem like nectar if I could swallow.
In the middle of the morning I had another visitor. She bent over me and kissed. I was startled. I hadn't seen Madeleine or heard anything about her for years. We split up when I finished my PhD and she was in her final year. She went away to a provincial University for her post-graduate studies. We kept in touch for a whole term before agreeing it was pointless to continue. We had drifted apart even before we were parted physically. Our relationship had followed my mild affair with Carol. Madeleine had been kind to me. I had been gentle with her. I remembered her with a warm glow inside. Her long brown hair still curled over her shoulders and the lights glinted on her highlights as it had done then. Her open face seemed sadder and wiser than the happy woman I had known.
"Hello, Martin," She said. "Remember me? It's been a long time. It might have been forever except that Carol rang me this morning. She suggested that you might appreciate a visit."
Madeleine glanced down the bed.
"I can see that she was right. You have reacted as she said you would. It's a shame that that is all you can do. I appreciate your salute. It's nice to know that you haven't forgotten me and that you are still attracted. Did you know I married?"
Her face looked down at me. I couldn't respond.
"You knew him," she continued. "James, who was at the same University as you. I thought he was wonderful. Perhaps I'd have known better if I'd asked you about him. He was very rude about you. I knew you weren't as he described. I should have had doubts about James. It doesn't matter now. Our divorce became final three months ago and I'm footloose and fancy-free again. I wish I had the innocence and happiness I had before we married. I might get the happiness back eventually I suppose, the innocence has gone forever."
A single tear splashed on my cheek.
"I would been have far happier if I'd stayed with you even though the spark went from our relationship. I know you wouldn't have been as cruel as James was."
What could I say? Even if I had the power of speech I'd have been better to keep quiet. As it was, I had no option. I couldn't speak or move -- so I didn't.
"I shouldn't bore you with my troubles. That's not what Carol asked me to do. I'm supposed to be here to help you, not to burden you with my woes. Don't worry. I'm not seriously chasing you. My self-confidence has taken a bad knock. I need a friend to talk to. Eventually I might find a real man. That man wouldn't be you. You are and were a friend but lovers we were not. We enjoyed the physical contacts without commitment on either side. Then I'd have liked more from you than you were ready to give. Even if we had made mad passionate love every night the outcome would have been the same. We would have agreed to part because there wasn't much beyond the physical attraction, was there?"
She positioned herself beside me. There was a silence as if she expected me to reply.
"Sorry, Martin." Madeleine said. "I keep forgetting you can't respond. You were fairly quiet before; never as quiet as this."
Her arm stretched across my chest. She squeezed me against her body. I felt my erection strengthen.
"OK," She said. "How do I do this? I know. Carol is telling you a fairy story. I won't. I'll make up our own. Remember the day we became a couple? I'll tell you what should have happened if we hadn't been so shy with each other."
Her hand stroked over my chest.
"I went to the dance that evening as Alan's partner. He was one of our friends. He asked me. You didn't even though I might have liked you to. I don't know if you would have asked, or if you had whether I'd have accepted. You were so quiet that I barely noticed you among your more vociferous friends. Anyway... You know what happened. Alan drank too much. When he rushed to the toilet to spew his guts up you asked me for a dance. I don't know how much effort it took you to ask. All I know is that I saw you standing before me, white-faced and looking scared stiff. I couldn't refuse the appeal in your eyes and I accepted.
You danced reasonably well once you got over the panic of actually having a woman in your arms. I played it cool and tried not to exceed my role as your partner. By the end of the first dance you were beginning to relax. I didn't give you the opportunity to lead me back to the table. I just held you close until the music started again. The third dance was a tango. Now the fantasy takes over from the reality. You refused to dance the tango and led me off the floor.