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“Selfless” by Twila Nesky

Selfless

by Twila Nesky

 

The thunder echoing down the canyons of Eve’s brain faded, and several voices, speaking rapidly, with urgency, seeped into her consciousness. A lingering rumble in the distance, made eavesdropping difficult, but she was finally able to catch a man’s voice saying, “We’ve got prolonged electrical shock with probable head trauma, broken ribs, wrist, and toes from muscle contractions.

Heavens! What was going on? She wondered, but she didn’t want to interrupt. Obviously, they were trying to help someone who was seriously injured. Her problems could wait.

There was a pause, the rumbling died, a rush of wind, then static, and another voice said, “E.R. this is Trauma Unit One. We’re headed in on I-84. We’ll be there in three.”

Oh, we’re in an ambulance, Eve realized. Good. That was a relief. If they were on their way to the hospital, then her problems could definitely wait until they had taken care of that poor broken up person. She was a patient woman, or as the serpent would have said, she was “selflesss.”

He was a smooth talker that serpent. Though they had been friends for ages, she knew she should never listen to him. She stayed friends with him mostly because it pissed Adam off so much. And today, the serpent had tricked her once again.

“I just want to eat the mosquitoessss,” he’d hissed, “to save your pretty skin.”

“Be my guest,” she’d said, “eat all the mosquitoes you like.”

“But, I need you to carry me up the tree,” he’d said.

Tree! I suppose that should have been a red flag. She thought. No doubt, that’s when she should have ended the conversation. Instead, all she’d said was “You’re a serpent! Climb it yourself.”

“Well, I would,” he’d simpered, “but I still need you to plug me in, don’t I?”

True. Ever since he’d taken up residence in their extension cord, he’d become even more dependent on Eve to do any task that required hands.

The ambulance came to a full stop and one of the voices said, “Here we are. This is us.”

Eve tried to get a look at the injured person before the gurney bumped down onto the pavement. But she couldn’t open her eyes. Why hadn’t she realized this until now? She could hear people running, and the sensation of gliding. She couldn’t understand how or why she was moving. Her eyes would not open and now she was unable to communicate with her limbs. Should she be worried? The gliding stopped and she was enveloped in a chaos of sounds from a crowded emergency room filled with equipment, beeps and buzzes, hisses and moans, and more voices. A man’s soft tenor joined the chorus, filling in details for the E.R. team.

A 911 caller said a woman had fallen out of a tree and appeared to be dancing along the top of a chain link fence. EMTs discovered the patient hanging from a tree her left arm and upper torso wrapped several times in a frayed electrical cord. She was unconscious and hanging just low enough for her bare feet to touch the top of the chain link fence. From the extreme, rigid posture of the woman’s fingers, face, and toes the EMTs saw that she was in fact, conducting electricity between the cord and the fence.

 

Were they talking about her? No, they couldn’t be. They were talking about someone who was seriously injured, and she felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. That was wrong wasn’t it? She should feel something.

“I need an IV tray over here.”

“Okay”

“And check her extremities for burns and breaks.”

“Right.”

Eve heard motion around her and felt slight butterfly kisses of touch on her hands, her feet, knees, abdomen, then there was a horrible searing roar, and the blackness thickened and threatened to take her away. Maybe they were talking about her.

“She’s got distal pulses,” another voice slid into her ears from a thousand miles away, and Eve began another hand-over-hand climb back from oblivion.

“We need a four by four. Can we get a four by four over here?”

Another voice joined Eve’s crowded airspace “Get a monitor in here too.”

They thought she was unconscious, but she knew she wasn’t. She again tried to command her body to do something. She focused all her energy on her mouth, telling it to say, I’m here. I’m all right, but nothing happened because she had no lips, no vocal cords, no breath, no words, just thoughts. Adam was going to kill that goddamned serpent this time. If he could find him, that is. She hadn’t told him the serpent had moved into the extension cord.

“What’s her pressure?”

“120 systolic”

Right, that’s it. Page neuro—we’re on our way. This woman needs a full CT scan, STAT.”

When Eve had asked the stupid creature why he wanted to live an old beaten up extension cord that Adam had thrown in the trash, all he had said was “Orange is my best color. Don’t you think?”

“Oh, yes, you are definitely an Autumn,” she had joked back and then stashed the serpent in the electrical cord where Adam wouldn’t find it and throw it away again.

“Plug me into this” and “plug me into that,” he pleaded with her all the time. He wanted to be plugged into everything at least once. And, to be fair, when she plugged him in he would help her with the chores. He would help her vacuum, or he would help her weed whack, and once he had even helped her use her sewing machine out on the patio where there was no electricity. So she hadn’t suspected anything when he asked her to plug him into the bug zapper.

The bug zapper was hanging from a branch on a tree—a tree that Adam repeatedly told her to ignore. He was so adamant about keeping her away from his precious tree, that he had built a fence around it—the idiot. Didn’t he realize that the fence and his warning to stay away just made the tree more attractive? He might as well have been asking her to please, please, please climb the tree.

She wouldn’t have been half as motivated to pick the lock on the gate, take off her shoes, grab the serpent, and climb the tree if Adam weren’t such a forbidding jerk about it. Still she might have been able to resist if the serpent hadn’t been so adept at pushing her buttons.

“I want to eat mosquitoessss. Please carry me up the tree and plug me into the zapper, please!”

“Adam said to stay away from the tree.”

“And you listen to him because?”

“I don’t listen to him.”

“Good! Then let’s get going.”

“Maybe I just don’t feel like going near the tree.”

“Afraid of what Adam will say?”

“No.”

“Yes, you are. Face it. He’s the head of the family and you obey his every word.”

She was such a dope. She knew he was manipulating her, and yet she let him.

Eve still couldn’t feel anything, but what the voices around her were saying about her condition, broken and burned, slowly sank in and terrified her. She told herself to yell, to scream, to kick, anything, but no—nothing. She was nothing, and no one could hear her—no one except the serpent.

“Relax,” it said, “stop struggling.”

But after today, she would never trust that son of a bitch. Never again! She fought harder to open her eyes, to open her mouth, to make a sound, to yell for help.

The serpent sighed, so bored with her relentless will to live, and bit her.

ZAP!

She gasped—as instantly she felt every corpuscle and muscle fiber squinting shut to block the poison. Too late.

“She’s seizing!”

“Dilantin’s in!

“Seizing. Seizing. Can’t get her stabilized. Help me here!”

The blackness came to take Eve away to nice, safe oblivion. She loved the blackness. Perhaps she would stay here a while.

“Miss? Miss? Can you hear me miss?”

No, thought Eve. I cannot.

Once she had begun to climb the tree, she couldn’t help but notice how happy it made her. Maybe that’s why she tolerated the serpent. She needed him to goad her into doing things she really wanted to do. As her fingers and toes scrabbled for purchase on the rough old bark, she felt happier and lighter than she had in a long time.

“This is nice,” said the serpent.

“Uh-huh,” grunted Eve, reaching and climbing, pulling against gravity, dragging them both up the fat old tree.

“You know I love you, Eve. Don’t you?”

“Uh-huh.” She sounded distracted, but happy too.

“Eve?”

“What?”

“Let’s dance!”

© 2014 Twila Nesky

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