Remembering the End of Hope

October 30, 2011
“John! John, wake up!” He rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he tried to escape from the dream he was having. His throat was raw and his head felt like it was going to explode. When he fully opened his eyes, it was like fire was going through his optic nerve right into his skull. He screamed hoarsely.
“What’s happening? It hurts!” as the words came out of his mouth, his ears filled with the noise he just made. It was getting even worse. As much as the unbearable pain of this sensory overload was rushing through his head, a feeling of primal rage coursed through his veins that was just as powerful as the agony he was feeling. It was the only thing he could focus on other than the pain. He lay in his bed with his eyes tightly shut, struggling to remain conscious. He heard his breathing slow and his pulse calm. His anger subsided. He heard a whisper, though he couldn’t be sure where it was coming from.
“Are you better now John? I have some Tylenol if you want it.” He grimaced as he nodded his head yes. After taking the pills and resting, he managed to open his eyes, and saw the face of his sister Bea. She was sitting at the edge of his bed. She gave him a kindly smile that John was used to seeing on her face.
“Bea? What are you doing here? I thought you were living in Seattle.”
“Well I was, three years ago. I moved over to help take care of you after your accident.”
“Accident? Is that why I had that migraine? I don’t remember.”
“Ah, that’s the root of the matter. You fell off a ladder trying to climb onto the roof three years ago and hit your head. Haven’t been able to remember anything that happened after it.” Bea looked off to the window with a sad look in her eyes.
“Every morning I explain this to you. And the next you forget it all.”
“Where’s Missy? Is my daughter okay? What about Hope?” Bea turned to John and stared at him for a moment with the same look. She let out a long sigh before she began to speak.
“Missy is fine. I’ve been taking good care of her. She’s growing to be a very beautiful little girl.” Bea paused a moment, as if deciding something.
“Because this is a special day, I’m going to tell you something I don’t usually tell you. You’re not going to like it.”
“Go ahead. I’m ready.”
“Your wife, she—Hope passed, John. She was murdered two years ago by someone who broke into the house.”
“No! That can’t be! NO!” blood began rushing through John’s body. He could feel his pulse throb and anger start to build in him. John slowly stumbled to his feet. Fear filled Bea’s eyes as she threw her chair to the floor and backed away, tripping over her own feet while reaching into her pocket.
“Calm down John! You have to calm down!” John took a deep breath and shook his head. He felt his blood slow again. He was back to normal, though he felt distraught all the same.
“I’m sorry Bea. I don’t know what came over me. I was angry and I didn’t know why.”
“Dr. Grace says that’s an effect of your injury. Along with the migraines, you have fits of rage. Scares the hell out of me sometimes. That’s all going to change soon, though. You have an appointment with Doctor Grace today. He has a new treatment for you. It’s still experimental, but it seems promising. Dr. Grace is going to put laboratory grown stem cells into your brain so they can replace the damaged ones. We’re going to the hospital today for the first injection! Now go get dressed so you can eat breakfast. Missy is waiting for you.” Seeing his daughter for the first time in three years was more of a shock than John expected. He could only remember her when she was an infant. Seeing her walk and talk to him was like being slapped in the face. Before dwelling too long on what he had missed, Bea spirited John to the hospital where the surgery was to take place. He was put on the operating chair and he heard Bea speak to him before he fell asleep.
“See you tomorrow, John.”

“John?” John rubbed his head as he sat up in his bed and groaned at Bea.
“Quick John, we’ve got to see how you’re progressing. What did we have for dinner last night?”
“Spaghetti. Missy got herself covered in sauce.” Bea clapped her hands in glee and continued.
“Great! Only six months and you’re remembering again! When was the last time we went to the hospital?”
“Two weeks ago, for the last injection. Why do we have to do this every morning? I’m feeling a little bit of a headache, but other than that I’m fi—AGH!” A blinding pain shot through his head like a bullet. Images flashed before his eyes. Images he knew were memories. He remembered all of Bea’s morning talks, and then—Hope’s funeral. His mind lingered on it for a moment, and then his pain subsided. John was lying on the floor tangled in blankets. Bea was staring at him wide-eyed with terror.
“I remember Bea. I remember Hope’s funeral.”
“Oh my god. Dr. Grace said that was impossible. He said you couldn’t get back memories that you had lost.”
“Well it just happened, impossible or not.” There was a long pause.
“John, why don’t you just relax for a while? I’ll take Missy to the donut shop and we can bring back some breakfast for you while you recover. We can talk about it when I get back.” Bea promptly walked out the door, leaving John by himself. A few minutes later he heard Missy and his sister leave. John crawled out of his tangle and went downstairs to pour himself some coffee. As he picked up the coffee pot, another lance of pain jolted through his head. More images and memories came rushing to him. His sister was talking to police.
“You can’t believe anything he says. He fell off a ladder a year ago and he hasn’t been able to think straight since.” John came back to his senses with the coffee pot scattered everywhere in the middle of a pool of lukewarm coffee. His arm was burnt and cut. John got up to clean up the mess and assess what damage had been done to him. He looked and his injuries were not severe, so he went about cleaning them and the mess he had made. As he was walking to the garage to get a mop, another vision hit him.
This time, he was prepared. He gritted his teeth and let the memories fly back into his brain. First he saw Bea in tears, slowly telling him she was sorry, and then picking up the phone. Suddenly, the pain intensified. His body filled with uncontrollable rage as the next memory flooded into his head like an unstoppable tidal wave. He was walking towards Hope. She was afraid of him. Why would Hope be afraid of him? The pain got even worse. His fury was the only thing keeping him from passing out. Hope was backed into a corner, cowering in tears. John pounced on her, wrapping his fingers around her neck. It was as if someone else was doing this horrible thing, and he was only witnessing it.
“No! That’s my wife! Why would you do that!?” He could remember the sensation of her life slipping away in his hands. John vomited on the garage floor, and then steeled himself. He knew what he must do. He walked up the stairs, shaking from pain and crying in agony. The memories kept rushing in, but they weren’t as intense now. He had more control but the pain was not entirely gone.
He walked into his room and looked longingly at the bed he had once shared with Hope. The memories buzzed faster and faster, incoherent, yet he knew them all to be true. He picked up a pencil and paper and attempted to write, but all he could do was cover the paper with scribbles and tears. John swore under his breath as he began heading for the garage again. As he walked into the garage, he remembered waking up in the hospital after his fall. He saw Hope’s worried face looking down at him. John missed her so much. He grabbed the ladder that had started it all and walked outside. John set it up and began to climb. He saw the rung that broke when he fell. An image of the ladder flashed in front of his eyes. He could almost remember the accident.
As he continued to climb, his memory became clearer and clearer. Finally, he scrambled on top of the roof. John glanced at the ladder and kicked it away with disgust. After climbing to the home’s highest point, he peered over the edge, hard concrete two stories below. John bent his knees and dove off the roof. He felt his stomach drop as he fell, but before he landed he felt content, for he had been released from the torture that came with remembering the end of Hope.

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