Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ventilation, Part 7 (fictionalized history)

(In 1952, polio reached its peak in the United States with 21,000 cases of paralytic polio. The first polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. By 1965, the total paralytic cases had fallen to 61. In this fictionalized history series, we will be experiencing the aftermath of polio, before the dramatic triumph of a vaccine. If you're just joining us, go back to Part 1.)

Five Months After Hospital Admission
November 1952

Julia knew the hours of night by their sounds. By the shape of their silence.

Midnight. The last of the day people wove their routes toward home. Yawning. Driving too fast. Tapping a horn when someone stumbled into their way.

One o'clock. The roads emptied, except on weekends. Then, beer bottles sometimes smashed. Tires squealed in the nightlight town.

Two o'clock. The invisible ones drifted. Julia imagined them that way. Without bodily form. Engines crept under the trees. No one caught them. No one cared.

Three o'clock. Lost thoughts wandered the streets. She could feel them. Thoughts reaching out from lonely beds. Thoughts lying next to slow, blissful breathing. Soundless pictures on televisions flicked off. Open books settled on night tables in the darkness. All of them walked the ghost streets unknown to each other.

Julia's thoughts at three were buttery and smeared with black sunshine. There was wind. Fireflies. The squish of sand heavy with water.

Sometimes, she jumped from drifting sleep because she felt herself falling.

Wide awake, she waited for her heart to fall back into rhythm with the iron lung.

But she couldn't fall.

Locked in her cocoon.

Cradled by the soothing sounds, she hid from cold, strangling hours until the salvation of dawn.

On to Part 8.
Back to Part 6.


Geraldine said...

I've been wondering where the idea/inspiration came for this particular series of stories Jason? Very intense reading and it comes through that this is a topic/theme that is very important to you (am I right?)

Hope you will join us over at Selma's for one of her new Search Engine Story prompts. They've been wonderful to date. I wrote my most recent one "Wait for Me" and it was more than the usual prompt experience.If you stop by my blog you'll see what I mean, reading how some of my readers viewed where I was coming from. Your viewpoint and feedback is always so helpful and welcome too.

Enlightening and astounding experience, that one. It's an amazing feeling when the words come out faster than we can type, isn't it?

I digress...thanks for your continued wonderful, inspiring works at Clarity and do hope you will stop by for a visit soon, to my blog and also to Search Engine Stories, hosted by Selma.

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed these. I love the idea of thoughts and images as ghosts wandering the night ... where someone trapped in an iron lung can still tap into.

Remiman said...

Powerless, alone with one's thoughts, a prisoner suspended in time. Not a pleasant existence to my mind. With the sleeplessness of age I too confront the night thoughts and ghosts and they can be un-nerving, but then I can get up and wander around or read. Julia could only wait for day to come.

Sarah Hina said...

I keep thinking that it's just too much for a child to know, to bear. Julia's trapped in some kind of purgatory of lost, drifting ghosts. There's nothing connecting her to her body, her world, but fear and isolation. I have this image of her as a little bird whose wings are clipped. But the desire to fly is still there.

The photo is the perfect companion to the story. Oh, to make contact...

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is heartbreaking. She's imprisoned by her disease. When I was in my twenties I was hospitalised for 6 weeks with depression. I couldn't get out of bed and lay awake all night just listening to the sounds of the outside world. You have completely captured what it was like. You are a great writer.

Anonymous said...

By the way, the previous comment was from me. Firefox has been playing up for me, lately. And Geraldine, thanks for the plug.

Geraldine said...

PS: Selma, you are so welcome! I love your new prompt offering/blog.

Anonymous said...

Geraldine, thank you! The inspiration for this series came from a news article I saw a little while back. Those elements will factor into the end. However, any time I have thought about paralyzed polio victims, it hits me with a strange poignance. The few iron lungs left are hosting the few paralyzed polio survivors left.

Aggie, for this one, I liked the universal experience. A commonality with the child trapped there.

Sarah, I don't know which is worse, a suffering child or an adult watching a child suffer. You have such a connection to Julia, a yearning to take her away from all this. It's very touching. :)

Selma, I'm very humbled by your comment. Thank you! To capture the emotional truth of something is my highest wish for these sterile letters and words. Thanks so much for sharing your own experience.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such inspiration, I would love to read other parts.. this was more than just a story a master piece ..calling ..Loved it ...
Nasra Al Adawi

Anonymous said...

Nasra, if you'd like to, you're certainly invited to read past parts. There is a link in the beginning paragraph that will take you through them. Thanks for the kind words. :)

SzélsőFa said...

Julia's loneliness is touching in the description of the night. I'm glad the series continues, Jason.

Ello said...

Oh I've missed these! How sad this was. I can feel her isolation. Such a unique way to count the hours. I thought this was great.

Stranger said...

I love the detail of the open books and the thoughts lying next to blissful breathing.

I've haven't read the other parts yet but it's great how I didn't know what was happening until 'she waited for her heart to fall back into rhythm with the iron lung'. A nice 'light bulb' moment for the reader.

paisley said...

i am always amazed at how you are able to step so fittingly ino this character... i am awaiting further installments...