Panic immediately set in after Steven figured out that he could not see. The downtime was fairly considerable, as his mind raced along. When he had gone to sleep, the sun was barely coming up above the buildings outside of his window, but when he woke up, there was nothing but darkness. He flailed around in his bed as he could feel his blankets thrown away. He yelled and thrashed for what seemed like an eternity, before falling off of his bed and crawling to his knees: it didn’t provide any orientation, and as he attempted to crawl to a phone or to the door, he slammed his face into the wall, feeling the throb of his cheek before he collapsed on the ground crying in dismay. He did not get up for nearly an hour, curled up on himself sobbing quietly, the entire time his mind racing as he pleaded for an answer to what happened. He never received a response.
Without being able to see the light of the sun outside, or the lack thereof, only being aware of a relative time when he felt his stomach grumble with hunger. He remained against the wall until that point, trying to regain his composure but failing miserably. His hunger stirred him to action and Steven decided to try once again to figure a way to somewhere. He could barely picture his apartment in his mind, the image already distorted from the panic and fear of losing his sight. He did not know exactly where in his apartment he was as the thrashing and disjointed crawling was clouded by that fear that he was still trying to overcome. His stomach turned; what if this is permanent, he thought, and inadvertently wailed slamming his head back into the wall, feeling the drywall give way. His head throbbed in a rhythmic pattern, breaking his concentration on his condition due to the pain. He reached his hands up, running the palms along the wall until he felt the hole he had just created. The rough edges of the drywall greeted his fingers as his attempted to pull himself up, tearing the edges of the hole and making it larger. He immediately wished that he had stayed on his hands and knees crawling. From the new angle, he was even more disoriented than before.
The phone rang, and in the darkness, or perceived darkness, Steven flailed around, attempting to find the phone. He wept, crying in frustration as he slammed his head into the end table, feeling an oblong, plastic shape fall onto him as he groped about. He heard the phone near him, but the ringtone died and he knew it had gone to voicemail. He wailed in emotional agony, curling back up into a ball against the end table, and cried. As he lies on the ground, Steven heard the phone vibrate slightly as the voicemail alert went. He groped slowly in that direction, his hand moving deliberately in a wide fan-like motion across the carpet, trying to find the small cell phone. He felt out, moving towards the wall and swinging both of his arms out before his fingers brushed across the phone. He let a gasp out, jerking his hand back and sliding the phone open. He carefully felt across the face of the keypad, straining his mind to try and remember the order of the keypad. Why did I have to get a phone with a full keyboard, he thought, as his finger gently traced the keys. After what seemed like an eternity, he believed he had figured out which of the small keys were the number keys. He held his breath, and pressed three in a slow, methodical manner. The voice on the other end told him he had guessed correctly.
“I’m going to hold your eyes open and shine a light directly into them, alright?” The voice came on suddenly, after Steven had been sitting by himself for what seemed like an eternity. He jumped, and the doctor put her hands on Steven’s shoulder reassuringly: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.” Steven felt her pull gently at his eyelids, and he tried to hold his eyes steady. He didn’t feel anything, and heard no sound other than the doctor sounding like she was experiencing something peculiar. “Your pupils are dilating appropriately. And you can’t see anything?”
“No. I can’t.” Saying those words drove the reality of the past few days home to Steven, and he swallowed hard, deep into his throat, the words almost getting caught in the process. He felt tears roll down his cheeks, and ne did not care that the doctor could see it. He was still terrified. He felt her hand rub his shoulder again, but he found no real comfort in it.
“We’re going to have to run some more tests. MRIs definitely. I’m sure we’ll be able to find the problem. You’re going to be alright.”
“Ok. Thank You.” The doctor told him she would go schedule the tests immediately, and Steven heard he leave the room. He was once again alone with his thoughts. The near silent hum of the fluorescent lighting mingled with the smell of a hospital: the sanitary, scrubbed clean smell that reminded Steven of the proclivity of disease and reinforced the fragility of his entire existence. His loss of sight had taken something from him that he didn’t even know he could lose; it ripped away any semblance of normalcy that he still maintained, replacing it with the cold, lonely darkness. Steven sat, feeling a complete sense of terror, that same feeling that had not stopped in the time since he woke up to discover his affliction. It welled up in the depths of his stomach, causing a feeling of nausea. He attempted to endure to the best of his ability, but the quiet sobs still echoed through the room when a nurse entered. She gently rubbed his back, and helped him into a wheelchair. Her voice carried a sort of sing-song quality to it, and Steven found it incredibly comforting as he was wheeled slowly through the halls of the hospital towards radiology. The nurse pushed him into the room, where another doctor explained the procedure in the quiet inflection of his soft voice. He directed the nurse to help Steven into the MRI machine, which muffled their voices and Steven was left alone inside the metal cylinder. Without seeing his surroundings, Steven could envision the machine holding him close inside its metal exterior. His mind flashed backwards to his childhood, and the last time he was trapped inside the magnetic embrace of an MRI machine.
His father gripped his small hand firmly but with a sense of tenderness. He smiled down at Steven in an attempt to be reassuring, but the young boy was still terrified beyond all belief. He was disoriented and dizzy, his mind racing at a hundred miles per hour but also sluggish and his thoughts hard to concentrate on in a wicked dichotomy caused by the fastball sent straight into his eye. The bruise over it was substantial, the eye swollen shut behind the purple sheen the skin had adopted; tear streaks were still visible across Steven’s cheeks, especially the left one, which was clearly too tender to be touched. Steven’s baseball cap was slid far over his face, and his father kept shaking him at intermittent intervals to ensure that he was responsive: he was, but barely. The nurse ushered them into radiology. The minute that Steven found himself inside, panic began to grip his young mind, forcing its way through the muddled thoughts. He tried to thrash viciously against the restraints, wailing in a pitiful cry for his father to help him. The man stood on the other side of the window, listening to his son crying inside the metal tube and feeling a growing sense of impotence within him, unable to do anything due to the machine running and the potential intervention of the hospital staff. He chewed his lip viciously, blood beginning to form in the corners of his mouth as he heard his little boy cry in terror. The tests were finished, and proved that nothing was wrong with Steven past the concussion; the problem warranted intervention of more in-depth testing, but no additional problems were discovered in the young boy. His father feared that he would not be the same after that day, and he was correct in that assumption. In his concussion-addled state, Steven had experienced a level of isolation and fear he was not prepared to deal with at the age of ten. Inside the darkened sarcophagus, Steven felt every doubt his young mind could conjure up, even in the few brief minutes that he was encased inside. As he sat once again inside one of the machines, his mind drifted back to that day thirteen years ago; and although blind, his mind’s eye re-conjured the horrific images that he had invented all those years ago.
It was loneliness that struck him first, deep within the MRI machine. Despite being spoken to only a few moments earlier, Steven knew full well that the doctors and his father were behind the glass in the other room, leaving him alone inside something he did not understand: in the rush and explanations, no one had explained to the boy exactly what was going to go on inside radiology. That uncertainty left a level of anxiety in an already disoriented mind, which did nothing to calm his nerves. He remembered the baseball, and his father getting him into the car, as well as vaguely waiting in the hospital. All those were blurred, and coupled with the blank spots in his memory, caused the young Steven to be forced into the machine in an already damaged state of mind. Inside the machine, time slowed to a crawl as the isolation began to creep inside, sending a spike of anxiety deep into the center of his mind. Every sound the machine made around him was a symbol of imprisonment and an impending doom that crept across his skin, forming goose bumps so intense that nearly every muscle in his body shuddered along with his skin. Formless phantoms crept into the darkness of his peripheral vision, concepts of fear that only a ten-year-old boy could adequately understand. That sense of abandonment was the chief anxiety, as Steven remembered every time he turned around in the grocery store to find his parents missing, was left at soccer practice late due to a miscommunication; the only real difference is that this time, he felt like that abandonment was intentional, especially knowing that his father was right behind the glass with the hospital staff.