Anakin stared at the
ceiling and wished he could sigh.
He was bored. He was more bored than he had ever been in his entire life.
It was not as if his life had been a constant flow of entertaining or memorable occurrences, far from it. He had spend hours and hours sitting in too small fighters flying through hyperspace, he had sat through countless dull speeches of politicians and stood through long and pointless addresses of the high command during the war. He had suffered through endless poncy speeches at the few occasions he had been forced to attend jedi conferences, he had wasted precious hours of his life listening to Kenobi’s lectures on the ‘theory’ of using jedi powers, he had been in prison and - hell - he had even been stuck in hospital before. If there would be something like a degree in boredness, he’d must have made that a long time ago.
But this time the boredom had a completely new dimension to it. On all the previous occasions there had been some alleviating aspect to it. Sometimes he had been able to doodle, he had read, he had written or composed letters to his wife, he had exercised his body or practiced his ability to handle the Force, and if all else had failed, he had fallen asleep. Now he couldn’t do any of these little activities to ease the boredom.
All he could do now was lie in this bed, stare at the ceiling and listen to the steady wheezing sound of the iron lung.
The constant, regular noise of the machine was really starting to get on his nerves.
This forced absolute inactivity was one part of this dreadful boredom, worse however was the knowledge that this time it was going to last. Whenever he had been bored before, he knew the boredom was going to end. Perhaps hours or even days later, but there had always been an end in sight. Now, there was no hope of any change. He was stuck here for the next months or years, perhaps for the rest of his life.
Anakin opened his mouth to let out an annoyed sigh but only a week moan emerged. He had never before thought about sighing, or the fact that to be able to sigh, one had to breathe in deeply first and then breathe out with force. He could not control the amount of air he breathed in or out his attempted sighs were pitiful.
He turned his eyes to the left and stared at the door hoping that Dr Hadasht would be back soon. He knew she could not spend all her time sitting here in his room to keep him company but every time she left he desperately wished she hadn’t as soon as she closed the door behind her.
This time, Dr Hadasht had told him that she would take a bath and talk with Dr Berberov about his next operation.
Why couldn’t they just let him sleep? Sleeping would be much more entertaining than staring at this blasted ceiling for hours on end. At least it would pass the time.
But, he knew that they couldn’t allow that. His metabolism had a hard enough time dealing with all the various drugs they administered, they could not give him any more than the absolutely necessary dosage of narcotics and painkillers.
And those drugs that disconnected him from feeling the Force.
Anakin grumbled, feeling for a moment satisfied to be able to do that, grumble. He could use his vocal cords and the adjustments Dr Hadasht had made seemed to help him speak, perhaps he was just getting used to speak in time to the steady mechanised breathing.
Of course, he did understand that Dr Hadasht and the other physicians were keen on having his abilities to use the Force suppressed. He had after all, broken a window and almost killed Dr Hadasht with uncontrolled bursts of the Force. Still, if he were in control of the Force, he could amuse himself with floating things, the pair of socks Dr Hadasht had left lying on her chair for example. He could pick up the book and read it by himself. Or he could pick up Dr Hadasht’s computer and read her notes on his progress. They were something she probably did not want him to see.
Why didn’t they understand that he was bored to death? It was just a pity that he could not really die of boredom.
Hell, even if one could die of boredom, he wouldn’t, since his heart rate, breathing and gods know what else was controlled by a multitude of machines.
So, he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t read, he couldn’t practice his force skills and he couldn’t move, so all there was left for him to do was get depressed about his situation.
Anakin closed his eyes again.
Here he was, in the great Military Hospital of Alma Serena, lying flat on his back, not able to move, with the exception of his eyes and mouth, and from what he had learned in the last few days, this was going to last.
There were, he told himself, a few things to look forward to. Diam’s visit tomorrow was certainly one of them, as were the action figures he had promised to bring. Anakin was curious about them. He didn’t think he had ever even seen a complete set of the Space Traveller series and now Diam was to give them to him as a present.
Not that he could do anything with them. Somebody else would have to show them to him and that was it. He would not be able to unpack the figures, hold each of them in his hand and arrange them to recreate a scene from the books. What good would they be then?
In the end the grim knowledge that he could do absolutely nothing was all his thoughts circled back to.
Oh, yes, they had told him the complete paralysis was not going to be permanent. It was necessary for his broken spine to mend. But he’d still be stuck in an iron lung. He probably would get the use of his arms back. His legs were a different question altogether. As for his internal organs, his liver, kidneys, stomach, and so on, they were all more or less useless, too. There was a possibility they’d get ahold of an artificial liver and kidneys but whether the rest of his organs would be repairable enough for him to live without supporting machines could not be predicted as of now.
That was just another woe adding to his complete boredom: he could not even eat. Eating did pass the time. It was fun. But he could not eat. Hell, he could not even drink anything. His mouth was constantly parched and perhaps he was going to spend the rest of his life like this.
No wonder with all the damaged organs uselessly decaying away inside him his stomach was throbbing with a dull ache even through the painkillers.
Looking at his situation realistically, it seemed likely that he would spend the rest of his days lying in this hospital bed, with only Dr Hadasht to keep him company and an occasional visit from Diam or one of his former colleagues from the New Forces.
And how long would they be interested in visiting him, Anakin wondered. In one year’s time or two at the most, they would stop coming. If only because they’d feel horrible about telling them of the new and fascinating things they were doing while he was still stuck here. They’d probably send messages on occasion about how they’d like to come but unfortunately were too busy. It was likely that they’d really wanted to visit but there would be always some matter more urgent than this depressing visit to their friend.
Even Dr Hadasht would probably move on to a more challenging patient once she’d done all she could for him.
And Shura would never ever come.
Anakin bit the inside of his lower lip. Tears were stinging in his eyes.
Shura was gone and that’s all there was to it. She had left him and she did not care a bit about him any more. Otherwise she would be here, wouldn’t she?
Or perhaps something had happened to her? Dr Hadasht had told him, Shura had vanished the day after his crash and nobody had seen her since.
What if there had been an accident, Anakin thought. What if Shura was dead, her ship may have exploded and now it and Shura were specks of space dust circling some planet or spreading through the great void between solar systems. It was a big universe and the likelihood of somebody finding the wreckage, even if there was something left of her ship, was minimal.
Somehow, Anakin told himself, he would know if she was dead. He should feel it.
But, thanks to these horrid Force suppressant drugs, he could not be sure.
Diam had asked whether they should start a Republic-wide search for missing Admiral Shura Talassa, but Anakin had declined the offer.
What good would it do, even if Shura was found? She’d still not want to see him.
Anakin could taste blood in his mouth. Reluctantly he forced himself to relax his jaws. If he was not careful, he might bite straight through his flesh.
The thought biting off a slip of the soft inside of mouth, made him want to gag. He had swallowed enough parts of his lungs just after the accident. Though with his stomach not working those pieces of lung were probably still rotting away in his insides. The gnawing pain in his stomach was probably caused by the remains of his lungs disintegrate slowly.
Perhaps he thought with grim satisfaction, the rot would spread from his stomach and slowly eat away his insides until he died.
He wanted to die! Anakin closed his eyes and let his tears flow freely. That was another black mark to chalk up along his other woes: he was not able to kill himself. He desperately wished he could think of a way, but immobile and with no access to the Force there simply was no way to end this hideous travesty of life he was forced to endure.
Anakin could hear door to his left open and somebody walking in, Dr Hadasht no doubt. He recognised the soft tapping sound her shoes made on the floor.
“I’m sorry I was so long,” she said when she stopped next to his bed.
“That’s ok,” Anakin replied.
Dr Hadasht wiped the tears from his face. He was not even able to do that by himself.
Anakin wished he could sense at least a little of what she was feeling when she looked at him. He opened his eyes to see whether he could guess from her expression, but as usual the small smile on her face confounded his interpretation. She wasn’t amused by the way he looked, was she?
Dr Hadasht leaned closer, examining some part of the reconstructive surgery of his face no doubt. Her hair was still wet, and Anakin wondered what kind of shampoo she used. He wanted to smell what scent it had, but the breathing apparatus cut out all smell except its own, an obnoxious mixture of antiseptics and machine-oil.
“How was your discussion with Dr Berberov?” he asked.
Anakin could feel her sigh against the exposed skin of his neck.
“He’s a stubborn old mule,” she said. “But he’ll do as I say.”
She seemed to be almost crawling under him, her wet hair was painfully tickling the new skin grafted to his neck.
“Hm,” Dr Hadasht made and straightened up.
“That bad?” Anakin tried to sound light-hearted but he heard the desperation in his own voice.
“No, not bad at all,” Dr Hadasht stated. She smiled at him and sat down on her chair just next to him. “What are we going to do now?” she asked. “Do you want me to read more of the exciting adventures of Safad Haad, Warlord of Warhoon.”
Gods, she must be bored, Anakin thought, spending her days trying to keep him entertained.
“No,” he said. He should sent her away to do something she liked to do, not waste her time here. He felt a wave of self-loathing overcome him. Was that all he was now good for? Wasting other people’s time?
“No?” she asked. “I thought you liked it?”
“I do,” Anakin replied, “but you can’t stand it.”
Dr Hadasht laughed. “Well, it’s not really my kind of book,” she admitted, “but I think I am getting used to it.”
Anakin wished he could sense whether she was telling the truth or whether she was just kindly telling a lie.
“Is there something else you’d rather do?” she wanted to know.
Anakin stared at the ceiling. He did not want to do anything. He was no good for anything anymore. Just a waste of time and money.
The feeling of despair creeping over him, knotting his stomach, was too familiar to be disturbing.
“Is there?” Dr Hadasht asked.
“Die,” Anakin replied.
Dr Hadasht laughed. “Apart from that.”
Anakin wished he could turn his head, at least enough to see whether she really thought his wish to die was funny. She must know that he was in pain, despite the medication, that reading an entertaining novel to him did not make up for the fact that he was stuck here.
“No reading for now,” Dr Hadasht said, “what about playing naughts and crosses?”
Anakin had to laugh despite himself. “Please, no.”
Despite Dr Hadasht’s adjustments laughing with that damned iron lung was just as impossible as sighing. It jostled his innards without his lungs reacting as they ought to.
Then, Anakin suddenly realised that there was something wrong with his stomach. The dull ache he had felt had ever so slowly become a insistent throbbing pain. He tried to concentrate on the source of the pain but without access to the force, he couldn’t feel anything. Except that the waves of pain became stronger and stronger.
“Dr Hadasht,” he whispered, “what dosage of painkillers am I getting at the moment?”
Perhaps there was just something wrong with the infusion.
“Twenty milligrams of Ranakyl and five of Teselaptamol,” she answered. “Why?”
Anakin could hear the frown she made when she asked. He had no idea what her statement about the painkillers actually meant , it sounded like a lot to him.
“I think there is something wrong,” he replied. Perhaps he was just imagining things, perhaps his stomach had ached that badly all along.
Dr Hadasht stood up, her chair clattering to the floor behind her. “What?”
Anakin felt a bit foolish to alarm her like this. Surely everything was under control.
“My stomach,” he said nevertheless.
The pain spread from the centre of his stomach outward, throbbing through his innards.
Dr Hadasht leaned over his face. “What about it?”
“It hurts,” was all Anakin could answer, and as if in reply to this a burst of pain shot through him, harsher and sharper than anything before. Anakin wished he could scream, but screaming was another luxury he was denied. All he could do was whimper in time with the regular breathing the machine created. “I think something just broke,” he managed to say.
“Shit,” Dr Hadasht turned away and vanished behind the bulk of the iron lung.
He tried to hear what she said or what she was doing, but the wheezing of the breathing apparatus and the noise ringing in his ears were too loud. He more felt than heard his teeth chatter. His entire body seemed to grown cold.
Now the pain was so bad it seemed to fill his entire body.
Perhaps he was dying, he thought. He wouldn’t mind dying at all, he just wished it would not hurt so damned much.
There were more people now in the room, he could not make out how many or what they were doing. Voices were assaulting his ears, confused, incomprehensible. Above the din Anakin could hear Dr Hadasht yell “Get me Dr Roberts this instant.”
Another voice urgently spoke next to his ear. “We’re losing him, damn, we’re losing him.”
Despite the pain throbbing through his every fibre, Anakin had to smile then. Just a little longer and he would have finally made it. He wanted to say ‘good’ but he had lost control even over his voice.
His nerves screamed with agony, stronger and stronger, until they reached a peak then everything stopped and darkness closed around him.
Anakin felt disappointed
when he woke up again and realised that he was still alive. By now he
should have gotten used to dying and coming round again only to realise
that he wasn’t dead - again. He still felt cheated. Somebody
had told him he was dying.
Why didn’t they just leave him alone and have it over with?
“He’s awake,” Dr Hadasht said.
Anakin opened his eyes, hating the damned ceiling above him with a vengeance. Then his hatred turned against Dr Hadasht. It was all her fault that he was still alive. It had been from the beginning If she hadn’t turned up at the crash site, he would have died and by now would be buried and happily rotting away in his grave.
“Anakin.” Diam face appeared hovering above him. He smiled at Anakin but Anakin could feel his friend’s joy of seeing him awake was tempered with worry and frustration.
Anakin stared at Diam’s face, realising that he could feel Diam’s emotions again. The impression was vague and dulled but he had regained some access to the Force. He could sense Dr Hadasht’s feelings as well, just a hint of her relief and satisfaction. It wasn’t much but this weak hold on his abilities made him feel less crippled. More so, he thought, than the restoration of his left eye had done.
“Hi,” Anakin said.
Diam’s smile grew broader and the worry and frustration vanished almost completely from his feelings.
“You had a real close brush with death yesterday,” Diam told him, as if Anakin did not know. “It seems that you’re making a habit of near death experiences.”
“So it seems,” Anakin replied.
He didn’t have the heart to tell Diam how badly he had wanted to die. At the moment he was not so sure anymore, with Diam here to visit and his own abilities to use the force at least slightly restored. The pain, he noted with delight, had almost completely gone too. It seemed that the producers of painkillers were not going to go out of business after all.
To his own surprise he felt himself smile. This was much, much better.
“He’s smiling,” Diam said turning to Dr Hadasht who must be standing somewhere behind him.
“What happened?” Anakin asked.
“Your liver gave out,” Diam explained, “finally and completely and you went into some sort of shock.”
“Anaphylactic shock,” Dr Hadasht added. “Too many drugs in your system and nothing there to handle them.”
“Oh,” Anakin made.
If he understood her, his near death experience was the reason that they had to cut down on the Force suppressant drugs. One positive result at least.
“We are still looking into what actually caused this,” the doctor went on, her voice grim and determined. “So far, we suppose that the painkillers and the Force suppressant drugs created a lethal cocktail.”
Diam thought they knew who was responsible - so did Dr Hadasht, Anakin realised.
“Somebody tried to kill me?” he asked.
Killing him now seemed to him hardly worth the bother. For one, he might still die on his own, secondly, he was no threat to anybody right now, and last but not least, whoever bore such a grudge against him to plan to assassinate him should realise that letting him live was a much harder punishment.
“We’re not sure yet,” Diam said, though his feeling told otherwise. “It may have just been a mistake.”
“Really?” Anakin wanted to know.
“These Force suppressant drugs are not very well tested,” Dr Hadasht explained, “or their reaction with other drugs. We are not even sure yet whether it was the drugs that caused the damage. But to be on the safe side, you are not getting any now, as you probably noticed.”
Anakin nodded, rather started to nod and stopped the movement expecting a burst of pain through his neck. But there was no pain, and his head had moved. Just an inch perhaps, but it had moved!
“Yes,” Dr Hadasht stated and stepped around Diam to look down on her patient. “We were able to loosen the restraints a bit. Not much, I admit, but it’s a start.”
Anakin grinned and gingerly straightened his neck again. It was only a minuscule improvement but it was an improvement, the first real healing his body had done since the crash.
“You see,” Diam said, echoing Anakin’s thoughts, “you are on the mend.”
A flash of anxiety emanated from both Dr Hadasht and Diam.
“But,” Anakin prompted.
The doctor and Diam exchanged a look.
“As the Senator has said, your liver ceased functioning altogether yesterday,” Dr Hadasht told him. “We have the equipment here to recreate its functions externally. But the machines cannot really replace a liver. We need to get an artificial one and we need it now.”
Otherwise, he would still die.
“How long?” Anakin asked.
“Three days, four max,” the doctor stated. “Under normal circumstances, longer but in your case that’s all the time we have.”
So, he had not died at once, but he still might die anyway. He had no idea whether three or four days was enough to get an artificial liver or not, but from the worried expression of the faces of two people looking down on him and their anxious feelings, he could gather it was difficult.
Anakin frowned. He knew that this was a really absurd reaction but at the moment he did not want to die. He was getting better. Life might get worth living again some day.
“Senator Palpatine has made a very moving appeal to the public to get an artificial liver for the great hero of the recent war,” Dr Hadasht said, with a half-smile at Diam. “I am sure we can get one.”
Somehow, presumably from Dr Hadasht’s memories, Anakin knew that it was public knowledge he had been drunk at the time of the crash and that some commentaries had been appalled by the fact that a man of Anakin’s position would come to such an disgraceful end.
He did not know why this memory surfaced now in his mind. Except, of course, that his drinking had also some influence on the health of his liver.
“I hope you have stressed the fact that it wasn’t my drinking that did my liver in, Diam,” he said.
Diam grinned. “It’s good to see you haven’t lost your sense of humor,” he replied. He turned to Dr Hadasht. “Would you?” he asked and Dr Hadasht stepped back from the bed and a large box appeared, handed by the doctor to Diam.
“Do you want to see your present now?” Diam asked.
Those idiotic action figures, Anakin realised, but somehow he felt excited about them. Perhaps it was Diam’s infectious eagerness to please his friend, perhaps, Anakin thought, one could only get morbidly depressed every now and then. Whatever it was, it made a nice change.
“Yes, please,” Anakin answered.
For the moment, things were looking brighter, his health was improving and with his abilities returning he would be able to do something with the action figures.
Diam bend down and put the box on the floor, then he fiddled around with it for a moment and straightening up again, he held one little figurine before Anakin’s eyes.
“What have we here?” he asked
“Who,” Anakin corrected him. Of course, he recognised the figure at once. It was a green-skinned, four-armed person with a spiky crest on its head. It held a sword in each of its four hands, and wore large variety other weapons on its black armour. Many of whom were just part of the plastic that made up the figure itself, some of them were detachable.
“Khorran Sek, Kyrek of the Bosan,” Anakin stated.
“Wait, I want to see, too” Dr Hadasht said, rushing around the hospital bed to position herself on Anakin’s right side.
This was going to be fun.
The story continues
Return to Front Page