Sam opened his eyes, trying to determine the source of the incessant beeping. In the dimly lit room he could make out a curtain, a tall hatrack shape next to his bed, and a cluster of strange equipment, from which was emanating an unearthly green glow. It was coming back to him. He looked down at the faded pink blanket covering his body and could just barely see the bulge of his toes struggling against the tight coverings. The cold hospital room was becoming familiar. As he started to rouse, he noticed a slight pinch on his left index finger. He raised his hand to get a look at what could be causing the sensation. When he bent his elbow, a stinging at the center of his arm forced him to instinctively reach over with his right hand and rub. He felt the tape stretched across the thin skin at the bend in his arm. As he moved his fingers over the rough texture, he felt a small piece of cold metal. He strained to raise his head.
“Ah, the IV lead,” he whispered.
Tracing his forearm, he felt his limp wrist and continued down his hand to see what was hampering the movement of his finger. He felt the smooth plastic closed around his finger and recognized it as the blood oxygen meter.
The beeping intruded on his thoughts and marred the perfect silence of the darkened room.
Sam closed his eyes and let his mind focus on the smooth rhythm of his pulse. In the darkness of his mind he imagined the blood pumping through his veins. He could see the red liquid oozing through a tangle of veins and arteries, pulsing to the beat of the constant beeping. He took in a deep breath and the scent of disinfectant overwhelmed his senses. As he let out the breath, he noticed a skip in the rhythm of the beeping. His eyes popped open and he struggled to see the green line of his pulse as it played across the screen next to his bed. He watched as the flat lines between peaks stretched longer and longer. The beeping was slowed to a sad crawl. He tried again to calm himself with a practiced deep breath, but instead felt his lungs gasping for air. The beeps continued to slow their pace. The darkness of the sterile room closed in around him. He waited for an unending moment, straining to hear the beep once again. When the sharp tone finally rang out, it stretched on and on. An unending flat line scrolled across the screen.
Sam struggled against the darkness to open his eyes once again. When they finally popped open, the hospital room had begun to fade and he was overwhelmed by a thick blackness. He could no longer feel the stiff hospital mattress beneath his back. He was weightless, falling into the blackness, consumed.
Sam heard the blare of the clock radio playing Hendrix’s version of All Along the Watchtower.
“There must be some kind of way out of here,” Jimi’s voice called out.
He sat straight up in his bed, turned to see the green numbers on his clock, and read the date.
In the haze of the dawn, the green lights spelled out “03-12-10."
Sam didn’t need the glowing numbers to know that today was his fortieth birthday. The recurring dream was enough to herald the fateful day.
“Well lady fate, what mayhem do you have in store for me this year?” Sam said to the empty room. He swung his feet over the side of the bed, slipped on his tattered house shoes, and forced his stiff body to rise.