I have a very good friend - Max, we have known each other since middle school. Now he moved to another city for work, but we are still in touch and often discuss the same topic. Several years ago, a very unpleasant story happened to Max.
He got into a major accident, which involved several cars. I know for sure that in this accident two people were killed, and my friend almost was the third one. His condition was serious, he had several complex surgeries, and then he fell into a coma.
I remember how we were all terribly worried, how his mother was crying because he is her only son, how his bride – Nancy went back and forth in hospital corridors, as a ghost: pale, confused. All that time I was also there, tried to help as much as I could, comforted his mother and Nancy. We have suffered a lot, of course. To our great relief, soon Max woke up. He was in a coma a little more than a week.
Afterwards, there was a long recovery. All this time my friend seemed a little strange. He was not himself. Once I stayed overnight with Max – to watch him. His mother and his fiancée were so terribly tired, so I decided to help them a little bit - let them go home and rest. That night, Max told me what had happened to him during all those days that he spent in a coma. Here is what he had told me. I didn’t know that was in a coma. I didn’t know that I was asleep. I did not remember the accident, and I still don’t really remember it. It was all in a daze, as if it was not me. I just woke up in my bed at home. As usual, I started getting ready for work, it was around 7 am. Only I was surprised that my mother was not home. She was supposed to have a day off that day, but she wasn’t there. I tried to call her, but there was only noise on the line, so I decided that something with the network and decided to call her later. I went out into the street, and it was suspiciously quiet there. No cars, no people. Occasionally someone passed by, although around that time people are always in a hurry to work, there is traffic everywhere.
My bus never came. I stood in the cold for a very long time. Surprisingly, it was very cold, even though it was spring. Why was it so cold? I decided to walk to work. And all the while I was wondering how quiet it was around. I came to my office - and there was not a soul there. Emptiness. There was no one there. Coats were not hanging at the entrance hall, as if no one came here. I called our secretary - Monica, but again all I got was the noise on the line. There were even no ring sounds. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I decided to leave, what else was I left to do? All the way I thought about what could have happened that the whole city got literally extinct?
Why were all the people that I occasionally saw on the street so sad? Of course all kinds of silly apocalyptic thoughts came to mind. I probably watch too many movies. But how could I miss the end of the world, for example? This is simply impossible to miss! I turned to Nancy, because I decided to go and talk to her. To make sure I'm not crazy. The door to her apartment was open, but it was empty inside, again. That is, furniture, clothing, everything was in place, but there was no Nancy and no parents of hers. There was no one home. Only wind was flying around the room.
That completely confused me. What exactly was happening? Of course, I could not call anyone, because except for the hissing the phone did not make any other sounds. I do not know how much longer I walked around half-empty streets until I felt that I was overcome by panic. At some point I just gave up and ran, although I don’t know where I was running and why. Maybe I was just running from fear or uncertainty? I fell into hysterics, honestly speaking. Returning home, I found out that mom was still not there. Last hope pushed me to go to our neighbor – Vicky.
I went to the same university with her son Nick; he was later killed, attacked in the neighborhood, robbed and beaten to death. Aunt Vicky was desperate in her grief, so I often came to help her out and support her. Now I was hoping that at least she would be home. The door to her apartment was also open, too. I came in and listened. It seemed that there was someone in the kitchen. Hooray! So I'm not crazy after all! I ran into the kitchen and was shocked. I saw Nick sitting by the window. He was sitting there, as if nothing had happened to him, alive and healthy. My words stuck in my throat, and I was just standing there like a fool, looking at him and saying nothing. Nick smiled.
- Why are you standing there, bro, like you’ve seen a ghost? Come in, sit down, - he said.
- Nick? You got killed…- I said breathlessly.
- Yes, I remember, I remember. What happened, happened. Sit down.
I sat down at the table. My head was spinning; I did not understand what was happening. Nick, as if nothing had happened, was asking me how I was doing, how his mother was - Aunt Vicky, what my job was. I answered his questions on auto pilot. It was scared and confused. Then Nick told me that I was dead. Or nearly dead. And that this place was something like purgatory and people’s souls get stuck here. Sometimes they remain here for many years, and sometimes they stay in this strange place for no more than a week. Also, Nick said that I would not want to eat, would not want to drink and that altogether all my human needs are no longer relevant. I can only sleep. But even that is not necessary. I can’t see my loved ones because they are alive and they are simply not here. He told me to be careful. He said not to come out of the apartment at night, because besides people like us there are also the souls of freaks and scumbags. Nick assured me that even just looking at them will be unpleasant. But he also promised that one day I will leave this place. Simply the right time need to come. But where I go from here was not known to my friend.
I was listening to him and felt like my heart dropped to my feet. I died? But how? Everything was ok. We have talked with Nick for a very long time, recalling our youth. I even got a little distracted. But every time realizing where I am, I was feeling sick. I returned to my apartment when it was already dark. While I was walking up to my floor, I heard somewhere below someone was growling. I looked through the flight of stairs and saw something eerie in the moonlight. I think it was not a human being: it was something ugly, hunchbacked, covered with some bumps and sores, all skewed up, and its hands and feet were literally stuck in different directions.
Some nasty smell with reek of alcohol hit me sharply in the nose. I felt sick, so I shut my mouth with my hands. That something started coughing loudly. And then by the sound of coughing I realized what, or rather who it was. When I was little in our building lived a bum – Mr. Rigby. The neighbors didn’t throw him out on a street out of pity. Mr. Rigby drank a lot, and later he started hanging out with drug addicts and eventually just disappeared. But then, about six months later, the bum was back. Now he looked really creepy – he was skinny and pale. Nobody knew where he went and why he came back. And now he was also coughing very loudly.
My mom was worried that that he might have tuberculosis, and plus he was also making a mess out of our building, so she asked the sheriff to kick him out. Thus Mr. Rigby started living on the street. I was actually upset with my mother for kicking out a helpless man. Well, I was a kid and did not understand everything. After a while he actually died of tuberculosis, not far from our building. And now, I think I was looking at him. He was coughing up blood and was sitting in the same place where he used to sit when he was alive.
I was horrified by what I saw. I hurried to my apartment, and I heard behind some obscene cries of that mutilated human being. He probably noticed me. In panic, I shut the door behind me. Everything was dark. I tried to turn on the light - but it didn’t work. Nothing worked. Then I just went to bed, hoping that everything will be fine in the morning, as it used to be. The whole night in the stairwell someone was making noise; sometimes I heard cough or growling, there was someone constantly running back and forth behind the door making some weird sounds. I was very scared.
In the morning I woke up in the same place where I fell asleep. Nothing has changed. Only eerie sounds behind the door stopped. I went out again to the city. But everything was still the same there. I was in despair. I wanted to cry, to be honest. What should I do? Where should I go? So, I lived in this vacuum for quite some time: wandering around the city, staring at the pale and sad faces of people. The hope to get out of here inside me more was fading more and more. I lost track of time. It felt to me as if a month or more has passed by. At some point I had enough. My soul was tearing apart. I decided to stay in the city for the night instead of hiding in my apartment. Let me be torn up by those freaks that Nick talked about, I did not care. I just wanted to quickly end this nightmare. I stood in the middle of the square, in complete darkness. Nasty sounds started coming from around me, as if some animals were hissing and grunting. I just stood there and waited for someone to come out and destroy me. They appeared far away. They were coming: their gnarled hands entwined together, some bumps on their backs; they were all crooked and twisted. They were walking and burping. Sorry for being rude. Real burping, so smelly, nasty and loud! Their faces reminded me frogs, they had almost no hair on their heads, just some greasy dirty bits. Disgusting. Behind them, I could see, there were more, even worse looking. These creatures were coming out of all the crevices and corners. Previously, they used to be human. Some of them were still wearing their old clothes: ragged, dirty. Their faces were covered with warts; the structure of their bodies was somehow wrong, asymmetric. As they stayed there, the air got filled with poisonous and disgusting smell, as if everything around me was rotten. I started to feel sick, I fell to my knees. I could literally puke my guts out. These things were approaching me, eagerly stretching out their mangled limbs. My hearing was hurt by the sounds they were making, and everything around got filled with these "symphonies from hell."
I was sure that this was the end for me. At some point, when they were already very close, I felt like someone abruptly grabbed my arm and quickly pulled me aside. I recognized my savior – it was Nick. He literally dragged me along, while cursing and accusing me of weakness.
- Come on, Max! Otherwise, you will become the same as they are! Let’s get away from here while we can, - he said.
Soon we were sitting in my apartment. I cried like a girl. I was ashamed. Ashamed of getting here, of not being able to do anything about it. I gave in and was sitting and crying about it. Nick sighed. He said that my soul should not get to these "creatures" and that I need to have strength and patience. Not everybody can pass such a test. The test of the emptiness around him. This longing for home and for loved ones was eating me up inside. I wanted to scream. And behind the door again I could hear those eerie sounds like there were some wild animals roaming around. I was no longer scared though. I was absolutely exhausted. Plus, I also thought a lot. I thought that I should not give up. Nick has been here for more than two years and he still has not lost hope.
So why did I give up so easily? I'm still ashamed of myself. And so I lived there. Apparently, these eerie creatures remembered where I live and started trying to get to my place through windows and the main door. Every night I nailed all of it so that they could not get inside. I was insanely scared when everything around me was shaking from them trying to get into my apartment. In the morning everything stopped. But I was always waiting for the night with indescribable horror.
And then I got sick. I was getting weaker every day. I ceased to feel anything. I was no longer scared. I barricaded inside my apartment and spent there all my days. I don’t know how much time has passed. There were no mirrors around, but I think I looked lousy. I could see that my hands turned completely white, and that I could not stand for a long time. I would literally fall.
Then came a moment when I just could not get out of bed. I lay there and thought that it will be all over soon. Either I'll go somewhere further, or these creatures will get to me in the night, because now I could not protect my home - I was too weak. "Freaks" kept scratching my door so hard that I was sure - one day they will just "erase" it with their claws and will get to me. Sometimes I listened to them all night – howling, bellowing and crashing doors and windows. It was awful.
After another hellish night, at dawn, Nick came to me. I do not know how he got in, because everything was shut tightly. He sat down next to me, took my hand. At that moment I probably looked like a ghost. I even had no strength to move. Nick said that I was leaving soon, because my mom and my fiancée were praying a lot for me. He asked me to visit his grave often and tell his mother to let him go. - What do you mean "let go"? - I asked.
- Ask her to get rid of my stuff. My room is still the same as it was when I was alive. But it should not be like that. She has to change everything. And she should let me go. No more crying for me, it's been a long time. I want her to be happy. She is not letting me go, and that is why I'm still here. But if this is over, I can be free. And then I'll come back to her. Tell her so, - said Nick.
At that moment I suddenly felt like everything inside of me got very tight. It seemed that I was about to burst into a thousand particles. I began to squirm and couldn’t see anymore. The last thing I heard was Nick saying his goodbye to me.
And then I woke up in my hospital bed. I died there, to wake up here. When I saw the doctors, I immediately realized that I was back. I wanted to jump for joy, despite the fact that my head was still a mess. Then I saw you. I realized in that instant that there is nothing more precious in life than the loved ones. When you went home, my first day here, I cried. I cried most of the night, but not from pain but from happiness. I was so happy that it was all over. I was in a coma for about a week, but it felt that I spent almost half a year in that world.
Now I had a chance to rethink everything. I want to live. I want to make happy everyone who is close to me, because without them my world is empty. Without them there is no me. I don’t want to tell all of this to my mom and Nancy. At least not yet. I don’t want to scare them. I don’t know if they will believe me. Doctors would probably say that I'm just delirious. But it all happened for real. It truly did… I think it all happened just so I could wake up. So that I changed. I have always taken my family and friends for granted. Often even hurt them... Now everything will change ...
It’s been 5years since that happened. I believed everything my friend told me. Max could never lie, and why would he? Especially because afterwards the events took place that confirmed his words. I know that Max went to see Aunt Vicky and told her everything. The woman wept and could not believe it, but nevertheless she did everything she was told to do. A little less than a year later her daughter (Nick’s sister) got pregnant. She eventually had a boy who was named Danny. The child looked remarkably like Nick. The same face. Even his behavior was the same: the same habits and gestures. Aunt Vicky noticed it immediately. As the boy grew up, she saw more and more of her son’s features in him. Everyone else noticed too, but they didn’t speak of it. This meant that Nick did return, only now in the guise of a grandson of Aunt Vicky.
The woman for the first time in a long time felt really happy, she was sure that her son got back to her, as if he never went away. And soon Max got married and moved to another city. He was transferred to work after a promotion. Soon his mother moved to the same city after him. I know for sure that they are all happy. They are expecting a baby. And I am very pleased for them. Max has changed. Now he really appreciates what he has and I think this new quality of his will never go away. He knows the value of life, and now I know it as well. And I have to thank him for that.