The first thing to emerge from the darkness is a sound.
It is an irritating sound, a tiny little needle of a noise, disrupting the soothing stillness of the dark.
Maybe it will go away.
It does not go away.
Why won't someone turn it off?
With reluctance, other things emerge from the depths. More discomforts. There's a body out there, and it's itchy and a throat that's thirsty, and somewhere there are hands and feet and… and it all feels like too much work.
But the beeping won't go away.
After an interminable period of irritation, the emerging lumps of proprioception cough up the location of eyelids.
This hurts. Why does this hurt?
Right yes, teeth and tongue and lips and throat. Those are things too.
The voice is dry as dust, weak as tissue.
Another voice, strong and familiar, anxious and hopeful, cuts across the infuriating beeps. "Bina!?" it asks. "Bina!? Are you awake?"
This isn't right. She's can't be here. She's in Toronto…
"Yes! It's me! Oh my god! Oh my god you're awake!"
"Nurse! Nurse? She's awake she -"
The familiar voice fades out. More voices, muffled by distance.
"- not sure if - God - is that dog back again!?"
"How does it keep getting in here!"
Another familiar sensation. Hot doggy breath, a tongue like a piece of wet leather, paws on her chest.
There is a scuffle. Things are knocked over.
The paws disappear, but the smell lingers. Darkness wells up again, drowning those newly emerged islands.
Even the beeps drift away.
But not for long this time…
"Bina?" asks another voice, also familiar, deeper, male, calm, and professional. "Bina? Come on, you with us?"
"Emmie?" she croaks.
It's easier this time, though her throat still feels like she's tried to swallow the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag.
"Oh thank god," says the voice, the professionalism cracking a bit. "Can you open your eyes?"
That seems like it would be a bad idea, but she gives it a try.
"It's so bright…" she croaks.
"Lash? Can you get the curtains?" asks Emmie.
The light dims, the hurting goes away, at least a little.
"OK," says Emmie. "Can you try again now?"
"How do you feel?"
"Horrible?" Which is true, but doesn't, in any way, adequately describe how she feels. Bina feels horrible in the way that oceans are 'damp.'
Somewhere in the room, Lashya, who can't be here because she's in Toronto, makes a sound that's half way between a laugh and a sob.
"Heeeey," says Lash, holding her hand with very solid feeling hands for someone who is five hundred kilometers away. "Welcome back."
"H-how… are you here? Toronto's… so far away."
She makes the noise again, and wipes a hand across her face. Bina wants to reach up, to touch her, to make sure she's really there - but her hands feel like they weigh about a billion pounds. With enormous effort she manages to squeeze the hand that Lash is holding.
"I flew dummy," says Lash.
Oh, right. That's… that's a thing people can do.
"Your parents are here too. Your Mom just brought your Dad back to the hotel to shower. They're going to be so mad that they weren't here when you woke up!"
Bina feels questions and confessions and just a whole lot of crying pile up behind her lips. She tries to figure out what to say, but her body picks for her.
"Thirsty," says her lips.
"Oh!" says Lash, who flew here, and is here, and that's nice. "Of course - we have a - here, drink this."
A straw is put to her lips and oh thank heavens there's water on the other side. She drinks and the flat distilled water tastes better than anything she's ever tasted.
"Five weeks," says Emmie.
That seems like a really long time.
The darkness starts welling up between the cracks again.
"Bina? How are you doing?"
"I'm just… really tired."
Lash squeezes her hand again.
"All right," says Emmie. "We'll let you sleep in a second, OK?"
There is rustling and other noise as Emmie fiddles with something on the bed.
"Lash? I know you want to be here, but I need to do some tests. Could you -"
"Sure - yeah."
Bina feels the brush of familiar lips against her cheek. "I'll be right outside, OK?"
"Okay…" she whispers.
More fussing with the bed. Bina tries to stay awake, which is like trying to get out from under a duvet that's too large and heavy.
"… is she - is she going back to sleep?"
"Yes, but real sleep this time. She's been in and out for days, but I think the bad part is over."
A hand on her arm. "OK Bina," says Emmie. "I'm going to have to shine a bright light in your eye now. Can you look right at it?"
That sounds like another absolutely horrible idea. "Uhh…"
"All done. It's good, it's all good," says Emmie. "We'll get you in for an MRI later today, but pupilary action is good. That's a good sign - and you don't seem to have any aphasia. Can you squeeze my left hand?"
He's talking but he's not saying anything.
Not the important things.
"What happened?" she asks.
"Before I answer that - can you answer a question?"
She considers trying to nod, but thinks better of it. She says, "Okay…" instead.
"Which one are you?"