It didn’t seem like that big of a deal when it first started. After all it wasn’t like he broke something important, Sam just dropped a coffee mug when he took it out of the cupboard, it wasn’t even full. It was easy to dismiss, after all why would you think anything of that? Obviously he was just a little tired and that tiredness lended itself to being clumsy. People drop mugs every day after all. He cleaned it up and, late for work, ended up skipping his coffee until he arrived. Once there he noticed nothing wrong, he took down a mug without any problems, then he just forgot about it, as you do with all those little things that are unimportant.
The next time it was a glass, slipped right through his fingers even though Sam could have sworn he was holding onto it tightly. He frowned at his fingers once, in a distracted way, then cleaned it up and got another glass. His fingers felt a little strange, but he had been busy yesterday, doing all sorts of things so he probably just did something weird to his hand without realising. That had to be it. He didn’t link it with the broken mug, that incident was mostly gone from his memory. When asked when things first stared, he would point to the glass, after all it was a much more dramatic memory than the mug, and he had spent a long time making sure there were no glass shards left on the floor.
A few days after it was his fork, slid from his grasp and clattered off the table and onto the floor. With a sigh, he picked it up, unconsciously using his left hand this time, and put it into the sink, then he fetched a new one. In his moment of frustration he didn’t notice that his fingers had gone temporarily numb, or that that didn’t move all that much either.
It was a month after this that he realised he was being quite clumsy lately. It had progressed from glasses and cutlery to plates and bowls, even the chopping board as he moved it from the counter to the sink. He had begun to notice a strangeness to his hand, not quite a tingle, but not quite a numbness. His writing had been deteriorating too, becoming messier and hard to read.
It took him two weeks after noticing to convince himself that it wasn’t nothing and that he should go to the doctor. The doctor was little help. During the examination there appeared to be nothing wrong with the hand, maybe a little muscle weakness. The doctor recommended some stretching and perhaps a visit to a physiotherapist.
Sam did the stretches and the hand exercises that the physiotherapist had given him, but it didn’t seem to improve. If anything, things were just getting worse. Soon the strange not-tingling had moved from his hand up to his forearm.
Tests were done again and again, but there was no visible cause for the problem. His fingers would respond to things, but the grip was weak and the movements sluggish. The more things that were crossed off the list, the more the doctor began to gently hint that perhaps it wasn’t a physical problem after all.
The psychologist wasn’t much help, he wasn’t nervous about anything, he didn’t have any hidden secrets that were eating away at him and he was perfectly content with his life. The medications didn’t work either. Muscle relaxants that did nothing but make the response slower. Things that made him feel numb and uninterested in anything and all the while the numbness spread.
Then one day he woke and moved his fingers as he did everyday, to reassure himself he still could, but this day his fingers didn’t move. They stayed exactly as they were. He concentrated, willing them to even twitch, but nothing happened. He reached out with his other hand and felt the skin, it was warm, but it felt like touching someone else’s hand. There was no sense of being touched, only touching. He gently bent a finger forward, worried that if he hurt himself he wouldn’t feel pain.
The doctor seemed unsurprised to see him again. He looked at the hand, pronounced there was nothing he could do and suggested that Sam seek treatment elsewhere.
And he did.
Countless doctors, countless tests and still it spread. Up to his shoulder, down once side of his chest, into one leg, then the other. He spent his life going back and forth from specialist to specialist, seeking a cure, an answer, anything.
Finally it happened.
One morning he woke up and he couldn’t move his left arm. The only part of him that still worked. He could feel a small patch of blanket on his chest, but that was it. He was stuck.
It was another two hours before the nurse stopped by for her daily visit and found him like that. She called for help, without Sam’s assistance she would be unable to move him into the chair. While they waited she checked his pulse and made notes. He knew they believed him, they had done so ever since one of the doctors had tried to make Sam stand, lifting him up by the armpits and practically pitched him forward. That had not been a good day.
Still it spread, slowly and inexorably upwards, first his neck, then his mouth, finally his eyes. His chest still rose and fall, but breathing seemed to be all he could do without assistance. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink or go to the bathroom. Couldn’t even goddamned blink. That was the worst day. The day that his eyelids stopped responding and they taped them closed. He could still hear, still think but how were they to know that? He couldn’t call out. He stopped being a person to them. Some of the nurses still talked to him, told him about their day but others didn’t. They ignored him entirely. Moving him around, taking blood and not explaining what test was to be carried out. Sometimes they’d open his eyes gently so he could look out but as time went on they stopped doing that. He began to live in darkness, unable to move, unable to feel.
Just waiting for the day he’d be free.