Bring Me To Life
by Becky Tailweaver
Without a soul,
My spirit sleeping somewhere cold,
Until you find it there and lead it back home.
Part 2: Sleeping Somewhere Cold
Convalescence was slow and steady. He wanted to walk under his own power as soon as possible, so he obeyed Nurse Sally's advice and rested and ate well, treating his shoulder and ribs gingerly and not pushing the healing bones and joints. He also put up with the hospital's routine for patients with head injuries, being awakened regularly through the night to make certain he wasn't slipping into coma, answering what seemed to be silly questions several times a day to ensure that he was not continuing to lose what memory he had left--such as what had just happened a few hours ago.
Under the cotton hospital outfit, his bruises faded from ugly blood-purple to bluish-violet and then a sickly greenish-yellow that almost made him look jaundiced in large, uneven splotches over his torso and limbs. The bruises on his face waned as well, and the end of swelling and puffiness overall contrubuted a great deal to minimizing his general aches and pains. The severe concussion he had suffered, however, still made any sort of rapid movements an impossibiltiy; if he so much as sat up quickly, his head would throb and he would grow dizzy.
His lacerations also healed at a good rate, many of them no longer needing bandages, scabbing over completely and promising to leave few if any scars. The ones that had needed stitches also healed well, under Doctor Pryor's inspection, closing cleanly and without infection. Those, combined with the various other cuts, scrapes, and abraisions across his skin made him look like a war orphan, and most of his healing wounds itched like the blazes, but he was well on his way to recovery and glad to be told he was doing remarkably well.
All except for his head. His inquiries as to when he might stop having dizzy spells and perhaps regain his memory were met with regretful reminders from the doctor that head injuries always took time to heal, and that his memories were an uncertain thing. He might regain everything when the swelling from the concussion went away, or it might take weeks, months, or even years to restore what he had lost.
That last notion frightened him a little; he didn't want to be lost for years, unable to learn who he was, unable to go home...
Fortunately, Doctor Pryor was able to tell him that they were making inroads on finding out who he was and where he came from. The state's government was contacting the Japanese authorities, with inquiries about student visas, passports, or travel records. It would only be a matter of time, the doctor promised, before they had the answers they needed and he could be sent home to his family--who were no doubt worried and waiting for word of him, by now.
When he was able to stand without dizziness and walk without swaying, he politely informed Nurse Sally that he no longer needed assistance in reaching the bathroom, and proceeded to walk there himself. Without having to rely on a male nurse to keep him from falling over, or Sally outside the door making sure he came out again, he could take his time, wash his own face, and try to smooth out his bed-rumpled hair. Doing everything one-handed was a bit of a trick, but he managed well enough.
As he turned off the sink, he looked again at his reflection in the mirror, critically. It was a young boy he saw there, with dark, dark eyes and hair the color of dark redwood framing his face. It was just like the one he'd seen in his mind, along with that name--Asakura Yoh.
Again, he wondered if that was his real name.
The face in the mirror was a little different from the face in his memory--right now, his face was paler, leaner, more drawn...but his injuries and stress could explain that. And his hair was a little longer than the memory-face's hair, just brushing his shoulders, falling softly around his face. Maybe...that flash of memory was a moment he had looked in a mirror, sometime in the past? Who knew how much time might have passed since then? Or...had his hair once been even longer still...?
The memory-face wasn't as tense as the one in the mirror right now, either. The memory-face was smiling--a playful, gentle grin, a soulful glimmer of dark eyes. The face in the mirror only seemed haggard and thin, too serious and sharp.
Tentative, he tried that smile on for size. He let it spread from his lips to the rest of his face, and found that it fit rather well. Now the boy in the mirror looked so much more like the boy in his shard of memory.
Maybe that really was his name. Asakura Yoh--maybe that was who he was.
The smile felt right too. As he turned out the light and left the bathroom, he kept an abbreviated version of it on his face--not so much a constant grin, but a gentle smile that felt warm inside him along with the knowledge of a name, an identity.
He met Nurse Sally coming in the ward door on his way back to bed, and she smiled in return the moment she looked at him. "Well, good afternoon!" she laughed kindly. "I've never seen you smile like that. What's got you in such a cheerful mood?"
He managed a rather odd-looking right-sided shrug. "I don't know. I think...I'm looking forward to going home...and finding out what I'm missing."
"I bet you are, dear." Sally patted him on the good arm again, walking with him back to his bed. "I was just coming to tell you--Doctor Pryor said that the state office called, and he'd be in to give you the details shortly."
As he sat on the bed, his smile widened involuntarily. "That's great news."
As Nurse Sally tended to him and left, he couldn't stop smiling. Good news indeed--finally, some word. Information had been found. He was one step closer to where he needed to be--to what he needed to know...
Waiting for the doctor to arrive seemed to take forever. Being antsy didn't help his situation any--it just made his shoulder ache more with all his shifting around. He couldn't stand to lie down; though his head still made him woozy if he pushed things, he felt well enough that too much bed rest was beginning to grate on him.
He looked up eagerly as the door opened. Doctor Pryor stepped quietly inside, his face serious and neutral as he shut the door behind him and approached to sit beside the bed.
"I assume Nurse Sally told you that we've had news."
He nodded in reply.
"I just got off the phone with the state offices, and they've been in contact with the Japanese government," the doctor went on. "They have information, but it's a bit confusing. Apparently, both US and Japanese customs offices have records of an Asakura Yoh, but the perplexing thing is that the records show him entering this country and leaving it again. I've been informed that the Japanese government has expressed concerns, and is right now trying to ascertain the whereabouts of one Asakura Yoh."
His smile melted away, confusion crinkling his eyes. Did that mean...Asakura Yoh was not his name? Or...was there some kind of mistake? Did that mean he was really...lost?
Doctor Pryor caught his eye again, trying to look reassuring. "Don't worry--we'll get your family tracked down. The Japanese authorities should be able to trace Asakura Yoh to a residence, and we'll be able to put you in contact with the people there, as well as neighbors, who might know what we're looking for."
He let out a faint breath of relief. "Then it's...not hopeless?"
"Certainly not!" Pryor exclaimed. "We're doing everything we can to get you back where you belong. You rest easy and just keep getting better--let us worry about the details. You'll be home before you know it, young man--on that you have my promise."
He nodded gratefully. Even if his name really wasn't Asakura Yoh, all was not lost. He could still get home--there were still people who might know who he really was.
As the doctor left the room, leaving him alone in the silence, he gingerly lay back down on the bed, lost in thought. There were many things for him to think about...yet nothing in his mind to place them with--no happy memories to sustain him, no cheerful voices to remember in this dim, quiet hospital room. Nothing but empty knowledge, aching voids, no comfort or solace to be found.
As he curled once more into the cool sheets of his bed, he felt terribly alone. He couldn't even remember his family or friends--the people who were waiting for him now, if there were any. What kinds of people they were, how much they missed him, how they would welcome him when he finally got home to them...
He couldn't think of them, couldn't picture them to smile about in remembrance, and the warmth of anticipation paled next to the icy feeling of the hollow places where his memories should have been. He was so lonely it hurt, far worse than his shoulder or his head. The emptiness was so cold.
He wanted to go home so badly, so he could be warm again--truly warm inside; warm and loved and safe. He wanted to fill the void with something--with laughing faces and more of those smiles, with things he knew should have been there but could not recall himself.
Doctor Pryor had promised it was only a matter of time.
All he could do was rest, heal, and wait.
Even if they did pick up a lead, Doctor Pryor explained patiently after yet another inquiry, he would not be allowed to travel until he was completely out of danger, with no chance of aggravating the injury to his head. Until the swelling had disappeared, he wasn't even going to be allowed to move about too much; if there was a chance of exacerbating the concussion--or worse, a chance of hurting himself again too soon--he was simply not permitted to do it.
Things such as walking about the hospital or grounds unsupervised or taking part in any physical games were strictly forbidden. Even though a faint dizzy feeling or a low throb from his head was enough to let him know he was pushing it, Doctor Pryor and Nurse Sally saw to it that he never even reached that point.
Most of his bandages came off in the course of time; stitches came out, visibly-yellowing bruises became mere shadows, the worst of his cuts closed up and became nothing more than sore, itchy, healing blemishes where the wounds had been. Most of them had healed so cleanly they would not leave scars once the skin recovered. It took an act of will to resist scratching some places, however, and the ones still under bandages drove him to distraction at times.
Because of Doctor Pryor's concern for his memory, he was subjected to regular scans and tests, each of which was designed to detect whether or not his brain was recovering from the blow to his head. He was glad to hear that he was following a normal rate of healing, and that all his numbers were good. Still, no new memories surfaced, and even his fragmented, empty dreams gave him little to work with, less that he could remember upon waking.
It was frustrating--and frightening--to be trying so hard, reaching out yet grasping nothing...but he persevered with the hope of soon returning to Japan--returning home, and discovering the truth.
Partway through his recovery, both Nurse Sally and Doctor Pryor came to visit him with an air of barely-restrained excitement--typical adults, trying to look professional in the face of good news. He could hardly hold himself back as Pryor told him that they'd found something.
The Asakura Yoh who had ventured to America had gone home to Japan--and, presumably, to an address in Tokyo. So far, they hadn't been able to contact anyone at the residence there, but no one was giving up hope. They expected him to recover and return, and once in Tokyo they would all have their answers.
Knowing that he might actually have a place to go home to made waiting for his final recovery that much easier--and that much more difficult. Hope became warm enough to push back a little of the cold, lonely nights, the dreams of hospital rooms, vague desert suns, and shattered nothingness. He wanted to fill those dreams of emptiness with something that was meaningful, something that would give him a reason to smile in the night, so that he would not wake shivering from the void with tears welling from his eyes...
The television was his portal to the world, giving his hungry, hollow mind material to work with. It seemed to awaken more knowledge of things, even if his own actual memories remained shaded and blank. Commercials, talk shows, cartoons, sitcoms, TV movies...all the so-called wonders of American programming laid out before him.
Since he wasn't allowed to do many active things, he had little else to keep him busy--and a foray into some books Nurse Sally offered him proved that his English was a bit slow in the reading department, making the books difficult. His conversations with Sally contained many, many questions, and with time and care she answered him, feeding him the knowledge and attention that he found himself craving.
It was only a few days shy of a month since his admittance when Doctor Pryor at last pronounced him well enough to travel. After extensive tests and CAT scans, as well as a complete physical and another mostly-fruitless question-and-answer session, the good doctor finally, reluctantly but gladly, told him that he was essentially healed of his concussion.
His shoulder was another matter; no longer braced but still in a sling, he would have to take it easy on his left arm for quite some time, until it had completely recovered from its dislocation. He could at least move it some now, though much flexing and rotation made it ache and complain.
Doctor Pryor told him that while all signs of swelling from the concussion were gone, he was still not to overexert himself, stay in the sun too long, allow himself to dehydrate, or play any sort of sports or rough activities that ran him the risk of re-injuring himself. "For at least another few weeks," the doctor cautioned his half-attentive patient at last, with a world-weary sigh at the proven truth that boys will be boys.
He tried to listen, but he was excited to be counting down the days, the hours until he could go home. He was excited to be able to finally discover what he was missing, but he also felt sad to be leaving the hospital; Doctor Pryor and Nurse Sally had become good friends of his--essentially the only friends he could remember--and going home would mean leaving the familiar world of white hallways, safe rooms, quiet lawns, and food on trays. Though Sally told him that the food outside the hospital was worlds better--he should go home and sample his mother's cooking again; hospital food couldn't hold a candle to that...
Pryor volunteered to drive him to the airport himself. He was to have a short flight to LAX in Los Angeles, an international airport, and there he would board a plane that would take him to Tokyo where a liason would be waiting for him when he arrived.
On the day he was designated to leave, Nurse Sally brought him a slightly-worn backpack that was filled with clothing. Hand-me-downs, she explained, from her two nephews who were about his age. He had received one set of clean, presentable traveling clothes from Doctor Pryor and the hospital--but Sally thought he would like to have something fresh to wear if he needed it, and a few sets of clothes to last him a while, in case things didn't work out for him in Tokyo. The front pocket of the backpack also contained a comb, a toothbrush, and a tube of toothpaste.
Somehow, her kindness and care awed him, made his throat tighten up. Already dressed in his brand-new traveling clothes, he could hardly speak as he clutched the backpack and gazed at her, at a loss for words.
Sally didn't need words--she just scooped him into a generous, careful hug right then and there. It startled him at first--so unfamiliar and unexpected, he almost didn't know what to do. Then, hesitantly, he put his good arm around her and squeezed back, briefly, in a typically embarassed teenage fashion.
Sally was like...what he imagined his real mother might be like. Or perhaps his aunt, or his grandmother.
What she showed him...was maybe a little bit of what love felt like.
When she released him, her eyes were bright with tears. "Now...you take care of yourself over there, you hear?" she said almost scoldingly, mother-like. "You'll...you'll call or write once you get home, won't you? Just to let us know you're okay..."
With a gulp, he managed a nod.
"And...I wish you the best of luck," she went on, wiping at her face as she stepped back. "I'll miss you, you wonderful boy. Don't you dare forget to let us know how things go...and tell me your real name, when you find it. Promise?"
He nodded again, his voice rough. "Yakusoku. I promise."
Doctor Pryor was already waiting in the doorway. "Are you ready?" the man asked softly. "It's time to go."
With a deep breath, he squared his shoulders and picked up the backpack. Sally sniffled and laid his jacket over his shoulders, squeezing his right one reassuringly. On the outside, he was ready to go--dressed in simple jeans, sneakers, light-colored shirt, and warm jacket, with his hair tied back to keep it out of his way--every inch an ordinary boy. On the inside, however, he both fluttered with anticipation and quaked with nerves. This was his first step outside the safe confines of the only world he'd ever known since waking up with nothing.
"I'm ready." He stepped forward, following Doctor Pryor to the door. However, before he stepped out, he turned to look back at the nurse who still stood near his old bed, tears glittering on her cheeks.
"Sayonara, Sally-san," he said softly, offering her one of his rare, sweet smiles. "Thank you for everything."
She smiled back at him, and nodded.
Her smile was another bit of warmth. With a lighter heart and a lighter step, he turned and followed Doctor Pryor out into the world that waited.
It turned out to be a three-hour layover at the Los Angeles airport. As disappointing--and difficult--as that was, both the flight attendants and the airport employees had obviously been informed to expect him; there was someone waiting for him as he boarded and disembarked the plane, to help direct him where he needed to go. He was more than thankful that Doctor Pryor had called ahead and made arrangements for his sake. The crowds were...overwhelming, to say the least. All he'd seen of the world since his accident was the hospital itself and the narrow window of the television.
There wasn't much else to do besides shop for souveneirs--for which he had no need and no idea who to buy them for--so he napped and sipped juice during his three-hour wait to board the second, bigger plane for a trans-Pacific flight to Tokyo.
It was going to be a long flight. He tried to sleep, and did at first--ending up with strange, unclear dreams of imaginary houses and doorways and faceless people waiting for him, seemingly pieced together from various television shows or things he'd seen on the drive to the airport. The memory mirror-face figured prominently, though--a gentle smile, a hand reaching out to him. It was confusing--yet another blurred image in his difficult dreamscape, only half-remembered upon awakening.
As the time of arrival inched ever closer, sleep grew harder to obtain. He stared out the window at the expanse of shifting sky for a time, finding that a poor substitute for sleep or thought. His mind, weary of confusion, frustration, and emptiness, grew ever hungrier to be filled. He knew he would find his answers soon--soon, as the hours and minutes and seconds ticked away to the rhythm of the engine's hum.
After what seemed like a short eternity, the transit came to an end and they were descending to Tokyo Airport. When a voice came over the loudspeakers to announce their arrival, his heart leaped up like a dog to a whistle--now, now it was time, he was finally here!
When the plane finally came to a stop and the doors opened, he fetched his only piece of luggage--just Sally's backpack, one little carry-on--and disembarked.
The airport terminal was a bustle of noise and activity, people coming and going every which way--a sea of bodies in which one short, slim boy was easily lost. Wide-eyed, he glanced around for any sign of a familiar face--not that, in his condition, he expected to find many--or perhaps someone who could direct him where to go. He was supposed to meet some kind of government liason here...
"Hey. Are you the Asakura kid?"
The gruff voice made him jerk around, startled. "Huh?"
"I'm assuming you're the Asakura boy, the one all the fuss is about," the tight-jowled man in the business suit replied, looking impatient. "I was expecting a young boy with his left arm in a sling and a backpack. You fit the description."
He floundered for a second, glad at last to be hearing his native tongue. Even as strange as it felt after nearly a month of straight English, it was good to speak Japanese again. Not that he really remembered speaking it all that much, but it felt...familiar, and comfortable. Much easier to wrap his tongue around, to express his thoughts in. "Asakura--uh, yeah, that's me. At least I think."
"That's right. The amnesiac kid." The man nodded curtly. "Well, whatever. Get your gear, and let's go--my car's parked in a thirty-minute loading zone and I'm out of time."
Backpack in hand, he followed the heavyset, stern-faced businessman through the crowd, dodging and weaving through the pedestrian traffic where the wide-shouldered man simply strode forth, uncaring, making others step out of his way. He gasped when a light collision with another person struck his sore shoulder, but he fought it off frantically to keep up with his guide. He didn't want to imagine getting lost in this place...
At the man's car, he declined a curt offer to throw his things in the trunk and instead kept them on his lap, clutched in his good hand, as the man pulled out of the loading zone and hurried off down the lane.
He hadn't even been here an hour and he already felt uncertain and small. Even if he wasn't really lost, even if he was really going home...the man sent to guide him was curt and uncaring--a messenger delivering a package, nothing more. There was no kindness here, not like Nurse Sally and Doctor Pryor.
He already missed them terribly.
He hoped that the family waiting for him would be glad to see him. Even more, he hoped he had someone waiting for him at all, so he wouldn't be stuck with this frowning man--so he wouldn't be stuck with people like this, who gazed at him with such uncaring disdain, as if he was just another problem to be dealt with. Just another lost boy, to be shuffled away to some other uncaring keeper if his family could not be found...
Sitting in a small, huddled curl as the car kept driving, he clutched his precious backpack tight in his lap and stared out the window at the passing world, hoping they would arrive quickly.
After a good hour and a half of driving, the car pulled to a stop against a sidewalk curb. Grumbling, the driver peered out at the address plaque, then turned off the engine and got out.
"Come on," the man ordered, opening the passenger door for him as he shuffled hurriedly to his feet.
"I-is this the place?" he asked hesitantly, looking up at the sturdy wooden gate, the high, whitewashed walls.
"I'm told it is," the man replied, stepping up to the gate and rapping on it. "Can't get a damn answer, though--nobody answers the phone, and nobody's returned our calls."
A shiver of worry wormed its way into his stomach. It was already evening--there were faint stars along the eastern horizon, and the streetlamps were beginning to come to life. There was a chilly breeze, as well, and the night promised to be cold. If this was not the place...what would this uncaring man do with him? Would he have any place at all? Or would he just be left out here alone...?
"Well, hurry up." The liason had shoved the gate back, stepping through to go up and try the house door instead.
Gulping, he followed the man inside, staring around at the house and yard as he went. It was fairly nice--a rather large, rambling home, pretty much traditional Japanese. Somehow he recognized that fact--it was like something he just knew, like so many other things he'd discovered...things that would come to him as a matter of knowing, even if he could never recall anything specific. Such as any other time he'd scrutinized a traditional Japanese home...
The house was lit up, though, so someone had to be at home. As he came up to the front door with the man, he could hear voices within, traces of music, a bit of laughter. People talking, or perhaps a television--and that meant there was life inside.
The loud rap of the man's knocking startled him as it echoed into the yard. The man grumbled under his breath about the whole situation, looking impatient and annoyed. "Hello?" he called loudly to the door. "Anybody home?"
He watched the man mutter and fume for several moments as nothing happened. Then, surprised, he made out the thudding of footsteps as someone from within trotted to the door. The porch light flicked on, and the front door slid back, admitting a mildly curious face.
"Finally!" snapped the liason. With a glance between his charge and the face in the door, his expression shifted to faint surprise. "Well. I guess this is the right place."
The one in the door blinked. "Huh?"
"This is the Asakura residence, right?"
"Uh...yeah." Again, a perplexed blink.
"We've been trying to contact you for two weeks regarding this situation we have here; you see, someone was found..."
The man's gruff voice was drowned out by the pulse in his ears, the hammering of his own heart. The face in the doorway--the boy standing there, who hadn't seen him yet...that boy, relaxed and unconcerned, dark-redwood hair framing a slim face set with impossibly dark eyes...
That was the face he saw in the mirror, and in memories...a face that he knew, and recognized--and that connection pulled him forward on leaden feet, joy and terror mingling inside him like a whirlpool. He knew that face--it had to be the one...it had to be...the only one he remembered...
He gulped softly, his sudden movement causing the other boy to notice him. As he reached forward, almost stumbling, the other's voice cut off in what was almost a choke, those dark eyes going from lazy to flat-out staring in a heartbeat--growing wider and wider until they enveloped the pale face, deep enough to drown in. The other boy's mouth worked silently, his whole form gone completely rigid and his expression a mask of shock and near-dismay.
"It's you..." he gasped, stumbling almost close enough to touch the startled boy staring at him from the doorway. "...you're the one in the mirror..."
To be continued...