Eyes open. The thud of wheels like a shopping cart on concrete. The damn voice says ìGo!î The sky mocks me, passes me by, then a plaster-white ceiling. Double doors slither open. "OR Four!"Blackness.
Eyes open. Gaping maw of a snake, lunging at me, laughing, speaking: I\AM\COMING\.\.\.?The serpent tries to engulf my head. No, not a snake, an oxygen mask.?.\.\.\AND\THERE\IS NOTHING\YOU\CAN\DO\ABOUT\IT. Im falling backwards gas mask blackness.
Eyes unveil. Burning hands, burning feet, fire everywhere, but I am in the middle of a blizzard. A German forest, and a river is near. A woman on a ridge with a crossbow. My chest feels as if its been hit. I hear the hiss as my heart gives out. I try to speak but croak instead, and a nurse tells me to rest, that everything will be okay, everything will be okay. Blackness.
A voice floats above me. "Sleep. Just sleep."
Following my accident, I plumped up like a freshly roasted wiener, my skin cracking to accommodate the expanding meat. The doctors, with their hungry scalpels, hastened the process with a few quick slices. The procedure is called an escharotomy, and it gives the swelling tissue the freedom to expand. Its rather like the uprising of your secret inner being, finally given license to claw through the surface. The doctors thought they had sliced me open to commence my healing but, in fact, they only released the monster--a thing of engorged flesh, suffused with juice.
While a small burn results in a blister filled with plasma, burns such as mine result in the loss of enormous quantities of liquid. In my first twenty-four hospital hours, the doctors pumped six gallons of isotonic liquid into me to counteract the loss of body fluids. I bathed in the liquid as it flowed out of my scorched body as fast as it was pumped in, and I was something akin to the desert during a flash flood.
This too-quick exchange of fluid resulted in an imbalance in my blood chemistry, and my immune system staggered under the strain, a problem that would become ever more dangerous in the following weeks when the primary threat of death was from sepsis. Even for a burn victim who seems to be doing well long after his accident, infection can pull him out of the game at a moments notice. The bodys defenses are just barely functioning, exactly when they are needed most.
My razed outer layers were glazed with a bloody residue of charred tissue called eschar, the Hiroshima of the body. Just as you cannot call a pile of cracked concrete blocks a "building" after the bomb has detonated, neither could you have called my outer layer "skin" after the accident. I was an emergency state unto myself, silver ion and sulfadiazine creams spread over the remains of me. Over that, bandages were laid to rest upon the devastation.
I was aware of none of this, and only learned it later from the doctors. At the time, I lay comatose, with a machine clicking off the sluggish metronome of my heart. Fluids and electrolytes and antibiotics and morphine were administered through a series of tubes (IV tube, jejunostomy tube, endotracheal tube, nasogastric tube, urinary tube, truly a tube for every occasion!). A heat shield kept my body warm enough to survive, a ventilator did my breathing, and I collected enough blood transfusions to shame Keith Richards.
The doctors removed my wasteland exterior by debriding me, scraping away the charred flesh. They brought in tanks of liquid nitrogen containing skin recently harvested from corpses. The sheets were thawed in pans of water, then neatly arranged on my back and stapled into place. Just like that, as if they were laying strips of sod over the problem areas behind their summer cabins, they wrapped me in the skin of the dead. My body was cleaned constantly but I rejected these sheets of necro-flesh anyway; Ive never played well with others. So over and over again, I was sheeted with cadaver skin.
Excerpted from The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson Copyright © 2008 by Andrew Davidson. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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