Repost: SG: Spotlight On... To Sleep
frobozz at eyrie.org
Sat Nov 3 12:46:52 PDT 2007
"We're losing him, doctor!"
"Can we operate?"
"Negative, skin is impervious. No way to get at his insides. We're
going to have to wait it out."
"Absolutely amazing! He's healing himself. Apparently, it's part of
his power. But...his mind. He'll never regain consciousness. And there's
nothing we can do for him."
"Except pray for a miracle."
Chris Angelini/Frobozz Presents
The voices went away as Charles opened his eyes. His mouth felt dry
and cottony as he explored it with his tongue, checking every corner for
nonexistent moisture. Charles tried to remember why he would be lying in
bed, dry mouthed, with orderlies passing by...
...orderlies. A hospital. That was where he was. Yes, he remembered.
There had been the battle...he had had to save the city...his opponent
had been strong, so strong, stronger even than he...then there had been
the blow to the head...
"Feeling better?", asked a calm, quiet voice from Charles' side. He
turned his head to see who it was, which brought pain that caused him to
immediately regret the movement. Soft, cool hands that shook just a
little cradled his head, and kept it from turning any further.
"Don't move.", the voice ordered with an authority born of
familiarity rather than position. "You nearly got that thing knocked off
once, don't go unscrewing it again."
"Who...", said Charles, still trying to look at his mysterious
caretaker. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see long brown
hair...the voice was high...a woman's?
"Never mind that now.", replied the voice. Charles felt a hand
slowly stroking his hair. "Just lie still. You had a nasty fight, and
you're still in bad shape."
"The monster!", cried Charles, trying to sit up. He felt the
unfamiliar sensation of weariness weigh him down, followed by the gentle
pressure of a cool hand firmly holding him to his bed.
"Is captured.", said the voice, putting his worries to rest. "He hit
you with his last spasm. You were in a coma for almost three weeks. Now
"But...", protested Charles.
"Sleep.", said the voice. "And dream."
Charles slept that night, but couldn't remember what he had dreamed
about. All he could recall was the pain, which formed a cloud around his
mind, and the mysterious voice with the soft hands that made it all
But who had belonged to the voice?
Charles couldn't think of who it could be. All of his life, he had
never known a woman who would even spit on his shoes, much less sit by
his bedside. In fact, Charles hadn't known many men who would care enough
to sit with him either. Being a superguy had filled the dark, empty void
where people were supposed to go and had made him feel like more of a
human. When he was wearing his mask, Charles was Lord Power - respected
hero who was loved by hundreds. But when the mask came off...Charles
Little came back out. Charles Little, who trudged back to his ten pace by
ten pace apartment every night after Lord Power had flown off into the
sunset. Charles Little, who had been beaten up every day after school for
'being a wuss' before graduating and finding work with a boss who had
been happy to take over that job. Charles Little who had settled for
being a lowly receptionist at his town's newspaper, because he had never
had the courage to try anything else.
Charles Little was not a man that Lord Power wanted to be. But
Charles Little was the reality, and Lord Power was the dream.
Unfortunately, that made all the difference.
"Morning.", said a face that hung over Charles', as he suddenly
bolted awake. It took several moments for his eyes to focus on the face,
but the wait was more than worth it. Said face was lovely - just this
side of being beautiful - bright and smiling. Only the eyes marred the
beautiful tableau, twinged as they were by sadness and pain locked deep
within the soul.
"Morning.", replied Charles, gazing upwards. "What happened?"
The grin grew wider, and only a bit sad. "You had a big fight. Can't
take you anywhere, can I?"
"That's right...the monster.", replied Little. "He hit me hard enough
to put here in the hospital?"
The face nodded. "We've been worried about you. You were hit
extremely hard... The doctors couldn't do anything for you because of
your invulnerability, except wait and hope that you healed. They were
afraid that your body would recover, but your mind wouldn't ever...how
are you now?"
"I'm feeling good.", said Little, in surprise. "I was feeling weak
and sick last night, but now I feel good."
"I'm glad.", replied the woman. "Would you like me to bring you
anything? Food? Something to drink?"
"No, I'm okay.", replied Little. "And I'm really sorry about asking
something like this..."
"Ask me anything.", said the woman.
"There's no good way to put this...but who are you?", asked Little.
He was quite surprised as the woman's face didn't frown, pout or become
crossed with anger. "I mean, I feel like I should know you, but I can't
for the life of me remember who you are."
"I understand.", said the woman, nodding her head. "You might not
remember things, the doctors warned me about that." Suddenly, she looked
at him teasingly. "And we've _only_ been an item for three months. Who
could remember that?"
"Us?", gasped Little. "An item? You and me?"
The woman giggled slightly. "Of course! What, am I not good enough
"No, it's not that!", protested Charles. Years of loneliness and
pain washed over him as he remembered a solitary life that had never
included being part of 'an item'. The idea that this woman - this angel -
could find anything in Charles worthy of love was utterly alien to him,
while fulfilling years of frustrating fantasies that he had played out in
his head, each of which had ended in the bitter realisation that the
fantastic wasn't a part of real life. "I'm just...I mean..."
"I know _exactly_ what you mean.", said the woman, her face now
completely serious. She bent down and brushed his lips with hers; and he
responded clumsily, fumbling to return the woman's attentions. After a
moment she pulled back and left Charles gasping for air on his bed. "Now
you've got to promise me that you're never going to go and do something
stupid like fighting again."
Little could only manage to stammer out a "why?" as he tried to deal
with the mild shocks that - oddly enough - seemed to be running
throughout his body after the kiss. He had never felt like this before,
but he was sure of one thing: he liked it a great deal.
"Should be obvious, silly.", she said playfully, leaning in to
whisper in his ear. "It's because I love you."
Lord Power was dead and Charles Little was happy. In a way, these
two events were not so separate as they might seem. From the moment he
had hurled his spandex costume into a dumpster behind his house, Little
had felt complete. Somehow the mysterious woman in the hospital had so
easily filled an empty space in him that Lord Power, with all of his
might and strength, had never been able to. When Lord Power had flown
high above the ground, he had never felt as light and buoyant as he did
right then, trudging along the ground, thinking of the woman in the
Strange that he still didn't know her name. But Little was too happy
to care about trifles like that. When he finally realised that he was in
love, it came as such a shock that Charles nearly dropped the recently
purchased bottle that he had been holding.
Little had no idea how much time had passed since he had been
discharged from the hospital. His life seemed to be moving like a dream:
fractured and diffuse. Thus, he didn't know if it was a week or a month
or a year later that he moved in with the woman, ending the lease on his
apartment and with it a museum of too many years of pain. As this link to
the past disappeared, Little suddenly felt completely and totally at
peace with himself. Lord Power bowed once, and left the stage, never to
return for an encore. He would never be called for again.
Two cool hands on Charles' shoulders convinced him that he was
finally awake and away from the unlit whispering world of his nightmares.
Shuddering, Little settled back into a comforting pair of arms that
gently enfolded him, drawing him into their nurturing warmth.
"Want to talk about it?", asked the voice that belonged to those
"No...yes.", said Little, feeling an almost overwhelming urge to
open up to the woman who gently soothed away his fears. "I was in that
other place again."
"The one with the voices?", asked the woman, rubbing Charles'
shoulders. "Why did you go back there?"
Little ignored the odd question, and shook his head. "The voices
again...whispering to me...and all around it was completely dark...and I
felt so weak..."
"But you're here now.", said the soft voice behind him. "Not there.
Stay here with me."
"Yes...", sighed Little, enjoying the cheerful warmth of the bed.
"You're right. It was all just a stupid dream."
"Dreams aren't stupid.", replied the woman behind him, tenderly.
"But you have to be careful with them."
"Sure.", replied Little, feeling himself beginning to doze off.
"Whatever you say."
Five years later, as the happy couple shared a romantic walk down
the city's streets at night, Charles realised that he had never asked
this woman for her name. Which was patiently ridiculous, of course. How
could you live with someone - no, love someone, share all of your secrets
with someone and never want to leave the tender arms of someone - for
five years and never ask her name? Charles must have asked at one time or
another...mustn't he have? But those five years of bliss had slipped by
so quickly, so sweetly that there hadn't been time to ask; why it hardly
felt as though five minutes had passed since he had awakened to see her
"Charles?", asked the woman on his arm, her quiet voice almost
drowned out by the fat drops of rain that spattered on the hard and
cracked cement underfoot. Little gazed over at her, feeling a quiver run
through his body as he did so. It was the same happy trembling sensation
that he felt every time he looked at her and remembered the time that
they had spent together. The evening's lights played over her hair as
they walked, giving it an almost luminescent glow, while making her fair
skin shine like a searchlight. For a moment, Charles very much empathised
"Yes?", he asked, not taking his eyes off of her hair, her eyes, her
"Are you happy?", she asked simply. The question was frivolous -
thousands of lovers had sleepily asked their partners exactly that all
over the world - but there seemed to be something more behind it.
Something insistent, as though the answer meant a great deal to the
woman. Little didn't have to hesitate in answering, however.
"Yes.", he replied, feeling a tear beginning to squeeze out of his
eye. "I'm happy, oh God am I happy..."
"Everything before, it doesn't bother you?", she asked, her deep
eyes searching out his own.
"The fight?", he asked.
Little chuckled slightly. "Not a damn bit. Before the fight...I
wasn't anything. I was a sad, sad man who didn't know what life was. But
Little couldn't hold back the flood of emotions; curiously, he no
longer wanted to either. First a single tear trickled down Charles'
cheek, then another, until finally the drops were flowing freely. "Damn
it, I'm sorry...", he muttered to the woman, bowing his head in
"You have nothing to be sorry about.", replied the woman, leaning
over to carefully kiss his cheek, where tear and rain mingled.
"My father always said that a real man doesn't cry; that a real man
has to be strong.", said Charles.
"Your father was wrong.", replied the woman. "Sometimes being weak
and needing someone is the hardest thing you can do. And Charles?"
Charles looked up at the woman that he loved, while blinking rain
out of his eyes. "Yes?"
"I love you for it.", she finished simply, taking his hand in hers,
and leading him home.
Little had been married for more than four years when the pains
Initially they only came when he was home (...where _did_ he work
again? Charles didn't remember...) and alone. His body would grow weak
and his head would begin to throb, leaving him breathless and exhausted
after the fit passed. Briefly Charles considered visiting a doctor (...do
I know a doctor? is there a doctor in the city? what city am I in
again?...), but the pains never seemed important to him when he was well.
And so life continued on as sweetly as it had before.
Then one day Charles Little was watching television with his wife,
when he dropped the remote control. He leaned down to pick it up, his
head swam, and when Charles straightened he was lying once more in a
hospital bed, exactly the same one that he had been in before.
"We've got to stop meeting like this.", said a familiar voice from
above Charles. He looked up to see his wife, as ageless and beautiful as
the day he had met her, looking sadly down at him.
"Yeah...", he replied, wincing with the pain of drawing breath to
say this. "What..."
"The old fight injury.", she replied simply. "Your past caught up
"Oh.", said Charles, relaxing against the bed, suddenly calm. He was
suddenly sure of only one thing in his life, something that should make
him scream, or yell, or cry. "I'm going to die, aren't I?", he asked
without knowing why and without knowing how he could feel so calm about
"Yes.", said the woman that he loved, sniffling slightly.
"Yes...you're going to die."
"Damn.", said Little, suddenly noticing the faint sound of his
heartbeat as mediated through a tinny buzzer in a machine by his bedside.
How hollow it sounded...surely his heart had more to say than that. Then
a thought struck him. "I thought my body wouldn't let me die."
"Your body won't.", replied the woman.
"Then what will?"
"Are you okay?"
"I don't understand what you're saying.", replied Little.
"No...don't be.", replied Charles, smiling slightly. "You've made
the last twelve minutes of my life..."
Little blinked. "How could I have made that mistake? You've made
the last twelve years of my life worth living. I love you. I'll always
love you, no matter where I am, no matter how long we're separated. I'll
love you from the bottom of my heart, I'll love you with every cell of my
dying body, and I'll love you with every breath that I ever take."
The woman's sad smile grew slightly. "So you're trying to say that
you love me?", she asked, leaning down to kiss him gently. Something deep
within Charles noted that the kiss lacked its usual fire. It was an
embrace of farewell; an act of letting go. He returned it, feeling his
heart break again and again as they lingered over the other's lips.
Charles could easily accept his dead; he was content. But what shattered
his heart was the thought of leaving his wife...no matter where he was
going or how impossible it was to avoid this fate. Finally, the two broke
away and stood in a silence marred only by the faint beeping of the
machine by Little's bedside.
"Amanda.", said the woman, suddenly.
"I don't...", began Charles.
"All this time...I never told you my name. It's Amanda."
"Amanda.", said Little, relishing the pain that seemed to come with
the breath he took to say that name that he had wanted to breath for so
long. "I'm glad I know your name now. I love you Amanda."
"And I love you too, Charles.", replied Amanda, brushing several
tears away from her cheek, while trying not to appear to be crying.
"Don't.", said Charles, grinning weakly. He coughed twice and
continued. "You've always been there when I needed you. Now you can stand
to need me a little..."
"Cry.", ordered Little, stroking Amanda's hand once. "Don't be
strong for my sake. I don't want there being any pretence between us."
"Be strong on my own time you mean?", asked Amanda sadly, nodding.
"If it'll make you happy."
"Will it make you happy?", asked Charles, suddenly seized by a fit
"That doesn't matter.", replied Amanda, biting her lip. "Charles...I
hope I made you a fair trade."
"What sort of trade?", asked Little, between spasms of coughing.
"Life.", replied Amanda, moving to the machine that ticked off
Charles' heartbeats one by one. "One given for one taken."
"Amanda, you _are_ my life.", wheezed Charles. "The last twelve
"...years have _been_ my entire life. Everything before that...was
just a nightmare."
"Oh God.", gasped Amanda, placing her hand near the cardiograph.
"I wish...that I could have done more.", she said, leaning down to
embrace her husband with one arm. The other shook for a moment, then
reached out and lightly touched the machine. As its beeping slowed,
Amanda felt Charles slowly weaken in her arms...until finally...the last
breath was heaved...and the heart...that had only truly beat for twelve
minutes...shuddered...and lurched...to a halt...
"Oh Charles.", gasped Amanda as she woke up to the hospital around
her. She looked up to her husband Ray, who had been standing silently
beside her for twelve long minutes. Coma slowly drew his hands from
Amanda's shoulders, and backed off, feeling his sister's need to be
alone. And on the bed lay Lord Power...Charles Little...dead at last.
"Thank you.", said the doctor who stood next to Ray, shaking her
head sadly. "That was...a mercy."
Ray nodded once, and looked at his wife. "Amanda...are you okay?"
Amanda looked up at Ray and nodded, tears streaming down her face.
"I need to be alone now Ray."
Ray nodded, seeing fresh pain in his wife's eyes, and wondering what
hell she had been put through by this. He escorted his brother-in-law and
the doctor out of the hospital room, leaving Amanda alone by Charles
"Charles...", began Amanda. "I don't know what to say...your body
healed...but your mind never could...you'd have lived in pain
forever...there was no other way to pull the plug...except in your
dreams. I'm sorry, oh God I'm sorry...but it was the only way.
"I couldn't let you die like you were...not the way you were
before...I pray that you liked your new life...I'm sorry it was so short."
Amanda looked down at Charles. "Charles...I loved you. I don't know
if that makes me an unfaithful wife...or a terrible person...but I loved
you. And I promise that sometimes when I'm asleep...I'll dream of you."
Slowly Amanda turned to leave, when she noticed a maroon spandex
costume carefully hung in the closet. She pulled it off of its hanger and
stared dumbly at the article of clothing for a long moment. Then, with a
scream of rage, she pulled at the uniform, ripping it to shreds, which
she scattered on the floor around the hospital bed, like a bed of red
(See Spotlight On...#7 or #11 for background on the characters used in
As usual, this story is trademarked, all rights reserved 1996 to
Frobozz/Chris Angelini (email:cangelin at uoguelph.ca). Everything alluded
to is intended as satire, and no trademark infringement is intended nor
frobozz at eyrie.org
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