Writing by Emily Dozois // Photograph by Mabel Windred-Wornes
This is what I remember:
It always happened. Every night I was woken up by a tickle in my throat, or a cough, or a sharp wheeze, and I always ended up okay. And if I wasn’t okay, I would wake someone up to save me. But this time was different.
I remember that when I finally woke up, I wasn’t breathing. There was no tickle, no cough, no wheeze. There was no air. I tried in vain to take a breath and discovered I could do nothing but choke. My lungs were on fire and my airways had swelled shut as I slept. I tried to call for help and discovered I could not make sounds anymore. I told my legs to move, I told my hands to push myself up, and discovered I could not move anymore. I wasn’t afraid.
I remember trying so hard to move, willing myself to get out, to escape. I finally managed to twist around so my feet were resting on my pillows and I was looking out the window. I used all my energy, and I could do nothing else. I wasn’t afraid.
I remember staring at the moon and being filled with an overwhelming feeling of peace. I have never been able to replicate this state of being; completely free of any anxiety or pain. The moon was the only thing I could see; the only thing I was holding on to. It was the only thing holding me there. I wasn’t afraid.
I remember knowing that I was going to die; that the next time I closed my eyes would be the last, and I would not wake again. That the last thing I would see was the moon, and what a beautiful last thing to see. I wasn’t afraid.
I remember wondering why it was taking so long. It felt like hours when really only moments passed. I remember that I didn’t mind waiting and watching the moon. I wasn’t afraid.
I remember slowly forgetting to choke, forgetting that I was supposed to keep breathing, and the moon kept holding me there. I wasn’t afraid.
I don’t remember that my mother found me like this. I don’t remember my fourteen-year-old body being lifted from my bed and carried down the stairs.
I have a brief memory of a mask being placed on my face and someone asking me if they should call for help. I was so, so tired. I wasn’t afraid.
I don’t remember the paramedics as they tracked mud through my house, loaded me onto a stretcher, and took me away. The next day I counted their grey footprints.
My next memory is in the hospital. I was finally breathing and no one seemed to understand that I died back there, with the moon. They sent me home. I wasn’t afraid.
The next night I laid down to look at the moon. And suddenly, I was afraid.
Every night I would lie in terror, with my medications and new pager on the bed beside me. I was afraid.
I would drift into fitful, exhausted slumber only to be awoken as soon as my breathing started to relax.
I was afraid.
I am afraid.