I am slightly chill; these hospital gowns do nothing for warmth. Even the clean, smooth sheet draped over me up to my neck does little except make everyone around me think I must be comfortable. I am in Operating Theatre 3; I noted this as they wheeled me in from my room. I liked the feeling of the doors bursting open before me, the orderly using me as a ram, though I could not hear them since my hearing aid has been left behind. Still I filled in the blanks, just like I have all my life for words, wind and creeks.
There is already an IV in my arm, or at least the receiver. I feel the nurse connect me to the actual drip. A click of connection, and a slow warmth in my arm that spreads through me the way my first cup of coffee does. But here it is leading me to a certain drowsiness. My awareness both abates and deepens.
The nurses are all around me with machines and beeps and blinking lights. Their lips betray their conspiracy but I cannot hear them. There is one light above me that is so bright - I am sure that at some point in your life you have held your hand up to a bright light and marveled at how the light illuminated the hand from the other side. Made it glow. Red. Perhaps you could see a blood vessel or a bone or a tendon. I am sure if you could lay under me right now, that is how my head would look, glowing, red, pulsing a little, with a dark mass floating in the middle.
The surgeon arrives with a whisper and a small metallic cylinder. He opens it but instead of novelty snakes popping out, he carefully pulls forth with latexed fingers, a small silver object that gleams in the light with a sterling brightness. It has long thin legs and at the tip of each seems to be a tiny diamond. A small chandelier glittering in the operating ballroom.
Then suddenly, and with a start, it moves with spidery twitches in the doctor’s hands. I watch him with just my left eye since my head has been turned to the right and restrained. I could have sworn I was supposed to be asleep for this part.
I can feel his warm cinnamon breath as he leans over me with the silver spider, moving it until it is just so. One diamond leg is whirring, and then there is the smell of burning skin, and bits of bone in the air, as the spider extends one cool, shiny leg down into my head. If you were beneath me, you would see its long slender leg probe down to my inner ear, then suddenly joined by all its other legs, and its body slips inside through the very small hole like a puddle of mercury being sucked down straw. The diamonds are so brilliant now that I can see them through the backs of my eyes. They rest in a spiral. A cochlear constellation.
I feel the spider stretch and twitch and fall into a deep slumber. Just a bump on the side of my head and a sparkling nebula. The warmth from the IV finally takes me. The room fades away.
When I awake everyone I know who is dead, and some that I did not realize, surround my recovery room bed. There is sunlight and a breeze. They motion for me to be still and quiet. My grandfather bends low and runs his finger across the little bump behind my left ear. “Hearing isn’t the hard part,” he says as he softly touches my eyes and closes them.
But not before I see a myriad of tiny spiders swiftly running back from all their silent mouths,
diamonds legs glittering and empty,
disappearing down my ear -
without a sound.