Days and weeks meshed into one. The initial glut of family and friends visiting had tapered off into non-existence by the tenth day, and the only person to remain at Maggie’s bedside was her mother. As was to be expected, the accident made headlines nationally, and featured in news items globally. So too, interviews with W.A. Police Major Crash and Internal Affairs Units came and went. All Maggie was able to pass on was that the accident occurred as a direct result of a road train being driven on the wrong side of the road, that the vehicle she had been a passenger in was struck by the trucks swinging trailer, and that the truck had not dipped its lights to low beam. The rest of the accident was absent from her mind, except oddly for a variety of smells.
Finding out that both her colleague, Constable Jock ‘Flash’ McGregor, and the other occupants had been killed in the accident struck Maggie hard. She had thought the two senior Police Officers had been a couple of nice old boys, and reminded her a bit of her Dad. Whilst she and Constable McGregor had been friends only at work, she knew him exceptionally well. Yet, their familiarity as a result of the job plagued her. Survivor guilt hit her, and as the days slowly passed, Maggie’s dreams began to explode nightly. Her mind replaying the incident again and again. Her Post Traumatic Stress became an injury as cruel as the loss of her leg. Its symptoms slowly creeping from nights and sleep into her conscious mind. Her biggest trigger, of all things, were the lights of cars on the street at night. Headlights being reflected from the walls of her room, dragging her back into the passenger seat of the doomed Police car. The high beam glare of the road trains spot lights bearing down on her, every single time.
The second thing that stirred Maggie’s emotions, just as severely, was the smell of coffee. Everyone in the car had been drinking one. The four flat white coffee’s had purchased from a greasy spoon affectionately known as ‘Ted’s’, just before they drove out-of-town. It’s heady aroma during the accident was inescapable. So horrific did she feel, reliving the event as if she was there in it, that she became afraid to sleep, for fear of the images she knew would come. Cold sweats, shaking, deep gutted nausea, screaming in the night, it was all there. To make it worse was that she was entirely unable to move at all. The halo holding the broken pieces of skull in place, combined with the traction rods and weights extending from her thighs and pelvis, held her in gruesome immobility.
The only person to note the subtle changes in Maggie was her father. Whilst her mother had sat with Maggie day in and day out, her father only managed to see her on the weekends. This was specifically due to running the Williams based family farm, located roughly 160 kilometres south of Perth. As an ex-serviceman of the Australian Defence Force, he knew first hand of the horrors of PTSD, and the destruction it had on many of the people he had once served with. As a result, he mentioned it to a doctor conducting ward rounds one Saturday morning, from there, a psychologist was arranged, and on the Monday, he came in to pay a visit to Maggie. Her mother had thought the nightmares, and moments of daylight terrors were part of ‘the healing process’. She couldn’t have been further from the truth, and was unaware of just how debilitating that injury actually was.
Quietly spoken, and conservatively dressed, Clinical Psychologist Anton King became a regular to Maggie’s bedside. The 44-year-old, lean six footer, initially enquired of her accident from a broad detached viewpoint, and then he would leave it on the next visit, and discuss Maggie. In doing so, he built up a picture of the woman Maggie was prior to her hospitalisation, and liked what he found beneath the broken lass before him. Anton only returned to the accident on the days Maggie appeared to be in a better frame of mind, and in lesser pain. Mindful of the immense importance in the healing process that discussing the incident as close to its occurrence as possible, he worked hard with her, but with care and a gentle hand. This was to remain their routine together, continuing on after Maggie was finally moved from ICU, and into one of the surgical wards.
On a nondescript afternoon, Anton spoke to Mrs. Trout.
“Ah, a book fills your hand as always Mrs. Trout. What are you reading?”
“Well,” began Mrs. Trout, slightly startled at being asked a question, “it’s called ‘Misanthrope’, and it’s by a chap named ‘Hamish Ross’. From what I understand of it, it relates to events that occurred around the New Norcia region here in Western Australia, and includes towns within one hundred kilometres of it also. I haven’t read much of it, to be honest, and I’m not even sure if it’s fictitious. I bought it for $2 at a garage sale a while ago. I have friends and family around that area, and with Maggie working out of Moora, I pretty much couldn’t not by it, if that makes sense.”
“Hmmmm, sounds interesting. Yes it does make sense, which gives me a bit of an idea now I think about it. It will work in nicely with something Maggie and I have been discussing, and is specific to ‘awareness’. As in the world we view is a result of your own interpretations. It is awareness that allows for those perceptions, and the memory of those perceptions that drives every person on earth differently. Simple stuff really, but deeper than the sea when it comes to the understanding of it. In this case, all needs is a bit of context.”
“Ahhhhh, okay.” Began Mrs. Trout with a slightly puzzled look on her face. “What do you have in mind?”
“Well, as we sit here, and we are for the most part oblivious to it, we are taking in everything that is happening around us. The things we hear, taste, what we can see, whether we feel hot or cold, the subtle smells, things of that nature. But, when we acknowledge them, we are able to train our focus on to specifics. So, if it is alright with you, instead of reading silently to yourself, how would you feel about reading to Maggie? The sound of your voice would give her something to focus on, and if Maggie listens to you with her eyes shut, she may be able to build images with in her mind of the story. In doing this, it may allow her to remove her focus from those things that are a less welcome intrusion into her current awareness, and offer her busy mind a form of relief. I’m possibly making this sound more complicated than it is. So, basically, if Maggie listens to you read with her eyes shut, it might take her mind off other things.”
“Okay, that makes sense.”
With that, Anton finished his session, and politely left.
“So, what do think dear.” Said Mrs. Trout to Maggie. “Should we give it a go?”
“I’ve got nothing else left to lose Mum. So, why not?” mumbled Maggie whilst staring at the ceiling. With that Mrs. Trout opened ‘Misanthrope’ to the first chapter, and began to read.
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