A small, subdued group of people gathered around the hospital bed watching the still patient. The rhythmic beating his heart was a regular beep synchronized with the whoosh of his respirator. His visitors hoped for the telltale flicker of an eyelid to tell them he was awake.
Alan Poole was coming out of a 15-year coma.
The night nurse reported he regained consciousness for a brief moment just before dawn. Doctors verified that his EEG indicated he regaining consciousness, and notified the family. They are all waiting for Alan to wake up.
“Did anyone called Carole?” one of the visitors said.
“It was so early in the morning, I left her a message to call me,” said Chelsea, Alan’s wife of 17 years. She stood by herself on one side of Alan’s bed. “I couldn’t leave something like this in a text.”
Never once since Alan’s accident, did Chelsea consider divorcing her Rip Van Winkle. Her vows said, “until death…” and he wasn’t dead.
It was more difficult for Carole, Chelsea and Alan’s daughter. She was only 10 when he “left” them. She still harbored all the resentment and anger from her childhood, refusing to visit Alan in the nursing home. Chelsea wasn’t convinced her daughter would come home for this momentous event. Carole blamed her father for the accident that put him in the hospital.
When Carole graduated college, she moved 300 miles away for grad school. She stayed in her adopted town, leaving her mother and the memories of her father behind. When asked about her family, Carole would tell people her father was deceased.
“Will he know who we are?” said Pete, Alan’s brother.
“You have to remember, it’s still 1956 to him,” Dr. Sterling said, addressing the group. “It will take time for him to adjust. At first, he may be alert for only a few minutes a day.”
Sterling looked over Alan’s chart, whispering orders to the ward nurse before he left Alan’s family to keep vigil.
“He won’t recognize Carole, at all,” Pete’s wife, Nell. Realizing what she had said, Nell covered her mouth and looked chagrined at Chelsea. “I’m sorry Chel, that came out wrong.”
“It’s okay, Nell,” Chelsea said. “You’re right. She was just a child the last time he saw her, now she’s a grown woman.”
“Someone should contact the suits at Cyclone,” Pete said, peering down at his brother hoping for some sort of response.
“They already know,” Chelsea said. “Their in-house counsel called me before I left the house this morning.”
Cyclone Motors, a start-up automobile maker 15 years ago, was now one of the leading manufacturers of luxury cars. Alan was their test driver. It was during a trial run of their flagship sedan when Alan’s accident happened. After a protracted investigation, the crash it was determined to be mechanical failure.
“That’s just creepy,” Nell said. “How would they even know that?”
“I think they are in cahoots with the Devil,” said Pete. “Why else would they make the settlement they did – hinging all payments to Alan based on him being ‘of sound mind’, They knew that Chelsea would get nothing as long as he was still in a coma.”
Chelsea stroked her husband’s cheek, then brushed his hair off his face.
“They’re sending someone here to verify Alan’s status,” Chelsea said. “When Alan’s officially declared conscious, Cyclone is supposed to reconcile the judgment.”
“What’s it up to now?” Pete asked, trying to sound unconcerned.
“Seventy-five and a half million, and change,” Chelsea said with an edge to her voice. “I expect them to fight it, and try to only pay the initial order. Maybe even try to get that reduced too, or not pay at all.”
“I won’t let that happen,” Carole said as she entered the room.
Everyone in the room turned to look at the young woman.
“Cyclone called me too,” Carole answered her mother’s unasked question. “We had a very interesting chat. I learned a lot of things I never knew before.”
She walked around the bed to her mother. Reaching down, she took her father’s hand.
“We’re not going to let Cyclone run over us,” Carole said. “They did that once, but not this time.”
Still holding her father’s hand, Carole felt the slightest squeeze. Looking down, a brief smile tugged at the corners of Alan’s mouth.