In his mind, Aiden was back in time a decade or so, in the pine needle and mothball scented church basement where he attended CCD classes as a child. He could tell it was Christmastime from the tins of store-bought shortbread cookies and paper cups of hot chocolate set out to reward them for sitting through the older kids’ pageant. He took a cup of chocolate and warmed his hands on it, breathed in deeply, centered himself in the moment. He could hear the voices of his classmates, muffled and indistinct, distant, as though he were dreaming.
Close, but not quite.
He sipped his chocolate, hopping to shake the chill from his bones. This was what they called “regressing,” he supposed. Deluding one’s self into believing that it was a simpler time, a time when there was quiet and innocence in the world.
He could see the appeal.
He tried to focus on the conversation closest to him, but to no avail. Looking down he found he couldn’t see the specifics of his body, just a general shape that seemed to be a vague amalgamation of every outfit he’d ever worn. It was like looking though a camera with a busted lens. He could tell what he was looking at, but the picture was all distorted.
Something was pulling him back.
His eyes snapped open to the even beeping of a machine, the glare of fluorescent lights, and he began to choke on the tubes in his nose and mouth.
Minutes later, in the waiting room of the hospital, Nurse Tanner got to say the line he’d been practicing in his head all night.
“I guess Christmas came a little early this year, Mrs. Safford. Your son’s going to make it.”
Somehow, his one-liners never had the same impact as the ones he heard on TV.