Brian looked at Nick as if he had gone completely insane. "Nick, are you sure this is such a good thing? I mean, going way out to a cabin in the middle of no where!"
Nick kept packing the trunk, not bothering to look at Brian as he spoke. "Yep, I'm positive, I've needed this vacation for a long time, and I think being isolated and getting my head together is gonna be the best therapy I could ever have."
"Alright, I can see that your mind's made up. Are you sure you don't want me to come and tag along with you?" Brian asked Nick with a hopeful tone in his voice.
"Brian, I told you, meet me up there in a few days. I want to have a few days to just myself and no one else, sorry but that's what I want." Nick replied.
"Okay, okay. I got the map and I can take the hint." Brian smiled. He knew there was no way to change Nick's mind about staying alone for a few nights. Nick was very stubborn and was never easily swayed once his mind was made up.
"Remember Brian, no pager or cell phones, besides, where I'm at they wouldn't work anyway." Nick said as he climbed into the car.
As he started the engine, Nick smiled a silly grin at his best friend. "See ya in a few."
Brian shook his head and smiled. "Yeah, okay, I'll see you on Thursday."
Brian stood on the sidewalk and watched until Nick's vehicle disappeared from his view.
Pulling onto the old, winding dirt road that led to the rental cabin, Nick was starting to feel excited at the prospect of absolute privacy. No fans, no phones or television, just relaxing, reading and enjoying nature.
The headlights shone on the cabin as he pulled into the driveway. It was a small bungalow, white with dark green shutters. Nick stopped the vehicle and jumped out. His lungs were filled with the fresh lakeside air. It was much better than the smog he was accustomed to breathing from California.
Nick hastily unpacked his trunk, throwing the suitcase of clothes on what he figured was the master bed. He wanted to go out and check the beach before the sun fully set.
Pulling on a heavy grey sweatshirt as he walked out the door, Nick slipped his hands into his pockets and walked down the front yard to the water. He sat down in a chair that was mounted on the dock and listened to the water lap up around the shore and the boat that was fastened to the side of the wooden dock.
Nick jerked awake and stretched. He didn't realize how tired he was, but decided before he did anything else, he should light the pilot on the furnace so that the cabin would warm up.
Finding a box of wooden matches in the cupboard, Nick knelt down beside the oil furnace and removed the outer cover to the pilot light. Holding the pilot starter down, Nick struck a match and placed it inside the furnace hoping it would light. Before he touched the pilot with the match, the flame went out. Nick lit another match and repeated his motions.
A flash of light threw Nick against the wall, knocking him unconscious. When Nick awoke, the room was pitch black and cold.
It took a few minutes for Nick to get his bearings and he slowly crawled on the floor on his hands and knees, feeling the wall for a light switch. When he found the switch, he flipped it on. Instead of seeing the room lit up, Nick only saw a fuzzy gray-ness.
Putting his hands to his eyes, Nick jerked them back suddenly. He could feel that the skin was irritated and tender. Nick soon realized the seriousness of his situation. He was in total isolation, blind, no cell phone, no pager and no telephone. Brian would not be coming up for three days. Feeling the total despair and frustration in the situation, Nick allowed the tears to come.
Nick crawled on his hands and knees, trying to find the bedroom. After bumping into the furniture and walls, Nick finally found the bed. He crawled up into it and covered himself up and fell asleep.
Nick woke up to the sounds of birds singing and no change in his vision. Deciding against staying in bed until Brian came, Nick opted for getting up and trying to find the kitchen. He slowly got out of bed and held his hands out in front of him, directing him in a different direction if his hands hit an object.
All the simple things in life that Nick took for granted became a chore. Washing his face, trying to fix something to eat, going to the bathroom. All were challenges. He managed to find his suitcase and got what he hoped were his toothbrush and toothpaste. Just getting himself up, dressed, fed and cleaned took the majority of the morning.
The day was longer for Nick. He couldn't read or take a walk like he had planned. No radio to listen to. The only thing that Nick could do to occupy his time was sleep or sing, so he spent most of the day singing songs.
By the end of the day, Nick had adjusted to being blind and knew how many paces to the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom. He still walked slowly and he still held his arms out when he walked, but he found that he wasn't bumping into things like he had been and he was pretty proud of the accomplishment.
With Nick being unable to see, he was starting to become confused about night and day. He had no watch that could tell him time, he had absolutely no way of telling if it was daylight out or dark.
Nick remembered he had a portable radio stashed in his car. He opened the door to feel his way out to the parked car. The ground was unlevel, causing Nick to lose his balance and fall. He started to wonder if he was heading in the right direction.
"God, I thought the car was parked just outside the front door." Nick said to himself outloud. Not thinking, Nick changed directions when he thought he was heading the wrong way. He didn't realize that he was way off track and was heading towards the lake, farther and farther away from the safety of the cabin and from his vehicle.
Nick stopped and listened. He could hear the water as being close. He soon realized his mistake and started to panic.
"Shit, I don't know where I am now." Nick decided to backtrack his steps. The direction he was heading took him even farther away from the cabin, he was walking into the woods.
Tree branches started to hit Nick in the face. He instinctively threw his arms up and brushed away limbs, sometimes connecting with them, other times just swiping at air.
When Nick finally decided to stop where he was at, he was in the middle of the thick forest. Feeling around, Nick found a log and slowly sat down, using the log as a backrest. He sat in his own private darkness, listening to the sounds of birds and water, wishing he could see, hoping he would hear Brian when he arrived.
Brian wasn't suprised that he had to stop and verify the directions that Nick had written down about three different times. Nick's handwriting was always hard to read, but his sense of direction was the worse thing that Brian had ever seen.
Finally in what seemed to take forever, Brian turned down a winding gravel road that was suppose to lead to the cabin. He pulled into the drive leading to the cabin and found Nick's rental car sitting in the driveway. The place looked dark and empty. Brian figured that Nick had slipped out and went fishing or something.
brian grabbed the travel bag out of the trunk and slung the strap over his left shoulder. When he approached the front door, he found that it was wide open. Thinking how strange that was, Brian slowly opened the door and let himself in.
Once inside, Brian felt the wall for a light switch. He was shocked at what he saw once the lights came on.
"God, Nick is a total pig." Brian mumbled to himself. The counter was a mess, dishes sitting all over them with half eaten food still on the plates, mustard and catsup still sitting on the countertop, food laying on the floor. Brian found the bedroom in a similar condition. The bed was torn up, clothes were laying on top of the bed and in different spots on the floor.
Something just didn't feel right to Brian about what he was seeing. He went outside and walked down towards the dock hoping to spot Nick. He was beginning to worry when Nick was nowhere to be seen.
Out of desperation, Brian called out Nick's name, listening to his yells echo into the woods.
Half asleep, Nick thought he heard someone yell his name. Sitting up, he listened again and his suspicions were confirmed.
"HELP!" Nick yelled out at the top of his lungs.
Brian heard Nick call out. "WHERE ARE YOU NICK?" Brian turned in the direction he believed the yell came from.
"OUT HERE IN THE WOODS." Nick yelled back.
"KEEP ON YELLING SO I CAN FIND YOU." Brian called out and started out to the woods.
Nick cooperated and kept calling Brian's name over and over, stopping every so often to listen to see if he could hear Brian's footsteps.
Brian came to a clearing in the woods and he found Nick sitting on the ground, his back resting against a fallen tree.
Brian rushed up to where Nick was sitting."Are you hurt Nick? What's wrong?" The way Nick and turned his face in the direction that Brian was walking, made Brian stop short in his steps, his heart sank.
"Nick, what happened?" Brian was afraid to ask, he was hoping that he was wrong in his immediate conclusion.
Although Nick's eyes were open, Brian knew that they were not focused on him. They appeared to look beyond where he was standing.
"I can't see."
Brian knelt next to Nick. Looking closer at him, Brian saw that Nick's face was red, as if he was sunburned and his eyes had a milky look to them. Brian waved his hand in front of Nick's open eyes. Nick continued to stare, his eyes never moved to follow Brian's hand.
"Nicky, how did this happen?" Brian asked, uncertain of what to do for his friend.
Nick explained to Brian about trying to light the pilot light on the furnace and waking up after an explosion.
"How did you manage to come out here?" Brian questioned Nick as he looked around the dense woods.
"I remembered I had a portable radio in the car and I got lost trying to find the stupid car." Nick sputtered.
Brian rested his hand on Nick's shoulder. "Calm down. Let me help you back to the cottage, okay?"
Brian guided slowly guided Nick through the woods. He tried to think of ways to help Nick and what he was planning on doing for him.
They finally got back into the cold, dark cabin. Brian turned on lights. "You must be hungry, Nick."
"I'm starved." Nick replied.
"Good, I brought some groceries up, let me go to the car and bring a sack in. I'll be right back." Brian said as he approached the door to leave.
Nick sat patiently waiting for Brian to return. Brian, on the other hand, was frantic, his mind racing.
"God, what if this is permanent? What if they can't do anything to help Nick out?" Brian thoughts were running wild in his mind. He was scared for Nick.
Upon returning with the bag, Brian saw Nick walking through the living room, his arms stretched out in front of him.
"Hey, Nick, you need help?" Brian asked as he approached his friend.
Nick put an arm off in the direction where Brian was, trying to brush him away. "Nope, I can do this on my own."
"Where are you going?" Brian quizzed, standing watching Nick head towards a reclining chair.
"I'm going to sit down in the recliner." As Nick walked, he bumped inot a chair and then took one step to the side and continued until he reached the recliner. Once there, he felt the chair with his hands and then slowly sat down into it.
"Okay, well, I'm just gonna head into the kitchen and make you something to eat, holler if you need anything, okay buddy?" Brian said as he walked out of the living room.
"Yeah, okay." Nick replied, staring off at nothing in particular.
Brian rushed through throwing together a ham sandwich and potato chips on a paper plate for Nick. He grabbed a can of soda and sat it on the table.
"I'll come to the table." Nick replied as he got out of the chair.
"Do you need me to help you with anything?" Brian asked, unsure if Nick would get angry with him asking.
"Nope, I got this figured out on how many steps it takes to get to the table, thanks." Nick replied, his arms outstretched as he walked. When he reached the table, he literally walked into the chair. He pulled it out and slowly sat down.
Brian shoved the plate and the can of soda over to Nick. He was having a hard time watching Nick feel around the plate touching the sandwich and chips.
"Are you gonna eat?" Nick asked as he picked up his sandwich.
"No, I'm not hungry." Brian replied, looking away from Nick, hoping his voice wouldn't disclose the pain he was feeling watching his friend struggle to find where his soda had been placed.
"Ah, Nick, I think I'll go and get your gear packed up so that when you're finished eating we can jump in my car and leave. I'll call the rental car place and make arrangements for them to come and pick up your rental and I think it would be better to take you to the hospital in Orlando instead of where we are." Brian listed the plans he decided for Nick.
Nick nodded as he listened to Brian. "This really sucked that this had to happen. I was looking forward to taking this vacation and I never got to do anything."
"I know Nick. I'm so sorry this had to happen." Brian said as he stood up and pushed the chair in.
As the doctor shone the penlight into Nick's eyes, Nick stared blankly ahead, eyes unmoving. He hastily scribbled his findings down in Nick's chart.
"Well, it looks like you suffered some severe flash burns to the corneas. The pupils are reactive, so that means there's not muscle damage to them, which is a very good sign. With all the burns, it takes time to heal and with burns there is always some amount of scarring. Your eyes have been through some trauma and it will take time to heal. I am going to place medicated drops in your eyes and cover them with gauze. You will have to leave the gauze in place for five days and then return to the hospital to have the gauze removed." The doctor stated to Nick, looking directly at him when he spoke.
Nick swallowed hard, dreading to ask the question that had to be asked. "Um, will the blindness be permanent, I mean, will I ever get to see anything at all again?"
"Well, just like I said, these things take time. I'm not saying you will and I'm not saying you won't ever see again. This is a tricky situation, I can't judge how much damage was done to your corneas. We will know better after five days of resting them and that means no lifting up the bandages at all. If you do that, you could run the risk of permanently ruining your eyes." The doctor told Nick as he pulled eye drops out and ws preparing to place them in his eyes. "Now, Nick, you need to tilt your head back and I'm going to place some drops in each eye. It will be cold."
The doctor placed the drops in Nick's eyes. Nick blinked several times after the drops were placed.
"Do you have someone to help you while the bandages are on?" The doctor questioned.
"I plan on taking care of him." Brian spoke up. Just as Nick was starting to voice a protest, Brian interrupted him. "Nick, that's just the way it's gonna be, so don't even bother arguing with me, okay? Leighanne will help you out too, so just resign yourself to the fact that you are staying with us."
Nick shrugged his shoulders. "I guess I'm staying with Brian."
Brian was very cautious with Nick the whole week, keeping him inside and not taking him out for fear of paparazzi finding Nick and making a field day of it. Nick learned quickly the layout of Brian's house and towards the end of the week was able to walk around without holding his hands out. A couple of times Brian's little doe, Tyke got underfoot and almost tripped Nick, but other than that, there weren't any mishaps.
"So, are you ready to go and find out?" Brian quietly asked Nick.
"I guess so." Nick answered looking in the direction of where Brian spoke. He had been good about resting all week long, now he was hoping that this would pay off.
Walking out to the garage, Nick placed a hand on Brian's shoulder, allowing Brian to guide him to where the car was parked. Once inside the vehicle, both were quiet during the drive over there.
Nick could hear the slap of the windshield wipers telling him it was raining out. He could smell the fresh soil along with the smell from the hot asphalt. Little scents were more enhanced now that Nick couldn't see. He also noticed that his sense of hearing was sharper. The rain sounded like bacon sizzling in a pan as it hit the sidewalk. It seemed odd to Nick that when one sense was gone, the other senses went into overdrive.
Nick sat in the room waiting for the doctor to come in and remove his bandages, thinking about what to do with the rest of his life if the unthinkable happened.
"God, Brian, what can I do if I can't see ever again?" Nick wondered outloud.
"Sing." Brian simply replied.
"Sing? Who would want to see me sing, sitting on a chair?" Nick asked bitterly.
"Nicky, your voice wasn't hurt, it was your eyes. You're still the same person you were before this ever happened. Don't start thinking negatively, do you understand?" Brian reasoned with Nick.
"Yeah, I guess so." Nick quietly replied.
Before anything else was said, the doctor entered the room. "Ah, today is the day for the unveiling." He remarked as he looked at Nick's chart. He sat on the stool facing Nick and wrote some notes in the chart.
"Okay, Nick, I'm going to need you to help me on this. I want you to put your hands over your eyes while I cut the gauze away and don't take them off until I say so."
"Okay." Nick replied nervously.
The doctor took scissors and cut away the gauze. He then reached behind him and flipped off the lights. Brian, Nick and the doctor sat in total darkness.
"Alright, I shut the lights off, now I want you to take your hands away from your eyes." The doctor instructed Nick. Nick obeyed and removed his hands. The doctor unraveled the gauze and took the bandages away from Nick's eyes one at a time.
"Alight, Nick, slowly open your eyes. Don't be shocked, the room is quite dark, okay?" The doctor stated.
Nick nodded yes and slowly opened his eyes, afraid of not being able to see. Upon opening them, he could make out shadows of the table and what he tought would be Brian sitting off to the side of him.
After waiting a few moments for Nick's eyes to adjust to the light in the room, the doctor told him that he would now turn on the desk lamp that was on the office table. Nick nodded his acknowledgement.
When the doctor turned on the light, Nick blinked rapidly from the pain of the light hitting his eyes. Once he felt adjusted to it, he slowly opened his eyes.
Nick immediately smiled.
"Well?" Both Brian and the doctor asked anxiously and in unison.