Tethered by Ross Jeffery

Before I knew my father was right, I already had a son who thought I was wrong.

I sit here. Contemplating the next steps. I voice my concerns, to everyone and no one, discuss the ways we can get past this. How he could have been so stupid, why he never listened to me and why he had to do what he did. But through all my discussions I keep coming up short of a definitive answer or reason.

You should have listened to me I yell at him.

But my son remains mute.

Something I’m slowly coming to terms with.

Our choices being severely dictated by external factors.

Black wires tether him to the bed, ensnaring him within a web of cables. A dolphin trapped in a fisherman’s net, suspended, imprisoned with glassy eyes. His tongue lolling from his mouth, turning from life to death, a machine anchoring his body to the bed ensuring he doesn’t just float away into the abyss. It breathes for him, feeding him oxygen in a whirling mechanical tide. The storms rage but the contraption keeps him alive – if you can call this amalgamation of wires and flesh life.

Lights blink intermittently, combinations of green and red, it’s like watching a fairground ride on mute.

Would you believe I’ve forgotten what he sounds like, it’s an odd concept to grasp. I never knew the last time we spoke, the last argument, when I heard him say he loved me…I had no idea it was going to be the last. If I had known, I would have paid more attention. I would have burnt his sweet voice into my mind, branded myself with it. I wish I’d payed him more attention whilst he was here, instead of the immeasurable time I spend with him now…silent…there.

He still talks to me. Non-verbally, of course, it’s now an abhorrent union of contorted and strained facial tics with the occasional fit. Where his limbs flap around like a bird having a heart attack, the throws of death descending over him like a vengeful fringe, tickling his body, stirring it into motion with its tendrils of temptation – calling him to the place beyond, away from me. These unseen sirens of the underworld stir his brain into life. His body fidgets, the lights flash, his heart rate spikes, then nothing, just the mechanical lung, expanding and depressing, driving air into his forlorn body.

Is it wrong to wish the passing of your son?

Or am I a monster?

I just pray that death would stop teasing him.

That it would instead just reach out its hands and drag him away in its undertow, clasp his soul and pull it free of his fleshy prison. The hope I clung to has slowly been replaced with the aching pain of despair.

He is a shell of the boy I knew.

A husk of life he was.

For a moment he looks at peace, as if he’s been liberated from his half grave. But the mechanical lung inflates his chest again and the machines resume their methodical beeping and whooshing.

I reach out a shaking hand.

Lay hold of the cables tethering him to the wall socket.

Anchoring him to the bed and his perpetual prison.

And I pull.


Ross Jeffery is a Bristol based writer and Executive Director of Books for STORGY Magazine. He is an avid reader of an eclectic mix of fiction and is a lover of the short story form. Ross has been published in print with STORGY Books Exit Earth (Daylight Breaks Through), Project 13 Dark (Bethesda) and Shlock Magazine (Toilet Trauma) – his work has also appeared online at STORGY Magazine, About Magazine TX (After He’s Gone) and Idle Ink (Judgements). Ross lives in south Bristol with his wife (Anna) and two children (Eva and Sophie). You can follow him on Twitter here @Ross1982.

Image: unsplash.com