‘Are you ready, Nora?’ the doctor’s voice in my headset asks.
I nod even though I’m so nervous I could pass out. I bit my lip, taste blood and lick it away. I hear the machine whirling into life around me and flashing white lights across my visor. I hold my breath till I can’t anymore and my lungs have started burning. A panicked scream almost forces its’ way out of my mouth, but I swallow it back down and shake my head.
‘Are you in pain, Nora? Do you need us to stop?’ the doctor’s calming though rushed voice echoes in my ears.
‘No, no,’ I gasp.
‘It’s just the claustrophobia,’ another doctor whispers, ‘carry on.’
I squeeze my eyes shut and took a few deep breaths. I picture my happy place and find myself in a green field full of multi-coloured flowers. I breathe the heavily scented air and touch which I image is warm grass.
A buzzing shatters the illusion and my body jerks awake. I snatch a deep breath and don’t draw anything in. I try again and again as my eyes spiral around the ribbed roof of the machine above me. Voices are shouting in the headset but I can’t hear them over the bleeping in my ears.
I claw at the roof and scream. Dimly, I’m aware of my legs banging around and my heels hitting the foam surface. Bright lights blind me and I feel hands holding me down. Someone takes off the headset and visor. Needles prickle my arm then I’m falling.
‘Nora? Can you hear me? Everything’s alright.’
I moan and turn my head towards the voice.
‘Did it work? Is she…is she going to walk again?’ The familiar voice of my mother comes to me.
I open my eyes, blinking away tears and look upwards. The room is a whitewash of cleanness and standing over me is my doctor and mother. Both are wearing white coats, masks and hats. I part my lips and try to call out for her, but only another low moan escapes me. I hold out my limb hand and feel my mother’s warm skin against mine.
‘Yes?’ I croak.
‘How do you feel?’
I press my head back and think. I wiggle my toes. ‘I can feel my feet and I’m not in any pain,’ I respond.
Mother lets out a joyous cry and throws her arms around me. I pull a face and turn away from her kisses.
‘How about sitting up? Do you want to try that?’
With help, I easy myself up and swing my legs down from the machine’s bed. I pause and look down. Did my legs just move by themselves?
‘Oh! Nora, you did!’
‘The chip seems to functioning normally,’ the voice of the second doctor coming from the doorway causes us all to look up, ‘the program is just fine and so are all her vitals.’
‘Do you want to try and stand up?’ my mother presses.
I look down at the floor which feels so far away.
‘Take your time, Nora. There’s no need to rush. Remember we don’t know if this is actually going to work or not,’ my doctor cuts in.
Nodding, I grip the edge of the table and slide myself off. My bare feet hit the cold floor and I feel it going right through me. I wiggle my toes then take my first ever step. I wobble, but hold. I take another, then another. My heavy breathing and my mother’s cries mingle in my ears along with my slapping feet.
‘Do you feel anything?’ the doctors ask together.
‘The floor!’ I shout out.
‘Pain? Problems? We need to know, Nora.’
‘There’s no pain,’ I answer happily.
‘We must take you to observations now. Wheelchair please,’ the second doctor calls into his ear piece.
I go back to the machine which looks like the belly of a whale and lean against. My doctor comes to my side and whispers, ‘it’s just for twenty-fours. We couldn’t give you any more time. I’m sorry.’
A deep shaky breath leaves me and my fingers dig into soft plastic.
‘It’s okay. Thank you. For the first time in my life I’m walking and free from pain.’
He nods and pats my arm.
‘And I’m helping others too,’ I utter.
‘Yes, of course. Now, the experiment has been a complete success, we can give this gift to others. You’ve been so brave, Nora. You should be proud of yourself.’
‘Here’s the chair, let me help you get in,’ the other doctor cuts in.
I turn, a bubble in my throat, ‘afterwards,’ cracks in my throat, I swallow and try again, ‘afterwards, can I please go outside?’
‘Sure, Nora, whatever you want.’
I nodded and lower myself into the chair.