From the personal memoirs of Doctor Stephen Strange.
I remember it as if it were yesterday.
It's the cold that immediately springs to mind. The snows and chills so cold that I remember my teeth physically shaking in my mouth while the path ahead remained as uncertain as my future. The mountains of Tibet were a poor place to get lost and unfortunately that was exactly what had happened to me, it's quite some miracle that I'm alive to write about the experience now.
Sometimes I think it might all be an illusion or hallucination. Everything after the accident I mean. I wouldn't be surprised if at any moment my mind snapped back to reality and I awoke back in a life that made sense... a life back working in the hospital and not the fate that's been thrust upon me. But no. I'll close my eyes, count to ten, look down and my hands will still be broken and twisted beyond any possible repair, all because of that terrible accident last year.
That's probably the best place to start, common sense really but when you've seen the things I have time and structure start to lose their roots.
Up until a year and a half ago I was, without boasting, the most renowned medical surgeon of the 21st Century. At least I was until one careless driver caused my car to crash with me in it. Thinking back to that time not so long ago I remember being happy, which made the loss of that life all the more devastating. They never found the culprit... or even their car for that matter, I suppose in the end I was going to wind up at this point in my life one way or the other but I'd have like to look into the face of the one responsible.
My hands were crushed in the car wreck and despite being given the necessary surgery by staff at the hospital where I worked it simply wasn't enough. My hands ached and throbbed constantly and I was told I'd never be allowed to operate again. They still hurt today.
The hospital and my friends in the medical community offered me plenty of opportunities, teaching positions and the like but there was something within me that wouldn't quit. At the time I thought it was courage but now I recognize it for stubbornness and greed.
My role as a surgeon had granted me a great deal of fame, something that a teaching position wouldn't provide, that's why I'd loved my job. Helping people had been fine at first but after years of work it had been getting my name in the newspaper that had mattered more to me.
Using all the money I had at the time I began looking into more experimental procedures and sciences that could potentially fix my hands. Regular methods of recovery had all failed so I turned to methods that were less than legal. I met with some of the smartest people alive, traveled all over the world and came away from all of it with little more than an empty bank account.
At the edge of the world I turned to drink, oddly content with dying alone and forgotten. Yet through what I originally thought was sheer coincidence but now understand was part of a much greater plan I learned of a 'monk' known simply as I was told the Ancient One was extremely old (as their title implied) and an expert in the art of healing. Obviously my thoughts turned immediately towards my hands and I felt some degree of small, drunken hope.
So with nothing left to lose but my life I began towards the Ancient One and took my first steps into a larger universe. As mentioned, in the mountains I found nothing but the cold and very nearly found my death. I had been told that the one I sought lived on the peak of Tibet's highest mountain, yet after hours of trekking I was barely halfway up the stone dagger and had resorted to crawling. The pain had been excruciating, crawling on all fours wasn't doing my hands any good and after a few short minutes I'd curled up in the snow to die.
I'd been a fool to make that trip. Sadly I'd only realized that when I was too far for anyone to help me. When I was a boy one of my teachers had asked me if I'd rather die on a frozen Earth or a burning one. I'd chosen the former believing it seemed more merciful, but there had been little mercy on the mountain that night.
As my eyes had started to close I'd become aware of someone standing over me, a black haired man who I would come to know well in the days that followed. It's ironic now that he would save my life but that's what he did. I remember some forgotten words leaving his mouth and then? Simply blackness.
I would awaken a few days later in warmth and solitude, my wounds from the climb bandaged and a roaring fire covering the wall on the other side of the room. The chill of the climb seemed to have left my body.
Somehow I'd managed to survive and knew that I'd been brought to the home of the Ancient One.
(To be continued).