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The wind rippled along the grass, golden waves chasing the tails of summer. The sun bathed the ground in lethal light, hunting for the remains of any moisture between cracks. Her hair was a waterfall of honey, cascading down her neck and frothing around her shoulders. And Avi was walking beside her, laughing and holding her hand. The only thing out of place was an odd, nagging beeping. At first, it was merely a slight nuisance, but it got louder, and harsher, and faster, and suddenly a bell was ringing, and screams filled the air, and she couldn’t see anything…
She woke to the calm beeping of a heart monitor. She was wearing an unfamiliar dress, and a horribly ugly one at that. She was encased in a shell of starched white sheets, and suddenly a wave of claustrophobia enveloped her. Sour panic on the back of her tongue, she flailed wildly, attempting to kick off the blankets, but someone chose that moment to press white-hot knives into every inch of her leg. A disembodied shriek pierced the room, and only when she was immediately surrounded by soothing fingers and calming voices did she realize it was her own. With the realization came a ringing silence of held breaths. She longed for Avi, his laugh that shattered silences, his voice that held the universe.
“Avi,” she croaked. Her voice was rough, hoarse. “Avi,” again, plaintively. Where was he? “Avi?” An unfamiliar voice said something, but the words blurred together into a river of gibberish, spearing her ears. The voice was not Avi. “Avi!” Why wasn’t he coming? Why had he abandoned her, where was he, “Avi!” Tears burned her cheeks, where was her hand to wipe them? It wasn’t there, her face was on fire, why wasn’t Avi there, had a tear fallen on her arm? Something pinched it, and she was falling…Bubbles bounced off her head as she floated. One bubble had Avi’s face on it, one was an explosion of fireworks, and then they were all black.
She woke when her eyelids burned. This time, the dream ended not with Avi’s face but with fire.
It was so real, it was almost tangible…but Avi’s hand slipped away with the screams. Her eyes fluttered open, and shock glued them open. Her leg, propped up on the edge of the bed, was swathed in bandages. Both her hands were a block of rough white as well, and her left pinky was missing. Singed hair drooped pitifully over one shoulder, but not the other. Who would want to hold that hand, she thought bitterly. She was suddenly flooded with hatred for the machine at her side. All it did was beep obliviously on, announcing the life or death of its patient with indifference. She was chained to this cold computer that didn’t care about anything. How many lives had passed through it, how many deaths had it proclaimed, how many tears had it drawn?
There was a vacuum of space next to her where Avi should have been. She closed her eyes to visualize his face, but all she saw was a burning building, vaguely familiar behind a veil of smoke. She gasped and opened her eyes. The clean white walls nearly glowed; it hurt her eyes, though not as much as the images branded in her head. She tried to wipe her mind clean; she could feel a cool cloth on the inside of her forehead, and she closed her eyes again, longing for the serene darkness that had always preceded sleep in the past. She found only hot redness, painfully bright. But the redness was quickly subdued by memory, and since the pale grays were less sharp, she succumbed.
Chaos swirled in the air, or was it dust kicked up by frantic feet? The shrill alarm and the yelling and sobbing seemed to belong to a different world, a parallel universe where all of this was real. A few adults were trying to instill order in the swarming mass, but most people had only the exit in mind, as people often do in a panic. She scanned the crowd for the only face she cared about: “Avi!” Her voice was drowned in a sea of static; she couldn’t identify any of the words or voices. Her sight snagged on a pair of eyes. “Avi!” She ran over to him, or she tried to, weaving around bodies and stumbling, mewling “Avi,” like a lost kitten. She was inches from the safety of his embrace when a sharp hand grabbed her arm, snatching her away. Both hers and Avi’s arms were outstretched, a golden bridge that would take them away if they only connected… As she was dragged away by her evil savior, straining toward Avi and screaming silently, she saw him swept away into a tumbling pool of mindless bodies, shut down except for their one true instinct—to survive. Her instinct was melted, mutated, perfected—to be with Avi.
With Avi out of sight, her voice had a sudden reunion with her brain, and she screamed. The man pulling her to safety gave her a final look of disgust and resolved to save himself, convinced he had tried enough. She rejoiced in her freedom, until she remembered why it was necessary—Avi. She shoved blindly through the rapidly thinning
crush of bodies, forcing his name to rise above everything else. To no avail.
No more than thirty seconds had passed since the alarm had shattered their already-fractured lives, but she had aged a lifetime, if not two. She roamed the now empty hallways, her desperate calls gone from frantic to mournful. Where was Avi? A wave of realization broke over her—of course! He’d escaped the confines of the building, gone outside like everyone else, possibly even in the hopes of finding her there. Her aimless wanderings had brought her a mere hall length from the main exit, yet the final stretch she sprinted was a thousand miles, a thousand miles between her and Avi. She burst outside, breathing hard. She wasn’t sure what exactly she’d been expecting; perhaps a fanfare of some sort, a welcoming committee, Avi waiting with outstretched arms? The emptiness was frighteningly massive, extending to the horizon where smoke rose from the bombs dropped, like pillars falling on her world and shattering it into miniscule fragments of insignificance and scattered memories. Avi was supposed to be waiting for her…
Then the earth shook. It was as if God was playing dice with the planets, and being quite enthusiastic. The ground was pulled out from under her feet, the sky stolen from her eyes. She soared, riding the wings of the wind to the edges of the earth and beyond, to a universe where only she and Avi existed. The moment stretched, trembled, and snapped, and she tumbled from the heights of the heavens. She landed, half on a bed of steel, half in a lake of knives. White hot knives. Her vocal chords were cut out; she had nothing with which to scream. Her eyes were wrapped in a haze of black, through which all she could see was the burning red of pain. Unconsciousness circled like a vulture, sizing its prey. It finally succumbed to hunger, and she to blackness.
Now, like a dream within a dream, summer returned to claim its own. She bathed, soaked, drowned in the sunlight, but it could not warm her icy heart or the chills down her spine, for she knew how this dream would end. The whispers of the leaves, once soft
and sweet, were now menacing prophecies, passing along dark secrets. The bright summer colors were worn to black and white through terror, yet she continued smiling. The leaves trembled ominously, trying to warn them with words they didn’t have. Avi turned to her, eyes black and empty. He was lost already, and on cue the screams closed in on her… She blinked and for a moment his eyes were normal again, only there was an ocean of sadness in them, regret for what was to come. Then his hand slipped away and she dissolved.
She awoke and didn’t think about Avi for a full fifteen seconds. She cried a few tears, the only ones she could spare. She was almost dry, or perhaps all her tears had frozen inside her. She must have been in the room for a hundred years, but she didn’t feel
any different, she hadn’t aged. She knew by now how her day would go: soon the doctors would come in, ask her questions, and she wouldn’t reply. She had no words. No, she had one word. Avi. Every night, before she fell asleep, she would hope that Avi would come back for her. Every night, she fell asleep, disappointment weighing down her heart. She lost track of the lonely nights, the empty days, the pointless meals. It wasn’t that there was no point to life without Avi—there was no life without Avi.
February 23, 1986
Annual Report on patient #27.
Patient is 52 years old, 5’1’’, and weights 94 pounds. Diagnosis remains; Acute Schizophrenia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and possible memory loss/confusion and hallucinations. Cause still assumed to be bombing of school during WWII. Patient rarely speaks, and when she does, she says only “Avi.” Possible slight paranoia, seems distrustful of doctors and nurses. Eats and drinks willingly, but seems unaware of actions and location most of the time. Has rare emotional breakdowns or outbursts, always ends up asking for Avi. No record of any Avi relating to the patient has been found. Avi is assumed to be a fabricated figure, created for comfort, support, etc.
Physical health is in relatively good condition. Scars remain from burns but don’t seem to bother the patient. Muscles have healed fairly well, motor skills are intact, nothing seems to be wrong with the patient’s senses. Reacts well to medication, previous prescription should be continued. Condition is stable, contentment undetermined.