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Nothing But A Dream
I feel nothing. I feel everything. I am surrounded by light but all I see is darkness. I don’t feel quite alive but I know I am not dead. I am no one and nothing. I just am. I have no sense of time, no past before now. I have only here; a here full of bright darkness that does nothing but drag on. And to be honest is becoming insanely boring.
And then comes the pain; a fiery burning that rises above everything else. It consumes my every thought. I try to search the darkness for an escape but find nothing. I float effortlessly through the nothing, easily navigating the empty world. Time stretches on but the pain stays with me.
The first thing I become aware of is a toe. My toe, I think absently. There is no body, only a toe and the pain. For all I know I am a mind attached to nothing but my baby toe. Slowly I become aware of more: feet attached to a full set of toes, legs settled beneath something light, a body lying on a flat surface, a hand being squeezed gently by my side, and a head with long hair splayed around it. Something brushes softly across my face pushing aside a piece of stray hair. The pain creeps into every inch of my body as I become aware. I hear nothing and see nothing. But I feel and that fact alone gives me hope.
I try to move: a leg, a foot, a finger, anything to prove that this body is mine, that the feelings are more than a wishful imagination. Nothing happens but the thing squeezing my hand becomes tighter.
I become vaguely aware of voices around me- whispering things that I can’t understand. Sounds blur together in a symphony of voices. I count three separate tones blended with a constant beeping. Trying to untangle the sounds only adds wood to the fire in my mind.
I fight past the pain and try to move my hand once again. Just a twitch: something to inform the people around me that I am here. I concentrate on sending the message through my tired body. I feel no movement but the attempt is met by a chorus of gasps. In my mind I smile. “Baby, we’re here. Wake up for us Caitlyn.” The voice is unfamiliar but the name draws up memories.
* * *
It was the name that my creepy English teacher pronounced wrong every day last semester. It was the name that Jenna and Emily squealed when I stepped from the change room in my prom dress. It was the name that my mom would say through clenched teeth if I ever got the courage to tell her my science mark. It was the name printed neatly on the note that slipped from my locker as I sung the door open; a note that had brought butterflies to my stomach as I read the words written in the familiar scrawl. It gave only a date and a time and it was all I needed to put a smile on my face that day.
* * *
“Caitlyn, sweetie, your friends are here to see you.” The voice whispers gently by my ear. I imagine the girls standing above me. Emily’s baby blue eyes staring down at me full of concern, and Jenna’s strawberry blonde hair falling down in front of her as she watches me intently. I wish more than ever that I could open my eyes. I wish I could ask someone to take away the pain. The darkness stretches on and I fear that it will never end.
* * *
The note sat in my back pocket as the day continued and I had to check periodically to ensure it was real. I sat restlessly in class as I counted down the hours. I barely registered when the teacher called on me and received a brief scolding when I answered the question wrong. At lunch I couldn’t eat and didn’t contribute to Jenna’s concerns about her boy of the moment. The girls looked at me strangely throughout the day but never interrupted my thoughts. Already my mind was planning out an outfit, brushing on invisible makeup and pinning hair that was yet to be curled. By the time the bell rung I was absolutely giddy. Even the fact that I first had to endure dinner with my parents couldn’t take away from my excitement as I slipped into the front seat of my car, Emily babbling away beside me.
* * *
I concentrate on the beeping using the sound as a distraction from the burning. If only I could ask for help. I don’t know how much time has passed when the sickly sweet smell twists its way towards my nose. The intensity of the smell should make me gag, yet I know my body will make no such action. It takes me a moment to place the smell and it isn’t until I add the beeping to the equation that I realize where I am. The fact hits me hard and for a moment the pain is out of my mind, in its place is the clean smell of death. A hospital.
* * *
Twinkling stars blurred across the sky as I stepped through the front door towards the car. My hand tightened around the folded note as I slipped from the driveway. Butterflies ate at my stomach as I played out the night in my head. A smile spread across my face as my imagination took hold. Only 30 more minutes.
I saw the lights, coming fast towards me, before I registered what they were. I felt the pain before the sound of breaking glass met my ears. I felt the heat before seeing the fire. When the fear set in, my scream was muffled by the pain. When I tried to move my body was already trapped beneath the burning.
The last thing I remember was the light, the smell of burning flesh, and most of all the pain.
* * *
“Caitlyn, darling, open your eyes, please” the voice begs in a sad tone. For some reason my body obeys, and my world is full of too bright florescent light. Voices around me gasp. I hear them cry my name and feel them reach for my hands. Footsteps rush towards me and the beeping changes. Shapes swim before my eyes creating shadows in the light. It only adds to the pain. I yearn to reach out for someone, to beg them to put out the fire, but I can’t move. Gradually the shapes become people and the people all look very happy. “Caitlyn” a different much more official voice says. “I’m sorry to tell you that there was...an accident” but I already knew that. I look around the room, searching the faces, searching for the friends that I was assured were here, for the parents that would surely come for me. They look at me with love in their hearts and a history I don’t know in their eyes. It all confuses me more and with that I speak my first words, watching as disappointment, anger, and confusion play across the faces. “Where’s Jenna? Emily?” Two young girls in the corner stare at me blankly. “Where Mom and Dad?” a man and women exchange confused glances, a chubby toddler in the women’s arms squeals.
“You were in a coma” A man in a white coat tells me, but I barley register the words; it is nothing but background noise.
“Who are you?” I ask the room in a voice scratchy from misuse, thinking once again about the note. No one tries to answer. The white coat stills talks but I don’t listen. Not when he talks about memory loss, not when he talks about comas, not about the accident, I tune it all out and stare instead at the pictures dotted around the room. Pictures of me, that I don’t remember taking, illustrating a life that I never lived. No one tries to explain, but their silence says more that words ever could. I say nothing. I lie there and I mourn the life I lived that wasn’t there and try to piece together the one that I wasn’t in, all the while the pain follows me.