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I floated along the gentle waves of the greenish-blue Atlantic Ocean, nearly dead. My life vest was keeping me afloat as I slipped into the blissful yet hellish world of unconsciousness.
Waves pounded against the hull of the La Niña as the hurricane raged on, threatening to flip the boat. I heard Mom shouting something to my older sister, Isabella, and me. Isabella, seeming to understand Mom, grabbed two life vests and pushed one to me.
“Sebastian! Wear it now if you value your life!” she shouted over the roar and crash of the waves. I put it on quickly and she pushed me over the railing. I hit the chaotic water, the waves pushing me underwater. I fought against the powerful tumult and managed to the surface. By the time I reached the surface, the La Niña was nowhere to be seen.
“Isabella! Mom! Dad!” I cried as I struggled to stay afloat.
I woke up in a confined room with three red-clothed and red-helmeted men talking to each other, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying because of a roar of a powerful engine. I looked around the cylinder-shaped, steel-gray room with something that looked like a cockpit on one end and a complex machine in another. I felt something on my mouth and nose and lifted my arm weakly to remove it.
“Hey, Tom, Mark!” one of the men shouted over the noise. “He’s awake!”
“He still is in a very critical situation,” another said, putting the oxygen mask back on my face. “He may need to go in the PICU.”
I faded out.
Sharks, sharks, sharks. I hate sharks, but I found myself surrounded by sharks. They were looking at me like starving men. They had a crazed look in their eyes. A shark bit on my toe and the others was on me in seconds. I felt my legs tearing away from my legs. It was so great a pain that I blacked out.
I woke up again, this time in the PICU. A trach was stuck on my throat and wires were everywhere on my chest. An IV was feeding a cloudy liquid into my arm. I heard a steady pulse of a heart monitor.
A nurse was checking on me and saw that I had woken up. “Dr. Sands! He woke up!” she called to a doctor. The doctor came to me and he was very happy.
“Can you hear me?” the doctor asked. I nodded slightly. “Can you wiggle your fingers?” he asked. I thought that was odd. He was supposed to say “Can you wiggle your toes?” but I did it anyway.
“That’s a miracle! He was supposed to be dead by now. He lost two pints of blood when he lost his legs to the sharks.” Oh, that’s why the doctor had asked me to wiggle my fingers. “And he had water in his lungs. I wonder why he was in the ocean at night.” He left the PICU.
“You were in a coma for five days,” the nurse explained. “We gave you blood and closed up the stumps. We drained the lungs and we ordered you the prostheses, fake legs.”
I was shocked to learn that I had lost my legs. Now everyone would stare at me and that I did not want. I tried to talk, but the nurse shook her head. “You got a tube in your neck, so you can’t talk. And you had gone through some awful lot of suffering. Sleep now, Sebastian.”
I was too tired to protest and I slipped back to sleep.
My tube was removed and I was moved into a different room with another boy. He told me that he got in a car accident and he was a paraplegic now. As he complained that he couldn’t play football now, I ignored him and looked out the window, over the neighborhood to the calm ocean. My thoughts went back to my family and my sister, Isabella. The paraplegic boy shut up and was now snoring.
I looked down at myself. Maybe she knew something about me that I didn’t know, something so valuable that she would sacrifice her life for it.
No, it’s not possible. I should have known myself like the back of my hand. Seventeen years I’ve been alive and a lot of secrets about me? I don’t think so. Suddenly there was a loud CRACK as a smoke-less fire appeared in the sink. Where did that come from? I looked down and noticed that my hand was pointing at the sink. With growing dread, I realized that it was my fire, my magic. No, no, no, no, NO! That can’t be happening! Magic does NOT exist!
Still, the proof of magic was crackling and changing into a fiery eagle. The crested eagle cocked its head at me, its fiery eyes looking into my eyes. Then it cawed loudly.
“Shut up!” I whispered to the eagle. “You wake up someone and I’m going to wring your pitiful neck, so help me!”
The eagle panted and I assumed that it was laughing. “It’s not funny. I’m not sure how magic works, but someday I will and when I do…,” I left the threat hang.
It ignored me, preening itself.
“No wonder birds are so stupid. You guys preen your feathers and mate and that’s all you guys do. What is so fascinating about girls? They just want more and more stuff.”
It looked up at me.
“Don’t you agree?”
It then went back to preening itself.
“Look here, I have no experience of magic, like I told you earlier.”
The eagle snapped its head up and I swore that its expression read, Yeah, right.
“I don’t!” I said to the eagle. “So don’t look at me like that!”
It then cawed again.
“That’s it!” I shouted in frustration. “I’m going over there to shut your pathetic beak and tape it shut!” I threw off the covers and, forgetting that I didn’t have any legs, got out of the bed. I fell over the edge to the cold, hard floor, hitting my head and cursed in Spanish as my head pulsed painfully. The fire eagle guffawed. “It’s not funny,” I spoke through clenched teeth, switching to English.
Then a strange idea popped up. Strange, simple, yet brilliant. Why in the world didn’t I think of this before? I may be stupider than birds.
I snapped my fingers and it disappeared.
A nurse found me on the floor. She rushed to my side and helped me get on the bed. “What happened?” she demanded to know.
“Nothing,” I lied.
“Oh, so you were on the floor for nothing,” she said sarcastically.
I told her that it might be a seizure.
Thanks to my lie, I found myself in a CAT scan, under 24 hour observation, in a x-ray before I was cleared from my punishment. I shouldn’t say that I had a seizure. Anyway, after I was cleared, a French girl showed up in front of the doorway. She looked like she was my age and, wow, was she pretty! I caught myself staring at her long and slender legs and arms, her perfectly sculpted face, her shining chestnut hair, her perfect curves. She looked like she should be on a runway instead of in a hospital. She entered the room quietly.
“Is your roommate asleep?” she asked me in a soft whisper.
“Huh?” I was too busy staring at her to understand her. I slapped myself mentally. Wake up, dolt! She asked you a question! “Oh. Yeah, he’s asleep.”
“Okay,” she said in a normal volume. “Don’t worry, he’s deaf when asleep. You could launch a space shuttle next to him and he won’t wake up. I’m Natalie, by the way. I volunteer here.” She reached out her hand.
“I’m Sebastian,” I shook her hand, and her hand felt nice and cool. I practically forced myself to let go of her hand. “I’m an unlucky patient.” I grinned.
She laughed, her laugher rang like bells. “Yeah, I guess so. Just wondering, um…, what happened?”
“The sharks mistook me for chum,” I answered. She gasped and I nodded. “I lost both my legs.”
“Huh,” she said. “Well, maybe the sharks learned not to mess with you again.”
“Um…, you said that you volunteer here. What do you do?”
“Mostly paperwork, which is so boring, but sometimes, when my dad gives me permission, I go around the hospital and read books to patients and play games with them. I was going to the pediatric ward but something happened to the kid. He had to go to the PICU. I heard that we got a new patient so I came here.”
“Really?” I asked. She nodded. “Poor kid. Is your dad a doctor at this hospital?”
“Yes. He is the director of the trauma team. For some odd reason, we get a lot of traumas than anything else. Do you want to play a card game?”
“Sure. Do you know how to play gin?”
After much talking and playing gin, a nurse quietly came in and surprised us.
“Sebastian Antonio Cruz, what are you doing with Dr. Marseille’s daughter?” he demanded.
“Uh…,” was all Natalie and I could say. The nun cracked a large smile and I knew that he was joking.
“Sooner or later, you lovebirds should invite me to your wedding.”
We were protesting, saying that we’ve known each other for only three hours.
“I know it,” the nurse said, his smile widening. “It’ll happen. But your secret is safe with me. Anyway, Natalie, your dad is looking for you. He needs help with the papers.” Natalie groaned. “I know, I know,” the nurse sympathized.
“Thank you, Alex,” Natalie said to the nurse and left. But she mouthed, You lost! Another tomorrow. Ready?, as Alex busied himself with my IV. She got out of the door with an air of triumph. I chuckled quietly at her attitude and I felt drowsy, my eyelids slipping over my eyes. I faded out again.
Natalie entered the room and found me crying. “What’s wrong?
I took a deep breath to steady myself. “Nothing.”
“You are a terrible liar,” she stated as she approached me carefully.
“Sorry. Just that I didn’t get to say goodbye to my family.” I leaked more tears and she pulled me into her warm, comforting hug. That’s where I bawled like a baby, staining her green shirt, but I didn’t care and neither did she. She only hugged me tighter, murmuring, “It’s okay, it’s okay. You’re a great guy. Shhh.”
Finally after seven minutes of crying and hugging, I calmed down. “Do you want some water?” Natalie asked. “It really helps calm you down.”
I nodded, unable to speak. She went up to the sink and filled a large cup. I drank all the water without a break and found that she was right. For some reason, the water calmed me down and the lump in my throat disappeared. When I had finished, I looked out to the ocean again. “How can you give them honor when they are underwater?” I wondered out loud.
She knew who I was talking about. “Scatter flowers in the ocean?” she suggested.
I had a great idea. “May I have a piece of paper and envelope and a pencil?” She went to the cupboard and got me them. “Thank you.” As I wrote a long letter, she read it over my shoulder and I didn’t mind that. When I finished the letter, I sealed it and tucked it in my donated jeans’ pocket. When I saw Natalie, I teased her, “It doesn’t look like there were enough tears today, huh?”
She wiped the tears away and apologized.
“Don’t apologize,” I reassured her. “It’s not your fault. It’s nobody’s fault.”
The same nurse, Alex, came in and Natalie left. Alex, having seen her tears, asked me, “Did you break up with her?”
“No,” I looked at the door, then turned to him. “Can you help me with the prostheses?”
I was finally released from Mercy Hospital after three interesting months of hospitalization and physical therapy. I was so happy and relieved, but also hesitant. It was pouring rain and the wind howled as it tried to topple me over. I fought the wind to get to the curb of the street.
“Now what?” I muttered to myself as I walked across the street. “Go to the beach? No, bad time.”
My shoe felt funny, as if it was squelching on something. I looked down and sure enough I had landed on a lovely present from a dog. “¡Joder! ¡Mierda!” I cussed. I need to cut back on cussing. I shook my foot to get as much as the brown poop off my white shoe and stuck it in the little canal as the rain poured down on me. This just wasn’t my day. Little did I know, it will be the worst day of my life so far.
I heard a girl scream. Just a scream of excitement, I thought as I washed my shoe. Girls do that all the time. Then I heard a roar. I snapped my head to the direction of the roar and waited for a few seconds to hear another roar. Then I ran as fast as I could with these stupid prostheses into an alley where I saw Natalie in a corner of the alley. There was a lion, a huge lion, cornering her. The odd thing was that the lion had serpent for a tail and a goat head sticking out in the midsection of the lion. I was shocked at the beast and was so sure that I remembered it from somewhere, but I couldn’t place a finger on it.
“Hey, you big brute!” I shouted to the beast. It turned. “¡Sí, te!” It sized me up. When it saw me as a worthy opponent, it roared.
“Phew, you do have a stinky breath!” I complimented the beast as I called up my magic, creating a fireball. I let it go, and it sizzled out in the rain instead of hitting the beast. I seriously need some practice. No, no time to think about my crappy novice skills. The beast’s tail hissed at Natalie as she tried to move from the corner, showing lovely serrated teeth with venom dripping down. I have to think fast, considering that we would both die in this alley. Then my crazy mind thought Lead at once. That is a crazy, but brilliant idea. Now, where can I get lead? All the sudden, the lead was building something that looks like a spear in my hand. But I didn’t know how to throw it. The beast saw the spear appearing in my hand and backed up into the wall, whimpering fearfully. I looked at the beast eyes, all of them showing a pathetic look. I threw the spear and the spear shot into the side of the lion part. The Chimera collapsed into a fur-covered heap, dead.
Natalie looked at me, her bright green eyes staring me fearfully. “It’s okay,” I tried to console her. “Calme. I’m not going to hurt you. Dios prohíbe que te lastimo.” God forbid that I hurt you. “I’m still Sebastian.” That didn’t help reduce her fear. “You know, you played gin with me three months ago, right? Natalie, I’m the same person. I’m Sebastian Cruz.”
“I-I-I,” she stammered, shook her head and then sprinted past me towards Mercy Hospital. I started to run after her, but thought better and stayed. I looked at her back sadly, and then walked in the opposite direction of the hospital, cursing myself. I’ll never be normal again.