“Ms. Banon? Letha?”
I groaned, and thought how all I ever do lately is wake up. I just wanted to sleep.
“Good morning, Ms. Banon. I need you to wake up now. I’m Doctor Chennupati. How are you feeling?”
“My head hurts. My stomach, too. I feel groggy. What happened to me? Why am I here?”
“You were brought in by ambulance six days ago, after a car accident. You’ve been unconscious since then. Do you remember anything?”
“Six days? I was driving to work… That’s all I remember. How badly was I hurt?” I looked over my body, the shapes under the blanket. It looked like everything was there. I wiggled my toes, reassured by their feather-light rustle against cloth.
“First, you are doing great now. Your body is healing amazingly well; even your bruising is slight. You had a concussion, some minor cuts and scrapes, but the biggest issue was that your spleen ruptured, and had to be removed. There were no problems during the surgery, and you should make a full recovery. The pain in your abdomen is from the surgery site. Now that you’re awake, we can put you on an intravenous painkiller. Do you know if you have any allergies?”
“None that I’m aware of.”
“Good, I’ll start you on a morphine drip. That should manage your pain. You should be able to go home in a few days. Oh, one other thing: your initial scan showed a foreign object implanted in your nasal cavity, which appears to have been partially dislodged by the accident. It was impacting your breathing, so we removed it, but I’m not sure what it is.” He reached into the front pocket of his lab coat, pulled out a capped bottle, and handed it to me, a look of curiosity on his face. “I wondered what you knew about it.”
I took the translucent bottle, and held it up to the light. A small, dark sliver of an object rested at the bottom. Screwing off the cap, I shook it into the palm of my hand.
It appeared to be a small polished stone, about the size of a grain of rice, glossy with tiny swirls of brown and yellow.
“I have no idea. How could this have been -” A wave of nausea washed over me, and I felt light-headed.
The doctor scooped everything neatly out of my hands, and put the stone back in the bottle. Capping it, he said, “We will send this for testing. Possibly that will give us some answers. You rest now; you need to heal and get back your strength.”
He left the room, and I slept.
Figures swoop in the turquoise sky, dipping and twisting in a dazzling aerial display. I am myself, but not; a passenger in a small child’s body. Next to me, a woman holds my turquoise hand in her copper one, watching the sky with a contented expression.
I stretch my small wings, giving them an experimental flap, and ask, “When will I be able to fly, Mama?”
Except the words come out, “Qi rhiź źinusishu laź shelmi, Jeya?”
She turns her head, and her brilliant orange eyes shine with love. In that same strange tongue, which I somehow understand, she replies, “My darling one, you will fly when your wings have grown in size and strength, near your twelfth year. But do not be so anxious to race through your childhood! Once your wings have matured, you will leave us to train with the queen, and your responsibilities will be many. Can you not, for now, be content to hold your mother’s hand and enjoy the spectacle before us?”
Her smile warms me, and she gives off the most comforting scent, like a campfire on a crisp fall night. I am happy; happier than I can remember being at any other time. The heady smell of flowers envelops me; like jasmine, but lighter, spiced with sandalwood. I realized I was the source of that joyful scent.
Flames fill the suddenly darkening sky, the soaring figures plunge to the ground. Screams fill my ears, and a dizzying array of odors assault my nose – terrified and rage-filled. My mother pulls me close, hugs me fiercely, and cries, “You must go, Letha! Heed your guardians, and I will see you again soon. My heart travels with you!”
She thrusts me into the midst of four others, and dissolves into smoke.
“Mama! Mama! MAMAAAAA-”
My cries become a shriek as the world breaks apart into star-filled blackness, the only sensation the press of four bodies around mine. There is a blinding flash, and my feet thump onto solid ground. The light fades, and I am on a strange street, with strange structures that look nothing like my zorala or any of the buildings I am used to. The sky is a different color, too; in place of brilliant turquoise, it is a dirty gray.
My voice trails off as I run out of air, and I take a teary, hiccuping breath. I can breathe, but the air feels different as it fills my lungs: heavy and foul, and it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
My mouth flooded with the bitter remnant of my dream, and I woke gagging. I sat up.
I sat up.
There was no pain, no drugged feeling. My head felt clear, and my body hummed with energy. The drugs they were giving me must be fantastic! I thought. I looked at my wrist, and frowned in puzzlement.
My IV was gone; only a bandage-covered cotton ball marked its former placement. Could I walk? I threw back my blanket, and had just put one leg over the side when the nurse walked in. She frowned when she saw me.
“Ms. Banon! You shouldn’t be getting out of bed! I was just coming in to start your morphine drip.”
“I don’t think I need it. I feel great! I’d like to go home now.”
The nurse frowned. “You need to rest for a few days after your surgery, and the coma. If you’d like, I can get the doctor for you.”
“Yes, please do. I really think I’m fine to go home.”
She hurried through the door, and I got out of bed. I held my gown shut in the back as I made a few test laps around the room, in case the doctor came in while my rear faced the door.
I was antsy with all of this energy. I needed a project while I waited. I sat back down on the bed, and took inventory of myself. Tentatively, I touched the bandaged area on my abdomen, but felt nothing but the pressure of my fingers. Pulling aside my hospital gown, I gently picked at the adhesive over the bandage. Once the edge was free, I slowly removed the tape and cotton, and was amazed by what I saw.
There was nothing but smooth, unblemished skin. I dropped the bandage on the bed, and ran my hands over my stomach; it was entirely healthy. I removed the cotton ball from my wrist. Even the tiny needle wound left by the IV was gone.
I rushed to the bathroom, and looked at my face, expecting to see a bruised mess, but got the biggest shock of my life.
Not only were there no bruises or cuts; my skin was tight and fresh, and the fine lines under and around my eyes were gone. The few age spots that had popped up in the past few years – gone. The whites of my eyes were bright and clear, and my eyelids, which had started to droop a bit lately, were perfectly shaped again. My hair, which had recently started thinning, was as full and shiny as when I was twenty.
I looked twenty! I took a quick peek at my chest, and let out an involuntary cheer. I wasn’t wearing a bra, but it sure looked like I was! My breasts were as high and firm as any eighteen-year-old’s.
I heard the door to my room open, and Dr. Chennupati called out, “Ms. Banon?”
I walked to the bathroom door. Seeing me, he said firmly, “Ms. Banon, you really must get back in bed…”
He trailed off as he got a good look at me.
“Well, you certainly look like you’re feeling better. Let’s take a look at you, and see how you’re progressing.
We walked towards the bed, and I sat down, picking up the bandage I had discarded on the blanket.
“Actually, I took the bandage off to look at my wound, and -” I was interrupted as he yanked the bandage from my hand.
“You should not mess with your bandages! With your spleen removed, you are at higher risk for infection, as your body can’t fight as well as it used to. We must keep the area free of bacteria.” Indicating that he wanted to examine my midsection, he asked, “May I?”
Not knowing what else to say, I simply nodded. I was both nervous and excited to see his reaction to my miraculous healing.
He was gentle as he slid my gown aside, and careful to only expose the area he wanted to examine, but as more and more healthy skin was revealed, his touch became more agitated, until he released the fabric and let it fall back into place.
“I don’t understand this! What happened to your incision? This isn’t possible!”
I laughed, giddy with his amazement. “I know. I just looked a few minutes ago, and it’s completely healed. I don’t feel any pain, anywhere. And look at my face! I haven’t looked – or felt – like this in twenty years! What did you do to me?”
Still frowning, he replied, “I’d like to run another CAT scan. Wait here, and someone will be in shortly to get you.” He looked me in the eyes and continued, “Don’t go anywhere.”
I smiled. “I’m just as interested as you are to see what the scan shows, Doc. I’ll be here.”
Back in my room, I decided to get dressed while I waited for the results of the CAT scan. I checked the closet for my clothes, but there was nothing there but my very battered purse.
I called my office. I spoke to my boss, explaining only that I was in the hospital, and had been in a coma for the past week. Apparently the nurse had done as she promised and contacted them the previous day, but he was sympathetic, and relieved that I was all right. After hanging up, I called back, but this time spoke with Christina, a co-worker with whom I was friendly.
“Letha! We have been so worried about you! I guess the hospital called yesterday, but we didn’t hear about your accident until about an hour ago. Everyone’s signing a card for you now, and I heard they’re sending you flowers today. How are you feeling?”
“I’m doing great now. Tell them they can skip the flowers – I’m checking out today. But I have a favor to ask you. Can you bring me some clothes? Mine must have been destroyed by the accident, and all I have is this hospital gown. Even my underwear is paper. I hate to ask, but you’re the only person I can think of to help.”
“Sure! It’s no problem. I can take an early lunch.” She laughed. “I’m glad for the excuse to get out of here for a while. Is there any way for me to get into your house?”
“I keep a spare in a hide-a-key thermometer on the back lanai. It’s hanging from the bay window. I’ll text you the address so you can map it. And I’m at Brandon Memorial in room 208.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can. It will probably be about an hour.”
“Thanks, Christina. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”
Arrangements for my clothing made, I looked for something else to do. Out of sheer boredom, I turned on the television, but just then Dr. Chennupati rushed into my room. He was clearly excited, and spoke with an uncharacteristic familiarity.
“Your spleen. It’s back. I don’t know how, but it’s back. Maybe you had two? It can happen. But what about your healed incision? Not even a scar. I’ve contacted a colleague that would like to take a look at your case. She can be here in the morning -”
A feeling of nervous apprehension was building as he spoke. I didn’t know exactly what was bothering me, but I had a sudden, strong compulsion to get out of the hospital. I cut him off. “Doc, I get that this is some sort of crazy miracle, and I’m willing to help you figure it out, but I have got to get home and get back to work. I’ve been gone for a week. My friend is bringing me some clothes, and I’m leaving as soon as she gets here. I can schedule some time with you later for some tests, and to talk to your colleague.”
His shoulders slumped in disappointment, and his manner became more formal.
“Very well, Ms. Banon. Thank you. I will send someone in to go over your paperwork and help you with the check-out process.”
He left the room, shaking his head. I sympathized with him, but I really had to get out of here.