There’s an old lady staring at me. I’ve tried to ignore her, but each time I glance out the corner of my eye, I see her staring. Watching. Planning something behind those hollow eyes.
So I don’t look.
The room is strange. White and sterile with a scent of something stringent. It must be a hospital room, I conclude. But how did I get here?
Jason. I’d been in the front yard with my brother, Jason, playing a game of ball. But I must’ve fallen asleep because I just woke up and I woke up here. In this white place that smells like things that are clean. Too clean. So clean it hurts my nose.
I shift in my bed and the same ache I felt earlier screams through my bones, echoes in each muscle. Why do I hurt so badly?
A turn of my head and a glimpse of movement. There she is again, that old lady with the salt and pepper hair and skin so sallow she could almost be translucent. Stop staring. Stop looking, I want to say. But I don’t. I don’t even swallow. My throat feels raw, like I forgot to drink for a million years.
Then a click and a swish. The door opens. A tall man dressed in more white with a stethoscope around his neck enters. Definitely a hospital. What the heck did Jason do with that stupid ball?
“Christi,” he says. He knows my name.
I open my mouth but the croak that leaps out doesn’t make sense, rips more pain throughout my already weakened body. He grabs a glass of water from the side table and quickly rushes to set it to my lips.
“Here, this will help.” His smile is kind, lined. So much like Dad’s….
“Mom–” I finally choke out.
He sucks in a quick breath, his jaw tense. “Christi, she’s not here. She…” another tense breath, “…wasn’t able to come.”
The doctor sits on the edge of my bed, his gaze dim. “There’s something you should know. You were in an accident and you’ve been in the hospital ever since. You’re okay, but your recovery has taken longer than expected.” Another pause. “You see, you’ve been in a coma, Christi. Do you know what that means?”
I nod. I am almost eleven, of course I know what that means.
His lips press tight. “You’ve been in a long time…it’s hard to explain.” He exhales, then his eyes meet mine. “It’s been thirty years, Christi.”
The world stops it’s rotation, all sound sucked from the room as my heart beats, thuds, pounds inside my chest. I turn my head, look at the old lady next to me.
I look in the mirror.
The old woman is me.
©Laura L. Zimmerman