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Monday, April 2, 2012

"Waking Dream" by Cherie McKinney

This is a story by Cherie McKinney, who is part of the Writing Fiction class I'm taking. This is her lastest story. I'll post my critique that I submitted on this story and others right afterwards.

Thanks for reading.

Waking DreamBy: Cherie McKinney
 The day that Vivienne woke up was a moment missed by even those paying close attention. She had been in a coma for over six months following the incident. The room crowded with many bodies moving around busying themselves on various machines and charts within the room. Beeps, slamming cabinet doors, ruffling of pages of papers, and the feeling of cold and warm as the blankets were moved off of her body and placed back shortly after.
Who is there? What is going on? She could hear their feet scurrying around and voices mumbling various questions and statements from several different voices buzzing around her, she laid locked in pitch-blackness, unable to see what was going on around her. Why can I not see anything? Can anyone hear me?
Then there was sunlight, blinding and bright. Someone was lifting her eyelids one by one, shining a white light beam in each. She could feel his breath on her face and smell the onion scent that still lingered from something he ate before attending to her. He must be a doctor, she thought. The doctor and a few nurses continued speaking to each other in cryptic phrases about her condition. She watched them walking around the room, one nurse that was taking notes left the room. Then she was lost into darkness again, someone had closed her eyelids once more.
 She could not remember why a doctor may be seeing her now or why she could not move or speak aloud. Last thing she remembered she was at home reading a book on her patio, smoking a cigarette, and drinking coffee. Her sister, Brooke, was supposed to visit her to go shopping for their parents’ anniversary presents together. She wondered what the date was and how long she had been there.
 Vivienne and Brooke were inseparable, something expected from twins. They were best friends, although very different, they still managed to maintain their twin connection. Brooke was a married woman with three children and the typical husband who brought home the bacon. She spent her days with chores, sports with her boys, ballet with her daughter, and planning dinner. That sort of life was not for Vivienne, she dreamed of travelling the world, improving her photography career, and maybe finding romance, but a family was furthest from her mind. She was a free spirit, a quick-witted daydreamer; her life was destined for mystery and adventure.
“Is my sister improving? Have you noticed any changes?” She heard her sisters’ voice over the chaos around her, the frustration and fear in her voice prominent. “When will she be able to come home? Do you have anything to give me today?”
“I am sorry, Mrs. Miller, I have no updates for you as of yet today. We are hopeful that she will respond soon, she has been improving more and more every day. I will call you as soon as I have more to inform your family. Excuse me,” The doctor replied before clicking his pen and walking out the door.
Vivienne laid there in darkness trying to hear if her sister left the room with the doctor. Then she felt a hand on hers, it felt familiar and warm. I love you Brooke, she felt but could verbalize.
“I am so scared Viv, I need you to wake up. It hurts my heart seeing you here. It has been months since I heard your voice, saw your smile. I miss you so much. Please wake up,” Brooke, sounded awful, her voice cracking, she began crying and sniffling.
Oh, Brooke, I am so sorry. I wish I knew what happened. I do not want to be here either. I wish someone would open my eyes again so I can see you. I miss you so much. Vivienne felt her face getting wet, was she crying?
“Nurse…someone, help!” Brooke stood up and ran for the door to find help. She could not believe that she finally got a response after being here every day trying to break through to her somehow.
The room was alive once more with the sound of voices, feet bustling, and more beeps from the machines around her bed. The voice over the intercom rang with codes, followed by someone leaving the room. Vivienne laid there wondering what was going on around her. She hoped to be free of it eventually, trapped inside darkness, and unable to break free was a fear she had not yet overcome in her life.
“I was talking to her…I cried, then she cried. I have been here every day since she got here and never got a response until today. Maybe she is waking up. Does it seem as if she is?” Brooke asked one of the nurses that was studying Vivienne’s vitals on a machine to her left.
“It is quite possible. We will need to run more tests to be sure, but we are hopeful that she will have a full recovery. I have seen many people who have gone into a comatose state who have recover with minimal complications. Some even after being under for many more months or years even. We will watch for any subtle changes and will be in contact once our findings are finalized.” The female nurse had a voice of power, but lacking in compassion. She must have been the one in charge, they always seemed to sound bossy or mean, from the years of wear and tear on their reason for becoming nurses.
“I have faith that she will be fine,” a younger sweeter voice appeared and filled Vivienne with a feeling of peace and joy. She remembered feeling this before, the voice seemed familiar, but she could not place it with a face. Then her eyes were open once more, both. An angel she must be, she heard my prayers, she thought. “Hello, Vivienne, can you hear me?”
            Yes! I wish you could hear me! Vivienne thought as she made many feeble attempts to move her mouth, her face, anything to show them that she was indeed there. It seemed impossible to move anything, not even her eyes. Her entire body felt numb and failed to answer any of her commands. She wanted so much to be free of this cage…salvation.
            The kind voice soon showed her face while trying to examine Vivienne’s pupils for any changes since she last checked. Her pupils were slightly dilated, but responded to light that the nurse flashed over her eyes several times. “Some improvement, it seems. Her eyes were unresponsive earlier this morning. Her vitals were good, but she was not physically responding to in of our queries. Sometimes the eyes will water themselves to keep the eyes from drying out, even in coma patients, but this seems intentional. This is a good sign,” she sounded even more hopeful.
            “Thank you, nurse…Greta,” Brooke read her nametag. “My family will be happy to hear of it. This is good news. Seeing her tears roll down her face made me feel hopeful, but I wanted to make sure.” Brooke smiled, pink rushing to her cheeks, she was overjoyed could not wait to tell her parents the news.
            “I will get Dr. Leonard to come in once he is finished with his other appointments this morning. We will be in touch. In the meantime, you look as if you can use some rest. You can go home, we will call you as soon as we have more,” Greta placed a caring hand on Brooke’s shoulder.
            “Ok,” Brooke turned to Vivienne’s face. “I will be back to visit tomorrow Viv, I am so happy that you are starting to surface. I love you,” she kissed Vivienne’s cheek, just over the line of tears that had previously flowed, then left the room.
            “Good afternoon, Vivienne.” Greta smiled at her as she sat down on the bed next to her. It was obvious that she was newer at this, being a nurse. She was kind, hopeful, compassionate, and seemed determined to save her from the darkness. “This is indeed good news,” she said wiping the tears from Vivienne’s face with a soft warm rag.
            Greta’s face was round with full cheeks that seemed permanently blushed; it appeared completely natural, beautiful. She could see the pores on her face in detail whenever her face got close to hers during an examination. She was one of those optimists that people tended to roll their eyes at or made jests behind their backs about them being delusional. Vivienne found her to be beautiful in form and character and enjoyed her presence.
            Greta took a syringe out of a plastic package with an intimidating needle at the end of it, plunged it into a small glass vial of clear fluid. Once full, she poked the needle into the port of the tube connected to a hanging bag filled with a mostly clear liquid that was keeping Vivienne hydrated. “Vivienne, I have just given you a dose of pain medication to help you rest. You may feel a slight tingling sensation, if your nervous system allows, and you may get drowsy shortly. Do not be afraid, just try to rest,” she squeezed Vivienne’s hand, “I will be back once you wake to feed and bathe you for the night.”
            She closed Vivienne’s eyelids once more, then whispered, “Sweet dreams”. Vivienne could hear her footsteps growing distant, the sound of the door closing. Then moments later, she fell into the darkness of her dreams once more. Her dreams were anything but sweet. Prior to the light returning to her eyes today, nightmares ruled her darkness. She dreamed once that she was a body stumbling aimlessly through a gloom. Another time she was without a body, only a suspended head floating over a glistening pool of water. The dreams were her reality for so long, once she woke from them, the real world did not seem quite real anymore.
            Swirling into dream once more, she found herself in their childhood bedroom. Brooke was scribbling in her diary, as she always did. Being twins they chose to share a room, they never wanted to be separate. The girls shared everything, secrets, pain, clothing, and one time Bobby Fran from down the street. He could never tell them apart, unless they were side-by-side, he was not very intelligent, but he was very handsome even at age twelve.
“Viv, let’s promise to never be apart! We will be two old ladies in a huge house with our cats,” Brooke laughed. Being old women with cats reminded them of the “crazy cat lady” at the end of the block. People said that she had at least twenty cats running around her house. It always reeked of urine and feces. Most children that passed would laugh and point at the crazy cat lady’s house. They did not expect that their future as old women would be anything like that.
“Of course we will silly! Born together, we will never be apart. Of course, I was born first, but…” Vivienne giggled, she loved rubbing that in.
“Yeah, only by a few minutes jerk!” They both laughed and ran outside to play.
            Her dream shifted into a gloom. She felt an overwhelming sensation of guilt. She had to fight this, she had to live, she promised. Vivienne could see her feet walking upon a grey colored ground. Everything was in shades of grey, the sky, the sun, even the grass. It felt cold, yet damp, as if she were in a swampy area. Empty it appeared in all directions, other than trees and mountains off in the distance. Then she saw, far off on the horizon, what appeared to be grey blurry figures walking slowly towards her. This seemed extremely familiar, except for the gloominess.
            “I’ve been here before,” she gasped.
            “Yes, you have,” a deep male voice replied from behind her.
            She quickly turned to find another grey blurred figure standing before her. The voice did sound as if a man was standing behind her, but the figure had no defining shape to indicate gender. It was of a slender stature and taller than Vivienne by about two feet. The grey seemed to be blocking her view of what the figure really was, as if it were hiding.
            “Where am I, who are you?” She asked out of fear and confusion, but the figure did not answer her. Then the scene changed again to the darkness.
            Vivienne’s memories were sporadic, only bits and pieces were surfacing at a time. Then the existence of the room around her came back to her senses. It sounded empty, but someone left a window open, she could feel a warm breeze and the sound of laughter. There must be children playing outside. The children’s laughter reminded her of seagulls circling above the beach on a warm day, perfect for swimming. It had been a while since she went to the beach. Then sudden memories flooded her eyes. Warm sun, sand between her toes, and Brooke building a sand castle by her mother’s feet. These memories were unfair. The more she dreamed, the more she felt as if her dreams would be all she could have. Maybe I am…her thoughts trailed back into darkness.
            Then the voices grew louder around her…”We were able to isolate the cause of the breakdown of her central nervous system, which led to her comatose state. It seems that a pesticide called methyl-S-demeton poisoned her,” the wrinkle between his eyes scrunched. “This is a high grade professional pesticide; she would’ve needed experience with lower grades before handling something like that. Does she keep many greenhouses at home?”
            “No, she has a medium sized garden in her backyard, it is not substantial. I have seen Vivienne grow tomatoes, carrots, pumpkins, maybe even herbs, but she refuses to use pesticides. My sister is a green person, she believes in minimal impact to the environment, she would not use anything like that stuff.” Brooke declared.
            “It is possible that it may have been carried into her yard. Over an extended period, years of exposure even in small doses can eventually affect a person’s body. From our testing, exposure to this substance was through both ingestion and skin contact. If she did not expect pesticides to be on her food, she may not have washed them thoroughly, and ingested contaminated food unknowingly.” Doctor Leonard did not wear the face of the doctor she has spoken to over the months; this man had a different air about him. It worried Brooke.
            “How bad is it, Dr. Leonard?” Brooke had her arms folded tightly to herself.
            “Your sister’s central nervous system may have extensive damage, but we will need further testing to determine the extent. From the various scans, blood tests, and examinations, we have found that the traces found were considerable. Honestly, I have never seen anyone hold on as well as she has, even with less contamination. It is a unique situation.” He rubbed his forehead. “Mrs. Miller, it is a possibility that Vivienne may never walk again after this. I would suggest an immediate transfer to physical therapy once given leave of the hospital. In similar cases, some patients have either remained catatonic or in a vegetative state. I am not trying to frighten you, just inform you of the possibilities. She may come out of this, she has made progress today…still the results are conclusive.”
            “Oh my goodness,” The whites of Brooke’s eyes grew in size, her mouth still hung slightly open from shock. “But she may live. And she could try physical therapy to get it all back?”
            “It is a possibility, nothing is certain until it is. She could come out of this with minor complications, or it could be worse. I just want you to brace yourself for either outcome. I am going to consult with a few specialists that deal specifically with chemical poisoning. I will get back with you soon,” Doctor Leonard shook her hand and left the room.
            The room fell silent. Vivienne was unsure if she was alone or if her sister remained. At that moment, Brooke’s sighing broke the silence, and then she was crying. “I do not know what to feel anymore. One day they say everything is looking good, and then it is back to them being unconvinced. I don’t know what to do Viv,” she continued to cry.
            I am so sorry Brooke, I am sorry this happened; it was somewhat foolish looking back now. I am usually an overly clean person too. Vivienne wanted to hug her sister, comfort her. This situation was throwing everyone she loved off balance, a crushing idea. She hated feeling as if she was a burden on someone else, even her sister. She did not have to run back here, I do not want to keep doing this to her, this has to change soon. She thought.
            “I am sorry, Mrs. Miller, but visiting hours are over now. It is time for her dinner,” Greta was so polite, she could probably make the rudest thing sound courteous.
            “Right, I was just about to head out,” Brooke bent down to hug Vivienne, fighting back tears. “I love you buddy, see you tomorrow.”
            Greta waited for her to leave before she brought in dinner. “It is not meat and potatoes, sadly, but it will be all the nutrients you need.” She held a clear plastic bag filled with a thick creamy substance. “This is what is called a Nasogastric Tube; we insert it through your nostril and down your esophagus. We had one in before, had to switch it out earlier while you were sleeping, but now that you are aware, I feel I should inform you. It will just take a moment and may be irritating at first.”
            Once Greta was finished, the fluid began to move slowly up the tube. Vivienne watched it oozing and then felt the tube adjust inside her nose due to the spatial shift. It was a strange sensation. She missed food already, pizza, and burgers especially. From what she overheard earlier, life would never be same. She may never get to do all the things she had not yet done.
            After her bath, it was time to rest again. Greta provided her ease to fall back asleep. Once under the cover of her eyelids, she faded back into her dreams, her new life. She was in the same place that is usually grey, except it was brighter, peaceful feeling. She could now see the faces of the figures, they looked happy. She wanted to run to them and have fun as well. Could she run? She walked at a regular pace, and then tried picking up speed. Soon she was running, frolicking, swirling, and she even did a cartwheel. This is unreal. It was a pleasant dream, she felt alive.
            The next day, while Vivienne was still in a different world, her sister sat watching her sleep. Greta entered to begin the waking process and administer breakfast. Caught off guard, she almost dropped what she was carrying, not expecting anyone in the room just yet. “Sorry, I did not expect you to visit until around lunch time,” She noticed that Brooke had a disheveled appearance now, it concerned her, “You look as if you could use some rest yourself. Are you all right? Have you spoken to the grief counselor we spoke about?”
            “Just had difficulty sleeping, felt as if she needed me here. I can leave if you need me out of the room for that,” she gestured towards the bags in Greta’s hands.
            “This is just breakfast, just switching the bags,” She replied as she began replacing them.
            “I am frightened for her, that is true, but I am frightened for myself more. Having separation anxiety, I know, but I do not want to take to a counselor. I can handle this on my own, just struggling. I want her to be better, but I fear I am being selfish,” she fiddled with her fingers. “If she does come out of this, she may be scarred for life, she will be miserable. I do not want that for her. It is not a life that anyone would want someone else to have to live. I am so afraid of letting go though.” She began crying.
            Greta placed a hand on Brooke’s shoulder and began lightly brushing it as Brooke continued crying, “Loss is difficult, but we always get past it, eventually. It builds us, molds us, we are what we are because of everything we experience, not just good things. Have you both always been this connected?”
            “Twins, we have always been inseparable. We even swore when we were kids that we would never be apart, that we would grow old together. I really do not want to lose that,” she wiped the tears away from her face with tissue from the counter.
            “Studies have shown that sometimes twins are so connected that they can truly feel what the other is feeling at times and even read each other’s minds. Twins are fascinating. Perhaps that is why you could not sleep, or even why she is doing so well. She may be more aware than we thought. She may be actively trying hard not to slip away.”
            That did make sense. Brooke thought. She grabbed Vivienne’s hand and put her mouth up to her sister’s ear, “Viv, if you are holding on only for me, I am sorry to cause you so much pain. It was selfish of me. If you are not afraid to let go, please do…I will not be upset. I will miss you, but you will always be with me no matter what. I love you so much. I cannot bear to watch you suffer like this anymore. Please forgive me.”
            “I love you B…” she managed to push the words through the heavy wall that was her lips, followed by the sudden loud beeping noises coming from several machines.
            “Her vitals have dropped. She is going into cardiac arrest. Code blue!” Greta yelled running from the room. “I need a crash cart in here!” The room was flooded with bodies clad in white, pushing Brooke out of the room as they made themselves busy trying to bring her back. Brooke watched from the hallway, knowing that she would not be back.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

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