A short story excerpt
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
The woman sat with her back to the wall, nervously picking at swollen nail beds. Her entire body tingled with anticipation of the decision she would soon have to make. Months had passed, and still no change. It was obvious to her now that whatever light her daughter had once had was now gone. As she stared at the body before her, it was with morbid fascination and sadness. She couldn’t look away, yet she feared losing what remained, even if it was just a body. Tubes and wires deformed what was once beautiful as the constant beeping of monitors replaced the voice she had taken for granted in the past.
She rose from her chair on the opposite side of the drab hospital room, moving forward and taking the limp hand of her daughter with a sigh.
“What would you want?” she asked, knowing the answer but refusing to acknowledge it. Kara would hate having to be so still.
She opened aquamarine eyes to a sky of lime, taking her time in stretching out in the grass with a satisfying yawn. She had lost count of how long she had been here. It was hard to concentrate, like being in a dream. She was aware of her friends and family and that they probably missed her greatly, but she didn’t know how to leave.
Kara rolled onto her belly, burying her nose in sweet-smelling grass. She looked out over fields of lavender and smiled at a familiar figure in the distance. Briefly she considered the idea of trying to explain Charlie to those she had left at home, but she shook the thought from her mind with a soft laugh. She wasn’t yet confused enough to believe Charlie was real. He was a figment of her imagination. Still, it was nice to have company.
Kara sat up, waving to her friend as the eight-foot jackrabbit walking on his hind legs briefly shook a paw at her. Given her earlier passing fancy, the idea of talking about Charlie to her everyday companions was all the funnier now that he was before her.
“Yodel,” he cooed. The greeting was familiar but had confused her the first time she had heard it.
Kara nodded in return. She rubbed her hands over her arms as if she was chilly, the electricity in the air tickling her skin. The girl knew there was something coming, and as she stared at clouds of candy floss moving slowly across a wrong-coloured sky, she awaited it with bated breath.
“We be needin’ to talk,” Charlie chirped. “Somethin’s going.”
“I know I can feel it,” she answered flatly, looking around as if the answer to the change could be in the scenery around them. “Do you know what it is?”
Charlie nodded, clicking his blunt claws against one another in a nervous twitch that reminded Kara of her mother. “’Phoria’s open, leasts will be’s.”
“What’s that?” Kara asked, having never heard the word in all the time she had been here.
“Place… City. Be off, downs the road,” Charlie nodded his head in the direction of a gravel path Kara hadn’t noticed before. “Sometimes close, sometimes far. Nevers know ‘ow close is being. Changes,” Charlie purred with a soft shrug. “This times be few days walkin’. Two, three maybe.”
“Should I go?” She asked, pulling her knees up to her chest and hugging them as she stared worriedly at her friend.
“’Ave to, can’t stay heres too long. Humans like ’Phoria, you’s like it.”
“You sound so sure,” Kara scoffed, unsure if she wanted to give up the growing familiarity of this place for anywhere but home.
“Humans like ’Phoria, my Kara be human, my Kara like ’Phoria,” Charlie stated with conviction.
“And if I don’t?” A hint of venom in her question at the pressure he was putting on her.
“Shushin’, I don’ mean no hurt. Jus’ ’Phoria is place for humans. Know you miss humans, miss friends. Can’t stay here with jus’ lil ol’ me to be talkin’ to’s,” the rabbit comforted, an odd, crooked smile twitching his lip.
Kara sighed, biting her lip to conceal the grin Charlie’s had inspired in her. “Two or three days you said?”
Charlie nodded, crossing the front legs he used so clumsily as arms over his chest. “Yep, can’t tell for sures ‘ow long, only guess.”
“Alright.” Kara nodded, reluctant to admit she held out some hope that this strange, new place might also be her way home.
The woman stared blankly out the window, watching the street below idly. Cars passed in and out of the hospital parking lot like insects milling about a hill. She counted them mindlessly, hoping to distract herself from the problem at hand. She had been told many times that day to go home, to get some rest. She knew the nurses and doctors were only trying to help, but she found it patronizing. Her irritability grew with each passing hour, her fear with every minute. There was no time limit that she needed to abide by, but that which she put on herself. Things could not remain as they were for much longer. The stress of it all was too overwhelming.
Kara bit at her nail beneath the shade of a silver-leafed tree. She watched as Charlie sat in the distance, doe-like eyes closed as he meditated. She didn’t know what he saw, if it was anything at all, but every time he did it he came back with a better idea of how far they were from Euphoria. The girl rose, brushing purple petals from her backside as she jogged back down to the blue graveled road. Charlie moved as well, finishing up and coming down to meet her.
“Need be moved. ’Phoria open soon, won’t wait for us to get there,” he informed her with a worried look.
“And if we miss it?” she asked, suddenly curious what something like that might mean.
“You’s stay here, dunno for ‘ow long. Hafta wait till ’Phoria open ‘gain.”
The possibility of simply waiting around for an indeterminate amount of time seemed like hell. This place was pretty, but nothing changed. There were no seasons, no days or nights. Everything was simply static, and it was numbing.
“Charlie?” she choked out, brow furrowing as she reached forward and took hold of the rabbit’s wrist. “What if it doesn’t open again?”
Charlie didn’t say anything, simply looking down at his feet. It was then that she knew the answer to her question. There was no guarantee that she would have this chance again.