Mary was in a dimly lit hospital room. She didn’t know how she’d gotten there, seeing how there weren’t any doors or windows, not even an air vent, but she really wanted to leave. Maybe she’d teleported? Where was her communicator to yell at Scottie to get her out of there? She began patting down her clothes for the erstwhile communicator. She couldn’t have left without it. Wherever it was that she’d left.
“Will you pay ATTENTION!”
No, she wasn’t going to pay attention. She would pay to leave, though she didn’t seem to have any money along with the no communicator. There had to be a way out of there. If she hadn’t teleported in, how had she gotten there? The only other thing she could think was that she’d died and gone to Hell, but had she really been so bad as to get stuck with Vicky for eternity?
“Oh, like being stuck with you would be heavenly.”
Mary turned to the hospital bed in surprise. Being stuck with a mind-reading Vicky had to be another level deeper in Hell.
Vicky glowered at her. It was clear she’d heard that thought too. “What am I doing here?” she asked aloud.
“I’ve been trying to tell you!”
Mary waited for her to continue. Vicky sat in a hospital bed with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face. An IV and sensors hung off her arms and chests, but she didn’t look sick or hurt. Maybe she was in for a psych consult.
“Oh, haha. Very funny.”
She couldn’t help smirking but carefully schooled her voice to sound polite when she repeated, “What am I doing here, Vicky?”
Vicky crossed her arms tighter. “Because I need your help, but don’t know not how to say it. I don’t know any of that hocus pocus lingo.”
“Hocus pocus lingo?” Mary was getting exasperated. Vicky had been going on and on about needing her help with something but not being able to say what, and considering she didn’t even like Vicky, she really didn’t know why she should care.
“Okay, here’s the deal, I’m in a coma, and I need your help because there’s something here that’s trying to get me. I don’t know what, but it’s like spooky weird, and you’re the queen of spooky weird, so you’re the only one who can help me.”
“Spooky weird?” The way Vicky said it made it sound like crap found on the bottom of her shoe.
“Yes, and it’s trying to get me. So bring a Ouija board or something and get rid of it!”
“Whatever, look up coma in the dictionary. Being awake and talkative is not comatose.”
“Get a clue! We’re both unconscious. This is a dream.”
No, this was a nightmare. Help Vicky? What the hell? Mary went over to the wall and began kicking it. She was busting out. No more waiting for Scottie to beam her up, no more stewing in hell, no more talking to Vicky. “What are you doing?”
“Leaving. Please don’t follow me.”
Vicky thrashed about in her bed. It made her look like a landed fish. “I don’t like this any more than you do, but who else can help me?”
She kept kicking at the wall. Nothing was happening. Her shoes weren’t even scuffing it. She stopped in frustration. Through gritted teeth, she asked, “Can you describe the spooky weirdness?” Maybe if she let her subconscious get whatever this was over with, then she’d get back to her regularly scheduled dream of purple walruses lip-syncing Queen songs. The way their whiskers jumped up and down was hypnotic.
“I don’t know. I’m in a coma, remember? I just feel this chill, and it’s like something is pulling on me. I know whatever it is, isn’t normal. It’s evil.”
“And you want me to get rid of it?”
“You or Buffy the Vampire Slayer if you have her number. Ooh, is Buffy real? Or maybe Angel? I’d much rather have a big handsome vampire working on this.”
Mary started looking for something to kill Vicky with. There was nothing obvious. If this were a dream, she should be able to think of something and have it appear. She closed her eyes and imagined a guillotine. A nice, big guillotine. When she opened her eyes, there was no guillotine, but Vicky was staring at her with disdain. “You’re the one who needs a psych consult.”
Mary wanted to scream. Being stuck in a room with her least favorite person without any way to escape was maddening. She’d played nice. She let Vicky tell her about the spooky weirdness. Where was the door?
“Well, Mary, if you bothered to open your eyes, you’d know.” Mary looked over at Vicky in confusion. She wasn’t the one who’d spoken.
“Open your eyes, Mary. Time to wake up.”
She blinked. The room warped and wavered.
“You better come by the hospital!” Vicky shouted through the distortion.
She blinked some more. “Wake up, Mary. Open your eyes. I made French toast.”
She opened her eyes and looked at Gran in relief. “Thank God, I thought that dream would never end.”
Gran grinned as she folded back her blankets. “What was the dream about?”
“This girl from school, who I hate, was insisting I had to help her with something. It was awful. I was trapped.”
“Well, it’s morning now. Get dressed and let’s go have something to eat.”
Mary eagerly slid out of bed. She’d have to have a long talk with herself before she fell asleep again. Nightmares of Vicky were just uncalled for. She saw enough of the vapid cheerleader when she was awake.
Mary closed her locker with a preoccupied air. She was debating whether to fake sick and go home or suffer out the rest of the day. It was only TAB, the fifteen minute break between first and second period. She usually didn’t start thinking about faking nausea until third period. It was going to be a long day.
She turned to head to class and walked straight into someone. “Sheesh, could you move?” she said.
“Hey Mary, how’re you doing?” Mary forgot her annoyance when she saw who she’d walked into. Kyle wasn’t exactly a friend, but she didn’t dislike him either. He had a bit of a hero worship thing for her, which well, she really liked, and couldn’t bring herself to squelch. The fact that a guy on the wrestling team looked up to her really helped her ego.
“I’m fine.” She was a little flummoxed by Kyle’s sudden interest in her well being. Sure, the big lug looked up to her, but he usually kept away from her. She made the other wrestlers uneasy.
He blinked and looked at her a bit longer.
“You haven’t heard?”
Kyle slouched his shoulders and rubbed his hand over his buzz-cut head. When his mouth twisted into a grimace, she felt her own mouth mirror the twist. She braced herself for the bad news. Had Rachel gotten expelled? Or was the school switching to uniforms? Compulsory pep rallies? What?
“Cy and Vicky were in a car accident.”
“Is he okay?”
Kyle gave her a little rueful grin. He knew how she felt about Vicky. The whole school district knew how she felt about Vicky ‘The Hickey’ Neilson. Her nightmare flittered up in her mind. Weird. She’d dreamed about Vicky in the hospital, and now she’d been in an accident.
“He broke a collar bone and dislocated his shoulder, but he’ll be all right. He was discharged from the hospital yesterday.”
“When was the accident?”
“Huh.” It was Monday. She tried not to feel disappointment at being left out of the news for so long. Cy wasn’t her boyfriend, but she couldn’t believe he hadn’t called her. She’d thought they were friends with the possibility of more in the future.
“I can’t believe he didn’t call you.”
Having Kyle echo her thoughts, snapped Mary out of her gloom. “You said he’s fine, right? He probably thought it was no big deal.”
“His arm is in a sling, and he has broken bones.”
“Bones mend. Slings are removable,” she said, not meeting his eyes. She really wished he would shut up and go away.
“Vicky’s in a coma.”
That jerked back her head up. “What?”
“She’s been a coma since the accident. She’s not on life support, but she can’t wake up. I heard she may not wake up for a while.”
“Huh.” Mary felt goose bumps form on her arms. Her dream. She mulled that over. Before this news, the fantasy of Vicky being in a coma would’ve made her smile whimsically. The reality of Vicky in a coma didn’t give her any sense of whimsy.
“Yeah, Cy’s been sitting with her. He feels responsible. He was the one driving the car, but it wasn’t his fault. Another car hydroplaned across the road and hit them head on. They were both wearing their seat belts, but the car rolled, and well, they both got hurt pretty bad. The SUV’s totaled.”
“God.” Mary shivered. She hoped the SUV hadn’t landed on its roof. The sedan had. She’d been so confused. Mom had told her everything would be okay and not to be scared, only problem was Mom’s lips hadn’t moved. She and Dad hadn’t been breathing. “Were the people in the other car hurt?”
Kyle shook his head. “Not bad, they only had bumps and bruises. The police are going to charge them with reckless driving or something.”
Mary looked at the hallway floor. This was a lot to process. “Mary, there’s something else.”
“They were on a date,” she said. She glanced up for confirmation. His face was pinched, but he nodded. She’d known Vicky was interested in Cy, and they’d been hanging out some. She hadn’t known it had progressed that far.
“Thanks for telling me, Kyle.”
He gave her a nod and touched her arm. “If you need updates, just ask.”
She gave him a tiny smile. “Thanks.”
The bell for class sounded. She needed to head to second period. It felt like there was a pit in her stomach. Not like a gaping hole, but like a fruit pit. It was round, hard, and had a sharp point that poked at her. She wanted to throw it up.
Cy and she had gone on one date that had ended with Vicky crashing it, him yelling at Mary, and the whole school whispering that she was some kind of witch. Things had died down some since then. It had become old news, but she and Cy had never hung out outside of school again. He’d eaten lunch with her a couple of times, and they still sat together in English class, but that was it. She knew Vicky had been pursuing him. She’d made her interest in him well known, but Mary hadn’t thought he would really take the cheerleader seriously. They’d bonded over trash talking Vicky in the first place. It made her angry that he’d finally bent to the popular girl’s attention.
He’d been the only boy in school who’d ever shown any interest in her, and she’d liked him. Now he was hanging out at the hospital bedside of Vicky. The pit poked her.
“How you doing?” Rachel asked.
Mary squinted up and gave the best plastic smile she could muster.
“Geez, that bad?” Mary turned her head away and shrugged.
Rachel dumped her book bag and sat down across from her on the grass. It was lunch time, and the girls were at their usual spot on the school lawn. The sun felt nice and warmed them, though there was a hint of autumn chill in the air. Other students were scattered about sitting in clumps as well.
Mary dug out her lunch bag. In a flat voice, she said, “Vicky’s in a coma. Yay.”
“How’d you hear?”
“Kyle told me. What have you heard?”
“That Cy was driving Vicky home from a movie when a car crashed into them. Their car rolled, and Cy got a broken collar bone and a dislocated shoulder, and Vicky’s in a coma.”
“I wonder what movie they went to see.” Mary didn’t know if her interest was ghoulish or pathetic. She bit her tongue to keep herself from wondering aloud if they’d gotten two popcorns or one to share. She’d shared popcorn with Cy when she’d been at his house.
“That’s not important.”
Mary looked at her. She must not have looked good because Rachel lolled her head back and growled in frustration. “You cannot let this bother you. It was one stupid date.”
“One stupid date that I know of. Have they been dating? Did you know they were going out?”
“Yes, of course, I know because I’ve been secretly stalking Vicky all this time. I have a small shrine to her in my closet. Every night, I burn bubblegum incense and cuddle a Kleenex she once sneezed into while I photoshop her picture onto the covers of Glamour and Vogue.”
Mary slumped and picked at her sandwich, tearing off small pieces of crust and throwing them into the grass. “So you don’t know if this was their first date or their fifth?”
“If they were a couple, Vicky would’ve had T-shirts made. It was probably their first date, and she probably tricked him into going on it. He probably thought he was taking her grandpa to the airport or something, and she gave him directions to the movie theatre instead, and since she already had pre-purchased tickets, why not go see the movie anyway because both of Vicky’s grandfathers are dead.”
“Nah, she probably shot him with a tranq gun and drove him to the movie theatre, and he came to as the credits rolled.”
“Even more likely, so see, not as bad as you think.”
“Kyle said Cy is sitting by her bedside. He’s worried about her which means he cares. He didn’t call or email to tell me about this terrible thing that happened to him. He’s not here today. So he’s probably hanging out by poor, comatose Vicky like prince charming hovering over sleeping beauty, and I’m the evil fairy trying to train some flying monkeys to kidnap him away.”
“Wasn’t her name Maleficent? And she didn’t have flying monkeys. That was the Wicked Witch of the West.”
“I’m sure the Wicked Witch of the West would’ve loaned her some flying monkeys if she asked. They were probably pals, trading potions and stuff.”
“So I’m the Wicked Witch of the West?”
“No, I always imagined you to be more like Mad Madam Mim.”
Rachel stared at Mary for a few blinks. “You’ve thought about this?”
“The villains are more interesting.”
“Let’s focus on something else.”
“Well, I’m gonna fail Biology and be disowned by my father.”
“I told you taking that AP class was going to be tough. You should’ve stuck with CP like me.”
Rachel fell back onto the grass. “I know, but Dad was going on and on about how I have to take some advance placement courses, and I wasn’t about to try AP History or AP English.”
“And you wanted to dissect stuff.”
“Dissecting stuff is cool. I need to take these classes if I’m going to be a coroner.”
Mary shivered. Rachel had been going on about this coroner idea for a few months now, and it freaked her out. She dealt with ghosts, so she knew a good bit about death, but she didn’t want to know the science of it. She didn’t want to face the physical evidence. The spiritual evidence was enough for her.
“If you need help studying, I can quiz you. I may be only in lowly college prep, but I do know how to read.”
Rachel lifted her head and grinned. “Thanks. Maybe we could get together Wednesday. I have a test on Thursday, and I have to ace it to start getting my grade up.”
Mary nodded. Helping Rachel would keep her from obsessing over Cy.
“So Kyle told you about Cy and Vicky?”
Mary was a little surprised that Rachel was going back to that topic. She thought she’d wanted to drop it. “Yeah, he found me during TAB. He was upset too that Cy hadn’t told me about the accident.”
“That was nice of him.”
“Yeah, it was. It was better hearing it from him than overhearing it in the hallway or something.”
“He’s been pretty nice to you since you blew up his microwave.” That was code except Mary had blown up the microwave, but it was while getting rid of a really nasty ghost from his house.
“Yeah, he’s like grateful that I helped him. I figure it’ll die down in a while.”
“I don’t know. He doesn’t seem so much grateful as just likes you.”
Mary looked at her in confusion. “He’s just being nice. Sure, he was a complete meathead to me when I first met him, but he’s mellowed since then.”
Rachel didn’t reply. Mary shrugged it off and finished eating her lunch.
“Wasn’t Mad Madam Mim like kind of dumpy and crazy?”
“She could make herself look however she wanted. She chose to look dumpy, but she was definitely crazy.”
“It’s how I picture you at seventy.”
“You know, I sometimes can’t wait to be seventy. Old people get away with the best stuff.”
“I know, just look at Gran.”
Mary worked on her homework in the living room. She was also tossing a red squeaky ball across the room. It would float back to her, and she’d toss it again. It was either toss the ball or have phantom panting in her face while she tried to work.
Gran was finishing up with a new client. Mary had called for a couple of pizzas to be delivered. She was still bummed about the Vicky/Cy thing, but it was slowly sinking away.
She heard a car start up behind the house, and a few moments later, Gran came through the beaded curtains. “How’d the session go?”
“Mrs. Beadley is having some trouble with her dead husband.” She smoothed back her grey hair and took a seat.
“What sort of trouble?”
“Dating mainly. He doesn’t like the fact that his widow is getting back into the game. If she brings a man over, he makes the lights flicker or the radio come on to frighten away of her date. She’s at her wit’s end.” The red ball dropped at Gran’s feet. She tossed it across the room.
“He hasn’t tried to hurt her, has he?”
“Oh no, nothing like that. She seems positive he’d never escalate to that. She remembers him quite fondly, but he’s annoying her a great deal now. She thinks it’s time for him to move on, like she’s trying to do.” The ball floated back to her, and she picked it up again.
“Any ideas about how to deal with him?”
“I think I’ll have to go to their home. She doesn’t have any idea what he could have anchored to.”
“Do you want me to go with you?”
Gran sighed and looked down at the squeaky ball in her hands. “I shouldn’t ask, but I think your presence would help.”
“It’s no problem. If he’s as harmless as you say, it’ll be fine.”
The doorbell rang, and Gran got up to get the pizzas. She tossed the squeaky ball to Mary. Chowder barked.
Mary pretended to not hear him while the door was open. Once the door was closed again, Mary threw the ball as far as she could, and Chowder ran away. She cleared off the coffee table for the pizzas.
“Did anything happen at school today?” Gran asked as she gave her a pizza slice on a paper plate.
Mary took a bite of her pizza. She nodded her head while she chewed. “Cy and Vicky Neilson were in a car accident over the weekend. Cy broke his collar bone and dislocated a shoulder. Vicky’s in a coma. They don’t know when she’ll wake up.”
Gran froze with her pizza halfway to her mouth. “Mary, that’s awful! Are you going to visit the poor girl?”
It was Mary’s turn to freeze. “I don’t really know her.”
“But she was a friend of Cy’s. Surely, you’ve met. I bet Cy would appreciate it if you visited.”
Mary didn’t know what to say. “Her family probably doesn’t want too many people crowding in right now.”
Gran frowned slightly. “You might be right. Well, you could send a card at least.”
Mary didn’t think Hallmark made a card that would cover how she felt about Vicky. ‘Sorry you were in an accident and put in a coma. Stay away from the boy I like.’ It didn’t even rhyme. Mary focused on eating her pizza.
“I promised Rachel that I’d help her study for a Biology test this Wednesday,” she offered to get away from the subject.
“Oh, that’s nice. Will you two be studying here?”
Mary shrugged. “Don’t know. We haven’t planned it any yet. Don’t worry about it. We can look after ourselves.”
“But I like looking after you, and Rachel’s a sweet girl. Unusual but sweet.”
Mary smirked at that. The first time they’d met, Gran had a little trouble not staring at Rach’s hair. It’d been Astroturf green at the time. Once she gotten over the hair, she’d stared at the piercings. Rachel had told her she’d look good with a nose ring. Gran had wondered how she’d blow her nose. Rachel’s answer of ‘Very carefully’ had made her cackle. They’d gotten along famously since then.
“Well, I’m going to go curl up with my book. Do you need anything else before I go to bed?”
Mary shook her head. Gran cleared away the left over pizza, and Mary pulled out her homework again. Chowder followed Gran to bed, and Mary had the living room to herself. She put the television on for company and worked more on her homework.
“You didn’t come by. I know you have no social life, so don’t even try giving me an excuse.”
Mary turned around and groaned. Once again, there were no exits, a hospital bed, and one annoying, non-comatose cheerleader. She said the thing that had been plaguing her all day. “You were on a date with Cy.”
“Oh, you’re still into him?”
Mary turned away so she wouldn’t launch herself at the other girl. “Is this real or just a nightmare?”
“It’s real. Very real. Look, I don’t think this thing is just affecting me. I think it’s going after other people.”
Mary turned back toward her. “How do you know that?” Vicky looked up at the ceiling as if trying to see the answer to her question.
“I can just sort of feel it out prowling around. I can feel it clawing at other people.”
“Do you know anything else about it? Does it talk? Can you see it?”
Vicky shook her head. “I can only feel it. Please come to the hospital. I’m afraid it’s gonna kill me.”
Mary stared at the other girl. Vicky was being serious.
“I’ll come by.”
“Are you going to bring that friend of yours? You better not let her mess with me.”
“You’re in a coma. What do you care?”
“I care. No drawn on mustaches.”
“What about a soul patch?”
The dream snapped off at that, and she rolled over into normal sleep.
Continue to Chapter 2.