Mira wants to die. She’s attempted suicide twice already and failed. Every time she comes in contact with another person, skin to skin, that person’s psyche uploads into hers. While her psychologist considers this a gift, for Mira it’s a curse from which she cannot escape.
To make matters worse, Mira’s father is being investigated for the deaths of several volunteer test subjects of the miracle drug Gaudium. Shortly after Mira’s mother starts asking questions, she ends up in a coma. Although her father claims it was an accident, thanks to her “condition” Mira knows the truth, but proving it just might get her killed.
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Yes. Still alive…
A tube runs from an IV bag into my arm, the plastic needle burrowing under my skin like a tick. Thank God I was unconscious when they put that in. I cringe at the thought of being deluged with so many psyches at once—paramedics, nurses, doctors, all of them touching me.
Where are my clothes? They must have taken them off when I was out. This flimsy gown can’t protect me. I want to tear off the tape securing the IV tube to my skin, rip it off like a Band-Aid. I want out of here, but then I see Mama sleeping beside me, her body sloped in a plastic chair. I shouldn’t have done this to her again. But I had to try.
A plastic clamp pinches my finger, connecting me to a heart monitor. Three inches further up, my wrist is wrapped in gauze. Two months ago I would never have had the courage to do this—or any reason to. But now, feeling the staples beneath the bandage, I wonder how deep someone has to cut in order to die?
The curtain jerks back, the metal rings dragging across the ceiling rail. Mama snaps to attention. I half expect her to stand and salute.
“Miranda Ortiz?” says a woman in a beige linen suit and crisp white blouse. She is thin, stiff, and colorless. She reeks of gardenias.
“I’m Dr. Walsh from Mental Health,” she continues. The plastic laminated nametag hanging from her neck confirms this.
Dr. Walsh extends her hand, but instead of taking it, I grasp the edge of my sheet and pull it up to my chin. Other than this stupid hospital gown, it’s the only barrier I’ve got right now.
Mama stands up and reaches over the bed to shake the doctor’s hand. “I’m Mira’s mother, Ana,” she says wearily. She starts to sit back down, but Dr. Walsh interrupts.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you in person, Mrs. Ortiz. However, I’d like to speak to your daughter alone, if that’s all right.”
Dr. Walsh is insistent, in a polite sort of way. Mama leans toward me, and for a split second I think she’s going to kiss me goodbye. Though deep down I almost wish she would, instead she offers me her gentle smile and tucks the sheet under my shoulder.
“Please don’t go,” I whisper.
“It’ll only be a few minutes,” she says. “I’ll be just outside, all right?”
Mama brushes a strand of hair from my eyes with her manicured fingernails, careful to avoid contact with my skin. She smiles at me, but her eyes are wistful. As she walks out, my insides tighten up, and I suddenly realize how much I’ve missed her touch. My instinct is to cling to her like when I was small, but instead I press my arms stiffly to my sides like a corpse.
A security guard opens the door and accompanies Mama out into the hall. Dr. Walsh takes Mama’s empty chair, crosses one leg over the other, and lays a clipboard on her knee. “So,” she begins, “you cut yourself last night. Is that right?”
Her voice is casual and smooth, as if she’s just asked me what I ate for dinner. She waits for me to respond. When I don’t, she glances down at her clipboard. “I understand it’s not your first attempt. You were here a couple of weeks ago, I see. Overdose, but no permanent damage done.”
She glances up at me, pausing in case I have something to say.
Laurisa White Reyes is the author of The Celestine Chronicles and The Crystal Keeper series. She has a Masters degree in English and is the Editor-in-Chief of Middle Shelf Magazine. Visit her website at: www.laurisawhitereyes.com
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