Firewatcher

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Waking Up

Darkness.

Complete and utter darkness. Never in my life have I been in such a dark place before. There was no light, no escape, just inky blackness. Oddly enough, I didn’t mind the darkness. It was strangely comforting and safe, like a mother’s embrace after you’ve gotten hurt. The darkness enveloped me entirely, keeping me safe and out of reach of…well I don’t know what exactly. All I knew was that I wasn’t scared of the darkness, and that I was somehow supposed to be there. The darkness was good and safe, the light hurt.

Time was a concept the darkness hadn’t heard about. To me it felt like I was only there for a few minutes, but when I woke up they told me I had been asleep for two years. This darkness was different than the one you slipped into when you fell asleep. This darkness was deeper, heavier and constant.

I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m supposed to be writing all the details in here.

I had no idea where I was, nor had I any sense of my body. I was just floating around in the black sea, bodiless. The only thing I had was my thoughts, and even those were messy and all over the place. Sometimes I would catch glimpses of myself, of a room, or I would smell something, but then the darkness pulled me back under. I let it happen, I didn’t fight, the darkness was a safe place and I wanted to stay there.

For a long time, I didn’t know my own name, hell I didn’t even know if I had a name. Slowly I pieced my thoughts back together like a kid building a puzzle. It was as if my entire being was floating around in the darkness and I had to find it piece by piece. When I got my thoughts back together, I knew my name. Mina Carlisle. It was a strange name to me, but it was my name. After I figured out that I had a name the rest came easy. I was 16; I had long blonde hair and a curvy body that the boys were fond of. My boyfriend’s name was Cade. My best friend’s name was Ridley. I lived in a small town outside of Cape Town called Alder Port. You get the idea, I knew who I was and where I came for.

By then the darkness had started to become more crushing. I wanted to get out. I was no longer safe there; I was being suffocated.

The first sound that I heard in months was a man’s voice, but not one that I knew. “How long?” The voice asked. It was deep, rough…, and somewhat sexy now that I think about it, but at the time I was just trying to place it.

“Almost a year now,” a female voice answered him. I didn’t know what they were talking about, but by then I had gathered that something was seriously wrong with me, but I didn’t know what. Before I could attempt to do anything else, the darkness took over again.

I don’t know how long I spent in the darkness, but when I regained my thoughts I discovered I could hear everything around me. There were church bells ringing in the distance, once, twice, three times. Somewhere the wind was blowing in through something, most likely a window. I was not yet aware of anything else, but I could hear, and I could think.

“No change?” A female voice asked softly, almost flatly, as if that person was just asking the question out of habit.

“None,” the same voice said that I heard before. After I woke up I discovered that this voice belonged to the nurse tending to me.

“Will she ever wake up?” The first voice asked again, this time I could hear she was fighting tears.

“I can honestly say that I don’t know ma’am.”

I was very confused after that. Was I asleep? How could I hear those people so clearly then? And how the hell was I supposed to wake up? I was obviously asking too many questions, for the darkness took me again after that.

The smell of freshly baked bread brought me back out of the darkness. The bread smelled good and if I had a mouth I was sure it would be watering. I could hear someone walking around in my room, their heels were clicking against the floor and I could hear them shuffling things around. I could also smell the bread. I knew then I was one step closer to waking up.

This is all very new to me, and my mind is still a bit groggy, so bear with me. I’ve never been in a coma before, just going on what I experienced.

After the smell of the bread brought me back I knew I couldn’t let the darkness pull me down again. I needed a firm grasp on reality, something to hold on to. The smell of the bread would soon be gone, so I needed a sound. In the distance, I heard the church bells again. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

That was it, that was my anchor to reality. I just had to keep listening to the church bells. They would ring every hour and keep me here. That’s when the real fight started, for now I had to get my body back. It’s not an exact science, but I had to try.

‘Toes, move,’ I thought to myself, willing my invisible body to comply. This went on for at least two hours, I knew cause I heard the church bells, before I succumbed to the darkness again.

Waking up from a coma was bloody exhausting. I need a coma to recover from my coma. Anyway moving on.

Three chimes of the church bell brought me back again, more determined than ever. ‘Move you stupid toes!’ It was simple enough, if my body was listening to me it should be able to do it. ‘MOVE!’ I yelled hard, and suddenly it was like I was being pulled out of the darkness and back into the light. Everything came rushing back at once and ran me over like a train. It knocked the air right out of me, but I was back in my body. I could feel the bed beneath me and the soft sheets against my skin. I could wiggle my toes and curl my fingers around the sheets. I was a whole person again!

The last thing that came back was my eyesight. After being lost in the darkness for so long the light burned, and it took me another two days to open my eyes.

The room was empty as I looked around, my body stiff and sore. The monitors above my head were beeping normally, giving no indication of what just happened. My mouth was as dry as the desert and my stomach felt hollow and empty. I sat up slowly, my muscles not used to all the work. I managed to push myself up on shaky arms, reaching for the call button beside my bed. I was in a standard hospital room, white walls and floors with a couch against the far wall. There were flowers on the table in front of my bed along with rows of cards and gifts. A pillow and blanket were strewn across the couch as if someone had slept there and left in a hurry. My neck was stiff as I turned my head to look around. Where was that damn nurse?

I reached for the call button again, but before I could press it the door to my room burst open with a stream of people came running in.

“Oh my…” A woman who could only be my mother said, coming to a stop in front of my bed as if she couldn’t believe her eyes. Her hands went up to her mouth, shock, confusion, and pure happiness written across her face. I couldn’t understand why she was so happy to see me; I had only been out a few days right?

“It’s okay Mom…” I started to say, but my voice was raspy and it hurt to talk. Before my mother could rush forward to hug me the doctors and nurses crowded around me, poking and prodding me. They threw big medical words around, each one of them trying to figure out what happened to me. Throughout all the chaos I caught my mother’s eye.

“What’s going on Mom?” I asked.

“Sweetheart, you’ve been in a coma for two years.”

Mina looked up from her diary, stretching out her hand as it had started to cramp up from all the writing. Her eyes met Dr Wade’s blue ones and she shifted uncomfortably. She wasn’t used to being under such close scrutiny.

Mina was sitting behind Dr Wade’s desk, the plain black diary he gave her open in front of her. He sat where his patients would usually sit, across the room on the dark brown leather sofa. Dr Wade was an attractive man, but Mina barely noticed. He was tall and from the way he held himself Mina could see he was entirely comfortable with his body and his surroundings. He had an easy smile and his sky blue eyes always sparked with mischief. He was easy to talk to and a well-respected man, and Mina could see why he was considered one of the best psychiatrists in the country.

Writing in the diary had been his idea. Mina had trouble opening up to him. At first she outright refused to see anyone, she wasn’t crazy, but her mother insisted. Two years was a long time and a lot had happened in those two years. Her mother thought she needed someone to help her transition back into normal life. Mina didn’t even know what normal was anymore.

“Go on,” Dr Wade urged Mina, but she just shook her head and closed the book.

“My hand is tired.”

It was also Dr Wade’s idea for her to sit in his chair. It was some reverse psychology voodoo crap about making her feel more in control of the situation. Right now she didn’t feel like she was in control of anything, let alone her therapy sessions. She didn’t want him poking around in her mind and she sure as hell didn’t want to be here in his office right now.

“Let’s talk for a while then,” Dr Wade suggested, leaning back into the couch and crossing his legs. He seemed so relaxed and for some reason it unnerved Mina. How could he be so calm all the time in the midst of her storm? It hardly seemed fair. “Tell me how you’ve been sleeping?”

Mina almost laughed. She had been asleep for two years; she was all rested up now. “Not at all, thanks.”

Ever since Mina got home two weeks ago, she didn’t sleep at all, she wasn’t even tired at night. She tried everything, sleeping pills, vigorous training routines, alcohol, watching boring documentaries, you name it and she’s done it. Nothing worked. Mina Carlisle had enough sleep, now it was time to be awake.

“What do you do when you can’t sleep?” Dr Wade asked as he reached for his notebook and pen. Mina hated it when he wrote about her as if she was just another case study. She was an actual person, not just another number to be added to the ‘people with mental disorders’ list. Mina sighed and ran her hands through her messy platinum blonde hair, tugging on it slightly before letting go.

“I catch up on the movies I missed.” She twirled her pen between her fingers, watching it closely and avoiding Dr Wade’s eyes. It was a lie of course, she couldn’t care less about which movies she missed or what happened on her favourite TV shows, it didn’t matter to her anymore. Many things didn’t matter to her anymore.

“Mina, this is not going to work if you don’t tell me the truth,” Dr Wade said and she could feel his eyes on her again.

“It’s not like you care,” Mina mumbled. He was just some man her mother paid to make sure she didn’t have some sort of mental break. He had no real interest in the dramas of an 18 year old that just woke up from a coma. She felt like she was stuck in some bad soap opera.

Dr Wade put his notebook and pen down before leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. Mina shifted uncomfortably under his gaze, unable to meet his eyes. What was it about this man that unnerved her so? “I do care about you Mina, more than you know.”

His words made her even more uncomfortable, she sensed that they had a deeper meaning and right now she didn’t want to do ‘deep.’ She was fine with being shallow in the moment. Mina’s gaze travelled around the room as she tried to avoid Dr Wade’s and caught a glimpse of the time on the large grandfather clock in the corner.

“Well would you look at that Doc; it’s all we have time for today.” Mina gave him her best cheeky smile before getting up and stuffing her diary into her bag. “Too bad we can’t spend any more time picking my brain,” she said without feeling bad about it at all.

“Not so fast Mina,” Dr Wade said as he got up and blocked her way out of his office. She groaned, throwing her bag over her shoulder and crossing her arms across her chest. She really wasn’t in the mood for this. She just wanted to go home. “We haven’t talked about tomorrow yet.”

Mina cringed, she had been avoiding talking about tomorrow on purpose. “Listen Doc, my mom only pays for an hour, no more. We can talk about how I like to ignore my problems until they go away next week.” Mina gave Dr Wade another cheeky smile before pushing past him and walking out of his office. She mumbled a goodbye to his receptionist before pushing the door open and walking out of the building. Dr Wade’s office was in an old whitewashed building on the other side of town, next to the hospital, which was also an old whitewashed building. Alder Port was the kind of town you only saw in the movies, the kind of town authors dreamed up and loved. It was an old town with a lot of history, far enough from Cape Town not to be disturbed by the city life, but just close enough for shopping trips. It was a beautiful old town, she would give it that. It was nestled between rolling grass hills with the bright blue African sky above it. Most of the buildings in the town still had their original Cape Dutch architecture, grand ornately rounded gables, H shaped buildings with the front of the buildings flanked by two wings running perpendicular to it. Buildings like the school, town hall and hospital all retained the Cape Dutch Style, whereas stores and other buildings had a more modern design.

Mina pulled her hood over her face, wanting to hide from the stares she got on the streets. One of the benefits of living in a small town is that everyone always knew your business, sarcasm intended. When Mina woke up from her coma the whole town was buzzing about it. People stared at her when she walked past; too scared to talk to her or to ask how she was feeling. She was a stranger to these people, and they were strangers to her as well. She didn’t recognize half of them and she wasn’t particularly friendly towards them. It was better if people just left her alone. Mina adjusted her bag before starting down the street, keeping her head down. The mid-morning air was cool, but the sun warmed her up soon enough. She could tell winter was around the corner as the air just had a certain bite to it. Luckily her house wasn’t too far from Dr Wade’s office and the walk was short.

Mina and her mother, Catelyn, lived in a large two-story house with a wraparound porch and large windows that looked out over the surrounding valley. Mina had lost track of the amount of parties she threw in their modern, open plan home. When you walked through the front door the open plan kitchen, living room and dining room greeted you. The living room opened up to the pool area and back yard. On the left side of the house was a massive spiral staircase that went up to the upper floor, where the bedrooms, bathrooms and study were. On the right side of the house was her mother’s wine cellar, the TV room and another bathroom. When Mina first walked through the door of their home two weeks ago she felt horribly out of place. It didn’t feel like home anymore, she didn’t feel like she belonged there. She still felt like that now. Like the town and the people in it, her house was a stranger to her.

The house was empty and quiet when she pushed open the front door and dropped her bag on the ground. Her mother was the mayor of Alder Port and a force to be reckoned with. Catelyn Carlisle was a strong, capable leader and a great mayor, but not much of a mother. She was never home, but Mina had gotten used to that even before the coma. She told her mother a few days ago that she should just go back to work, mainly because Mina couldn’t take another person fussing over her and treating her like a glass doll. Catelyn was reluctant to leave her daughter at first, but the doctors agreed that she was perfectly healthy and that life should go on as usual for the Carlisle’s. Mina had no idea when Catelyn would be back, but if she had to guess her answer would be late. Mina kicked off her boots, also leaving them by the door, before padding towards the kitchen. Her mother had made sure that the fridge was fully stocked before leaving, even going so far as cooking for Mina. That was something that Catelyn never did. Mina had been cooking for herself ever since she was 12.

Mina pulled the fridge open, poking her head inside. Strangely enough, she didn’t have much of an appetite ever since she woke up. That bothered her, since she hasn’t had a slice of pizza in two years and she should have been craving one by now, but she wasn’t. It only took her a few seconds to determine that she really wasn’t that hungry and she shut the fridge again. She wandered aimlessly through the house, not sure what to do with herself. She knew what the pre-coma Mina would have done, but she wasn’t in the mood. She would have called her best friend Ridley hours ago and they would have been lounging in Mina’s room, gossiping and discussing ways to get away with wearing makeup to school. Right now though Mina couldn’t care less about makeup and school. It was strange how the things that mattered to her before didn’t matter now. She didn’t want to give it too much thought in fear of having to discuss it with Dr Wade later.

Mina wandered upstairs, stopping for a moment in front of the large mirror that hung on the wall right in front of the staircase on the landing. Mina had been avoiding her reflection these past few weeks, because she didn’t recognize the person that she saw. She was still the same tall, slender, platinum blonde haired girl that she was two years ago, but instead of her emerald green eyes, empty silver ones stared back at her.


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