“I’m sorry sir,” the man in the blue scrubs told the man in the suit, who was the father of the girl who had just passed away.
“That’s not possible, my little Ellie was a healthy kid, how could she be dead?”
“Cause of death has not been determined yet,” he said with that matter-of-fact tone that all doctors possessed. The father collapsed into the hard plastic chair in the waiting room of the hospital, tears streaming down his face.
**ONE DAY EARLIER**
I look around my shaking body, the rain beats down on my clothes and gives off the distinct scent of lilacs. I don’t know why my wet clothes smell like lilacs but it reminds me of my mother, whose favorite flower was a lilac. It also reminds me of when she was killed- shot in a field of lilacs. As my eyes get used to the bright lighting, I see nothing but trees around me. There is a path leading deeper into the woods and I can’t stay still for I might freeze in the rain as the night stretches on, so I step forward onto the dirt of the forest floor. Old rotting leaves crunch beneath my boots as I step forwards. My wet clothes cling to my body in strange places as I walk deeper into the forest.
“Eleanor, you’re sleepwalking again,” a voice calls from behind me, but when I spin around, only trees stand where the voice came from. I’m probably just imagining voices again, I think as I turn back around and step deeper into the woods. The rain is falling harder now, making the trees rustle and the few animals in the forest scurry for shelter. I would try to find a place to stay out of the rain, but something is pulling my body deeper into the woods, step after step. The leaves become less crunchy when I put my foot on them, most likely because the rain is soaking them through.
“Ellie, whatever you’re dreaming isn’t real,” the voice calls again and I whip my head around, causing my long dark hair to stick to my face and block my vision. By the time I clear the wet hair from my face, whoever had said the words had vanished. Stupid hair, I think as something pulls me deeper into the woods. My clothes are almost completely soaked through, but I see no end in the path. It seems to be leading nowhere but farther into the forest. I try to stop my feet but they keep moving forward, the rain drowning out any sounds of the world outside of this seemingly never-ending forest. The lilac scent is growing stronger now, like hidden beneath the trees and rotting leaves is a vast field of lilacs. The next step I take, I trip over something I can’t see and fall through the ground and into nothing. I’m surrounded by a black emptiness.
“Eleanor,” someone said before shaking my arm. “Eleanor, are you okay?” it asked again. My eyes slowly opened to find me looking at the ceiling of the living room. Two heads blocked most of the ceiling and when my vision focused, I saw that the two heads were my father, Dexter Barlow, and my brother, Leo. I lay on the floor of the living room, but the last thing I remember was falling asleep in my room on the top floor of the house.
“Dad, why am I in the basement?” I asked, my voice filled with confusion.
“Ellie, you were sleepwalking again and you fell off the stairs when you were coming down here. I don’t know where you were going or why you were going there, but if you hadn’t fallen , you would have never woken up.”
He sounded worried and that made me even more scared. I was just a happy 10-year-old girl living in Annapolis, Maryland and the house my dad, brother, and I lived in was right on the shore of one of the lakes in Annapolis. The complex we were living in was very friendly: each family got a golf cart because the walkways were too narrow for regular cars to drive through. Each family had to park their car at the entrance to the complex and then drive their golf cart or walk to their house. Most families lived far away from the entrance and some who had more than one child paid to get a second golf cart. I wish we had two golf carts but my dad won’t let us. Some families lived there all year long, but some only stayed in their house during the summer months or the winter months. A lot of families also had a small boat that they kept in the marina. Our house was near the marina, but not close enough to have the wall of windows in our living room taken up by other people’s boats. My favorite part about living in Annapolis are the sounds, the sounds near the lake are comforting in a crazy sort of way.
**AN HOUR LATER**
I sat down on the brown couch and pulled my knees into my chest while clicking on the television. I searched through the channels, clicking buttons on the remote in my hand as I settled on watching a re-run of a show that I’d watched a thousand times. As the show started, I got up and got the journal I had started when my dreams had first started, two years ago, when I was 8. I was at a summer camp, and I had been forced to go home early because the other kids kept complaining that I would wake them up when I would shout in my dreams. It wasn’t my fault though, the dreams felt real and even when I knew they weren’t real, some part of the dream would make me believe it was. The television was on but I wasn’t really watching it, I was busy scribbling my last dream into the pages. When I was done, I slid the moleskin covered book back into the bookshelf right by the couch before walking into the bathroom and collapsing onto the floor. I sobbed into my knees, soaking my black leggings with my tears. No one could hear my cries, so I sat there in the bathroom sobbing.
The air is pulled out of my lungs. I feel the life being sucked out of me. I slump over and I feel someone pick my body up and drop it off of a bridge. I wait for the shock of the cold water to hit me, but it never comes. I just float there, not able to move, like I am paralyzed. I try to wake up, but no such pleasure arrives. I fall, I don’t quite know where, I don’t quite know how. I close my eyes and try to imagine something, anything, but I know what is coming. I know what I am in for. If I’m not dead already, I will be soon. The last thing I hear is the roaring waters at the bottom of the cliff growing nearer every second.
The fluorescent light peeked through my closed eyelids, making me feel like I was inside the sun. No one was near me, I was alone in the bathroom, my eyes still wet from when I was crying. When I got up from my position on the tile, my back ached from when I apparently fell over. I unlocked the door, and turned to the left. The carpet in our basement muffled the sounds of my feet. I just hope Dad and Leo didn’t hear me, I thought as I stepped up the stairs and down the hallway to my room. The soft covers on my bed looked like they could comfort my pain more than any human being could, so I curled up on the floral comforter and let myself drift to sleep.
I slip on my leather boots and walk out of the house. The wind sweeps across the wheat and corn in the field that stands for miles in front of me. I turn to my right and start walking to the big maroon barn. I slide the door open and a barrage of animals greet me at the door. I walk to the storage closet that we keep all of the feed and extra ropes in. I grab two empty cans the size of my head and stick them in the barrel of horse feed, filling them just about to the brim. I can hear the chickens and pigs making all kinds of noise even though they know the food isn’t for them. I shake the cans to level the feed in the buckets and walk out of the storage closet. Smelling the food, the horses stick their noses through the thick metal bars, trying to get at the food faster. I push their velvet noses away and unlock the gate to the stall. Two metal feeding bins hang on the wall at either end of the stall and I first walk over to the one on the left side. “Clover, c’mere girl,” I call and then whistle. Both horses walk over to me, so I grab the other horses halter and walk her over to the other metal bin. I pour the food in and it clangs a little in the bucket. The horses gobble up their food as I walk out the stall and lock the door behind me. I step over to the storage closet and put the metal cans back with a clang. When I emerge from the closet, the horses are staring at me like I could be bringing them more food. “Silly girls,” I say as my foot finds the first rung of the ladder leading up to the loft. When I reach the top of the ladder, I walk away from the edge to find a good hay bail to cut up and give to the horses. I find the bail and walk to the edge of the loft to toss it off the edge before I climb down but when I get to the edge, my foot slips and I fall. I wait for the excruciating pain of the dirt ground, but it never comes.
I woke up from the dream, and my head and spun. Again, nobody was with me, it was like Dad and Leo had better things to do than to worry about me. I was sitting in my desk chair, right in front of the mahogany desk. Just then, someone knocked on my door and I called out for them to come in. My dad walked in, followed by Leo, who closed the door behind him. They were carrying a computer with them and they looked tired, but they also looked like they were worried.
“Ellie, we went to the doctors, and before you freak out, please just listen.”
“Fine,” I agreed as I moved from the desk to my bed.
“You have a disorder called Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behavior Disorder. Its symptoms are a long list of scientific things but it basically means that you act out your dreams and that the dreams are extremely vivid. REM affects 38% of people and can cause serious damage to your brain if it’s not treated,” my dad explained.
“How do you know for sure I have REM?” I asked them. Leo kind of just stared off into space, as my dad answered the question.
“We told the doctor about the dream you had and about how we saw you sleepwalking. He told us that acting out one's dream is one symptom of REM.”
“Are you telling me that I have a sleep disorder? ” I shouted, jumping off my bed and pacing along the foot of it. I thrashed my voice at him like just saying those words would somehow heal the gaping wound in my mind.
“Eleanor, calm down, I understand ho-”
“I can’t calm down Dad, do you understand what it feels like to find out you have a sleep disorder after two years of torture? No, why would I even think you would understand? You don’t understand, and you never will,” I shouted at him. I pushed past him and raced down the stairs, my feet stomping on the hardwood floors as I raced away from my dad and anyone who could hurt me, which right now seemed to be everyone.
The room is big, it has a large table in the middle with two chairs on either sides. There is no door to get in and out of the room, but there is a small window that illuminates the room. The window is the only source of light for the large room. I can’t remember anything about why I am here. The last thing I remember is hearing a scream, I don’t know whose it was although it was likely mine. When I try to step forward, my feet don’t move with me. It’s like my shoes are stuck to the floor of the room. It looks kind of like an interrogation room in the crime TV shows my brother watches. The floor and ceiling are metal, but the walls are covered with a foam-like substance. Outside the window, I see a man’s feet appear, and then he drops down to his chest so he can look at me. I see him reach into his coat pocket and a gun appears in his hand. He smiles his crooked little smile before I hear the shattering of glass and a sharp pain in my chest. Then everything goes black and I feel like I’m floating.
The doctor walked out of the room with a grim face, heading over to the man with a suit jacket on and a boy next to him that looked around 8-years-old. The man stood up when the doctor arrived, a hint of hopefulness in his eyes that the man in the blue scrubs would have to shatter.
“I’m sorry sir,” the doctor told the father and he burst into tears.
“That’s not possible, my little Ellie was a healthy kid, how could she be dead?”
“The cause of death has not been determined yet, all we know is that her heart has stopped and the defibrillator is not reviving her,” he said with that matter-of-fact tone that all doctors possessed. The father collapsed into the hard plastic chair in the waiting room of the hospital, tears streaming down his face. His son tried to comfort him, but that did nothing to heal the wound the death had inflicted on his already fragile heart.