I was sweating under my bed covers, so I threw them off. Ugh, I have to open the window. I climbed out of my bed and walked past Elsie and towards the small window. I shoved it open and took a deep breath. The air was thick and seemed to clog my lungs instead of filling them. I opened my eyes to see clearly. The view from the window was hazy and gray. It was getting hotter and hotter. I looked down and saw the front porch was on fire. I screamed. The rest of the morning was a blur. Fire alarms started wailing and I ran to the bed. I grabbed Elsie out from under the covers. She looked confused but followed me anyway. We ran down the burning hallway and towards the door. We heard shouting. Mom, Dad. It sounded like it was coming from outside.
Elsie behind me, I pushed through the front door. We ran across the lawn to the sidewalk and stood there looking around for our parents, but they were nowhere to be seen. Fire engines whirred behind us. The screaming continued. They were still inside! I ran towards the house, but a fireman restrained me. They told us to wait on the sidewalk. I watched as Elsie started to cry and sob, and my heart broke. We sat on the sidewalk, hugging. Tears started to slip down my cheeks. They kept coming and didn't stop. But the screaming did. I cried harder. The firemen finished spraying the house. My beautiful home was a pile of ashen rubble. My parents were gone, and I cried even harder. I sat there with Elsie. Crying, and crying, and crying. At the police station they brought in some plastic bags with things they found at the scene. I looked at them. They held up bag after bag and then the last one. It had two rings in it. They were my parents wedding rings. I covered my head and cried until the tears no longer came.
I sat up, realizing it was just a dream. That was what happened when my parents died and my home was destroyed. Just then, my sister’s voice shook me back to reality.
“Ry, tell me about when mom and dad died.” Elsie said, her voice loud and blunt, cutting through the darkness.
“Elsie, I’ve told you this story so many times! You were only 5, so you don’t understand what it’s like to watch everything you’ve ever known just crash and burn to the ground.” I was yelling now, screaming almost, pacing the room, and breathing heavily before I realized what I was doing. “I’m sorry.” I said meekly. “I don’t know what came over me.”
“It’s okay, I’m sorry too.” she said. “I shouldn’t have pushed you to tell me. And you're right. I’ve heard this story almost too many times. I guess it just feels if you tell me enough times, I might remember something about mom and dad, you know?”
“No, I get it.” I replied. I decided to start telling her about them, I hadn’t really done that before in the past. But for some reason every detail about mom and dad that I told Elsie was like a stab to the heart. It was like a stab to the heart! My heart was hurting so much, it felt real. “Elsie?” That was all I could manage to say before I passed out on the floor, my body hitting our rug with a loud thump.
“AUNT TARRAH! RYLEN PASSED OUT! HELP!!” I screamed, trying to attract the attention of my aunt, but it was no use, my aunt sleeps like a rock. “UNCLE MAX! SOMEONE, PLEASE HELP!! Please please please.” I fell to the floor in front of my sister, crying. My aunt and uncle came in after a few moments, and when they saw Rylen on the ground, and me crying next to her, they grabbed Rylen off the floor, put me in the car and told me that they were taking us both to the hospital. I was crying too hard to say anything back. During the drive over, I silently slipped into oblivion, my head silently hitting the seat. My dreams were filled with images and pictures from when my parents were alive. They played like a slideshow through my mind. Each picture made my heart throb and twist in my chest. I tried to reach out to them but I couldn't reach them. Thrashing, turning, twisting, struggling. I was contained. Strapped down, I could not move. I need to reach them. I have to reach them. I screamed, but the sound froze before it could escape my mouth, stuck in my throat. A golden light appeared as they seemed to reach towards me, then blackness. I woke up, strapped down in a hospital bed, unable to move anything except my head. Then, I screamed. A team of doctors came into my room. I was so scared. Where was Rylen, is she okay? “What happened?” I asked, feeling like a thousand hot knives were slashing inside of me. “Why am I strapped down to the bed?”
“Elsie, you were thrashing in your bed. We were fearful that you would fall and worsen your injuries.” The doctor replied, “And, you have a Stage IV disease and you probably won’t see the outside world ever again.”
The doctor brought in a clipboard for me to sign. It was a waiver to let them do treatment on the two of us. He said it was Stage IV Cerebral Cytosis. The words just seemed to fly over my head. I couldn't even register this could be happening to me. You only ever heard about this disease in the books, there are only a few recorded cases, and none survived. The disease supposedly originates from too much chemical intake coupled with stress and shock. It can take years to surface. He said the disease’s sudden appearance was due to reliving the memories of the fire and my parents. The world started to fade away. He told me within the last bit of consciousness it was so contagious that I would never see the outside world ever again. Then a hazy feeling came over me and I passed out once again. Elsie…her name echoes through the emptiness of my brain. Is she okay? Will I ever see her again?
Thunder clapped and lighting struck the hospital. The halls were silent. In one of the darkened hospital rooms I sat looking out the window at the moon. It was covered by storm clouds. The monitor’s beeping started to slow down and the IV started to flow faster. A nurse ran in and yelled down the hall at a doctor. Instantly, doctors ran in, and immediately started to work. Red lights flashed in the room. I felt my heart in my chest. It slowed so much I couldn't feel it. Was this it? Was this the end of the line? Was this where I would silently slip away for the last time, surrounded by doctors and nurses, instead of my family telling me it was okay to let go? No. This was not it. This was not going to be the end. I was going to live. I had to. Rylen. No, No, NO! My poor sister. She doesn’t deserve this. She’s probably at home. And I’m here. In the hospital, dying of some disease that the doctors wouldn’t even tell me what it is. But I deserve to know what disease is causing what’s left of my family to be broken even more than it already is. I deserve to know what is causing me so much pain. I need to live. I can’t break Rylen’s heart like this. Not yet. I see Rylen’s face in the window across the hall. She’s here. The monitor suddenly silenced and it all went dark. No laughing, no smiling, just the hollow shell of the girl I once was.
Elsie, I’m so sorry. I wish I could’ve been there, but the doctors wouldn’t let me out of my room. I heard beeping coming from across the hallway, from your room Elsie. I saw the flashing red lights. I went to the door and as soon as I saw the doctors and nurses rushing around you, I had to come. I opened the door and stepped into the hallway. Almost immediately more doctors and nurses ushered me into my room and locked the door. I tried picking the lock but it was no use. I couldn’t escape it. I watched as the doctors fussed with the IV and the heart monitor. I watched as the head doctor mouthed, “It’s no use, she is going to die”. I screamed. I screamed with all I had left in me. I beat against the door screaming to get out. I screamed it wasn’t fair. I screamed for God to take me instead. I sunk to the floor and screamed. But I realized, my sister is dying. I need to be there as much as I can. I regained control over myself, and stood up. I stood there for what felt like an eternity, Elsie, watching you take your last breaths. I heard the monitor flatline as I saw your small, frail chest heave in air for the last time. I watched the nurse close your eyes, with an expression somewhere between sadness and sympathy. Now she could be sleeping, I foolishly thought. But then, it hit me. She’s really gone. I sank to the floor and cried. I howled for you to come back, I howled, wishing I would die too. The nurse who closed your eyes came in and took me to see you one last time. As I stood there with my IV line in, and my pump steadily bringing life to my lungs, I broke. I took your dead body and held it in my arms and I sobbed. The nurse tried to bring me back to my room, but I wouldn’t leave. Everything just fell away, and it was just me and your body. I opened your eyes so I could see them. I don’t think you ever realized how beautiful your eyes were Elsie. They were a pretty light blue color, and along the outside, there was a ring of a blue so deep, it looked unreal. But your eyes held no life, no light. They had lost that twinkle they always had in them. As I looked into your eyes for the very last time, I realized that I wouldn’t be able I go to your funeral. I would be stuck here in the hospital. Not dying. I closed your eyes, took off my ring, and replaced it with yours, so I could always have something of yours with me and you could be buried with something of mine. I laid you back on the bed and kissed your cold head, nose, cheeks and lips. The scent of your rosey perfume filled the space between us. I wanted to remember what you felt like since I would never see or feel you again. I did your hair all pretty, and then walked out of the room and closed the door. I went back to my room and shut that door too.
They say when one door closes, another one opens. So far another one hasn’t opened. I got cleared to go to your funeral. I have to speak. I’ve been practicing my speech but I can’t seem to get through more than three sentences without choking up. Your funeral's tomorrow.
All your friends and family are here. Gramma and Grandpa, Nana and Papa, and all your school friends. A girl named Sienna, a boy named James, to name a few. They both said wonderful things about you. Everyone who was there seemed greatly upset by your passing. I thought it wasn’t fair they got to be so upset. Even the minister was upset and he didn’t even know you. I thought it was stupid that people that didn’t even know you were so upset.
It’s been a year Elsie. A year since you died. I’ve been allowed home a few times. About 6 I think. Aunt Tarrah is talking about moving to a house closer to the hospital. Uncle Max wants to stay. I personally don’t want to be closer to the place of your death, but it would be easier to get to the hospital if something happened while I’m at home.
It’s been two years Elsie. Things haven’t gotten any easier. I’m becoming weaker by the day. I nearly passed out trying to stand up so they moved me into a permanent room at the hospital. It’s a miracle I’ve lived this long with such a serious disease. If you didn’t know, it’s called Cerebral Cytosis. I have Stage VI, which they didn’t even know existed until I got worse. Cerebral Cytosis, or CC, essentially destroyed your immune system, your lungs, your heart, and eventually your brain. That’s what Stage VI does. The brain. The doctors say I’ll live for at least another 6 months in the hospital but I can feel my energy and will to live draining faster and faster. I want to go home to die. I can’t die in the same place as you. It’s hard enough living there, in the same room, the one across the hall from your old one. An old man resides there now.
The doctors are moving me back home today. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing you soon Elsie.
I’m back home now Elsie. Back to where we used to live before you died. Aunt Tarrah and Uncle Max just came in. Sienna and James are here too. I can feel myself slipping away. I’m dying. I can manage to give Aunt Tarrah and Uncle Max a hug. Sienna and James reach down to give me hugs. James kisses my cheek. My breaths are getting farther and farther apart. Aunt Tarrah and Sienna start crying, and I can tell James is holding it in as long as he can. I can almost see you Elsie. Tell mum and dad I’ll see them soon. I’m supposed to turn 17 tomorrow. Too bad that’ll never happen. As my vision grows darker, I see James burst into silent tears. Uncle Max kisses my forehead. I love them all so much. I give into the darkness, and I feel myself floating away, up, up, up. I open my eyes and see you standing a few yards away. So this is heaven. Everything is bright, and I can see mom and dad standing with you Elsie. I stand up and walk over to you.
“I missed you Elsie.”
“I missed you too Rylen. I’ll never let you go ever again.”
“Sounds good to me. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“Mom. Dad. you’re here.”