|You know how they say that your whole life flashes before your eyes before you die?
That's funny, because I distinctly remember the headlights of a Mack truck flashing before mine.
But maybe I'm not dead yet.
As I recall, we were driving back from the doctor's office, and as we rounded a corner, I saw the truck just before it collided with us. When it did, it meant a lot of pain, and a lot of flashing light.
And I woke up here.
"Here" is my own hometown, but dreamland-empty.
Maybe that is what this is.
The phone rang.
So of course that meant he had to answer it.
It was Mrs. Aiyree, Renae's mother.
"Andrew," she said, voice quiet as anything, "there's been an accident."
There's been an accident.
There's been an accident.
"What kind of accident?"
"Renae and Brent were on their way home from the doctor's, and they were hit by a drunk driver."
"Oh my god, are they okay?"
"Renae's not dead, but Brent-" her voice snapped off, like it couldn't bear the weight of the end of her sentence.
"What happened to Brent?" he asked, panic squeezing his chest, making it hard to breathe.
"He's gone." Renae's stepfather, dead?
"What happened to Renae?"
There's been an accident.
The phone lay dead in his hand. Had he hung up?
What address was scribbled on the paper that he held?
St. Peter's Hospital, room 313.26
'Oh god. Renae, please be alive.'
There's been an accident.
Andrew choked on his own breath, as he remembered that his lungs required air.
He scrambled out of the house, and into his car.
A nervous sweat made his skin look gray and slick. The drive seemed impossibly long, the hospital ever farther. The sounds of Drowning Pool from his stereo was meaningless noise on his ears. When had a twelve minute drive suddenly become two hours away?
The hospital was quiet, the lights half out because of the rest hour in some wards. He ignored the looks from sympathetic nurses, and the babble of explanation that the doctors gave him about Renae's condition.
She was sleeping, what was the problem?
But when he saw her hooked up to endless machines, and bandaged within an inch of her life, he knew there was definitely a problem. Whatever little sliver of skin showed from beneath the bandages was as pale as ash.
It's not too entertaining here. There's no color, just endless shades of gray.
There's no sounds, either. Well, there is a sound, but I don't know if it's a real one.
It's like a song, but one sung by a child that is sad or far off.
I tried to find it for awhile, but I gave up after a few hours of nothing. It never seems to get any closer, or clearer. But it's a familiar song. We used to sing it in kidnergarden, for Mother's Day.
"I love you littles
I love you lots
my love for you can fill
and four dishpans."
It won't go away.
Mrs. Aiyree sat next to Renae's bed, her younger son, Kaeden, pressed against her side. He sniffled and showed signs of recent crying. When he saw Andrew in the doorway, he peeled away from his mother and ran to him. Andrew caught him up, and went to sit by the bed as well.
"Is 'nae gonna die?" Kaeden asked, for what Andrew sensed as the millionth time, judging from the look on Mrs. Aiyree's face.
"No, buddy, she's just sleeping. Don't worry. She'll wake up sometime," Andrew assured him.
Kaeden turned to his mother to verify this statement, and Mrs. Aiyree gave him a wan smile.
He then turned his tear-streaked face into the small of Andrew's shoulder, as if to hide.
They sat together for a long time, watching the gentle rise and fall of Renae's chest as she breathed. The beep...beep...beep...signalled a heartbeat from a nearby machine.
Andrew knew that Kaeden had fallen asleep, from the dead weight that now lay in his arms.
He allowed his thoughts to stray to what was panicking him most, yet he had been forced to remain silent about. What Renae had learned that day...
Was it still alive?
Absently, he stroked the downy hair of the boy's head, and wondered what might have been. Neither of them had finished college, but both had steady jobs. Who would have given up their place as a provider, to stay home? Renae did not seem the stay at home type, yet he knew that she would have made an excellent mother, whether or not she chose to work.
Should he have said anything before this?
Was there still a chance that the life within her lived?
I stood outside of Andrew's apartment, wondering whether or not his door would open. None of the knobs worked in this strange dreamtown, not even her own. The trees that shaded the sidewalk stirred in an invisible winde, whispering silently, and carrying the song closer to my ears.
"I love you littles..."
If this was a dream, where would my family be?
Most likely where the rest of me was.
Where would that be?
"I love you lots..."
I had to find out where that song was coming from, or I would go insane listening to it.
I started to run blindly in the direction that the wind had been blowing from.
I think I knew where I was going.
Was it going to be the place that my mind drew me back to, the reason that I had been to the doctor? The Public House, the college crash house, where the party had been hosted at.
The party had unexpected results, that was for damn sure. But who knew that it would leave me pregnant? Maybe if I had been thinking right, I would have said something.
"My love for you can fill..."
And there it was.
Large, square, gray and ugly.
But it was there.
And so was the song.
It had grow stronger, less keening, and more like an actual song than a distant sigh.
A child stood there.
It was a small girl, no older than six. Her hair was long, and it brushed the ankles of her bare feet. She wore only a white nightgown.
Why was she here?
She was not colorless like the rest of this world, and so she did not belong.
Her hair was a bright auburn color, and her eyes an emerald green.
I approached her.
I took a deep breath, suddenly dizzy.
Her face, though familiar, was not one I knew.
Or was it?
"and four dishpans."
She had Andrew's eyes, and some of his face was hidden in hers.
As I came closer, she held out her hand.
I took it, and she led me without any explanantion down the street.
The doctor's soft knocking roused us from our dozing vigil, and Kaedan almost tumbled from Andrew's numbed arms. The doctor immediately apologized for disturbing us, and beckoned Mrs. Aiyree out into the hall.
"What does he want?" Kaedan demanded, somewhat sleepily.
I caught only phrases, bits of words, but it was enough to know what they were talking about.
Mrs. Aiyree raised a hand to her pale face, and looked at me as though I had suddenly bitten out Kaeden's throat and spit the flesh onto Renae's bed.
But was the child alive?
After a moment, she came back in the room.
"Andrew," she said, her voice shaking, "are you the father of Renae's child?"
Kaeden looked at us as though we had lost our minds.
"What's going on?" he asked, his childish voice whining.
Renae's mother did not say anything for a long, long time.
Andrew broke the silence with a question, hoping that he did not sound as desperate as he felt.
"Is the baby alive?"
"Well," she said slowly, "if Renae wakes up, then there is a chance that her child will live."
We all turned as one man to watch Renae again, this time aware of exactly how much was at stake here.
The child, the strange girl, led me on through the empty town, until we were in front of the hospital.
"What are we doing here?" I asked her, though I half-expected her to say nothing.
For a moment, she didn't.
"We're here," she said, in the same sing-song voice that I had been hearing, "so we need to be here for your family."
"What do you mean?"
Nothing seemed to make sense.
"We're here," she repeated.
Then she released my hand and pushed me up the stairs, gently, yet undeniably.
I looked back at her, and saw nothing.
Then I passed through the doors.
Colors exploded into millions of insane rainbows.
Renae gave a jerk, and breathed deeper as we watched.
After an endless moment, her eyes opened and she sat up, as if nothing had happened.
Mrs. Aiyree hugged her tightly, crying all the while.
On Renae's face, there was a priceless look of mild confusion and dawning understanding.
She looked at me over her mother's shoulder.
"Andrew," I said, sudden comprehension, tempered with disbelieving delight, "We're going to have a girl."