A Place Within/Without

Ellen sat bolt upright in her bed, startled and disoriented. What had occurred? A nightmare? She couldn’t remember anything. Her mind was a complete blank. It took her several seconds to even remember who and where she was. Something wasn’t right. She could feel it.

She got out of bed and tried to think of what she was supposed to do next. She couldn’t for the life of her imagine. She sat back down slowly and tried to pull herself together. Something…no…nothing would come. She sat for a long time, confused and frightened. She reached for the glass of water on the nightstand and was seized by blind horror as her hand passed right through the glass. She pulled back and her hand flew to her mouth to stifle the scream that rose in her throat. Compounding the growing nightmare, her hand passed right through her face.

Her head was reeling, and still she didn’t scream. She redoubled her efforts to think things through. She must be having a dream. No, definitely a nightmare. That was it. She was asleep. She needed to wake up. How did one get oneself out of something like this? She tried to will herself awake. Nothing. She gave in to the urge to scream. Silence filled the room like an ever-expanding balloon. She broke down in tears that would not come. Were it possible for madness to take her it would have. She sat and stared at the wall. She became aware that she had no sense of time. Only the change in the light gave her any sense that time was passing at all. She went numb.

Eventually she rose from the bed, without intention, without want, and walked around the apartment. There had to be a way of working this out. But how? She tried the knob on the front door, but of course it was useless. After standing in front of the door for time out of mind it occurred to her that she could simply walk through it. Why not? She braced herself and stepped forward. She stopped just short, afraid without reason. She backed up and willed herself to make it happen. Through the door she went.

Out in the hallway she thought about what to do next. As she did, one of the neighbors came out his apartment and moved toward the elevator. As she willed herself not to move he passed right through her, completely oblivious. She stood rooted to the spot, unable to comprehend. If this was a nightmare, it was certainly one for the record books. She turned toward the stairs and moved to them. It occurred to her that she wasn’t walking. She was…gliding. She willed herself to the bottom and found herself there in less than an instant.

Beginning to let things happen without panic now, she thought herself out on to the street. Everywhere people went about their business, paying her no mind. Passing through her. It was so far beyond anything she had eve experienced she simply couldn’t process it. She willed herself to be in the moment. There had to be a logical explanation and she would find it, if she could just stay calm.

She tried to think what she could do next. Her mother. She needed to find her mother and see what was happening with her. Why that might solve this she couldn’t work out, but it seemed the thing to do. She moved along the street trying to think where her mother could be found. Not knowing the time of day made that difficult, and for some reason facts simply weren’t presenting themselves as they should.

She kept moving forward, hoping something, anything would happen. Soon she found herself in front of an apartment building that seemed familiar. It was her mother’s place. She was momentarily overcome with relief. Maybe now she could find something out. She moved through the building and came to her mother’s apartment and glided through the door. There she was, in the hallway, talking on the phone.

“…No, there’s been no change. They tell me they still need the restraints, she moves about quite a bit, her hands, her feet, they have no idea why. These things happen, apparently. I’m going to the hospital now. I’ll let you know if anything changes. Thanks for calling.”

The hospital? Who was in the hospital? Her mother picked up her purse and headed for the door, passing right through her as she did. She decided she’d better follow her. They went to the garage and her mother got in the car, so Ellen got in beside her and stared at her as they made their way. How could her own mother not see her? What was happening? Why did she look so pale and distraught? Someone she loved was gravely ill. Who could it be? Her mind was moving a mile a minute. What was the connection?

They got to the hospital and went to the third floor. As they moved down the hall she could see her brother and one of her sisters talking outside a room. They turned and greeted her mother.

“How is she?” she asked in a weary voice.

Her brother had a sad look on his face. “Mom, her brain function is deteriorating. They’ve been waiting for you.”

Just then a doctor came over. “Mrs. Jennings. We need to talk. There’s a room over here.” He indicated a room on the right. They moved into the room, everyone looking grim. Ellen followed, her sense of dread rising.

The doctor looked sympathetic. “We’ve done another MRI. We’ve found the source of the causal event.” He looked down and continued. “It’s a lesion in the temporal lobe. I’m afraid it’s inoperable. The coma is permanent” He looked up at the family. “I’m so very sorry.”

Ellen’s mother stared for a moment, and then seemed to cave in on herself. The dam burst and she sobbed uncontrollably. Her brother and sister put their arms around her, her sister crying silent tears, her brother looking shell-shocked.

Ellen watched the scene, confused and growing more numb by the second. It simply couldn’t be. She had to know for sure. She moved back into the hall and toward the room her brother and sister had been standing outside of. She paused at the door, willing herself to be calm, and moved into the room.

Icy fingers of horror gripped her, moving slowly through her. She stared. She saw, but she simply could not accept. There she lay, strapped to a bed. A breathing tube in her throat, her arms and legs twitching, the blips on the monitor ticking off the seconds of her damaged life. She collapsed into a chair and continued to gaze on the sight in numb disbelief. An idea came to her. She moved her right hand and watched. The right hand of her self in the bed moved also. Her mind reeled and she felt certain she would pass out, but it was not to be.

As she tried to get a grip the doctor and her family came back in to the room. “So it’s really the only thing to do now. I know this is a hard decision to make.” The doctor looked like he’d rather be anywhere else in the world. His mother nodded her head in acquiescence as his brother and sister each took one of her hands. The doctor called a nurse in as a witness and as he moved to the monitor Ellen suddenly realized what was happening. She tried to scream, tried to make them understand that she was here, that she would be fine, but it was too late. She watched but could do nothing at all.

As the nodes on the monitor flat-lined one by one Ellen clutched herself and felt a burst of radiant energy explode from the area of her navel and she was no more.

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