Connected: Part One Ana by Josephine

Wednesday Afternoon The empty street, the vacated stores and sidewalks, the stillness of the humid air, nothing felt right. All of my life, fifteen years, these streets had always been full of people and cars, and... life. This day had been strange from the beginning. It started this morning when I woke up with a pressure headache and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I am never sick. I took some medicine my mom had lying around, but still didn't feel better. Now as I walked my stomachache seemed to worsen. Maybe it had something to do with the way the sky was turning an unnatural black. I should have felt worried, but I was almost home, and Toby would protect me. Toby was my twelfth birthday present from my dad. He knew I loved dogs and gave me a cocker spaniel. Now, my dad's gone. He abandoned my mom, my sister Rachel, and I later that year. I progressed down the sidewalk faster than before, concerned that it was getting dark way too early for the area. Still, my mind had time to wonder about the abandoned streets. My ears were trained on the silence, so I jumped when a strangled bark echoed through the emptiness.

"Toby!" I said breathlessly, and I began to run. The deep, fathomless silence prevailed after that, adding to the sudden mystery at hand. My sneakered feet barely connected with the ground. I couldn't breathe, couldn't speak, all of my senses were honed in on nothing. My toe snagged on a pebble and I flee forward, landing hard on my palms and snapping my right wrist. I fell with it twisted and upon impact the bone snapped painfully through my pale skin. I stifled a scream of agony. I looked warily at the ruined flesh and bone and my stomach heaved dangerously. My head throbbed, some cut bled into my eyes and I was blinded. Rolling over and standing proved to be a bad idea, my nausea increased almost to the point of vomiting. What was wrong with me?

The very idea of continuing to walk had me threatening to collapse. Instead, I sat heavily down in the middle of the paved road, held my wrist still, fought the nausea and screamed. Over and over until my throat was raw, but no one came. Tears of pain and frustration now had no choice but to run freely down my bloodied face.

The only option available now was to give up. I lay myself down on my good arm, right there in the street, not caring anymore; just wanting to feel healed safe and clean. Before I drifted off I whispered, "Help." My voice cracked, and I blacked out.

Friday My right eye recovered first, blinking and staring into the insanely bright lights hanging above me, swiveling around to the room, the blurry forms I could only assume were people. I parted my dry lips and formed words, but they wouldn't leave my thick raw throat.

"Ana?" A familiar voice asked meekly. In response I blinked, the only thing I could do. A form came closer, into focus, it was my mother. I wanted to smile or comfort her in some way, but blinking was all I could manage, I felt so stiff. "Oh, Ana, something happened. I was worried when you didn't come home." A tear splashed on my cheek. "It got so dark, and... Oh, Ana, you've been in a coma for three days. We thought you were gone... But you came back to us, didn't you?" I blinked again. All the while the doctors were checking monitors all around, taking notes and muttering to each other. I closed my eyes and set all my efforts on talking. My mouth moved and I made a guttural noise. I wanted so badly to go on, but the fog was coming in again. Vision faded, my contact dissipated link, by link. Everything went black, but I was still there, I knew somehow. Then, in a memory, explosions wracked my injured body, followed by a flash of light so brilliant; I was blinded for a moment. The pressure on my head increased and I fell back.

Friday Afternoon My weak hand battered at the pressure on my forehead. In suprize I slapped human flesh, not air, or machinery. "Stop," I said, my throat finally working properly. Instantly, the pressure was gone, and my eyes flew open. I took in a little at a time. The thick brown hair that could almost be black, black expressive eyes, oval face, smooth skin, perfect nose. "I'm sorry" was all he said.

"For what?" I demanded, not wanting to look away, not wanting him to leave.

He gave me a painful look with those beautiful, black eyes. "You weren't supposed to be there." The back of his soft hand caressed my cheek. My body went electric, although somehow I could tell he was curious, not flirting. He was so intense.

"My name is Ana." I made out, only just above a whisper.

"I know."

Sunday

I was better now. They still had me in the hospital, but I could sit up. Today, I could finally have visitors, aside from my mom, who had been there every day. I could see Rachel and Moira at last. A knock came at the door, and I pulled the sheets up higher around my neck, uncomfortable in my almost see-through gown. "Come in." I said, just loud enough for them to hear and not strain my vocal chords. A short, strawberry blonde entered the room cautiously. "Moira!" I said, not quite loud. A smile split her small, heart shaped face, and her ice blue eyes sparkled.

"Hey," she said softly, her face belying her true excitement. "How are you doing?"

"I'm... good," I paused, "I'm not supposed to talk much, my voice was strained."

"Alright, I'll do the talking, you just listen." I nodded. "Here's the news, okay, on Wednesday, when it happened, I was watching TV, and it got all fuzzy, and the electricity was flickering. It was really weird, even weirder when I found out that you'd been hurt then. I don't know why the electricity thing is important, but for some reason, I think you should know. Your mom called Thursday, after school to tell me about what happened, it was really sweet of her, but I was really worried. Friday, Rachel ran up to me at your house and said that you woke up!

I smiled, but a shadow fell over my mind when I realized that was the day of my strange visitor. "And nothing really happened on Saturday," Moira continued, "and now it's Sunday, and they finally let me see you!" She took a deep breath and sighed it out. Her left eye twitched, "What did happen? You can't get a coma from a broken wrist, can you?"

I cleared my throat, loud in the sudden quiet. "It's still confusing to me, but my stomach hurt, I had a headache, and it got so dark." I paused, swallowing down my fear. "I heard Toby and... Oh my God! What happened to Toby?" I felt my chest tighten and wanted to scream with frustration.

Moira broke her gaze from me suddenly, and I knew. She didn't have to say a word. I forced my face into my pillow to conceal the tears. Moira let me cry for a moment longer before asking me to continue.

"I heard Toby... and I ran... and fell and broke my wrist. My head got cut, and then I just blacked out." Moira nodded, but all the while gave me a look I could not interpret. I coughed, and lay back, suddenly exhausted. Moira whispered goodbye and opened the door to leave.

She turned to look at me over her shoulder. "Ana, you know you're wrist isn't broken." She said quietly, her eyes saying more than her words. She was accusing me of lying! I had seen the jagged bone break my flesh! The wound had bled! Moira closed the door softly behind her; probably going to tell the doctors that I was crazy, but I wasn't, was I? I dared to lift my arm up towards my face, there wasn't even a bandage, and there were no signs of past wounds either.

I cursed myself, now everyone would think I was nuts. I looked closer at my wrist, hoping for something, a scar, a bruise, but my mind could only picture the mysterious stranger. I tried to remember what he looked like, to ask my mom about him, and Toby. Why hadn't she told me?

Still Sunday "Ana?" A husky whisper woke me from somewhere over my head. "Ana! Wake up!"

"Wha-?" I asked, not yet awake.

"Ana!" I blinked, and scowled at the sunlight, my eyes, but not my mind remembering the insanely bright explosion I must had suffered through. I blinked again, shaking away the unfamiliar vision. A chubby finger poked my forehead, and I followed it to the small person sitting on my bed, her legs dangling off the side. Her elfin face was scrunched up in a mock scowl, her blonde curls going every-which-way.

"Rachel, what are you doing in here?"

She thought for a moment, then said, "I wanted you to wake up, so I could talk to you." Her brown eyes revealed nothing about her real motives.

"Where is mom?" Rachel began to squirm, and look nervously around the room. "Rachel?"

"She's looking for me." She finally let out, barely above a whisper. I tried to give her the look, but i don'' think it worked as well, seeing as how I couldn't stop laughing.

"Come 're buddy." I said quietly, and she crawled into my arms. Rachel is four, my baby sister; she was born one year before my dad left. I tensed up involuntarily. Rachel snuggled closer and kissed my nose how I taught her to. I smiled and held her.

The door flew open and my very upset mother stormed in. "Rachel Marie Wickers! What are you doing in here? I've been looking all over for you!"

She looked up and smiled innocently. "I just wanted to see Ana, mommy. Do you still love me?" She was too much! Her little lips quivering, and eyes welling up with tears; she had her act down pat.

My mom fell for the act for the thousandth time, and immediately dropped the scowl from her face, and replaced it with a smile. "Yes honey, but don't you ever scare mommy like that again." She joined us on the hospital bed.

That incident taken care of, I had some questions. "Mom, what injuries did I come in with?" She looked startled and very somber.

"There was a gash on your forehead," she traced an imaginary line across my face, near my hair. "And your wrist was broken." She took my hand. "You were... in a coma, but you... you were talking. Saying strange things."

I thought for a moment. "And then the afternoon I woke up, everything was healed?" She nodded, preoccupied, and ignoring Rachel who was playing with her curls. "Did anyone come to my room, besides you and the doctors?" I was beginning to connect things in my mind.

My mom looked at me. Just sat there, staring at my face, confused and thinking. "No, Ana. No one else came into the room, I was sitting here all day, Ana. No one came in."

Still Sunday "How... how did everything heal so fast?" My mom looked out the window, avoiding my eyes.

"Honey, you have a lot of questions right now, that I don't have an answer to. I've talked to the doctors, and..." She shook her head. "They don't know anything either."

"But... but, I saw someone... He spoke to me. I heard him." My head was beginning to hurt with frustration, as much as anything else. "And why didn't you tell me about Toby?" My yell echoed through the chilled silence. "Why am I still here?" I finished quietly, just keeping my voice under control.

"I saw no one, Ana. You were probably just imagining things. I'm sorry about Toby, honey, but I didn't know how to tell you." She closed her eyes tightly, like she did when she had a migraine. She pushed back her sandy hair, picking up and old habit from when she was in high school. "The doctors are still running tests, they are baffled at your quick recovery. They... they think that you... that something different might be wrong with you. They just have to keep you here for one more day. I promise, just one more day, then you can come home, and go to school." She licked her lips nervously, already regretting her promise I could tell. "The doctors will just have to be able to be happy with that."

Rachel happily poked my forehead again, and grinned like a woman gone mad. I gave her a small smile in return, trying to reassure her, while trying to do the same for myself. Something about all this didn't seem right, it was surreal, nothing about it should have happened. I needed Moira's mind to help me figure this out, I was too tired. Why was I always tired? And who was that man? My eyes began to drift slowly closed, and I heard my mother and Rachel get up and adjust the sheets around my fading body.

Wednesday Home actually sounded good. After three more days never seeing the outside of my room, except for brief glances through the door, I was pretty fed up. They let my get up and walk now, but it was still as boring as heck never having a change of surroundings. I had no TV, only the boring magazines my mother brought for me to read. Moira visited me again on Monday, and I told her to expect me back at school the next day. We couldn't come to any rational conclusions about my condition. Th doctors found some more tests they had to do, so here it was, Wednesday, and I was still in the hospital after a week.

A usual nurse was rubbing alcohol onto my forearm, preparing to give me another shot. "Can't I go home soon?" I asked her, while trying to ignore the needle nearing my skin.

"We'll see. Quit you're complaining. It depends on how this test comes out." She answered, and yet revealed nothing to me, the innocent girl who knew not how or why she was being imprisoned here.

Instead of drawing blood, as I'd come to expect, the nurse injected a clear liquid into my blood. She didn't even bother covering the spot with a Band-Aid.

She closed the door behind her, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I laid my head back on the pillow, and tried to imagine Toby, how he was before, always eager to see me, and friendly to everyone he met. A lonely tear left my eye, but my mind immediately cleared, and I was wary and alert. Something felt wrong, the air was tense. It started in my chest, my heart... numbing, then passing though my arms, my legs, and my head. Somehow, I felt the numbness center on my wrist, and stomach. When the numbness should have faded, pain exploded with such force that, as I stared in horror at my wrist, the skin slowly broke, and the bone snapped messily and the blood poured fourth simultaneously with my wrist and the spreading gash on my head. Weather or not my stomach heaved because of the blood, or some other reason I didn't care. All I was worried about was that I had just watched my wrist break of no apparent reason. I closed my eyes under all the pain, and barely heard the door open, as my ears were buzzing with pain.

After a moment, a voice I recognized as the nurse said, "Ana, you're going to have to stay her for two more days." I couldn't say anything, if I opened my mouth I would scream. I was biting my lip so hard. My mind didn't even register.

She wrapped up my head and set my wrist somewhat painfully, but nothing compared to what I had just endured. The pain resided slightly, and I could speak. "What did you do to me?"

She looked me squarely in the eye and said, "I set your wrist and bandaged your head. Here is a pill for the stomach pain."

She knew what I was asking, and that wasn't the answer I was looking for. 'No, the shot, what was that for?" She forced a pill down my throat with a thick white milk-like drink.

"It was just undoing what had been wrongly done, Miss Wickers."

Thursday I watched the car's reflection on mirror-like building after building. I couldn't even see my face in the picture, but knew it looked pale from lack of sun, with a thin patch on my forehead above my left eye. My right hand and arm had been encompassed in a hard cast that I would have to wear for three more weeks. The tall buildings began to spread apart into housing. My mom turned the car onto my street. Familiar met unfamiliar as we turned onto the driveway. My heart settled as we pulled into the garage, but the sound of Toby's joyful barks was greatly missed. I could picture him pressing his nose against the screen door as I smiled in greeting.

The vision faded. "Are you alright, Ana?" My mother asked. I had been silent the whole ride home.

"I can go to school, can't I?" With my honor class schedule it was going to be hard to make up so much work as it was.

"Do you think you're ready?"

I nodded, saving the argument for another time. She didn't say anything else, and I was glad of the quiet to re-acquaint myself with the kitchen, and my bedroom. It was about the size of a closet, but it was all mine and I loved it. The ceiling was painted black with glow-in-the-dark stars across it. I had a little window with blinds, but no curtains on the right. On the left, near the door there was a closet, half full of clothes and the other half clear boxes of my old dolls, crayons and coloring books. The wall right ahead was filled with my bed and my drawings coated the remaining wall. I turned around and sat on my bed, facing the opposite wall, if you could even call it that, it was one huge bookshelf. Holding everything from modern fiction to Shakespeare and Plutark's Lives, it was quite full and I was glad we'd taken the time to build such a gargantuan shelf.

Stepping up to the mirror I'd somehow managed to work into the design on my closet. I began examining my face. My skin was almost as pale as the white patch on my forehead, My brown hair hung thick and limp around my shoulders, just beginning to curl with the heat. Huge dark brown eyes seemed to be lost in my face. With my one useable hand I tucked my hair behind a slightly pointed ear. I take after my dad's darker looks, except for the ears. No one knows where I got those. When I was younger I used to dress up like an elf because I was convinced that I was one.

Rachel and my mom are petite blondes. I'm not exactly tall, but my mom's shorter than I am by six inches.

It was Thursday, roughly two o'clock in the afternoon. As long as I felt okay in the morning I could go to school.

Friday The crowded halls seemed to swallow me up. The loud voices and locker slamming pushed my thoughts from my head. I had just about reached the locker Moira and I share when all of the sudden Sheila, a medium height dark tan skinned girl jumped in my path. I jumped back, startled. She took my good hand. "We've all heard what happened. We're glad you're back." I gave her a weak attempt at a smile. What had they heard? What had Moira told them? Had she told them about the man? Oh, God, I would die. Everyone would think I was some kind of perverted freak, when in reality I was a quiet (sometimes out-spoken) studious girl who loved books.

I still had the small patch on my forehead and a coast on my wrist. I worked the lock, grabbed my books for first and second hours. Moira and I had worked out a post-it note communication system in the locker. I quickly scribbled 'what did you tell them?' and stuck it to the inside of the door.

My first hour class was right across the hall, and I didn't need to be there for like five minutes, but I needed to get my homework to make up. The room was empty except for Mrs. Perkins sitting at her desk, grading papers.

"Hello, Ana. I didn't expect you back so soon. I'm glad to see you well again."

I smiled politely. "I need to get my homework assignments." I told her.

"Would you prefer to be excused from them Ana? It would make every other assignment this trimester count more, but I think you understand the material."

"Alright. I would like to look over the history and literature, though, so I can take the test."

She smiled. She never smiles to anyone but me. I was bit of a teacher's pet. She handed me a piece of paper with the reading assignments on it. I set my books on my desk and sat down. I was concentrating so hard on holing my pen right in my injured hand that the cut caught me by suprize. It would have suprized me anyway, but because it wasn't expecting it, I almost screamed when I saw the skin on my arm split open. It came out a high-pitched squeak, so Mrs. Perkins looked up. She saw the blood on my arm and hurried my off to the nurse.

She had to almost push me along; I was in such shock. As soon as I was being attended to by Nurse Brambly, Mrs. Perkins felt free to ask me, "Ana, how did that happen?" she indicated my arm. My astonished gaze flew up to her face.

"I don't know."

She pursed her lips. She didn't believe me! "I suppose that's how you got that cut on your forehead and wrist broken, too." She shook her head dismally.

"I don't know what you mean." I said, bewildered.

"I'm disappointed, Ana. I would think you'd be the last person to be into that self-mutilation crowd..." She 'tsk'-ed at me as my eyes searched her face. Self-mutilation? She thought I did this to myself?

"Oh, God." I muttered, my eyes flying to the ceiling.

"Maybe we should get you some time with Mr. Hernandez." I couldn't help it; I looked at her like she was nuts. First of all, nothing was wrong with my mental, and second Mr. Hernandez is absolutely crazy! He's our school counselor, although I have no idea how he got the job. He's into all that New Age baloney, like 'visualize the problem leaving your body, now, it's disintegrating and there! It's gone!'. I wish he would disintegrate. I don't know how anyone, with or without a problem, could live through a session with Mr. Hernandez.

"I'd rather not. I'm fine, I just need to get used to being home." I would have continued with a more valid excuse but the bell rang, and Mrs. Perkins had to go teach class.

"We'll talk later, Ana."

I nodded.

Friday Afternoon

Moira and I ran into each other at our locker at the end of the day. She had been avoiding me. "Did you get my note?" She nodded. "So...?" I asked.

"What happened to your arm?" She asked.

"Nothing. What did you tell them?" I insisted.

Someone violently shoved into me. "Jerk," Moira said, then sighed. "Just what you told me." She grabbed her books and walked away not leaving opening for further discussion.

I slammed the locker door, and part of my bandage fell away. I removed the rest of it to see it my cut was healing. Wow, I thought, some magical nurse we have here, I told myself, half-joking, and half completely mystified.

I began to walk home.

Still Friday Suddenly, I was sprawled on the forest floor, pine needles in my hair, and not knowing what had happened. Through the thick branches above me, sunlight was pouring down in shafts of light. I sat up slowly, heard a twig snap and spun my head around. A strong indisputable hand clamped down hard on my mouth. My eyes grew wider, then I blinked a few times. I could not believe it!

"Ana?" he said, uncertainly. It was he, the man from my room. He was real, I hadn't imagined him. Although, he did look better close up, his eyes filled with concern.

"If I let you go, will you scream?" I shook my head 'no', somehow, I could trust him. He gently released his hold on my face. I took a deep breath.

"What is going on?" I asked slowly, choosing each word before I spoke it. He closed his eyes for a moment, then asked, "Is your arm okay?"

"Yeah..." I said unsure of what he was really asking with his eyes. "Are you new here?"

He smiled. "Yes, just moved from Holland."

"You don't look Dutch." I said raising my eyebrows and attempting a half-smile.

"I'm not. Look, what did they do to you?" He indicated my head and cast.

I tapped my cast, and a warning bell went off in my mind. "How do you know about that?" I asked sharply, quiet alarmed.

His eyes narrowed. "You don't recognize me? I was hoping..."

"Hoping... what?" I did recognize him; I just didn't want him to know that yet. The more secrets I held back, the more power I had in the situation (which wasn't much, considering I was scared to death).

"Hoping this wouldn't be so hard to explain." He took a long and laborious breath, reached forward and took the patch off of my forehead. "You won't need that any more. You should still wear the cast, or people will start to get suspicious."

My stomach sunk. What had he done to me? He'd healed me, but how? "You healed me." I said biting my lip.

He nodded. "I can't tell you anything now. I promise you, you'll get an explanation when I have one." He looked upset.

"Can you at least..." I paused as my mind filled with questions. "Can you at least tell me your name?"

He ducked his head. "I suppose you'll find out soon enough anyway, we do go to the same school."

My eyes met his, and I became very hard to breathe.

"Evan. My name is Evan."

"Evan." I repeated, mesmerized, and lost in the mysterious depths of his eyes. "I have to go." I murmured, not really wanting to go, not now, nor ever.

"Alright." He said, and helped me to my feet.

The End