Chapter Fifteen

The hospital smelled of antiseptics and illness. It made bile rise in Natalie’s throat and she fought the urge to puke. Ava walked white-faced next to her, not looking any better.

“Natalie,” Mr. Cordell said, appearing before them. “Miss Simonsen.”

“Hi,” said Ava. Natalie merely nodded.

“How is she?” asked Natalie.

“We can’t make contact with her,” Mr. Cordell said. It felt strange, to see a man like Mr. Cordell on the verge of tears. He did not seem the type to cry. He looked at Natalie. “She’s been calling for you.”


Natalie did not see the sense in that – she had hurt Cecily. Why would Cecily be asking for her of all people? Perhaps her subconscious did not remember her hurtful words. Still, it would make more sense for Cecily to be asking for her father, or a friend from Los Angeles – not Natalie, whom she had known for only a few weeks.

Mr. Cordell led them down the hall. They were not in the emergency room this time, but in a ward on the second floor of the Lake Sunflower Hospital. Natalie assumed the walls had been painted in their light green color to soothe visitors, but it did nothing of the kind for her. Mr. Cordell’s tense posture had her fully aware that it was serious. Cecily would not simply walk out of the hospital this time.

Cecily’s skin color matched the sheets she rested upon. A tube ran just below her nose and she had several lines in her arms and hands. There were monitors around her, one checking her pulse and blood pressure. Natalie barely registered them. She did not have to look at Mr. Cordell’s quiet tears to know that Cecily was dying before their eyes.

“Cecily,” mumbled Ava and knelt at her side. As carefully as though she was made out of glass, she took one of Cecily’s hands in her own. She bent her head and squeezed her eyes shut, tightly, to keep the tears away.

Cecily moved briefly, her face contorted in pain. Ava let go, afraid she had hurt her. An impossibly tiny whisper escaped Cecily. Only because the occupants of the room stood completely silent could they make out the words.

“Natalie… help me.”

Mr. Cordell made a choked noise. “The doctors – they have her on pain killers but because they don’t know what’s wrong with her— they can’t do anything. They’ve tried it all!”

Natalie stared at Cecily’s still form. Her hair had been pulled away from her face, tied in a lose braid, to avoid being in the way if the doctors had to do some procedure. She did not have an ounce of color in her cheeks.

“I’ll—I’ll leave you for a moment,” Mr. Cordell said. His voice sounded rough and his face showed his obvious agony. He turned around quietly and left the room. The door closed softly behind him, leaving the room silent save for the steadily beeping pulse machine.

Natalie’s heart ached – she did not want to see Cecily this way. Yet she could not take her eyes off her. Slowly, Natalie stepped towards Cecily. Ava looked at her with wide eyes.

“Natalie—your necklace,” whispered Ava. Natalie did not take any notice.

She felt as though Cecily called to her, a whisper singing through the room, only meant for Natalie’s ears. A cry for help that Natalie had to answer, desperate in its quietness.

“Cecily,” said Natalie softly, calling to her.

A part of her felt certain that Cecily would be able to hear her and take solace in her voice. Perhaps it could even guide her back from the brink she was standing on – the brink of death.

Everything else began to fade away. Ava’s voice grew weaker in Natalie’s ears until silence had replaced it. The beeping of the machine to Cecily’s left also faded until Natalie could focus solely on Cecily. It felt like she floated through a dream and she neither could nor wanted to break out. She reached out a hand automatically to touch Cecily. Her own hand appeared tan next to Cecily’s white one – and then Natalie made contact.

Suddenly, Natalie fell, down, down, down.

The hospital disappeared completely around her and a white mist replaced it. Natalie could barely see her own hand in front of her but her mind did not focus that as she plummeted – it was on the fact that she had nowhere to place her feet. She could not tell if she tumbled or not – everything around her looked the same shade of white.

Then, in an instant, darkness replaced the white. Solid black surrounded her. Natalie noted that she at least felt as though she stood on something, though she could not be sure.

“Hello?” she said. It did not echo – the word died as soon as it had left her lips.

Where was she? How did she get here? Natalie had only touched Cecily and then this had happened – but why?

No one answered her call. She did not know whether that was a good thing or not.

“Cecily?” Natalie said, this time a bit louder. “Ava?”

Her eyes seemed to be getting used to the dark, for at least now she could make out her hands. She was dressed as she had been a moment before, when she had been in reality. She felt fairly certain that wherever this was, it was not reality. Then again, ‘reality’ could be considered a relative concept.

Natalie shrugged the thoughts of – she did not have time for philosophy right now.

She started walking, having no other option. She supposed she could simply stay standing where she had landed but she liked the idea of action better, even though she did not know where she headed in the darkness. She tried to walk in a straight line, as she did not want to be walking in circles.

Suddenly, she heard sobbing and stopped mid-step.

“Hello?” she said.

No response came this time either. Natalie started walking again, trying to decide where the sound had come from. She heard another sob and she sped up her steps until she ran – the sound seemed to come from straight ahead.

A tiny figure appeared in the distance – one easy to spot when everything was compact black and the figure was not.

“Hey!” said Natalie and ran faster.

A few moments later – Natalie had no idea if time passed in this strange place – she could make out the form more clearly. A child – a young girl with dark hair and pale skin. She could not be more than four years old. Her face was buried in her hands.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Natalie asked, coming closer.

The child looked up and Natalie gasped. It could not be anyone but—


Natalie tried not to let the shock show on her face. The clearly upset child did not need Natalie staring at her. Natalie glanced around, wondering again where she had come to. She had a feeling she knew. With all the other strange things that had been going on in her life, it seemed entirely possible.

The girl wiped quickly at her tear-filled eyes. “How do you know my name?”

“I’m your friend,” Natalie said. “Do you mind if I sit down?”

The girl looked around. “I’m waiting for my mommy.”

Natalie’s heart broke at the child’s words. Cecily at four years old looked so sweet and innocent that she just wanted to scoop her up into her arms and protect her from everything bad in the world.

“Can I wait with you?” Natalie asked.

The child bit her lip and nodded, looking uncertainly at Natalie.

Natalie sat down. She stayed an arm length from the child despite wanting to hold her much closer.

They sat in silence together. Natalie studied Cecily’s young form, smiling slightly. She had been an adorable little girl. Cecily studied Natalie back, pale tears making their way down her cheeks from wise eyes.

When a light suddenly appeared behind Natalie, both the child and Natalie noticed immediately. It was hard to do anything but, with everything else still pitch black.

“Mommy!” cried the small child and stood up and rushed towards the light.

The light in the distance was tall and had the shape of a woman but there was something more, surrounding her. Unlike Natalie and Cecily, the female form emitted a warm glow, so bright Natalie could not make out the face or features, but merely the shape of her body.

The child threw herself in the arms of the light form and they disappeared, as suddenly as the female form had appeared. Natalie sat alone once more.

When she blinked again, her surroundings had changed. The darkness had gone, replaced by a room that obviously belonged to a girl. It reminded her of Cecily’s room and Natalie could only suppose that this was what Cecily’s room had looked like in the house she had lived in before. Everything here felt light and warm – yellow walls and a big window – in stark contrast to the previous dream.

“What are you doing here?”

Cecily’s voice sounded more like the one Natalie was used to this time. She looked perhaps ten years old. Clad in a pajama and covered with a blanket, she sat in her bed, still looking very small. Her hair had been long even back then, falling down her shoulders and pooling on the bed sheets.

“I don’t know, actually,” said Natalie. “Perhaps you can tell me?”

“You can’t help me,” Cecily said. She shook her head. “No one can.”

Natalie frowned and stepped closer to the bed. “Help you with what?”

Cecily looked up at her, her expression frank. “I’m going to die.”

“No,” said Natalie, shaking her head. “I won’t let that happen.”

“There is nothing you can do to stop it,” Cecily said softly. “I’m not like you.”

Natalie was confused. “What do you mean?”

“I’m sorry I’ll leave you,” Cecily said. “I don’t want to, but I have to.”

“Don’t!” cried Natalie. “Don’t say that. Don’t give up – fight!”

Cecily shook her head. She lay back against the pillow and closed her eyes. She looked serene. The light fell on her face, making her skin glow and making her look other-worldly.

“There is nothing you can do,” Cecily said and then she stopped breathing, going limp on the bed.

“No!” Natalie exclaimed, taking a step towards her. The ground gave out below her and the room disappeared, replaced by the building that made out Lake Sunflower High School.

Cecily stood looking at the building. She looked like herself now, dressed in a white, simple but flowing dress and her hair braided.  

“Who are you?” she asked, looking at Natalie.

They were alone, the school deserted.

“I’m Natalie. You know me,” Natalie said.

Cecily gazed at her, as if suddenly recognizing her. “Yes, I do.”

“Cecily, what am I doing here?”

Cecily watched something beyond Natalie. “He is bad, but it’s not him.”

Natalie turned around. There was no one there – the grass field stood as empty as everything else.

“What are you talking about?”

Cecily focused on Natalie again. “You need to break him out. He needs your help.”

Natalie stared at Cecily. This dream kept getting stranger. What was Cecily talking about? Natalie started to wonder if she would ever get out of here – or would she simply stay, jumping from dream to dream of Cecily’s until Cecily— no, she refused to think that.

“I don’t understand,” Natalie said.

“You will,” Cecily said, smiling slightly.

She turned around and walked in the other direction. Pitch black darkness replaced the school and the grass and the street even as Natalie yelled for Cecily to stop. She did not.

“Great,” mumbled Natalie to herself as she stood in the darkness on her own again.

Was she doomed to be doing this over and over again? Was there actually a point to why she was here? Was Cecily trying to tell her something? Natalie looked down, noting for the first time since falling into this dream that did not have her necklace. Why? She had all the rest of her clothes. Of course she would be missing the most crucial part of her attire, the one thing that might allow her to leave.

“There you are – I’ve been looking for you.”

Natalie turned around and found Cecily standing behind her. She was clad in a floor length white gown and she was glowing as the female figure she had run to as a child had.

“You know who I am?” asked Natalie.

Cecily smiled slightly. “Of course I do. You’re my friend.”

“I am,” Natalie said.

Cecily looked pained. “I’m sorry I won’t be there.”

Natalie frowned at her. “Won’t be where?”

“I would if I could. I would change things if I could,” Cecily said. “But I can’t. They won’t let me.”

“Who won’t let you? Change what? Cecily, please, I don’t understand,” Natalie said, feeling helpless and on the verge to irritation at Cecily’s vague hints.

“You’re my reason,” Cecily said.

“Reason? What are you talking about?” Natalie swallowed and she met Cecily’s soft gaze. “Are you going to die?”

Cecily smiled, a pain-filled smile. “Everyone does, sooner or later.”

Natalie shook her head. “No, I won’t let you! You’re not going to leave me! I’ll find a way! I’ll make things right – tell me what to do, tell me! Please!”

She reached out and grabbed Cecily’s hand in her own. The moment she did, blinding, white-hot light surrounded them. Natalie’s eyes stayed trained on Cecily, nothing but Cecily, even as her eyes watered and she wanted nothing but to close them. A roaring wind built around them, deafening. Sensations unlike anything else ran through Natalie’s body—

—and then she slammed, hard, back into reality.

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[ Natalie and Cecily ] [ Dream ]

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