Categories > Original > Drama0 Reviews
"So, lost to the outside world, to her friends, to reality, Yumѐ Hikara was dying. And today, with a sense of foreboding that sent a shiver down her spine, was the day she was sure that she was fi...
Bold Word=Scene Change
In a small room, overlooking a beautiful park full of high, arching trees, gently swaying flowers, and laughing people, a girl laid still, graceful hands lying peacefully on crisp white sheets. Her black hair, once lustrous, now lay limply against the starched pillow, and the pale hollowness of her face was only emphasized by the stark white emptiness of the room.
A machine beside her let out a steady beep as a lime-green line spiked sharply across its screen, and bag dangling on a pole on her other side kept up a steady ‘drip drip’ noise as it fed its contents down a snaking clear tube and into the girl through a small needle, covered by a patch of white tape.
So still was she, the light rise and fall of her chest was the only thing that that indicated that the girl was actually alive.
Suddenly, there was a faint hitch in her breathing and, slowly, her eyes fluttered open, revealing pale, silver-gray irises filled with a deep weariness, but also, strangely, a fiery determination.
‘It’s time,’ Yumѐ though, as she shifted her gaze to the window where, distantly, she could see the faint glitter of the azure ocean.
Yumѐ had been fighting cancer for five years, ever since she was eleven, when she diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. She had endured every treatment and medication the doctors gave her, always clinging to the feeble hope that she would get well, that one day the doctors would say something other than “failure.” Chemotherapy, radiation, transfusions, stem-cell transplant, trial medications—she’d been through it all, been in remission, only to be told that her body simply could not hold out against the onslaught of her disease.
Which is why, three months ago, the doctors gave up. They stopped trying, and simply left her to slowly waste away, and eventually die. She was still on medication, still had checkups and scans, but the only thing they really did was give her morphine to dull the pain; only dull, never kill, for how could the pain ever truly vanish when you were bitterly aware of just what was happening inside of you?
So, lost to the outside world, to her friends, to reality, Yumѐ Hikara was dying. And today, with a sense of foreboding that sent a shiver down her spine, was the day she was sure that she was finally to die.
The only problem with this; no one would believe her when she told them she was dying. Only the doctors did; she could see it in her faces when they gave her medication, or adjusted her morphine intake.
It was time for her to take matters into her own hands.
The nurse on duty at the nurse’s station barely looked up when the young teenage girl dressed in baggy jeans, a white t-shirt, a brown leather jacket, and a blue scarf passed by. She immediately passed off the pallor of the girl’s face and the slightly jerky way that she carried herself as shock from visiting a relative. It happened all the time.
Nor did she notice the small smile on the girl’s face, and the triumphant and slightly mischievous look in her eyes.
Dr. Locke yawned quietly as she made her rounds through the oncology wing, flipping absently to the next chart on her clipboard.
Yumѐ Hikara, age 16, fighting AML for five years. Weekly doses of clofarabine and decitabine. Adjust morphine as needed.
Sighing, she opened the door to the girl’s room, composing her face into a false smile as she did so.
“Hello, Miss Hikara! It’s time to take your medicine!”
There was no response, and her eyes widened as she took in the empty room. Rushing over to the call button, she quickly barked out,
“We have an emergency in room 314. Patient has gone missing. Call together all hands available to search. Patient in female with…” she paused to look at the girl’s chart in her hand. “Black hair and gray eyes. Being treated for AML.”
The nurse’s voice came through, confirming her commands, and then cut off, presumably to follow them. The doctor then rushed out of the room, though she wasn’t too worried. How far could a girl who was most likely to die any day now go?
Yumѐ was so close to freedom that she could almost taste it. She had made it off the oncology floor, down the elevator, and onto the ground floor without any trouble. Even now, she could see the lobby up ahead, and the rotating glass doors that lead outside.
A smile spreading across her face, she was just stepping into the lobby when a voice behind her called, “Miss Hikara!”
Sparing a glance over her shoulder, she could see an orderly rushing towards her, panting.
Drat! She was so close—there was no way she was going to stop now!
Instead of slowing down, she picked up her pace, practically running towards the doors. The orderly was hard pressed to catch up with her—the girl may be dying, but dang! She was fast when she wanted to do something!
Yumѐ was ten feet from the door when it happened. The world suddenly whirled around her, and her vision began to darken at the edges. No! She couldn’t pass out now…not now, when she was…so…close…
The floor slowly rose up to meet her, and she heard the orderly’s cry of alarm. She felt soft hands brushing over her, lifting her. Her last thought before she blacked out was,
‘I’ll never see the ocean, or the sunset…’
Yumѐ awoke, after a sleep without dreams, to find herself back in her hospital room, reattached to her machines, and to find her mother sitting beside her. She groaned inwardly.
Her parent’s visits were Yumѐ’s least favorite time of the day; they came with false cheer and false bravado, her father stiff and unmoving, her mother drabbling on and on about the outside world, and meaningless gossip that Yumѐ could honestly care less about. She often wished that once, just once, they would be true with her; tell her what they really felt, and not hide behind the lies that they fed themselves.
Ger brother, at least, didn’t lie to himself, or to her. He knew what was happening, and she hated how much pain she saw whenever he looked at her, saw how his little sister was slowly fading away.
The only thing that ever told her that her parents were the people she used to know, the only thing that let her see what they really were, instead of these cheerful shells, the only thing that told her that they weren’t as deluded as they made themselves out to be, was the way that they refused to meet her eyes; in the brief, rare moment that they did, their eyes were fill with such pain, such sadness, that Yumѐ could hardly bear to look at them.
Today was different, though. Mother and daughter simply sat there, gazing at each other, for what felt like an eternity. Until finally, her mother spoke.
“Yumѐ,” she queried. “What were you thinking?”
Yumѐ turned to face towards the window, refusing to face her mother, refusing to acknowledge her question. However, taking this as a sign to continue, her mother talked on. “What were you thinking, trying to simply walk out of the hospital? You could have gotten hurt, could have made yourself even sicker—as it is, you passed out in the middle of the lobby! At this rate, you’ll never be able to come home…”
“Mother,” Yumѐ whispered in a feather-light voice, hoarse from disuse. Her mother didn’t hear her; she continued to prattle, slowly slipping into other, familiar topics; all of the things that Yumѐ was missing at home, who was dating whom, etc.; oblivious to her daughter.
Still no sign of stopping.
Her mother’s voice ground to a halt, as Yumѐ’s voice, a sound not usually heard, echoes through the room.
“Yes, Yumѐ, honey?” her mother asked, concern in her voice. “What’s wrong?”
“Stop it,” she whispered. A look of confusion flashed across her mother’s face.
“Stop what, honey?”
That was when Yumѐ snapped. She gestured wildly with her hands, her voice rising, almost to a shout.
“This! All of this! Pretending every day—lying to yourself—pretending that everything’s going to be okay, that the doctor’s will find some miracle cure, even when everything that they’ve tried for five years didn’t work, even when they’ve given up! Pretending that someone’s dating sense is important—which it’s not—and, most of all, pretending that I’m not dying!”
She looked up, her face flushed, breathing hard, to see a look of pain written across her mother’s expression. But it was quickly replaced by deathly calm, and a nervous, shaky laugh.
“Yumѐ, honey, what are you talking about? You’re not dying—what a silly notion! The doctors are still trying, they’ll find something, you’ll get better, and you’ll be able to come home…” there was a hint of desperation in her tone.
Yumѐ gave a short laugh. “Mother, how you can delude yourself so much, when the truth is staring you in the face?”
A beat of silence, and her mother’s face crumpled. She burst into tears, and ran out of the room, black Prada heels pounding loudly against the linoleum. Yumѐ immediately felt guilty, but deep down, she wondered.
When are you truly dying? Is it when you’ve given up on yourself, when you’ve lost your will to live, when your own self betrays you, when you can feel every breath you take sapping what little energy you have left? Or is it when the ones you love finally see through the veil of lies that they hide so desperately behind?
Her father came in a short time later, as stiff and emotionless as ever. She was reading a book, absently turning the pages as though she could lose herself in the words and not have to worry about reality. She put it down and looked up as he came in.
“Father? What is it?”
He sighed. “Your…your mother told me to talk to you. She says that you’re under the delusion that you’re dying. She also told me that you tried to walk out of the hospital earlier.”
“It’s no delusion, Father—you and I both know that. And I did try to walk out.”
He shook his head. “Of course I know it. But did you really need to be so harsh to your mother?”
Yumѐ was quiet. Then, “Father, there’s no point in hoping—or wishing. I’m going to die—was always going to, whether it be now or eighty years from now. Why should I lie to myself?”
Her father seemed unable to answer that question. Then, he asked,
“Why did you try to walk out this morning?”
Yumѐ winced, and turned her gaze to her sheets, twisting her hands nervously. She mumbled something, so low that her father couldn’t hear.
“What?’ he asked.
She took a deep breath, and then slowly and deliberately revealed her deepest wish.
“…I wanted to see the ocean.”
Her father was silent for a moment. Then, “The ocean?” I’m not quite what you mean, Yumѐ.”
She sighed, again. “Father, as I have said numerous times today, I’m dying. And…I’d really rather not die here, in this hospital, imprisoned behind walls. I…I tried to walk out so that I could see the ocean, one more time. See the sunset. None of the doctors would listen to me, so I took matters into my own hands.”
He shook his head, again. “Yumѐ, I…I understand your reasoning, but that was still incredibly foolish of you. Overexerting yourself will only speed up your symptoms.”
Yumѐ almost screamed in frustration. Why would no one listen to her?
“But—,” she tried to say, but her father cut her off. Reading the emotions in his eyes, she could see that she had lost this battle.
“No buts, Yumѐ. You’re staying here—your mother and…and I can’t afford to lose you.”
With that, he was gone. Apparently, being so emotional was too much for him. And Yumѐ was no closer to her wish that when the sun rose that morning, the morning she was sure she soul die.
It was later that day, in the early evening, when a knock on her door disturbed Yumѐ’s peace. She had been reclining on her bed, gazing out the window at the sun and the clouds and the birds, contemplating life in general, when the gentle sound jolted her back to reality.
“Come in,” she called, sighing. It was either a doctor, or another member of her family, come to tell her how foolish she was. So you could understand if she was surprised (and elated) when Ari, her favorite (and only) older brother, stepped into the room.
“Ari!” she exclaimed, happily. Her brother was the only one who would never ridicule her for what she did—the only one who fully understood her.
“Yumѐ,” he replied, tiredly. He had probably just gotten off his shift at the marina, she thought.
“You haven’t visited me in weeks!” she groused, pretending to pout. “Where’ve you been?”
“Oh, here and there,” he joked, his expression softening as he pulled a chair up to the side of her bed and sat down. Then his expression became serious. “So. I hear about you attempted…escapade, this morning.”
She groaned, muttering under her breath. The, she looked up. “All right, be straight with me. What did Mom and Dad pay you to come and lecture me? Because we both know that if it was up to you, you probably would have helped me escape.”
He remained stoic for a moment, before sighing and hanging his head. “You’re right. I would have. Because, honestly, I know where you’re coming from. I mean, who would want to…die, in a small, white, square room with absolutely no aesthetic value whatsoever? Really! There isn’t even some sort of bordering or trim or personal memento to tell the patient, ‘No, this is not an insane asylum!’ That, and it smells like a morgue in here. Too much antiseptic…how do you stand it, Yumѐ? All sharp and chemical-like, like cold fire racing up your nose and paralyzing your sense of smell. My nose, it burns! And don’t even get me started on the food here. Are you sure the cafeteria people are just mashing up cardboard and tossing it in bowls? The taste is like…like…paste, and wood, and garbage, a mixed up into a mess of slimy goop and passed off as food.”
He was joking, by the end of his mini-tirade, and Yumѐ giggled at him.
“Oh. And they offered to pay my entire college tuition—any college I choose, doesn’t matter.”
“Wow. They must really be desperate,” Yumѐ mused. “But did they tell you why I tried to get out?”
“Dad mentioned something about the ocean…and the sunset…but, judging by his tone, I think he thought you were out of it from the morphine or something.”
Yumѐ shook her head. “Never been clearer.”
He glanced at her, a questioning look in his gaze. She sighed. “You wanted to know why, don’t you?”
He didn’t reply, but the curiosity in his gaze was enough. Tiredly, she repeated what she had told her father, several hours before. When she looked up, though, there was a challenging look in her eyes. “So, what’re you going to say? I’m foolish? I’m an idiot? I’m delusional?”
“Actually,” he said, slowly. “I agree with you.”
“Y-y-you do?” she stuttered, shocked.
“Did you not hear what I said earlier?” he teased. “Or do I need to clean out your tiny ears? In case you didn’t hear, let me reiterate—no one deserves to die in a small, white, square room, with absolutely no aesthetic value whatsoever.”
She looked at him, hope in her eyes. “So…you’ll help me?”
He sighed. “I don’t know, Yumѐ-chan,” he replied, using a nickname he had no used with her in years. “I mean, it would be hard to sneak a terminal patient out of the hospital normally, but after your little escapade this morning? Ten times as hard.”
“Please, Ari! I haven’t told anyone this…but, I…I think today it the day I’m going to die. If you don’t help me now, I may never get a chance.”
He was deep in thought, for a moment. Then, he held up his hands in defeat. “All right. I’ll do it.”
“Oh, thank you, Ari!” she exclaimed, relieved, and leaning forward, she flung her thin arms around him in a weak hug. He would have replied, had a nurse not walked in at that very moment.
“I’m sorry, sir, but you’re going to have to leave now,” she stated. “Miss Hikara needs her rest, and visiting hours have just ended.”
“Of course,” he replied, and giving his sister a gentle squeeze, he stood and made to walk out of the room.
“Ari?” Yumѐ called after him. He stopped. “Yes?” he replied quietly, not turning.
“Do you promise?”
He hesitated, for a moment. Then… “Yes. I’m promise. Be ready.”
And then, he too, was gone.
Later that evening, a black-haired, blue-eyed man dressed in an orderly’s outfit made his way past the nurse’s station on the oncology floor, nodding courteously to the nurse on duty. She nodded back to him, not taking her eyes off the soap playing on the television screen in front of her. Therefore, not noticing his smirk as he continued down the hall, towards room 314.
The second he slipped inside, Ari breathed a sigh of relief, before taking a second orderly’s outfit out from underneath his. Tiptoeing over to the bed, he gently shook his sister’s shoulder. “Yumѐ…”
Her eyes opened. “I’m awake,” she whispered. Ari notice just how frail her voice sounded. Had she really gotten worse in the short time he’d been gone?
Shaking off those thoughts, he handed her the uniform. “Put this on. I’ll keep watch. Come out when you’re done.”
She nodded, and he slipped out into the hall, glancing in both directions. Thankfully, no one was there. Two minutes later, Yumѐ came out, dressed in the uniform, and with her hair tied back.
“Let’s go,” he hissed. “Act natural.”
They began to walk. When they neared the nurse’s station, he asked, rather loudly, “Say, did you hear about that girl in room 314 that tried to escape this morning?”
His sister grinned, seeing where he was going, though it just seemed to bring out the paleness of her face.
“Yeah, I did,” she replied. “Poor dear—I’m surprised she made it as far as she did before she collapsed.”
They continued this light chatter until they were well past the station, before breaking into stifled giggles. “Who knew acting could feel so good?” Yumѐ exclaimed. Suddenly, she winced. Ari looked at her, concerned. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just an ache…”
This only made Ari more worried. It seemed his sister was only getting worse. They would have to hurry.
Making it out of the hospital without a problem (surely they just imagined the suspicious glances), and with nods at the front desk attendants, Ari led his sister to his beat up truck, a 1999 Dodge Ram, making sure she was safely secured in the back before climbing in himself and starting it up. He tossed a plastic bag back to her.
“Clothes,” he supplied, seeing her confused face. She nodded, and he averted his eyes from the mirror so that she could change. A few minutes later, they were on the highway, heading towards the beach. They’d be cutting it close—the sun was going to set soon.
“Ari,” Yumѐ whispered. “Yes?” he replied, looking in the mirror at his sister. She was frighteningly pale and small—she looked like she could pass out at any moment.
“Why do you think…Mom and Dad…were so adamant in denying the fact that I was going to die?”
He was silent for a moment before answering. “It’s hard for anyone to let go of someone they love, whether it be child or sibling or parent. When that person is being taken so early from them…well…sometimes it makes people feel better to pretend that it’s not happening.”
She was silent after that, and Ari was glad that she was in the back, where she couldn’t see the tears slipping down his face. He didn’t want to lose his little sister, either. But, if she wanted this one last thing before she died, then by God, he was going to do it.”
They pulled up at the beach a few minutes later. Jumping out, he went around to the back, and opened the door. Yumѐ’s eyes were closed, and for a heart-stopping moment, he thought she was already gone. Then he noticed the light rise and fall of her chest. Gently, he shook her awake.
“Are we here?” she asked as she opened her eyes, bleary and dull. He nodded. She carefully maneuvered her way out of the car, and taking her arm, he began to guide her towards the water.
A few minutes later, Yumѐ was standing in the frothing white surf of the evening tide, staring out over the sapphire waters of the Pacific Ocean with something akin to bliss in her eyes. A salty breeze whipped her hair behind her, and the sunlight catching the ocean spray around her made her look like a dazzling, glittering angel, Ari thought.
He might never see her like this again, he realized. So…peaceful.
“Ari, look!” she squealed, excitedly. “The sun is setting! Let’s sit a little ways back, so we can watch it.”
Looking out over the waves, he realized that the sun was setting—it had just begun to dip behind the horizon, staining the water in front of it brilliant hues of gold, orange, pink, and red. The sky was an artist’s pure, pristine palette, waiting for someone to fly up and fill the canvas with something new and beautiful. The waves crashing against the shore were a distant, throaty roar, like the purr of white noise.
Carefully, he guided his sister back several feet, until they were safely out of reach of the surf, and sat down on the soft sand. She leaned against him, and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, bitterly aware of the sharpness of her bones, almost knifelike in their contours. Even the soft, stretchy cotton of her t-shirt could not hide the fact that she was a walking skeleton, almost. Her hair smelled like fresh strawberries, he realized. Quickly, he pulled his mind back to the present.
They sat silently, watching the sun sat slowly in the distance. Both watched as a bird dove and skimmed over the surface of the waves before rising again with a flashing silver fish caught fast in its claws.
“Sunset,” Yumѐ whispered, startling her brother. “The end of the day, when all comes to rest…”
Ari gave a small smile, and quietly finished the stanza they had made all those years ago, watching the sunset on an evening very much like this.
“And waits for the dawn, the beginning of everything.”
Yumѐ smiled, and snuggled closer to her brother. “Have you ever wished you were a bird, Ari-chan?”
“Sometimes,” he said, quietly. “Maybe just to be without inhibitions, for once…”
She closed her eyes, and murmured, “I’ve wished it…so many times…just to be free…to fly everywhere, with nothing to think about…just the sky, forever…” she stopped, and looked up at him. “Thank you, Ari…”
“For what?” he asked.
“Everything…for being my brother…being there…bringing me here…”
“You know you don’t have to thank me for that,” he replied. “What are brothers for?”
She smiled again. “I love you brother, you know that?”
He merely closed his eyes, and hugged her gently. “Of course. And I love you too, Yumѐ-chan.”
They were silent after that, watching the sun set, even as the air grew chill, and their shadows grew longer. With a final flash of orange fire, the sun was gone, and the world was dark, save for the golden outline of the horizon.
Ari finally shifted to look down at his sister, only to find her still and cold. He held a hand in front of her mouth, pale and trembling; no breath warmed it. No pulse beat in her neck. She was gone. A few tears spilled onto the still-warm sand, as he gently stood and gathered his sister in his arms, and began the long trek back to the car.
Just as he reached the edge of the sand, he looked back. For a split second, he thought he saw a girl, soaring above the waves, with angel wings upon her back and a beautiful bird flying beside her. A girl with black hair, and gentle silver-gray eyes. With one final tear slipping from his eyes and falling to the ground, silver from the light of the light of the stars, he smiled, and turned away.
His sister had finally earned her wings.