This scene is the first glimmer I had of a novel with hypnosis in it. For everyone who is used to my fiction being more erotic than this, please know that the book I intend to write will have some of that, but a lot of it will just be people interacting with people. And a lot of that will be happy people interacting with other happy people, but this is not that scene.
Nathan watched the line under his shoes as he walked. Every hallway in this hospital had a colored line leading from the elevators, from the stairs, directly to whichever area a vistitor needed to go. The line he followed was blue, meant to be soothing, he supposed, although it was silly to think that anyone would be looking down as they walked. Anyone other than himself anyway. But he had to keep watching his feet carry his body down the line, it was the only way he could get himself to keep moving forward.
They were clustered together, what must be her family, some holding paper coffee cups, some gripping crumpled tissues. They looked immovable, as if their grief had concentrated them into a solid wall that no outsider could ever breach. He almost turned back, considered pivoting on the spot and fleeing back the way he'd come, so he wouldn't have to face what was inside that room. But that was not an option.
He drew closer, and one by one the faces turned his way, some curious, some hostile, some not really seeing him, looking blankly through eyes that had cried too many tears. Nathan refused to let himself slow, and continued toward them, unconsciously remaining at the center of the blue line. One of the younger woman broke off, came toward him, extended her hand.
"Are you Nathan?" she asked, taking his hand in hers when he nodded. "I'm Meredith, we talked on the phone?" She had obviously been crying, her grey eyes were blood-shot and red-rimmed, but she smiled at him anyway. "She asked for you again this morning. I'm afraid the family doesn't really understand." She swung her hair back over her shoulder so she could look Nathan in the face. "You...don't really look how I expected. I hope you don't mind me saying that. You looking so...normal...will help I think."
Nathan sighed. "And how am I supposed to look? You were expecting some sort of monster? Someone who looked like a carnival freak or a drug addict? Yes, your sister and I know each other because of things that you don't understand and don't want to admit exist, but we're no less normal than you."
"I know that , and I'm sorry." the young woman apologized. "It's just so hard with her slipping away like this, and finding out she had this other life, this lifestyle, and so many people that are her friends that we never knew about, and now she wants to talk to all of you and not us..." Her voice got louder and higher the longer she talked until she began, quietly, to cry. Nathan gently took her in his arms and held her, surprised that she let him, but unable to ignore her pain. They stayed that way for just a few seconds, but it was enough for Meredith to collect herself. She pulled away and wiped her nose on a ragged kleenex, then said, "C'mon. I'll take you in now." She led Nathan past the family and through the door, blue like the stripe on the carpet.
Inside the room it was as if blue, or any other color, had never existed. Everything was white or grey, as if whoever had designed the room had wanted to avoid the stark contrast of black and white and had instead chosen to cloak the room in a strange homage to winter. Friends and family had obviously tried to brighten the place up; there were flowers and get-well cards on the deep window sill, and someone had strung a garland of paper flowers from the ceiling. The bed was off to one side, and was the only thing not bathed in white. Again the family must have been at work for the bedding was emerald green, glowing in the lights from the nearby machines.
The woman in the bed lay curled on her side. Like a child or a small animal, she seemed to be hiding from something that she couldn't see, and was making herself smaller to avoid being seen by it. Her strawberry blonde hair and pale skin stood out in glaring contrast to the green; Nathan knew it was her favorite color and had to stop and swallow hard seeing her like this. Her favorite picture to share with close friends had been of her reclining in a sea of emerald satin, but there the green brought out the color of her eyes and made her skin glow like a naiad recently escaped from the ocean, not like this sad transparent wreck of a woman.
"Hello, Jillybean," he said, smoothing back her hair. "I came as fast as I could." The bruised eyelids raised a sliver. She had been awake after all.
"Nathan," she whispered. "You came all the way here?" Her eyes, almost closed, slowly started to leak tears. "I didn't think anyone would come."
"Jilly," he said through tears of his own, "We love you, we all love you. Everyone would have come if they could have. They all send their love, they all send their prayers, if you'll take them."
"They want me to speak with god." Jilly hissed, almost sounding healthy. "They keep coming in here and asking me if I want to speak to god. No one has the balls to come out and say it's because I need to find him before I die, but I know that's what they mean."
"Jilly, you don't have to speak to god, but it would have been good for you to speak to someone, just to help your peace of mind."
"My peace of mind?!" She would have been yelling if she'd had the air. "My peace of mind? My mind is killing me!" Nathan heard Meredith start to cry behind him, and realized that she hadn't been able to bring herself to leave the room. "And it hurts, Nathan, it hurts so much!"
"I know Jillybean, I know. I'd like to try and help if I could." He continued to smooth the hair at her temple, the only locks not concealed by the bandages around the terrible wound in the side of her head. "Do you want me to try, Jilly? Do you believe I can help?"
"I wish, I wish you could help, but nothing helps, not anymore. They want to give me morphine, Nathan, they want to give me morphine until I can't feel anything anymore, but I know I'll never wake up again if they do!" She started to shake under his hand.
"Shh, Jilly, shh, it's alright, they don't want to hurt you," he soothed. "I can always try, and maybe it will help a little bit, maybe it won't, but I hope it will."
"Okay, but don't let me go, don't let me fly away yet, okay Nathan? I don't want to go yet."
He continued stroking her hair. "I won't Jilly, I won't let you fly away. There's a string holding you here with me, a green ribbon just like for your hair. And green like your meadow, and green like your forest, and green like your sea.
We've been to the meadow before, you and I, with the wind blowing the long grass, watching it ripple like waves on the ocean, sitting in the long grass, feeling the warm wind as it blows the waves of grass towards the sea.
We've been on this journey before, you and I, under the trees in the forest around the meadow, with the branches undulating like tendrils of seaweed drifting in the ocean current, drifting on the wind that blows the leaves on the trees towards the sea.
We've been to this seashore before, you and I, letting the wind at our backs blow us into the water, sinking into water warm like blood, warm like the ocean inside ourselves, sinking deeper and deeper, beneath the current that takes the unwary over the waves and out to sea.
We've been in these depths before, deeper and deeper beneath the waves, through the glowing green light of tiny creatures who never see the sun, down so deep that everything is silent except for my voice and our hearts, beating to the rhythm of the waves far above.
We've been sinking deeper and deeper, so deep now that we've never been this deep, and now the water, dark and mysterious, black like the heartsblood of the world, is becoming colder, so cold, so much colder that it numbs everything it touches, takes all the heat and poison out of everything and turns it to ice, turns the poison and the pain to pieces of ice, pieces of ice that slide so carefully out of you and float away.
We've been sinking so deeply now, so much deeper than before, that everything is completely black, everything is dark to your eyes the way that silence is to your ears, and while you float here in the depths of your ocean, I am holding your hand, I am holding your hand and I won't let you fly away, I'll keep you here beside me for awhile until you're ready to go, and for now we will float here and let the ice slide out of you and drift away."
Nathan looked down at Jilly's pale face, at the freckles that he knew she hated, at the scar she'd gotten from a flying horseshoe at a summer barbecue, and saw that she appeared to sleep. He didn't know if he'd helped, but he imagined that her face looked a little less strained anyway. Carefully he stood up, and turned to find Meredith leaning against the wall by the door, holding herself and silently crying.
"I don't understand!" she whispered harshly. "I thought you were some sort of, some sort of, sadist or something, someone she was embarassed to even admit she knew and you come here and tell her a story and she sleeps?! She doesn't sleep! Not without drugs!"
Nathan didn't bother wiping away his own tears before answering. "I am many things, but the most important thing I am right now is your sister's friend. I have been your sister's friend for a long time, longer than I think you realize. She's had a lot of horrible, painful things happen to her and I like to think that I've been of help to her with them, a kind of help that she couldn't find from you or the rest of her family. That little story, as you call it, is something that she and I came up with years ago, to help her create a haven from the nasty things that she had been subjected to in her life. If it helps her now, why should you care if I am some kind of, as you say, sadist." He opened the door, but not without turning back to say one last thing. "And I'm not the sadist here. She is." Carefully closing the door behind him, Nathan returned to the blue line, letting it take him around the corner from the family, knowing he would have to come back and face them for real if he wanted to keep on helping his friend.