Maggie has always hated hospitals, well, at least dating back to 1994. That’s the year she spent her entire 13th birthday at a hospital. She was so excited to break into her teens and her parents had planned the biggest party imaginable. All her friends were going to be there and rumor had it that her grandfather, who 6 months prior was given only 3 months to live, would attend.
The morning of her birthday, Maggie jumped out of bed, equally as excited as any Christmas morning. She knew she still had to go to school before the highly anticipated party, so she quickly got dressed and grabbed her book bag. Maggie had figured that the faster she got to school, the faster the school day would go by. Maggie’s parents were waiting for her downstairs and warmly greeted her as she descended.
“Happy birthday, sweetie!”
Maggie smiled from ear to ear; her exhilaration easily outweighed her normal embarrassment felt during a moment when all eyes were upon her.
After a quick breakfast, Maggie and her parents left the house. Maggie’s parents worked together, only 3 miles from her school, so they would drop her off every morning on their way. Maggie was always grateful, considering she despised riding the school bus.
As her father accelerated through an intersection no more than 2 blocks from the school, their car was struck in the driver’s door by a barreling garbage truck. The car spun completely around twice through the intersection, miraculously avoiding any other cars, however was not as lucky as it slid off the pavement and careened passenger side into a concrete light pole. The four door sedan looked like an hourglass constructed of mangled steel, as both front doors were crushed in so far, the paramedics were surprised to find both of Maggie’s parents still breathing.
Incredibly, Maggie only suffered a broken leg, along with the obvious bumps and bruises. Her parents weren’t so lucky, however, as both died within minutes of being admitted into the hospital. So there she laid, on a cold hospital bed, her leg in tremendous pain and the tragic words of her parents’ death spoken by her nurse. Happy 13th birthday no more.
Deciding that Alex is in good hands and figuring she can do more for him at home, Maggie leaves the hospital. Leonard passes her along the way, stopping her.
“How’s he doing?”
“He’s resting,” her curiosity is overwhelming. “Leonard, how did you know he was here?”
Leonard responds quickly, as if he already has an answer prepared, “You told me.”
Maggie looks at him, puzzled.
“You don’t remember? We just talked a few moments ago.”
Maybe he was right. Maggie has been going through a lot so far today. Maybe she doesn’t remember the full extent of their brief telephone conversation. Either way, she plays along, “Oh yeah, that’s right.”
Maggie excuses herself and drives home, worrying and wondering about Alex’s bizarre condition the entire way. Once home, Maggie jumps in the shower. The cool streams of water cascade off her delicate skin, calming her. As she showers, she can hear the sound of whispering faintly in the distance. She turns off the water and exits the shower, covering herself with a nearby towel. The whispers are gone.
After getting dressed, Maggie sits down at a computer desk. She types in ‘catatonic + stress’ in the Google search bar and scrolls down the page, hoping to find similar cases. As she clicks a link open, the whispers can once again be heard, this time louder. Maggie tries to identify the muffled undertones but cannot make out anything distinguishable, other than the fact that they’re echoing around the outside of the house. Wanting to investigate, Maggie cautiously walks over to the front door. She peers through the peep hole but sees nothing. Slowly turning the door knob, Maggie opens the door. A horde of crickets swarm her, entering the house like a tidal wave during a tsunami. Their high pitched chirping deafens Maggie, as they attach themselves to her skin and clothes. She freaks, frantically grabbing her purse before sprinting to her car.
Once she is in the safety of her car, Maggie takes a deep breath and collects herself. ‘What the **** just happened?’ she thinks to herself. ‘****, Alex!’ She turns the ignition and smashes the gas, peeling out of her driveway, leaving the bevy of crickets behind her.
Maggie arrives at the hospital and violently pulls into an open parking space. She rushes through the sliding glass doors and makes her way up to Alex’s room. When she arrives there, a sense of helplessness consumes her. Alex is gone. His bed is neatly made and all signs of him are nowhere to be found, other than the sound machine, which is right where Maggie had left it. The mellow sounds of the rainforest emanate from its speakers. Maggie tries to turn it off but the pitter-patter of falling rain and the chirping of tropical birds seem to be getting louder. Maggie reaches around back to remove the power cord, only to discover it dangling and unplugged. Becoming lightheaded, she falls backwards and faints on the empty bed.