A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
BY SOPHIE KOSIBA
Every time anything touched my skin, the searing pain reverberated across my entire body. It would always cause me to wince or sometimes scream and even more pain would unfurl throughout my very being. I could barely turn my head without several newly “healed” cuts splitting open with an unsettling crack. I could never think straight ; it was as if a thick fog rolled across my brain twenty four seven. I couldn’t speak, I could barely eat or drink. I was utterly alone with my thoughts. After the accident my parents never came to identify me to the staff. They all called me Jane, as in Jane Doe: A cruel reminder of the way my seemingly perfect life will forever be stained by one endless moment. Nurses came and went, adjusting the IV or recording my BP and heart rate. The doctor walked in, the clip clop of his dress shoes echoing across the floor. He walked over to a nurse in bright blue scrubs and brushed the blond ponytail off her shoulder. “Any news about the identity of our young Jane Doe?” He asked, just loud enough for me to hear. “None I’m afraid, Dr.Morris.” replied the nurse with her unnervingly cheery smile. “ MY NAME IS ANNA GARRETT!” I wanted to scream. But alas I was “temporarily” forsaken to a wordless existence. My life would never be the same.
It seemed as if every day was exactly the same. Every day I tried to speak and failed miserably. Every day I tried to walk or get out of bed or even just drink some water from the glass beside my bed. Eventually I regained my strength but it seemed like it would be years before I would fully recover. One morning when the sun was just rising I tried to speak yet again. “Hello,” I said. I had grown so accustomed to only hearing the words in my head that it took a few minutes to register the fact that the words could be heard by the real world. I could talk again. Just then a nurse wandered in. It was the one with the blonde ponytail. “Good morning, Jane. How are you feeling today?” She said. Since the day I woke up she would ask me this question, and everyday she was disappointed when I couldn’t answer. But today I could. “Honestly I’m very thirsty. Oh,and there is a bit of a draft in here. Would you mind closing the window?” I said melodiously, and for the first time since I woke up I broke into a grin. Her mouth gaped open and I could see she was speechless. When she finally closed her mouth she walked over to the window and closed it with a soft thud. Then she paged Dr.Morris and started checking my vitals. I could feel it in the air:Today was going to be the best day yet. Dr. Morris came and was obviously very happy to see that I was talking again. “So Jane why don’t we start by telling me your real name?” I ran the options in my head and decided to fabricate a fake name. “I’m Celeste Hosterman. And before you ask I don’t have any living relatives. My mom died in childbirth and my dad commited suicide a year ago. I am eighteen years old and I don’t remember anything about the night of the accident besides the orange flames consuming almost my entire body.” I said all in one breath. My mouth was dry and I kept taking in the air in great big gulps. Dr.Morris was silent and very displeased with what I’d said. He turned to the blonde nurse and whispered a little too loudly “Tell the CEO we have another perma-patient on our hands. If she can walk to the door 200,000 dollars if she can’t even get out of bed 2 million.” He turned to me with a toothy grin and said “Ok, Celeste lets see how you can walk.” “Fine.” I said with a sneer. I lifted myself off the bed and had to suppress the scream that was rising in my throat. I walked halfway to the door even as I thought the pain would rip me in two.When I couldn’t take it any longer I collapsed to the floor with a whimper. The nurse ran to my side and helped me hobble back over to the bed. “1 million” the doctor hissed. He stormed out of the room in a huff. Guess it wasn’t going to be a great day after all.
A couple of days and two hundred tests later I was dismissed from the ICU. I was transferred to another room. The nurse wheeled me into a room painted a bright yellow green. A corner of my bed banged into the door and the nurse cursed under her breath. A boy was lying in a hospital bed identical to my own. He had a mop of black curls and dull gray-green eyes. Burns covered his arms like a blanket and a wide gash curled down from his temple to his cheekbone. As the nurse clicked me back into the IV the boy turned his head towards me. His gray-green eyes were haunting as he said “ My name is Zachary. What’s your’s?”. “Celeste nice to meet you.” I said, suddenly feeling meek. Then I extended my hand to him and he shook it gingerly. “It’s nice to meet you as well.” he said in a gruff voice. He gave me the tiniest of smiles and the whole room fell silent. It stayed like that for what seemed like an eternity. Finally when the nurse left we started talking. He told me about his college (Yale), his ex-girlfriend (Samantha), and how both of his parents had disowned him after the accident (Same!) and then asked me “How about you?” I had to think about whether or not to tell him the truth. I could tell he was not so patiently waiting for my answer so I gave one to him. “Ok.Here it goes my real name is Anna Garrett, but you can’t tell the nurses or the doctors. I was literally driving to Yale for my first year of college when the accident happened. My parents never came to see me after the accident. And it’s all because my ex-boyfriend was driving, oh,and by the way he’s dead.” there was a look of astonishment on his face.“ Fine, you win.” he said with a grin. The heat rose to my cheeks and I tried to cover my face with the thin blanket. There was just such an ease to talking to Zachary. I loved it, and deep down I knew I would eventually love him too.
In the days that followed it seemed like Zach and I couldn’t get enough of each other. We constantly talked about anything, and when we did the outside world would just fall away. When Zach and I talked there was no hospital, no accident, no burns, and best of all no pain. Before I had met Zach I was broken. I was like a delicate porcelain doll whose face and body was racked with millions upon millions of tiny cracks, but so was Zach. I knew he was broken too and selfish as it may be, it felt good to know I wasn’t alone with my struggles. I didn’t second guess myself at every curveball the doctors would throw at me. Slowly, too slowly we started to fill each others cracks. The memories, and stories we shared acted like a cement for our shattered hearts. Our relationship was one I had never experienced before. We understood each other, in a strange telepathic type of way. Nothing bad could penetrate that type of relationship ; except my nightmares.
I was running so fast my feet looked like a blur. Faster and faster and faster through the forest. Fire consumed all of the woods behind me and it was a miracle the bright orange flames had not swept me up yet. The thing chased me tirelessly, and to no end. Running and running and running despite the rocky terrain. It dropped to all fours and snarled so loud I thought my ears would start bleeding. I tried not to think about the fire or the thing chasing me through the night. Instead I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I glanced over my shoulder for a split second and fell face first on the ground. I turned around and tried to get up but to no avail. My ankle was bent at an awkward angle and the pain coursed red hot through my veins. The thing had halted it’s chase and sauntered in my direction. The fire roared behind it but did not proceed another inch in its destructive path. I scrambled backward and my back rammed against a log. I could see it clearly now and it wasn’t an it it was a he. None other than Zach. His teeth sank into my neck and the fire crashed over me like a tidal wave. I screamed.
I woke up still screaming, my sheets drenched with sweat and and my pillow soaked through with tears. Zach was right beside me rubbing my shoulder gently, as if I were a tiny and fragile bird. Hot tears ran down my cheek and Zach said “ It’s okay. It was only a nightmare, it’s not real,”. I was inconsolable. My head just replayed that scene over and over and over again. I couldn’t take it. Zach was looking at me, his green-gray eyes filled with loving concern. The pale moonlight lit up his skin as he said “ You are so beautiful Anna. No girl like you deserves to have nightmares. You have to remember what is real. You and I that is real. The nightmares, those aren’t. You have to understand that!”. I shook my head violently and snapped out of it. I opened my eyes and looked into Zach’s. Then I took his hand, which was surprisingly soft and held it against my cheek. We stayed like that for a long while, just staring into each other’s eyes. The silence was thick and heavy and just as I was wishing it would end Zach said “You know, I meant what I said about you. You just might be the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met.” he leaned closer to me, so close our lips were almost touching, and then they were. His lips were soft, like velvet and they cradled mine perfectly. My heart was fluttering and my mind was overloaded with emotions. Soon, too soon it stopped. He pulled back from me and turned his head away. He skittered back to his bed, much to my disappointment, and only said one word “Goodnight,”.
Despite Zach very convincingly pretending to be asleep I could tell his mind was racing, just like mine. I lied there, stiff as a board and thought about everything. The kiss, Zach,and my ex-boyfriend. I realized when I had been with my ex I was never happy. I went along with what he wanted to do and didn’t bat an eyelash when he would pick on the freshmen. I had said I love you to him a million times but not once had I meant it. It was like love didn’t mean a deep caring and understanding or a mutual beneficial relationship, it meant more of a reluctant tolerance of one another. I also realized that I could count the number of things I knew about my ex on one badly burned and scarred hand. Zach was so much different than him. Zach knew exactly what I was going through and exactly how I was feeling without me having to tell him. I knew in that moment that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I just didn’t know how short the rest of his life would be.
The coughing started on a rainy Sunday morning. At first I didn’t think much of it, Zach would only cough a few times an hour. But by Tuesday he was coughing at least three times a minute and his labored breathing sounded like he was sucking in water instead of air. On Wednesday Zach started to shiver no matter how many heating blankets the paranoid nurses put on him. Dark purple bruises rimmed with dried blood appeared on his arms and face. He barely talked or moved, but when he did speak it was always things like “You know I love you Anna.” or to quote random Beatles songs. I loved him so much that his pain was my pain, his suffering was my suffering. He had always been my rock when the skin grafts were too much for me. I felt that I had to be there by his side to be his rock, and I would be.
Zach kept getting worse and worse but on this particular day the doctor decided to order and MRI. Three nurses equipped with face masks and rubber gloves strode into the room. As they wheeled Zach’s bed out of the room he coughed, sending a mix of blood and saliva into the air. And then he was gone. The room fell silent and I realized this was the first time I was alone in this room. My chest tightened and I felt like the room was closing in on me. My breaths were shallow and uneven as the bright green paint swirled around me. Then in a flash, it all went black.
I woke up to the sound of a heavy coughing and hacking. I turned and saw Zach in worse shape than ever. He had an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth but his lungs refused to take in the air. His hair was disheveled and matted with sweat. There were dark rings under his deep set eyes and his cheeks were so sunken in it looked like his cheekbones would cut my hand if I touched them. I looked down to his hands and noticed a thick bundle of wires and tubes snaking up his arms. I knew what it was in my mind, but my heart just didn’t want to believe it. Zach was hooked up to the worst thing any patient could imagine: Life Support.
I did not believe it, I could not believe it. I drifted in and out of consciousness, willing myself not to look at his blood stained lips and shirt. His coughs rang in my ears at night, almost like pleas for life itself. He no longer spoke. He only wrote on the little yellow notebook one of the nurses gave him. Pages and pages were covered in his shaky, scrawling handwriting, most of the words and phrases indistinguishable. His frail form was clinging to life in every possible way. On one night when I had actually captured a few moments of sleep I was awoken to the sound of someone at the door. The nurse came in and I recognized her immediately. She was out of her bright blue scrubs but her dress was just as luminescent. She took a few steps toward Zach’s bed, then whipped her head around to look and see if I was asleep. I shut my eyes just in time and tried to take control of my ragged breathing. She inched toward the life support machine and reached out, tracing the edge of the screen with her fingertips. I watched her gaze shift to the power button and her brow furrowed in contemplation. Zach was wheezing and the oxygen mask was cutting of his circulation. I turned my head back towards her, just in time to see her pointer finger tap the power button. The screen made a loud, high pitched beep and Zach gasped in pain. I sprinted out of my bed as soon as the nurse had closed the door and held his dying form in my arms. I cried and cried my ear so close to his lips that I could hear him softly singing“ And when the night is cloudy there is a light that shines on me. Shine until tomorrow let it be.” with that last word Zachary Henson died. I laid there for a long time holding his limp hand in mine, willing for his fingers to curl around mine once again. Eventually Dr.Morris came in and placed his hand on my shoulder. All he said was “Let it be,”.
A few more days went by, most of the hours spent in the comfortable, too comfortable grief counseling room. I checked myself out as Celeste Hosterman and decided that I would live the rest of my life as Celeste Hosterman. Anna Garrett only truly lived in Zachary Henson, and Zachary Henson was dead. I was a shell of myself ,wandering the streets like a brainless zombie. I had no money, no food, no place to sleep. Yet as the seasons changed and my body seemed to cave in on itself I did not grow cold, or hungry, or scared. My dreams haunted me through the day. Every night on a lonely park bench I would wonder “What will I become tonight? Who knows? Maybe I’ll become a beautiful monster, or a Goddess of pain and suffering. Maybe the hole he left in my heart will finally start to make some sense.” but it never did, not once.
Weeks faded into months and months faded into years, the grains of sand running thin on my side of the hourglass. I had become so frail from having almost nothing or eat or drink. Dreams, no, memories of Zach flooded my mind. My clothes hung in loose folds around my body. I wished for death, hell I begged for it. I wanted to surrender to the endless night, to dissolve into nothingness. I went back to the hospital to visit Zach’s room and there it lay, the thin yellow notebook. I snatched it and bolted out of the hospital as fast as my feet could carry me. I longed for my lonely park bench and once I got there I started tearing through the pages of Zach’s notebook, all of which were blank. I threw it on the ground as hard as my weak muscles could manage and one page fell out. I walked over and picked it up. His handwriting was large and shaky on the front and it read: Crying on the inside, breathing hardly
Staring up at the starry sky
They could fall on me and it would still be
The day I didn’t die
Then on the back it read:I sailed seas of suffering,
to wander a forest of scars,
I am a dance of water and fire,
A galaxy of shadow and stars
I clutched the paper to my chest and lay down on the bench. Tears flowed freely onto my cheeks as I closed my eyes and surrendered to the endless night.
Sophie Kosiba lives in Milton Massachusetts. This fall she will start 8th grade at Pierce Middle School. Of her writing she says, “This story is very dear to my heart as it is the first short story I have written purely for fun instead of for fun and school. I love to write tragic and at times scary stories but I certainly am not adverse to a healthy dose of romance.”