Abra could almost feel the rain, even though it was only a dream. She was surrounded by leaves and branches. The drops clattered down through them, all around her. That's when she realized she was up in a tree, up in its highest branches, and immediately she was afraid. She clung to the branch she was on, a branch much too thin to hold her. It broke, and she fell. She grabbed for anything she could hold on to, finding another thin branch. She dangled there, looking down between her feet at the ground far below.
She watched a huge wolf-like creature pick up a small girl in its jaws and toss her aside. She watched as a boy grabbed on to a small sword, cried out in pain before swinging it again and again. She watched as the sword found its mark and the huge animal listed to the side like a boat preparing to sink. When the creature fell, the boy collapsed.
She twisted and turned where she hung from the branch, wondering if the girl was okay. Wondering where she was. That's when she saw a streak of light, and a man, or something in the shape of a man, knelt beside the girl. He put his hands on her head and closed his eyes, and Abra knew, in the way that you can know something in a dream, that the man was bringing the girl back to life. Or calling her back from wherever it was her soul was heading.
Suddenly she could hear through the girl's ears. She was still dangling there in the air; she was still feeling the soft patter of rain on her head and bare arms, the drops tickling her face; she could still feel the thin branch slipping ever so slowly from her grasp. But for some reason her hearing was now the girl's hearing, and she heard the man whisper.
"Abra, this is very important. I have a few things I need to tell you..."
But as the Abra hanging from the tree realized the girl on the ground was her, and as she thought she was going to hear something very important, her fingers slipped from the branch.
I should have hit the ground by now, she thought. She looked down. The ground was rushing at her, and she caught her breath.
Abra woke in the hospital bed and took a long breath, trying to calm herself. There is a kind of silence only experienced in hospitals in the middle of the night. It is never a complete silence—there is always the beeping of empty IV bags, the humming of air conditioners, the rolling of wheels over waxed tiles. But in between all of those noises is a kind of medicated silence, a waiting to see what will come next. At night, a hospital holds its breath.
A nurse crept in and out of Abra's room, and she pretended to be asleep, but her heart pounded and her eyes twitched under their closed lids.
It was just a dream, she told herself. Just a dream.
But something had brought her out of her sleep, she was sure of it—some sound. Someone who needed her. She heard it again: a whimper, or a quiet gasp. Was it coming through the ceiling? Was it slinking through the air ducts?
Was it Sam?
The nurse walked out into the hall, and the door latched behind her. Abra's eyes flicked open. She looked around, but that's also when the pain returned, a deep ache from the center of her abdomen, a pain that radiated out to her ribs, her pelvis, her neck, her legs. Her foot throbbed. She bit her lip to keep from crying out and wrapped her right arm gingerly around her stomach, trying to hold every painful thing in place. Her pain medication was wearing off.
The space where her father had been sitting, the small armchair in the corner of the room, was empty. There was still the impression of him in the cushion. Maybe he had gone looking for her mother. Maybe he had gone on yet another search for a decent cup of coffee. In any case, he was gone, and Abra was alone.
She lifted her legs and turned until she sat on the edge of the bed. She listened, and again she thought she heard it. The sound came from far away, but it drew her, even through her pain. She glanced longingly at her pillow. Maybe she should stretch out on the bed again, go back to sleep.
But what if Sam needs me?
She carefully placed her feet on the cold tiles and leaned forward, sliding off the bed. Oh, the pain! With each fragile step, the traction strips on the bottom of her hospital socks made a barely audible peeling sound on the floor, like a Band-Aid pulling away. She was attached at the back of her hand to an IV that in turn was attached to two bags holding clear liquid, both hanging from a sort of coatrack on wheels. She pulled it along beside her as she walked, and the wheels squeaked a rhythm. It was the middle of the night, and her hospital room was dark.