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This hospital bed is extremely uncomfortable. It didn't matter that I'd been lying in the god-awful thing for months now! The mattress was still hard as nails!
My day consisted of IV changes and tests run by my solemn faced doctors and nurses. I would listen as my primary doctor in this hospital tried to explain things I already didn't understand. Our conversations usually ended in me getting angry and spewing curses at him. I knew he didn't deserve it, but I was feeling sorry for myself. I mean I was an 18-year-old girl laying in a hospital bed, with no chance of getting out. I figured that out a few months back.
Yep, this was my new bedroom. And once I came to terms with that, all my faith and my hope flew out the window.
I was a happy girl. A cheerleader for my high school JV team and had a pending scholarship to NYU in the fall.
Now... I'm reduced to the girl in room 1181 with severe Pancreatic Cancer. The girl everyone was waiting on to die.
How did this happen you ask??? WELL, I fell from the top of the pyramid three months ago while we were performing at a football game. I'd hit my head pretty hard when I hit the ground so... I was rushed to the hospital. Naturally, I expected for the doctor to tell me that at most, I had a cracked rib and a concussion.
The look on his face was much too grave for that. He told me that after keeping me in the hospital for a week, and running a billion MRI's, and other tests I couldn't remember the name of anymore, that I had Pancreatic Cancer. He explained that my fall caused the infection to flare up and accelerate cells... and you know the rest. Once spoken into existence, things just miraculously start getting shittier?!
After finding out what was happening to my body, my appetite was the first to go. It just became unappealing to me altogether. Then, my skin turned this ugly yellowish color. It started in patches. But now, it covers my entire body. SO, to counter that, I had the nurses leave the air on in my room always so that I could wear sweaters and sweat pants to hide my skin. Then, there was the unbearable abdominal pain. Did I forget to mention that it was random as hell? No; it's random as fuck.
My parents visited all the time. My friends too. I never had dead flowers, or a lack of stuffed animals and balloons. But I still felt trapped in here.
I stared at the ceiling and followed the lines of the Styrofoam panels placed there. I followed them all around the room. Favorite pastime. My eyes wandered to my mother who was curled up in the wide arm chair. Her hair was wild and splayed all over her face, her mouth agape. I knew she was tired. She'd just quit her job as a realtor, and we'd argued over that. She'd quit because she wanted to be here all the time, so that I was never alone. I appreciated and hated her for it. I didn't want her to stop living her life because I was stuck in here. She loved her job. She’d worked hard for it her entire life.
I looked down, and away from her.
At least I still had my phone. They weren't getting that away from me. I opened my camera and snapped a picture of her before the room door creaked open and she flew upright.
My doctor walked in. He clutched his clip board in his veiny hands; I was here long enough to know what that meant. The news wasn't good. I swallowed hard and watched him. He walked over and put his hand on the railing attached to the bed. Here we go with the meaningless chatter again. 'How are you feeling Sarah?'
"How are you feeling Sarah?"
"Same as always, Doc. Lousy."
Quiet. Here comes the hard part.
"Any news, doctor?" my mother asked, instinctively grabbing my hand and squeezing it gently. He looks down at his stupid clipboard and I want to shout for him to just spit it out already. He seems to get the unspoken message.
"Mrs. Re', maybe we should speak outsi-"
"She isn't going anywhere, Doc. Might as well just feed it to me straight." I cut in before he could finish. I think he got used to me being a hard ass after a while. he sighed and sat on the edge of my bed.
'So, we ran more test...'
"So, we ran more tests..."
Damn I'm good.
He shook his head. "It isn't good. The cancer cells are growing at too rapid of a rate. Her body is trying to fight them, but this type of cancer is violent. I'm afraid your body can't withstand much more, and the chemo will now only make it worse."
I closed my eyes and read between the lines. "How long?"
There was a long pause before he replied. "Six to eight weeks."
Six. To. Eight. weeks.
I used my hands to mask my pain. I covered my face and silently sobbed, hopping that my hands would absorb my tears. My life. Six to eight weeks was nothing. NOTHING! My mother began to cry. Her hands shook, and her face turned all red and blotchy. I felt whatever was left of me just slip away. The last of my resolve slipped further and further away. There wasn't much left for my doctor to say. He squeezed my mother’s shoulder before exiting my room. We didn't speak. Just cried. It felt like we cried forever. like that was all we knew. And right now, it was. I couldn't be a hard ass right now and act like I didn't care. It just wasn't feasible. To find out that I had a limit on my life was one thing. To know that limit was something else entirely. I had so many questions but none all at the same time. I heard my mom get to her feet.
"I need to, um... call your father. Are you-you okay?"
I didn't answer her because I had no answer. I didn't know what it was I was feeling but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was not okay. But still, I nodded. She tried to smile before covering her mouth and exiting my room. I looked out the window. At the cars driving by, unaware of the news I'd just gotten. They continue living their long lives. Suddenly everything seemed more precious. The color of the sky. Which way the clouds moved. The leaves on the trees. I just needed it all to go away. I bit my lip and slammed my hand down on the red button on the remote they'd given me. A nurse came in. She smiled sweetly, and It made me want to throw up on her.
"Need another shot of morphine sweetheart?"
"I'll be right back."
I didn't need the morphine, but I did want it so that I could sleep. She came back five minutes later with the morphine bag. She connected one of my many tubes into the IV bag and I watched as the morphine began to drip. It wasn't long before my eyes became heavy and my vision clouded. I shut my eyes and welcomed the sleep.
Usually I never had dreams.
I wasn't lying in a bed anymore, though. Beneath me was soft and wispy. I heard faint bird calls and felt a breeze brush my skin. Who opened the window?
I opened my eyes and I sure as hell wasn't where I was before. The sky was the same blue, but the clouds weren't white. They were black. As black as the night sky with no moon. Where the hell...
Slowly I sat up. Even my limbs felt strange. My head felt heavy and I had to focus hard to clear my vision. I was in a field. My fingers tangled in the grass, and even that felt strange. It was almost too soft, like pillows. They messaged my fingers, my legs, everything. It had to be the bluest most alive grass I'd ever seen. I had to be dreaming. I clambered to my feet and stood on shaky legs. Looking around I saw nothing but rolling hills of this blue grass! The weather was warm, so warm. In the far distance I saw a shape. A couple. Were those buildings? They didn't look like sky scrapers. Something newer but still stuck in a long-ago time. My feet started to drag through the grass. There were trees all around the hills. Unbelievably tall trees with roots sprouting from the ground and diving back in again. I'd never had this dream before. The air was fresh, and my lungs relished in it. I'd never tasted air so sweet. The more steps I took the stronger my body felt. Over time in the hospital bed I lost so much of my strength. Now, I feel it returning. I smile to myself as I pick up the pace. Skipping first and then full on running. It surprised me when I didn't grow tired or dehydrated. I could just keep going! As I ran it bought me closer and closer to the strange buildings I saw further back. The grass didn't thin as I neared the large glass wall surrounding the place. I sucked in a breath and reached my hand out, placing it on the cool surface. It was freezing to the touch but that's not what made me jerk my hand back suddenly. From my palm, the almost translucent glass clouded over. It spread until I could no longer see anything beyond the wall.
I took a few steps back.
"Do not move! Lay your hands on the glass and don't move!" the voice was a booming one.
I did as instructed.
Milliseconds later a panel in the glass a short way down slid open and men in ruby red uniforms rushed out, guns ready. The first one, a tall burly set man with dark hair came up behind me and grabbed one of my hands from the glass. I heard a low whoosh as my other hand was brought behind my back. Something firm was holding my hands together. The man took hold of my arm and led me toward the panel they'd emerged from. They ushered me through the panel and my next gasp was one of awe. Inside of the wall was utterly beautiful. The walls of the cone shaped buildings were white washed and bleached, each marble stone perfectly placed. Whoever built these magnificent pointy buildings had to have an eye for art. Because that's exactly what this entire place was. Art. It stretched back in a long rectangle. The man’s hands were firm but gentle as he led me forward.
"Where are you taking me? Where am I?"
This had to be some trippy dream, courtesy of the morphine from the doctors. Yeah. So, with having made the discovery that no matter how much I kicked and screamed and fought, these guards were not fazed and were not going to let me go or answer my questions, I settled and let my arms hang at my sides as I was escorted through long corridor after corridor. The walls were made of the same glass as the wall outside, but the color faded to a cream palette. It was murky and moved like smoke trapped in a bottle. I wanted to stretch my arm out to see if it would clear. The guards wouldn't let me. My beige combat boots made a deep rumble against the smooth diamond shaped marbled tile of this long strip of hallway. We soon stopped at a dark door. Black and Matte. The trimming to the door was painted gold. One of the many guards surrounding me knocked on the door and took a tentative step back. A slender, pale hand emerged and gripped the side of the frame. Her nails were painted a bright magenta color. Her head poked out next. She had a sweet face, rich cheeks and deep tanned skin. I didn't know if her lips were naturally that red or if she was wearing lipstick. I didn't think I should ask. She gave me a once over and a slight smirk before eyeing the guard who knocked on the door. "Where did you find her, Caledon?"
The swollen man holding me gripped my arm just a bit harder.
"In the aqua fields, ma'am."
She looked only momentarily taken aback before composing the expression on her face. "Have her cleaned up and dressed. We have guests for dinner tonight, and I need nothing going wrong."
Before I could get a word to pass through my lips, she shut the door quickly and I was left staring. Up until the guard shook me hard and "escorted" me down the hall once again. "Who was that?"
He scoffed and continued walking at a brisk pace. "You'll find out soon enough. Now, go get cleaned up." He jerked his head toward the plain door in front of me. This place was too big and held too many rooms, nooks, and crannies. Luckily, all of this was just part of the fantasy my brain created. I turned the handle on the door and pushed. It gave way and swung slowly open for me to enter. My mouth fell open as steam rose from a tub entirely made of gold. Everything from the feet to the handles at the front. Nothing else took up space. Just black linen curtains, dimming the bright rays of sunlight from hitting me directly. Quickly I shut the door and stripped off... my hospital gown? Wonderful Sarah... you could have thought up something else to wear. There was a fire place, roaring and warm with a fur rug nestling the floor. I walked over and threw the beyond ugly gown into the flames, watching them burn as I gathered up my hair to... My eyebrows furrowed, and I rubbed my fingers through my hair. All the treatments and medicines from the doctors had thinned it. But now, it was full. Knotted, but full. My eyes scanned the still bath water. The heat was inviting and soothing. With one leg carefully over the other I climbed in, sliding to rest my neck on the edge of the smooth tub. There was a jar of what looked to be crushed rose petals, chocolate, and honey sitting on a thin table with a washing brush. The concoction of things smelled odd. Not foul, but definitely odd. Hesitantly, I gathered some on the tips of my fingers and applied it to my wet skin. As I rubbed the combination into my pores, I felt them open and breathe. Even as I continued cleaning my body I watched as my skin automatically began emitting a healthy glow. No more yellow hues. It was like a breath of fresh air. I can't tell you how long I sat there. It had to be for hours. When I finally got out there was a robe sitting on a chair close to the fire. The door I'd shut opened again and in stepped a girl. She was tall but thin. Her face was a bit sallow but the beauty in the curve of her eyes, her lips, and the glow to her skin made you forget that there was anything thin about her. She was radiant and cheerful as she bounded over and took my hands.
"I'm delighted to make your acquaintance, Miss. I'm to bring you to your dressing choices. Right this way."
I followed her down another very long stretch of hallway. It looked like I was in something resembling a palace. There were pillars instead of windows, giving us a better view of what they called the aqua fields. The walls were stone, sanded clean. There were no cracks in the walls. However, rose vines did creep up the pillars to where we stood. The leaves were not the traditional shades of green like at home. They were all rich vibrant blues, greens, oranges, and reds. And the flowers themselves harbored all different colored petals. They were the most beautiful things I’d ever seen before. Why hadn't my mind brought me here before? Shaking the question, we continued down the hall until stopping at yet another door. The girl pulled a set of long brass keys from the pocket of her lace pink pixie dress. It was sexy and conservative all at the same time. She led me inside where there were racks on top of racks of clothes! Extravagant dresses and shoes. Not to mention the jewelry that sat in cases around the room. My eyes widened as I turned to the girl who's name I still didn't know.
"What’s your name?"
"You are the only one in here besides me, aren't you?" I Joked.
She laughed a small laugh. " I suppose so. My name is Marlene."
"Marlene. Pretty. My name is Sarah. Sarah Re." I didn't think it was possible for her to smile any brighter, but she did. Was everyone here beautiful? I walked and ran my fingers over all the different fabrics of all of the different dresses. A pale pink almost nude spaghetti strap long silk dress the dipped at the neckline caught my eyes. I carefully pulled the hanger from the rack. There were crystals embedded sparsely from the waistline and pooled at the bottom. I turned and looked to Marlene. She nodded rapidly.
"Oh, that one is beautiful. Try it on?"
This girl’s happiness was infectious. I ran behind the cream divider and proceed to slip into the dress. As I fixed the straps I ran my fingers down the dress. It fit so snugly, but not whereas to be choking or uncomfortable. I stepped out and Marlene's hands flew to her mouth, her eyes wide.
"It's perfect. You have wonderful taste."
I laughed and thanked her. She took my hand and led me over to an ottoman. One mirror on my left, another on my right, and one front in center. My skin was a few shades darker than the dress and it worked perfectly. Highlighting the glow from the concoction in the bath. Marlene started to gather my hair up, flipping it this way and that.
"How should we place your hair?"
That was a great question, but I honestly had no idea how to style it. I never quite did. I'd figured that after a while, there was no need. Especially now. But I didn't tell Marlene that. Instead, I just shook my head. "That's alright. I'm quite good with hair."
As I let her go to work on my head I figured she was the best and most eager person to answer any questions I may have. "Marlene?"
"Where are we?"
"Incala, of course."
"Where is In-cala?"
"Well, it's west of the Yulandi forest. It sits on the edge of the Betwah sea."
Yulandi forest? Betwah Sea?
Maybe it was best if I didn't ask any questions. I tossed back an "oh," like I knew once she said those places, I knew where I was.
"The lady I spoke to said something about dinner?"
"Yes. You arrived at just the right time. Madame Kantar is throwing a feast to celebrate the finishing of the wall."
"You mean that glass wall that surrounds this place?"
"Yes. Magnificent, isn't it? It's made from Heaven Stone."
"Heaven stone... We mine it from Heaven's mountains to the north east, they are the highest mountains in existence," she implied.
I straightened my back and nodded. "Oh, the heaven's mountains. Of course."
That's it. I was going to shut my mouth from here on out. Because no matter how much I knew this was a dream, it felt real.