My heart feels light and the sound of drunken singing fills my ears. I know I shouldn’t be driving; it was a wild night and I’ve had a few too many, but I’ve had less than the others. The football game was brilliant. The atmosphere was buzzing and energetic, the fans were even more so. Another chorus of Queen’s We Will Rock You is started up and soon we’re all singing along, laughing and hugging, not a care in the world. I try hard to concentrate on the road, but it’s not easy when Johnny keeps trying to kiss me in a wild drunken frenzy from the passenger seat, or when Angie’s screeching laugh is filling my swimming head. I take my eyes off the dark road for just a second to try and shake Johnny off of me and when I turn back, it’s too late. The truck slams into us at full speed. It’s blinding lights fill my eyes and the sound of crunching metal and screaming rattles my intoxicated brain. My head slams forward and cracks against the windshield, the whole world is rocking and when it comes to a stop, I feel my own warm blood trickling down my face. It hurts to move my head, but I see that my friends are all unmoving. Then the blackness overpowers me.
I awake suddenly, gasping for breath, my head pounding. In my confusion, I leap to my feet and dizziness overwhelms me, forcing me to the ground again. I take a few deep breaths and slowly contemplate my surroundings. Everything is white. The ground is smooth and white, the sky overhead is the exact same shade of white. It’s almost impossible to tell where the horizon ends and the sky begins. I slowly rise to my feet, turning a full circle on the spot. There are objects in the sky that look like suns; six of them. Their light is bright and blinding and hurts my eyes, making my head throb. My heart begins to beat faster and my palms begin to sweat. Where am I? I remember where I was. I had been on the highway… we’d crashed… so where is the car? Where is the road? Where am I? I know I can’t stay here. I have to start walking… in any direction. I need to find someone, anyone who can tell me what the hell is going on and how I ended up here. But which way do I go? I slowly turn again, looking for somewhere to start. I see something dark on the horizon. Was that there before? It looks like buildings… maybe there are people. As I start to walk towards the objects on the horizon, I run a list of possible places I could be; Am I in a coma? Could this be a dream? Am I dead? Is this what it’s like to die? My mind is so occupied that I don’t notice the buildings getting closer. When I finally pull myself together, I find myself at the entrance to what looks like an abandoned city. The buildings look modern, but are covered in dust and grime, as though they have been exposed to the elements without any maintenance. But surely, there can’t be any elements here? There’s nothing else here! I call out into the depths of the city, my voice echoes down the narrow streets. Perhaps there’s a clue in here, something that will tell me who lived here before, and maybe where they are now… I begin my search of the city, walking down alleyways, peering into windows and rattling locked doors. Suddenly, a flash of pain courses though my body; a pain which I had never felt before in my life. It’s fiery hands claw at my chest, bringing me to my knees, tears streaming down my face. I let out a scream that scrapes the insides of my throat, as images of blood and violence and death flash through my mind. As the pain subsides, I look behind me and see it. Hurtling across the flat white plains is a monstrous mass of black smoke and vapor, constantly shaping and changing. And it’s heading straight for me. My heart racing, I turn and sprint as fast as I can into the depths of the city. I fly around corners and scamper through alleyways, desperately trying to put as much distance between me and that- that thing as I can. I see a fire escape ladder ahead of me, leap to grab it, and pull myself up. I flatten myself against the edge of the building’s rooftop as the smoke-monster passes by below me. I can see it better from here now. Different shapes are born from its surface; skulls, snakes, spiders, giant moths… it’s horrible. Sweat pours from my forehead and down my face as I struggle to catch my breath and try not to cry. What was it? Why did it want me? I figure that the rooftops are the safest place to be at the moment, so I make my way across them. The gaps between the buildings are rather wide, but for some reason I can clear them easily.
I wander the rooftops aimlessly for a while, unsure of what to do next. I could stay up here and risk starving to death, or I can risk being caught up to by the smoke-monster. My decision is made for me when the pounding returns to my head again and a piercing ringing fills my ears. This time, images of needles, machines, and people in masks fill my head as I struggle to recalibrate my senses. Across the rooftops in the distance, the smoke-monster is careering towards me at a tremendous speed. In my panic, I run to the edge of the rooftop and leap for my life. I hit the ground hard, but I am unhurt. I take off out of the city and across the white plains. I feel the smoke-monster’s presence behind me. It’s cold and robs the air from my lungs, drinking in my fear, my hate, my worry, my longing. My legs are getting tired, and lack of oxygen is making me light headed, but I can’t stop. I mustn’t stop. I will not let that thing get me. I will not give in.
“I will not give in!” I scream at it as I hurtle across the never-ending plains. I can still feel it behind me, so close to me, yet never within reach. Ahead of me, I see something. The whiteness of the horizon does not look so far away anymore. It looks solid… like a wall. I see the outline of a door through my dizziness and pounding head and I stagger towards it. I dare not slow down, lest the thing behind me catches up. I reach for the handle and turn.
I burst through the door, slamming it shut behind me. I look down to see a few black, smoky tendrils, feebly licking around my ankles, displeased that its prey had outrun it. I turn away from the door. I know I won’t need to worry about the monster anymore. The sight that reaches my eyes when I turn around takes me by surprise. I find myself in a clean, white room. An assortment of machines stand in a circular pattern around a table. The table is surrounded by doctors in white masks and wearing blue scrubs. On the table is a body…
I stare down in blind shock at my lifeless figure lying on the operating table. The doctors take no notice of me whatsoever as they rush around, injecting things into my body, removing things, sewing things, pumping things. I snap my fingers in one of their faces. No response. I realise that I must be invisible. Or a ghost. But I’m not dead. One of the monitors is showing my heart rate. It’s dangerously shallow. I realise now where I am… or where I was. I was in limbo. I’m not quite alive, but I’m not quite dead. Running forever from the fate that was soon to catch up with me. Now I have a choice. I could simply walk away; go back through the door and face what’s waiting for me on the other side. Or I could keep fighting. I’ve come this far… why should I give in now? I close my eyes and breathe out slowly.
Sound rushes into my ears as I gasp for breath. I hear the impatient beeping of the machines. I hear the doctors crying in relief as I take my first breath again.
“Someone check her responses!”
One doctor shines a light in my eyes as another clicks their fingers next to my ears.
“Responses normal. She’s good.”
Once again I close my eyes and let the blackness swallow me. When I awake, I find myself in a warm bed with soft pillows. The nightstand next to me is cluttered with flowers, cards, and chocolates. I smile to myself. I know I will die one day… but today is not that day.