I’m so pleased to have author, Annette Mori, on my blog today. She is the talented writer of the books, Out of this World, Love Forever, Live Forever, Asset Management, and Locked Inside.
Here’s an excerpt from Locked Inside, a story about overcoming great obstacles and freeing oneself from emotional prisons. But the heart of the story is about love.
Awareness came slowly to me, as the blanket of fog, smothering intelligence, rolled back. I imagined an intricate spider web in my head, tangled with fine silk strands. Wonder Woman was slicing through them like an adventurer hacking through a jungle.
I was still confused about where I was when I heard giggling. At first, I thought my sisters were invading my sacred space.
“Shhh, come in here and tell me every little detail,” a girl’s voice said.
“I don’t think we should be in here, Tammie. We’re supposed to be doing our volunteer hours, not screwing around in a resident’s room,” a different voice huffed.
I opened my eyes and a fuzzy picture began to emerge. Two strange teenage girls were huddled in the corner of a foreign room with sterile white walls. I wasn’t in my bedroom at home and I began to panic.
It’s probably hard for people to truly appreciate the terror that I experienced at this particular moment in my life. I had no idea where I was, who these strangers were, or what had happened to me. I would later discover that I’d lost six years of my life while hovering in a semi-comatose state. They never did figure out the origin of the illness or why I went into a coma and by the time I showed any awareness, six years had passed and my family had accepted the original prognosis that I would never recover.
The tall, skinny one with red hair shrugged. “Don’t be such a tight ass, Carly.” She pointed in my direction and giggled. “She’ll never tell.”
“That’s just mean.”
“What? She’s a vegetable, but right now she’s kinda creeping me out. Look, her eyes are open and it’s almost like she’s listening to every word we say,” the redhead blurted out.
The other one looked at me and frowned. “I think we’re upsetting her. She’s breathing really heavy now and I think she can hear us. Something is wrong. She looks terrified.”
I was trying to move my head, my arms, my legs, anything, but none of my body parts would cooperate with me. I felt my breathing quicken and I desperately wanted to communicate with them. I wanted to know where I was and why I couldn’t talk or move.
“She does look kind of agitated, Carly. Maybe we should get your mom.”
They left the room and I tried to move my head. I managed to move it a couple of inches as I took in my surroundings. I was able to shift my eyes from side to side as I noticed a TV mounted high on the wall in the center of the room and a single bed with a simple nightstand on my right. It looked like a typical hospital room, but I wasn’t positive. In my mind, I was still ten years old and my parents were nowhere to be found. I wanted my mom. I wanted reassurance that everything would be okay.
I heard the click clickclick of heels on the linoleum floor and watched as an attractive dark- haired woman entered the room. She had a stethoscope draped around her neck and one of the teenagers followed her into the room. They had similar features and I wondered if she was the mom the redhead referred to earlier.
“I’m sorry, Mom, Tammie dragged me in here. I didn’t mean to upset the patient but she looked like she was trying to say something. Her breathing got kinda fast like she was having a panic attack or something,” the young woman confessed.
Well, that answered that mystery for me. The beautiful girl must have been the one the redhead, Tammie, called Carly. As each minute passed, I was becoming more aware of my surroundings and I was working to remember little details like the names of the young girls.
“Carly, it’s not like you to get sucked into Tammie’s harebrained ideas. I taught you better than that. Belinda is a very special case, but I don’t think she actually heard you or that you upset her in any way. She’s been completely unresponsive for nearly six years. Unfortunately, her illness caused severe brain damage.” “I know she reacted to something,” Carly insisted. “Okay, let me check her out.”
The woman grabbed her stethoscope and I felt her hands push aside my clothing as she placed the silver end on my chest. Her hands were gentle, but the stethoscope was cold and I must have had some small reaction—although it didn’t feel like any part of my body would obey.
“I’m sorry, Belinda, did you feel that?” she asked.
Carly stepped up to the bedside and I could feel her touch my hand.
I looked down at my curled up hand, which resembled some kind of deformed claw.
“My mom’s a doctor. She won’t hurt you,” Carly soothed.
Since I wasn’t able to move any part of my body but my eyes and my head in incremental movements, I concentrated all my energy on letting them know there was someone locked inside this useless body. I wasn’t a vegetable.
“Hmmm, in all the years I’ve looked in on Belinda, she’s never reacted like this. She does respond to certain stimuli. We’ve always been able to feed her as long as someone touches her lips first. This is new, though. Her heart rate does appear to be elevated and there is definite movement in her eyes. Perhaps she is reacting to your voice.”
Yes. It was a start. I had to find a way to communicate and let them know I was aware and present. My instinct for survival and Carly’s soothing presence was enough to tamp down the initial terror I felt. Everything was still too new for me to truly experience the first stage in the grief process. That would come later and didn’t last long. I’d always been a practical child. It didn’t serve a useful purpose to deny my limitations, so I didn’t remain in denial for very long.
Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief don’t just occur when someone experiences the death of a loved one—a significant loss in one’s life can certainly trigger that grief process, as well. I’d lost my childhood and during the next several years, I spent various amounts of time in almost every stage—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
“Can I read to her or something, instead of the other duties the volunteers do? Please, Mom. You just said that maybe she reacts to my voice. I want to help,” Carly begged.
“We’ll see. I need to make sure that would be okay with everyone, but it may be beneficial to Belinda. I don’t want Tammie in this room though—she doesn’t have the same altruistic motives that you have.”
“Aw, Tammie’s okay, she just wanted to get the scoop on my date last night. She was way more excited about it than I was and I still don’t see what’s the big flippin’ deal. I’m not even sure I want to go out with him again.”
“Why not? Isn’t he the heartthrob of your school or something—captain of the football team and good looking by teenager standards? He seemed like a nice boy. Anyone who can put up with your father’s twenty questions can’t be all bad.”
“He is nice, but I just don’t get that excited feeling that I’m supposed to when I’m around him. It feels more like I went out with my brother. Maybe there’s something wrong with me. Tammie says the same thing—that I’m the luckiest girl in school since he picked me.”
“You have plenty of time to find the right one. I thought your dad was the biggest dork the first time I went out with him. I only went on a second date because I felt sorry for him and then he kind of grew on me.”
As mother and daughter had their little heart to heart conversation, I felt like an inanimate object. Something in the background that no one noticed unless someone pointed it out as if they were giving a tour of their house. I wanted Carly to stay and talk to me or read to me, but she left with her mother and I remained alone in an empty room void of any stimulation. I closed my eyes and tried to conjure up a mental picture of my family. I wondered where they were. The woman said I’d been unresponsive for six years. I wondered what had happened in those years. Was it only six years? Or was that merely the amount of time she’d worked here? Even if it was only six years, I was now sixteen years old. I’d already missed more than a third of my life. I had to find a way to break free of this prison because that’s what it felt like—a prison.
You can purchase Ms. Mori’s books at:
Thanks for reading!!