Saturday, 30 April 2016

Read To Me (Part One of Two)


We can’t really explain it.” The Doctor said. “His brain just doesn’t process the written word. There are some things, like dyslexia that can account for that, but this is something different. There aren’t any of the standard markers.”

So what does this mean for him?” His mother asked, worried.

Well, fortunately, there are all sorts of ways around the problem.” The Doctor explained. “If this had happened twenty years ago, he’d have no chance at a normal life.”

Morgan looked down at the notepad the doctor had given him. There was a scrawl of written words along the top of the page. He could tell when someone else had written them, but he just could not comprehend the story.

But the pen was in reach. Almost as a nervous habit, he picked it up and started sketching absently.

~~*^*~~

But I can’t draw!” Megan insisted. “I don’t know where it’s coming from!”

Give it a try.” Her mother insisted.

Megan picked up the pen, her hand trembling a bit, and she tried to slide it across the page. She could see the image so clearly, unfolding in front of her eyes. It wasn’t a photo or a half-remembered dream. She could see each mark appearing in front of her, like an invisible man was drawing it in front of her.

She put her mother’s pen to the pad, and tried to make it trace the lines… And her hand suddenly went sideways. The lines just wouldn’t line up if she was drawing them. Megan tried again, turning the neat sketch into a raw scribble… The failure made her want to cry. “I can see it!” She insisted. “It’s… I don’t know, an office somewhere! There’s a man in a coat, and three pictures on the wall!”

Her mother didn’t force her, pulling her into a tight hug. “It’s okay, sweetie. You’re young. Who knows, maybe you’ll grow into a real artist. But until then, don’t worry. Your brain is probably remembering things you’ve seen. A TV show we flipped past, a picture out of a book…”

Megan didn’t really believe that, but she didn’t say anything. She wasn’t getting a flash of memory, she was watching someone draw in blue pen. But there was nobody there. She watched the drawing evolve for a while, but it suddenly stopped, half finished.

She waited a while, but after a moment it faded away completely.

Megan noticed her mother staring at her, and the girl realized that she’d been gazing at a blank page for almost five minutes. She immediately pointed at the bookcase beside her bed. “Book!”

Her mother smiled, and pulled it out. “Okay. Can you read it? Your teacher says you should practice your reading as part of your homework.”

Megan smiled, because she liked this one. “Wise-d of ooze.”

Almost.” Her mother smiled, and traced the words with her finger. “Wizard of Oz.”

Megan nodded. “Chapter eleven.”

~~*^*~~

Well, the good news is, it’s not your eyes.” His mother said kindly. “But I didn’t think it was. You can see every detail of pictures and video games easily enough. And anyone who can sketch like you can…”

My teacher says they’re the best in class.” Morgan said proudly. “I get to use the good pencils, everyone else is stuck with crayons.”

Worth a thousand words.” His mother agreed.

Just then, someone else spoke. “Even with eyes protected by the green spectacles, Dorothy and her friends were at first dazzled by the brilliancy of the wonderful City.” A voice said. It was a little stilted, a little awkward, and the voice had to repeat things once or twice, but Morgan could hear a girl his age, speaking so clearly that he turned to look around. But there was nobody else in the car.

The streets were lined with beautiful houses all built of green marble and studded everywhere with sparkling emeralds.” The girl kept going. “They walked over a pavement of the same green marble, and where the blocks were joined together were rows of emeralds, set closely, and glittering in the brightness of the sun. The window panes were of green glass; even the sky above the City had a green tint, and the rays of the sun were green.”

Mom?” Morgan asked, a little nervous. “What’s an emerald?”

She seemed surprised by the question. “It’s a kind of jewel. Like a diamond. Very expensive.” She smirked a bit. “A little gaudy, but not enough to ever turn one down.”

Someone would have to be pretty rich to build a city out of emeralds.” Morgan guessed.

His mother smiled. “Ah. You’ve been watching ‘Wizard of Oz’.”

Morgan had never heard of it, but he nodded anyway. At six years old, he knew everything a person could know about secrets. Imaginary friends included.

But why does my imaginary friend have to be a girl? He wondered to himself. They’re icky.

Nevertheless, he listened to her, as she told him a story in his head. She stopped after about ten minutes, but somehow he knew she’d be back. 

~~*^*~~

Morgan and Megan kept each other a secret. Megan had tried to tell her friends once, but they thought she was weird, and stopped being friends with her. Megan had learned very early that nobody liked different things.

Morgan had always known. He told exactly one friend about the girl in his head, but he’d never heard the end of it afterward, and he’d learned the same lesson.

Even so, Morgan was glad to have her. When he’d gone back to school, he’d heard her voice again. She was reading a book that his class was studying. His teachers assumed that he was just a slow reader, and they had plenty of those.

Imaginary girl, you kept me from repeating kindergarten.” He beamed at his eventual report card that year. “How can I ever thank you?”

As usual, there was no answer. She never answered him, or any of his questions. He didn’t understand that, but discovered in first grade that she was only audible when she was reading a book.

Morgan didn’t quite understand that, but supposed if he was strange, then it made sense that his imaginary friends would be too.

~~*^*~~

Megan hated crafts. Her complete incompetence with crayons apparently extended to cutting out shapes, or gluing them together. After gluing her own fingers together twice, and accidentally slicing part of her shirt, she was allowed to sit out the art classes.

How you managed to cut your clothes with safety scissors, I will never understand.” Her mother chuckled. “But, you’re apparently doing well in everything else.” She tapped the report card. “You read and write at a fifth grade level, which isn’t bad for a first grader. You scored really high in observation skills.”

Megan’s smile vanished, but she tried to put it back quickly. What her mother didn’t know was that her talent for observing details had come from her ‘ghost-painter’. She saw his pens and paints drawing the school, the park, the mall… All the places she had gone at one time or another. It was easy to observe details when she was watching someone draw them carefully wherever she looked.

~~*^*~~

By third grade, Morgan’s imaginary friend was starting to worry him. He was old enough now to know that normal people didn’t hear voices in their heads. Much less voices reading books that he’d never heard of. But it wasn’t just books. He could hear her reading street signs, and shopping lists…

And things around him. Sometimes, he could hear her voice so swiftly after seeing the confusing jumble of letter-shapes that he wondered if he was developing the ability to read after all. The teacher would read something off the blackboard, and either a few minutes before, or a few minutes after, he would hear the words again from his imaginary friend.

~~*^*~~

Megan was starting to feel better about her imaginary friend. At first, the drawings that she had seen scrawled across the air were off strange, nonsensical things, but as time passed, and she became more aware of her world, the pictures made more sense. She was seeing drawings of streets and parks and even the school. Whoever was drawing things in her head, they were getting better at it.

And then, one day, she had to stay home from school.

~~*^*~~

Morgan’s class was reading Treasure Island. Morgan was sitting in his chair, staring at the page, a jumble of shapes he didn’t understand, bored out of his skull, as everyone else in the room seemed to enjoy an adventure.

He still understood when the other kids were speaking aloud, so he let them paint him a picture. It was nothing like when his Imaginary Friend did it for him. That was warm and exciting. The kids were all reading in a very stilted, awkward tone. Their teacher was terrifying, and quick to jump on the slightest mistake. There was no fun in it. It was a chore.

Still, he made the best of it. As the others used the words to figure out what was happening in the book, Morgan palmed a short pencil and started sketching out what they described, just so that he could follow it..

~~*^*~~

The picture in her mind was coming clearer. They weren’t just lines, or random marks. She tried again to follow them, but she just couldn’t make her hand work the same way. She could write letters, but… She just couldn’t do it. Her hand just wouldn’t draw the line.

But she could see it. She could see every mark being drawn. It was so clear against the blank white page, even if she was the only one that could see it.

The lines were… Clouds? What else… A ship?

She smiled broadly. The more the picture filled in, the more certain she became. She’d seen this image before. She immediately went to the shelf and drew down a book. Treasure Island was one of her favorites. She opened the book and flicked through the pages until she found the illustration in mind. She held up the book and compared it to the sketch that was drawing itself before her eyes. It was a match.

What are you trying to tell me?” She whispered. “Are you trying to tell me something?”

After a moment, she got back into bed and started reading.

~~*^*~~

Morgan? Since you have time to draw, would you mind reading the next chapter for us?”

It wasn’t fair. The teacher knew he couldn’t do it. All his teachers knew he was disabled when it came to words. Most of them were sympathetic… But Mrs Damon was one of those teachers that was convinced a student who couldn’t do something was just too lazy. It wasn’t that he had to fumble or stutter. He just couldn’t tell the difference between one letter or another. They all knew it, but only Mrs Damon forced him to do it every single time. It was ritual humiliation.

Without a choice, Morgan opened the book. He couldn’t even tell what the page numbers meant.

“There was a great rush of feet across the deck. I could hear people tumbling up from the cabin and the forecastle, and slipping in an instant outside my barrel, I dived behind the fore-sail, made a double towards the stern, and came out upon the open deck in time to join Hunter and Dr. Livesey in the rush for the weather bow.”

The words just suddenly started appearing in his head, and without thinking he started reciting them. “A belt of fog had lifted almost simultaneously with the appearance of the moon. Away to the south-west of us we saw two low hills, about a couple of miles apart, and rising behind one of them a third and higher hill, whose peak was still buried in the fog. All three seemed sharp and conical in figure....”

He wasn’t reading it. The letters were still a messy jumble on the page. Just blocks of vague shadow on a white background. He wasn’t reading, he was reciting something that someone was saying to him.

But as the class stared with their jaws hanging open… He read three pages before the Damon Beast let him stop and sit down.

But his imaginary friend was still going. Suddenly feeling much better about things, Morgan started sketching again.

~~*^*~~

The sketch in her head paused for a while as she read the book to herself… and then started to shift subtly. Now there were new things. Dolphins were leaping out of the water, fireworks going off in the sky. The cover of Treasure Island was suddenly a far more magical sight. It felt like her imaginary friend was rewarding her.

She smiled and kept reading.

~~*^*~~

Even after he put the book down, the words kept rolling through his mind. Mrs Damon was still looking at him oddly, wondering how he’d done it. As she did, Morgan sketched a few additions, just to be spiteful.

~~*^*~~

Megan giggled as the pirate ship in her mind added a gangplank. After a few moments, the person walking the plank became obvious. “Mrs Damon.” She giggled. “Or Mrs Demon, according to her students…”

Megan’s voice trailed off as the implications sank in. She didn’t have a class with Mrs Damon. It wasn’t the first time her imaginary artist had drawn things from her world, but she had assumed that it was her imagination running away with her. This was something entirely original. She’d never had a class with Mrs Damon…

Where is it coming from?” She asked herself. And her wonderfully quick mind, fed on stories of fairies and magic, made the connection. “Or… who is it coming from?” She looked up at the room. “Can you hear me?”

No answer. The image in her head was starting to fade. She glanced back at the book. The drawing in her head had come from a book, and then rewarded her with new details when she read it. But she’d been ‘seeing’ these images for a long time, so…

I can’t draw!” She whined.

There was a knock on her door. “Sweetie? Did you call me?”

No, mom.” Megan said immediately. “Can… can you pass my notepad?”

Her mother did so, checked her forehead, fussed a bit…

The second Megan was left alone, she asked the question, scratching out the words she didn’t dare say out loud.

~~*^*~~

My name is Megan. Are you real, or am I just crazy?”

Morgan twitched. His imaginary friend had never asked him a question before. Never spoken to him directly at all. He’d just heard her reading stories. Ones he didn’t know or recognize, but others that he knew from school.

And apparently, she had a name.

Crazy?” He answered, trying to whisper. “If one of us is nuts, it should be me. I’m the one hearing voices…”

Morgan, is there something you want to share with us?” Mrs Demon was quick to pounce.

No Ma’am.” Morgan assured her quickly. How am I supposed to answer if I can’t answer? He asked himself awkwardly. He didn’t even notice as his hand scratched out a quick doodle of a question mark.

~~*^*~~

Megan could ‘see’ a question mark appear before her gaze, and then a few more joined it.

Taking that as an encouraging answer, she kept writing.

~~*^*~~

Where are you?” He heard her voice.

How do I answer you without speaking? Morgan thought to himself, looking around for inspiration.

~~*^*~~

A new picture started coming into existence, one swift line at a time. Whoever was doing it was better than stick figures and boxy images. He was drawing in three dimensions. Megan was fascinated by it. She had no grasp of such things, and whoever her imaginary friend was, he was finally responding to her in some way she understood.

The picture was a sketch of a classroom. A classroom that she recognized. “Mrs Demon.”

Megan chewed her lip for a moment, and wrote again. “You’re in my school?”

~~*^*~~

Morgan heard that, and burst out laughing. He had to stifle it instantly, because the teacher sent him a hooded glare. Laughter was an uncommon sound in her purely evil presence.

But Morgan was fighting down a smile. It had never occurred to him that of all the kids in the world, his imaginary friend was real, and close by.

Thinking about what to send her next, he quickly sketched out the school cafeteria, and circled a table near the door. It was the closest thing to an invitation he could send.

~~*^*~~

Megan saw it, and jotted down her reply. “I’m sorry. I’m sick today. Mommy calls it a Stomach Bug. She says I’ll be back in school tomorrow. I want to meet you.”

A smiley face appeared next, and she settled down with her book, satisfied.

~~*^*~~

Morgan was nervous. His imaginary friend had a name, and if she didn’t show up the next day, then he was crazy. When his mother picked him up from school, he didn’t dare bring it up.

Okay, sweetie. Like before.” His mother pushed her smartphone at him.

His mother had been trying to teach him life skills that he could use without words. One of which was following maps on her phone. The GPS spoke directions aloud in real time. Whenever Morgan rode along with his mother on her errands, he got a clear picture of the map. His grasp of shapes made the maps easy to remember, but his lack of words made them tough to navigate for another person.

Left, right, pass two, left, pass three. Morgan knew the directions by rote. He could have walked to school with his eyes closed.

You are now passing Alda St.” The phone chirped robotically. “In forty five feet, turn left onto-”

Alda Street!” Morgan sat bolt upright in his seat. “I know that name!”

Of course you do, we pass it every day, before and after school.” His mother reminded him.

Mom, pull over!”

~~*^*~~

Megan was sitting in the kitchen, eating a snack, when her mystery classmate started drawing again. It took her a moment to realize what she was ‘seeing’. It was a quick sketch of her front door. She jumped up. “Mom, there’s someone at the door!”

Knock knock.

Good ears, sweetie.” Her mother grinned.

Megan bolted, and her mother quickly strode after her, catching up at the front door. “Sweetie, you know to let mommy answer the door, okay?”

Megan nodded, bouncing on her feet. Her mother opened the door, and there in front of them was a woman that Megan recognized from some of the drawings… and a boy her age, putting away a sketch pad. She caught a glimpse of the top page. It was a drawing of her house, identical to the one that was fading from before her eyes.

Hello.” Megan’s mother said politely. “Can I help you?”

I’m not sure, you’d have to ask my son.” The other adult took it in stride. “I’m Maura; we live on the other side of the block… in fact, I think we’re the house directly behind you.” She looked down at her son. “Morgan?”

Morgan. Her imaginary friend had a name.

Megan pushed past her mother and quickly wrapped Morgan in a tight hug. “You’re real.” She whispered in his ear.

So are you.” He whispered back, both of them quiet enough that their parents hadn’t heard them.

Well, I guess they know each other.” Megan heard her mother say wryly. “Pleased to meet you, Maura. I’m Sarah.”

~~*^*~~

How did you find me?” Megan asked once they were alone.

Every now and then, I noticed the names of streets. The signs were still a jumble to me, but my family was teaching me ways around the need for the written word. The GPS in mom’s phone spoke aloud, and she had me watch the map as it moved on the little screen. A map is almost a drawing, and that was something I can memorize perfectly.”

So when I read street signs on the way home from school, and you noticed some of the same names…” Megan realized.

Yeah. We were never that far apart, I guess.” Morgan looked awkwardly up at her bookshelf. “Have you read all those books?”

Some of them.” Megan nodded, and as she looked up at her shelf, he caught the echoes. Goodnight Moon. Where The Wild Things Are. The Hobbit. Watership Down. Kidnapped. Secret Garden.

Your lips aren’t moving.” He murmured. “But I can still hear you reading the book names.”

I never hear it when you read.” She pointed out.

He looked down. “I can’t even figure out the alphabet.”

Megan twitched. “I can’t figure out fingerpaints. Maybe that’s just how it works for us.”

Morgan didn’t answer for a while, still looking at his shoes. He looked smaller now, shamed. “At school, the teachers read to us. But when you do it… it’s like I'm reading it myself, only there isn’t a book there. It’s not like when you hear someone else saying stuff.”

She nodded. “When you draw in my head, it’s not like being in an art gallery. It’s way more… more than that.”

Maybe that’s just how it works for us.” Morgan almost whispered. “Why us?”

I don’t know. But I never met anyone who can’t read.” Megan said… and promptly pulled down a book at random. “Good thing you have me.”

~~*^*~~

A unique friendship formed within a few days. Neither of them had much in common, but for their odd connection.

Their respective families didn’t think there was anything unusual about them. To their parents, it was just two kids who knew each other from school, and found out they were neighbors.

What I don’t understand, is why they’re spend so much time together.” Maura wondered aloud as Sarah served her a cup of coffee. “You know what Morgan asked to do when we had Megan yesterday? He wanted to go to the library. He can’t spell his own name, but she took him through the whole library like she was giving him a grand tour.”

Megan loves her books. The other kids made fun of her a lot when she was younger. When she got past the whole ‘fingerpaints’ stage, they left her alone, but she doesn’t really trust people as much as a kid her age should.”

I know what you mean. Morgan went through it too.” Maura sipped her coffee. “Kids are animals. Way worse than when our generation were in school. You either join the pack or you get eaten. Our kids… I’m really glad they found each other.”

So am I.” Sarah agreed.

~~*^*~~

Years passed. They finished their first round of schooling and made it to High School. Megan went to a different high school, further away than Morgan’s, but they still lived on the same block, and with some experimentation, they discovered that distance made no difference to their connection.

When Megan’s class made field trips to the nearest art gallery, Megan sent pictures of the artworks on her smartphone. Morgan made quick sketches of the sculptures, and Megan was able to bluff her way through her classes, despite her complete blindness to all things artistic. After school projects like fundraisers and student body campaigns all took place after school. When volunteers were needed to make posters and banners, Megan put her hand up, and Morgan helped her every step of the way. Seeing things through his view made her aware of details she never would have noticed on her own.

~~*^*~~

What makes you think she’ll drop out?” Morgan asked with interest, still painting at his latest work.

That sketch you did?” Megan told him quietly, not looking away from her book. “I saw the stance you drew. I never noticed it before; but her posture has changed over the last month. She’s carrying herself more leaning backward, but with her head bowed. Plus, her wardrobe has changed. Apparently, my lack of understanding about colors and shapes extends to fashion, so I didn’t notice, but she’s stopped with the jeans and exercise tops.”

She’s putting on weight.” Morgan translated.

And she’s trying to hide it.” Megan agreed. “So either running for Student President is making her stress-eat her way off the cheerleading team, or the rumors about her fooling around with Timmy Faraday are true and she’s now cheerleading for two.” Megan agreed. “Either way, I might just win this thing now.” She turned the page. “Thanks for your help yesterday, by the way.”

If you ever tell my mother that I was helping you shop for prom dresses again…”

Well I can’t ask my mom, I’d go to school dressed as a nun. And I can’t ask any of my friends, because they don’t know that I can’t tell blue from green.” She smirked, turning the page again. “Do you have any idea what it’s like being a teenage girl who has no idea about clothes? It’s the high school equivalent of being a three legged puppy.”

Morgan snorted. “What do you think of this one?”

Megan didn’t have to look. His brushstrokes were appearing before her gaze, giving her a much clearer picture than anything she could see from simple canvas. “It’s the ballroom scene from Anna Karenina, right?”

Right.”

I like it. It was just the way I pictured it.” She nodded. “You know, if you put that skill into more generic scenes, you could probably sell some of these. If you did the train station scene, it’s just a mother and kid in an old-style station, on a misty night in an exotic land.” She shrugged. “I’d buy it.”

~~*^*~~

Morgan found that there was less reading involved in High School than he thought. His problems with letters apparently hadn’t extended to numbers, and he dropped the English classes as soon as he could. He’d become adept in bluffing his way through the rest of his classes by paying attention to what everyone said. Enough of his finals were oral exams that he could keep a decent grade, with Megan to help her with the rest.

~~*^*~~

I won’t help you cheat.” She said seriously.

I know you won‘t.” Morgan agreed. “And I don’t want you to.”

No, you just want me to be over here, casually reading a textbook while you’re sitting for your exam.” She retorted.

Look, it’s not like when were were in kindergarten. I can plead illiteracy with a lot of my teachers, and they make allowances. But for this one, I need you. We’ve been studying for this all month, you know where I’m at; you know how much I’ve learned.”

Enough to pass your tests.” She said seriously.

I know. But I need help reading the questions.” He explained. “It’s design and technology. The answers are mostly diagrams and pie-charts. I can handle those. But I need to know what the questions are first.” He held out an envelope. “I got a copy of last years exam from a guy who graduated my class last year. I haven’t read it. I don’t want you to read me the answers, I just need to make sure that I got the questions right.”

Megan sighed. “Fine. Where’d you get this, by the way?”

Jason.”

She flushed. “You bribed my boyfriend for his old homework?”

Hey, if I have to ‘listen in’ to you two sexting each other, I gotta get something out of it.”

She winced. “Oh no, you can ‘hear’ my text messages too?”

Only the ones you write, or the ones you read; same as always.” He teased. “He’s surprisingly creative for a seventeen year old boy.”

She flushed darker, and returned fire. “What about you? I saw the sketch you did of Penny Hartwood. You drew everything except her acne.” She nudged him jokingly. “Let me guess, you draw her portrait, make it look prettier than she really is, she ‘notices’ you looking and give it to her as a gift. She asks if that’s really how she looks, and you say it’s how she looks to you, and she swoons right into your arms?”

It’s the only reason any guy ever picked up a paintbrush.” Morgan smirked.

~~*^*~~

Their ability to help each other through each other’s lives had created an odd sort of symbiosis. When one of them left on vacation, even internationally, their connection stayed. She could still only see his artwork, even if only doodles; but their generation had grown up with emoji’s and text messages, and their semi-telepathic communications became more of a two-way street.

With only a year of school left, the future was in front of them, and neither of them knew for sure where it would lead, but neither of them expected anything like what really happened.

~~*^*~~

Megan was in class, and so bored she was afraid she was going to pass out.

Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored!

Morgan had the words scrolling through his head as she scribbled them down in her class notes, over and over.

He drew her a huge, frustrated exclamation point, then a small doodle of a stick figure hitting himself in the head with a hammer.

So bored! I’m losing brain cells, that’s how bored I am! I can actually feel time stopping! She wrote down for him to hear. Both their schools had a strict policy about texting or using smartphones in class, but what they had couldn’t be confiscated. Entertain me, before I start to melt into a puddle of boredom.

She saw a picture of a smiley-face, rolling its eyes.

You too, huh?

Another stick figure, this one lighting himself on fire.

Do you think teachers go into this line of work because they’re so boring, or does school make them that way?

A quick drawing of a school building, but the doorway and windows changed to look like a set of bloody jaws and cruel eyes.

I agree.

The school building stayed, but this time the drawing included a stick figure climbing out the window and running away from it.

She smothered a smile. You wanna play hooky? The idea had occurred to her too. In fact, a third of the class was doing the same. This close to the end of the year, there wasn’t really any reason to stay. She’d have been surprised if any of her own teachers would notice.

~~*^*~~

He was ahead of her. She knew, because he was drawing the street in one of his sketchpads. He had a knack for drawing a three dimensional image. She held her head still, and the image seemed to settle in front of her. The curb of the street, the points of a wooden fence along the road…

It was a game she played sometimes, to see if she could make the lines of his drawing match the real world precisely. He had come along this road, and his unique view gave him an almost photographic memory of the street. She could see cars in the image, smaller than they were in front of her, and she stepped quickly. He was somewhere up ahead, telling her where to find him. When the drawing matched the world, she’d be where he was…

And she saw him. Another ten feet ahead, just across the street. When she got closer, the lines of the sketch would match the world. The only thing he hadn’t added to the picture was himself, looking down at his omnipresent sketchpad…

She stepped off the curb, intent on sneaking up behind him. She kept her head very still, so that the image would line up perfectly…

Which is why she never saw the truck.

~~*^*~~

There was something on her face. She tried to reach up and pull it off, but she couldn’t move. “Uhh…”

Baby?!”

Mom?

Baby, just lie still; I’m going to get the nurse!”

I can’t see. The thought came to her. There’s something on my face and I can’t see.

And she passed out again.

~~*^*~~

When she came to again, she was a lot more alert. They told her everything. The accident, the fuel splashing, the fire…

Her first question: “Where’s Morgan?”

I’m here.” He called groggily from opposite her, and she knew instantly that he’d been hurt.

It could have been a lot worse.” Maura told her. “Morgan pulled you away before the fire caught you. Not in time to keep the fuel from doing damage to you both, but enough to keep you from third degree burns. He put the fire out before it got more than your clothes and hair.”

Megan felt a sudden cold premonition. He’d put the fire out before it could hurt her too badly? “Morgan, your hands?”

They’ll heal.” He said roughly.

Silence.

What about me?” She asked weakly. “Will my eyes heal too?”

~~*^*~~

Nobody had an answer for her. Not for another three days. The doctors took the bandages off… and there was nothing. No vague shape, no outlines. Just darkness. Her mother stayed and wept with her until visiting hours were over. She heard Morgan’s mother whispering something quickly across the room, but couldn’t make out what. The hospital went quiet. “Are they gone?”

Yes.” Morgan hissed, sitting up in bed.

What did your mom say?”

Nothing I didn’t already know.” He promised. She could hear blankets moving. She could hear him hissing in pain, the squeak of wheels on the IV.

No.” She put a hand out. “Don’t come over. Save your hands. Don’t pull on the IV line.”

Are you sure?”

Distance has never been a factor before, babe.” She whispered to her friend. “What did the doctor say about your fingers?”

He says I’ll be able to keep them all. Some of the motor controls might be… awkward for a while, until the skin grows back.” He chuckled darkly. “There goes my dream of being a hand model.”

Megan went numb. “We’ve been here… five days, right?”

Right.”

Not one friend from school has come to visit either of us. I know they announced it. Nobody. Not even Jason, and I let that rat get to second base.”

Yeah, well… we’ve made do without them. And let’s face it, we can’t be honest with them.” He scoffed to himself. “You know the first thing mom said when I woke up? She wanted to know how I could be so stupid as to cut school. You’re still wrapped up like a mummy, and the first thing mom does is kindly remind me that I should be ashamed of myself about study hall.”

Parents.” Megan scoffed. “No matter how bad your day, they can always lay a little guilt on top of it all.”

Morgan was silent a moment. “Thing is… she’s right. It’s my fault we were out there. It was my idea, and my drawing that distracted you.”

Megan sniffed. “I can’t read any more, Morgan.” She started to get choked up. “This always went both ways, but I can’t…” She sniffed. “Your hands will heal fast. My eyes won’t.”

She could hear his pencil scratching on the paper, and another simple crooked face appeared in front of her sightless gaze. He was trying to send a smile to her. “Stop with your hands.” She told him. “They’re hurt.”

I know. But…”

Put it down!” The girl barked, and Morgan obeyed quickly. The awkward, broken smile he’d drawn her faded, and there was nothing again. Their connection had been severed. It had been part of them so long that she couldn’t remember life without it, and now her eyes and his hands didn’t work.


END OF PART ONE