“When the sirens fade away, I fade away too. My whole body is in agony, every muscle tense and screaming. I want to curl up into a tiny ball and melt into a puddle on my bed.”
I run around in my backyard, playing a fun game called Red Light, Green Light. I am playing with my four best friends: Morgan, Miranda, Miriam, Mira, and me, Madison.
“Caught you!” Miranda shouts in glee at me as I wobble over. Suddenly, I fall to the ground, clutching my side. It feels like a side stitch, just worse; a million times worse. I scream in agony and I can barely stand up.
After staying there for a while, the pain finally begins to subside and I slowly get up. My tear-streaked face looks around. All of my friends are staring at me oddly. Finally, Miriam takes me by my arm back into my house. Then, all my friends leave.
My mother knows that something is wrong with me. However, she doesn’t know what. She thinks that I’ll be alright, I probably just got a cramp. She was wrong, and not doing anything was the biggest mistake she has ever made.
The next day is my 14th birthday. Little do I know that it is my last. The pain gets so bad that we go to the hospital, but the doctors can’t find out what is wrong with me. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I keep getting sudden pains all over my body. Once, my heart stops beating. Luckily, there is a nurse in the room and she rushes for help.
Everyone comes into my hospital room to give me get-well cards and presents. They know that I will be alright. After all, I am only an eighth grader, I’m not going to die or anything. They are horribly wrong. The pains get worse and I begin having a hard time breathing. The doctors put an oxygen mask over me while I sleep or else I might suffocate.
The next day, things start getting out of control. I wake up in excruciating pain. There are doctors and nurses shouting “Code blue in 4-8.”
I already know that my room is 4-8. I wish that someone would take me out of this misery. There are sirens going off of my heart monitor and all the other fancy machines around my bed. Soon, those sirens began to fade away. I know what this means. When the sirens fade away, I fade away too. My whole body is in agony, every muscle tense and screaming. I want to curl up into a tiny ball and melt into a puddle on my bed.
I see a helpless doctor that is standing right next to my bed. He doesn’t know what to do and is staring at me as I slowly die. I let out a strangled gasp and that is my last breath. I close my eyes, see a bright flash, and leave this world.
It is a dark and stormy day when I see Courtney Quinn walking down the sidewalk. I jump back in surprise, for she died three years ago from cancer! Then, I realize that it is probably Miriam Quinn, her daughter, and also one of my best friends. She is walking around in the rain without an umbrella or a care that I am staring at her. I get a closer look and know, this can not be Miriam. She is way too old and looks exactly like Courtney did before she died, even with the same exact clothes on.
I turn around and I don’t know where I am. It looks like a hotel, or a very fancy apartment. The room is very decorated and doesn’t look like anything that I have ever seen before. I search through my memory, looking for some kind of information that would tell me how I got in this mysterious place. However, I draw a blank. I can’t seem to remember anything except the fact that I belong here. Still, I know I remember some things because I remember Courtney and Miriam.
I wander out of my room and spot someone else in the hallway. There is someone that has their head down, slowly counting some kind of currency. When that person lifts his head, I see his face. It is my great-grandfather. My great-grandfather had died before I was born, but the pictures that we had were a spitting image of the man in front of me right now.
I am starting to get freaked out. I see a group of girls pass by me who look suspiciously like the group of girls in the newspaper that had died in a forest fire.
I don’t know where I am, and I am starting to get creeped out by the fact that there are a bunch of people walking around that are supposed to be dead.
Everyone in town has an odd look about them. Some people are wearing very old-fashioned clothes, clothes that I have never seen someone wear before. There are girls and women wearing really uncomfortable-looking dresses, very old-fashioned dresses. Others are wearing headdresses made of feathers. Then, realization hits me. Those girls and women wearing those dresses are from a long time ago, from the pioneer times! And those people wearing headdresses. Those are probably Native American chiefs. How are they still alive, and what are they doing here?
I am so confused, and I don’t even know how I got here! No one even talks here! Over half of this town looks like they are going to a costume party! I open my mouth to say something, anything to myself.
Hello, I mouth to myself. I want to scream, and I probably would if I could make any sound. I am like everyone else! I can’t talk! I feel so confined, so limited and it makes me feel claustrophobic in some kind of weird way. And then, that’s when I figure it all out. Why I am here, how I came here, and what all these people are doing here: I am dead, just like the rest of the people around me. And my room…
I lean outside to confirm my suspicions. On the exterior wall, there it says,
My room is a gravestone. This place is a graveyard. And I will never be able to escape.
As I figure this out, bits and pieces of my past return. I see myself leaning over on the ground, holding my side. Then, I see it. Nurses calling “code blue,” then me. Myself dying. My sight is blurred by tears and I wipe away the tears. I never got to say goodbye to my parents. Not to my friends. Now, I am stuck in this wretched place where only dead people are. I want to go back. I want to return back home.
I realize that I can leave my grave and go out on the street. When I do, I look down and realize that I can see down on Earth! I see people at a funeral and realize it is my funeral! I spot Morgan, Miriam, Miranda, and Mira huddled together with tears streaking across their face. Then, I see my parents crying together. I wish that I could go down into my funeral and comfort them. I wonder if I can!
In this place, life is not fun. In this place, life is a void of emptiness and nothingness. There is nothing fun to do here. My theory behind this reasoning is that most people that go to the graveyard are very old. Many people all over the world die from old age and infirmity. Usually, people that die from sickness are older as well, around my parents’ age. However, there aren’t many children in this place. In fact, I haven’t seen a single person my age.
When I go to the graveyard manager, I write down a question for him.
How do I go back to Earth and get my life back?
“One second,” the manager says while flipping through a book. It feels relieving to hear at least one person talk in this silent and horrible world. “Here, found it! You must find the Flower of Cator and crush it along with some Amberse Water. Then, you must spread the poultice on your head and temples to rejuvenate the life there in your brain, for it is believed that your soul is actually in your brain. The only thing that I can help you with is this.” And with that, the manager leaves, leaving only a glass vial and a piece of paper behind.
I pick up the vial, wondering what it is. Then, I realize that it contains that Amberse Water, which I needed to mix with the Flower of Cator! Then, I pick up the paper and see that they are directions on how to find the Flower of Cator. I read the first instruction.
Okay, so I know that I need to find this ‘Master of Meditation’ person. I see an old man that is sitting down with his legs crossed and arms in front of him. He is meditating. He will probably know how to find this Master of Meditation person. I walk up to him and show him the paper and Amberse Water.
“You are looking for the Flower of Cator?” the man rumbles. I jump back in surprise, both because of the fact that he can talk and also that he already knows what I need. The man taps me on the throat and I fight the urge to run away. What is this creep doing? Then, I realize. This man is the Master of Meditation. “Speak!” the man announces. I look at him oddly. After all, shouldn’t he know that I can’t talk?
I clear my throat and attempt anyway. “H-hello?” I mutter under my breath. “Hello!” I exclaim in excitement. “My voice! It’s back!”
“Wow, I totally couldn’t tell,” the Master of Meditation groans. “Call me Mac. That was my name before…” his voice trails off. I decide not to question him because it’s obvious he doesn’t want to talk about it. “Now, you seem to be pretty confident about this Flower of Cator.”
“Yes,” I agree. “I really need to find this Flower so that I can get my life back and return back to Earth. I really miss my family and friends.”
“Well, I don’t think I can help you with that,” the man says to me, beginning to leave.
“Wait! Please! I’ll do anything!” I plead to the man.
“Anything,” the man says with a smile beginning to creep up on his face. “You say? Well, then, I will help you. However, you must do everything I ask of you.”
By now, I am so desperate to get back to Earth, I accept. If I don’t get back to Earth, I’ll be stuck in this place forever! I don’t think I can survive with so much boredom in this place! We agree to meet at Dead Man Hill the next day.
When I wake up the next day, I stretch and get ready to head for Dead Man Hill. When I get there, I see Mac already standing there underneath the hill. He seems impatient and irritated that I am late, but we never even had a certain meeting time. He just said, morning. Technically, if he is annoyed that I am so “late”, he is to blame for not telling me when we were going to meet up. After all, he was pretty vague on the time for meeting.
“Finally, you’ve come here,” Mac grumbles softly. “And don’t talk too loudly. After all, we don’t want those old grumps to be suspicious at you.”
I want to tell him that he has no right to call those old people old grumps because he is one himself, but I bite my tongue. I don’t want to annoy Mac because he is the only chance of me ever returning back to Earth with my family and friends!
Mac has a lot of drills for me to do, and they are all puzzles. Puzzles to test my logical ability and other things like that. Here is one of my puzzles:
I don’t understand what help this will be to me. All I need is directions that lead to the Flower of Cator. However, I don’t want to question his way of thinking.
After all of those puzzles, Mac makes me do all of his housework. He makes me mow his lawn and do his laundry. After I finish cleaning two extremely large windows, I realize now I’ve been bamboozled.
“You’re not really the Master of Meditation, are you?” I accuse to Mac.
He shrugs. “I never said I was,” he replies. “You always just assumed it. Anyway, I got a lot of good things out of this. Thanks Mad.”
And I am very mad. Just like my nickname. In fact, I am furious. I storm out of Mac’s house, making a point to spill dirty water all over his floor and windows, then toss the dirty sponge and towel at his chest.
I can’t believe that he tricked me into believing that he was actually the Master of Meditation. I was so stupid.
The next day, I set out to look for the real Master of Meditation. And then, I realize something. How did Mac return my voice if he wasn’t the real Master of Meditation. It hits me like a car. The real Mac was at the place two days ago. However, yesterday, the real Mac didn’t show up. Meaning Mac was probably locked somewhere, or was taken somewhere! I have to find him, now!
I head to the place where I first met Mac, in the lobby of my graveyard apartment. I don’t see anyone there, but I suddenly hear some muffled screams. I hear them coming from the janitor’s closet, so I rush over there.
The door is locked. Luckily, I have a bobby pin with me because I need to hold back my long hair while playing soccer. I quickly pick the lock and open the door. I see Mac in there all tied up with a gag over his mouth.
“Mac!” I cry out in horror. I quickly untie the ropes that are holding him back.
“Uh oh,” Mac mutters. “Look behind you.”
I slowly turn around and see that every single person in the lobby is staring at me with disbelief as if I had grown another arm. Then, I realize why they are staring at me! I cried out ‘Mac’ really loudly and other people must have heard me. I want to run away but my legs aren’t functioning properly right now.
The crowd closes in on us. It’s like a zombie apocalypse is attacking us, millions of people. Finally, my instincts return and I grab Mac’s arm and we run out of the building.
“Are you crazy?” Mac asks me. “What are you thinking, talking that loud in front of all those people out there!”
“I’m sorry, okay?” I retort. “I’m still trying to get used to the fact that I can’t speak with freedom.”
“Well, it’s a good thing that you found me. I thought I was going to suffocate if I had to stay there any longer. Luckily, oxygen was coming through the bottom of the door. I’m very claustrophobic, you know. What took you so long?” Mac rapidly asks. I am so annoyed.
“You’re lucky I even came to save you. Instead of complaining, you might want to thank me for saving your butt right there!” I yell at Mac.
“Geez, I’m sorry,” Mac mutters.
We head off in silence. We can’t hear the crowd of people anymore, but we couldn’t hear them in the first place anyway. After we travel a long way, Mac stops me to talk.
“Look, it’s time that I tell you how you’re going to get the Flower of Cator,” Mac tells me. “I can’t come with you because if I come in a one-mile radius of the flower, you and I will get trapped forever. This flower is very heavily guarded. There are only two. There used to be three, but I took one of them. The reason why I’m not on Earth is because I only had time to put a little on my head before they caught me. Don’t ask me who they are. There is a certain scent that will knock out the guards. You must carefully pluck the flower with its roots as well, for it must thrive or it will disintegrate if it dies.”
I process all the information that I have learned. Then I ask a question to Mac. “Where will I get this scent from?”
“I have it,” Mac takes it out of a heavily padded container. Then, he takes out two sets of nose plugs. “Here, open it after putting on the nose plugs.”
I open the container and I can smell it, even through the nose plugs! It smells horrible! I feel like I’m going to hurl. If it weren’t for the nose plugs, I probably would have passed out from the smell. I quickly close the container. Then, I reach to pull out my nose plugs, but Mac stops me.
“Don’t,” he warns me. “The smell stills lingers for a couple hours. Leave them in until we go to bed.”
It is a couple hours ‘til it was time for me to sleep, so I decided that decision to be wise. We head over the hill and soon, the sun sets. I can see a faint blue glow very far in the distance.
“That’s the natural glow of the Flower of Cator,” Mac explains after seeing me looking. “When the glow begins to fade, the flower is dying. This species of flowers used to be invasive, but soon, they began to die out. Rangers tried to destroy these flowers with acid and poison but it didn’t work. In the end, they destroyed it with fire. However, the chemicals from the acid and poison caused the flowers to become supernatural. They got a blue glow to it and possessed supernatural healing and rejuvenating powers.”
We set up camp and I remove my nose plugs. I can just barely smell the scent of the liquid in the vial.
“It’s Aceart Water,” Mac explains to me. “It’s sucked from the Aceart plant.”
I nod in interest. This world turns out to be a lot more interesting than I thought it would have been when I had first died.
The next morning, Mac tells me his whole story. Mac isn’t dead; he is very different from everyone else in this world. In fact, Mac is in the real world right now, but he’s also in this world. The reason is that Mac got into a really bad accident and he fell into a coma. When he fell into a coma, the doctors tried really hard to wake him from that coma. However, for the past nine years, Mac had never woken from his coma. Mac came very close to death many different times. Because of this, he became a part of this world. However, Mac says that he is kind of in between this world and the world where he is in a coma.
The reason why Mac has the ability to return my voice and do many other things is because he messed up. Mac wanted to return back to the regular world, all rejuvenated, but he failed to do so. Like me, he attempted to get the Flower of Cator. He did get the flower, but he didn’t get Amberse Water. Mac thought that it was Amberse Water, but it was more of a copycat, a type of liquid that would give supernatural powers. This was called Ravenkint water. He spread the poultice over his head and temple, but only had enough time to use a little bit of it before he was caught. Mac only got small bits of abilities, but he used them to his advantage. Unfortunately, due to this mishap, being caught anywhere close to the Flower of Cator will be big trouble for Mac if anyone finds out.
After he tells me the story, we begin traveling once again. I can tell that we are close to the flower; I can feel it. It is like a sixth sense to me. After long, hard traveling, we finally reach the botanical garden where the two flowers are being kept.
“I’ll be waiting for you,” Mac tells me. “Blow this if you need help, and make sure to use that Aceart Water,” and hands me a whistle. It kind of looks like a dog whistle, and I wonder if it works like one too. I decide not to attempt blowing into it unless I got into a lot of trouble.
Mac slips away and I slowly creep towards the flower. At the last second before I enter the building, I remember to put on my nose plugs. I rummage through my bag for the nose plugs, but I can’t find them! I realize that I must have left them with Mac! Uh oh! I’m in big trouble now. What am I going to do without the nose plugs! Suddenly, I spot some really nasty smelling plant. I form a plan in my head.
I walk towards the group of guards surrounding the plant with those smelly plants stuffed up my nose. I must look really weird with those plants up my nose because one of the guards stare at me as if I’m mentally ill. Before any of the guards get the chance to ask me something, I open the vial of Aceart Water and one by one, the guards topple over like dominos.
After they are on the floor, I reach over to pick one of the flowers. There are two, one seeming younger than the other. I pick the older one and quickly flee the place.
Outside, Mac is waiting for me. “Did you get it?” he whisper-shouts.
“Yes,” I reply. I am about to take the Amberse Water out of my backpack when suddenly Mac reaches for the flower. My reflexes kick in and I jerk the flower away from the reaching hands of Mac. “What are you doing?” I demand.
“Madison, you are such a gullible child,” Mac laughs. “Don’t you know that I tricked you? That I wasn’t actually helping you?” All the pieces come together. Of course! Mac had played me. He just tricked me. He needed the flower to heal himself!
“So all my hard work was for nothing!” I shout at Mac. I am livid.
“Of course not!” Mac protests. “I need you to do all the manual work and get the flower for me, for I couldn’t get it myself after the last mishap.”
I am furious at Mac for tricking me, and myself for falling for it. I run away, trying to escape from Mac. All my hard work had gotten me this flower and Mac hadn’t done a thing! Unfortunately, Mac was unusually speedy for someone his age. However, I knew that Mac would never be strong enough to climb a tree.
I never climbed a tree, not even when I was a little girl. I hated getting dirt on my hands and also, my hands were really soft and it hurt when I even tried to do the monkey bars. Climbing trees was never my type of thing. Although this crisis was just hitting me, I tried to channel my inner monkey and grabbed a branch and began to climb. When I was close to the top, the branch broke and I almost went tumbling down 15 feet, but a stray branch broke my fall and also knocked the wind out of me.
I was right about Mac being unable to climb the tree. He lingered at the bottom shouting, “You can’t stay up there forever! You’ll come down eventually for the Amberse Water!” However, he didn’t know that I had the Amberse Water in my backpack.
I slowly pulled it out of my backpack and yelled back at Mac, “I have the Amberse Water right here!” and waved the vial. That was it. That’s all it took to set off Mac with shouts of anger.
I took out the flower and I remembered that I had to crush it. However, I didn’t have a rock or anything to crush it with, so I knew that I only had one choice.
I popped the flower in my mouth and began chewing on it. I pleaded that this flower wasn’t poisonous. The Flower of Cator actually had a fruity taste to it! After the poultice seemed pretty chewed up, I spit it out on my hand and poured in some of the Amberse Water. After mixing it together, I spread all of it over my forehead and temple. I even put some on my scalp.
After this, I could still hear the faint shouting of Mac as my skin began to glow. I was going back home.