‘Dylan… Dylan! Dylan, help! Help!’
‘I can’t… Can’t move…’ Dylan’s voice was barely a whisper, a hoarse croak as the fire burned inches from his face, the crackling of the flames mingling with the frenzied screams coming from above him… With all his effort he tried to open his eyes, using every last ounce of energy to prise them open, just a millimetre… The flames were dancing, writhing about…
No… Not flames…
Dazedly, Dylan found that he could open his eyes fully. Lifting his heavy head, he gazed through the window.
Not flames. Leaves. Autumn leaves.
‘Hush, Dyl. You’re okay bro. Go back to sleep.’
Turning his head, Dylan was vaguely aware of a figure sat by him.
The woman began to speak again, but already Dylan was fading back into the darkness, back into the silence.
The woman smiled sadly to herself. He was so close that time…
‘Dylan, help! HELP!!’
‘I can’t!’ Dylan shot up in bed, the shrieking voice echoing in his ears. Confusedly, he brought a hand up to his face and rubbed his eyes, looking around at the tiled, sterile walls of the small room he was in. Where was he?
‘Ah, you’re awake duck! How’re we feeling? Do we need some more sleep?’
Looking to his right, Dylan saw a smiling stranger dressed in scrubs beaming at him. ‘I… Er… I…’
‘Would you like to try and get up a little?’
Silently, Dylan nodded his head. He felt so tired, so weary, but as if he’d slept for a thousand years. Frowning, he began to push back his bed covers.
The stranger watched, smiling maternally. ‘That’s right, duck. You climb on top of those covers, but don’t try and get up yet. You’ve been gone a long time, duck, you’ll tire yourself out trying to walk about! I’ll pop and get your visitor.’
Obediently, Dylan climbed stiffly out of his bed sheets and lay back on top of them, resting his head on his pillow. Why was it such a struggle? Massaging his temples, he tried to think, tried to collect his jumbled thoughts.
What the hell was going on?
‘Dyl?’ Dylan raised his head a little as a different woman walked through the door. This one was familiar, he was sure of it…
‘You were here before?’
Smiling gently, the woman came over to Dylan’s bedside and sat in the green, plastic chair set out. ‘Course I was, Dylan. I’ve been here every day. How’re you feeling?’
Bleary-eyed, Dylan tried to focus his vision. The woman’s face swam into place in his memory.
‘Yes! That’s me. Good to know your mind didn’t go completely!’ Robyn joked, a little flatly. Not responding, Dylan stared blankly at his sister. Something was different…
‘You look weird.’
‘Gee thanks bro! You look a bit on the strange side, sleeping beauty.’ Chuckling, Robyn leaned forward and took her brother’s hand. His mind still a little addled, Dylan pulled it away.
‘No, Robyn… You’re… You look all… Old…’
Robyn’s face creased into a frown. ‘Dylan… Has no-one told you anything?’
Shaking his head dumbly, Dylan continued to stare at his sister. She wasn’t the teenager she should be, wasn’t the carefree young girl she was in his memories. She was older, a little harder…
What the hell was going on?
‘For gnomes sake…’ Robyn buried her face in her hands for a few seconds, thinking. ‘Dylan… You’ve been… Well… You’ve been here for a year and a half. And you were at Sacred Spleen for about, what, six months?’
Dylan started to get a little worried, his heart racing. ‘Robyn, would you please tell me what the hell is going on? Where am I?’
Her face softening, Robyn reached out once more for her brother’s hand. ‘Dylan… You’re in hospital. You’re in Wolfson’s Hospital and Research Facility. It specialises in… Well, cases like yours. You were transferred from Bridgeport; Dad wanted to make sure you got the best care possible.’
Robyn thought for a second. ‘Do you not remember anything at all?’
‘There… There was the fire…’
‘Yes. Dylan, you were trying to put out the fire by yourself, but it was too strong. The smoke was too much for your equipment and you passed out. Thankfully you fell away from the flames, otherwise you would’ve been burned far more severely than you actually were…’ Dylan’s free hand flew to his face, feeling for scar tissue.
‘No, no… You only suffered first degree burns, mostly on your legs. They’re fine now, they healed brilliantly. It was the smoke that did the damage… Will, you remember Will? He opened the door and found you once he realised that you weren’t calling back to him any more, he dragged you into the boy’s room then managed to get a signal to the backup crew that were coming in from uptown to help you guys out. You all got out, but you… Well, you were totally unconscious by the time you got to hospital. Your face was totally black with soot, you were unrecognisable when I saw you. Your brain was starved of oxygen for a while, if you’d been laid out just ten seconds longer you wouldn’t have… You… Well. You’ve been in and out of consciousness ever since, Dyl. Not in a coma, not quite, just… Sleeping. A really, really deep sleep. The doctors said it was just your brain’s way of recovering, of resetting itself after such a massive trauma.’
Robyn fell silent, holding Dylan’s hand tight, her face pale. It had been a long two years for her.
‘No, Dylan. You need your strength. I’ll go see where that doctor’s got to, the nurse who came to find me said she’d send someone along.’ Forcing a smile, Robyn let go of Dylan’s hand and headed out the door, leaving Dylan alone with his thoughts.
He’d almost died. Just ten more seconds, and he wouldn’t be here.
‘Right then, Mr. Rivers! Let’s check you over, shall we?’ A woman in a white coat strode into the room followed by Robyn, who resumed her familiar position on the green chair. ‘It’s good to see you awake, finally!’
‘Oh love, wait until you see your rest home! I managed to get them to let me redecorate it a little, make it feel a bit more like home,’ Ivy beamed. A few weeks had passed since Dylan had finally woken, and it was time for him to move from the hospital into a ‘rest home’, a small house close to the hospital where he could start to look after himself once more while still having the nursing staff close to hand should he need them.
‘She really has, son! It’s a cracker of a place. I just wish you could come and stay with us, but our place has too many stairs,’ Ethan said a little sadly. After Dylan had been transferred to Wolfson’s the rest of the family had moved out to be closer to him, renting a house on the north side of the town.
Dylan grinned at his father. ‘It’s fine, Dad. I’m sure I’ll be fine. Besides, Robbie’s said she’s going to stay with me for the week.’
‘Yeah, and you’d better do everything I tell you!’ Robyn joked, pointing a stern finger at her brother.
‘Course I will,’ Dylan replied, rolling his eyes. ‘I will come and visit though, Dad, once I get my strength up. What’s your place like, anyway?’
‘Oh Dylan, it’s a beauty of a house!’ Ethan said enthusiastically, his old eyes shining. Dylan had received quite a shock when his father had walked into his hospital room with greying hair, his slight creases deepened into wrinkles. He was still the same man inside though.
‘We’ve got a garden, and we grow our own vegetables!’ Ethan continued. ‘Your mother has been teaching me how to grow them! I ate my very own tomatoes yesterday!’
‘Aw, Dad! I’m so proud of you!’
‘You say that, Dylan, but you should’ve seen his first two attempts at growing them,’ Robyn smirked. Ivy leaned forward and lightly smacked her wrist.
‘Now you! Don’t go rubbishing your Father’s achievements!’ she grinned, remembering Ethan’s drooping, yellow fruits he had produced the first time.
‘Well I’m really looking forward to trying some of your home-grown produce, Dad,’ Dylan smiled at his Father. ‘Seems like you’ve really taken to country life!’
‘You know, I really have,’ Ethan said thoughtfully. ‘I kind of thought the world ended outside of the city, even though I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of it. But I’ve really loved it here. I’ll be sad to go back, to be truthful.’
As the family thought about what Ethan had just said, Dylan’s doctor poked his head around the door. ‘Dylan, your transport is on it’s way. You’d better get dressed!’
‘Right, that’s our cue to leave,’ Ivy said as she got up, struggling a little. ‘I’m so pleased you’re on the mend, kid. You gave us such a fright.’
Dylan got up and embraced his Mother. ‘I’m so, so sorry for putting you through all this, Mum…’
‘Oh, don’t be daft, you!’ Ivy hugged her boy tightly. ‘It wasn’t your fault! I’d really appreciate it if you wouldn’t do it again, mind you!’
Dylan laughed to himself. ‘I’ll try my best, Mum!’