Maria: D minus 23h : 42m : 00s and holding

pg | no warnings apply



Don't go.

If this money gets me a good doctor and makes me better then I want that, too, but I don't want you to go. I wish you could take me. I know you can't do that. I don't understand why you can't even call. If people really go to Mars they'll have phones. You told me the other day - or maybe years ago - that people are starting to live on the Moon. I'm sure they have phones and internet and everything. It's ... it's ... I don't know what year it is.

I'm ... I know this ... you said it at my last birthday. I'm ... I think I'm twenty. Or twenty-two. Unless I'm always just dreaming.

Carlos.

No.

Please, no, don't take me now. He's going to go and I don't know when -

"Dad wants me to pay back the four hundred dollars and I don't think it's fair! I thought I was going to like playing the clarinet and it's not my fault that I didn't. He can totally sell it on eBay and make most of the money back."

Carlos makes a face at her. "But you've been putting your mouth on it. Doesn't it have all your ... spit in there?"

"Come on, you have to talk to him! It'll take me a year to pay him back with my allowance." She slumps in the chair and sulks.

"You could get a job."

"I am fourteen, Carlos! There are child labor laws!"

You're still here. Was it only a moment? Or has it been the whole week? Do you have the new doctor?

It's 2028, I think.

That's what year it is.

Don't cry. Please don't cry.

Can the government really take away the money for my hospital bed? Will I die if they do that? I don't want to die, Carlos. I don't understand.

I can hear you. I can. I try to wiggle my toes or move my fingers every time you ask me. Please don't think I'm not here. I go other places sometimes but those are just dreams, right?

She's laughing at Luke's last text when somebody screams and she looks up to see the bus driver slumped over. The bus isn't slowing down and they'll be at the bridge soon, so she drops her phone and tries to run to the front. Mitch is there first and he's trying to do something with the key. She pulls on the driver's leg but he's so heavy and then there's a crash.

Everyone is screaming and she's falling because the railing on the bridge broke and -

I hate these the most. I can smell the nasty water and taste it. I don't know why I dream about dying so much.

If I really am going somewhere and they're not dreams, what happens to me if I die here? If the government takes my bed and I die, will I go to one of these other places?

There are places where Mom and Dad are still alive and sometimes I think I would like to stay there. I don't want to leave you. But I'm happy in those places and we're all together. If it's ... it's 2028 and I think I remember you talking about Christmas, then I'm twenty-two. Is my body still like it was when I was twelve? Have I grown at all? If my body is an adult's but my mind is still twelve how can I go back to school? I can't get a job. I couldn't even pass pre-algebra.

I'm scared to wake up, Carlos. I know that's bad. I know you've been trying so hard to help me and I don't want to die but I'm scared about what's going to happen if I wake up. I ... I ...

"I just want you to sign the damn papers, Dave." She opens her desk drawer and pulls out her wedding ring. She'll never wear it again but she doesn't want to get rid of it and she doesn't know why.

The photos from the private detective prove he used to wear his all the time while he was fucking her best friend.

"California is a community property state, so good luck with that, shithead."

She presses the END CALL button with as much force as she could, wishing the phone would somehow transmit that to him.

Her ring isn't even real gold. She checked.

I think it's getting worse. I think when it started it wasn't this fast. The dreams would go on for hours or maybe days. I would be there so long that sometimes I thought they were real and this was the nightmare.

Some of the dreams are so boring. Like, I'll dream about reading a book. I can tell you all about Breakfast at Tiffany's because I had a dream I had to read it for a book report. I didn't like it and you said the movie was better. Can we watch it when I wake up?

I dream about fighting with Dad because he didn't like my boyfriend. Or having to vacuum my room. But I dream about dying in the fire or being attacked on the street and having my neck cut. I don't like those.

And I keep having the one where I'm in a bed just like this because of the radiation. Because there was a bomb. I really don't like that one, Carlos. My skin peels off and everything hurts and there are so many people like me in the hospital. I know something bad is happening. You don't visit me. That's how I know you're dead there.

I have that dream all the time. It scares me more than anything.

"Sine is ... okay, it's ... tangent is on the bottom, right?"

"Maria..." He's disappointed in her. She can tell.

"I really did study, Dad!" She starts to cry. "Some people just aren't good at math. It's not my fault."

"Opposite over hypotenuse," he says, a little more gently.

"I'm never even going to use this. Lawyers don't need to know math."

He peers at her from over his glasses.

"Not trigonometry!"

What if the only reason I don't get lost in these is because you talk to me every day? Can't you sneak a phone in? They're not going to search you. Right? The nice nurse would hold a phone right up to my ear.

None of this is fair. Why won't the government pay for this better doctor? Why do you have to go away? Why did this happen to me in the first place? I was a good kid. I did my homework and my chores and I ate all my vegetables even when it was broccoli.

I'm sleeping all the time but I'm tired. I didn't used to dream this much. Not like this.

If I die, do you think I'll be with Mom and Dad?

She calls out for Mom as soon as she flings open the door and sees Carlos's boss. There's no good reason why she would be here at 10:36 am on a Saturday when Carlos is already at work.

"Maria, I told you not to open the door unless you ask who it is first!"

But then Mom sees Captain Miller. She reaches for Maria, squeezing her hand tightly.

"What happened to Carlos?"

Miller swallows hard and Maria can tell she's been crying. But Carlos can't be dead. He always knows the right way to go. He's never gone the wrong way.

"I'm so sorry, Gabrielle."

Maria doesn't wait to hear the rest. Sobbing, she runs to her room.

I used to think God was trying to tell me something. Maybe I dream like this because God wants me to see something or understand something. But I don't understand anything. And even if I did, what good is it if I'm like this? I try to talk to you all the time but you never hear me.

No, don't go. Not yet. You said you had three hours before your flight leaves. You just got here. If I'm not going to talk to you for a week I need more time. Please, Carlos.

THIS ISN'T FAIR.

Please, no, I need more time. PLEASE.

Oh, no, no, no, please, no, I don't want to see this again.

The deposition is interrupted by Aaron. He pulls open the door to the room, a stricken look on his face. It's not like him to be unprofessional, or that emotional, so she excuses herself to speak to him outside.

She doesn't get a chance, though.

Aaron doesn't open the blinds or roll them up; he just shoves them aside and she sees something she's only seen in history books.

"Is that a fucking mushroom cloud?" she asks, her voice barely louder than a whisper.

He starts crying. She's never seen him cry before. "Will the building stop the radiation? This building's made of concrete or something, right? Nobody even raised the fucking terror alert! Maybe it's a fucking joke."

People are panicking behind her as another cloud forms.

-

He stood, reluctantly, pressing a kiss to her forehead. She had pneumonia, again, but she was responding well to the antibiotics. It was the worst possible timing but he couldn't drop out of the experiment. As he reached the door, he froze, positive he just heard her voice, begging for him to stay.

Like always, it was just his imagination. The doctors had explained many times that if she had spoken or moved, there would be spikes on the monitor. Nothing. He didn't even know if she could hear him.

He could ask her when she woke up.

(fin.)