This story is by Kylie Nelson and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Cold. That was the last thing Marissa could remember. Her bones ached and her mind whirled. She tried to open her eyes, and then realized they were open. Panicking, she scrambled to stand and slipped on some water on the ground. It smelled dank and moldy. Marissa choked for breath and clawed for a hold. Her head hit something hard, and she had to squirm out of a small space before she could stand.
“Hello?” She called. “Is anyone here? Hello?” She ran forward, looking for a way out, only to slam into a wall and fall down. Marissa lay on the floor, winded. She took a breath, frustrated with the blindness encasing her. After a moment, she took a deep breath and stood. This time, she used her arms to keep herself from running into anything, but still met with a wall. She screamed in vehement anger. She didn’t know how she’d gotten there, or why she couldn’t find a way out or even where she was. The panic was returning.
“Somebody help me!” She screeched. She kicked at the wall and staggered backwards at the impact. This was all happening too fast.
“Where am I?” She called, praying someone would answer. “Take me home!”
“Hope,” A soft voice whispered.
“Hello?” She called desperately
“Do not lose hope,”
“Who are you? Help me!” But nobody answered her this time. She felt along the walls for anything that might give light. She felt so horribly alone, nothing to guide her and nobody to comfort her when she slipped and fell. Tears poured silently down her cheeks, but she was determined to go on.
“Um, Mr. Voice?” She called, feeling exceedingly foolish. “I kind of can’t find my way out of here, so if you could sort of show me a light switch that’d be nice.” No words came back as a reply, but she felt her hand being drawn slowly down the wall. She held her breath, sure this was her guide, gasping when her hand was placed on something sticking out of the wall. She pulled at it, and a light was switched on. She gave a shriek of joy that ended in a yelp of surprise. Sitting on the ground in the corner, was a boy her age, watching with dull amusement in his eyes.
“Who are you?” She demanded.
“You sounded pretty funny,” He remarked.
“Who. Are. You?” She repeated angrily.
“Who are you? And why were you crying?”
“You were here the whole time?” She hissed furiously.
“Yup,” He sounded pleased with himself.
“Why didn’t you answer me?”
“You’d have been wailing at me instead of nobody.” He replied
“Who are you?”
“I’m Dylan.” Marissa stalked up to him and smacked him across the face. He didn’t jerk, or react at all except to look up at her curiously.
She snorted and turned around, then gave a bounce of joy. There in front of her was a door! She ran up to it and pulled it open. Immediately, she was bathed in golden light. Though it was blinding, she didn’t even blink or squint. Dylan, however, shot away like a bomb was going off. He cowered in the corner with his arms over his head.
“Close the door!” He screeched.
“Why?” Marissa breathed. “It’s beautiful,”
“I can’t see!” Marissa immediately slammed the door, wary of the lights going out again. Dylan looked up.
“What was that?” Dylan croaked.
“It was light,” Marissa said, all fear forgotten. “It was so beautiful. I want to see it again.” She took a step towards the door, but Dylan was there first, pressing his back against it and shaking his head violently.
“No way, not a chance.”
“Move!” Marissa shouted angrily. She shoved him aside and again flung open the door. A million tiny voices spoke from nowhere.
“Go, do not be afraid.” Marissa took a step forward and then paused.
“Come with me,” She said to Dylan.
“I can’t.” He replied.
“I’m not leaving without you.”
“Well I’m not leaving with you!” Marissa paused, unsure of what to do next.
“Then we’re both lost.” She tried to push the door closed, but it was stuck.
“Why. Won’t. It. Close?” She snarled, kicking at it. “It must not want us to stay,” She added pointedly. Dylan shuddered.
“Why should I come with you?” He asked.
“Because if you don’t then you’ll be stuck here forever!” She cried desperately.
“How do you know? I could open that door anytime I wanted.” Marissa backed away from the door and slammed at it until it closed.
“Then show me!” She shrieked. Dylan swallowed and grasped the handle. He tugged. Nothing happened. Marissa shoved him out of the way and flung it open.
“Please, come with me.”
“Fine! Only because you’re so annoying.” Marissa grabbed his hand and dragged him through the door. They were devoured immediately by the bright light. Marissa was lifted from the ground and shut her eyes. Dylan’s grip on her hand was very tight, and Marissa could sense fear pulsing from him. The light faded, and they were standing in a dim hallway.
“Hello?” Marissa called. “Is anyone here?”
“Just like a girl, yelling at air.” Dylan muttered, earning a kick in the shins. They hadn’t walked far before they were met with a series of doors.
“Which one do we go in?” Dylan asked. Marissa shrugged and walked up to the first one.
“Should we just try all of them until we find the right one?” She asked.
“Why not?” Marissa grasped the handle and pulled it open. It was pitch black inside.
“No thanks.” Marissa muttered. The next one was brightly lit with a thin, straight path lined with dangers on either side.
“Nope,” Dylan slammed the door. Marissa looked at him curiously.
“Why are you afraid of light?” She inquired.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He muttered. After trying a few more doors, Marissa stopped.
“Yes, you do. Tell me why.” She demanded. He sighed.
“When I was in that first room, I’d found the light switch and door already, but when I opened it, I couldn’t see. The voice told me that since I hadn’t opened it wanting anything more than to get free, I’d be blind until someone genuinely wanting to help set me free.” Marissa nodded, unable to think of anything to say. The next few doors were all dark, but the last they tried, a huge black animal bounded out, mouth foaming and eyes red.
“Run!” Marissa screeched. They shot down the hall with the animal close behind. Terrified, they were forced to screech to a halt when the hallway ended.
“Don’t move,” He breathed. When the animal was so close they could feel its breath, Dylan shoved her out of the way so that the animal crashed into the wall. They dashed back the way they came and when they passed the door with the light inside Marissa flung it open and dragged them inside. They had to walk single file to stay on the path, but soon realized that the dangers on the sides couldn’t hurt them while they were on the path. They walked in silence until they got to the end and were met with more doors. What was different about these, was that one of them had Marissa’s name on it. She opened it and was again bathed in light.
“C’mon,” She grabbed Dylan’s arm and they both walked through the door. A yelp showed Dylan unable to pass. Marissa forced herself back out to find Dylan staring at a door with his name on it. When they attempted entrance, Marissa was stuck in the hall.
“You must go your separate ways.” Marissa and Dylan whirled around to find themselves staring into the face of a man.
“Why?” Marissa asked stubbornly.
“Because in the real world, you’re both in a coma. You’ve been that way for a long time. I have work set out for you to do that cannot be delayed.”
“You will find each other again. Trust me.” The man led them both to their doorways and they stepped through. Marissa again felt herself floating in the light, and prayed that Dylan wouldn’t go blind again. When she opened her eyes, she was laying on a cot in the hospital.
“Marissa!” A voice called. Marissa looked over to see a little girl bouncing excitedly. “She’s awake!”
“Family,” Marissa sighed happily as they covered her in embraces.
“Alright Dylan, we’ll see you tomorrow.” Marissa sat up.
“Move that curtain!” She yelped. The nurse obeyed, and next to her was Dylan. When he saw her, happiness erupted on his face. As they gazed into each other’s eyes with a shocked excitement, Marissa knew, they would complete the work the man in hall had set out for them. But they would do it together. She knew who the man in the hall was, and that he would help her from beyond the skies.