Comatose

A thrilling story of magic, war, and romance. What would it be like to live two lives at the same time, to fall in love in two worlds, and to be forced to pick one? After a ravaging fire devastated her apartment, Abby was left suspended in a coma; however, though unconscious, she is far from at peace. Pulled into a strange realm, Abby tumbles into a second life upon which the fate of an entire world depends. There she discovers a pack of wolves, powerful friends, dangerous enemies, and an ancient race of people engaged in a violently bitter war. Even as she is thrust into the fabric of a world that is starting to feel more real than her old life, she is lying motionless in a hospital bed, connected to monitors and oxygen tanks. Can she save her new reality before financial hardship convinces her parents to pull the plug, or worse, the arsonist finds her body?

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2. Someone Else's Dream

     Blistering, burning hair, burning clothes, burning flesh. Fire licked her bare skin. With a jolt, she realized her clothes were gone, burnt to cinders. When she was little, she had dreamt of huge fires burning down her house, sealing her off from her parents, her brother, but in those dreams, the fire always surrounded her like a ring, slowly closing in, filling the air with thick, suffocating smoke. This is was different. The ring of fire had long since closed in on her sprawled body. She could see nothing but flames flickering, raging engulfing her entire body. She was part of the raging inferno. People said that time slowed down at the instant before one dies. This must be it then. She'd never known pain like this before. The skin on her feet was turning a dry, leathery shade of unpleasant red as the fire ate at her skin. Fire--destruction, pain, dying. No she thought, if she was going to die, her last thought would be a happy one.
     Easier said than done. Gritting her teeth, she forced herself to think of her bother. Abby and Jason Brown, twins born on separate days of separate years, people said. She blinked away tears, which evaporated with a hiss. Jason in uniform, Jason shoving his badge in the face of a delinquent, Jason letting her live with him after the divorce, Jason complaining about his crappy car, Jason venting about his day at work, his incompetent colleagues sleeping on the job; Jason teaching her to fight, to shoot a gun, to knock an arrow, Jason letting her curl up with him and his fat calico cat on the green leather couch by the hearth while blizzards howled and shrieked outside. Fire—soothing warmth, comfort, family…sleep.
     The grimace on her face melted slowly into a smile. A sigh escaped her lips. The fire was ticklish now, its ferocity had died down, and with it the pain had vanished. Now, tamer flames flickered around her like soft butterfly wings, a mere warm brushing sensation.
  ______________________________    _____________________________
 

 
     She kept having dreams, although she was pretty positive they weren’t her dreams. The dreams weren’t the worst part though. The worst part was that she couldn’t wake up.
In the beginning, nothingness was interrupted by a singular random event as fyre bloomed into existence. Nowhere, drifting in a strange limbo, a single point of light hovered there, its reflection scintillating in the clear pool above which it floated. Abby awoke to a feeling of emptiness, into this dream that wasn’t hers, as if she was simply passing through. Soft, rippling circles appeared where she stood ankle deep in clear liquid. All around her, twisting black columns curled up from the floor, stretching out to form the roof of the cavern, a dense, impenetrable tangle of branches from which arced graceful, soaring waterfalls frozen in time. At the heart of it all, a flickering flame murmured as it had since the beginning, flowing seamlessly over the water's surface. 
       A constant breeze flowed continuously through the cavern although she could see no opening. Abby frowned...convection currents? No, this was more than that. The breezes that swept through her had more substance. Rather than flowing around her they coursed through her as if mocking her attempts to confine herself within a physical body. Somehow she knew instinctively that these were the Ancients. These guardians kept the fyre going, guarded it and fed it like a child, for it was in fact their child.
Suddenly, rather than four breezes, there was one. The others had gone, she knew, to watch the fey. Only Keeper remained, restlessly stirring the flame, his breeze more erratic than the others. Abby grinned to herself, recognizing Keeper’s restlessness as the all too familiar feeling of boredom. Keeper slowed, watching the flame. Abby’s breath was whisked away as Keeperremembered, reaching back into the past, into a time before time, before light had entered the world, when all that existed were then Ancients, swirling languidly around together, plotting, imagining the world and all that would exist within it. Latching onto the darkness of the past, Keeper dragged it forward in time, fast-forwarding back to the present. The cavern assembled itself around them and the small fire flickered once again, but Keeper was angry, the fist-full of past now bubbling up inside him as he stared at the persistent little flame. He let the past burst out of him with a gust of breath. He blew on it gently, as if coaxing a dying ember back to life. The past flickered and became a little flame, casting shadows rather than light. It was transfixing, intriguing, an anomaly.
       Keeper saw this and liked it.  He let the flame roll down his fingers to join the original fyre.  Immediately, he saw that they did not mix. They fought. The darkfyre was mesmerizing, cutting dark, arcing patterns through the brightness as it moved, threatening to swallow the rest of the flames.  Enthralled, the ancient watched, hypnotized, until he realized that the fyre was now nearly dominated by darkness.  Fearing what might happen if he let the lightfyre die, the Ancient quickly bent and breathed one word in the Ancient tongue so softly that it was heard only by the remaining brightness as the darkfyre flicked about, intent on destruction. The word was passed from lightfyre to lightfyre, and as the flames leaned in to whisper to one another, their glow intensified, and for a moment, the darkfyre shrank back, before launching another attack, but this time, its ferocity was dimmed by the light’s newfound brilliance.
      Knowing that he needed to balance out the forces he’d created, the ancient caught a spark of lightfyre, and fused it with a coldness that burned… 
      Abby breathed a sigh of relief as the balance was restored. Then she froze; the shadow of a hooded figure was thrown against the wall of the cavern. It vanished as quickly as it had appeared, but even with the shadow gone, she knew something was terribly wrong. Keeper seemed to be holding his breath, because the flame stilled as the breeze faded. A stale smell filled the air.
     And then the fire went out. Everything was plunged into darkness.


      She awoke with a feeling of heaviness and slime gripping her thighs. Something was on her, brushing back her hair, and whatever it was, was licking her neck. Abby’s skin crawled with disgust. She cracked an eyelid open just barely. The thing had one webbed foot on her leg, its webbed toes curling around her thigh. Its hands she assumed were occupied, holding her hair back from her neck. Then she allowed herself to look into its face. Soft and scaly, it glistened with slime. It was grinning hugely, tongue extended towards her neck. She felt a splotch of saliva hit her collarbone and tensed. Then its gaze met hers, and the grin vanished. It wailed in frustration, its peaceful snack interrupted. Abby shuddered, the wail sounded disturbingly human…childlike even. Determined still to get its meal, the creature latched on tightly, fangs emerging instantly from its gums.
     Instinctively, Abby swung her free arm around and connected with the creature’s jaw. It hissed in protest, letting go of her and scampering a few feet away to glare at her. Springing to her feet, she thanked the lord she had awakened lodged against a tree so that nothing could attack her from the back. She crouched as Jason had taught her but remembered sensation of the creature’s hands holding back her hair to expose her neck made her pause. Against her better judgment, she straightened, flipping back her hair to expose her neck. The creature’s pupils narrowed into diamonds as it caught her scent. It was fast. It barreled towards her, saliva flying, fangs extended. At the last second, she ducked as it launched its face at her neck. Spinning on her heel, Abby turned and slammed her elbow into the back of its neck.
     There was a wet sucking sound as the creature’s limp body fell to the forest floor. No blood seeped from its wounds. It merely shriveled slightly, as black goop poured from its orifices. Revolution gripped her stomach. No, not goop but fat, glistening worms, slithered from the thing’s eyes and ears, vanishing into the earth. Sickened, she stumbled back until her foot caught on a tree branch and she sat down hard on a large, flat slab of rock.
     Disgusted, she plunged her arm up to the elbow into the cool stream water that trickled over and around the rock. Abby rubbed her forearm until it was slightly pink, and as clean as she would feel until she managed to shut out the feeling of the creature’s slimy webbed toes touching her skin. A twig snapped, “Artemis?” Abby murmured the name of her Akita pup. She had no idea why Artemis would be here, wherever here was, but the familiar sound of paws awakened memories of her furry friend. Why was it so cold? Wasn’t it just warm a few minutes ago? “Artemis!” she hissed. Slightly disoriented, she whipped her head around towards the sound. Despite the puppy’s thick coat of fuzz, Abby knew she must be cold and scared. She could feel her bangs clinging to her forehead. Grimacing, she realized that her clothes too her caked with slime, but it was too dark to see much more than a few yards in front of her and there wasn’t enough water here to properly wash it off, so tried her best to ignore it and instead turned her attention to sounds. Night sounds filtered down through the brush, unfamiliar animal calls and the flutter of insect wings, and water trickled by, soaking her shorts, and the padding of feet, too large to be Artemis, too quiet.
     She waited a few tense seconds, heartbeat in her throat, hoping her eyes to adjust better to the darkness. It helped that the moss covering the roots of the surrounding trees glowed dimly. A large wet sniff by her right ear made her recoil, memories of that cold, clammy hand on her shoulder making her sweat despite the cold. She opened her mouth to scream but was interrupted by a loud grunt that echoed inside her head.
     GIRL. 
     Silence.
     Then the padding of more feet and the brush of something soft against her surprised face. More sniffs. A large, silvery shape crouched in front of her, regarding her curiously—no not with his eyes—his sightless eyes were glazed over with a sheen of white. It regarded her with his nose, which tested the air, taking in the smell of her hair, her shoes, and probably—as it let out a short grunt which she immediately knew to be a chuckle—the scent of Artemis, which clung to her lightly no matter how many showers she took.
     A snarl from behind made Abby lean closer to the silvery wolf. He felt inexplicably safe. More shapes, silvery, black, sand-colored, now lined the stream bank. The one that had snarled swiped the body of the now lifeless slime-creature into the brush. The black wolf leveled its gaze at her.
     You killed it? The words hummed in her mind, not threatening, but not quite friendly.
     Abby looked back blankly, dipping her head slightly.
     Not bad. HumanThe wolf stepped back, melting into the pack. Abby winced at the word “Human”. It was an insult, although she wasn’t quite sure why it stung so badly. A she-wolf, sleek and white stepped forward to examine her. Abby couldn’t help but stare back, unable to lower her gaze. The wolf was beautiful. A single name appeared in her thoughts. Skye.Skye’s large topaz eyes looked her over, settling on the bit of twine that looped twice around her wrist. And then the she-wolf was on her, covering her with wet, kisses. Skye’s cheek rubbed against her own; unsure of what to do, Abby tentatively looped her arms around the wolf’s neck.  
     Allie. The name that Skye murmured was soft and affectionate…and familiar, but Abby sat back. “No,” she frowned, “It’s Abby.”
     Skye’s thoughts scattered for a moment before steadying. She shook her head in disgust at the name Abby. Allie, Skye repeated, large topaz eyes searching hers for a hint of recognition. The name was wistful, full of fond memories…of tumbling through the grass, swimming, watching deer, of soft warm fur, of fond kisses, chubby human fingers and wet noses. Abby’s mind reeled in confusion. The image of the child in Skye’s mind was undeniably her, yet she remembered with equal clarity, herself at the same age, racing with Jason along railroad tracks, holding his hand as he warned her never to wander the city without him at night. He’d frowned, brow furrowing slightly and she’d known he wanted to say “and preferably not during the day either,” but he knew better than to limit her freedom. Abby put a hand to her forehead, which had begun to throb. Both memories, so real, both hers, but how could they both be hers? That was impossible. (Maybe Jason used to be a wolf but turned into a human to take Allie away from this world because something bad was going to happen. He foresaw that she was going to die in this world, so he took her away and changed her name so she would be harder to find. That’s why he plays with her by wrestling like a wolf)
     In Skye’s mind, the little girl got tired, half running and half crawling, she made her way over to the trees, promptly settling down at the flank of a sandy colored wolf. She cuddled against him, back against his warm fur. He rooted his snout through her hair, stroking it softly. Abby shut her eyes to the memory, feeling the familiar sensation of someone stroking her hair.
     Abby shook herself to her senses, wondering how long it would be before she would wake up from this bizarre dream. She dropped her eyes, unable to look at Skye who was still gazing at her hopefully. “That can’t be me Skye, that’s not even my name.”
     A low growl that started in Skye’s throat emerged as a pleading whine.
     Allie ignored it, turning away and heading back into the forest.
     You’re going the wrong way child; the city is in the other direction. 
     “I don’t live in the city Skye, I’m going home.”
     This is home. Allie, this is your first home and the city is your second. Stay Allie, everyone’s been waiting.

 

 
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