The deep morning is still, cloaked in drowsy contemplation and the mystery of a day not yet begun. The morning nurses at a hospital surrounded by fruit groves sit sleepily, at a disinfected plastic table, sipping weak, steamy coffee and rubbing tired eyes and slack jaws. Outside, lemon trees stand tall and proud, primed and expectant for the slightest breath of wind, in a world that seems to be empty and still.
Hospital patient 2103 wakes, then, eyes sliding open, artless and grey, as the sunlight pools in the hollows of her cheeks and thickens in the gaps between her eyelashes. Look closely enough into her face, and you will see remnants of a bad dream, a dream of shattered glass and screeching tires, but as she blinks, the dream fades away, and all that is left is an uncomfortable hospital cot and the papery sheets shrouding long, skinny legs. Next to the bed, her phone buzzes, cracked screen glowing dimly with a hundred missed calls. She picks it up, finger hovering over the receive button, and taps it hesitantly, holding the cold metal up to her ear. Nothing. Frustrated, she tries turning up the volume, but nothing but empty air greets her. Disgusted, she chucks the phone onto the floor, where it buzzes before going dark.
It is still cool, and the air conditioning is breathing chilled air past metal vents. But her shirt is sticking to her ribs and the air seems to be suffocatingly thick, clogging in her lungs, where it stays, stuck. Impatient, she stands up and rubs her eyes, ears ringing, dizzy with sudden movement. She thinks, perhaps, that the porch will be cooler, so she walks out, a bit unsteadily, to the shaded steps near the back of the infirmary. There are brightly colored, plastic hammocks hanging idly, so she sits in one, swinging as she admires the mango trees, upon which sweet, sticky fruit has grown. Except for the dim, vibrating, creaking of the hammock, however, it is still absolutely, unnervingly silent. She eyes the bits of sky, blue and pale white, that show between the reaching branches, and suddenly feels desperate, though for what she doesn’t know. She jumps off the back porch and starts sprinting, off a cement pathway and onto asphalt, feet flying so quickly it looks like she never even touches the dark, steaming tar of the road. Air buffets her face and forces tears into her eyes, whipping her hair into a frenzy that slaps at her mouth, her cheeks. There is a dip in the road up ahead, but she doesn’t see it, doesn’t pay attention, so there is a sense of vertigo, the horizon tilts, and she lands, sliding, on her knees. She stands, pulling herself up, hands braced on her scraped legs. Up ahead, she can see the ocean, a shimmering, crashing thing that curls in a loop of blue and green, sun glancing off of angled waves, a heady glimmer. She ducks her head, continuing on, determined to reach the beach.
At the end of the road, a worn set of steps lead her to fine, white sand, so she slows to watch the silent crescendo of the waves. The water, crystal cut and cool, laps at her battered feet, so she wades in, the sting of the salt soothing her pain. The water begins to dampen her clothes, forcing them to cling to her pale skin, but she doesn’t seem to notice, probably doesn’t care. The ocean welcomes her, and waves wash up against her skin, staining them with a taste of seaweed. Eyes fixed upon the glimmering bubbles that dance beneath the surface, tears shine around her eyes, sliding down her white cheeks and splashing into the water, mingling with the sun-washed kelp. And suddenly, she ducks under, the water closing up silently over her head, hiding the tears and bitterness in a silver wave that crashes over her tangled curls.
With a quick turn of temper, she lets loose a scream, a scream that cuts through the water and tears the air from her lungs, a scream that unleashes all the fury she is never able to conjure when the nurses and orderlies ask her if something’s wrong. Bubbles, silver and frantic, dash to the surface, and the ocean tangles around her arms, currents swirling, tugging her out to the vast unknown. She screams until all she can feel is the water, slipping against her skin, and she can forget that she is deaf.