Chapter One - Prologue - The Escape
As the setting sun glistens on the wet leaves lining the last eight miles of winding road ending my two thousand mile journey across country, I dare to envision the possibility of a new life free from the shadows of my former self. A stray sunbeam flashes across my dashboard revealing a speed of 90 miles per hour. I never imagined when I packed the automobile with my scarce possessions that I would race toward the unknown with such force, tenacity and speed causing a three day journey to be completed in only one. Cracking open the window, my heart races as I dare to breathe the air around me. Air untainted by the never ending disappointment of my mother, the strong disapproval of my father, the superiority exuding from my twin sister's every accomplishment and the constant comparison of my failures to my brother's overwhelming success.
As I round the last curve before reaching the dirt road leading to Sanctuary Hospital and Teaching Academy, a large animal dashes across my headlights. Slamming my breaks, the violent stop snaps my seatbelt. Crashing into the steering wheel, I can't breathe!
Something bashes the side of the car with such intensity, it flips over. Careening down an embankment, my body thrashes against every surface, my bones snap as easily as twigs off a dead tree. Excruciating pain radiates throughout my very being as fear overwhelms me. I am not expected at Sanctuary for two more weeks and a storm is predicted for tomorrow. My world becomes smaller. Unconsciousness threatens to engulf me. A veil of darkness blankets my eyes and I can see the irony of it all. I journeyed here hoping for a fresh start, a new life, but fate decided to bring me here only to end my useless and solitary old one. Slipping into my unconscious abyss, I hear the thunderous growl of an animal which will likely decimate my corpse, leaving no trace of me or my unfulfilled existence.
Floating through this never ending midnight, I can feel myself descending into a biting cold which envelops my being.
Am I dead? If I am, why hasn't the pain evaporated and my essence become peaceful? Are my parents right? Was my life wrought with such mishaps, failings and inability to persevere that I am condemned to suffer the excruciating pain of the dammed to atone for the endless shame and disappointment I thrust upon my family? My heart sinks as I consider spending eternity in this dark emptiness penetrating my very soul without ever being able to forge ahead and prove myself to my family, who saw me as nothing but a failure. My consciousness registers breathing which is not my own.
Someone's strong, cold hands are pulling me tightly to their chest, but I can't find the strength to speak. Hope creeps into my heart! Has someone found me? Struggling to open my eyes, my lids are sealed shut! My immobility extinguishes my elation.
A soft voice pulls me from my desolation. "What happened?"
A melodic, male voice whispers. "She was caught in the crossfire and suffered a terrible accident. I snatched her from the vehicle before he approached. We have to hide her!"
Relief washes through me, but I cannot make sense of his words. No one knows me here. Why would he need to hide me? My injuries have to be obvious! Why aren't they taking me to Sanctuary to seek treatment? Desperate to communicate with my rescuers, I struggle to speak, but remain mute!
I hear a door creak and a sweet voice. "We're ready, put her down carefully."
The darkness becomes brighter, but still I cannot see! I lay still and cold, not able to move even my fingers! A new tingling sensation courses up my arm, moves though me, dulling the pain, but still I cannot force myself to move. My heart races faster, my lungs feel as if they will burst and then my brain detaches from my body. I am floating.
Suspended over myself, I can see my bloodied and broken body. Kneeling beside me is a man and two women. The women's porcelain faces are exquisite and one of them reminds me of Eva, the physician who offered me refuge to fix my shattered life. Their bright, blue eyes are full of concern and their ruby lips whisper something I cannot hear. As I turn toward the man whose hands are suspended over my heart, his sky blue eyes shoot up to mine. At that moment, I know I am dying and they are here to lead my essence to whatever in life comes next. Their exquisite faces and beautiful eyes reflect the heavens. I am hopeful that my past fears of descending to hell are incorrect. No one this beautiful could be guides to the underworld. Maybe my life was not wrought with such failure that I am… Before I finish my thought, my spirit descends down, plunging me into darkness and dulling pain.
Vaguely aware that my rescuing angels are speaking of my injuries, I strain to hear them. The man's voice is taut with anguish. "She has a concussion, broken leg and arm, collapsed lung and several broken ribs, one is piercing her heart."
Hearing this, I embrace my immobility fearing that if I move, the angels will disappear and I will be left alone in the darkness to die!
"Do you think you can save her?" The woman mutters softly.
"It will take all of my strength to begin the healing process and we will have to work quickly! I felt her slipping away, but she is back now." His reply sounds strained.
I hear nothing in the background to indicate we are in a hospital. If a rib is piercing my heart, they need to operate before I bleed to death internally. I want to scream and beg them to do something, but as the pain becomes duller and duller, I slip deeper into unconsciousness and the blackness of my own mind.