Sedona Serenity by Lisa Kessler
He was back. The tall dark-haired man, built like a cross between Rocky and the Terminator, haunted the doorway like a sentinel, watching over the body in the bed.
It was so hard to remember that pale, emaciated woman was ever part of me. Time lost its meaning when you no longer ate or drank or slept. Usually I was miles away, my consciousness astral projecting through time and space, far from that comatose body.
What did that even mean anymore?
He came closer, sitting beside the bed. I watched him from the other corner of the room as his gaze wandered over the sleeping face, my face, and there was something about his voice that called me like a siren’s song. It wasn’t that it was rich or smooth, but it was deep, with a timbre of refreshing honesty the rest of my world had lacked.
When the doctor visited, my sentinel allowed himself to blend into the background, but when we were alone, he talked about the world outside. No matter how far my consciousness had wandered, the sound of his soulful voice lured me back into the room. It wasn’t that he had important information to impart. It was the way he included me, like I mattered. There were times he made me wish I could find a way back into that beaten body.
That body was a prison. Now I was free.
But when he spoke, I wished I could open my eyes and see him through that physical lens. Sometimes I caught myself yearning to reach out to touch him. I imagined his hands would be warm, strong, and never soul crushing like my mother’s had been.
“Weather’s nice out, Serenity. I’ve got my bike in the driveway if you’d like to get out of this room and ride sometime.” He sighed and stared up at the ceiling, and then around the room. “Cole told me you moved one of the books when you first got here, but nothing’s been out of place since then. It’s been almost a month.” He turned to the body again.
Was that shrunken form really me?
My spirit floated between us. Astral projection was a myth in many scientific circles. My mother understood it was real now, but rather than acknowledge it and provide proof to the neurological naysayers, she sought to cure me instead, even if that meant, I’d never regain traditional consciousness.
Now I hovered between worlds. My soul walked free among the living, and my body wasted away, stumbling toward to the land of the dead. What would happen to me when that tether was gone? Would I evaporate into the ether like I never existed?
His voice tempted me back into the room. “I was thinking, maybe you like to read so I’ve got a few books with me.” He opened a worn paper bag and laid three books on the bed beside the body. Me. “I’m not sure what you like so I brought, Fahrenheit 451 in case you like futuristic books, and you can’t go wrong with Bradbury, right?” He pointed to the one in the center. “And if you’re more into love stories, I’ve got a copy Dark-Hunters.” He peeked over at the door and back again. “It’s a little steamy in parts so I’ll have to make sure the little ones aren’t around.”
His gaze wandered up to my sleeping face again, and I wondered why he never touched me, not even to hold my hand or brush the hair back from my forehead. “And then I’ve got The Stand.” He lowered his voice like he was sharing a secret just between us. “I’m hoping you’ll like that one because it’s the longest so…I’d have an excuse to…extend our visits.”
I stared at the three books, studying the covers. He didn’t say it out loud, but everyone who had come in the room recently, from the doctor to my half-siblings Madison and Chandler, was worried. I hadn’t given them any signs of life since the first couple of days after they freed me from the sensory deprivation pod in my mother’s laboratory.
I didn’t have to tune into their thoughts to know they were beginning to think I’d never wake up. Maybe I wouldn’t?
My half-sister Madison was just starting to unlock her telepathic abilities, but I hadn’t reached out to communicate with her either. I guess I hadn’t really decided if I cared about living anymore. Since they’d rescued my body from the lab, I’d been content to embrace this new reality. If I returned to the weakened body in the bed, I’d be back in that prison of flesh. What if I died?
Maybe I already had. Was this weightless consciousness any different than a ghost?
He sighed, and the sadness in his eyes tugged at me. If choosing a book might make him smile, it suddenly seemed worth the effort. I focused my energy on the thick volume and flipped the cover of the The Stand open. His eyes widened and the flash of his white teeth and the sparkle in his eyes sent a jolt of excitement through my ethereal consciousness.
“A King fan.” He chuckled. “Good choice.”
He turned a few pages to get to the beginning, but this rare connection with another person had stimulated something in me. I waited for him to read the first line, and then popped open the cover of the Bradbury book.
He raised a brow, glancing over at the sleeping face. At me. “Toying with me?” He leaned a little closer. “So, you are still with us.”
And just like that, I wished I could speak. While I couldn’t make that body utter words, I had no trouble speaking telepathically, and unlike my younger half-sister, I understood the power at my disposal.
I focused on his soulful dark brown eyes, envisioned reaching his consciousness, then whispered into his mind, Tell me your name.
He shot out of the chair, his gaze locked on the body in the bed as he stumbled backward. “What?”
If I could have laughed, I would have. The spectacle of this strong, mountain of a man, bolting away from an unconscious waif like she could attack him at any second tickled me.
Of course, I could hurt him, but I wouldn’t.
I tried to reach him again. I’m Serenity.
A crease formed between his eyebrows, but the tension in his shoulders seemed to release. He cleared his throat. “I’m Ryker.”
He settled back into the chair, glancing around the room as he reached for the book again. “Sorry about that. I didn’t know I’d be able to hear you.”
And again, I caught myself wishing I could open those eyes, or reach out that pale hand to touch him. I couldn’t remember the last time I wanted to move physically. The detachment between my consciousness and my flesh and bones seemed permanent.