My eyes fly open. I am not where I should be.
White light flashes overhead, stars flicker and flare in the darkness that rings my vision. People in white and blue yell soundlessly around me, their voices drowned out by the ringing in my ears. Panic surges through me first. Then comes the pain.
Utter, blinding agony burns through my body, except for where it doesn’t: dark patches, like voids, that scare me more than what hurts. Places I can’t feel anymore, where parts of me are missing.
I don’t look down at myself—can’t look down, even if I wanted to. Bile rises in my throat, tears burn my eyes, and my head—oh, god, my head—feels as if it’s splitting apart. My heart hammers against my ribcage, struggling against the inevitable.
I’m dying. I feel my body giving up around me, the heaviness tugging at my mind. The doctors seem less frantic now, having realized the same thing as me. They are waiting, their too-bright eyes darting off to the side.
If I close my eyes, I can remember fragments of where I should be: a scorching car, wind lashing my face, Paiden laughing as her soft hands caress the steering wheel, her hair lit by summer sunlight—
I gasp, choke, gripped by panic once more at the thought of Paiden. A nurse leans close as I try to form the sounds that make up Paiden’s name. It’s almost impossible for me, but she seems to understand. Through the cacophony in my mind, I hear the nurse’s words.
“She’s going to be fine.”
I blink in response, it’s all the thanks I can give. The nurse raises her hand to show me a hypodermic needle filled with a clear liquid, her eyebrows drawn together apologetically. There’s no need for words, I understand instantly. My breath quickens. No, I don’t want to lose this, I scream in my head. Don’t let me lose this.
All I can manage is a weak moan. I can’t fight this.
“I’m sorry,” the nurse says, though I barely hear her. “This won’t hurt at all. I’ll see you on the other side.”
I don’t even feel the needle pierce my skin.