1st Place 10 – 13
When Karin woke up, she was all alone.
She stared at the blank white ceiling for a moment, and turned to look at her surroundings. To her left, a computer displayed a straight line running through the screen. A monotonous blaring sound was coming from it. On her other side, a tangle of tubes was connected to her arm by several needles and squares of tape. The bed she was lying on had plain white sheets, and appeared to have wheels at the bottom.
A few seconds passed when Karin suddenly realised that she was in a hospital room. She sat up. Why am I in the hospital? She wondered. Am I sick or something?
Suddenly, a voice blared out from the speaker in the corner of the room. “Code blue, code blue in ICU…I repeat…”
Abruptly, the voice stopped and the door to Karin’s room flew open. She yelped and scampered out of the way as nurses and doctors crowded around the bed she had been lying on. They didn’t seem to notice her at all.
“I don’t think she’ll be able to make it!” A nurse said, frantically clicking away on the computer. “Her system is shutting down…”
“Excuse me?” Karin said, standing up. “Are you stupid? I’m over here, and my system is working just fine…” Her voice trailed off as a doctor moved away and revealed a girl lying on the bed Karin had been on moments ago. The girl’s face was pale, and part of it was covered with a breathing mask, but otherwise she looked exactly like Karin. Karin stared, her mouth hanging open.
“Excuse me,” Karin reached over and tapped the shoulder of the nearest nurse. “Can you tell me what’s going on? That girl looks a lot like me, and I’m sure that I was the only one in the room earlier and…hey, are you listening?”
The nurse gave away no sign that she had even heard Karin at all.
“Hey! Nurse!” Karin smacked the nurse’s shoulder. “What’s going on?”
Again, the nurse offered nothing but silence.
Karin heard a shrill scream come from the hallway. “No!” a familiar voice cried. “I have to see her! NO! KARIN!”
Karin pressed herself against the wall as her mother burst into the room, her face streaked with tears. Karin had never seen her mother like this.
“Mom!” Karin reached for her mother’s hand. “Mom, I’m right here, I’m fine!”
Her mother ignored Karin’s outstretched hand. She ran towards the hospital bed, pushing away nurses and doctors. She fell to her knees, grasping the hand of the girl on the bed. “Karin! Can you hear me? Don’t die, Karin! You can’t!” She turned to a doctor, sobbing. “You can save her, can’t you?”
The doctor shook his head with sad eyes.
Karin ran out of the room as her mother screamed again. I knew it, Karin thought, panicking. This is a dream! I’ll wake up soon and everything will be back to normal! But as she thought this, tears started pouring down her cheeks. She was lying to herself. There was no way that a dream could be so vivid.
Karin sank into a chair in the hallway, her head in her hands. If the girl on the bed was really herself…and if no one could see or hear her…did that mean that she was dead? That the girl on the bed was actually her body?
Karin screwed her eyes shut. She suddenly felt a wave of fear. She didn’t want to die. She wanted to live! She was afraid of death, of leaving everything behind…
“Are you okay?”
Karin opened her eyes. A small girl, maybe six or seven years old, stood before her. She stared at Karin, sucking her knuckle.
“You…you can see me?” Karin said, astonished.
“Yeah.” The girl looked confused. “Do you know where Mommy is?”
“Sorry. I don’t.”
The girl started crying. “I want Mommy! I ask the doctors but they’re so mean! They don’t talk to me!” Her doe-like eyes became even wider. “They don’t even look at me!”
Karin’s heart sank. This cute little girl must also be dead, like her. “Yeah, they don’t look at me, either. Come on; let’s go find your mommy.”
She held the girl’s hand as they walked down the hallway. “So what’s your name?”
Karin attempted a smile. “That’s a nice name. I’m Karin.”
Lola’s face fell. “My mommy’s name is Karin, too.”
“Oh.” Karin said softly. “So do you know which room you came from?”
Lola paused for a moment. “222.” She said. “Easy.”
“Then this is it.” Karin stopped. “I think your mommy will be in there.”
Lola ran towards the woman in the room. “Mommy!”
Lola’s mother, a young woman with blonde hair, did not see Lola. She was crying silently, sitting beside the bed with Lola’s body, which was covered in a white sheet.
“Sorry, Lola, but I don’t think your mommy can hear you.” Karin said.
“She can’t?” Lola whimpered. “Why?”
“Because…you’re dead, Lola.” Karin said. “We’re both dead.”
“Dead.” Lola said slowly, the word a stranger in her mouth. “Like a ghost?”
“Oh.” Lola said quietly.
There was a long pause. “You’re taking this better than I thought you’d be.” Karin said. “Aren’t you afraid?”
“No,” was Lola’s calm response. “I don’t really know what death is like, so why should I be scared?”
Karin stared. This little girl, who sucked her knuckle and cried for her mommy, was not afraid of death at all. Karin felt a twinge of shame.
“I’m gonna miss Mommy and Daddy,” Lola said tearfully. “We’re gonna have to go to fly away soon, aren’t we?”
“Fly away. Go to Heaven.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“You’re really nice, Karin. Thanks for finding Mommy.”
“Thanks to you too, Lola,” Karin said. She held Lola’s hand. “For being so brave.”
They stood hand in hand, eyes open and heads held high, as they faded into the light of the rising sun.
I had recently read a book called “Elsewhere” by Gabrielle Zevin, and it made me think quite a bit about life and death. I then started wondering what it would be like to die at a young age, and how hard it would be to let go of the life you just barely started. “Paradise”, a song by Coldplay, also played an important role in writing this story. Life is never what you expect it to be and it takes a lot of courage to go through; and death might just be the same. – Noa Wang
Since being published on October 12, 2012, Noa’s story has had 3,206 unique views from 74 countries with an average time of 3:22. That is an amazing amount of exposure for a young writer’s short story. (October 18, 2013)