Sorry for the long wait. I've been pretty busy lately. It might take me longer to get chapters up. For now, though, enjoy the chapter.

Comments and votes are greatly valued.

~X~

I remember hearing voices when I came to. It was all a cacophony of sound though, and I couldn't differentiate one voice from another, but as I started to come to my senses, one voice became clear.

"I'll have you know I've called the doctor. I will not let that girl lay on death's bed because you are too stubborn to get help."

Somewhere in my brain this voice was registered as familiar.

"Mary-Ann, I told you to stop meddlin'."

"Jim, I told you to keep your wife locked up. She terrorizes the guests."

"Mary-Ann, come on down stairs and leave them alone."

"You saw her, Jim! She wasn't well, and now she's been shut up in that room for almost two days."

"Give it a rest, Annie."

There was one voice that was alien to me; I didn't recognize it at all, but I could almost distinctly place it as male.

Their declarations started to twine together as if they were talking all at once, making it hard to tell them apart, but eventually they started to fade away as their volume slowly ebbed out of my mind until all I could hear was the sound of my own breathing.

For a while that was all there was, my breath and my heartbeat, slowly feeding me back to the darkness, but my consciousness stayed in a state of semi-awareness. I could hear sounds and people, but they were undecipherable to my mind. My thoughts were scattered about the dark depths of my conscious, unwilling to connect to one another. My body begged for sleep, yet my mind fought to stay alert. At every sound, my mind was alert trying to process it. Slowly, I began to notice other things, like the feel of someone's touch. They were light caresses, almost feather like, and so brief you were left wondering if they were really there. At first, they were only light wisps across my face, but then they became gentle strokes on my hands.

It reminded me of when I was little. Whenever I had gotten sick my mother would lie beside me in my bed and tell me stories while she soothed my mind of any thoughts of sickness. She believed that physical illness could be over powered mentally. 'It's all in your head' she'd say, 'if you truly believe you're not sick, then you won't be.' When I was little I had believed her and tried my hardest to believe that I was not sick. When my sickness disappeared a few days later, I thought it had worked. Back then, I had thought it was cool to overpower a cold with just my mind. It made me feel strong. Of course, now I know that will power can't save you from sickness, maybe from so me, but not all. Sometimes you can't be saved from a sickness.

When I started to come to my senses I was overwhelmed by the searing sensation of pain that afflicted my body, my entire being felt like a live wire of sore overused muscles thrumming with pain. My fingers and toes pulsed with a sharp jolt, as if electricity were flowing though my veins, whenever I tried to wiggle them. Not to mention, the tips of finger and toes felt like an ice fire that only intensified with every passing minute. My arms and legs were stiff from lying motionless too long, and my head felt as heavy as a stone falling to the depths of the ocean. Every time my heart beat my muscles throbbed with pain. If lying down was so excruciatingly dreadful, I can only imagine what getting up would feel like.

While rendered immobile, I took in some of my surroundings. The room was pretty small, and, well, drab. Everything looked clean, nonetheless, but the walls seemed faded, almost colorless, yet I couldn't tell what color they were supposed to be; the ceiling had dark ringed spots in random places, and the blanket covering me was rather thin with a distinct smell that I couldn't place as good or bad. The bed was soft in a way that suggested it had been thoroughly used, yet the pillows were so full they almost seemed new. There was no TV or phone of any kind in the room and the only window, to the right of the bed, looked warped in a way that suggested the glass might not be glass. All in all, it wasn't a horrible hotel room, but it was one of the better ones I've seen.

There was nothing in the room to hold my attention. No one was around, and I was a little grateful that he wasn't here, but it also worried me. He made it evident that he didn't want to be bothered by anyone, so where could he be? I couldn't imagine him hanging out in the lobby, even if he had nothing better to do, especially with that old lady running around. I vaguely recollected hearing tid-bits of conversations, though I couldn't recall what they were about, but I remembered hearing her voice. It was pretty apparent that he was taking a disliking to her and it made me edgy to think of them being in the same room together. The more I thought about it, the more I got this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The last time he was in the same room as that lady it looked like he was losing his patience. When I hadn't listened to him he choked me to the point of almost passing out, and I was the person he supposedly loved. I couldn't imagine what he would do to someone he didn't care for. For the first time, I found myself wishing he was here with me, so I would at least know where he was.

Footsteps sounded in the hall; my breath caught as I listened. The floor was silent, no creaking wood floors, but I could hear the soft thud of shoes on carpet. Was it him? I listened harder, trying to distinguish the steps. They were light, yet firm and hurried, the tempo faster than usual. I was used to hearing him on wooden floors, and he usually didn't walk fast. Still I couldn't think of any other person it could be.

I started to move myself up into a sitting position as the doorknob twisted and he let himself in. Every muscle in my body screamed in protest of my movement, but I tried to get myself upright anyways.

"Ah, sleeping beauty has awakened."

I looked up to see someone unfamiliar closing the door behind himself.

"I came to see you earlier, but you were still asleep. I thought it best not to disturb you," he said walking up to the front of the bed and gently setting his bag down on the edge of it. His lips curved into an easy smile that revealed perfectly straight teeth that were almost frighteningly white.

"You had a high fever, so I'm sure you needed your rest," he said poking through his bag and pulling out a thermometer.

I remained silent, not knowing what to say. He appeared to be a doctor, but I was only guessing that because of the stethoscope hanging around his neck. He didn't wear the long white coat doctors usually wore and he was clad in a pair of jeans and a button down shirt. I don't think I've ever seen a doctor wear jeans, at least, not on the job. His face had minor wrinkles that were barely noticeable. He looked to be somewhere in his mid-forties with deep laugh lines and an average build.

Once he found his thermometer, he ambled over to the side of the bed, "Alright miss, open up."

I looked at the thermometer cautiously. It was one of those digital ones, mostly made of plastic, with one fat end that electronically told you your temperature and a skinny end, tipped with medal, which was supposed to go in your mouth.

"Come now, it won't bite. And it's as clean as a whistle."

I gave it another curious glance before opening my mouth and taking in the device. With that done, he untangled that stethoscope from his neck and gently sat down on the bed. He put one end in his ears and the other end to my heart. I flinched a little, feeling the bit of the cool medal against my skin, but if he noticed, he didn't comment. He listened to my heartbeat for about a minute, then nodded.

"Are you having any trouble breathing?"

I shook my head, and he nodded. A low beeping sound filled the room. He reached up, taking the thermometer out of my mouth, and examined it.

"A hundred degrees, it's gone down some from when I came by earlier," he said getting up and walking back over to his bag. He pulled out a small plastic baggie and dropped the thermometer into it, as he put that away he pulled out a flat wooden stick and a tiny flashlight.

"Does it hurt to swallow?" he asked walking back over to me.

I nodded and opened my mouth again so he could take a look at my throat.

"Your throat is inflamed and a little swollen." He clicked off the light and stood up giving me a slight smile, "It's nothing too serious though, and nothing some medicine can't fix."

I nodded, feeling uneasy.

"I'll get you something for that throat of yours," he said, the small smile never fully leaving his face. "And as long as your fever continues to go down there shouldn't be anything to worry about."

Once again I nodded fiddling with the blanket coving my bed. My hands didn't hurt as much if I kept them buy.

"You're not very talkative, are you?"

I tried for a smile, but the action felt foreign on my face, so I quickly ditched the attempt.

The doctor pulled another small, plastic baggie and dropped the wooden stick into it. When he finished packing his things away, he looked up at me, "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

Shaking my head, I thought about mentioning how much my body hurt, but I was pretty sure there was nothing he could do about that beside, probably, giving me some pain killers. I wasn't a big fan of oversized pills though, so I kept my mouth shut.

"Well miss—," he stopped abruptly and his brow furrowed as he looked at me. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure of knowing your name."

For a moment, I just looked at him. It's only polite if I gave him my name, and he's been nothing but polite to me. Still, I hesitated as a warning wrung through my head, 'don't talk to anyone. Not even a word.' Even if he wasn't here at the moment, I couldn't bring myself to defy his words, so I shook my head and stayed silent.

The doctor frowned, but it didn't last long, though the smile didn't quite reach his eyes, "Then we'll leave it a mystery. I'll come back with the medicine later this evening, if I can. As long as your fever continues to go down there shouldn't be too much of a problem. Try to get some rest. If anything comes up, or changes, don't hesitate to give me a ring."

With one last smile he opened the door and let himself out, closing it softly behind him.

I could hear his swift footsteps as he retreated down the hall. Did all doctors walk with such a quick step? I listened until they faded into nothing, then leaned back against the head with a sigh. The doctor was gone; the only problem was that he was going to coming back. Actually that wasn't really the problem, it didn't matter when the doctor decided to come back, but when he was coming back.

There was no telling how long I stayed awake, I soon realized there was no clock anywhere in the room, but at some point I fell back asleep. For a while it was dreamless, just empty darkness, but then visions started to come.

At first, they were nothing more than fleeting glimpses of people and things I couldn't fully comprehend. The images flashed by, one just as fleeting as the next, barely leaving any memory of them behind. In one moment, there was man of tall stature and dark hair, standing with wide open arms, waiting for me to throw myself into them, and in another, a boy, more of a young man, with short black hair and a smile brightened his face as he stood in front of an empty canvas. Then there was a young boy, leaning against a wall, arms crossed over his chest as he tried to exude a sense of coolness as a petite woman stood next to him. There were others, but their faces were shrouded in darkness, just meaningless being fading from one person to the next, almost like strangers you pass on the street.

Soon, everyone disappeared and my dream shifted leaving only an empty sing set in its place, its rusted metal creaking as the seats swayed lightly as if there were a breeze. I went and sat in one of the seats. The swing next to me still fluttered in the wind, and I couldn't help thinking someone was supposed to be there. When I looked down there was a book of old nursery rhymes left in the dirt. The book flapped open to reveal empty sheets of paper that held no words. The pages of the rhyme book turned on their own accord until reaching the last one. A photo was taped into the book; it showed a family of four, all smiling and looking as happy as can be, but once again I couldn't help feeling something was missing. Someone else should be in that photo, but as my hand reach for it, the picture came loose from its imprisonment and glided away in the wind, lost forever.