Fracture

By: Megan Miranda

For my mother, who says what she means,

and my father, who means what he says





Chapter 1





The first time I died, I didn’t see God.

No light at the end of the tunnel. No haloed angels. No dead grandparents.

To be fair, I probably wasn’t a solid shoo-in for heaven. But, honestly, I kind of assumed I’d make the cut.

I didn’t see any fire or brimstone, either.

Not even an endless darkness. Nothing.

One moment I was clawing at the ice above, skin numb, lungs burning. Then everything—the ice, the pain, the brightness filtering through the surface of the lake—just vanished.

And then I saw the light.

A man in white who was decidedly not God stuck a penlight into each eye, once, twice, and pulled a tube the size of a garden hose from my throat. He spoke like I’d always imagined God would sound, smooth and commanding. But I knew he wasn’t God because we were in a room the color of custard, and I hate custard. Also, I counted no less than five tubes running through me. I didn’t think there’d be that much plastic in heaven.

Move, I thought, but the only movement was the blur of white as the man passed back and forth across my immobile body. Speak, I thought, but the only sound came from his mouth, which spewed numbers and letters and foreign words. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I was still trapped. Only now, instead of staring through the surface of a frozen lake, I was staring through the surface of a frozen body. But the feelings were the same: useless, heavy, terrified.

I was a prisoner in my own body, lacking all control.

“Patient history, please,” said the man who was not God. He lifted my arm and let it drop. Someone yawned loudly in the background.

Tinny voices echoed in the distance, coming from all angles.

“Seventeen-year-old female.”

“Severe anoxic brain injury.”

“Nonresponsive.”

“Coma, day six.”

Day six? I latched onto the words, clawed my way to the surface, repeated the phrase until it became more than just a cluster of consonants and vowels. Day six, day six, day six. Six days. Almost a full week. Gone. A stethoscope hung from the neck of the man in white, swinging into focus an inch in front of my nose, ticking down the time.


* * *

Rewind six days. Decker Phillips, longtime best friend and longer-time neighbor, yelled up from the bottom of the stairs, “Get your butt down here, Delaney! We’re late!”

Crap. I slammed my English homework closed and searched through my bottom drawer, looking for my snow gear.

“Just a sec,” I said as I struggled with my thermal pants. They must have shrunk since last winter. I hitched them up over my hips and attempted to stretch out the waistband, which cut uncomfortably into my stomach. No matter how far I stretched the elastic band, it snapped instantly back into place again. Finally, I gripped the elastic on both sides of the seam and pulled until I heard the tear of fabric. Victory.

I topped everything with a pair of white snow pants and my jacket, then stuffed my hat and gloves into my pockets. All my layers doubled my normal width, but it was winter. Maine winter, at that. I ran down the steps, taking the last three in one jump.

“Ready,” I said.

“Are you insane?” Decker looked me over.

“What?” I asked, hands on hips.

“You’re not serious.”

We were on our way to play manhunt. Most kids played in the dark, wearing black. We played in the snow, wearing white. Unfortunately, Mom had gotten rid of last year’s jacket and replaced it with a bright red parka.

“Well, I’d rather not freeze to death,” I said.

“I don’t know why I bother teaming up with you. You’re slow. You’re loud. And now you’re target practice.”

“You team up with me because you love me,” I said.

Decker shook his head and squinted. “It’s blinding.”

I looked down. He had a point. My jacket was red to the extreme. “I’ll turn it inside-out once we get there. The lining is much less . . . severe.” He turned toward the door, but I swear I saw a grin. “Besides, you don’t hear me complaining about your hair. Mine at least blends in.” I messed his shaggy black hair with both hands, but he flicked me off the same way he swatted at mosquitoes in the summer. Like I was a nuisance, at best.

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