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Cause of Death

by Katharine Norin, 16, Platteville, Wisconsin

"It's raining, I have to go."

"It's been raining, stay, just a little while, please."

That pleading tone, almost irresistible.

"I can't, you know I have to get home."

Kiss. Kiss. "Please, I'll miss you."

More kissing.

After a little I pulled away. "You know I'd stay if I could, but I really can't. Just save it for later. Ok?"

"You're worth it"

All right, that was worthy of one more kiss.

I walked down his sidewalk the way you walk when you know someone is watching you, just a little extra swing in my hips that couldn't be omitted even through the pummeling rain. I unlocked my car and gave one last glance and smile back into his room as I got in. I started my car and noticed the time—an eleven-minute trip back to my house in the middle of nowhere; I should've known it couldn't be done in five. I was driving through town to the other side of nowhere with my windshield wipers straining, leaves blowing my path. I was one of very few cars foolish enough to be on the road at that time of night in this kind of weather. I got into the country and was able to see only a few yards in front of my Buick hood ornament, all vision beyond that blocked out by little tiny drops of water, many little tiny drops of water.

The rain was on my windshield, then, I don't know, but the rain was on my face. It was a little lighter, but still raining, maybe not as hard. I don't remember feeling cold or tired or wet. It was kind of like I was just floating in this warm gel that made me feel as if everything was all right.

I woke up, startled by the white walls and stiff itchy blanket. I closed my eyes and wished I was in my car again. In my car, that's where I was, in my car on my road, on Saturday night, or was it Sunday morning? There'll be time for thinking of that later. I once again felt the warmth around me, from within me. The dark inside my eyelids was better than the walls. "You're worth it," and a smile came to my face.

It was so good to have someone around me, holding me, talking with me. ____ was there, and I was telling him about my dream, how good I felt knowing no matter what happened he'd be there when I needed him. He comforted me, told me it was only a dream, but he was there now. Then, as if to prove it, he pinched my arm.

White walls, stiff blanket, solitude, which part was a dream? I reached to pinch my own arm but stopped when I felt a sharp pain and a slight resistance. I blinked, still adjusting my eyes; it was much brighter than it was...when was that? I looked at my arm and discovered a tube attached to a needle piercing my skin. I thought there should be someone here—an attendant or some one with a comforting word. I looked around for another sign of a visit—balloons, cards, flowers. An IV tree, a television in the upper right hand corner of the room, my stiff graham cracker blanket on my bed, and me; that's all that I could see for now. I drifted back into a warm sleep.

I unclosed my eyes maybe a little while later when I had hoped I heard someone, and my mind was suddenly marauded with questions. How long have I been here? Who knows I'm here? Who cares I'm here? Where is here? Am I worth it? I started to look a little more ardently, still as scarcely aware as before. I noticed my room was shaped like an L. The enclosed corner must have been a bathroom. There were two doors and there seemed to be a sliver panel where the handle should've been; I only assumed it was a "push" at the time. There was also a window with severe blinds tightly drawn as lips with a secret.

I had no idea how long I'd been in this place, or what day it was. I strained to stay awake through my intense yawns. I thought that it seemed unnatural for me to be sleeping all the time—something about that I.V. maybe. I pulled it out, the one and a half inch of the small metallic tube. I snapped it in half and felt a strong relief to no longer have this obtrusion on my very inner personal space, and thought I could have a little rest on my own terms. What's better than a little R&R with some television? I figured whoever was about to come see me would be glad to see me so acclimated at my first awakening. I looked around for a remote and saw none, so I went to stand to manually turn on the television. I took off my blanket and noticed my legs looking pale, emaciated, and old. I must have been sleeping or in the car for a longer time than I had originally thought. I passed on that thought and strained to reach the shiny knob. It flicked and the television hummed as most old televisions do when they're warming up. A black and white picture emanated from the center, shivered, and then was still. It was a girl with thin, light hair in an unflattering, untailored shirt that went to her knees; she was looking up. I felt tired and took a step backwards to sit on my bed, and so did the girl. I looked again and waved my hand. So did my television personality.

I wondered how long that had been running. This isn't a hospital, not like any other hospital, at least that I've been to, I thought. I realized I must be horribly dehydrated and I went into the bathroom to see if there was a sink at least. I opened the door and saw more bright white walls, scrupulously clean, also a toilet, a shower, and a small sink with a drawer under it. I walked up to the sink and put my lips to the faucet. The water felt so good, it reminded me of the raindrops on my face. What had happened in between then and now? With every second my curiosity and confusion were boiling up inside of me, rising into my throat, suffocating my thoughts.

I looked under the sink in hopes of finding some sign of something, someone having been there, or maybe returning. I found a copy of Gideon's Bible. It seemed perfectly new and creaked when I opened it. I flipped to a random page, it was blank; I flipped to another, blank too. I fanned through the book from front to back and all the pages were blank. I dropped it down on the ground and left the bathroom, closing the door behind me . I looked up at the television and saw myself scared, confused. I went over to my bed and lay down. I must have fallen asleep, because I don't know how much later I woke up and the television was off.

It occurred to me that this whole time I had never tried to leave my chamber. I stood on my toothpick legs and walked to the door. I looked at the silver panel in the place of where the handle should be. I pushed and the door flung itself open and revealed a dark, dark hall with doors and on every door there was a sign with little scrawls of writing. I walked across the narrow hall and looked upon the sign of the door across from me. It was a blank form with the words "name," "age," "sex," and "cause of death." I looked at it again in confusion. I tried to open the door to the room but found no way to do so. I turned around quickly and looked at the sign on my door: "Name: Kimberly Roloff, Age: 17, Sex: Female, Cause of Death: Reckless driving." I staggered back and fell against the opposite side of the hall.

"What is this, some kind of joke?"

A gruff voice replied, "This is no joke." I saw that the owner of this voice was a tall, dark man all in a white, solemn-looking uniform. "You're here where you belong, you're here and this is where you will remain."

"Where is here?" I tried to ask in a brave tone, knowing I was fooling no one, especially this official man.

He approached me with a syringe in hand; I felt a stabbing pain and awoke I don't know how much later in my bed.

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