Continuing from where we left off, Episode 18....(Episodes 1-17 archived on this site, The Book Series)

As Belinda ran forward in anger, the world around her began to blur. She could not stop running, a force propelled her. Her angry had jettisoned her forward , but something else kept in her motion. She tried to look back. Her head would not turn to either side. What energy had control of her that she could not stop? She was simultaneously motionless and in motion; she was set on automatic; she had reached the end and was running in place. She could not turn left or right. Was she really even moving? The world seemed to be revolving around her, while she stood still. Her legs in simulation. Then everything stopped. She was thrust into an invisible wall.

She yelled at the top of her lungs, unleashing the pain of her mother's death and the confusion that permeated her thoughts in this strange place. The wall shattered in front of her, and the ground crumbled like egg shells. She fell through the ground, and the fall seemed to be endless. Certain images came into focus, as the dust settled. She saw Sonicity sitting in the corner of a white room, huddled over, with her head down. She was still. Belinda yelled for her to wake but Sonicity didn't budge from the chair. Then a flash of light blinded Bel, and she struggled to move. But she couldn't move her legs. The light disappeared, and she gasped for air.

As she opened her eyes, the room came gradually into focus. Sonicity was now alert in her chair. Mr. V was at her bedside. He kept repeating the words, "Can you hear me, Belinda? Are you in there?

"Where am I," asked Bel, exasperated. "Where's Nina and Max? What happened?"

Mr. V explained that she had been in a coma for a week.

Sonicity moved to her side, putting her hand on Bel's arm. "I missed you, Belinda. Welcome back."

Bel responded, "You mean, Zuatha - none of that happened?" "

Say what?" asked Sonicity. "Bel, you have been here the whole time." She continued, "The time masher exploded. Do you remember? The impact flew you up into the air, and you came down hard. You saved me Bel and others by moving us out of the way. The whole area filled with smoke and fumes."

"It was so real," explained Belinda. She added, looking at Mr. V, "You spoke to me. I heard your voice."

"Belinda, he spoke to you every day." Mr. V nodded. "We were so frightened," Sonicity went on. "It's okay, the last thing I remember Belinda is the smoke. I was thrown to the ground, and fainted. They took us both to the hospital."

Confounded and adamant, Belinda was not willing to give up so easily. "I remember the accident. I remember everything. After the explosion, I remember flying up in the air; the sky was dark. I heard the voices - V, Wilma, and your mom. They said we were headed for the vortex. Then, I remember meeting you there on Zuatha. I woke up in a bedroom that looked like mine when I lived with mother... " Bel's voice trailed off. "So none of this was real." "It's okay Belinda. Your version sounds more interesting than mine. I am glad you are back with us."

Sonicity smiled. Resigning herself to the logic of others, Bel said, "I guess we didn't win any award at the fair. I thought we made history."

"Actually, you did," the old man laughed. "Maybe no awards. Soni's mom had to pay the bill for the explosion. But you girls did make history!"

"We did!" Sonicity echoed Mr. V, adding, "There have been protests going on since our experiment. People want the realm to be opened. One of the reporters released some of Father's notes - how opening the realms acknowledges the diversity of the people living here now. It seems to be the hot topic - who has the right to decide where we can travel? - and live? It's opened the whole immigration debate again, arguing some have ancestors connected to other realms - so there's all that talk. And then others, saying that our world is so polluted and populated - we need to find alternatives, and so on and on."

"Oh, wow. I have a headache." "Oh, too much too soon, " said Mr. V. "We should go now. We can come back later."

"Okay, Mr. V. Let me say good bye to Belinda," said Sonicity. "I'll be only a minute."

Belinda's eyes were weary. Sonicity fixed her pillow, and Bel fell off to sleep. As she drifted off, Sonicity tucked the sheet around her body, slipping out of the room quietly.

A few hours passed. There was a soft knock on the door. "Can we come in? Belinda, are you awake," asked Sonicity. I brought some visitors to see you."

 "Yes come in," said Bel. "I'm very awake and bored out of my mind."

"Well good then. We will be your entertainment," jested her good friend.

 As the guests walked in, Bel's face dropped in disbelief. She screamed, and the nurses came running into the room.

"Get them out of here, now. Now!" she yelled. "Belinda! What's wrong! It's your Nina! And my father."

Nina and Maxwell, shocked and embarrassed, looked at each other in dismay. They backed out of the room, with the nurses' prodding.

"Everyone has to leave now," one of the nurses said. She repeated, "You have to leave now. She is in distress." The nurses held down Belinda, and sedated her. She drifted off to sleep again. A nurse walked out of the room to greet the visitors. "She is okay now. Let her rest."

"Nina is her mother. This is my father. I have no idea why she got so upset," explained Sonicity. "Does she have some amnesia?"

The nurse responded, "She is not herself. She has been in coma. She will adjust to her surroundings in time."

Glancing at Nina, she added, "Let her rest. Too much stimulus today."

Nina asked, "Can I sit in the chair on the room, and wait for her to wake."

 "You are her mother, right?"

"Yes," retorted Nina. "Of course, but she may sleep for a few hours."

"I will wait for her to wake."

As Nina gently opened the door, Sonicity tapped her shoulder. "Nina, when she wakes let me know. I will be sitting in the waiting area with Father."

"Yes, dear. But you should go home for a bit first, and get some rest yourself."

"I might do that." Sonicity hugged Nina, and joined her father in the other room.

The door to Bel's hospital room closed. It would be hours before Belinda awoke. Nina patiently waited. Belinda tossed and turned in her sleep. She resumed falling in her dream. This time she fell below the hospital room, spiraling down a few levels to what appeared an empty basement. The floor was cold, wet and hard. The room was dark, and the air was stale. A mix of mildew and bleach. There was a distant light. Belinda crawled across the concrete in its direction. She reached forward, and touched a black work boot. Another boot stood erect near it. As she looked up, she saw the figure of a person. She reached her hand upward for help.

The woman kneeled  in front of Belinda. Her face was covered with dirt, but it was her mother.

"Belinda," she said. "No matter where you go. I will be here for you until the end." Belinda awoke to Nina wiping the sweat from her forehead with a moist cloth.

"Ah, you are finally awake," her mother noted.

Belinda was too weak to fight, and too groggy to think though all this. She looked up at Nina and simply said, "You are not real." "I am very real, Belinda."

Sonicity came into the room. Belinda looked at her like she was a traitor.

"I don't need a mother. Apparently, I don't need a best friend either."

The nurse came into the room to check on the commotion. She asked everyone to leave. Nina argued she had the right to stay because Bel was a minor. To which, Belinda lashed out, pronouncing loudly she was an adult and that she could take care of herself.

"Oh, you are barely a teenager. You still need your mother, young lady," retorted the nurse. "For now, everyone please step out of the room. I will call the doctor to ask her if she can drop by this evening on her last round."

When the nurse finally left, Belinda looked at herself in the mirror on the way to the restroom. She was as she last remembered, an adult woman. That night, Belinda sat up in the bed alone, thinking, trying to sort out what had happened. Was she crazy? She walked over to the window, looking out, leaning on the window sill. She couldn't trust her eyes, nor even her thoughts. Nonetheless, she preferred to trust herself.

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