Runner-up, KidPub July 2103 Writing Contest
I opened my eyes from a dreamless sleep. I glanced at my clock and realized that it was early, at least for me. I wondered what could have woken me up. Then I realized it was the noises coming from downstairs. I could hear pots and pans clanging downstairs in the kitchen, and the scattered voices of conversations traveling up my staircase like wisps of talking wind. It appeared that I was the last one to wake up, as usual.
I sat up and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I stopped suddenly. My hands felt scratchy, almost flaky. I raised them to eye level, and gasped. My hands were a dark green color and were patterned with ovular circles – scales. I ran my hands all along my body, searching for anything else abnormal. I found out that my long flowing hair that went down to my waist had been replaced with a spiky purple mohawk that began at the top of my forehead and continued down my head until it ended at the base of my neck. A long scaly tail branched from the bottom of my spine. Everything but my mohawk was covered in the same scales that coated my hands.
I looked like a replica of the loch ness monster.
I started screaming. What was happening? What will my parents think? I threw on some ordinary clothes and quickly dashed down the stairs, hoping that there would be a reasonable explanation for all this.
“Mom? Dad?” I called.
When I peered inside the kitchen, my blood ran cold. Tending to the steaming bacon was not my father, but a creature that looked just like me. The only thing that would set this thing and myself apart was that this one had a bright blue mohawk, instead of purple.
The monster turned and flashed a pointy-toothed grin at me. “Good morning, Pattila. Your mother and I have been waiting for you to get up.” I looked over at the second creature standing in the house, making eggs. This one had an orange-yellow mohawk.
“Hello, sweetheart,” my “mother” said. “Want some breakfast?” She held out the pan, with two sunny-side-up eggs inside.
I staggered back and held up my hands. “Look, I don’t know either of you people or... animals. What have you done with my parents? Who are you? What do you want?”
My father smile fell. “Why don’t you come eat some breakfast, Patty.” He turned to my mother. “We should’ve known she would act this way.”
“Sit down, honey.” My mother gestured to a vacant bar stool. “I think we need to talk.”
I backed away. “I don’t know you.”
“Yes, you do,” my mother said. “Who do you think we are? Monsters?”
“Yes,” I muttered.
“We’re your parents, Pattila.”
“No, you’re not! My parents don’t look like.. like...like YOU!” I screamed.
“Like yourself?” my mother asked gently.
I opened my mouth to say something, but stopped. It was true. What she said was true. It wasn’t just them. I looked like a monster too. I don’t what happened overnight, but it changed me and my family. Or maybe I was just going insane. Perhaps everyone else was seeing normal things, and though I was crazy. I started feeling dizzy.
“Sit down,” my father said firmly, his eyes flashing with impatience.
“Come on, Patty. We’ll explain everything,” my mother offered.
What was happening? Had I been kidnapped?
I shouted, “NO!” in my mom’s face, and turned and ran out the door.
I ran past the streets, looking for something familiar. Something to hold onto. Something that would give me hope.
But there was nothing.
The houses were squat and gray with odd phrases spray-painted on the walls. SCALES OR WHALES? and BACON, STEAMING HOT AND FRESH, ALTHOUGH NOT AS GOOD AS FLESH! Even the house of my best friend Marilyn had been replaced by a tall building with colorful banners hanging from every balcony.
A fellow monster walked nearby, holding a tie-dye umbrella even though it wasn’t raining. An alien dog trailed from a leash wrapped around the monster’s wrist. The dog was pale purple with two boggling eyes. There were bulbous spots dotting its body that were red and green. It turned to look at me and sniffed loudly. I stumbled back and moved away. Anything in this creepy world was dangerous.
Everything was so alien like. It seemed to close in, suffocating me.
I ran in circles, yelling “Help! Help! Somebody help me! I’m in a nightmare!” This can’t be happening. This cannot be happening. Just pinch yourself. Pinch yourself and you’ll wake up and everything will be-
“Excuse me,” a small voice said below me. “If you need help, the hospital is just across the road.”
I looked down. A tiny monster, a girl I assumed, that had a hot pink mohawk was tugging on my hand. The toddler looked about six years old. She would have been extremely cute if her chubby cheeks weren’t the color of a swamp.
“Oh, thanks,” I replied uncertainly. Any hospital in this monster world was sure to be a disaster, especially one suggested by a toddler. But my eyes followed the line the girl’s finger directed.
It was the same hospital. It was not grey or overly colorful like everything else I had seen. It was the same. It was how I remembered it. I could glimpse a few figures in blue uniforms walking around inside. Human figures. My heart leapt. Something normal at last.
I found myself running towards the hospital, grasping for the handles that would bring me to the normal humans. It looked so comforting, which was strange for a hospital. Hospitals smelt of rubbing alcohol, sickness, and misery. Hospitals were places where people cried and died. But for me, this hospital was a beacon of hope. I yanked the handles and ran inside.
The place was hectic. Doctors, nurses, and families were everywhere. There were large groups of people swarming the front desk, and the sound of raised voices echoed in the white room. Human patients were pushed on gurneys left and right, some bloodied, and others covered with thick bandages. One nurse made eye contact with me, and immediately beckoned to two other nurses. They came up to me, and roughly started pulling me down the hall. For women, they were pretty strong.
“What are you doing? Let go of me!” I screamed as I scratched at their white-knuckled hands. The nurses took no notice.
“To the ICU. To the ICU!” the lead nurse yelled.
Wait, who needs to go to the ICU?
Male doctors streamed from the room and accompanied the nurses. They lifted me onto a gurney, and rolled me down the hall.
Was it me? But I’m not sick!
We rushed through a pair of sliding doors and I was put onto a second bed in the middle of the room we had entered.
Masks were fastened over my face, a monitor beeped in the distance. The color of flesh faded in and out of my vision. Stern voices shouted out orders. There was a baby crying in the background. Chaos was everywhere.
A young nurse came into my vision. “We’re going to have to put you out, okay, honey? It’s just a quick operation. Don’t worry, you’ll be awake before you know it.”
My throat ached as I shouted, “No! I’m not sick!” but the mask muffled anything that I said.
The nurse blurred as I felt a sharp pang in my arm. The crazy world around me gradually faded to black.
I woke in a peaceful state. I was warm and comfortable beneath the covers of the bed. I could vaguely hear my breathing and the comforting voice of my mom. Then I remembered that it wasn’t my mom, but a monstrous creature that had the voice of my mom.
I opened my eyes. The white walls of the hospital room were decorated with drawings and Post-It notes, all addressed to me. There was a bouquet of flowers at the end of my bed. And sitting beside the flowers, playing with the colorful petals, was my mom.
Not monster mom. Real mom. Human mom. Her blue eyes seemed to suck me in as they filled with tears, pulling me into an ocean where there would be no escape.
“Mom,” I whispered.
She walked over and ruffled my hair with her hand. My real hair, not a purple mohawk. I stroked my mom’s hand. Her hand was real soft skin, just like mine. No more scales.
The door creaks open and a doctor walks in.
“Ah ha!” he exclaims. “The sleepy head awakes.”
I frowned. I couldn’t have been unconscious for a long time. “How long have I been asleep?”
Silence. My mom bit her lip. “A week, sweetheart,” she said.
My eyes popped. “A week? But the nurse said it would be quick. Did something go wrong? Did they stick the needle in the wrong place?”
Now it was the doctor’s turn to frown. “We did not use anesthesia, Pattila. There was no operation, no needle.”
“But I was in the ICU! They put me out because I was sick,” I protested. “Look!” I turned to gesture to the ICU sign but it was not there. The wall was blank. I was in a regular care unit. “They must’ve moved me,” I tried to convince myself. But I knew I was lying to myself.
“Maybe some minor effects of the coma,” the doctor explained.
“Yes, you’ve been in a coma for a week,” the doctor said.
I suddenly felt very dizzy. A coma. I had been in a coma. But comas only happened in books and movies. Not in real life. Especially to me. Well, I guess turning into a freaky green monster wasn’t exactly reality either.
“What happened to me?” I asked.
My mom spoke this time. “It was a rainy night. We were driving to Grandma and Grandpa’s. The car slipped down a ravine. It was you and me, remember? You were in the passenger seat.”
I closed my eyes. My brain ached as the memory of a late night materialized before my eyes. Rain flashed against a window, blood spattered the windows. The shriek of an ambulance siren blared in the distance. The honk of a horn shook my ears and the flare of lighting lit up the black sky. My neck jerking and throbbing this way and that.
“Mom,” I murmured. “I remember it.” The recollection of intense pain made my head pound. “It hurt. A lot.”
“I know, sweetie.” My mom kissed the top of my head. “I know.”
I was let out of the hospital two days later.
I was back home.
My dad was a human and my mom was a human. And I was a human. Everything was back to normal.
That evening, I was sitting at the bar while my mom prepared dinner.
“And mom, you should’ve seen all the weird houses. They were all gray and gross. Not like the nice ones that are there today. But they were so weird. There were some really creepy things written on them and...”
“Uh huh,” my mom said distractedly. She rummaged through some cupboards. “That sounds great, honey.”
I stopped. “You don’t believe me, do you?”
“No, I do. I believe that all that stuff happened in your head.”
My eyes flashed with anger. “That’s what happens to crazy people, mom! I’m not crazy!”
“I know, Patty. Just let it go. It happened a while ago,” my mother declared.
“But it was all so real! I could feel the touch of grass on my feet when I ran on everyone’s lawns, and the needle they injected hurt, and the anger and fear I felt was so real. It couldn’t all have been just a dream, mom.”
“Hmmm,” my mom said as she scanned the tomatoes, hoping to find a ripe one.
My mom looked up and sat down next to me. “Pattila, I do believe that you thought it was real. But you have to understand that crazy things happen and we have to move on from them. Just let it go. It’ll be all right.”
I nodded although tears were flooding my eyelids.
“It was just so scary,” I whispered.
“It must’ve been,” my mom said.
“I thought my life was over.”
Tears glistened in my mom’s eyes. “I thought my life would end if you never woke up from that coma.”
I nodded, and stopped feeling sorry for all the terrible things that had happened to me.
“You’re right.” I sat up tall on the stool. “It doesn’t matter what happened then. What matters is that everything’s back to normal now, and I’m home.”
I reached over and picked up a tomato. My mom smiled, and we both finished dinner together.