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Dead Girls Are Easy
"She's coding. Give me another round of epi, stat."
"Keep bagging her, nurse. I'm not letting her go yet. Charge it to 360."
Had I left the TV on? I'd never cared much for medical dramas. Too much intensity, too much crying, too many doctors undergoing personal crises of faith—I'd rather believe they were professionals who knew what they were doing and leave it at that.
The body on the table jerked at least a foot in the air when the paddles touched its chest. A hand flopped to the side, revealing red fingernails and a silver thumb ring. A woman.
A high-pitched whining from one of the machines was getting on my nerves, but I had to give the director credit. The urgency on the faces of the people clustered around the gurney looked pretty real.
"Again." That doc just wasn't gonna give up, was he? Maybe he was hoping for a daytime Emmy—wasn't that what they gave for bad soap operas? The heartburn that made me lie down on the couch was finally gone, but it seemed too much trouble to look for the remote, so I just watched.
The camera angle shifted so that now I was above the action, looking down from a high corner of the room. There was a blond nurse standing at the head of the table, squeezing a bulb-like thing over the patient's face.
The body flopped again at another jolt of electricity while I winced in sympathy. She wasn't a car battery, for goodness sake.
"Check her pupils." The nurse holding the bulb stepped back while another one leaned in with a little flashlight and pried the woman's eyelid open with athumb.
"No reaction, Doctor. Nothing on the EKG, either."
The guy holding the paddles let his shoulders slump, while the two nurses gave each other significant glances. It was then I got a good look at the woman on the bed. Dark hair, cropped short like a boy's, with a telltale streak of pink. She was me.
No sooner had the realization hit when a pulling sensation jerked me up and out of the deathbed scene. Suddenly I was in a dark tunnel, rushing along like I was on the subway, only there were no seats, no drunks, and no rhythmic rattle of rails. There was just me, and a light that grew steadily brighter the faster I went.
I was weightless, and somehow a part of the light, becoming more so the closer I got. It radiated and shimmered like coiled lightning, pulsing white with a golden center, and it drew me like a lodestone. I couldn't wait to see what lay beyond it.
Silence gave way to music, but it wasn't like any I'd ever heard before. It seemed to be coming from the light itself, yet it was all around true music of the soul. There were others there, though I couldn't see them clearly, bright shapes pulsing and flowing.
My forward progress slowed, then stopped. I heard a voice.
"It's not your time, Nicki."
"I'm dreaming, right?"
"You've awakened unto Life, but the dream is not yet over."
I can't explain what perfect sense that statement made, any more than I could explain how so many things that had troubled me in the past suddenly made sense. Like why my mother gave me up for adoption before the cord that bound us had even been cut, or why really bad things happen to really good people. For a few precious moments I actually saw the fabled "grand design" stretched out before me like an infinite spiderweb. I barely had time to grasp it before it was snatched away.
"Go back, Nicki, but don't forget—do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
My body felt strange, heavy. It was an effort to open my eyes, and when I did, I wished I hadn't. The glare of a fluorescent bar surrounded by stained ceiling tiles was not the light I longed for.
"Hey." I felt a hand touch my hair. Evan's face came into view, a very uncharacteristic look of concern in his blue eyes. "How you feeling, girlie?" he asked.
My chest felt like there was an elephant sitting on it and my mouth was dry as sand, but I managed to croak out a reply.
That brought back the lopsided grin I knew so well, and made me feel a little better. My best friend since childhood, Evan wasn't the type to play nursemaid unless there was a handsome guy around who wanted to play doctor. We'd shared backyards, homework, and confidences while we were growing up, so it had come as no big surprise in junior high when we shared a crush on the same football player.
"What happened?" Talking was an effort.
"You faked a heart attack and almost gave me one in the process." Evan's joking still carried overtones of worry. "Good thing I decided to come check on you when you didn't answer the phone. I knew you didn't have a date, and I couldn't believe you'd go out for Chinese without me."
I licked dry lips, not entirely sure I was awake. "A heart attack?"
"Mitral valve prolapse."
I slid my eyes toward the unfamiliar voice. There was a dark-haired man at the foot of the bed, studying my chart. He wore green surgical scrubs and the typical stethoscope around the neck, and when he glanced up, I recognized him. He was the soap opera guy who tried so hard to save the woman on the gurney.
"A small heart defect, normally benign, but in your case nearly fatal."
He moved to stand across the bed from Evan. "We thought we'd lost you, Miss . . ." He consulted the chart again. ". . . Styx, is it?" He grinned. "I guess you didn't have the right change for the ferryman."
Evan looked at him blankly, but I . . .Dead Girls Are Easy. Copyright © by Terri Garey. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.