Let's Write a Story!

Dolly walked for what seemed like hours.
She had gone thru the different stages of grieving during that time. First shock, then denial "Its a dream, all a dream. I'm going crazy.", then anger "how could he? Bill! How could he leave me?" then bargaining "Lord, I"ll do ANYTHING, please come back and get me!" and now, finally, numb acceptance. The same word echoed thru her mind "forgotten, forgotten".
She had no idea where she was. This was an unfamiliar side of town. There was not a single soul around. Birds aplenty, a few stray cats, one whimpering dog that ran at the sight of her. She found she really didnt care. All the stories she had read in high school of the end of the world, and the last person on earth ran together and blurred.
Passing by a department store, she had the dim thought of going in and getting some decent clothes. She discarded the idea as too much effort.
Suddenly, dark, shadowy things fluttered around her, dive bombing her head. Frantically, she waved her arms, shooing them off. "Go away!" She screamed. In full panic, she ran down the street, her cries echoing off the blank buildings.
Dolly didnt stop until she realized that she had lost her right houseshoe and her foot was bleeding. Gasping and wheezing, she bent over, hands on her knees. The fluttery things were gone. She looked up, and saw a drug store on the corner.
"I feel guilt about doing this," She said out loud. Jumping at the sound of her voice, she opened the door and went in. She found bandaging supplies and went to the restroom. Heaving her foot up to the sink, she rinsed off the ugly open blisters and patted them dry. She jumped when the light flickered. Power may go out at any moment, with no one around to run the power stations, she mused. Better hurry up.
After bandaging her foot, she found a pair of blue flipflops and a couple of ice cream bars.
"I will pay them back after I regain my sanity." She announced to the air.
In a daze, Dolly continued walking.
Sitting down on a curb, she ate her ice cream and watched a house across the street burn down to the ground. There were no sirens, no flashing lights, no fire engines. Weird. The roof crashed in a spectacular display of sparks and embers and she idly thought that she should be grateful there was no wind to blow those embers to other houses.
Show over, she got up and wandered again.
Amazing how quiet the world is.
She found herself downtown, the sun sinking below the buildings with last defiant rays beaming up.
The street lights flickered on, one by one.
Dolly wearily sank down on a bench. The dark fluttery things came back, but she beat them off with a wave of her hand. "Go away." She said dully.
The street light she was under hummed, faltered, then picked up the hum again.
Any time now, she thought.
She must have dozed off, because she jerked upright, eyes wide. A bus was pulling up to the curb! She watched in amazement as the doors folded open.
Her gaze traveled up the stairs, over the driver's seat...she recoiled in shock. Smiling with genteel sympathy, was Bill's man in the dark suit!

(Whee! Your turn!)
(oooooh-hoo-hoo! You're good at tying things together! Hee hee...it tickles!:))

He came from the bus in arrogant steps, letting his head loll from side to side in true cockiness as he descended the steps, an eyebrow raised, buttoning the bottom button of his jacket.

Dolly raised her head and watched him, thinking in the back of her mind how horrible she must look right now. A woman at her end, wadded up on a curb like so much tossed trash, at the very ends of giving up.

Of course, she knew this man. He looked just the way she'd always imagined he was going to look. Handsome. Dashing. Not a thread out of place in his clothing. Clean. A warm, inviting expression on his face. A welcomed sight right now, to be sure.

The man strided slowly towards Dolly, and it seemed to her that he was making sure that each hard -clack!- of the heels of his dress shoes struck the ground with pavement-cracking force. She wiped her nose with the back of her hand absently, and lowered her hands to look up at him.

"He left you," the man told her. There was a sympathetic grin on his face. "Awww...he forgot all about you, didn't He?"

Stay strong, she thought. You've never been tempted the way you're about to be tempted now. He's going to try anything. He the deceiver!

"Some Father He must be!" the man said in anger, and glanced skyward momentarily. "Poor child. So lost, so alone. So scared."

"I know who you are," Dolly said in a defiant whisper. She tried hard not to let her fear show in her voice, but that's all she could hear: fear. "I know what you are."

"Of course you do!" the man said. He bent and dusted off a section of the curb not far from where Dolly was sitting. Then he took a seat, seeming to float down onto the curb without effort, his eyes never once leaving Dolly. "Everybody knows who I am. But everybody's got it wrong."

Here it comes, she thought. She didn't care. Not anymore.

"I'm not against God," he told her.

Lies. He's going to start with lies, all lies. Was she going to fight this now? Or was she going to cave in under the weight of her own (suddenly) miserable existence, where God had forgotten her.

"I'm a piece of Him," he said. "I'm that little small piece that broke off from the main block and began thinking for itself. I'm the piece that began questioning what was really right and what was really wrong. I'm something that wasn't afraid to go against the rest. I became, Dolly. I realized that I didn't want to play Follow-the-Mama-Duck forever. There were things that I wanted to do, places that I wanted to go, things that I wanted to see...and not all of them included pleasures only for His glory!"

She could see where he was going with this. Of course she could. She'd thought the same things once or twice in her own life, hadn't she? If God had given us free will...then why were we to follow Him for all of eternity? Why couldn't we blaze our own trails?

Stop it! Another part of her screamed out. His words, he's chosing them carefully, picking each flavor to seem pleasing to your own personal line of thinking! Keep your guard up!

"He wants us to think," he went on, "that we don't belong here. None of us. He's the Alpha and the Omega, and nobody matters in all of existence but Him. Is that fair, Dolly? Hmmm?"

Before she knew what she was doing, she shook her head no. His moving lips, the way he was blinking his eyes, his expressions. Once, back in college, Dolly had spent an entire afternoon watching tiny ants carry cubes of sugar back to their home, across the kitchen windowsill. It was an intoxicating process that demanded that she spent all of her concentration on the event. Why? She had no idea. But before she knew it, she'd wasted away hours that she could have been studying her textbooks, instead watching ants do their work one fraction of an inch at a time. That's what this was like. His face, his mannerisms. They required attention, and for some reason it felt so good to pay that attention to him.

"What makes Him so special?" he asked her. But he didn't wait for an answer, he went on almost immediately. "He's God? Who made Him God?"

She didn't want to hear any of this. She wasn't going to agree with him on his views.

"You hungry?" he asked her.

She looked at him, wary.

"Oh come on! You won't go to hell for taking a ham sandwich from me!" he screamed and then balked.

"I don't think I want anything that you have to offer." she said flatly.

"Think?" he asked her. "You don't think? Hmmm." he scratched his chin dramatically. "Then I guess I'll have to help you make up your mind. I'll open your eyes to a whole new world that you never suspected you'd become aware of. The truth, Dolly. Truth usually opens eyes."

He rose up off of the curb, and for some reason she followed him.

"Come," he said, "to the bus!"

(Your turn!:))
A small part of her was kicking and screaming in desperation. "No, no, no!" It screamed.
But Dolly was beyond caring at this point. What was the use? Where else did she have to go?
The man smirked as she slowly ascended the steps.
"You see?" He said silkily, "That isnt so hard, is it?"
Dolly didnt answer as she trudged to the very back. She wanted to be as far from him as possible.
The rest of the bus was empty, though immaculate. Like it had never been used before. Where were they going? Dolly found she really didnt care.
The man sat in the drivers seat, closed the doors and put it in gear.
"Do you wonder where we are going?" He asked, leering at her thru the mirror over his head.
She didnt have the energy to answer, she just stared at him. She was sure he wasnt going to answer, anyway. And, he didnt, just smirked some more.
He pulled away from the curb as the last of the sunset faded from the sky.
The street lights glowed hazily. She noticed there were very few lights on inside the buildings they passed. Was there really no other people left in the world? Surely she wasnt the only one?
A thought nagged at her, but she brushed it aside. She was too tired to think.
Where was Ranwell? She wondered, watching the city roll by, faster and faster. He'd better slow down, they were liable to crash!
"Hey!" She shouted above the noise of the motor, "Dont you think your going a little too fast?"
The man in the dark suit just chuckled and pressed on the gas harder.
"What do you care?" He shouted back with glee. "What do you have to live for?"
Dolly had to concede that, and slumped back in her seat. A lone curler flopped into her face. Slowly, she pulled it out and stared at it. A relic from her past. A reminder of how things were. Things that she cared about. Her Bill, her cat, her house, her friends. Where were they now?
She started to lean her forehead against the window when she pulled up short. What is that? There, on the glass, right about the same level as her forehead would have been.
A smudge.
Someone else had put their forehead on this window!!! She looked again at the sterile bus. Never been used, huh? So where did THIS come from?

(your turn!)
The bus continued to speed on into the night.
Dolly lost all track of time. Was it hours? Or only a few minutes?
Who cared?
Once in a while, they would pass thru a town, dead and dark.
A thought skittered across her mind. She scrambled to catch it, but it was gone.
She leaned her elbows onto her knees and lowered her head. The last curler slipped from its perch. In slow motion, she watched it fall to the floor, pink foam rubber glittering in the interior bus lights.
Somehow, it made her think of the airplane she watched fall from the sky.
Again, the thought just out of reach.
What is it?! She screamed inside herself. Her mind churned trying to find the elusive thought. It was important in some way.
Relax. This has happened to you before. You couldnt think of something on the tip of your tongue, and when you started thinking about something else, it came to you. So relax.
The bus roared thru another town.
Dolly started to chuckle. "I know what it is!" She told herself. "I've had an accident, and am in a coma! I cant wake up and I am dreaming!" She chuckled louder and the man in the dark suit glared at her. "What's the matter? Not playing your game anymore?"
Aloud she said, "Hey! Could you step on it? I want to get to whereever we are going, pronto! Lets get this over with!"
Suddenly, the man in the dark suit was inches from her nose.
Who's driving the bus? She wondered.
Snarling, the man looked deep in her eyes. "Do not toy with me." He said thru gritted teeth. "I will not be treated with disrespect!"
It was Dolly's turn to smirk. "So what? Your just a dream, anyway." She leaned back and crossed her ankles, putting her hands behind her head.
The man growled and returned to the drivers seat. But he kept glancing at her in the mirror, puzzled by her reaction.
They whipped around a few corners, blind in the dark.
What IS that? Dolly took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Relax. Breathe. She wished Bill were here. Was he at her bedside, holding her hand?
"Bill, I am here!" She whispered.
There it is! The elusive thought! She was rocked with incredulity. Why hadnt she realized this before?
She saw the plane crash. She saw empty cars on her street, like the drivers had vanished while in them. But where were the rest of the empty cars? The crashed airplanes? Why were the streets so empty? How were they able to navigate thru dark streets without crashing into abandoned cars?
Its because this is my coma dream. Nothing makes sense in a coma dream.
But that just didnt seem right.
She looked around and took in the smudge on the window, the clean, like-new bus, the lights up in the ceiling softly glowing.
Dolly laid her head back against the seat. Her brain hurt from thinking too much. "Bill, I need an aspirin." She whispered again.
She must have fallen asleep again, because the next thing she knew, the bus had stopped. The man was gone and she was alone.
Dolly sat still for a long time, listening for sounds. Eyes wide, trying to take everything in.
Cautiously, she got up and made her way to the door which was standing wide open.
Where was she?

(your turn!)
She stepped off of the bus into a flat drizzle of rain that had no substance to it. The tiny droplets struck her arm, but it didn't feel like the rain that she'd grown up knowing and loving.

"I used to love the rain," Dolly said, opening her arms to feel the drizzle on her skin. "I used to love..." she trailed off as the thought dawned on her. "...I used to love a lot of things."

The bus had come to a stop at a large bridge. The pavement rose up and away from the water below...and then it vanished off into the haze of rain in the distance, almost like it was a road leading off into nowhere. Below was the river, swollen with rain.

"I used to love a lot of things, too," the man in the black suit's voice said from behind her. Dolly spun around, but there wasn't anything or anybody there. Just the bus, doors standing open.

"What happened?" Dolly asked. She was talking more to herself than she was anybody else, but the man answered her from nowhere just the same.

"I became something that He didn't think I was going to become, Dolly."

She ignored him. Or tried to. "How did I become this person that I am today?"

Without waiting for a reply, Dolly turned and began crossing the bridge, heading to that phantom point where it vanished in the distance.

"Because," the man's voice said. It followed her, and she didn't like that. She wanted every part of that man to stay back there, with the dead bus. She didn't want him anywhere near her. This world right now, she thought, might be lifeless and empty. But it would be better to go insane from loneliness than to listen to anything that he had to tell her. "You've become like me!"

"I'm nothing like you!" she snapped. She picked up her pace a bit. If this man, this thing, was invisible and following her then maybe if she walked faster she could confuse it. Lose it.

"Reeeeeally?" the man asked her, and then chortled. "You're more like me than you know. Oh, sure...one day I was up there playing my little harp and flapping my itty-bitty wings. Hopping merrily from cloud to cloud with not a care in the world. When pow!"

Dolly winced and brushed at her face, as if shoe-ing a fly.

"I realized that I was me. I deserve good things, too, don't I? Hmmm, Dolly?"

She didn't answer, but picked up her pace. Her hair soaked. Dripping water into her face now.

"We all deserve good things!" the voice boomed. "And not just for His glory, but for ours! Don't we, Dolly? Say we're hungry and we suddenly find a very large, very soft everything-bagel with cream cheese sitting in front of us. We're too hungry to pray. Why should we? Because it belongs to Him?"

She couldn't listen to this. It sounded so absurd to her. False teachings from the master of deceit. Of course, it sounded absurd to her now, but she knew that if she paid any attention to what was going on with his thoughts, she'd begin to see his point of view. That was dangerous ground.

Instead, she began thinking and trying to make sense of the last thought she'd had before he began his ramblings. "I used to love a lot of things," she whispered.

"-created us in His universe and not our own!" the man was declaring.

The rain on my skin used to feel so good, she thought. Especially in the summer. I used to look forward to rain falling after a hot, hot day. Cooling the earth and making everything fresh again. I used to love Bill without question. Everything about him was new, his favorite colors and his favorite foods. There were times when I couldn't wait to see him again. Right after we were married, there were times when I was so happy that he was mine and I was his.

"-all boils down to slavery!" the man was screaming.

But what I forgot, Dolly thought, was how to hang onto the flavor of love. Some time between here and then, I stopped appreciating Bill. I stoppped appreciating the rain. I've forgotten most of the other things that I ever loved in my life...because I stopped appreciating them. I began taking them for granted.

Dolly trudged along, her feet striking the asphalt, with no end of the bridge in sight. She glanced behind her, and the bus was only a ghost figure now. Below her, the water flowed.

"I let go of love," she whispered to herself. "I stopped believing that I was fashioned for His enjoyment, and that I'm to love His gifts and give thanks for them daily."

That's it, she thought. I've stopped being thankful for everything - both large and small.

"when it's done!" the man screamed like a politician in a hot town hall filled to capacity. "Oh, that's when you'll see!"

The love that she used to have in her heart, she remembered it now. How she could feel it, how she could almost taste it. Appreciation. Thankfulness. Adoration to God. Belief. There was a time in her life when she felt so full of these things that she wanted to dance and shout! But just lately, all she wanted to do was sleep, rise, and go about her business. Oh, sure...she went through the motions. Fold her hands and pray, give thanks, say those words and repeat after me. But did she mean them in her heart? Did she understand the meanings of those words that she was praying? She didn't think so.

"Find it," Ranwell whispered.

Dolly whipped around, her eyes wide at the sound of Ranwell's voice. But there was only the bridge, sloping down. The bus was gone now, vanished off in the haze. "Ranwell?" Dolly said, not liking the sound of begging in her own voice right now.

"But you can!" the man went on, and then paused. "Who's Ranwell?"

Dolly paid him no attention. Find it, he had told her. Find it.

Find the flare, she thought. Find the zest, find the kick. Get it back into your life, back into your heart! She turned and began walking again. You had it once, Dolly, you know you did! Back in the day when the sky seemed a brand new shade of blue every day - remember that? Where'd it go?

"How?" she whispered, and continued to walk. "How am I supposed to force myself to find that? It's something I can't feel, something I can't touch. I never saw it before in my life. I've never heard its noise. How am I supposed to find that now?"

"There," the man in the black suit told her, "is no chance of ever find that again. Ever. You humans loose it as children. You never get another one. It's not like God hands them out free of charge, you know."

Dolly began crying and stumbling along. And through the tears, she thought she could see the other side of the bridge.

(Aaaah! Good to be back...pray for no more family crisis or emergencies! :))
(glad your back!)

Dolly peered into the mist. She couldnt see much of anything.
The disembodied voice continued to rant, but she ignored it. More imperative things have caught her attention now.
Where was she?
It was grey. All grey. In front, behind, all sides. Even above.
Was the sun up?
Time no longer had meaning.
What was she looking for?
Oh, yeah. Meaning of life. Appreciation, thankfulnes. Gratitude.
The voice got more strident, furious, even that she wasnt paying attention to it.
"Go away." She said wearily.
"At last!" the voice boomed. "How dare you ignore ME?"
"Not now," Dolly brushed it aside, "I'm looking for something."
"You'll never find it." The voice said in triumph. "Its lost forever, and you will never get it back!"

(gotta go! fire call!)
The bridge was no longer visible. The mist had closed over it. Sounds were deadened. She could only hear her breathing.
Oh! The voice had stopped talking at last!
Sighing in relief, Dolly kept walking.
She caught a flicker in the corner of her eye. A flicker of color. She glanced over, and it was gone.
Then it came again, only in front. It flickered, then grew until she was watching a movie projected onto the mist in front of her.
No, not a movie, it was her life story again. Only this time...she peered closer, this time it seemed to be focused on the negatives. There was nothing good in the images she was seeing. Only the greed, the anger, the hate. The movie of her life before had these things, but it also included the good, the love, the laughter.
With each step she took, the movie moved with her so that it was always before her. Mesmerized, she watched as she lied, cheated, hated. She winced at the image of her screaming at her beleagured husband.
Why was she paying attention to this? This wasnt helping at all!
Dolly looked down at her feet and watched one blue flip flop after the other as she plodded forward.
She could see flickers of colors, but she didnt watch the movie. Been there, done that, she thought.
Ranwell said to find it. Where? There is nothing here, but grey mist and a badly made movie!
By now, Dolly was soaking wet. She was really feeling sorry for herself by now. Cold, damp, being shown how horrible a person she was, doesnt anybody care? Doesnt anybody know what she's going thru?
"Hmm," The man in the black suit was beside her. "Beginning to see?"
"See what?" Dolly sniffled.
"No one cares. No one listens." He gestured to the grey mist. "There is no one left. Just you and me."
Again, that niggle of something at the back of her mind.
"Yeah!" She exclaimed. "Just where IS everybody?"

(Your turn!)
"That's not important, right now." The man practically purred. "Right now, you have something to do."
Why was she talking to him? Dolly wondered to herself. She should keep on walking and put as much distance between them as possible.
She started walking at a fast pace, uncaring where she went, just get away from HIM!
He trotted up beside her.
"You know I am right."
She didnt answer, but looked steadfastly at her feet. One blue flip flop appearing, then another.
"There is no use fighting it."
She still didnt answer.
The man threw up his hands in a huff. "Okay! Have it your way!" And disappeared.
Relief! Dolly sighed and continued walking. How much is she expected to take of all this? Somebody, wake her up! Please!

In the gloomy mist, a house slowly appeared. It was grey like everything else, and the windows were dark. That wasnt surprising, considering the electricity is probably out everywhere. But, it was out of the drizzling rain for a while, anyway.
Dolly knocked on the door, just in case.
Shrugging, she grasped the door knob and opened the door.
Feeling like Alice in Wonderland, Dolly looked around at a spacious, luxurious house. It sure looked smaller on the outside!
White carpet on the floors, interspersed with black and white tile. Vaulted ceilings, muted lighting. Stands with vases here and there in what seemed like the foyer.
Dolly wandered around, looking at all the furnishings, being mindful to keep off the white carpet. "Dont know why anyone would want that color, anyway. Too hard to keep clean!"
One room was done in a bright red. Dining room, it looked like. Velvet, gold, rich paneling. She wondered whose house this belonged to.
Funny, there were no chairs, anywhere! Dolly sure needed to sit down!
The table was huge, and thick. Must have taken dozens of strong men to move it. Deep, rich mahogany it looked like, if she knew her wood.
There was a door to the left that stood partly open.
Dolly peeped into the crack, then opened it wider. Now, this was a puzzler. The kitchen. But it was done in a putrid green. Everything. From the ceiling to the cabinets, to the sink, to the tile on the floor. Putrid green. Even the dishes piled high in the sink were the same color.
Do people dream in color in thier comas? She mused. I seem to have a variety going here.
But the kitchen continued to intrigue her. The rest of the house was immaculate, gleaming, and tasteful. But the kitchen was dirty, dingy and cluttered.
On a whim, Dolly turned on the faucet. The sound of running water reminded her of Bill. She missed him, so much! Where was he?
Depression and self-pity tried to flood her again.
"Who are you?"
Dolly was startled at a young voice.
Whirling around, she saw a little girl, about 8 yrs old, standing in the middle of the kitchen.
"I...I'm Dolly," she finally got out. "Who are you?"
"What are you doing in my house?" The young girl demanded. She was dressed like Dolly would picture a child of rich parents would dress. Cute dress, lace socks, shiny shoes.
"I wanted to get out of the rain." Dolly replied quietly. For some reason, she didnt want to frighten this child. "Who are you?"

(your turn!)
"My name's Gloria," the girl told her. She clasped her small hands in front of her politely, as if introducing herself to a dignitary, and for a bit Dolly half-expected the girl to do a formal curtsy. "You're not supposed to be here, you know that," the girl said, still managing to be polite.

Dolly felt as if she'd been caught changing her clothes in a public place. She was exposed. Caught in the act of creeping around in someone's home.

"I'm sorry, but--"

"You already told me, it's raining. You're sopping wet. You don't look too comfortable right now."

"I'm not," Dolly told her.

They stared at each other in the thick silence. Dolly couldn't maintain eye contact, she had to look away. "This is a very beautiful house you have here. Is your mommy and daddy home?"

The small girl, Gloria, moved in small, polite steps in order to come into eye contact with Dolly again. "I'm the only one here," she said.

"All alone?" Dolly whispered.

"I've always been here, always alone." Gloria said. "Are you hungry?"

Suddenly, just at the mention of the word, Dolly felt her stomach do a slow roll in her gut. Yes, of course she was hungry. She couldn't remember the last time she'd eaten anything, and it seemed like she'd been running a marathon for the past week. Her blood was thin with nutrients, and just to replenish them right now would be heaven.

Dolly cleared her throat innocently enough. "I am," she said with a patient smile.

* * *

Twenty minutes later, they were eating turkey breast sandwiches on whole wheat on the kitchen counter. Dolly was trying her best not to show how hungry she was...but she couldn't help it. She felt like she was stuffing her face in the presence of a proper young lady.

Gloria ate quietly, moving with the grace of a young TV actress who'd also won a few pigmy beauty pageants. She could have been eating little appetizers, Dolly thought, in the kitchen of some mansion on a hillside of some uknown large city.

"How long have your parents been gone?" Dolly managed to ask between mouthfuls.

Gloria, chewing her small bites and swallowing all with finishing school accuracy, cocked her head, puzzled.

"Your mommy and daddy," Dolly clarified. "Where'd they go?"

Gloria's eyes went dreamy then, suddenly. "Mommy and daddy?"

Dolly pushed the remainder of the first half of the sandwich into her mouth and picked up the second-half while still chewing. "You got folks, right?"

"I can't remember," Gloria said, as if she just realized that startling fact. "I think I used to have a brother some time. I remember he was a boy, and I think he was my brother. It just hadn't crossed my mind that I couldn't remember a mommy or a daddy."

Dolly's chewing slowed as she pondered this. It was alarming, yeah, to find a small princess in a huge house (yet a small house at the same time) who lived alone and was a little expert on manners. And with no parents in the house, not even remember them, how had this little girl gotten the food that was in her kitchen?

Still chewing slowly, she looked over the room. Green. Putrid green. You could lay out paint cards in front of Dolly, every shade of green imaginable (from insane-asylum green right down to dusted-moss-green) and she'd be able to point right to this exact green. Flip the card over, she thought, and on the back - in bold - would be: Putrid Green.

The doorknobs to the coffee cupboards were green. The countertops. The tiles. The flooring. The refrigerator.

Beyond the kitchen was the red room. Red bookshelves, the shade of calf's blood, with matching carpeting. The thick, flowing drapes were red. The walls.

In a bit, she thought, I'm going to have to use the bathroom. I'm going to walk in there and find everything brown. She laughed a little inward at that one. Brown toilet, brown shower curtain, brown towels the color of bread crust.

"You said you lived here alone? Always alone?" Dolly asked her.

The girl nodded her head and said "Yes."

"Surely, there must be some grown-ups around. You have to have other family, maybe ones who come and visit you sometimes."

The girl shook her head, still dissecting her sandwich, and said, "No. Don't you get it, Dolly?"

With the last bit of sandwich in her mouth, Dolly frowned. With her mouth full, she said, "Get what?"

The little girl looked up then. "I'm not really here. I'm not really eating this sandwich, although it looks like I am. I've been sent here to help you, because you've been missing the clues all along. Bill got the clues right away, you see. It was in his nature. The dots all connected for him, and so he's where he should be right now, as I speak to you.

"But you, on the other hand," she said, and took a step closer to Dolly, "you need a little assistance."

(Your turn :))
Dolly became indignant. What did she mean, "you need a little assistance"?
Gloria just stood there, and smiled.
Just then, a wind started howling outside, rattling the windows and shaking the door. It screamed around the walls, and roared over the roof. Dolly stared at Gloria, who looked back, saying nothing.
The wind hooted and wailed and rattled the windows again.
Dolly flinched as a loud THUMP hit the side of the house. She looked out the window, but could see nothing but grey rain.
Gloria continued to watch Dolly.
"Arent you afraid?" She asked the young girl.
"Are YOU afraid?" Gloria asked in return.
"YES!" Dolly cried out. "Why arent you?"
Gloria settled into a kitchen chair and folded her hands in her lap.
"Have you forgotten what you learned in the bathroom?"
Dolly looked at her quizzically. It seemed like ages since she had been in a bathroom, what was she talking about?
"Do not fear the created, but fear the One Who Created it." Gloria said quietly. Another loud THUMP hit the roof. "Fear the one that can kill both the body and the soul, not just the body."
That was a bible verse, but Dolly couldnt remember where.
"You are going to have to leave, soon." Gloria said matter-of-factly. "You cant stay here."
"With the storm outside?" Dolly was incredulous.
"You have to leave." Gloria repeated.
Gloria just watched her.
Dolly paced the kitchen, then wandered into the red room. Gloria was there, sitting in a red settee.
Dolly raced to the foyer and Gloria was there by the door.
"You have to leave." She said again. There was no anger or malice in her voice.

The wind whooped and howled.

Just the facts.

The walls rattled and shook.

Dolly had to leave.

(your turn!)
With the front door open and the wind whooping all around the house, Dolly was just getting ready to set foot outside when something very large and flat and metalic - sheet metal? - whizzed by directly in front of her. If she'd stepped out a bare second before, she thought, what would have happened? Would the sheet metal have decapitated her in one swoop? No more Dolly? End of quest?

"This is impossible," she whispered. She turned around to tell Gloria that there was no way she could survive out there with the wind blasting, but the polite little princess was gone now. Gone like the morning mist at noon.

"Gloria?" she called out over her shoulder. The girl, she figured, would step out of a hidden corner, offering words of encouragement to help Dolly along. She did say that she was going to help, didn't she? "Gloria?"

There was no answer.

Dolly took in a deep breath. Okay - so the sheet metal had been there. It scared Dolly to think of the other things that might be hurdling around out there, things that she hadn't seen yet. A while back, in school, she remembered seeing a photo of a wooden stake that had been driving clean through a tree, impaling it. The wind blasts in a storm, the caption said, can get so high that it can send a drinking straw through an apple, or a stake through a tree.

What if the wind had ripped up someone's picket fence and now there were stakes by the hundreds out there, all painted white and perfect, darting through the air in every direction like wooden bullets?

Fear. Again, there's fear. Oh, Dolly was so afraid! But even before Gloria told her that she'd have to leave, she knew that she had to go.

You know, a dark part of her thought...if you're walking along and a sheet of metal comes flying along taking your head off, your body will still keep going for a few more steps?

Stop it.

It might even take off into a run, the voice inside of her said. It's documented, Dolly, that the spinal chord with its thick rope of nerves can and will act as the brain when you're decapitated. If you sit on a lit cigarette by mistake, for example, your spinal chord will act on behalf of the brain and tell your body to get up quickly. Your brain doesn't need to interfere, and your body does what it's told. So without your brain attached to your body, you might take off into a good sprint before your body realizes that it's supposed to be dead. And

"Stop it!" she screamed.

The sheet metal, for some reason she'd paused before stepping out. She was safe. She wasn't decapitated. There was another force working here, one that she had to learn to trust with her safety completely. God was good, she believed in Him. He took care of her. He is what made her pause before stepping out, He was the reason why she missed the sheet of metal.

Dolly took a step out into the howling wind, bringing her arm up to shield herself from the sudden blast.

(your turn:D)
Gritty sand blasted against her arms as Dolly covered her face. The sand stung her arms and legs and she immediately regretted her thin nightgown and bare limbs.
What was she doing?
Lowering her head into the wind, she trudged on.
This reminded her of a dream she had a long time ago. Walking in blowing sand, in the dark, not knowing where she was, or where she was going. Was she dreaming again?
Dolly had definitely decided that she was in the hospital, in a coma. Dreaming all this. But she didnt remember any accounts of coma victims reviving and talking about the dreams they had had.
The sand abated, but the wind continued to howl around her ears.
The dark shadows fluttered around her, seemingly unaffected by the wind. Dolly ignored them.

"Whatcha doin?" A squeaky voice sounded beside her. Dolly jumped with a squeal and looked down.
Standing with difficulty in the strong wind, was a bear-like creature. It wasnt a bear, but it was similar. It had soft, curly fur and black button eyes. A short snout that pulled back in a silly grin, exposing small white teeth. It stood about 3 feet tall.
A talking bear?
Dolly shrugged. Why not? Nothing else makes any sense in this Wonderland.
"I'm walking."
"Where to?"
Dolly hesitated. "I dont know."
"Why not?" The bear was persistent!
"What is your name?" Dolly asked instead. That gave the bear pause.
"I dont know." It shrugged. "Why dont YOU name me?"
"How about Bug? Because you are bugging me." Dolly started walking again.
"Bug." The bear fell in step with her, giving a little hop once in a while to keep up. "I dont think I like that name." Bug was quiet a moment. "But it'll do until you find something better."
"Thank you." Dolly answered dryly.
They walked in silence until Dolly could stand it no longer.
"Just what are you?" She demanded, coming to a stop.
Bug blinked in surprise. "Dont you know?"
"I'm your best friend!"
Dolly held up her hands and started to protest. Then she remembered a childhood toy she had cherished. So long ago.
No, it couldnt be.
Could it?
Thunder pealed overhead, causing Bug to scramble up Dolly's legs and onto her shoulders.
"Help!" Bug squeaked.
"Get down." Dolly pried him off of her. "It's just thunder."
"I dont like it!"
Dolly patted Bug's head.
Back up Dolly's legs he went. Dolly sighed and resigned herself to carrying him.
She couldnt tell if there were storm clouds over head or not. It was all so dark here. She could only see what was immediately around her.
The fluttery things were gone, though.
Dolly kept walking. She noticed the terrain was no longer flat and smooth. It was getting hilly, and rocky. She really had to watch her step or she would stumble.
Bug whimpered everytime it thundered, which was regularly. Why did she pick this thing up, anyway? Dolly watched her feet. Blue flipflop, rock, blue flipflop, sand. She noticed her blisters had healed up. One lone bandaid was flapping in the wind.

(your turn!)
After a long while, Bill opened his eyes and blinked and saw nothing.

I'm blind! he thought, slapping his hands over his eyes and rubbing.

"Yeesh," Ranwell said nearby. "You're not blind. Don't panic. And please, whatever you do, don't scream. You'll scare someone to death, I tell you."

"I can't see!" Bill whispered out in terror.

"That's because you have an eye-mask over your face. I put it there, because I had some work to do. Didn't want to wake you up, ya know?"

Bill peeled away the eye mask and immediately saw Ranwell bent over him, peering into his face, gawking with that are-you-really-okay expression on his face.

"Oh, thank God!" Bill said and managed a smile in the receding scare.

"Yes," Ranwell said. "Thank Him."

Bill was sitting in a plain wooden chair in a darkened room. The chair was uncomfortable, and yet somehow he'd managed to fall asleep in it. There was a thin padding long since worn down to the thickness of a cracker over the years of weight the chair had supported. Today, holding Bill's weight, the padding was just as hard as the wood itself.

"She's been trying very hard," Ranwell told him, motioning off to the left.

Bill looked.

Dolly. His precious Dolly. Wife of so many years that he could no longer imagine what life would be like without her and her constant reminders. Close the door, Bill. Turn off the light, Bill. Take your belt off your pants, Bill, I don't want to do it on laundry day again. Take your medicine, Bill. Wake up, Bill...it's time to go to bed, Bill.

Bill wasn't a man, you see. Bill was only a part of a man. A half of the person that he was meant to be. The other half, a very special half, was lying in the bed next to him. When she was awake, when she was standing next to him, they connected. Together they made one whole person, and so without her with him, up and fighting the world with him, Bill wasn't a complete human being.

Ranwell leaned forward and rested a hand on Dolly's leg. "She's been through some hard times while you were sleeping...but I just don't get it," he said. "She's fighting. Hard."

Bill wanted to be back asleep then, because when he was asleep there was no thought about any of this. When he was sleep, he was in a world where accidents and wounds, blood and pain didn't exist. Dolly was okay in his dreams, she was just away somewhere. Maybe she was at the market picking up some no-sugar-added apple pie and lite whipped cream for dessert that night. Or maybe she was downtown getting her hair done in his dreams. Wherever she was, she certainly wasn't here.

In the bed, Dolly didn't stir. She didn't blink or move. She was bandaged, you see. Bill had signed the permission for the doctors to repair Dolly's hip and her knee. But there was still an awful lot of healing for her to do.

Doctor Thomas Ranwell placed a cool, comforting hand on Bill's back, and Bill sighed. "Just tell me she's going to be okay," he said.

Dolly had tubes running into and out of her. A machine was doing most of her breathing for her. There was a paper bandage on her forehead, holding a zig-zag of stitches closed. That bandage had gone transparent with blood and fluids. Her lips looked cracked and dry.

At her side, a machine went: blip-blip-blip-blipblip!-blip-blip! Bill couldn't get the idea out of his head that this machine was her heart, turned metal and machinery and somehow transplanted to the outside of her body. It was like her vital organs had grown outside of her.

"I can't promise you that she's going to be okay," Doctor Ranwell said. "You know, I'd help her more if I could."

Bill nodded.

"But she looks like a figher," Ranwell went on. "She's tough. She's still here. She has someone looking out for her."

The doctor turned to leave, and Bill leaned forward to take Dolly's hand gingerly. "She's my angel," he said to nobody in particular.

Doctor Ranwell turned just before leaving and said: "I like to believe there's angels everywhere."

Outside the hospital window, thunder peeled.

* * *

(your turn! :))
Dolly had gotten so used to the thunder, she no longer jumped. Even though Bug had a choke hold on her each time it rolled overhead, she still plodded on.
Bug insisted on riding on her shoulders and Dolly had resigned herself to having a passenger. He was light, really. Not much of a burden.
But he had picked up a habit of beeping.
Over and over again.
It was really getting annoying!
"Come on, Bug!" She groused. "Stop that!"
"Stop what?" Blip.
"That beeping!" Blip.
"I'm not!" Blip.
Dolly didnt have the energy to keep arguing. It was all she could do to put one flipflopped foot in front of the other.
Why doesnt she just sit down? Why not stop trying?
She didnt know why. She just knew that if she stopped walking, it would be over.
Just what, she couldnt think. She just knew it would all end.
She missed Bill. He was her rock. The steadying force in her life. What held all the pieces of herself together. Where was he?
"Now cut that out, Bug!"

(Your turn!:):D)
Blip! Blip! Blip!

She sat down to rest in the dimming light and found herself resting on top of a hill looking over a wide valley. That dark stormclouds surrounded her as far as the eye could see, and right at the moment Bug didn't want her to see anything besides her.

"I'm hungry!" he said. Blip!

She was about to roll her eyes when something dawned on her. Instead, she frowned and leaned slightly in towards Bug, observing.


"That wasn't you," she whispered.

"I told you it wasn't me!" Bug said, whining.

Blip! Blip-blip!

"You got some crackers or something?" he asked, sitting down next to her.

"Where's that coming from? That sound..."


"...I've heard it before, haven't I?"

Bug shrugged. "How 'bout some peanuts? You got any of those?"

"I know what it is. I thought it was you, but you aren't making that sound. It reminds me of something. It makes me feel something, something both good and bad at the same time."

"I feel hungry," Bug said.

Dolly listened and watched for a long time as the light faded down into darkness all around them.

(take it and run, Fluffy, take it! Whoo-hoo!:))
Bug continued his litany of food.
"Fries? How about chocolate?"
Dolly sat, dully staring into the darkness. Bug shifted on his rear and clicked his nails. "Mmmm, a bag of peanuts would be great! Got any of those?"
Dolly didnt want to move any more. She was tired. Getting nowhere, anyway.


"Apple pie!" sighed Bug.

What was she doing, anyway?

"Look for it"

What was that? It sounded like Ranwell whispering!
"A banana split!" Bug yelped in triumph.
"What did you say?" Dolly grabbed Bug, a roaring filled her ears like when she was going to pass out.
"What did you just say?" She repeated.
"I said a banana split was just what I wanted," Bug whimpered. "Your scaring me!"
She knew! She knew where she was and what she was looking for!
"BILL!" Dolly screamed. Bug squealed and covered his ears.
"BILL!" She screamed again and again and again.
Bug began to wail. "Your scaring me! Stop that!"
She couldnt stop now. Dolly screamed Bill's name in the darkness.
The thunder had stopped.
The beeping was gone.


A tiny pinpoint of light sparked in front of her eyes. It moved ever so slightly.
"BILL!" It grew with every scream of Bill's name.

(Whee! Your turn!)
Dr. Ranwell stood before a bank of glowing monitors in a surprisingly darkened and small hospital room, watching events unfold inside of Dolly's bloodstream on screen.

By all means, Dolly had or should have died three days ago, shortly after her accident. This was the beauty of it all, the accomplishment of modern science under the careful watch of Dr. Ranwell.

If Dolly's accident had happened 15 years ago, she surely would have died. Without the assistance of today's technology and wisdom, Dolly's badly damaged body would have given up on trying to repair all of the injuries...she would have settled down against her pillow and slipped away with a sigh.

But here...ah, here is where the real miracles were working! Inside of Dolly's bloodstream, nanos quickly assembled into an orb with a pinpoint oculus. Light, what little there was in the bloodstream, shined through the pinpoint and focused an image inside of the orb. So besides seeking out and repairing damage, the nanoprobes were able to assemble and act like more sophisticated equipment inside of Dolly.

The damage was devastating. Rips and tears. Pulverized brain tissue. But each nano was smaller than a single blood cell. Each nano carried "arms" that performed delicate surgery on damaged tissue, repairing it at the cellular level. While it could take a single nano an hour to repair one cell, Dr. Ranwell had injected Dolly with an estimated 200 trillion nanos. They were working nonstop, never needing to rest, powered by the glucose in Dolly's own bloodstream.

Biomedical Reconstructed Assistant Single-Organism Nanos weren't cheap to build. In fact, they were impossible to build. But they were quite easy to grow, it turned out. By the year 2012, science had discovered that certain metals could be manipulated to grow, much like crystals. Dr. Ranwell's study focused on the area of how this growth could be limited to the atomic level.

Of course, there were religious fantatics who read about his work and picketed his office. We shouldn't play God, they said. Death comes to us when God calls us. What if Jesus had been injected after his crucifixion, they asked him. None of us would be saved!

Ranwell could see their point. But it wasn't as large and beautiful as his own point.

With Brason, nobody would have to die anymore. Nobody would have to live a life in a wheelchair anymore. Nobody would have to suffer unsightly wrinkles anymore. Nobody had to wear glasses anymore. Pain receptors in the brain could be rewired so that each stab of a knife would induce euphoria instead of agony.

Brason was the answer, nanos all working diligently to repair the human body.

Of course, the first run of the nanos had been an oogy event, hadn't it? Ranwell shudered while he watched the nanos work on the monitors. An elderly lady who suffered from severe arthritis had been practically shredded by her nanos while she slept in Ranwell's hospital. Why? Each nano had a specific task, a program embedded into the metal itself. Why had they failed in their task?

It's almost as if there was a force or some kind of a law out there, just out of Ranwell's reach, that was preventing him from breaking this barrier.

Ranwell commanded the nanos to disassemble the "camera" and others to assemble another "camera" or "eye" inside of Dolly's brain.

The place was in shambles. Destruction beyond belief. Occasionally, a working nano was zapped beyond repair by Dolly's brain's electrical activity. These dead nanos were swooped away by white blood cells. Eaten by Dolly's immune system.

For someone on the verge of death, Ranwell thought, Dolly had an awful lot of brain activity. He wondered what was going on in there...what was she doing in her sleep?

He took a seat to watch, almost fancying that he could read her nightmares and dreams just by observing the level of brain activity. Dendrites and axons firing, sending secret messages to each other in their own special codes...

(your turn :cool:)
( now THAT was COOL! Great way to use Brason! Wow! Didnt see that coming, at all! Love it! Hmm, gonna take a little bit for this one! Anybody else want to take a shot at it?):D