He smelled like spring, but not just any spring, the cool mountain spring after a fresh rain where soil seeps through boots and the trees laugh so hard they cry crystal tears. She knew it was him when he came to visit. Everything he did carried the mountains, like his rough hands and majestic voice. She heard it that one night the demons wouldn’t go away and her eyes burned. She cried for him until the nurses called him, and then he was there, holding her, singing softly. Mark taught her everything she knew. He told her about the mountains and the trees and what they looked like even though she had no recollection of what a color was. Everything was beautiful when Mark talked about it. He told her that once; that she was beautiful. He said she looked like a lily with pale skin, blonde hair and cute freckles. She asked him what that was, and he said that a lily was a flower. He named her that, Lily.
As far back as she could remember Mark had always been there. Everyday he was there, talking to her and bringing her gifts. One time, Mark brought her something that was juicy and salty and squishy. When she bit into it, it had a tough, but pleasing, texture. It was very good, but when the nurses found out about it, they were mad. They gave her some medicine that tasted like sour chalk that made her vomit. After that, Mark only brought it to her at night when the nurses were asleep. He would sneak in through the window and talk to her all night long. She knew he came in through the window at night because she couldn’t hear the nurses walking around and she could feel breeze when he opened the window. Mark’s smell was so distinct that she never mistook him for anyone else.
She couldn’t remember much or far back. Her doctor said that it was “acute trauma that caused severe amnesia”. But she didn’t remember any trauma. She didn’t remember anything but this place. Her doctor said that it was “acute trauma that caused severe amnesia”. But she didn’t remember any trauma. She didn’t remember anything but this place. She had always been there, but the nurses said that Mark brought her here a few years ago. They said that she was very sad and scared and that Mark did a great thing by bringing her here. She never questioned that, though she did want to feel the river rocks between her toes, like the one Mark told her about. She asked him one day if he would take her home. “Soon Lily,” he said and hugged her, “soon.” And she always believed that.
That night the demons were particularly bad. The shapeless mosters scratchd at her eyes until they stung and something hot and wet slid down her cheeks. She screamed and cried, beggining for them to leave her alone. All she could see was dark and then splotches of something else that flashed, and every time there was a flash ther was more searing pain. Lily screamed louder. Footsteps were outside her door and then beside her bed. She smelled six nurses, like handsanitizer and lotion, and could hear their breathing. But something was different this time, she could feel them and their life pulsing in their veins, but the demons wouldn’t let her concentrate.
“Lily you have to calm down,” she recognized one of the nurses’ voices.
“Is that blood?” A medley of voices slammed against her ears and her eyes burned.
“Go away,” Lily said. “Please.” Her body was trembling and the bed rattled against the wall. “Go away.”
“Leaver her alone,” Mark’s voice was just as strong as his scent.
“She’s sick and she needs help.”
“Leave her alone.” She could smell salt again mixed in with his spring and she sensed his anger radiating.
“Oh my god, what is that?”
The crack in the air almost split Lily’s eardrum. There was screaming, hers and the nurses, and she heard furniture clacking against the groubnd. And then there was another sound, something she couldn’t quite place, but that struck a chord deep in her soul. It was comforting, dangerous, and familiar. The screaming didn’t last long. Soon she heard thumps on the ground and padded feet walking over to her.
“M-Mark?” Her eyes still blazed and seared and the tearing became more intense. She slammed her hands against her eyes and pleaded for it to stop. Rough matted fur touched her elbow.
“You need to drink this,” Mark said.
“Mark?” she could stillsmell and sense his presence, but she couldn’t touch him.
She reached her hands out and found a cool, smooth cup. She pressed it to her lips finding the edge. The scent was strange, an odd combination of salt and something rotting. For some reason, she could remember the smell of decay and dying. That was the smell that was mixed in with the salt and sour of the liquid. Her hands started shaking and the demons that raked her eyes moved down to her shoulders pressing on her arms. The pain was intense and she whimpered.
“Drink of all it. Please Lily you have to. You have to be strong. I knowit’s hard.”
She swallowed the thick liquid in a few gulps. The demons screamed in her ears and she tried not to gag. But she made it go down her throat and forced it into her stomach. It felt as if the demons exploded in her head and she felt her mind slowly slipping away until there was nothing left. Her mind stagnated in darkness.
And then a soft voice from her memory, “Lily? Lily? It’stime to wake up darkling. You’ve been asleep for quite a while now.”
A boy came and sat beside her. “Are you feeling better sis?” His brown hair fell into his bright blue eyes and he smelled likethe fresh mountain spring after a rainstorm.
She nodded and he smiled.
And then, from her memory, laughing, and a bright red ball that flew to her hands. Mark was smiling and telling her to hold her hands “this way, this way”.
And she remembered red, the color and what it meant. Red, the color of her ball, the color of blood, her blood, as it spilled on the gorund from a gash in her side. She remembered black, the color of the night sky and of the poison that sank into her veins. She remembered his voice, loud and terrifying, like all of the monsters in the world howling with pain.
After that there were only sounds. Nurses running in and out, patients talking in whispers or shout, but there was Mark too, with his strength and spring, and she remembered what she had forgotten so long ago. She loved him.
“Lily?” Mark said. “Can you hear me?”
“Yes,” she opened her eyes slowly and saw him for the first time in a long time. His fur was a matted rich brown, the color of soil in a garden. His blue eyes stared back at her with worry and love, and his dirty paws were on her blank white sheets.
“Can you see me?”
“Yes,” she rubbed his head. “Yes.” She threw her arms around his neck and buried her face into his fur.
“I’m glad you’re awake sis,” he said looking into her eyes that now shone a brilliant green.
She nodded. “That drink…”
“Yes, it was blood.”
She looked at her room for the first time. The walls were white, but not white like snow but white like bleach, like they had something to hide. There was a lone window on her left that was wide open. Bodies lay strewn everywhere, but ther was no blood and no scent of death. Just white bodies encased in bleached uniforms on a well-mopped floor.
“I remember,” she said.