Authors: April Smyth
THE HEALER SERIES
But, when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy.
The nurse gives me a quick, sympathetic smile and jabs a needle into the soft skin at the joint of my arm. She thinks I’m a freak like everyone else in this town. She sighs impatiently as she waits for the small vile in her hand to fill up with my syrupy blood, wishing not to exchange any small pleasantries with the freak. A blood sample won’t help, nobody can come up with a theory as to why I can stand up unscathed from countless horrific accidents.
This time I was hit by a car. Over the past few weeks, my dad had forbidden me from leaving the house unsupervised. He cautiously drove me everywhere while I stared out of the window praying for freedom from this horrible burden I carried around with me. A burden that went beyond being accident prone and became a full scale medical phenomenon. In the early years it had been minimum. A few trips and falls with no bumps and bruises rarely drew attention but in the past two years danger has begun to follow me like I had it on a leash and more than often it was too strong for me, dragging me forward head first.
There was the incident where a friend drove me home from school and we were hit my a motorcyclist but only on the passenger side. I should have been crushed like the driver who hit us but I was unscathed. Then a few months ago I was out a cycle when the bolts holding my bike together gave in and I cycled awry, tumbling down a steep hill with a pit of rocks and glass awaiting me at the end. Last Summer I had been walking by a construction site when the scaffolding fell apart and buried me neck deep in dangerous metals which should have killed me. I had done it all and somehow managed to leave the scene of the accident with no more than a few bruises. A miracle, the newspapers exclaimed, but for me it was an affliction I dreamed to be rid of.
I ignored my dad’s strict warnings and had gone a morning run despite knowing a catastrophe was sure to follow. I tied my running shoes tightly to make sure I couldn’t be tripped up by loose laces, I wore a reflective band around my arm so cars could see me in the dim morning light and slipped my mobile phone into the pocket of my running tracksuit jacket - just in case.
I love jogging in the morning. No cars on the road, the air bitterly cold against my face and there is something calming about the dawn of a new day. Anything can happen. A fresh start.
But I barely made it to the end of my street before disaster struck. While carefully jogging across the empty road, checking left and right as I passed, a slick black sports car sped round the corner and smashed into me. It drove away before I even stood up. I picked myself up and rubbed off the small gritty stones from my jogging trousers. I considered continuing my run since nobody had noticed and I felt fine, of course, but the sound of the collision had obviously woken my neighbours and quickly Mrs Chan was in her front garden yelling for help.
And here I am again. The clinical smell of bleach is now familiar to me, the pinches of needles are as normal as brushing my hair and I know every nurse and doctor working in Ayrin Central by their first names.
The unsympathetic nurse waddles off with my blood to let some doctors test it only to discover the same unsatisfying, puzzling results as before. Apparently my blood held unusual qualities and undoubtedly it held the secret to why I could be struck by danger and bad luck without a scratch. They begged profusely to send my blood samples to more advanced hospitals and research centres. Scientists were genuinely bargaining for my blood. The last I heard a scientist in Russia was willing to pay one million pounds for one year’s worth of rights to my blood but my dad refused. He didn’t want me to be part of ‘the circus’; he didn’t want me to feel like anymore of a ‘freak show’ than I already did. If only he knew his unwillingness to let me walk out the door like a normal seventeen year old girl made me feel more like an outcast than anything else.
My dad enters the small hospital ward that is more like home to me than my own bedroom with two polystyrene cups of coffee. The smell turns my stomach. I may not get injured but I still feel the effects of cheap coffee. “How are you feeling?” he asks like I am wounded. Sometimes I think he pretends I am normal.
My dad is determined for me to live a normal life but this is extremely difficult. The medical world is baffled by the anomaly my existence poses and hundreds of newspapers have covered the story of ‘Miracle Girl’. I’ve taken innumerable days off school to spend hours in menacing scanners. We’ve told my classmates I’m diabetic, they don’t believe it but don’t question it further. The worst times are when my accidents are public. It is difficult to remain normal when a crowd of people watch as I tumble one hundred metres off a cruise ship into the ocean but still show up at school on Monday morning. More than often dad keeps me cooped up in my room faking an unnecessary recuperation to keep gossip at bay.
He gently throws a newspaper on my lap so I can view the damage today’s incident has caused:
MIRACLE GIRL DOES IT AGAIN
Seventeen year old Ayrin High School pupil, Cassie Mueller, has yet again stunned the town with her miraculous healing powers. This time she managed to stand up uninjured after being hit by what was described as a black BMW M6 driving at seventy miles per hour.
I don’t finish reading and almost crumple the thin paper into a tight ball in my fist when another article on the front page catches my eye:
VAMPIRES IN AYRIN?
The world has been set ablaze in the past two years with the appearance of vampires in America but rumour has it that the ancient creature has been paying a visit to Ayrin. One townsperson, Annie Clarins, had this to say about her encounter with the beast of the night: “I was covering a shift at Vita Nightclub for my friend when I saw him. There was no doubt it was a vampire. He was very tall and muscular, dark hair and the palest white skin and when he smiled at me I saw his fangs…” Annie is not the only person in Ayrin to claim sightings of vampires in town. Is it true? Are we the next target for these deadly creatures and will they integrate in to Scotland as fluidly as they did in America?
“It’s terrible. They need to figure out a way to euthanise all those vampires,” dad shakes his head and dunks a sugar doughnut into his coffee. I notice that dad has put on a lot of weight in the past few months since my ‘condition’ started getting worse. When I was younger, the accidents were far and few between and most of the time nothing worse than banging into a glass door or slipping at the local pool. Dad had been sort of thankful back then that he had never had to worry about me if I was bouncing on the trampoline or out riding my bike because if I fell off, I would be fine. But now that the accidents were more frequent and much more disastrous, it isn’t difficult to see how this could impact my father’s sanity. Always having to watch his daughter in near death situations, always wondering if one day I would not be so lucky.
“Where’s Jana?” I ask, realising that my little sister wasn’t in her usual place by my dad’s hip. Jana is only three and is my dad’s second child with his second wife, Shannon. Then there’s Bruce, a feisty ten year old. I am my dad’s only child with mum. None of my half siblings suffer from my rare condition. I wonder if he loves them more because of this. They can go to school every day and come home with grazed knees or in Bruce‘s case bloody noses from fights in the playground. More so, I think he loves them more because danger doesn’t follow them like a dark shadow.
I wish I knew my mum. Dad never speaks about her and I assume this is because she disappeared when I was only a few months old burdening him with me, the freak, the Miracle Girl. So she is a mystery to me and I like to think that if she was still around she would be understanding of my situation. Sometimes I dream that this is a condition I inherited from my mum. It could be something we could bond over, a secret that only we could share. She would let me do normal seventeen year old girl things and wouldn’t worry about me twenty four hours of the day. I could do the things I wanted to like rock climbing and travelling abroad because she knows how it feels to be trapped by this disease.
“She started nursery today,” he says and I feel guilty for not knowing this. Too caught up in my own selfish thoughts.
I shouldn’t blame dad for being overprotective. I know he loves me but I’m getting edgy in this small town now. I am desperately craving more. I want dad to sign the papers agreeing to the studies of my blood but he is too stubborn. The Russian scientist bidding a million is offering us a mansion in the Russian mountains where we could stay while he researched my case. Dad says it is unreasonable to expect Shannon, Bruce and Jana to move to Russia over something that is irrelevant. He doesn’t understand that these people could help me, discover a cure and make me normal. I want to be normal and I want to see the world but until I’m eighteen I can’t sign to agree to the medical research.
The doctors at Ayrin sign me off and I am sent home. In the car, dad chats about how Doctor Simkin thinks they’re “getting somewhere” but I know they’re just saying that to appease my dad and assure him that he’s doing the right thing by not sending me away to Russia.
We wave at Mrs Chan who is weeding in her front garden when we get to the house. I live in a nice neighbourhood. It’s not too salubrious but it’s quaint and the people are friendly. Dad is a plumber and his business does quite well but I get the feeling with three kids to feed we just get by and I know I am lucky to live in such a nice place.
I offer to help dad make dinner while Shannon picks Bruce and Jana up from school but he snubs me. So now cooking is too dangerous. I leave without another word. What can I do? Most parents are desperate for their children to help around the house but slowly all my chores have been revoked. First the gardening, then the ironing and now cooking apparently.
I storm up to my room where I read through all of today’s post. Numbly, I pick through the letters from scientists, researches, sponsors and media. Everyone wants to hear from the small-town girl with the crazy condition.
Nothing catches my eye though and I find my mind is mostly plagued with the article about the vampire spotting in Ayrin. I had been following the vampire development in America over the past two years. I read about it on the internet and had a small collection of articles in my desk drawer. My obsession angers him. He hates vampires. Most teenagers want to go to America to visit New York or Disneyland but I want to see the vampires. But now, apparently, there’s a vampire in Ayrin. Why would a glamorous, vicious vampire be visiting such a boring small-town?