Authors: Joan Lowery Nixon
The Other Side of Dark
Winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Novel
“A top-rate thriller.… Nixon has written another compelling page-turner.”
“The clever premise, the quick pace, and the determined protagonist should attract and hold readers.”
School Library Journal
“The mounting suspense as the killer closes in will keep [readers] turning the pages.”
Books by Joan Lowery Nixon
A Candidate for Murder
The Dark and Deadly Pool
The Ghosts of Now
Ghost Town: Seven Ghostly Stories
In the Face of Danger
The Island of Dangerous Dreams
The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore
Laugh Till You Cry
Murdered, My Sweet
The Name of the Game Was Murder
The Other Side of Dark
Playing for Keeps
Search for the Shadowman
Secret, Silent Screams
The Weekend Was
Whispers from the Dead
Who Are You?
The Making of a Writer
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 1986 by Joan Lowery Nixon
Cover photograph © 2011 by Lynn Koenig/Flickr Select/Getty Images
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Originally published in hardcover by Delacorte Press, New York, in 1986.
Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition of this work as follows:
Nixon, Joan Lowery.
The other side of dark / Joan Lowery Nixon.
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Stacy awakens from a four-year coma ready to identify, locate, and prosecute the young man who murdered her mother and wounded her.
ISBN 978-0-385-29481-2 (hardcover)
[1. Mystery and detective stories] I. Title.
PZ7.N65 Ot 1986 [Fic]—dc19 85046074
eISBN: 978-0-307-53947-2 (ebook)
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
For Susan Cohen
The dream is too long. It slithers and slips and gurgles deeply into midnight pools in which I see my own face looking back. It pounds with a scream that crashes into earth-torn caverns and is drowned; it surges with the babble of voices that splash against my ears; it whispers over words I can’t understand.
I have cried out in my dream. I have called, and ages ago someone answered.
My voice violently shakes the dream. I open my eyes, as with a trembling roar the dream rushes from my mind and my memory.
I’m in bed, but this is not my room. Across the room is a statue of a nurse. Her pencil is held in midair above her chart; her mouth is open enough that I can see some bubbles of saliva on her tongue; her eyes are stretched and glazed.
“Where’s my mother?”
The statue comes to life. “Oh!” she says. “Oh, my, you’re awake!” Fluttering like a moth between too many lights, she pats at my bed, jabs at the controls that rest on the nightstand, and trots to the door. “I’ll be
right back, Stacy,” she says. She takes a step toward me with palms up as though she wanted to hold me where I am and repeats, “I will. I’ll be back in a minute,” then scrambles through the door.
“Where’s my mother?” I call to the empty room. I try to sit up, but I can’t. It makes me dizzy. My mouth is dry, and there’s a spot on my left hip that is sore. What is happening to me? The blanket and sheet have slipped to one side, so I pull them up to my chest.
I gasp as my hands feel breasts that are rounded and firm. My shaking fingers slide past my waist, exploring, as the horror grows. I lift my head to look down, down at toes that lump the blanket near the foot of the bed, and the horror explodes in a scream. I am Stacy McAdams. I’m only thirteen years old, and I’m in the wrong body!
My room explodes with people, and they buzz like white-capped bees, reaching for my wrist, wrapping something around my left arm, and squeezing it until something beeps. And all the time I’m shouting, “Go away! I want my mother!”
A man with a trim blond beard sorts himself out from the confusion. He leans over me, studying me from under shaggy eyebrows, one hand gently stroking my forehead. “Stacy,” he says, in a voice that pours like dark molasses, “I’m Dr. Peterson. I don’t want to sedate you. I want to talk with you. Will you please stop shouting?”
I’m trembling so hard it feels as if the bed were shaking, and my voice is a raspy whimper. “Where’s my mother? I need my mother. I’m afraid.”
“Of course you are,” he says, “but you don’t need to be afraid. Everything will be all right.” His hand keeps soothing my forehead, sopping up the fear until the trembling is gone and the bed is still.
The nurses have disappeared, except for a short, round one standing by the door. For some reason I notice that her blue eyes are surrounded by crinkly laugh lines, so I don’t mind if she stays.
Dr. Peterson sits on the edge of my bed. My right hand disappears into his. “Now then,” he says, “the members of your family are being contacted. They’ll be here as soon as they can make it.”
But he hasn’t finished. “You’re in Houston’s Braes-forest Medical Center, under my care. You were brought here after hospital treatment for a gunshot wound.”
I groan and screw up my face, trying to think, trying to remember.
“Relax,” he says. “It doesn’t matter now if you recall what happened. That can come later. The fact is that you’ve come out of what can best be called a semicomatose state, a type of coma.”
“Dr. Peterson, listen to me!” I clutch both his hands, and my voice grates like a rusty gate. “There’s something wrong. My body. It’s not right. It’s—”
“You were thirteen when you were brought here, Stacy. We’ve tried to keep you in a good state of health—as good as your condition would allow—so your body has grown and matured naturally.”
He shakes his head. “No, Stacy. You’re seventeen.”
“When my mother comes, she’ll tell you that you’re wrong!” I don’t want to listen to what he has to say. I try to tell him to go away; but I can’t talk and cry at the same time, and the tears get in my way.
He reaches to the table by my bed and hands me a fistful of tissues. They’re soft, but they’re heavy. My hands are heavy, my eyes are heavy, and the bed is a warm cocoon, shutting away the things I don’t want to hear and see. Deliberately I slide into sleep.
This time I wake slowly, scrunching up my eyes, stretching and twisting and arching the way I love to do. “You wake up just the way Pansy does,” my mother always says, as she shoos our lop-eared cat off the foot of my bed and tousles my hair. “Stacy, our other little cat.”
“Stacy? You’re awake?”
I open my eyes quickly at the sound of my father’s voice. “Oh, Daddy, you’re here! You’re here! I need you!”
He quickly wraps me in a long hug. His chest, under his smooth white cotton shirt, smells cozy and warm, but my cheek grows wet from his tears. I hold him away, puzzled. “Daddy? I’ve never seen you cry.”
There are hollows under his cheekbones, and his brown eyes seem strangely faded. His hair is thin on top. He’s my father, but he isn’t my father—at least not the way he was yesterday.
“Daddy, the doctor told me I’ve been here four years, that I’m not thirteen, I’m seventeen. It’s not true, is it?” But as I study my father’s face I know it has to be true, and I gasp, “How did it happen to me?”
“Nobody completely understands it. Not really.
You were shot, and the bullet did something to you that caused a kind of coma; but you didn’t need life support. You were breathing on your own, and your vital signs were good. It’s just that you were in a world of your own, and you couldn’t or wouldn’t leave it. The people here were able to help you sit in a chair and walk and even feed yourself if someone was with you. You have a physical therapist who has worked with you on exercises every day.”
“I don’t remember any of this.”
He pats my hand. “I know, sweetheart. Mentally you weren’t responding.”
“Then why did I wake up?”
He shakes his head. “No one knows exactly. They can just guess. You fell and cut your hip. Then last week you developed an infection in the cut, and the doctors treated it with antibiotics and even some minor surgery. They think that maybe it was the reaction to the anesthetic that brought you out of the coma. I’m doing a bad job of telling you about it, I guess. Dr. Peterson can do a better job of explaining it to you than I can.” My father wipes his cheeks with the back of one hand, then spots the box of tissues, wads one, and rubs it over his eyes.
The door opens, and a familiar face peers through. Donna’s the original. I’m the carbon. “That beautiful dark hair, those tilted green eyes,” Dad would say, and wink at Mom. “We’ve certainly got lovely daughters, Jeanne.”
Donna shyly whispers, “Stacy?”
“Donna!” I hold out my arms to my sister, laughing
as she hurries through the door. She clumsily bumps against the end of the bed as she rushes to hug me.
“I like your hair that way,” I mumble against her ear. “But don’t ever scold me again about munching Twinkies. You’re getting fat, big sister!”
She sits back and beams at me. Her tucked-in smile reminds me of so many times when she has been where I couldn’t follow: her first dance; the red-haired basketball player she thought she was in love with when she was sixteen; the dorm friends she wrote about when she started college.