A story of a girl’s quest
Based on true events
Ethan CT Burwell
“ ‘Ello, Sarah”, Ethan called in a calm voice as he made a sharp U-turn in the hallway and walked up beside her.
“Hello Ethan. How are you?”
“I just got a headache, you?”
“I have a headache also.”
“Where are you going?” At this point they had slowed down their pace to chat. The flow of students rushed around them.
“I’m going to meet Margaret. Have you seen her?”
“Umm… she went that way then that way” he said pointing down the hall in the direction that he had come, then to the left.
“Ugg” Sarah said in disgust.
“Margaret said she would meet me at the water fountain.” The water fountain stood awkwardly at the turn that Margaret had made. Margaret and Sarah were practically sisters. They went everywhere and did everything together. The two never had a disagreement in their life and so trusted each other with their darkest secrets.
Down the hall the crowd thickened as the masses of people trying to exit the school crammed in to the stairwell causing an overflow that flowed in to the hallway. As Ethan and Sarah passed by the crowd, who should come up the stairs, seemingly unnoticed by all of the other scurrying people, but the one and only Jamie.
“Hey Jamie” they called out simultaneously when they saw him approaching.
“Howdy” hollered in his booming voice. “Where are you going?”
“We’re on a quest to find Margaret,” Ethan answered.
“No. It’s not a quest, why do you call it a quest?”
“Ooo, a quest. Fun” Jamie exclaimed.
“Ugg” grunted Sarah giving up on the term “quest”.
The two followed Sarah on her great quest to find Margaret, and to prove to herself that Margaret didn’t betray her by abandonment. Onward they marched, upstairs, downstairs, through the thick hostile swarms of people yearning to be free of the prison of their youth in which they had been trapped for so long a time. During which time Jamie had broken in to a soft bouncy tune that only the three could hear.
“Why are you singing?” Sarah asked him in a sharp yet pleasant tune.
“Because it’s fun, it sometimes annoys people and it makes a neat echoy sound when we go up and downstairs.” He went on singing. Not quite sure where their journey would lead them, they followed Sarah onward. Up a mountain of stairs they climbed. Finally, their journey came to a pause. The trio came to stop at a room somewhere in the 500‘s. The sun shone through the large windows.
“Did we find Margaret?” Ethan asked.
“No.” answered Sarah “I have to take a test.”
“Ooo, did you get a bad grade?” asked Jamie.
“No. I had a band lesson. Now you two have to go.”
“But what about Margaret” Ethan cried “What if she’s lost in the cold, cruel world? What if she was abducted and that’s why she never came to the water fountain? She could be laying hurt, crying on a lonely back road out in the deserts of New Mexico, or worse, what if she’s dead?!”
“Dude, the bell rang like less than five minutes ago. I highly doubt that she could get all the way to New Mexico between now and then.” Jamie had interrupted him. They looked at the doorway to find that Sarah had received her test from the teacher and was taking her seat in the second to last row of the classroom. Upon realizing her absence Jamie and Ethan went on their way still in search of Margaret.
Sarah sat at her desk trying hard to focus on the test before her, but her mind was elsewhere. She was puzzled. How could her friend, her best friend not have been there like she said she would? Sarah and Margaret might have well have known each other since the time they were born. Never before had Margaret not done something that she said she would (except once in Spanish, but that’s a different story). Distracted by the disappearance of her friend Sarah was unable to focus on her test. She tried to think back to earlier in the day, had Margaret said a different water fountain? Maybe she had said that she would “not” be able to meet her? No. Margaret said that she would meet her at that particular water fountain.
Her head began to ache. It was throbbing in a bump that she had just noticed near the right side of her forehead. She hadn’t gotten a goodnight’s rest, so she had been tired that morning. While finishing her orange juice that morning she had set her glass too close to the edge of the table. Her dog bumped into the table’s leg. Desperately trying to catch the falling glass she slammed her head on the table’s edge.
The stress from the test and thinking about where Margaret was was nauseating. Too tired to think she placed her head on the desk. At their band lesson earlier that day Margaret and Sarah had both been laughing about how neither of them could play their scales. They had tried for several minutes, but were unable to get a sound much better than a herd of elephants underwater. Sarah’s tired mind drifted. What would it look like if a herd of elephants walked on the floor of the ocean from Africa to New York City, the whole while trumpeting out large air bubbles? Margaret’s favorite animal was the elephant. With that thought her distress quickly returned. In an attempt to calm herself Sarah repeated to herself “Margaret didn’t light to me, Margaret didn’t lie” over and over she repeated it. Sarah managed to calm herself enough to take the test.
Handing in her test she was surprised to learn that there were only two minutes left in the period. She walked slowly back to her seat to get her bag. Ding, ding, ding, ding, the bell rang. Sarah walked out of the class and down the hall. A second wave of people engulfed her. Dozens of people flowed around her as her pace was still somewhat slow. Her confusion from Margaret’s absence was still great. As each person passed by her she glanced at their face in a doubtful hope that was instantly crushed. Finally, she saw a face that she recognized. It was Jamie followed shortly by Ethan.
“Did you find Margaret?” Jamie asked.
“No, and I take it that neither of you found her either.”
“Can you speak a little louder?” the noise from the people talking and lockers slamming was ridiculously loud.
“No!” Sarah said louder.
“Wait!” cried Ethan who had been silently thinking.
“What if there is no Margaret?”
“What are you talking about?” asked Sarah in an annoyed tone. She was still upset.
“What if we all just imagined Margaret and she doesn’t exist?” Jamie and Sarah just looked at him like he was outrageously out of his mind. After a brief pause to see their reactions he continued. “What if she’s just a figment of out imagination? What if we’re all just figments of our imaginations? What if we don’t even have imaginations and we just think we’re imagining?” Now Jamie and Sarah looked at him like he had two heads and was outrageously out of the minds in both heads. “Yeah, maybe none of exist and everyone else is just crazy and pretending that they’re talking to us, but they’re really talking to nothing. Maybe this is some alter-reality that one of us is just imagining. Maybe it hasn’t always been an alter-reality. Supposedly the last time we saw Margaret was forty-five minutes ago. Maybe we all got those supposedly “normal” headaches when we entered this alter-reality.” he paused to look at Jamie and Sarah. They looked like wide-eyed manikins. “Or maybe” he continued “that’s just what this alter-reality wants us to think.” Suddenly Sarah came back to life, she nudged Jamie and he came back to reality too.
“Firstly,” Sarah stated “I spoke to Margaret during sixth period. Secondly, I got my head ache because I hit my head in the table this morning. You said that you got you headache because you always get headaches at the end of the day, and as for Jamie, well he’s Jamie, and how long did it take you to think of that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yeah, dude, I don’t know exactly what you just said, but that was really weird” was Jamie’s response.
“I’m going to miss my bus” Sarah complained. “I’ll see you guys on Monday”
“Bye” said Ethan and Jamie. Now even more upset then before Sarah turned around to go to her bus. The students and noise that had filled the hall a split second ago had disappeared. She looked around. There was no one in the halls at all. She quickly turned around even more confused and shocked. Ethan and Jamie had disappeared as well. She glanced out the window the parking lot was empty and the busses that had just been there were gone. There was no sign of anyone anywhere. Scared Sarah ran down the hall
“Hello? Hello?!” she called out. There was no one. Panicking Sarah ran to the doors. She frantically tried to open them, but to no avail. They were locked. Scared and panicking Sarah fled down the halls and past the horrid water fountain which now held much fear in her eyes. She ran downstairs to find a phone. About half way down the stairs she slipped on her shoelace which had become untied. Down she fell, her eyes tightly closed. She was able to reach out and stop herself, but not before she banged the right side of her forehead on one of the steps. Dazed and in a fog she opened her eyes to see a janitor come around the corner and run to her. The lights flickered and everything went dark.
The next thing that Sarah knew was a bright white light all around her. Her side felt wet, and she knew all to well that she was bleeding terribly.
“She’s coming through” someone said, but it sounded distant. Very slowly things came into focus. The bright light went away and was replaced with a man with pale skin and short dark hair standing above her. He wore a blue button shirt and had a stethoscope dangling around his neck.
“My head” she complained rubbing it with her hand.
“You hit it pretty hard. You’ve been out for at least ten minutes. You really like your orange juice don’t you?”
“What” asked Sarah confusedly?
“Your mom says that when your dog knocked your orange juice off of the table you dove for it but smacked your head on the table.” Thinking about what she had just been told Sarah stared up at the ceiling trying to figure out what had happened to her today; in fact she still was trying to figure out what day it was.
“What time is it?” she asked. A different man in the same uniform told her that it was now 7:45 am. “What day?”
“Friday, Friday the thirtieth of November” But it couldn’t be, Sarah thought. School had just finished and she was running down the halls for her life. Then, she remembered what Ethan said, or did she imagine that. What about Jamie and Margaret? Had she imagined them too? What about her entire life? Was she a girl who went to school in New York and had friends named Jamie, Ethan, and Margaret that had smashed her head on the floor, or was she really some man living in the foothills of Russia? An old and confused widower confined to the walls of his house by severe arthritis that had been activated by the cold weather. Doomed to die alone and in pain he created an alter-reality in which he was a young girl in order to protect his failing heart. Scared by the thoughts racing through her mind she sprang to her feet. Dizzy from the blood rushing to her head she wobbled back and forth and stumbled a few feet.
“Whoa. Slow down there sparky. Sit back down and rest. Sarah managed to make her way to the phone. Her head was throbbing harder than ever and her heart pounding just as hard. She was surprised that she was able to remember Margaret’s cell phone number.
“Ring, ring, ring, ring,”
“Hello?” the other voice answered.
“Hey Sarah, what’s wrong?” Margaret asked.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re real! Have you seen Jamie or Ethan?”
“No, not today.”
“Is she going to be ok? Why is she talking to herself?” Sarah’s mom asked the EMS.
“No, no!” cried Sarah flailing her arms. She slowly backed up as the EMS tried to catch and restrain her. Suddenly the room began to spin and everything became distorted.
“No!” Sarah yelled and jumped up. She was in her bed. Her blankets and pillows had been thrown in the floor. Sweating and breathing very hard she looked around. It was 1:17am. Had it all been a dream? Sitting up she rubbed her eyes. The whole thing had just been a nightmare ever since she dropped the juice right up until the EMS tried to grab her. Thirsty, she went downstairs to the kitchen to get a drink. While filling her glass she thought she saw something fly across the window. The lights in the kitchen had turned the windows in to fairly useful mirrors. “Ahh” she cried looking at the window. Her reflection showed an old man who looked about 68 years ago. Sarah ran to the mirror by the door only to confirm her reflection. She suddenly collapsed to her knees as if she were having a heart attack. A piece of mail lay on the floor next to her. Her eye caught hold of it. The deliver address was written in red “149 Czar RD, Russian Foothills”. Everything became super bright until it was blinding then all at once it went dark.
“Sarah, Sarah” a soft gentle voice was calling her. “It’s time to go now, Sarah.” She opened her eyes. Her teacher was standing above her. “Sarah, the bell rang, you have to hand in your test now.” Sarah handed it to her. Sarah was in a daze as she walked out of the classroom. She walked down the hall, but this time there weren’t that many people and the noise level was normal. Down the hall three figures came around the turn. As she got closer she saw that it was Jamie and Ethan….and Margaret! She ran to them.
“Hey, Sarah, we found Margaret” Jamie called out. Sarah gave them all a big hug as though she hadn’t seen them in years.
“Where were you!” she asked Margaret.
“I went to my locker to get my books. Then, I went to the water fountain, but you never came.”
“How do you like that” asked Ethan “the one place we never looked was her locker.” The four of them then walked to Sammie’s and brought a large pizza with everything on it…
As they sat waiting for their pizza they talked about what a day it had been. Sarah wasn’t sure whether or not to tell them about her “dreams”. She thought that maybe she should keep it to herself, but figured what the heck and told them. After about 10 minutes they started to get impatient
“Where’s the pizza?” Ethan asked. To pass the time Margaret began to tell wild and crazy “what if” stories.
“Two minutes later the pizza arrived. ‘Yummie, yummie, yummie, get in my tummy’ Jamie eagerly repeated as he did a little tummy dance. The four licked their lips as Margaret, now no longer lost opened the box. ‘Hey!’ exclaimed Ethan. ‘That’s not everything.’ The pizza was bare except for a thin layer of cheese. ‘Is something the matter?’ asked the waiter. ‘Um, yes’ said Sarah. ‘We ordered a large pizza with everything on it; this is a large pizza with just cheese.’ ‘Oh, I’m sorry we’re out of everything.’ ‘He lies!!’ yelled Jamie accusingly. ‘Excuse me?’ said the waiter, surprised that someone had called him a liar. ‘You have cheese! So you’re not out of everything!’ Jamie accused him. ‘We’re out of everything except cheese.’ the waiter said, he was beginning to get annoyed. ‘Well, we didn’t order everything except cheese’ Ethan explained, ‘we ordered everything. Seeing as you said you were out of everything and then you said you had cheese so you weren’t out of everything. Now give us everything you everythingkidnapper!’ Ethan was furious. ‘Fine I do have everything, but if you want it you’re going to have to pay a price.’
‘Never!!!’ Sarah roared. ‘We’re going to report you to the police for everythingnapping and holding everything against its will.’ ‘Fine I’m the everythingnapper, you caught me, but you haven’t caught me yet.’ With that the everythingnapper fled out of the restaurant and down the street.
‘Catch him!’ the four yelled as they chased after him. ‘Somebody stop that man!’ They chased him for two blocks. Then he crossed the road. Sarah was leading the pack in chasing him followed by Jamie. Just as Sarah ran across the road a giant Trailways bus turned the corner. Seeing the coming disaster Jamie sprinted with all his might. Just as he reached her there was a loud screech and glass shattered all over the place. Sarah’s mother turned around. ‘Sarah!’ she screamed and ran to her. ‘Sarah are you ok?’ Sarah didn’t answer. There was a large bump on her forehead. ‘Hold on Sarah, mommy’s going to go get help. Back, Woofwoof, back. Get away from the glass.’ the dog was trying to lick up the orange juice, the last thing Sarah’s mother needed right now was for him to eat some glass. ‘911? Hello my daughter’s hurt. She’s not responding!’ Five minutes later two EMS showed up at the door. Sarah was breathing but still wasn’t responding. After about five minutes she came through, though.” Margaret finished her story.
“I promise you, Margaret, if that happens to me I’m going to blame everything that has and/or hasn’t happened to me today on you.” Sarah said jokingly. Finally, their pizza really did come. They all peaked inside the box just to make sure it was everything, though.
“ you all have a nice day” said the waiter.
“you too sir.” then, they walked out and were gone.