Ash’s body was growing weaker. She could see that. The doctors were beginning to get that head shaking, tutting expression every time they entered her room. And it was just plain obvious by the way her body was wasting away. A thin sheen of sweat lay across her body and her hair was plastered to her forehead in sickening strands of lifeless waves. Nick had tried to distract her, but no matter what she did, she kept coming back to this place, staring at her lifeless body wasting away into nothingness. The crack was always there, beckoning to her, but she had managed to evade it. Whenever it had come too close, she had alway seen someone that had drawn her away. Vera, her tired face so close to tears and yet masterfully constructed in a strong armor of stress and determination… determination to win this war, so she would never have to lose any other precious members of her family. James, who had immediately withdrawn into himself at the news, and Ryan, who couldn’t force himself to face her body. He knew, and she knew, this was the end. But if he put it off, just maybe it wasn’t true. Ash knew that’s what he thought, but still she watched him with sadness as he tried to pretend to carry on with his day as he was secretly falling apart. Scarlett, constantly screaming and crying, trying to get into her room as much as possible, despite the fact the nurse’s kept hauling her away, telling her to leave. Scarlett who said her life wasn’t as important as Ash’s, who said she’d rather give her own in trade instead. Every time Ash saw Scarlett a small part of her broke. All she wanted to do was wipe that haunted look off her face. It was the face of someone who was experiencing desperate pain and couldn’t stop it, but didn’t even mind because the alternative was too horrible to even imagine.
Ash could feel another fit coming over her. The crack was edging in, and she could hear laughter coming at her from all directions. Faces were staring at her, the faces of the people she loved, but their eyes were black, dripping blood from all their crevices. They reached out ghostly hands from the crack, trying to drag her within, and she screamed. She put her hands over her head and she heard a beep from her bed as she started fitting from the fear fo what was happening. She opened her eyes, trying to breathe, but when she looked down, the ground was changing into black quicksand. She was sinking, drowning. Darkness was taking over her and she couldn’t breathe. All she could hear was a high pitched laugh and the constant roar of that bright crack of death staring at her. She backed up, trying to force herself away, but it was all around her, all present… she could go nowhere… this was it… she would die now in pain and suffering, so afraid. She had always thought she wasn’t afraid of death but she was afraid of this. She was afraid of this thing that ripped called her with the force of a 100 times magnified magnet. Bodies surrounded her, lifeless and limp. They were her friends, naked and dead. She shook her head, tears pouring from her eyes, screaming. She put her hands over her face trying to shut it all out when she suddenly felt something, a presence coming over her.
She looked up to see Scarlett in the infirmary door. The guards must have let her back in. The crack began to recede, and the laughter ceased. Ash breathed a sigh of relief, wiping the tears away, even though seeing the girl in front of her was like seeing a child being kicked. She looked so sad, so lost. Ash just wanted to hug her and whisper everything was ok. She raised a hand, trying to touch her arm, but stopped when she realized how much it would hurt if her hand just went through it. Ash breathed and then walked in front of Scar. Her eyes passed right through Ash, and it killed her. Ash smiled at the girl in front of her, trying to mask the pain from her best friend’s eyes even though she couldn’t even see her. ”Hi crazy girl… I’ve missed you,” she said in a hoarse whisper.