Ten years later
Cassie was standing next to her mother as she got dressed to go to town. Every so often her mother would powder Cassie’s nose or brush some rouge on her cheeks. Cassie thought her mother was the most beautiful person in the world; and also one of the nicest. She had suggested that Cassie change her birthday party invitation to state no presents desired. At first Cassie did not like that idea. She was a normal ten year old and she loved getting presents. But her mother explained that most of the kids in her class were poor and could not afford to buy her presents, so they would not come because they were too proud to show up with no presents.
Cassie liked most of her classmates and wanted them to come and have fun with her, so she asked all of them not to bring presents. Her dad had arranged a place in town to hold the party so all of them could come. She smiled. She knew she did not have to worry about presents because her parents would be sure and get her lots of presents.
“Cassie, see if you can find me a bag of cotton balls in one of the drawers.” He mother asked her as she examined a smear near the corner of one of her eyes.
Cassie began opening drawers and looking through them. The last one was on the bottom and was a little tougher to open. She finally pulled it opened and found a small bag of cotton balls. She pulled the bag out and placed in on the top of the dresser in front of her mother. She bent down to close the bottom drawer and there, lying to the rear of the drawer, was a beat up package in old gift wrapping paper.
“Mom, what is this?” Cassie asked as she point at the package in the drawer.
“What is what?” her mother asked absently.
Cassie pointed into the bottom dresser drawer.
Sarah stopped, arching her eyebrows and looking at what Cassie was pointing to in her dresser drawer. She paused and her eyes widened. She had not thought of it in years. It was the present that her great-great aunt Cassandra had left for Cassie.
“Oh my, that’s a birthday present from my Great-Great Aunt Cassandra, your namesake. She sent that to us just after you were born. There was something else she said in the letter but I don’t think that was important. She asked us to give it to you after you had grown old enough to understand. She had never met you but she must have loved you a lot. Here, dear, let me get it out and you can have it now.”
Pulling the old wrapped package out she handed it to Cassie who stared at it in surprise. It did not look like much. It had been pushed, pulled and prodded around in the drawer with one thing or another rubbing and tearing at the wrapping paper for ten years.
Cassie wondered what was in the package. The more she looked at it the more she wondered. Ten years! That was how long this package had waited for her. That was as long as she had been alive. Slowly she removed the wrapping paper and found a black leather covered box.
Sarah, watched over Cassie’s shoulders, eyes wide, as she saw the box. That was real craftsmanship. The hinges appeared to be real gold. Cassie raised the lid fully open and Sarah gasped with her. There was a very thick gold wire braided cord with a pendant attached to it. The pendant was a thick silver circle within which was a cross made of Celtic knots that formed an unopened eye in the center of the cross.
“It’s beautiful!” Cassie said almost in a whisper.
“Yes, dear, it is. It was also probably very expensive. Here, let me help you put it on.” She found a very sturdy latch and opened it. She placed it around Cassie neck so the cross rested just above her solar plexus. She turned Cassie so she could see herself in the mirror above the dresser.
“Oh this is my bestest birthday present.”
“Yes, dear, it is, but if we go anywhere you should wear it on the inside of your clothes.”
Turning Cassie looked up at her mother. “I know, so people don’t think I’m showing off.”
“Yes dear. That’s a good reason.”
Cassie left her mother and wandered downstairs staring at the pendant hanging around her neck. The intricate winding of the coils forming the cross intrigued her. No matter where she looked at the pendant her eyes always focused on the unopened eye in the intersection. She stumbled and came to a stop. She stared at the pendant for a moment. She thought the eye had winked at her. But now it was still unopened.
It was a bright sunny spring day in West Texas. A light breeze brought the scent of sage from the nearby ranchland. Cassie sat near a mesquite in the backyard of their ranch house playing with her cowgirl Barbie. Every so often she pulled her new pendant out of her dress top and stared at it. The winding cords that made up the cross were intriguing. They always brought her eyes back to the unopened eye in the middle.
She was thinking about her best friend, Susie. They had talked yesterday at school. She had been given her invitation to Cassie’s birthday party. Cassie would be ten in four days and her whole class had been invited to her party.
She had heard a couple of the kids talking about her. One of them had called her a “rich bitch” and she wasn’t sure what they meant. Susie had explained it to her. Cassie had thought that rich people lived in big houses. That they had lots of cars, airplanes, and oil wells. Rich people took long trips to faraway places and she knew that her family didn’t do those things. So why would the other kids think she was rich.
Susie knew more about Cassie’s family than she did. She explained that her dad had airplanes and oil wells. That her ranch house was a mansion in comparison to most of the kid’s homes and most of the kids in her class were poor. Cassie had noticed that some wore clothes that were very worn out. Others had clothes either too large or too small. She would have never believed that kids would be wearing their older brother or sister’s clothes or that they had nothing with which to replace their old clothes.
She was not sure what to do. She asked Susie about getting them some new clothes, that her mother and dad would do it if she asked them. But Susie explained that they would refuse the clothes if she did that because most of the kids were too proud to take charity. Cassie just did not know what to do. She would have to think of something to help them. She liked most of her school mates.
She sat there wondering what their lives were like. What were their homes like? She started trying to imagine what she would see if she could look in their homes. Closing her eyes she tried to imagine. An image of her cross appeared to her and the eye in the middle seemed to wink.
Tony was a Mexican boy in her class. He was also the smallest kid there. But he was really smart. Every day he would sit in the front row so eager to learn everything. She had also noticed that his shoes had holes in them. So she guessed he was poor. She wondered what his life was like.
As she sat there in her backyard she began to daydream. What would it be like to live the way the other kids did? She could see Tony at his house barefooted with no shirt on. The two other kids must be his brother and sister. Then she saw more students in her class. She saw their homes, their families. Suddenly like watching a DVD when on fast forward more and more people came into view. Then there were so many cars, ships, planes and trains. There were fires, wrecks, crashes – death! People were dying in bed, under cars, Inside of burning homes. Everywhere she looked more people were dying.
Something was wrong. She heard screams but who was screaming? She realized that it was she herself screaming.
“Stop, oh God stop it!”
She opened her eyes but nothing happened. Cassie saw more of the same things. Everyone was dying. There were storms, tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes everywhere. Buildings were collapsing all around the people who were dying. She started to stumble toward what she thought was her house. She could still hear herself screaming in horror at what she was seeing. She could barely see her house through the images in her head.
She slipped and felled over a rock that she had not seen amidst all the other images. Her breath was knocked out of her and for a minute the screaming stopped. Pushing to her knees, she once more began to scream.
The things she was seeing were too horrible. There was a little girl like herself being butchered by a man. Some robbers were laughing as they shot everyone in a store. She could not separate the images. They were all mixed up. She did not want to see this! What was happening to her?
“Stop”, she screamed again and again.
She just wanted them to stop! Rubbing at her eyes did no good she still saw it all?
It wouldn’t go away.
“Stop,” she screamed, “Stop, please stop!”
In the distance she heard a door slam and a distance voice.
“Cassie! Cassie! Blessed Marie Madre de Dios! What is wrong?
“Senora, es niña, Cassie! What’s wrong with you? Tell me what happened! Cassie! Cassie! Is there something wrong?”
Cassie felt the pain. It was as an echo of all the things she was seeing. Death was everywhere. It was all around. Everywhere she looked she saw it.
“Make it stop!” She screamed once more. Her voice joined the raw screams of pain she felt.
Cassie felt her body being lifted and hands rubbing over her body. What were they doing? She could hear them saying “Cassie! Are you hurt what is wrong?” She couldn’t answer. She couldn’t do anything, just scream. They were looking for something, whatever had happened to her, what was wrong. Through the images that flooded her sight she could see Marie and her mother holding her.
“What’s wrong Cassie?” her mother asked, her voice filled with fear. In the background she heard Marie muttering prayers in Spanish. The visions of both of them faded into the image of hundreds of people fleeing as buildings felled on them from an earthquake. Once more the screams poured out of her. There was a fight between soldiers and some of them fell to the ground dead.
“No, No! Stop”, she continued to scream.
“Get the car Marie!” Faintly as from a distance she heard her mother’s voice.
She began to fight the arms that restrained her and, the arms holding her tightened. She had to get away, had to run. No more. It was too frightening there is too much killing, blood, and destructions. She did not want to see it anymore!
Sarah Howard had finally reached her husband, George. He was on his way home. He was about to board a commercial plane and would arrive at Odessa airport in three hours and he would take his plane from there to the air field outside the town of Sonora.
Now she wanted answers and she was going to get them.
“Dr. Grey. What is wrong with Cassie?”
“Mrs. Howard, we are still doing tests. So far we can’t see a thing wrong. Her pulse and blood pressure are high. Her eyes were reactive when she arrived. We started her on a very mild sedative to calm her down, but it seems to only reduce the volume of her screams. She does not seem to be in pain. We have done a full body MRI after doing a magnetic search of her body to be sure that she did not get some metal in it. The honest truth is that at this time I have no idea why she is screaming so much. ”
“Now, Mrs. Howard let’s get some history of what happened. Where was she when she started screaming?”
“She was outside in the rear of our house, not at the stables. She rarely goes there. She is not a horse person or a pet one; no puppies or kitties. I had looked out at her just minutes before. She was about sixty feet from the rear door. I had gone upstairs when I heard Marie scream her name and call for me.”
“Did Marie tell you why she did that?
“Oh yes, on the way here I asked her what had happened. She said she heard the screams and looked out the back door. She saw Cassie scrambling toward the house just screaming. She stumbled off the path then tripped over a rock. She then fell and for a moment she stopped screaming. Then Marie was out the door after calling me. Marie told me that Cassie pushed herself up off the ground and started screaming again and intermixed with the pure scream she was saying ‘Stop it!'”
“When she got to Cassie, I was right behind her. We gathered her into our arms and began to look for something wrong. But we could not see anything. Cassie would not stop screaming. Then she started trying to run, even though we had her in our arms.”
“I told Marie to get the car. You know how far out we live. I was not going to wait for an ambulance to get there especially as I could not see anything physically wrong.”
“Humm, strange, there are no sign of any damage to her skin, except some scuff and bruising to her knees and palms of her hands. But her fall while running to the house explains that.”
In the distance muffled screams could still be heard. Nurses could be seen rushing to do their jobs. Sarah looked in that directions, fear and worry on her face.
“George is headed home Doctor. He is headstrong and impatient and will want to know everything when he gets here.”
Doctor Grey sat back and his calm looks deserted him. He knew George and the Howard family. This hospital was as well equipped because of their donations to it. If George got upset then everybody else would also get upset.
“I think one thing we should do is get an electroencephalogram. We have a direct connection with the main hospital in Odessa and I can have a neurologist looking at it in minutes.”
“Well, do it!”
Dr. Grey picked up his phone and pushed a couple of buttons. “Nurse let prep our patient for an EEG. Also contact Dr. Nugent in Odessa and tell him that we need an immediate reading.”
Sarah watched through the observation window as the Doctor and his nurses shaved spots on Cassie head. Soon she looked like a character on the Sci Fi Channel. A dozen wires were connected to her head. Sarah clenched her hand so tight that her nails cut into her palms. Soon the monitors were showing all kinds of squiggling lines. A printer against the wall began to print out what was showing on the monitor. She could see Dr. Grey talking on a headset. That must be his connection with the Doctor in Odessa.
Dr. Grey face paled. What was wrong? Sarah felt like screaming herself. They had finally sedated Cassie enough to put her to sleep. She finally stopped screaming.
Sarah watched as everybody around Cassie started moving. They were disconnecting the wires and removing the electrodes glued to her skin. One nurse began another IV. In moments they were rolling Cassie toward the x-ray department. Dr. Grey stayed with her.
Sarah rushed to follow them, “What’s wrong Joe?”
“Still don’t know. Dr. Nugent wants a CAT angiogram now!”
Dr Grey slowed down, “It’s a dye injected into the brain then we take CAT x-rays. It takes computer images that we can transmit straight to the hospital in Odessa. He is headed to their x-ray department where he can see the transmitted images as soon as we do.”
My thanks to Grumpybear for his editing and proofing help. But the final results are mine and all criticism should be loaded onto my shoulders.
© Virgil Lee Fuqua III and vlfouquet.wordpress, 2008-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vlfouquet and Virgil Lee Fuqua III with appropriate and specific direction to the original contents