Are you here?
rating: +9+x

I enter the room, quietly. As always, I ask, "Are you here?"

She is sitting on the floor, legs crossed like a monk. "I am in a crystal desert," she says, without opening her eyes. "The sand beneath my feet is like soft glass, and I can see the snakes and beetles below."

I move forward and pick up the plate before her. The food on it is long since cold, and has barely been touched. "That sounds beautiful, my love," I say aloud, but inside my heart falls. She is not here.

Late at night, she comes to bed. "I am here," she whispers to me. "The desert showed me what beauty could come of a transparent place, but I belong where the world sometimes hides." And so I hold her until we both sleep, and dream of nothing at all.


I enter the room, softly. I ask of her, "Are you here?"

Her closed eyes flicker back and forth, like a dreamer but with purpose; she is choosing where to focus. "I am in a red and murky ocean. The fish here feed on darkness, and do not wish to be seen."

I lean down and draw the blanket over her shoulders, which she had tried to do before she was drawn away. "That sounds mysterious, my dear," I tell her. I hope my tone does not betray my sadness, for her rapture is not her fault. She is not here.

She does not come to bed in the night, but wakes me in the morning. She had been entranced for sixteen hours, at least. "I am here," she tells me. "From the fish I learned patience in gaining trust, but I belong where there is sometimes light." And so I prepare our morning meal, and stay past the time I have in making sure she eats enough.


I enter the room, carefully. "Are you here?" I ask, knowing the answer.

She is lying on the ground, with her arms held above her head. "I am in a forest where gravity runs upside down. I must hold on to the trees or the ground above me, else I will fall into the sky."

I kneel beside her and gather up the glass from the cup of tea she dropped. It had shattered around her, shards lying in a radiating pattern as if they had burst from her body. "That sounds particularly fanciful, my sweet." She is much too light when I move her to retrieve the glass she was lying on. My heart breaks when I can barely feel the weight of her, as if she were half ghost already. She is not here.

For three days more she is unreachable, flying between worlds of every description. Whenever I can, I hold her, cradling her head as I spoon food and water into her mouth. But I am away during the day, and when I am gone I am sure she does naught but sit or lay while universes pass her by. Everything is the same when I return home each day as when I left. She has not moved, strands of hair are still on her face exactly where they were. At the end of the third day, I am walking away to sleep when she cries out behind me. "Help me, please. It hurts to move." Exhaustion forgotten, I rush to her side. "Slowly, my love, slowly." With great care and patience, we move together from sitting, to crawling, to standing. We eat a real meal together, and I help squeeze and stretch each of her muscles until she can move around on her own. Then we go to bed, and together we rest, dreaming of nothing at all.


This continues for nigh on a year. Her voyages become longer each time; they become a week, then two, then three, then a month. It becomes the only thing on my mind at all times, how to keep her fed on some kind of schedule, how to keep her muscles from ceasing to work entirely from lack of use. I spend ever-increasing hours each day pushing and pulling on her arms and legs and back, to keep the blood flowing at the very least. I barely sleep at night, because I have been scouring the libraries and medical offices and psychic shops in the city for anything, anyone who can help. One organization gave me hope for a time, they sent a white-coated doctor to examine her about a half a year ago. Many tests, instruments and words that I did not understand. But even they left, casting veiled words at me which meant this wasn't their problem. "Aren't you supposed to be a foundation? Aren't you supposed to help people?" I cry out. I had a moment's hope, and when it was gone it hurt like never before. The doctor turned, and told me that he was sorry. Whether he meant it would never be known.

Every day when I return home, I ask as I enter, "Are you here?" Every day she tells me about some magical place. Volcanoes spewing ice, metal flake clouds, castles built entirely of grass. Every day it gets harder to make it seem like I care. Every day, I wish only for her to say yes, just one time. I become angry during the day, and learn to hate my colleagues who speak of their home lives with contentedness. Her friends come calling, they are worried. I never know what to tell them. They will never understand that she is selectively comatose, or that this world isn't enough for her. I tell them she isn't available at the moment. I can't do this anymore. Please my dear, I still love you. Just say yes.

One time, please, just say yes.


I enter the room, slowly. Defeated, I ask, "Where are you, my darling?"

The floor is empty. I look around, worried, but then I find her. She is perched on the chair, my chair. Her faded blue eyes are fixed on mine. Focused. Alert. Present. "I am… home," she decides. "The one with me is my love, whom I have abandoned as worlds have beckoned. He has cared for me, when in all my contemplation I was thoughtless."

I move into the room and gather her up in my arms. She lets out a pure laugh as I spin her around and carry her away towards the door. I say to her, "Dearest, that sounds… right." My smile is real, and it hurts a little from lack of use. We go outside and enjoy this world. It is the same as always. It is green, it is alive, it is imperfect, and it is it is ours. She is here, and we are free.

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