Mia in the Maelstrom

Three weeks after they were captured Mia had the dream. The sky above the warehouse grew dark with clouds in a gathering spiral, growing ever more massive, high and thick. Within the storm flashed bolts of crimson lightning that suffused the clouds with color, so the whole Texas sky was a slowly revolving blood-red maelstrom replete with flying shingles, barking dogs, cars, houses, all caught up in the irresistible wind. Finally the clawed finger of a twister reached down, right through the roof, and touched the plastic bracelet that had chafed on her ankle all these weeks.

Morning came as it always did, with the guards simply turning up the halogen lights in the warehouse. After a little while they opened the gate and the kids began filing out for breakfast. After Mia had gone past, however, the guard on duty, Johnson, grabbed her roughly by the arm. “Whoa, whoa. Where’s your bracelet? Huh? Dónde está tu bracelet?” He pointed at her bare ankle.

“No sé,” she whispered, wide-eyed.

“Come on.” Holding her arm in a painful grip, he dragged her back into the holding area. “Where’s your bed? Where do you sleep?” With trembling finger, she pointed it out. He stalked over, flung off the covers, and found what he was looking for.

Frowning, he picked it up. His frown deepened when he saw where it was broken, how the plastic looked like it had melted.

They took her to the doctor, Dr. Apgar. It was Apgar who had done their initial physical exams when they’d been admitted to the facility, which had been one of the most frightening experiences of Mia’s short life, sitting in her underwear and a green hospital gown while he poked and prodded and took her blood and performed other, stranger tests. The nurse said they were worried the children had a disease from Mexico, and that was why they had to take medicine every morning. But Mia had felt fine at the time, and none of the other children seemed sick, either.

Now Apgar, who was balding with curly, dark hair and glasses, held up the ankle bracelet. “Can you tell me how you did this, Mia?” he said in Spanish. “We’re very interested to know. Did you do it, or someone else?”

“It was just a dream,” she whispered. But this actually seemed to make him excited, and with his assistant he got out some machines and taped electrodes to her head and chest.

Then he asked her many questions, and asked her to remember her dream, and held up a simple metal spoon.

“Can you bend this?” he asked. She reached for it, and he stopped her. “Can you bend it without touching it?” But that didn’t make any sense.

Hours later, she was exhausted and crying, and the doctor seemed dissatisfied. Finally he said to his assistant, “We’ll keep her under observation tonight. We can continue in the morning.”

She thought they would lead her back to the holding area, but instead they took her to a plain white room that held only a bed, a sink and a toilet, along with a mirrored window.”I want to go back to the other kids,” she pleaded. She was only seven, but she knew a cell when she saw one. They didn’t listen.

There was no one to talk to, no toys, no TV, no books, nothing on the walls. She tried the door, but it was held by a solid steel deadbolt. “I want to go back,” she kept saying, slapping at the mirrored glass.

She lay down on the bed. She wanted to sleep, but the light was too bright. At last she fell into a troubled half-sleep with her arm over her eyes.

The dream came again: the very same. But this time it was like the twister was her finger, and she reached down and touched the light that was bothering her. With a noise it popped, which actually startled her awake. She was left sitting there in the dark, holding her knees.

After just a few seconds the door opened. In the bright light from the hallway the person there formed a featureless silhouette, a looming shadow. Then her eyes adjusted, and she saw it was Dr. Apgar. “The light was bugging me,” she said by way of explanation. ImageForJoel

“We’ll fix it,” he said. Turning, he asked a guard behind him to find a new bulb. When the guard was gone, he stepped into the cell and looked closely at the bulb, and at the glass on the floor. He picked up a piece, at the seemingly melted edge of the glass.

He sat on the bed with her. “Would you like to leave this place, Mia? Go somewhere more comfortable?”

“But where?” she asked.

“Somewhere far away. Not in Texas.”

“I want my mama,” she said forcefully.

“Ah. Of course.” As though it hadn’t occurred to him. “Well, probably that can be arranged.”

“I want my mama,” she repeated. “Where is she?”

“We’ll find her,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

“But where is she?”

“We’ll find her,” he repeated. “We’ll find her, and then you can be in a new place. If you show me how you broke the light, understand?”

He didn’t know, she realized suddenly. He didn’t know where her mama was, and for that matter didn’t really care. He might never find her.

Unbidden, she saw the red storm in her mind’s eye, the great crimson mass revolving. The twister reached down.

It was just a light touch, the lightest. No more than would take to bend a spoon. When it withdrew Apgar lay twitching on the bed, eyes scrunched shut behind his glasses, hands at his head. A bit of blood was coming from his nose. The lightest touch, in the right place, could topple mountains.

She got up and went to the door. For a moment she stood there looking outward, eyes adjusting to the light. She had neither plan nor destination, and soon the guard would return. All around her spun the maelstrom.

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