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Maggie Collins - Zoey Noelik

She was the kind of girl that whirl-wind-romances were written about. A quite and seemingly withdrawn girl.

At least that's how she was always seemed to outsiders. It always made some people around her uneasy how muted she could be. She rarely ever responded to their attempts to bring her out of herself; she found them silly and a touch confusing.

It wasn't that anything was wrong with her; not that any of the doctors the school insisted she see on could find. It wasn't that she wasn't interested in the world; she studied a touch of everything as it held her interest. It wasn't that she felt overshadowed by her varsity letter brother; she supported Jason and was as proud of him as anyone. Jason always defended her. He would just laugh and say she was waiting for the missing piece.

She didn't consider her own life dreary. In fact, she considered it to be quite pleasant and perfectly right for her. After high-school she settled down into her simple nine to five job just fine. As Jason moved from college to his own career and making his own family, he always welcomed her there. Some might have said that she lived vicariously though his happiness and shining success.

There was no jealously or bitterness. He worked hard for what he had and she respected that. Even his wife; Rachel, was welcoming of Maggie and her occasional awkwardness. It wasn't even until they had there first daughter that Maggie even felt anything might be missing.

For a moment, she was worried that the new addition to the family would mean her exclusion. She was delighted at how wrong she turned out to be. Maggie and little Zoey were near inseparable. In fact it delighted everyone in there lives to see how much warmth and life little Zoey brought out in Maggie. Rachel was no exception and was more then willing to share her daughter's affection. 

Now; in the whirl-wind-romance, this is where Maggie stumbles across the dashingly handsome teacher at Zoey's preschool orientation. He finds her awkwardness endearing, and her devotion to her niece a promising sign of a woman worth getting to know.

But Jason and Rachel and Zoey never arrive at the preschool orientation. They wait five, ten minutes, but no word from anyone. Maggie calls the cell phone, but no answer. She looks to one of the little scaled down chairs. The name tag has it assigned as Zoey's for the next nine months. She let's out as inhuman groan as a hole opens in her chest. She KNOWS Zoey will never sit in that chair.

Fleeing the school, she wanders and is dialing her cell phone going back and forth from Jason's number to Rachel's. "Do you know the Collins?" Maggie almost hadn't realized someone had answered and was about to hang up and dial the other number. "Yes! Yes! Tell me what's happened!" "You should get to Memorial hospital. You don't have much time." The call went dead, and she almost went into a fit of calling all over again when she realized she was standing in the shadow of Memorial's emergency entrance.

She was inside now. Hallways and doors blurred past her as she went where she was supposed to be. Little Zoey was spread out on the huge bed. Tubes of all sizes and colors coursed in and out of her. Every few seconds her body would shutter. It took Maggie a moment to realize that was her breathing.

There was a grungy darkness to the room. It had been in all the rooms she had passed and it permeated all of her senses. With each shutter, it grew closer to the little girl. She did the only thing she could. She crawled under the tubes and wrapped herself around the precious body that didn't have much life left to live. Even with her eyes closed tight, she could see the scene perfectly. She didn't know how long she lay there. Eventually, a stuttering breath was not followed by another and the darkness finally consumed Zoey too. It wasn't until someone turned off the alarm that she knew the long beep had been sounding her death to the ward.

Maggie stayed until the only warmth in the body came from her hold on it. As she let go, the rest of the world came rushing in. The half dozen nurses had been squawking around her the whole time, but now they were back in her senses. Maggie left the room and found her mother sobbing into her father's chest. Behind the distraught woman was a room with the curtains pulled shut. No life radiated from behind them. She had only stopped long enough to see what she already knew, and moved on.

Outside the hospital the world seemed split in two. On one side everything glowed with eternal fire. All manner of life seemed to jump out at her and scream to her senses to be known from the minute bacteria to the bulky humans and everything between. It all moved and swayed to its own beat. On the other side, the dingy darkness covered the landscape. She could see as the beat crossed over how it slowed and succumb to the darkness.

She was drawn to the beat; how it could change and grow and be anything in the world and beyond. She watched as the patterns played out. Two patterns would start the same and grow in to two different paths. Other places would have very different origins and grow together. But no matter how long she watched, not matter how different the song's notes, they all had the same climax. It all ways ended.

If she turned around, it might have ended here for her too. She could walk back inside and mourn with her family. She could grieve and try to move on with her life. Instead she stepped off the curb into her awakening.

She doesn't remember the next few days. The shadows of her soul-walk would haunt her nightmares for the rest of her life. Her mind returned to her at the base of a tower. If she had looked around she would have seen that it had no end in any direction, bit she didn't need to look around. This is where she needed to be. She placed her hand upon the wall and what she knew to be her name joined the infinite names already climbing its ramparts.

She lifted her head and found her hand resting on the side of a small casket. She knew she was being stared at. She guessed that people had been trying to restrain her. She stood and left her old life behind her for those she knew would be looking for her now. The missing piece was at hand.

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