Niki Cluff lives in Northern Arizona with her husband, three children, and Great Dane who also doubles as a pony. For the last four years, she has worked as a literary intern sorting through queries while writing her own books. When she isn’t writing or watching BIGBANG and EXO videos, she’s sketching, playing video games (Legend of Zelda is her favorite), crocheting, and cooking. Copycat recipes are her specialty. She’s also a massive anime fan (Sailor Moon forever!) and hopes to visit Tokyo some day.
Allyson has been in a coma for the last nine months. What’s worse, she can hear everything the doctors say. She knows they’re keeping her in a coma and that she’s at the mercy of the hospital’s First-in-Human trial—a VR system implanted in her brain for a second chance at life.
Attached to the VR, Ally discovers worlds unlike home. She can do whatever she wants, but she misses her parents. With help from Harrison, a rabbit-eared boy, they work together to free themselves from Aishwarya, the mad queen of the world.
But when Harrison wakes up and doesn’t come for Ally, she’ll split her soul to the brink of death to save herself.
Darkness. My eyes are shut. With my eyes closed, I can’t see the doctor or the hospital room. I can’t see my parents’ faces. Nine months that I’ve been confined to the corners of my own mind. When I first came in, I managed to open my eyes long enough to see the sterile white walls, bright lights, and puke-green curtains that divided the room into threes. After that, a cooling sensation flowed through the veins of my left arm and my eyes, heavy with the weight of sleep, closed again. I haven’t been able to open them since.
“What does this mean?” Dad asks. His voice is tight, a grunt thick with tears. He’s crying too. I swallow back a lump, one of the only movements I can manage. But without an Adam’s apple, no one notices the small shift in the muscles of my throat. They aren’t paying enough attention. The backs of my eyes are on fire, but I know tears won’t come. I’m cried out.
“It means that until she wakes up, she’s stuck on life support, sort of. She is breathing on her own. Most of the machines are here to monitor her in case she does wake up,” Doctor Zain says. His voice holds a shrug. This is no big deal to him. Why should it be? It’s not his sorry butt lying in a hospital bed day after day. Mom sobs. It’s a howling sound and I imagine her clinging to Dad in a struggle to stay upright. My mind works that way now. Visions of what life must be like instead of what life is.
Being in a coma is a lot like suffering from sleep paralysis. Sometimes I’m awake and alert. I can hear and see everything in my mind’s eye. But I can’t move. I don’t scream even though my voice shouts in my head as loud as my lungs can manage. Every muscle in my body burns as I struggle to make them work, but they’re so heavy. No matter how hard I try, I can’t lift my arms or legs. I can’t even make my fingers work. Not even a pinky. Other days, a wrinkled hag sits in the corner of the room. Her eyes are dark, empty. She’s haggard like death has taken her more than once. Some days she hovers over my bed. She wants me to come with her. Beckons me to follow, but I won’t. I don’t like the idea of where her world ends. It sends a tremor through my entire body and I’m paralyzed with fear as I watch her. Waiting.