"They aren't real, I heard you say,
But in my heart is where they'll stay.
And as long as to the dream I resist
They will in my mind forever exist."
Saturday, June seventh, Two-thousand-and-eight, at five in the afternoon I was six years old.
And I was burning.
The day was blistering, the sun ruthlessly glaring at its victims, and Dad decided that instead of basking in our AC and binging on some classic cartoons, we’d go to the park like “normal children”.
My sister Lee-the lucky one-was conveniently at her friend’s, and Mom was off on another business venture. Ordinarily, I’d be overjoyed to be allowed free time with my dad. I mean, he was awesome. Disney should definitely take notes on what perfect fathers are like. But not my mother. She’s on a whole other planet known as Unawesomeness.
Anyway, Dad dropped me of in one of the big, newly completed playgrounds while he went to find a place to park the car. It was absolutely boring, as no kids were brought out to suffer in this heat, and the playground was just a bunch of poles. I could have played lava tag, maybe, and it would’ve been a very convincing game what with the temperature, but no one was here.
Except for a lone girl sitting in the shade of one of the trees. I opened my mouth to call out to her when I started to feel an odd prickling on my cheeks-like pins poking my skin. Seconds later, I started to feel much hotter than I already was. Like I was thrown into a fire.
My skin was boiling, an invisible hot pan pressed against my face, and my legs gave out on me. I started screaming as I cringed on the ground in fetal position, in agony, in pain, but no one was there.
Except for Tree Girl, who looked on in horror. Tree Girl ended up being a classmate of mine and eventual friend, Payton, once she realized I was somewhat normal and didn’t hate her guts. I mean, what could she have done? She was a child.
After what felt like an eternity, Dad finally appeared, and without even blinking he snatched me and the next thing I knew I was lying on the back seats of our silver minivan.
When the car screeched to a stop and I was pulled out of the sliding door, I realized with confusion that Dad had taken us to a house I had seen before, but rarely been inside. Brick walls, two square windows, stout with chimney and simple walkway. It reminded me of a face, and I enjoyed looking at it while I waited for Dad to return to the car when he left for a few minutes to visit Uncle.
Uncle was awfully moody and bossy, like my teacher. I only liked him when I didn’t have to see him.
So, you can imagine my confusion as why my dad had brought me to Uncle’s house instead of to an actual hospital where they, you know, help injured people instead of talk down to them.
“Daddy? Why are we…?” I murmured.
Before Dad even reached the front door, it swung open and I saw an all too familiar old man appear.
“Dayton,” Uncle breathed.
Dad brushed by, careful not to bump me against the door or Uncle and hauled me inside where it was plenty dark. Although the dimness helped lighten the agony, the pain lingered.
“I was hoping she wouldn’t, you know,” my father stammered nervously. I had never heard him nervous, or frightened. He was always so…happy.
“Yes, yes, I know. Set her gently,” Uncle nodded as I was placed on the stiff, floral couch. It smelt musty and I resisted a sneeze.
My uncle reached over and touched my forehead. “Already turning brown and peeling. Will you go into my lab and bring out my tool kit?”
Dad disappeared in a flash-or not-it was hard to tell in the dark.
“U-Uncle,” I winced under his pricking. “That hurts.”
“Yes, I know Page. Just sit still. It’ll get better,” Uncle replied.
I did as instructed and let my thoughts wander. I don’t know Uncle’s first or surname, nor did I even know he was a doctor. He was just always…Uncle, Father’s good friend, and I never questioned it. Why would I?
Dad appeared holding a white box the size of my tiny torso.
I watched with strange anticipation of what Uncle was going to pull out. I saw what I least wanted to see: A syringe and needle.
A small needle, but a needle nonetheless. And as a majority of people don’t like needles, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a six-year-old child doesn’t like them, either.
As Uncle brought it forward with alcohol scrub, I inched away, even though it nearly killed me to do so.
“Don’t worry, honey, it won’t hurt,” my dad cooed, gently holding me in place.
“Don’t tell her lies,” Uncle snapped. There’s my uncle. “She can’t be raised as a kid forever.”
“I’d rather she be a kid,” Dad’s voice caught and I felt so awful, like all this was my fault. And maybe it was. Somehow. I didn’t know. I didn’t know what was going on.
“No!” I shrieked as Uncle snatched my right arm. “No! Please, don’t! Stop! Dad!”
I felt a sudden pinch and I tensed. Slowly, my arm went limp as Uncle drained blood, and at that point, by bother struggling?
When Uncle finished, the burning sensation was practically numb.
Uncle looked at Dad. “I’m going to have a look at this. I’ll let you know the results as soon as possible.”
Dad agreed with a subtle nod and wrapped the needle bite on my arm with filmy, black fabric.
“Good.” Uncle smiled satisfactorily, looking at the vile full of blood. “You can take Page home now. It’s best she avoid the sun.”
“For how long?”
“Well,” Uncle looked at him with pity, “logically until I have the cure. But since she has a life, try to protect her as much as you can. Have her wear sunscreen and cover up as much skin as possible.”
My dad scooped me up again. “Is it really possible for a cure?”
“Of course.” Uncle stood and shut his kit closed. “I’ll need your cooperation though. As she grows up, I’ll need to take more tests. We can make it annually.”
“So, you don’t have a date?” Dad was furious.
“If I had to put a time limit on making the cure, knowing my skills, I’d probably be able to complete it in…ten years. If all goes well.”
“But that’s ten years from now!” It was a harsh whisper, not a shout.
“Obviously.” Uncle patted me on the hand, making me flinch, and began to force my dad out the front door. “Let her rest for now. I want you to call me as soon as she’s shed her burnt skin. I’d like to know how long it takes for her to heal.”
Just as father was about to leave, Uncle blocked him and exclaimed, “Wait! Let me see her mouth. Ah…”
I watched as Strang Doctor Uncle nodded.