Sunflower grabbed at the smooth black pendant hanging around her neck. It was still there. The electric stone. Thank you, she said to herself, thank you.
Where was she? There were bright lights above her. The sense of movement. She was on her back, lying down. How did she get here? She lurched upward. The world swum around her, blurring like an out of focus camera. Someone was shouting. Someone else was speaking calmly to her, quietly. She couldn’t understand the words. They were English, but they might have been another language for all she understood.
Sunflower blinked and she was once again prone, staring wildly at the ceiling once more. Once more she grasped the crystal. Once more, she was reassured that it was still there.
She remembered being out for lunch with her friends, eating a new restaurant in the centre of town. They didn’t have much she could eat and Sunflower remembered feeling annoyed at that. Mind you, her appetite had been fading recently. Most days, she could barely force down a couple of slices of toast. Still, the advantage of not wanting to eat anything was that she had lost loads of weight. Her friends had complimented her about how thin she was looking. How there wasn’t any fat on her, not anymore. How she was almost a skeleton. At least, she thought that’s what they said. They could have said anything. Her hearing had been fading in and out as well.
So, her food had arrived. A bowl of plain pasta, a little bit of olive oil drizzled over the top and some cracked black pepper. Not ideal but it had been all they had. The smell of peppercorns and the fragrant oil had invaded her nostrils. She had felt nauseous in a wave. Suddenly, she had felt like she was going to vomit all over the plate in the restaurant. The world had seemed distant like looking through a tunnel. Had she tried to stand up? She thought maybe she had. That was the last thing she could remember from her lunch. Now she was speeding to an unknown destination.
‘Try to breathe.’ Someone said, in that calm reassuring voice. They were next to her ear, but she couldn’t quite summon up the energy to turn her head. She could only stare at the ceiling, feeling the lull of movement as she sped along. She nodded and breathed deeply. She had the tourmaline round her neck, so all would be well.
The day it had turned up it seemed so innocuous. It should have come with a warning label. It really needed big stickers that said DANGER and DO NOT OPERATE WITHOUT INSTRUCTION. The power contained within was too much. Instead, it had just turned up in the post one day in a plain brown box. When she took it out for the first time, she had gasped. It was beautiful. The smooth black crystal was unlike anything else she had ever seen. A beautiful smooth mirror, completely opaque and mysterious. She tried the tourmaline as soon as she got into her flat, burning some paper to create ash. In the middle of the ashes she placed the crystal. It drew the ashes closer. Perfect. It was genuine. It was the electric stone. One of the rare crystals. She had smiled. It was what she needed.
The trolley or bed she was on started moving. There were flashing blue lights and a glimpse of the night sky. Then another corridor, another building and it seemed so familiar, but she couldn’t place it. Then she stopped. People were passing by her in blue and red smocks, not looking at her. Someone said her old name, then a long list of words that she couldn’t understand. All latin terms.
It hit her like an awakening. The panic overwhelmed Sunflower as the world swum into focus. Her breathing was fast, her face was hot. She was in a hospital. They had taken her to the hospital. She didn’t want to be here but couldn’t move. She was too weak. Why was she here? This was the worst thing that could happen.
When she had got the diagnosis, she had cried for days. She had barely left her flat, just sat on her worn sofa staring into space. Her doctor had wanted her to have treatment, but what did doctors know? The treatments could have been worse than the illness. Her mum had been so weak towards the end. Sunflower was not going to be another statistic for big pharma. Her body would be on a slab in a basement, carved up and cut up like an animal. She couldn’t bear that. The treatments would have made you sicker. She didn’t want that.
So she had done some research online into alternate therapies. Things the doctor wouldn’t tell her, because she was being paid by the drug companies. There were pages of people claiming the tourmaline had healed them completely. It attracted the toxins in your body, drawing them out, making you better. It was less invasive and more powerful, but the research was being suppressed. She had ordered it that day and worn it around her neck every day, feeling better and stronger. Until that day in the restaurant, she had been feeling mostly better. Mostly.
Sunflower waited until the nurses and orderlies had stopped fussing around her. They took her clothes off and put her tourmaline beside her. She bided her time until night. In the dark, she summoned up all her strength and shifted her weight out of bed. Her hands grasped the electric crystal tight. She wouldn’t stay and be a pawn for big pharma. She had her own medicine.
Not making eye contact with anyone, Sunflower slowly shuffled down the quiet corridor and out into the night. Her hand held her tourmaline for dear life.