She can't remember a time when it didn't feel this way.

She lies in her bed, eyes closed, headphones over her ears.

At least, she tells herself that they're over her ears. A part of her knows that they probably aren't. That this is the dream half of her life, and when she stops dreaming, she'll be back to the numbing darkness. Her ears will be her only method of knowing what's around her, of what's happening.

She can't decide what's better.

On one side, she can move and talk and eat and sing and...but there's no one to do those things with. The room is empty, a hollow replica of her room back where she lives. What's the use of living, if she's going to be alone and caged? What's her purpose, then?

On the other side, she is encased in the void, forced to hear and feel everything, and do nothing about it. Her boyfriend, weeping as he holds her hand to his face, begging her to wake up. Her best friend, trying his hardest to stay positive and chatter his free time away to her. Her surrogate's so painful, yet so touching, when they visit her.

She can hardly remember her name in these times, although they all whisper it to her at night, just before they leave. They always leave at nine, so they can return the next day. Except for her boyfriend--he stays longer. She can't tell the time, though. Usually, he stays by her side, reminds her of the happier times, until he chokes on his breath and falls into a fitful slumber next to her, seated in his chair.

"Willow, Willow, Willow,"

It's almost a mantra, meant to keep her awake.

It works, because she can't escape into her dream after that.

There are other days, when she hears the doctors walk in, that she has hope. They say her brain activity is picking up. They say she's starting to respond to some things. But there are also days she can't muster up the strength to push through, and they say that she's slipping again. That it's a losing battle. That she might stay like this forever. It makes her try harder, fingers flexing in her boyfriends grip to tell him she's still there, sill alive.

At times, the little reassurance is unnoticed, because he's arguing with the doctors that he doesn't want to take her off lifesupport, even if it isn't his decision to make. Other times, he'll feel the slight movement of her muscles and shower her with kisses, encouraging her to keep fighting.

She wants to wake up. She does...

...but how do you exit a locked door, when you don't have the key?

The End

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