DeeDee went to see a band called Lady Cthulhu last night, and when she came back she seemed very disconnected from the world. Then she collapsed and was taken to the hospital, where she's now in a coma. Her mother would really like to know what happened, and so asks her brother to take an interest. He has demons of his own to contend with, but perhaps that's not a bad thing....
Machines beeped, insistently. Something wheezed more slowly, but just as regularly. With every wheeze DeeDee's chest rose a little, then fell again. Plastic tubes snaked from her forearms, her elbows, her nose and her legs, curling across her and the grey blanket that covered her from the waist down, falling to the floor and finally disappearing like infernal worms into the shiny brass of the life-support machine. Delicate black hands flickered in the white dials on the machine, recording her vitality, tracking her respiration and heart-beat. And the machine beeped, insistently.
Her mother leaned across her, and it was hard to tell who belonged in the bed. Both were as pale as corpses, both had thin faces with sunken cheeks and eyes, both had untidy, tangled blonde hair. Her mother -- my sister -- had dark circles around her eyes, which were red-rimmed from crying, and I finally decided that she looked slightly worse than DeeDee. She tried smiling, but her mouth shook with the effort and it faded very quickly.
"Damian," she said. I could remember her voice as it used to be; loud, strong and warm, shouting instructions to her husband and her daughter, shouting at me for daring to wear my shoes in the drawing room, shouting at the charwoman for forgetting to dust under the antimacassars. Now it was quiet and it didn't seem like my sister was really there at all. "We found this."
"Found what?" I had looked away from her hand while I remembered her as she used to be, and now I looked back. She was holding out a flyer, some A5-sized photocopied paper slip with crude artwork on it.
"This. We think it was the c-concert s-she wen... went to...." She trailed off, not wanting to admit what was in front of us: her daughter was in a coma and had been since shortly after she arrived home two days ago.
I took the flyer not really knowing what to expect. It was for a concert, just as Melanie had said, and the headlining band was called Lady Cthulhu. My blood ran cold for a second, and my vision blurred. I didn't really just read that, did I? I shook my head very slightly to clear my sight, and read it again. There it was, in poorly hand-lettered Helvetica, Lady Cthulhu.
"The band, it sounds like one of those things you say in your sleep...?" Mel was looking at me now, the beginnings of hope in her eyes.
"That was years ago, Mel," I said, not wanting to talk about my sleep, or lack of it. My dreams have gotten a lot worse lately.
"Yes, but, you could, couldn't you?"
"I... yes, of course I could," I said, controlling a sigh. "I can't promise any results though, Mel, you know that? I can ask around, see if a few people have heard anything...."
"Anything is better than nothing!" She sounded so sincere, and so unlike my sister, who had always believed that not winning was just a loser's way of saying losing.
"Did she go alone?" I needed to stop thinking about how my sister had changed; DeeDee was unlikely to come out of the coma according to the doctors and it looked like my some vital part of my sister might have gone in there with her.
"Damian! No, of course I wouldn't let my daughter go to a concert alone! She went with a group of her friends, all from school I think. How could you think that?" Tears spilled down her cheeks, and I felt myself redden with embarrassment.
"Mel, I'm sorry. Mel?"
"You should go now, Damian. You've got things to be getting on with."
I left her sobbing, her head on DeeDee's pillow and her shoulders shaking in time with the wheezing of the life-support machine, feeling as guilty as if I'd put DeeDee in the coma myself.