A YA Paranormal Novel

Release Date 2016

          Sixteen year old Trent Donaghan is considered by hospital staff to be the recipient of a miracle. Lennie Reynolds has her doubts. Brain injured patients like Trent aren't suppose to wake up from a coma, let alone return home. After being hired to help her classmate with his therapy, Lennie starts to notice things about Trent that lack medical explanations, and make her believe he may be the recipient of something more than a miracle.
          Besides Trent's unexplained recovery, other strange things have been happening in her hometown of Las Cruces, New Mexico. At the same hospital, six recent MRI brain scans have distortions showing up in the cortical region. Lennie learns that five of these patients have been hospitalized with sudden on-set schizophrenia despite having no prior history of mental illness. The situation becomes stranger yet when Lennie discovers the sixth scan is Trent's, and the distortion appeared the day before he woke from his coma.
          Lennie's convinced there's a connection between the distortion in the scans and the patients, and is determined to find out what it is. As Lennie discovers the truth about Trent, she finds she's not the only one to know his secret. Dr. Alana Salaric, the hospital's neuro-psychiatrist, also knows and will do anything to expose it... including sending Trent back into an unending coma.

Chapter 1

            I’m on the bus again. The same trip heading for the same ending. I try to change it and get Trent’s attention. Tell him to change seats. He can’t hear me. No one can hear me. I brace myself for the impact. I know it’s coming.
            I wake as my hand smacks the edge of my nightstand. The same dream -- nightmare really -- about the end of the year class trip to Wet-N-Wild Water World. A day of fun that morphed into the surreal after the accident on I-10. I’m one of the lucky ones; some bruises and not much else. Some others have broken bones and concussions, but in a few weeks they will be fine.
            I sit up in my bed and rub the red welt forming on the back of my hand. Trent Donaghan isn’t so lucky. He’s still in the hospital. He’s the only one who, no matter how many weeks pass, will probably never get better.
            I give my head a shake, put on my glasses, and get out of bed before I start to get lost in trying to make sense of any of it. Why it had to be him. Why it would have to be anyone.
            I shuffle into the hall and tell myself things just happen. Random things with no warning. Like my next door neighbor, Mrs. Rodriguez. One day fine and the next day she goes off the deep end. Schizophrenia. No prior symptoms. Just bam. Just like the bus.
            Matty nearly bumps into me after rounding a corner. He’s wearing his regular summer clothes of shorts and some alien themed t-shirt. Today it’s the neon green Roswell shirt with an alien on the back making a peace sign. “Hey, I was told to wake you up for dinner.”
            “Yeah, I’m coming.”
            He swipes away the hair falling in his eyes and gives me a quick look over. “You sure do sleep a lot lately.”
            I feel myself bristle at the comment. “At least I sleep. You’re up half the night listening for aliens trying to talk to us.”
            Matty fixes me a scowl. “It’s the SETI research project and I’m listening to radio transmissions. Summer is the only time my dad will let me do it.”
            I smile in response to the look on my thirteen year old step-brother’s face. I don’t tease him too often about his alien obsession, but sometimes it’s hard to resist. He really believes in them and spends countless hours reading the latest first-hand accounts posted by people whose sanity is quite questionable. “Yeah, yeah, transmissions, whatever.” I veer into the bathroom. “Just make sure you say hi from me when they finally talk to you.”
            “Sure thing, Lenore,” he says, drawling out my given name. Before I can slap his head, he sprints down the hall, laughing.
            It is only a half-hearted attempt since I started the teasing. Only my mother would think of naming me after an Edgar Allen Poe poem. I stopped going by Lenore three years ago after a student at school found it rhymed with bore. “Lenore the bore” was catchy but not that funny. Going by Lennie is a safer bet, though changing my name hasn’t changed anything else.
            I finally arrive at the table. My mom and step-father, Chad, are busy discussing his day at the office. He’s an insurance broker. Boring job, but he could have Inuits in igloos lining up to buy fire insurance. People love him.
            My mom was easily smitten with his clean cut look and boyish dimples when they first met, but refused to go out with him when she learned he was seven years younger than herself. It took him six months to wear her down, but after only a handful of dates she was completely in love with him and Matty. Going on year two of our blended family, I think she did good.
            As I dish up, the conversation shifts to my mom’s day. She works at the local hospital as an MRI and CAT scan technician. “I’m still having some trouble with the scanning equipment. I’ve had three repair technicians come out and they all say it’s fine.”
            Chad takes the bowl I pass him and glances between spooning out peas and my mother. “You’ve said it’s only happened about four times in the last, what? Six months?”
            “Five times, and it’s only been with the brain scans. It’s just odd.”
            “It could be aliens,” Matty interjects.
            I roll my eyes, but my mom laughs while ruffling his sandy blonde hair. “Aliens are messing with my machine?”
            “No, the people. I bet they’re getting into the people’s heads.”
            I give a snort. “How can an alien the size of a human get into a human’s head?”
            “I’m not talking about the Greys or the Nordics. But there are some like the ones in The Host that can take over a human’s mind. I bet they would show up on a scan.”
            I snicker. “Gee, Matty. I didn’t know you like to read paranormal romance books.”
            He wrinkles his nose at me. “It’s an alien story. So, duh, it’s really like research reading.”
            I giggle and catch even Chad chuckling a bit.
            “You know,” Matty says while waving his fork toward me and Chad, “back in 1968 a lot of evidence was gathered by a doctor studying patients in a mental hospital.”
            “He was studying alien patients?” I chuckle.
            Matty stabs a big chunk of meatloaf laying on his plate. “No. People who had aliens in them making them crazy.”
            I cock my head a little. “Matty, think about it. They were patients … in a mental hospital.”
            “I think I’ll lean toward aliens playing with my machine rather than playing with our heads,” my mom says.
            Matty shrugs. “It’s going on all the time. Plenty of accounts on the internet and many more we don’t even know about.” He sits up straighter. “It would be cool if it was going on here. I could actually have something to blog about on the different sites. It seems all the cool stuff happens somewhere else.”
            “How can you say that when we live only about an hour away from the greatest center of alien activity ever?” Chad asks while making sure he passes the bowl of peas to his son.
            Matty is about to set the bowl down until he sees his dad giving him the eye, then dumps about three peas on his plate. “The Roswell incident was like a million years ago. Nothing has happened since. All the cool stuff is in other states, South America, even Russia. Nothing happens in New Mexico anymore.”
            “Nothing but CAT scan and MRI equipment mysteriously going on the blink in Las Cruces,” my mom adds, only being somewhat sarcastic.
            She then turns to me, her voice softer as if tiptoeing. “Everyone keeps asking about you and when you’ll be back.”
            I avoid her eyes and focus on my plate in front of me. She’s talking about my volunteering at the hospital. For the last three years I’ve volunteered every summer and on Saturdays. It is part of the master plan for me becoming a doctor. Since the accident, I haven’t been back.
            Before I can respond there’s a thunk and a “Jeez” from Matty. But before he can stop his glass, it rolls off the table and shatters on the floor.
            I’m on the bus. Windows breaking. The screaming. Kids piled on top of one another. The panic just to get out. I can’t breathe.
            I blink and see my family staring at me. My hands are visibly shaking and I quickly put them under the table.
            “Yeah, the hospital.” I squeeze my hands into fists until my nails dig into my palms to control the shaking. “Soon,” I say. “I’ll be back soon.”

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