Dana walked into the hospital room at 10:30 PM. Her mother Corey was wide awake, at a time when she would previously have been sleeping.
"Thanks for coming, Dana. I won't take up too much time. It is a school night, after all..." Corey said.
"You know that I don't have to worry about that anymore." Dana said.
"I know, and I'm still not happy about it." Corey said.
"I had to drop out. You know I didn't really have a choice." Dana said.
"No, I guess you didn't."
"How did the visit with the doctor go this time?"
"They want to keep me here for a few more days."
Dana sighed, then stood silent.
"Come on, Dana. Don't do that." Corey said.
"I know. I miss you being home, is all." Dana said.
Corey held out her right hand. Dana grabbed it.
"This is probably the best place for me to be right now." Corey said.
Corey pointed to a box that was resting in her lap as she lay on the hospital bed.
"This is why I wanted you here. To see this." Corey said.
"A package?" Dana asked, pulling up one of the nearby chairs to Corey's bedside.
Corey took out the contents of the brown cardboard shipping box: a white box that was nearly the size of the shipping box itself. It had no logo on it except for a large blue "A". Underneath that was a medium-sized opened white envelope.
"I need to read you the letter in the envelope first." Corey said.
"What doess it say on the front?" Dana asked, pointing to the envelope itself.
Corey took a deep breath.
"A Letter To The Woman I Loved."
Corey took multiple pages of paper out of the envelope and read them to Dana:
"Corey. It's been a while. I owe you every explanation in the world for what happened. Most of it was beyond my control. But nevertheless, I have never been able to shake off my previous life, knowing that I had left you behind.
Nineteen years or so, I was hit head-on on the interstate. A trucker had a rear-view mirror blocked off and didn't see me in my sedan. I was destroyed. Utterly destroyed. I'm 5% steel and carbon-fiber now, if you can believe it. Therapy was rough. Had to re-learn to walk. The same nurse asked me the same five questions every day to make sure that my brain was functioning properly.
We didn't have the easiest of break-ups. I don't even know what happened. Maybe it's the accident screwing with my memory. I don't know. I don't know why you were so mad with me. For the life of me, I can't think of it, and I definitely didn't back then. All I knew at the time was that I wanted to make things right.
After therapy, things got blurry. Sort of. Long story short, I work for a tech company out in California called Arcast Technologies. You may have heard of them..."
Corey paused for a second to point at the television mounted to the ceiling - an Arcast Technologies model from 2008. Corey continued.
"...I want you to know that I didn't mean to hurt you. Whatever I did all those years ago, I didn't mean it. And I miss you. It's taken me 19 years to say that to anyone.
Enclosed is a little item from our experimental tech department. Real bleeding-edge stuff. Have fun. Don't pawn it.
- Colin Gear."
Corey finished the letter with tears in her eyes.
"That's..." Dana started to say, but was interrupted.
"Your father, Dana. This is a letter from your father." Corey said.
"I thought you said he was-"
"I thought he was dead, too."
"Well. Fuck." Dana said.
"Sorry. I know I shouldn't swear."
"No, no. For this, you're fine. That was my reaction, too."
Dana and Corey sat in silence for a minute. Dana broke the silence with a question.
"So, Mom, what do we do?" Dana asked.
"Well, you can go home and go to bed." Corey said.
Corey leaned in and hugged her daughter.
"What about you? How are you going to deal with all of this?" Dana asked.
"I'm going to call Arcast Technologies tomorrow morning." Corey said.
"Great." Dana said.
Dana looked at the clock. It was nearly 11 PM.
"You'll need to leave soon, Dana. They like us to try to get some sleep at night." Corey said.
"I... I know. I wish I could sleep here." Dana said.
"Why?" Corey asked, "This place is awful. It's cold. Sterile. Full of needles and tubes."
"I... I don't want to be alone." Dana said, her voice slightly muted.
Corey leaned in and hugged Dana again.
"You aren't. Nor will you ever be, if I have anything to do with it."
"I don't want anything to happen to you."
"You can't worry about that, Dana."
"...I can't help it."
"Go home. Get some sleep. You look like you haven't slept in days."
Dana gave her mother another hug before leaving the room.
Corey let out a deep breath and took another look at the package from Colin.
"I pulled your body out of that wreck, Colin. How the hell did you survive that?"
Corey's words would have echoed off the walls if they weren't partially soundproofed. Nobody was around to hear them anyway. Right before the silence became the loudest sound in the room, Corey just stared at the white Arcast Technologies box.
"Better yet, Colin... What the hell did you send me?"