A cough rocketed through Sarah's chest. Her throat burned, and her body trembled with intense cold. Having strep throat as an adult was much worse than getting it as a kid. This was the last thing Sarah needed. She'd come to her parent’s old farmhouse to escape the realities of life, and now she was confined in her room.
And not even her room, but the guest room. Her old room had been taken over by her mother a long time ago.
Another hacking cough dredged its way through her body. Sarah clutched her chest and covered her mouth, half-expecting to see part of a lung on her hand.
Exhausted, Sarah fell back against the pillows. She'd barely slept in two days. Her body felt like it was coming apart.
The alarm on her phone went off; time for more medicine. She shoved the antibiotic in her mouth along with two Tylenol and then sucked down the cold water. It was the only relief for her suffering throat.
She shifted trying to find a position that wouldn't make her cough more. She stared at the ceiling fan and willed herself to sleep. Rest would do wonders for her misery. Round and round the fan went, wobbling on its old base. Sarah's eyes drifted shut, and her mind slowed as numbness began to creep up her limbs.
The bed sagged, and she could feel the weight of another person next to her.
"Mom," she slurred. "I was just dozing off."
Her mother said nothing. Cool hands brushed over her face. Her tense arms slipped from her chest to the bed. A sound rustled through the air, like the gentle blowing of a summer wind. Sarah shivered and pulled the blanket closer to her chin.
"Remember when I was a kid and got sick? You used to tell me nursery rhymes."
Another cool shift in the air, but no sound of her mother's soothing voice.
Sarah pried her eyes open. Her vision blurred and then cleared. A woman sat on the side of the bed, but she was not Sarah's mother. This woman was smaller, gray-haired, and wrinkled. Her dress was old-fashioned and covered with an apron. Sarah could see the wall clock through the woman's shimmering, transparent torso. The woman smiled.
Fear shot through her. Sarah forgot to breathe until a rattling cough forced its way out of her chest. Body heaving, Sarah covered her face. Tears squeezed from closed eyes.
It's not real. It's not real.
She opened one eye and peered through her trembling fingers. The woman was gone.