HOT...why is it so hot? That was all I could think of at the time. People often underestimate how complex children's thoughts can be, but in the moment, that was about as complex as it got. I was ten years old and I'd gone to bed like I always did (thanks to some encouragement from my parents) with my dog Corky at my side. There was nothing to indicate that it was going to be anything other than a normal night, so I snuggled into bed with Corky curled up next to me and opened up my newest Captain Flag comic to read to my trusty sidekick Jeff the plush giraffe. That is until mom checked on me and made me go lights out. Thing is, I can remember that as soon as I snuggled in I had this feeling of being drained come over me and then feeling hot, but nothing beyond that until I woke up three weeks later. My Mom told me later that she had checked on me 15 minutes after I had gone to bed and found me asleep with the light back on and the comic on my face. Nothing out of the ordinary.
About an hour later is when it happened. Everything I know from here on out until I regained consciousness was relayed to me by my family or doctors. I was told that there was a hum that increased rapidly in intensity from my bedroom and then a strong intense burst of light. My dad said it was almost like something going into overload. He may have been right. My parents rushed up the stairs to my room not knowing what had happened only to find many things that didn't make sense. The room looked like it had been flash burned. The covers were blown off me, my lamp was knocked off the bedside table, my comic was thrown across the room and was blackened at the edges, and toys and nicknacks were scattered all over.
I’m sure you’re wondering what happened to Corky? She was found near the foot of my bed a slightly singed and flash blind whimpering mess, but my parents said that even shell-shocked she was trying to protect me when they got to my room and that she actually bared her teeth at my Dad. She was just reacting and it took a second for my Dad to calm her down while my Mom ran to me. Fortunately for Corky, she either jumped or was knocked off the bed so her fur and skin only took a little damage (the vet said she had a sunburn!). Her eyesight on the other hand never completely recovered. It took a day before she started reacting to any visual stimulation and while she wasn’t blind you could tell she just couldn’t track things like she used to before my incident. Poor thing, I will always feel guilty for what happened to her.
So, yeah, back to me. As Dad was dealing with our blind sunburned dog, Mom was checking on me. My clothes were slightly blackened in spots, but they were in better condition than the rest of the room, almost like how the eye of a hurricane is peaceful while the storm rages around it. The biggest issue of course was that I was unresponsive at that point. Mom began what my Dad termed a “Freakout of instructions” which had him running from checking on my brother to calling 911 (my brother for the record slept through the incident), to getting the dog out of the room and downstairs. After a somewhat heated “discussion” about moving me, my Dad won the argument on the grounds of not staying in a room that looked like a small concussion grenade went off. My Dad picked me up and carried me down the stairs to the living room and placed me on the couch while Mom went to get my brother Evan. I can’t imagine what my parents went through waiting for the ambulance to arrive not knowing what happened and why their daughter was unresponsive in a blown out bedroom. I know it’s still painful for them even now 10 years later because they rarely talk about it. Hell, even my brother who generally won’t ever shut up doesn’t talk much about those three days.
According to my Dad, one of the hardest parts during the “incident” was the drive to the hospital with my younger brother who at 6 was old enough to understand something bad had happened to me but still young enough to not be able to process the gravity of the situation. He evidently kept alternating crying “What’s wrong with Dani?” and “I want chocolate milk!”. All the while dad was driving like mad to keep up with the ambulance that was rushing Mom and I to Riverside hospital. By the time he made it to the hospital, I can imagine his stress level was at about a 13 on a scale of 10. The thing about my Dad though, is that he’s a little old school. Got a job out of high school with the auto factory and just worked his ass off to claw as much success as he could, first for himself, and then for his family. He never took a day off, almost always worked overtime, and proved himself to be invaluable (as one could be to a giant corporation) to the company. I knew Dad would hold up, but dad also wasn’t good at the emotional stuff so I can’t imagine what dealing with my Brother and Mom must have been like for him even without the added drama of his daughter being a little comatose. Unfortunately getting to the hospital wasn’t going to improve his anxiety much.
Now Mom on the other hand was not interested in stoicism riding in the back of the ambulance with the paramedics who were probably quite confused at the unresponsive singed little blond girl. Especially considering I was told I came in with normal vitals and just a slightly higher than normal body temperature. I’m sure the 15 minutes or so it took to get to the hospital felt like an eternity for poor Mom and the paramedics who were alternately working through cycles of her breaking down and or yelling at them to do something. I of course feel awful that she had to go through that but it’s not like I had a choice in the matter.
Regardless Dad and Evan made it to the hospital just behind Mom and the ambulance where I was rushed into the emergency room and ultimately up to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) due to the whole unconscious thing. The doctors were concerned that I didn’t display any outward trauma but was still unresponsive. My body temperature was running a bit high but never went to a place of true concern based on the data they were getting back from their tests. The doctors continued to run battery after battery of tests trying to figure out why I wouldn’t wake up while Mom and Dad spent more time than they would have liked talking to the police and fire chief about what happened.
Eventually, the police and fire department stopped trying to find something to blame the family for and went for the tried and true faulty wiring reason. Everyone who knew anything about fire and explosion knew damn well that wasn’t true but at the end of the day, there were more important things going on in the world than the mystery of the little Walker girl. Especially since my parent’s behavior and reaction didn’t match the profile of parents who were trying to harm their child.
At this point, everything settled down with a routine of Mom or Dad taking my brother to school and then one of them usually being at the hospital to stay with me and talk to the doctors and specialists. On the weekend they would spend family time in my room and entertain concerned friends and family. The maddening thing was the lack of any real progress in my condition. Nobody seemed to have any answers. I was just kind of “shut off”, for lack of a better term. I know they were starting to have conversations about my long-term care and what that would mean. The good news is that they wouldn't have to worry about it. The bad news is that I was about to wake up and I can be a bit of a drama llama.
On day fifteen “I doth rise like a phoenix to burn the sky with my righteous fury!”...at least that’s how I like to tell it. The reality is a little more scattered as you have to remember this all second hand to me until I woke up, and even when that happened, let's just say I wasn’t on top of my game...also...you know...ten.
At approximately 1:07 pm Eastern Time, an energy signature lit up NASA’s Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor like a Christmas Tree. This is one of the sensors NASA uses to monitor the Sun's incoming energy, and at approximately 1:07 pm Eastern Time, a private room on the third floor of Riverside hospital exploded. Thankfully at that particular moment, there wasn’t anyone in the room which is either just blind dumb luck or a clue that a higher power was at play. What I do know is that the windows were blown out and just as before there was a strange pattern to the damage. There was more damage to the area around the bed beginning in about a 10-inch radius from my body than the bed itself. Things were thrown everywhere with some singe marks, but even though the oxygen tank in the room was tossed across the room it never exploded thankfully. I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been had that gone up. The door to the room was cracked off its hinges. If the first time was a hiccup, this was a burp.
My Dad was down the hall at the nurse’s station talking to Brenda, one of my regular day shift nurses at the time of the explosion and thankfully not in the room. He told me that just about everyone on the floor got knocked off their feet when I went off which must have been terrifying (I carry a lot of guilt for the unintentional harm I’ve caused). Once he was able to get his bearings he said he just knew it was my room and just ran to me. When he finally got to my room and forced the door open with the help of the hospital staff, there I was, floating a foot off of the bed and radiating an aura of light and heat. I’d blown the room up with what turned out to be the full awakening of my powers which came with a concussive blast appetizer that I’m pretty sure nobody ordered off the menu.
I can only sort of remember this part, the feeling of being hot again and feeling full. It’s hard to describe as it wasn’t like when you eat too much but just like when you have too much energy and you’re all skittery and need to burn it off. Kind of like that in a way. All I knew was that whatever it was, I was full and had to release it and in doing so I sort of exploded a bit. There was a vague awareness that I’d just done something and that I no longer felt like bursting but I think I also instinctively knew that I had changed at that moment. Like I said this is all very vague for me as the lights may have come on but I definitely wasn’t home yet. Like I said I carry around a lot of guilt for the damage and pain I caused even if it was unintentional but if I’m honest with myself, I'm kind of glad that I wasn't awake for any of it. I think it would have been too much process ...but...that ended up on my parents so the circle of guilt continues. Thankfully my parents were able to do that heavy lifting in the early days even though I know it had to have taken a toll on them.
My Dad bless him, despite having to process the inconceivable, ran to my bed dodging debris, and started screaming at me to wake up. I don’t know if it was that the process had run its course or if my Dad finally got through to me but I just vaguely remember opening my eyes and looking down at my poor distressed Dad and saying “Daddy...I feel funny.” I dropped into his arms and passed out again. I was whisked away to another room that was isolated and this is the point where there would be no going back to a normal life. At least not for me, and if I'm honest not for my family. I didn’t learn for years that evidently I was also glowing.
As I’m sure you can guess this next part is where all the scientists and military types come in and you would be correct, but that’s a story for another time. We’ve got my first adventure to get to.