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Out of Time

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Dr Elaine Charpentier was well-respected in her field. As one of the best psychotherapists in Paris, she had earned a reputation among her peers as professional yet friendly to her patients. Her specialty in young adolescents had also prompted quite a bit of confusion from some of her older colleagues, who wondered how on Earth she managed to get such incredible results from those “stubborn teenagers”.

The key to her success was patience. Step one of therapy for everyone, regardless of age, was the establishment of trust between the therapist and the patient. In Elaine’s opinion, the reason everyone believed teenage therapy was so difficult was because teenagers, especially mentally ill teenagers, took so long to trust others. And, in a way, it was more difficult, but not impossible. Elaine was willing to wait as long as she needed for her patients to be ready, and that patience had earned her many awards, even at the relatively young age of thirty-two.

Yes, Dr Elaine Charpentier had cracked many a tough case in her career. Her vast reputation meant that most of her patients nowadays tended to be the cases in which other therapists had failed to make a breakthrough. She got the truly desperate parents, the ones who had found their way to her office as a last resort to try and help their child.

Such was the case with M. and Mme Ishiyama.

When Elaine first met with them, the first word that came to her mind was “exhausted”. Mme Ishiyama had large bags under her eyes and was wringing her hands for the entire meeting, while her husband had a scowl that look permanently carved into his face.

They had come because of their fifteen-year-old daughter Yumi. According to them, Yumi used to be a model student at the boarding school she attended. She had good grades, a near perfect attendance record, and had had a good relationship with her parents and her little brother. Then, about two and a half years ago, she had taken a sudden and drastic turn for the worse. Grades slipped, classes were skipped routinely, and both parents could tell that Yumi lied to them with every other breath. Punishments did nothing, and the problem never worked itself out.

Then, about 6 months after the strange behavior started, the small family had started being disturbed by Yumi screaming in the night. The incidents had started gradually, but quickly accelerated into occurring at least once a week. Sometimes it happened two or three times a night, Mme Ishiyama had reported, eyes watering. When questioned, all Yumi ever said was that it was “bad dreams”, and then swiftly changed the subject.

The parents were clearly at the end of their rope. They had apparently tried three different therapists in less than one year, with no results. Yumi simply refused to talk, or talked about nonsense the entire time. No one had even managed to figure out what the cause of the issues was. M. Ishiyama clearly blamed Yumi’s main friend group, seeing how the problems started soon after they became close, but Elaine was hesitant to agree. These friends very well could be Yumi’s only support group at the moment, and taking that away would ultimately do more harm than good. No, Elaine thought, right now she needed to talk to Yumi before jumping to any conclusions.

Two weeks later, at 15:00 on the dot, she and Yumi had their first appointment.

In Dr Elaine Charpentier’s professional opinion, a therapist never got any work done in the first session. Possibly even the first two or three. This early stage was all about getting to know the patient, learning what made them tick, and what they would need going forward.

She learned quite a bit about Yumi the second she walked in the door. The girl was dressed entirely in black, from her chin-length hair to her thick-soled combat boots. She was tall, and a bit gangly, but Elaine could see some muscle definition in her arms and exposed navel. She wore little makeup, only mascara and perhaps a touch of eyeliner, which only intensified the heavy glare she was aiming directly at Elaine. Her arms were crossed as she stomped across the room and sank into one of the cushy armchairs with an audible huff.

That was all okay. Nothing Elaine hadn’t seen a thousand times before. She started her mental clock—she had approximately one hour to get Yumi to open up, and she was going to make the most of it. It was very important, in Elaine’s opinion, to keep an eye on the time. There was nothing worse than getting a breakthrough, and then finding out she only had five minutes left in the session.

“Hello,” she started. “My name’s Elaine. Is it alright if I call you Yumi?”

Yumi narrowed her eyes but nodded.

“Nice to meet you, Yumi,” said Elaine.

Yumi simply huffed again and started picking at her chipped, black nail polish.

Elaine smiled. “What do you want to do while you’re here?”

That got her attention. “…Leave,” Yumi said after a small pause.

One whole word, thought Elaine. Now we’re getting somewhere.

She let out a small chuckle. “Sorry, can’t help you there,” she said. “Your parents would be upset, and I’d like to keep my job.”

Yumi was looking at her now. There was still suspicion, a lot of it, but there was a hint of something else underneath. To Elaine, it looked a lot like curiosity. Progress.

This curiosity didn’t really match up with the sheer stubbornness that Elaine had been told about. She didn’t like to judge other people without meeting them, but she couldn’t help but wonder what Yumi’s previous therapists had been like if all it took to lower her guard was making conversation.

Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a difficult case after all.

“Is there anything you want to talk about?” she tried. “Doesn’t have to be about you, it can be anything—"

“What are you doing?” Yumi asked sharply.

“Just trying to break the ice,” Elaine replied. “I figured it’s better than sitting here in silence for sixty minutes.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be picking my brain or something?” demanded Yumi. “Trying to figure out what’s wrong with me?”

“Do you want me to pick your brain?”

“…No.”

“Then I won’t pick your brain. Right now, I just want to get to know you. We can save all the other stuff for later.”

Elaine watched as the cloud of suspicion on Yumi’s face was gradually clearing to make way for more curiosity.

“Don’t you already know everything about me? On a file?”

“I only know general stuff,” said Elaine. “I know that your name is Yumi Ishiyama, you’re fifteen years old, and you go to a boarding school outside of the city. I also know that you’ve been struggling in school recently, and you’ve been having trouble sleeping. But that’s just what you are. I want to know who you are.”

Yumi was still wary, Elaine could tell. But based on the way she slowly uncrossed her arms, it seemed that the therapist had passed some sort of initial test with the girl. These were excellent results for the first day.

“…I like movies,” Yumi said slowly. She was still staring at Elaine, as if waiting for her to whip out a clipboard and start connecting those three words to some deep dark part of the human psyche.

Elaine didn’t do that. “That’s cool,” she said instead. “What kind of movies?”

And so it went. For the rest of the session, Elaine learned that Yumi’s favorite movie was My Neighbor Totoro, and that her favorite TV series was Hospital of Horrors, which she liked not because it was scary, but because it was fun to make fun of. She learned that Yumi’s little brother, Hiroki, genuinely thought the show was terrifying, and that she liked to tease him for that endlessly. She learned that Yumi’s favorite color was a deep maroon, and that she didn’t particularly care for black one way or the other, she just started wearing it to blend in with crowds and never really stopped.

Elaine learned that Yumi was the type of person that appreciated honesty and bluntness. She learned that Yumi loved her little brother, even when she talked about how annoying he could be. She learned that Yumi was quite an open and kind young woman when she wanted to be.

Elaine also learned that Yumi was a very skilled liar.

She first noticed it when she asked what Yumi liked to do in her free time.

“My friends and I just like to hang out together,” she said, fiddling with a piece of her hair.

“What do you do?” asked Elaine.

“Nothing really, just… talk.”

Then she noticed it again when she asked if Yumi liked games.

“No,” she said, tapping her fingers on her leg. “No, my friends and I don’t play video games.”

The average person wouldn’t have seen much wrong with either of those answers; Yumi held eye contact, she didn’t stutter, she didn’t hesitate too long or answer too quickly. But there was one more thing Dr Elaine Charpentier learned about Yumi—she had a tell. Every time the girl lied, she tended to fidget some part of her body. It was subtle, but it was definitely there when Elaine looked.

That would be one of the first things they worked on in future sessions.

As they were talking about Yumi’s martial arts class, Elaine glanced over at the clock. They were out of time.

“I’ll see you next week?” she asked.

Yumi just averted her eyes and shrugged.

Oh well. They’d get there. Eventually.

For the next session, Elaine was focused on getting to know Yumi as much as possible. They didn’t get much done that week, but in the week after that, she didn’t waste any time. “Tell me about your friends,” she said as soon as Yumi sat down.

Elaine had noticed as they had talked that most of Yumi’s lies were centered around what she and her friends did together. Her goal today was to get Yumi to share more about them so that eventually, she could share what exactly they did together that she felt the need to lie about. Elaine didn’t think Yumi’s friends were actively influencing her to skip class and lie, but she couldn’t deny that there was some connection there. Elaine intended to sniff out what the connection was, and how exactly it had led Yumi to the situation she was in now.

Yumi blinked. “Why?”

“You all seem very close, based on what you told me last week. I’m interested in what they’re like.”

Yumi seemed to think for a moment, before tentatively beginning to talk about her friends. Elaine let her ramble for quite a bit; she heard all about Jeremie the computer genius, Aelita the musician with an enormous heart, and Odd the eccentric artist and prankster. Yumi seemed so enthusiastic about her friends that it didn’t surprise the therapist one bit to see that half an hour had already slipped away.

Finally, she took a breath and smiled. “And then there’s, um, Ulrich…” Elaine didn’t miss how Yumi’s cheeks turned pink when she mentioned this Ulrich. She jotted that down in her mental notes. “He’s on the football team at school, and he’s like the best player there. He’s a really sweet guy, even if he gets a little moody sometimes… okay, a lot moody, he’s pretty sulky when he gets in a bad mood, but once he gets it all out, he’s really fun to be around…”

“Can I ask you something? You don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to,” said Elaine. At Yumi’s nod, she continued. “Do you like Ulrich?”

Oh yeah, Yumi was definitely blushing now. “I—wha—no! I-I mean—huh?”

Elaine raised an eyebrow.

Yumi huffed, crossed her arms, and turned her head away, her cheeks still flaring red. “We’re just good friends and that’s all,” she muttered.

There’s a story there, Elaine thought. Normally she would push this train of thought further, but she could tell that Yumi was already starting to shut down, and pushing would only hurt Elaine’s chances of getting Yumi to open up more today.

“Okay,” she said instead. “You all seem like a diverse friend group. How did you meet?”

Yumi eyed her. She had probably been expecting Elaine to make her talk more about Ulrich, judging by the slight creasing of her eyebrows. She seemed to consider continuing the conversation for a few moments, before sighing once again. “Odd and Ulrich are roommates for school, Ulrich and Jeremie were friendly in class, I knew Ulrich from martial arts classes, and Aelita is Odd’s cousin. We all just came together naturally.”

She was twirling her hair again.

Lying.

But where was the lie? Any good liar knows that the best made-up stories are based on the truth. Yumi clearly knew what she was doing, so it was likely that only one or two elements of her story were false. It was also likely that she was lying by omission, and with the limited information she had, Elaine had no way of knowing when she was leaving something out or replacing one thing with another. She would just have to keep digging until something popped out at her.

And if there was one thing Dr Elaine Charpentier was good at, it was digging.

“Have you ever thought of bringing someone else into your group?”

Yumi’s face went deathly pale, then darkened into a stony mask in a matter of seconds. Her body went completely still, and her knuckles tightened into white fists in her lap. “No,” she bit out, staring Elaine straight in the eye.

But it was too late; Elaine had caught the faintest glimmer of something in her eyes just before that mask set into place; something painful, perhaps grief? With a hint of fear? What could have happened that prompted that reaction to that question?

Elaine simply raised an eyebrow and waited for Yumi to make the next move. In the meantime, her mind was racing trying to come up with possible explanations.

Alright, she thought, Yumi was clearly lying there. That means they have brought someone in, but that person is not in the group anymore. Something had to have happened to eliminate them from their group, something that causes Yumi pain to think about now. Perhaps the friend died? That could also be the reason for Yumi’s troubled behavior, and maybe even the nightmares, if Yumi had seen something traumatic related to the death.

The theory checked out… except for one sticking point.

How would Yumi’s parents not know about this?

They clearly knew about Yumi’s friends, well enough to disapprove in M. Ishiyama’s case. Surely, they would have heard about one of her friends dying, especially if Yumi was directly involved enough to get nightmares from it. Yumi would have had to keep it a secret for over two years, and that was implausible at best. No, Elaine had to be missing something, something big. And the only one who could give her that information was Yumi.

With that, she turned her attention back to the girl, who was still sitting in stubborn silence, although she had started to fidget again.

Stealing a quick glance at the clock (Fifteen minutes left? Where had their time gone?), Elaine straightened up. “Alright,” she said. “We’ll drop it for now, but we will be coming back to that. Deal?”

Yumi frowned. She opened her mouth as if to protest.

Elaine beat her to it. “Unless you’d rather talk about it now?”

Her mouth closed with a small click. “Fine,” she growled, crossing her arms again.

“Great,” said Elaine. “Is there anything else you’d like to talk about in the last few minutes?”

“No. Can I go now?”

Well, Elaine typically didn’t like letting patients go early, but she could tell Yumi was done for the day. Oh well, fifteen—no, fourteen minutes wasn’t going to kill anyone.

“Just one thing: your homework this week is to have a conversation with someone not in your main friend group,” she said.

Yumi’s jaw tightened. “I have enough to do without therapy homework.”

The therapist just smiled. “I think you can handle it.”

Yumi just rolled her eyes and stomped out of the room.

That could have gone better, Elaine thought. But at least I have a guess at what might have happened.

For the next few weeks, she went easy on Yumi. She had assigned a dream journal for the nightmares but was remarkably unsurprised to find that Yumi never completed it and was not ashamed to admit it. Elaine didn’t make it a big deal; while she would have liked Yumi to do her “therapy homework”, it was mostly a way to get Yumi to keep thinking about therapy outside of their weekly sessions.

What Elaine was really happy to see was that gradually, baby step by baby step, Yumi was beginning to trust her. She was more willing to joke around, and sometimes offered up details about her life without being prompted. While she was perhaps dragging out the trust step of Yumi’s treatment a bit longer than strictly necessary, Elaine felt that it was worth it. Especially since, nearly a month and a half after their first session, she finally felt like it was time to push Yumi out of her comfort zone.

“I want to ask you something this session, and I know you’re not going to like it,” she began once Yumi had sank into her usual armchair.

It was a testament to how far they’d come that Yumi didn’t immediately shut her out. Instead she simply raised an eyebrow. Elaine felt it was safe to continue.

“Are your nightmares still waking you up in the middle of the night?”

For a second, Yumi looked as if she was going to stop the conversation there. She paused for a minute, but then she sighed. “Yeah,” she admitted.

Yes! Elaine wanted to punch a fist in the air. But she didn’t, because she was a professional.

“Tell me about them?” she prompted. She made sure to phrase it as a question.

Yumi looked distinctly uncomfortable, but Elaine remained firm. They’d been coasting along for a while now, but it was time to get into the harder part of therapy. In the eyes of Dr Elaine Charpentier, it was like recovering from a broken bone that had healed wrong—it needed to be rebroken before it could begin to heal properly.

Yumi paused, licked her lips, then lowered her gaze to her lap, where her hair hung like a curtain in front of her face. “They’re… they vary, night to night. Some nights are… worse than others, but they’re all… pretty scary…”

Three things jumped out to Elaine: one, Yumi’s words were very slow and measured, as if she were rehearsing the lines in her head before she said them. Two, Yumi was being purposefully vague. She was only giving the bare minimum of information in the hopes that Elaine would drop it.

Three, she was fidgeting again.

Very slowly, Elaine leaned forward until she could see the girl’s face under her hair. She waited until Yumi’s eyes rose to meet hers.

“I know that the last thing you want to do right now is relive your nightmares, but do you think you could be a bit more specific?” she asked. “It might help them be less scary if we can break them down and find out what’s causing them.”

Yumi dropped her eyes again and mumbled something unintelligible.

“What was that?”

She twisted the end of her shirt into a ball. “…nothing.”

Elaine sighed. “Yumi, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me the truth.”

Wrapping her arms around herself, Yumi just looked away. Elaine couldn’t really make sense of what her body language was saying. The girl was closed off, and obviously wasn’t going to talk, but something about her face told a different story. She was biting her lip, and her brow was furrowed just so. To Elaine, it almost looked like Yumi wanted to tell the truth but was holding herself back for some unknown reason.

“Is there a… reason you can’t talk about it?” she tried. Yumi’s whole body suddenly tensed. Elaine took that as a yes. That was concerning. “Yumi, I need to ask you more about this. You don’t have to elaborate, but I need you to either nod your head ‘yes’ or shake your head ‘no’, okay?”

A pause, then a reluctant nod.

Elaine repeated her previous question. She needed a clear answer to go forward. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on the perspective), this time Yumi nodded an affirmative.

“Is it a person stopping you?” This time Yumi frowned, then shrugged her shoulders. She doesn’t know if a person’s stopping her? Strange…

“Are you in danger if you tell someone?” Another confused frown, which was alarming. Yumi paused for longer before hesitantly shaking her head no. She wasn’t fidgeting, but Elaine didn’t completely believe her. Something was wrong, here…

“Are you in danger at all?”

Yumi’s fingers tightened around her sides, and her leg started jiggling. She shook her head no.

Oh no. This wasn’t good.

Elaine paused to consider her options. Her first thought was gang activity. She had dealt with kids involved in gangs before, but she didn’t have concrete proof that this was one of those cases. Besides, apparently Yumi didn’t know if there was a specific person threatening her or not. That didn’t match up with any gang cases she’d ever heard of. And she was in danger, but not if she told someone…

Was there another person being threatened if Yumi didn’t comply? That could work with the gang theory. Perhaps it was her brother, or her friends. But how would Yumi be in danger from that?

Elaine took a deep breath. She was just grasping at straws at this point. There were too many missing variables, not enough information to go off of.

And when it came to finding information, Dr Elaine Charpentier was nothing if not determined.

She ended up grilling Yumi for longer than she’d intended, forgetting to watch the clock in her concern. By carefully watching when the girl lied (and she did often), Elaine had learned that the mysterious danger involved Yumi’s friends, but not her family or strangers, that it didn’t involve drugs or alcohol but was most likely illegal, and that it was closely related to the nightmares, possibly being the cause. She’d learned that it’d been going on for about two and a half years, the same timeframe that her behavior had changed, and that the danger was probably the cause of that, too. Elaine could also extrapolate and infer that it probably had something to do with the mysterious sixth member of Yumi’s friend group, and what had happened to them.

When she finally paused and looked at the clock, Elaine was shocked to see that they only had five minutes left. She sighed and put down her pen, much to Yumi’s visible relief.

“I’m sorry to interrogate you like that,” she said, “but your safety is very important to me. If I didn’t get answers from you, I would have had let your parents know, and I really don’t want to do that.”

Yumi’s face paled when parents were mentioned, but she didn’t say anything.

“Before you go,” Elaine continued, “I just want to remind you that everything you say in this room stays in this room. I take patient confidentiality very seriously, so I promise that I won’t tell a soul, not even your parents.”

Yumi swallowed and looked down. She was picking at her nails again; the black polish was nearly gone, Elaine noted. But she didn’t say anything, and so, sighing, the therapist dismissed her. She was unsurprised to see Yumi practically run out the door.

Looked like they were out of time, again.

There was always next week.

In the meantime, Dr Elaine Charpentier was going to try and figure out as much as she could with the limited knowledge she had.

Over the next week, she proceeded to catalogue (both mentally and on paper) everything she knew from her talks with Yumi. She was willing to admit that perhaps she got a bit too invested in it, but she just couldn’t resist a good mystery, and that’s what this case was turning out to be. It seemed that as soon as she formulated a theory, some other piece of information surfaced to contradict it, and she was back to square one.

When the day of Yumi’s next session finally arrived, Elaine had preemptively created a list of the most plausible scenarios she could think of. Her goal today was to ask questions that could disprove some of her ideas. Ideally, she wanted Yumi offer up information willingly, but she recognized that in order to provide the best treatment, Elaine needed to have some idea of what she was dealing with.

She would have to be careful with this; if she was too obvious, Yumi would feel like Elaine was trying to catch her and shut down. Elaine crossed her fingers before Yumi arrived and hoped that everything went to plan.

Unfortunately, that all went out the window as soon as Yumi came into view.

She was almost ten minutes early, that was the first sign that something was wrong. Yumi was always either perfectly on time or a few minutes late. She walked swiftly into the office, which was also unusual.

The next thing that Elaine noticed was how disheveled she was. Her hair was messy, like she’d been running her hands through it. Her face was flushed, her eyes puffy and red, with a ring of mascara underneath.

Yumi had been crying.

No, scratch that, she was still crying. Forget the plan. Elaine had to deal with this now.

“Yumi?” she asked. “What’s wrong?”

The girl’s eyes snapped away from the clock to meet Elaine’s. The therapist was shocked in the face of the raw grief present in Yumi’s face. For a moment she forgot what she had been going to say, until the sound of Yumi sobbing snapped her out of it.

Elaine immediately got up and knelt next to Yumi’s chair. “Hey, hey, it’s okay,” she said. “Let’s talk about it, alright? I promise I’ll help you work through it. Is it okay if I touch your back?”

Yumi nodded, and so Elaine started to rub gentle circles into her shoulder blades. The poor girl’s entire body was shaking with tears. Elaine allowed her a moment of silence to collect herself.

What on Earth could have gotten Yumi this upset?

Yumi glanced up at the clock again, took a deep breath, and shook her head. “W-We don’t have time for this,” she murmured, almost to herself.

“We have plenty of time,” Elaine replied. “Something’s clearly upsetting you, so we’re going to dive into it today, okay? Everything else can wait.”

“N-No,” Yumi choked. “I-I have to tell you. Everything. Right now.”

Well. Elaine blinked. She certainly hadn’t been expecting that. If it’ll make Yumi feel better…

“Okay, tell me anything you want.”

Yumi swallowed hard. “Please just let me tell the whole thing before you ask anything. I know you’re not going to believe me, but I need you to know the truth.”

Not going to believe her? Why wouldn’t I believe her? Elaine thought, but she nodded her head anyway. She was relatively sure she’d be able to handle whatever Yumi could throw at her…

“My friends and I fight an evil computer program in our free time.”

…I’m sorry, what?

Yumi’s gaze flicked between Elaine’s face and the clock, as if she was trying to judge whether it was safe to continue.

“An… evil computer program?” asked Elaine.

Yumi nodded. “It’s called X.A.N.A. and we’re the only thing stopping it from taking over the entire world. In order to fight it we have to enter this virtual world called Lyoko that’s inside a supercomputer hidden under an abandoned factory…”

She rambled on about “deactivating towers” and “X.A.N.A. attacks” while Elaine’s brain slowly did backflips inside her skull. She caught some things, like how apparently this computer program could affect the real world and tried to kill Yumi and her friends on a regular basis (she placed a red flag next to that point in her mental catalogue), and how her friend Aelita had been trapped in this virtual world for ten years before Jeremie and the others had found her (also alarming—was Aelita an advanced computer program, too?), but she knew she missed a lot. Yumi was talking so fast, checking the time every few seconds, and didn’t pause once in her entire story.

Finally, Yumi stopped, staring at the clock. (Why was she so preoccupied with it today?) Her face had gone deathly pale, and her grip on the chair was so tight Elaine could almost hear the wood creaking.

Elaine wet her lips. “Is that… is that all?”

Yumi nodded. Elaine could see her blinking back more tears. This was… a lot. The therapist was truly speechless; it was safe to say that she was well beyond her skill level at this point. She eventually settled on the first question that came to mind: “How has no one… ever noticed this going on?”

“The supercomputer has this… feature,” said Yumi. “Return to the Past. It lets us go back in time, reverse almost any damage X.A.N.A. does, including people’s memories.”

So there was time travel now. Naturally.

“Wait, almost?”

“We can’t… we can’t bring back people who… who d-die.” Yumi was starting to hiccup again. She glanced at the clock again. “A-At the moment they would have died in the last timeline, they just… die. Their heart j-just… just stops. You know all those mysterious heart attacks r-recently? They were from X.A.N.A. attacks. All of them.”

“Okay…” Elaine sighed. She was trying to wrap her head around this, she really was, but it all seemed a bit… fantastical. She would comfort Yumi, because that was her job, but she would definitely have a freak-out over this. Later.

She only had one more question for right now: “Why are you telling me this now?”

Yumi choked, an awful sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob. She was full on sobbing now. Elaine resumed rubbing her back, realizing she had stopped at some point.

“B-Bec-cause… because t-there was a X.A.N.A. attack. T-Today.”

Elaine’s eyes widened.

“It was t-targeting m-me. Here. W-With electricity… coming out of the wall sockets. And you…”

Yumi broke off with a heart-wrenching cry, tearing her eyes away from the clock to stare Elaine right in the eyes.

“At 15:27 you were electrocuted to death.”

Elaine’s heart leapt into her throat. Suddenly every beat it made was a roar in her ears. In slow motion, she turned her head to check the time.

15:26.

Yumi kept crying. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” she whispered, squeezing her eyes shut.

The second hand tick, tick, ticked ever closer to the twelve. This isn’t real, thought Elaine. This isn’t happening. This can’t be happening!

But she felt it. An ache in her chest, it was building with every second that passed. Her heart beat louder, louder, deafening in her ears, this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening thisisn’thappeningthisisn’thappeningthisisn’thappening…

A hand gripped hers. Slowly, slowly she turned to look into Yumi’s eyes. There was that grief again, grief for her…

“I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you.”

Elaine wanted to say something, anything, but then the minute ended.

15:27.

The last minute of her life.

The thundering drum suddenly fell away. The ache increased. She couldn’t breathe.

Her vision slowly, slowly faded to black as she slumped forwards.

The last thing she saw was unending grief in a child’s eyes.

But she couldn’t fix it.

Because Dr Elaine Charpentier was out of time.