I was born Mary Jean Chapman, in the growing town of Gympie
in Queensland’s South-East region where I still live.
It wasn’t until Grade 11 in High School that I began to
write (mostly bad poetry and short stories) as a way to improve my spelling and
put my vivid imagination onto paper, at my friends’ insistence.
Much was very immature and amateurish, so after graduation
in 2004, I did several writing courses to improve my style, understand the
genres out there and help me find the age group I could write for.
Eight long years and a lot of paper and learning curves
later I’ve finally hit the goal I put in place when I first began, to be
My hobbies outside of writing and researching for my novels
are reading (of course) and collecting certain timeless authors – Enid Blyton, C
S Lewis and a few more. I also enjoy doing jigsaws and word puzzles, creating
make-believe creatures, people and places for my more out-there paranormal
stories and trying to knit each winter, with various degrees of success.
And that’s me in a nutshell, but keep an eye out in the future for me. I could reappear under this name, Jean Chapman, or Mary Jean or Mary J Chapman, or M J Chapman as I write in Young Adult and Children’s Contemporary, Fantasy/paranormal and Mystery genres. (As amateur short stories can blossom with the right care into something new).
The dark, glittering sky was lost in the brightness of the city lights, yet even though 12-year-old Aurora Pearl Patrick could see shadows of the night sky, they weren’t enough to keep her attention captivated, and she moved her gaze to stare down into the deserted streets.
Tears pooled in her eyes and her shoulders hunched in the green cloak as she heard her parents scream at each other in another part of the tiny apartment. Her gloved hands clenched at what they were arguing about – she and her... poisonous touch, which she had had ever since the afternoon she had entered the world and driven a wedge between her parents because her touch caused pain.
Always Aurora would be swaddled in clothing covering every inch of bare skin to limit accidental brushes to another’s skin. What was worse was that she didn’t have any friends; after that one time, it was safer for everyone involved that she be kept away from other children. Moreover, time hadn’t lessened her abnormality.
Her touch of poison had actually grown stronger over time. And her appearance... Aurora let the reflection in the window glass come into focus. She stared at herself. Gone now was her beautiful chestnut-brown hair and hazel eyes. She hated her bright green-blue hair and unearthly washed-out orange eyes. She was forever confined to the walls of their home.
Suddenly her dad exploded, bringing Aurora back to the present; she heard him clearly, as if right there in her bedroom.
‘There will be no birthday party – ever. You know what happened last time we tried to pretend she’s normal, her sixth birthday. She almost killed another child; we had to call triple zero! It could be 10 times worse now that she’s older if she can’t keep herself to herself!’
‘Nate, I want Rory to feel and be normal; that was what the party was – so she could be like every other young child.’
‘Ruth, don’t be stupid! She isn’t normal and never will be. Get it through your thick skull. For as long as she lives Aurora will be poison to all who touches her or she them. She’ll never be normal!’
With her heart breaking at her dad’s hurtful words, Aurora bolted from her bedroom, charged from the unit and ran through the streets as fast as she could, lungs screaming. Her mind was screaming her wishes and her anger. It wasn’t her fault Aurora was so toxic to touch. She would give anything to touch another person without gloves. Without killing them.
Then the unthinkable happened on her wild run through Devonport. Her silent plea came true. In the grim and muck of a dingy back street, a man lay bleeding to death.
Aurora jerked to a stop at the sight of the groaning man, with blood pooling beneath him, and flinched when a tingling sensation suddenly came into her hands. A strange itching startled her and the whispery voice sounded in her head: go forward; take off your gloves; you can heal this man of his stab wounds. Go forward. Touch him. Heal him.
Aurora found herself listening to the voice she had never heard before. She found herself moving cautiously forward, tugging off her gloves as she went. She knelt beside the man; heard his whimpers of pain. The tingling in her hands grew stronger, more persistent, itchy, as if they knew what was going to happen.
Slowly, hesitantly, Aurora extended her hands out, palms downward, towards the area of the wounds. She gasped when the man’s chest jerked upward as an unexpected, unpredicted fire-like sensation of pain rushed into her hands and up her arms.
Alarmed, she tried to pull away, only somehow she was stuck, kneeling by his side, and her hands suspended over the wounds – closing wounds.
She gaped at the sight of flesh healing before her very eyes. Amazement froze her in place, then abruptly the pain stopped and she felt the all-too-familiar warmth of strength begin to enter her.
Aurora yanked her hands away and fled, pulling the gloves on as quickly as she could, as she listened to the sounds of the man stagger to his feet with utter cries of disbelief and wonder.
She ran again, through the streets towards home, although not because of the hate from the hurt of her dad’s words, but because of the strangeness which had just occurred.
All of a sudden the tingling was back in her hands, itching, and almost immediately following the sensation’s return, she turned left down another dark back street. It was as if she had no control over where she was going. Her body had a mind of its own.
The further she went down the alley, the darker it became as buildings either side of her grew taller, blocking out any source of light. Also with each step she took, the stronger the tingling in her hands became and then there was a flickering just ahead, a lonely, forgotten old streetlight.
Aurora advanced slowly to see in the pool of light, shaking and groaning with pain, a homeless person in tattered clothes not suitable for the cold night. Without thinking, she removed her gloves again and advanced, talking softly to this... woman, to find her unconscious.
With instinct unknown, Aurora reached out and, through the tattered clothing, took the inner pain of the woman into herself. When nothing was left of the pain, Aurora rose and slipped into the shadows of the night, walking slowly towards home.
Aurora had no fear of these strange occurrences now, merely a sense of peace inside her, a feeling of hope, of joy. She realised her wish had come true – to be able to touch someone without hurting them.
Her touch wasn’t simply of poison; it was of healing. Her touch could make people completely well again. Aurora hugged herself and as she let herself into the unit block and made her way up to 19A she made a pact with herself that this was the beginning of her double life. This gift of her touch was going to be used to full capacity. No more fear or sadness; she had a cause now to make her life.
That night, in an ironic way, her dad had changed her world of solitude and had given birth to the Phantom Healer – she, Aurora Pearl Patrick.
‘Mrs Patrick, I’m afraid you have a malignant brain tumour.’
Aurora and her mum visibly paled at Doctor Swan’s blunt words. Soft sobs filled the surgeon’s consulting room and Aurora reached out with her gloved hand to comfort her mum.
It didn’t work. The barrier between skin and skin, a barrier between mother and daughter, was too great to bring the soothing comfort needed. Aurora pulled her hand back and swallowed her sigh as she turned to look over the large cedar desk that effectively separated the doctor from his patients.
‘How bad is it?’ she asked softly.
‘I’m afraid it’s quite bad odds, Miss Patrick. Your mother will need to have surgery immediately to remove the mass at the inner base of the cerebellum and the brainstem. It will be a very delicate operation, although I am very certain we will be able to remove nearly all the tumour. Then it is merely a matter of adjuvant therapy – chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.’
‘Is the cerebellum the function that the tumour has eating away at mum’s balance and muscle control?’
‘Yes, Miss Patrick, it is so and the cerebellum is here.’ Doctor Swan leant forward and touched the CT scan frames hanging in front of the light box with his pen. ‘The pressure from the tumour onto the cerebellum is the reason, Mrs Patrick, you have been confined to a wheelchair and cannot maintain central balance or control the involuntary movements or, simply put, the spasms you sometimes have with your muscles.’
Aurora frowned at his thoughtless selection of words; her mum had become very sensitive about her lack of control over herself, her muscles and, because of that sensitivity, Aurora leant forward and asked in a soft voice, ‘What happens if surgery and chemotherapy do not work? How long will my mum have to live?’
Doctor Swan didn’t follow her lead and, in his loud voice, answered, ‘Well, as it stands now, if we do not do anything, surgery or chemo, she has a life span of 12 months, maybe 18. With the surgery and therapy, it will increase considerably.’ He unnecessarily shuffled papers on his desk, oblivious to Aurora’s arctic glare. ‘However, if the chemo doesn’t work, I’m afraid she’ll have at least five years, maybe more, maybe even less, depending on a number of possibilities. The tumour may spread slowly or it may spread quickly. Either way, Miss Patrick, it’s better to stick to short-term thinking. First surgery and then therapy.’
Aurora nodded unhurriedly as she absorbed the information and glanced at her mum to find her very pale and shaking. She was tiring swiftly. Aurora stood.
‘Thank you, Doctor Swan. Could we arrange for another appointment to discuss the time for surgery and the chemo some other time? I think it’s best I take Mum home and let her adjust to this news before we go any further.’
‘Of course, of course. Just talk to Judy outside and all will be arranged,’ Doctor Swan replied. He stood and came around the desk to open the door for them.
Again, Aurora thanked him and pushed her mum’s wheelchair from the room. Yet she did not pause to talk to the receptionist-cum-secretary; the jerks of her mum’s shoulders made a quick decision for Aurora. The sooner they were home, the sooner Aurora could help her mum.
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