Fire & Rain, Part 1

October 21, 2010
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Chapter One

Rule number one of life: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. A man actually received scientific acclaim for discovering this. They even made a law and named it after him. His name is Murphy. Look him up.
And boy, do I have a story about things that go wrong…
Or right…I still can’t decide which…
It all happened for a reason…
Everything happened for the right reasons. It’s alright…
…No regrets, right?
I wouldn’t change a thing…
…And I don’t think Aurora would either…

Everyone has a moment when they look at the sky and pray that there is a reason behind everything God puts them through. For me, those moments started in my junior year of high school. I can trace it all specifically to a few key moments at the beginning of this whole mess.
Before I became, well, one of them, I looked quite good for a guy my age. My brown hair had a bad habit of curling back on itself whenever I grew it out, and I probably could have used some more defined abs, but I loved the skin I lived in. It didn’t always used to be that way, but at the moment, everything seemed right in the world.
Then I had to go on that stupid God-forsaken hike…
I didn’t go on the hike for the fresh air or the scenery; I went because of a girl. I had convinced my parents to let me bring Janine with me. I knew they had reasons, and good ones, for not wanting me to do ANYTHING with her, but of course, “I knew everything”, like most teenagers. But I thought she liked me, and I sorta kinda somewhat liked her back.
Sometimes I swear women are the root of all evil. Not all of them, just certain ones. Like Janine…
Being Myles Richard Hawkins isn’t always easy, but somehow I do it every day…
So, the hike. It was a typical September day in Utah; a little breezy, but still plenty hot. Not a cloud in the sky. That’s what I get for living in a desert. That and the loads of snow every winter. That and the thousands of Mormons of which I was one. Don’t get me wrong, I love my metal music and late weekends as much as anyone else. Some of the Mormons around here take piety to a whole new level. I moved here at the end of seventh grade, so I didn’t know all the stupid little Utah customs. The people here just aren’t as fun as the people I knew when I lived in Tacoma and New York. They’re all just so, well, weird. I’m a Mormon and even I’m not as weird as the ones that live here. When I moved here, my new friends didn’t even know who the Foo Fighters were. Trust me, they got their dose of rock education. So what. Shoot me if I’m the only one that doesn’t wear Chuck Taylor’s for the fashion statement. Forgive me if I’m the only one that pushes my musical horizons beyond David Archuleta and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
American Fork Canyon is absolutely gorgeous this time of year. The trees have all their leaves, but they haven’t quite changed color yet. The birds chatter in the treetops as the occasional squirrel scurries on the ground for food. A small stream ran along the trail, though we didn’t dare drink from it, not after I had caught a one-eyed fish in it on a Scout activity. It not only lacked an eye, it lacked an entire socket, like it never even formed.
Off we went up the side of the mountain, forgoing the official trail for the one that snaked steeper up the side of the mountain. It had a much nicer view of the surrounding area. I stuck close to Janine most of the time, lightheartedly chatting while Dylan, my main dude friend, threw me sarcastic looks. I couldn’t care less. Dylan may have had more girls running after him than I could ever hope for, I only wanted one at the moment.
After an hour or so of steady climb with little screwing around, we stopped for lunch. The sun perched itself nice and high in the sky, but not beaming directly down on us. Janine and Ally, Dylan’s current girl interest, had their lunches packed nicely in sandwich baggies that they extracted from their daypacks. Dylan and I had eaten everything we had during the hike. Sure, I hadn’t packed the greatest meal for myself, but the amount I ate was an accomplishment when trying to keep one hand in another person’s hand as much as I had. Everything went great. No one sprained anything on the way up, and the cougars probably still slept in their dens from the previous night’s activities. So, while the girls ate, I explored the immediate area for fun little things.
I saw an odd thing during this search for the ordinary. I stood about four hundred feet from where we stopped when a fox came streaking by me. For one, I didn’t know foxes lived in this area (that shows how much Boy Scouts taught me before I gave up on it). For two, it stopped in front of me. It stopped and looked straight into my eyes. Its eyes weren’t normal eyes. They had a violet color and depth beyond that of any ordinary woodland creature, no matter how out of place. It knew something I didn’t, knew more than it should. Then as quickly this had happened, it ran off again. I walked forward to see where it ran, but it vanished too quickly. Glancing closer at its path, I found a trail of red. Blood. Yet it ran without a limp, in normal stride…strange…and not every animal has violet eyes like that…
Dylan found me and snapped me back into reality
“Find something interesting?” He smirked with his big goofy grin that widened his elongated face. Very tan, yet thoroughly blond, Dylan had a good five inches on me, but his body seemed stringy, his bones vying for height that the rest of his body could not keep up with.
“Nope,” I lied. I knew not the reason why I lied, but I did. “Just a stupid chipmunk that tried to crawl up my pant leg.” That bit was true. I almost killed the poor b****rd too.
He grinned. “Nice.”
I grinned. “Yeah.”
We stood in silence as most guys do. Males just don’t talk as much as women. Most of our emotion is conveyed through grunts and odd facial expressions. A simple shrug of the shoulders saves us an entire conversation.
Footsteps fell behind us.
“Real quick, Dylan, who do you think I should ask to the Homecoming dance?” Homecoming was the first weekend in October. Only a month away.
“I don’t know. That’s your call.”
“I thought you’d say that.”
“What? Did you have someone in mind?” He grinned again.
“I’ve thought about taking Janine, to be honest.” My insides somersaulted at the prospect. In a good way, mind you.
Dylan’s smile turned to exasperation. “Look…”
“Look what?”
“Look, I’ve told you she’s the devil, Ally has told you she’s the devil, and your parents have told you she’s the devil. Nothing good ever seems to happen around her – ”
“Nothing bad has happened to me,” I retorted.
“Yes, but nothing good, either. One of these days, she’ll get you in a world of hurt, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.” He lowered his voice, calm but sharp. “But you don’t seem to care about that, you won’t listen to me, so just do whatever the h*** you want.”
“Fine,” I finally answered.
“Fine what?”
“I guess I’ll ask her.”
“You just said, ‘do whatever the h*** you want’ didn’t you? And in all reality, who else can I ask?”
More silence.
The footfalls behind us grew louder. I turned around to see Janine and Ally thirty feet away. Dylan and I swore to our parents this would not become a date, that we all were only friends. Dylan and Ally obeyed this well, but they had an easier time with this. They broke up the month before. They had time to learn the whole “just friends” charade, even though no man and woman can just be friends. If Ally still had feelings for Dylan, I didn’t know, but I sure knew Dylan still liked her.
Looking behind me, I saw a huge ravine that eventually led to the highway that ran up the canyon. It really was beautiful. Trees covered the ground, many more that I ever saw in my neighborhood. Birds chirped intermittently in their nests. I watched as a mother bird flew into one of these nests and, one by one, fed her chicks, then left again to find more food. Odd, I thought, that she left so soon after returning…
I turned around to see Janine an arm’s reach away, looking where I had the moment before. Then her brown eyes met mine. They really went beyond brown, almost black, absorbing me in their depths. Her eyes matched her dark brown hair well, hair that she must have spent an hour straightening this morning, even though she knew that it would get all messed up on the hike. Her skin radiated in the sunlight, almost as pale white as mine. It’s a curse, I swear. My sister tans darker than some Hispanics, but I sunburn after an hour. I know only one person has whiter skin than I do, and she’s the one that gave birth to me. But I did the best I could with it. I made pale look good. The whole vampire craze didn’t hurt either, but I embraced my near-albinism. Janine also made it look good. Forget the cheerleaders that tanned until their skin became leather and bleached their hair until it fell out.
“What a view,” I blurted out, taking a quick look at the ravine.
“Yeah,” she sighed back.
“Is that really all you had to say?” she asked with a smirk.
“What can I say? I’m a man of few words,” I delivered with my usual flair. Sometimes I can be so geekily theatrical in the way I say things. I get a lot of weird looks from passers-by, but I don’t mind. If it annoys my friends, they sure don’t show it. Then I added, “Except when I feel like talking. Then you can’t get me to shut up,” smirking back at her. She understood the sarcasm in the statement. Whenever I get that cockeyed, one-sided smile, it usually comes with a large portion of sarcasm. I gave up trying to tell jokes when I met my good friend sarcasm. I’m awful at telling jokes. Jokes also rarely bite as hard as sarcasm can.
She giggled. I also rarely make people laugh out loud. When I do, it usually involves me participating in a really stupid activity, like randomly tripping over invisible objects.
“If I think of a better opening line for the next time we’re alone, I’ll make sure to tell you.” I paused. “Or I’ll just use it the next time we’re alone.” Another lopsided smile from me.
“Y’know, you really are the worst flirt, but it’s in a gawky, cute sort of way.” She smiled back. We both sat down on the edge of the cliff.
“Yeah, I’m not much of a talker. Words trip me up most of the time. That’s why I go for touch,” and I lightly ran my finger up her bare forearm. She shivered from it. I winked, and we both started laughing at the cloying romanticism of my last statement. Consciously I didn’t mean it, but some deeper part of me knew it to be true.
Then the silence smothered us once more. For a minute, we just sat there in silence. It wasn’t too awkward, but I finally broke it into a million tiny fragments.
“So, has anyone asked you to Homecoming yet?” The words came out much smoother than I anticipated. Good.
“Well…no, not really.”
“Good, because I was wondering if maybe you would go to it with me?”
Her face lit up like a halogen light bulb.
“Sure! Why not?” She beamed at me. I didn’t know if she had expected me to ask her or not, but her expression probably would have stayed the same.
My heart kept trying to jump out of my mouth, I was so excited. We both stood up and hugged tightly. We both wore ear-to-ear smiles that slowly changed to grins. Janine skipped away to the others, leaving me there, still stupidly smiling. I stood on the edge of the cliff thinking my day couldn’t get any better, that nothing could ruin it! I had that elated feeling permeate my body right up until the ground under my feet came loose.
This particular part of the cliff consisted of a lot of loose rock. Something must have shifted when I got up, and all of it decided to break away. I kind of slid down the mountain with the rock, quickly making the two hundred foot trip to the bottom of the ravine.
Well, you lived a good life, I thought as I repeatedly slammed into the cliff face, breaking every bone in my body. Rocks now fell from above me, pummeling my future corpse. Janine screamed for me, but I barely heard it over the air whooshing all around me. In those last moments, I did some quick math and realized I would probably hit terminal velocity before I hit the ground. Ouch.
Though I knew it was only seconds, it felt like a lifetime later when I slammed into the rocky ground. I couldn’t move. My legs had snapped in too many places. My arms laid motionless as I tried to make them drag me out of the rubble. Blood filled in my mouth. I couldn’t spit it out, so I tilted my head as much as possible to let it drain.
A comedian’s words on death came to me. He said that when people die, they see their life flash before their eyes. They watch the whole thing right up to the point before they die, when they watch themselves see their life flash before their eyes. They see themselves watch the whole thing over again, then they hit that point again. The cycle never ends.
Through the blinding pain I thought, great, how can I go to Homecoming now? My own sarcasm made me grin.
Then the pain left.
Gazing around, I found no possible source of the relief. I only saw a fox, the same one from earlier, pressing its paw against one of my arms. It stood like that in a very human way, even grimacing from a great pain inside it. In a fleeting thought of fantasy, I wondered if it could be taking my pain away, suffering it itself for me. I whispered a thank you to the fox. It shuddered from the pain of my speech. Wow, I must be in bad shape, I thought.
Looking away at my other surroundings, I saw the forest I admired earlier. No one had found me yet. I felt the veil inching closer, closer towards me. It blurred my vision and silencing the birds above. The last thing I saw, amazingly, was a large gray Malamute above me. It resembled the one my family owned a long time ago. We rescued him from a shelter and kept him for a good eight years, until his stomach twisted. We had to put him down. I missed him so much I cried for a month afterwards. He was my one real friend through the rough parts of middle school. But that couldn’t be him I saw now.
I called his name. “Dakota.”
He turned and ran towards me, tail wagging and tongue a-flopping. His nose brushed my chin, which I saw but didn’t feel.
Then I blacked out. Death never felt so good.

I woke up…
I woke up.

Dylan had me on his back. Ally and Janine preceded him down the mountain. They didn’t have much farther to go.
The numbness that pervaded my limbs had left. My vision regained its acuity, and I heard sobbing from the girls ahead.
I grinned, happy that I still had a life ahead of me.
“Dylan, please put me down,” I asked clearly
He dropped me in shock, repeatedly screaming, “Holy sh**, holy sh**!”
Janine and Ally turned around. Tear tracks still shone on their faces.
“And dude, the next time you carry me, please don’t drop me,” I told him with my usual one-sided smile.
They all froze.
“What, it’s not like I’ve come back from the dead, right?”
“B-b-but Myles, y-y-you h-h-have,” Ally stammered. “When we finally got to you, you didn’t have a pulse, you weren’t breathing, you didn’t have an unbroken bone in your –”
“You were beyond dead, like, destroyed,” Dylan chimed in.
I stood up. This left the rest of them freaked out. My body seemed to have healed everything. I tested my fingers and cracked my neck. Everything was in working order. The other three looked paler than I ever had.
Janine finally sprinted into my arms, crying uncontrollably from either joy or sadness, I didn’t know. Dylan walked in circles muttering something along the lines of him losing his sanity, and Ally openly praised God for letting me come back.
We eventually made our way back to Dylan’s house. The girls reapplied their makeup, we watched some TV, and swore that none of us would speak of what happened to another living person.

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