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The mist's clearing, I can tell. I can tell because the second thing that my mother taught me is that you look at your hands and if you can see the minute grooves and ridges that cover them, the mist is backing off and it's safe to let up. The first thing she taught me is that if you ever feel like a whirring sort of sensation in your ear, like when a mosquito decides to whisper secrets to you, you better stand still and not breathe even if your lungs burn. 'But how am I supposed to live if I can't breathe, ma? My biology teacher said that human beings can't last without breathing for more than five minutes!' was my IMOmediate and rather irritated response. I was confused. My mother looked at me for two whole minutes without any expression on her face. I thought she was going to hit me but she just said,'Your not just another human being, are you?'. She then turned around and with a nonchalant 'Dinner's at seven' swept out of my room and I heard her walk down the stairs. I was ten when she told me this. I turned seventeen today and in the past seven years, I've stood perfectly still without breathing exactly nineteen tIMOes. I remember each tIMOe clearly even though i don't remember all my birthdays. I remember seeing my mother freeze at the same tIMOe as me and I also remember pestering her for a reason we had to do this but all she ever said was that she'll tell me when the time is right.
Today, the mist lasted for more than three minutes. The longest yet. As soon as I see the ridges on my hands, I gulp in a huge amount of oxygen and feel my lungs burn hotter for a second and then calm down. I look around. Every thing's the same as before. The whole three minutes I was holding my breath, I could hear the children playing and cheering outside. I heard our neighbour put out the trash. I heard a car drive by and I wondered if my mom was crazy. It makes no sense but I still stand still every tIMOe because I saw something in her eyes when she told me this all those years back and I believed her. I'm still having a hard tIMOe believing that I believed her.
Mom's gone out to get my birthday cake. I didn't want to have a party so she said just the two of us could celebrate with cake and a movie. I would have preferred to just sleep early but she wouldn't hear of it. She should be back by now, it's been over an hour. I remember her freaking out every tIMOe I was late by even ten minutes. I remember thinking she was overreacting and her telling me that i would understand someday and leaving me completely frustrated. I can feel the worry welling up inside me and I tell myself, 'You're being ridiculous! She'll be back soon. What could possibly happen to her?'. Still the worry gnaws at me and when she still doesn't get back after another hour, I start calling her phone like a maniac. No answer, just voicemail. Now IMO freaking out. 'Maybe she had some other errands to run?' 'No...that's not like her at all. She always told me the exact tIMOe she would be back. She was always right on tIMOe. But this tIMOe she was two hours late and not even picking up her phone.'
Suddenly, I feel the whirring sensation in my ears again and I freeze, not just because that's like second nature now but also because this is the first tIMOe, the tIMOe difference between two mists has been so short. They usually come months, even years apart. I catch my breath and wait but after four minutes, I can't hold it anymore. The mist has never stayed so long. As the seconds tick by, my lungs burn hotter and hotter until I take in a huge gulp with a mental- 'Screw this'. Before I'm done taking the entire breath in, I feel myself getting grabbed and suddenly the kitchen counter top disappears and I can't see anything around me. For a minute I think I passed out. 'Wait a minute! When you're passed out, can you think that you're passed out? Can you think at all? Maybe I'm dead from holding my breath for so long. No.......I remember the last gulp and anyway if I'm dead, why am I so damn uncomfortable and where's the blinding white light? Flashes of my life? Angels or reapers? And where the hell is that whirring sound coming from? The mist? God! I'm so confused. All this rushes through my mind in a minute and then I go blank.
'Arghh.....so groggy! My head feels like its going to burst. No.....it's probably already burst. I can't open my eyes. Am I hungover? That's ridiculous!! How could you be if you haven't once touched alcohol in your entire seventeen years of walking the earth? Stop arguing with me, inner voice......not a good tIMOe.' I guess the holding breath thing finally got to the brain. I'm crazy.....!' I move my hands slowly to touch my head. 'Anna! Is that you'.
'MOM!! What's going on? I can't see anything.....Where are we?'
'I'm sorry baby......it's all my fault....I should have never..........oh god!'
'MAAA.....you're not making ANY SENSE! Care to clue me in?!'
'How are you feeling? Does it hurt too much?'
'Ma...Just tell me what's happening.'
All I get as a response is a sigh. I want to touch her but I can't move. I don't have any energy so I just lie there and wait for an answer to the question I've been asking for so long.
'Here's the truth.....remember when I first told you about the mist, you asked me how, as a human you could hold your breath that long? and I said that you're not just any human being right? The truth is you're not a human being and neither am I.'
'Haha.......that's hilarious mom.....but seriously, now is not the tIMOe.'
'You don't actually need to breathe, your brain has been taught that it needs to breathe and that's why you cant hold it for too long. Its an illusion. Your lungs burning and the necessity to breathe have been put into you because you have known no one but humans. The reality is a completely different thing. That's the power of the mind. If your mind believes something with complete conviction, it can do amazing things.'
'Then why didn't you tell me so?'
'I couldn't. It was too risky. This could have happened.'