At 2:53 p.m. on October 19, 2022, every phone in the world buzzed in unison. It was not an Amber Alert or a hurricane warning or the news of a dangerous criminal; instead it was an update that brought hundreds of thousands of smiles. Grandparents would survive to see their grandchildren burgeon into young adults and children on death beds would be liberated from their IVs and return to school amongst their classmates – but today there was nothing. Just a black abyss into which I fell. Deeper deeper deeper deeper.
Everything floated past me; a pink shoelace tangled with a give-away backpack from a school I never attended; my bedside table followed by its contents: two magazines, a journal full of fifth grade secrets, a lamp that once was pink, seven orange earplugs; my dresser; followed by my pajamas; followed by my underwear; followed by jeans and shirts; and a lot of debris. I recognized a panel of plaster attached to my room’s antique chandelier and was pulled further and further from what I knew. I looked down, and the world no longer looked like it did while on a plane, patchy but still flat. This earth was curved and glowing like the moon. Many people were shooting by me including, but not limited to, my brother, still in his boxers; a man I’d seen twice in Whole Foods; my first boyfriend, now with a pencil beard; and 30 or so people I did not know. I made eye contact with my first boyfriend, and the vacuum from above faded away with the fear of small talk.
A bathtub passed by, a few bubbles clinging to its sides, the rest below, 10,000 feet down, pink fragranced water sinking into the earth, leaving small holes in the ground.
And then, I looked up. The sky was a periwinkle blue, like the one I had seen thousands of times, but today all the pigment of the sky had been pulled to the center; it looked black, like an ink spot. Directly around this spot was blue, but very quickly it faded into the absence of color. The edges of the sky were black, and as hard as I looked at them my eyes did not adjust to their coldness, their hard, impenetrable depths.
Presently, I realized my direction was toward the ink. I was lifted without discomfort, like this was a natural occurrance. My shoes were off and instead of reacting with panic, I wondered whether they were above me. Looking up, there they were. Floating pink-bottomed and scuffed among some leftover lasagna. Looking down, the earth was green and blue, my distance revealing its even curve. The people around me were all silent. No one screamed or reacted with panic. A warm calm filled the atmosphere like heavy blankets around a body, and my mind began to lull. The objects around me blurred. I blinked hard but again, the colors blended into each other like oversaturated watercolors on thin paper. My eyes closed and the sun hit my eyelids, a mauve pink.
Awakening came slowly … was it the weekend? … and for a while I delayed it. Kept my eyes closed against the creeping light. My bed felt stiffer than usual, so I opened my eyes. Instead of long white curtains and a rusted chandelier, I saw people. For miles it seemed – people. Lined up. Some sitting upright, some still asleep. Thousands. Hundreds of thousands. All were girls like me, adolescent. Everyone was quiet. I turned my neck to the other side, to see the rest of the room, but could not. I was in sleep paralysis, perhaps. It had happened to me several times prior. Still, the momentary panic arose in my throat. This was all a paralyzed vision, and floating into the atmosphere had been a dream to psychoanalyze later. So I waited for it to fade into morning sunlight through my curtains. Twenty minutes at most I would have to wait.
Time felt longer in this state, I knew, yet surely it had been longer. And the world did not gradually fade like it usually did. Still, my limbs were leaden and unmoving.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.