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Sunlight. Brightness. I feel it baking my cracked splintered skin, burning my limp brittle body lying prostrate in the sand.
As my eyelids peel back, the biting heat sucks through each open eyeball. It seizes all senses, seizes my entire soul.
When the colored amoebas that trail the flash of light finish dancing across my line of vision, I realize that I don’t know where I am. My mind is a white blankness, just like the waves of light descending upon me.
That’s when I look around and see the crash, see the scattered, charred fragments of the plane littering the sand and shoreline. In a flash I feel the energy of my sprinting heart as the plane rapidly slipped down the sun’s rays to melt into the earth. Now, I am just boiling in a kettle of rubble and remains. I am boiling in a kettle of emotionless fear.
I stare wide-eyed at the vast desert island in front of me. Yet, can I really see? I am suddenly aware of the dead weight of my fingers curled in the hot sand, suddenly aware of the slickness of my hair as it clings to the sides of my cheeks like drying and cracked paper mache.
Any sense of past I may have had quickly surrenders to a paralyzing sense of present, an untraceable sense of purpose. I bow my head to the sky and raise my baked, piñata limbs out of the sand. My elbows and knees crack the hard casing to emerge like flailing rays of the sun shooting out to pierce the never-ending horizon.
Free. But who said this freedom was liberating? I begin to stride forward through the perils of the foreign and barren land before me. I have that sinking feeling, that feeling as if the ground beneath me is about turn to quicksand if I wait for the sun to rotate my shadow but a single degree around my feet. I didn’t come this far just to crash and burn in the spotlight.
Thump. Thump. Thump. It must be my footsteps, my heartbeat, or a combination of the two. Right? Thump. Thump. Thump.
Think again. I’m not alone. I see a shadowy figure of some foreign creature lurking behind me. I slowly crane my neck to turn around and glimpse the enemy but the sunlight shields the beast in a white cloak of blinding light. I shiver in the heat when I think of all the chilling creatures that could emerge out of this foreign and fiery furnace of an island. What is this beast? Who is my opponent? Does it have the roaring and radiating mane of a lion or the razor-sharp pincers of a panther salivating at dinnertime? I lock my eyes shut.
Maybe my mind is deceiving me? No. I can’t dismiss the burning feeling that it’s waiting for me behind the rows of dried shrubbery lining the hardened earth. I run forward, faster now because I know it’s no longer an expedition but an escape. In the gaps of silence my gasping breaths leave behind, I feel the hot discharge of the beast’s nostrils melting the pads of my feet as they kick up the sand and slap the sunlight.
I turn around. No use. The reflecting light that bounces off the white grainy sand blinds me once again. I can’t see it, but I feel its presence and know its there, watching, hiding. Thump. Thump. Thump. I run even faster now, sprint as I sink into the sandpit of the island. That’s when I realize that the beast is no longer behind me, casting its shadow beyond my feet, but flying above me, shooting down a shadow that’s slowly aligning with every move my sunburned, dripping body makes. Until… there’s no use in turning around. The beast’s boiling, bloody breath is blowing down now on the crooked line of my scalp and creeping its way down my backbone.
Teeth emerge from the kiln. I feel a single bead of sweat descend the arid canyon between my shoulder blades. The chase is over now. As my knees buckle and my head jerks back, I gaze up at the twinkling light that dances across the peripheral glaze and illuminates the skyline. Ruby glitter glides down my sunken abs and sparkles across pulsing legs, weary from the final sprint. I feel no pain. I feel nothing but the hot breathing of the beast now on the back of my drying skull.
Finally, every last hair on the back of my neck melts away and slides down my spine into the thirsty sand. After only a sliver of time it forms a tiny puddle underneath the crevices between my toes that leaks to engulf my entire body in one glistening pool. I must finally be seeing because I’m staring down at the reflection of the skyline in the liquid’s glossy surface. I gaze deeper and follow the skyline until my eyes reach the reflection of myself. I stare at the shimmering image I see. There I am, biting my own flesh as I helplessly watch myself melt away into an oasis of blood and sweat simmering in the sunlight.
I wasn’t the light in the darkness, but the darkness in the light all along…but on a lighter note, it was only after I crouched down to confront the darkness that my eyes stopped burning and I didn’t have to squint.