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Coldness seared through my bones and ice seemed to rush through my veins piercing through me with such enmity. So suddenly my spine began to tingle, a horrid tingle of spite where one would feel paralyzed. And at that moment, I felt paralyzed, I felt so sunken in, so helpless.
Devoured by a numbness, and the nebulous fog obscuring the pathway to the gates of the sense, touch, that is where I was-- and that is where I would die. I blinked, almost painfully, and a rush of darkness flooded my senses.
The water was speaking to me, I could hear it. A strange sound of infinitesimal nothingness resounded through the water, ricocheting through my head until the very entity of it’s venom impaled a very blatant thud.
It’s voice was deep and hollow, it’s voice just a grey echo sounding empty and yet simultaneously full of depth. Odd, I thought, mother nature’s paradox sounds so beautiful, like a symphony, a mystery yet to be unraveled. And here I am discovering this . . . secret, mother nature’s idyllic, and ephemeral, and forbidden secret. Here I am paying the price.
Like lightning electrocuting me out of my reverie as that last thought echoed dauntingly, slowly diluting in varying ranges only to boom it’s voice loud and clear , “ . . . paying the price. . .”
Like thunder, fierce and palpable, panic dawned on me.
I struggled, feverishly kicking, trying to loosen the burden that would soon drag me to my death. Frantically attempting to swim up for air was useless as the clasp was shut around the rope pulling me down. A spasm erupted within the hearth of my muscles, and coldness withered through my veins with such vigor rendering me to completely give up as I had nothing to grab onto.
My fate was set at that moment. It was like trying to free yourself of a merciless stranglehold, of an unbreakable rope with intricately tied knots that were designed to tighten it’s grip the more you struggled.
It was hopeless.
There was panic. There was fear. But there was no hope. I had no chance. And lastly what hurt the most were the memories.
The memories that flooded back, pleading for you to stay -- when the only way out . . . was to die.
I was thrown back in time, a couple years back if just for only a few seconds.
We were sitting beneath the great cherry tree in our school yard, backs to the trunk, breathless from our last game of “Star Wars”. I was always “Padme”, and we’d use our imagination and the playground for the rest.
I remember us clearly, the three of us. The trunk behind us and two of my best friends on either side of me, laughing. I don’t remember what we were laughing about, but it was just nice, really nice, and warm, and familiar. It was how it was supposed to be. Always.
“What does “BFF” stand for?” I forgot who had asked that, but we all laughed nonetheless.
We were drawing on the cement planters using the cherries from our tree as chalk.
“Big, freaky friends forever.” We were laughing like that was the funniest thing in the world.
“But that’s,” he counts on his fingers, “three F’s.”
I spoke up, feeling bad for whoever asked, “Best friends forever”
“That’s too girly!” We all giggled again.
“I like the ‘Big, freaky friends forever’ better.”
And we all agreed. And we all promised.
The distant laughs of our classmates on the playground drifted warmly in the background, like those old, and worn blankets that were always so cozy and familiar.
That’s how it always felt.
That’s how it would always be.
Time, but a mere thing, was slipping away right through my fingers, mocking me, and throwing the travesty that life was in my face. I knew it too, the time I had left, but I felt everything was in slow motion and time froze helpless to watch me slowly suffer. With the grains of time vanishing, so did my breath of air, bubbling away to the surface.
They say when you die you see a bright light coming closer and closer, but as I looked up and gazed at the distorted vision of the surreal moon above me in the world I knew I’d miss, the fluorescent, filtered light kept drifting farther and farther away. This world with no air was terrifying, becoming dimer and murkier the further I was dragged in, and adamant at sucking my untenable body down with it.
Every second the pain in my chest increased, indescribably scorching, searing through like weights slammed on my chest. It was agonizingly too hard to stay awake and fight the urge to let go. It seemed so much easier to give in and fall into an eternal sleep, to just drift into the other life, to just stop the pain.
It’s too hard to live. It’s too easy to just let go.
Somehow one fuzzy thought remained despite the fog beginning to form in my mind . . . my family. So let me die, but don’t let them find me, please don’t let them find me ran through my mind in rapid languish. I don’t want to cause them this great grief of finding me here, this way, a life ended too soon, too tragic. I don’t want to be the reason my family falls apart. I don’t want to die -- not like this, not now--, I don’t. The mantra repeated dauntingly over and over, stoic, cold, hard.
Only a few seconds I had left, and a glimpse right there, a flash of brown hair was the last I recall. It was very possible that my heart was slowly disintegrating into ashes, and it seemed very likely that those treacherous ashes caught in my throat, eccentric and burning my sanity. A wilting scarlet rose, bleeding and sinking.
Darkness annihilated any light, only leaving the tiny bubbles of air escaping from my lips and blubbering up to the surface. My senses failing me, my vision beginning to waver, and only one thought remained -- I have to breathe.
I took a breath.
Don’t let go.
There was only water.
Think . . .
Water that burned like fire.
. . . of them
Water that burned like ice.
Don’t let go . . .
My chest heaved.
You promised . . .
Ice somehow interwoven with a raging inferno.
Don’t . . .
I was breaking inside.
. . . let . . .
And here I am . . . at the end.
. . . go . . .
My mind completely obliterated.
My name. . . . the voice was calling out to me and somewhere in the pit of my mind the voice sounded familiar, I knew this voice. But there was a thick, nebulous fog rendering my mind thick and heavy, no matter how hard, how frustrated and agitated I was, it wouldn’t clear up.
The white oblivion kept spreading like an unruly gas billowing, suffocating, and blinding whatever unfortunate being it entrapped. It was an acid fog, obscuring every thought. I felt something pushing my chest, almost as if with no touch, no harshness and yet water rush through me and out as I sputtered, heaving for a breath of that luxurious air.
A boy, someone, he was yelling . . . at me?
No, for help, then the ache in my whole body overwhelmed, everything went white and I slipped into unconsciousness.
There was no wind, there was no gravity pulling me down, there was nothing, and yet I knew-- I knew unmistakably-- I was falling.
I was endlessly falling into nowhere it seemed.
I had let go.
Looking down was just a deep ongoing cavern of gloom. It was a black nothingness that was consuming me.
I wasn’t supposed to let go.
My body jerked and my eyes cracked open, I was awake tangled and sweaty in crisp white cloths. Blinking, bewildered and despite my half dead, half alive state, my brain registered that I was in a big room, it was white, very sterilized, and dim. I assumed it must be late and I felt the presence of people in the room.
How odd, I clearly remembered being---- I stopped that train of thought --- perhaps it was only a dream. I reverted my hazy eyes from the white ceiling and saw there in one corner uncomfortably seated asleep in a chair, his hand over his eyes -- an idiosyncrasy he does when immensely fatigued-- my father. In the small couch parallel to my bed was my mother and sister, seemingly exhausted as well.
Confusion at first as to why I was tucked into a bed in an unknown room, as to why I was suddenly here when I was there -- when the edges of death lingered through my thoughts.
Then realization hit me and bits of memories flooded back making me cringe at the thought.
A dream. Was it not a dream?
I turned my blurred vision towards the one door in the room which opened a crack spilling outside light in then further opened. Before coming in, I heard the voice belonging to this person quietly whisper something to whoever it was accompanying them or perhaps they were simply muttering something under their breath. Then the figure walked in shadowing the light so all I saw was his lean silhouette. Apparently in deep thought, considering he didn’t notice my drowsy eyes staring confusedly at him.
I recognized something in him, something familiar.
My brain still wasn’t cooperating with me to clear up all the confusion so I just stared not knowing what else to do with my eyes.
Closing the door and looking up from the ground his eyebrows shot up, not exactly startled but he was, as it seems, surprised to see me. I guess to see me awake and curiously staring at him. Coming up close, something in my brain clicked and I remembered the flash of brown hair during those few seconds I had left underwater.
His brown hair, this boy with the quirked up eyebrows quietly walking up to my bed, his hair I had a glimpse of before plunging into the trench of water.
No. This was never a dream.
With a quite whisper he began to speak, my subconscious not registering what exactly he was saying, but recalled the sound of his voice. A trace of the voice I had previously heard in my unconscious state I was drifting in and out of that horrid night. My rational mind came back just in time for me to hear his ending words, “ . . . sleep.”
Assuming he was telling me to go back to sleep, my stubborn self was still intact not taking orders from strangers and refusing to drift back into a state of oblivion only to wake up feeling I was falling. The need to know who this strange boy was, was all I had my half logical mind set on. At least I didn’t forget who I was, I do always over think things and really overall think too much.
Blinking out my reverie, bits and pieces began to come together as my now coherently working brain solved this puzzle. My brain conjured up one thought, one fact, one truth that second, coming fast out of no where.
This boy, he saved my life.
Coming back to the real world after that draining thought chain I barely survived through, I looked to the spot where he was standing just a moment ago, but strangely he wasn’t there. There was a benign whisper of a voice to my right and there he was, seated in the chair beside my bed thoughtfully quite. A silent peacefulness drifted between us, almost enigmatic, puzzling me at how a soothing wave of tranquility brushed over my being, caressing me almost physically. A hushed wordless conversation through our eyes.
I reveled in the few tranquil minutes I’d have as if he was the cure for fear. The quietness wasn’t in that awkward, strange feeling, but in a light, familiar, relieved closeness. But I didn’t know him. I don’t know him. Yet I felt safe.
He could feel the lingering tinge of fear I had from that night which was possibly etched in my face -- the memory running fresh replaying over and over never ceasing to take pity. So he gave me the much needed time to recover before my family awoke and, of course out of love, frantically rejoiced. He acknowledged my silent gratitude with a slight nod and a light smile and settled into the plush chair closing his eyes.
I began to ponder how fragile life is, how capricious life is, how one walk out late at night, alone leaving camp, and one foolish mistake of getting in a boat, and paddling out in a lake can result in near death.
Clearly I wasn’t in my right sensible mind and half drowsy. Two components that when combined surely lead to anything least of conducive. I was restless and figured some fresh air and a good gaze at the great wonder stars are would put me to sleep.
I didn’t know, every minuscule thought hiding within the crevices of my inner being had told me one thing or another, I just couldn’t sleep. Indifferent of how insignificant or clearly how unworthy of consideration the thought was, it never mattered because the sly thought had always appeared hovering in a possessive manner, waiting for the most advantageous moment to attack.
Maybe he heard the great splash as I was plunged in, maybe he was just as restless as I was that night, or maybe God told this boy here next to me to wake up and go to the lake. Whatever made him go outside at that moment, I’m thankful for, that one decision he made I’m thankful, for him I am thankful.
He was looking at me then, as if he could see the gears in my brain turning, as if maybe he could just see right through to my thoughts. I must’ve been quiet for a long while for him to give me that peculiar look.
I said something, unaware that I said it out loud, then I registered the words that left my mouth as a simple, “Thank you,” he smiled and I reluctantly succumbed to sleep.
Colors were shifting around as if someone had splattered a rainbow with every shade and hue imaginable blending together in perfect harmony revealing it’s authentic candor, contrasting and yet complementing each other. The colors began to morph into one, turning a bright white light with a hint of warmth, a yellowish burst in the middle.
A crack, I opened my eyelids and the colors vanished, and I was staring at the sun out the window to my left. Turning my head to the right expecting to see the person I owed my life to, the chair was empty. I blinked a couple times, puzzled, as if doing so would magically make him appear.
Worry surpassed my father when he saw me looking blankly at the empty chair with a stressed expression written all over my face. Of all the words that would come out of my mouth at that time, I asked for the boy who was seated in this exact chair only moments before I drifted off to sleep.
It startled me to hear my voice again, and then comforted me to hear it as if I was being comforted by an old camaraderie I thought I’d never see again. I continued practically painting a complete description of what he looked like, words coming out in a jumbled up panicked slur.
This time it was my father’s face that was full of concern as he quietly explained, as someone would to a frightened child, that there had been no one of that description he could possible remember. He claimed he woke up suddenly in the night like some voice was probing him in his mind, calling him. He tells that he found me sputtering by the bank of the lake, shivering, a wonder how I came to be there.
“I almost died,” I said, coming out barely in a whisper, “I was saved by him,” my voice, quiet almost breaking.
When the warmth and vibrant light of the sun is gone and darkness gently paints the blue, cascading over like an ebony blanket, go out and look high, past the moon, beyond our galaxy, search the jet-black skies illuminated by far heavenly bodies.
What’s seen is billions if not more lightyears away yet grace us with their beauty and presence allowing us to see a spec of what they truly are for a moment each night. Twinkling as if reassuring us they’re still there, a watchful eye.
Ironically, what caused this trouble is my longing to go out and visit the stars, but every experience has a purpose, though not understandable right now serves for us later, building us up into the person we are now. In the Bible, it’s said that there’s a star for every guardian, every guardian of heaven, every . . . angel.
What I believe happened and who my savior was, was an angel, my angel. I never did see him again, but then looking up to the heavens and gazing far to the left, next to aries, bright, and luminous in the sky, you’ll see him, always there.