The ContemplationJapan surrendered. I wished they’d seen it coming, the drop of the atomic bombs, the ruthlessness of what such nuclear power could do to such fragile, vulnerable creatures.
Humans shouldn’t have had the skill to build such a frightening weapon.
And yet the world continued to make the same mistakes, drawing on the earth’s resources only to betray it with nasty pollutants. And though they saw destruction, saw nature crumbling in bits and pieces before their very eyes, humans would
If only it could have been normal. Justin was the one who should have been here. He should have had to live as a lost soul. He deserved it! It was his fault! That stupid, stupid boy. I had warned him that such a creation could never be a good thing, but he had gone ahead and made it anyway.
And the timing! Who could forget the timing? Was it really a coincidence that it would have been finished the day of the explosion? Was it a coincidence that a bomb fell perhaps a mile away from where I was when my soul was detached from my body? Was it a coincidence that Natalya should have been in the P.E. director’s office, a place where a bomb shelter had just happened to have been installed? Was it a coincidence that David was the only survivor of a blighted plain crash while the people around him had breathed their last breath?
Was there even the slightest possibility that it could have been? I didn’t see it, if it was a coincidence. It looked as though the hand of destiny was working to make my life miserable. If it wanted Natalya and David together, why let me watch? Why the hell did I have to watch it happen? Couldn’t it let me die for real?
I wondered where the two were now. I couldn’t remember how long I’d been in the sky. However, they didn’t need the protection of a spirit when all I could do was observe. I didn’t want to help them, anyhow. Help them, and my chances with David would be forever lost in the wind. Who would I be to him but a past girlfriend, one who could so easily be forgotten?
In my questioning, I detached myself from the sky and huddled in a small area, floating somewhere. I didn’t take notice of my surroundings.
The catalyst was on a constant roll in my mind. I remembered what it was now, a sort of trigger, as it had often been described in chemistry class. And of course Justin would need one! If he were to have the energy to pull my soul away from my body, there wasn’t a doubt about it.
But what could it have been? Why had, during those last minutes of seeing the world as a soul but not a being, why had Justin’s face looked horrified? Without stop, his expression ran through my mind as fast as Natalya would in a track competition. But she wouldn’t stop. And she wouldn’t tire. It kept going in circles, on some unseen cycle that lived to haunt me to the end of my days.
His face, distorted in such a horrendous way that my soul was scarred forever. Eyebrows furrowed together, eyes like an owl, mouth on the brink of yelling, or perhaps to say profound words that would be famous forever in the history of the world.
But it was too late.
I wanted to curse Barnett and Chzov again, but for some reason, it didn’t seem right to blame them for my death.
To draw my soul out from my body, Justin would need to trigger some sort of connection, create a sort of pull. Perhaps that had been the easy part. From his explanations while testing his experiment, I’d gotten the feeling that he had found more trouble in getting the magnet to do its job. So what was strong enough to trigger such a reaction?
What could the catalyst be?
My frustration put me in jeopardy of being overwhelmed. Just think hard enough, I told myself, and you’ll eventually find the answer.
Why did I even care so much? A simple obsession? A yearn for the truth? A faint hope for my recovery?
If I’d had a body, my heart would nearly be beating out of my chest. Nevertheless, I imagined the heavy sound of heartbeats, as one would hear when coming to such a realization as I.
I’d known it all along. I’d hoped for the chances since the beginning. Seeing Natalya and David hurt too much. It hurt and I wanted to be the one in their shoes. If the soul extractor had never been made, could it have been me? Would I have survived? If I hadn’t felt such a strong, almost magnetic, pull to help Justin, could I have discouraged him in time?
It was the magnet!
A wave of comprehension hit me hard. That was it. The soul extractor had been made with a magnet. I knew that. But a conversation of Natalya and David I had listened in on spurred abruptly in my mind.
This town, so small in the giant United States of America. Yet it had been attacked, almost as if it had been targeted. Could it be these magnets that had created such an attracting pull that the nuclear missiles had missed their real target? Could it be that Justin’s famous catalyst had involved a mild nuclear reaction, bumping my soul away from my body?
Could it be that he had been so immersed in his project that he barely had time for thought or care of someone’s life?
I found myself feeling anger towards him, but it faded quickly in my epiphany. Did Justin care? If Natalya was right about death, I would find out when I truly died. How would that ever happen in my state? Weakly, I tried to gather thoughts that were slipping away in my sadness.
Should I blame Justin? Sure, he’d created the darn machine, but he hadn’t meant any harm. None at all. His kindness had always overpowered his lust for fame, in a way. And he always asked permission for a favor, never tried to turn anyone his way with dire needs.
And then I said yes.
The thought hit me like that nuclear bomb had hit the world. Staggering. Oh, I had never thought myself stupid before, but in that moment, I was suddenly guilty of stupidity.
What if I hadn’t said yes to Justin’s experiment? Who would he have chosen instead? He was a science geek, but he was shy as well. It would have taken him at least an extra fifteen minutes to find another person to help him. An extra few minutes would have been all the town needed to survive.
“Justin, I’m so sorry,” I said, my voice cracking in my mind. “You must think I’m horrible, if Natalya’s theory is correct. I’ve just been so… adamant, you know? I didn’t want to think that I… I mean, I just wanted your approval of me. I can’t stand it when people are angry with me. You know that. I just need that acceptance to, you know, feel comforted. I just need comfort.” My rambles did nothing for the hollow shell growing upon my soul.
My face would be pouring with tears of guilt if I’d had eyes to release them. My chest would be shaking with the hiccups of regret if I’d had the organs to react. And my heart… My heart would be so overwhelmed with a blanket of shame that I would suffocate because of a lack of air.
Life is a series of ‘what ifs’, I remembered someone once telling me. I thought maybe it had been Natalya, brought up in a conversation.
She was always full of answers.
That girl would have been a genius if she hadn’t been so into sports. She could be anything she wanted to be.
I faintly remembered thinking the same thing about David. Oh, my sweet David. He was mine. He would always be mine. I still had that longing, that passion and love I felt every time I looked at him.
It was a love any Kyle wouldn’t have been able to give, because I knew, with complete conviction, that David was meant for me. Which was why it was all the while harder. If I had died… Really died… It would have been so much easier.
David wasn’t everything. He was my true love, yes, but he wasn’t everything. I knew, even though it made me want to gag to think it, I would never have a chance with him again, not until he died and we both went off to live in our afterlife, wherever that was.
If Natalya was right, we would find out everything, maybe go to Heaven or something of the sort.
In a way, I was looking forward to it.
Because in a world away from here, I could achieve peace.