“Hold still,” a gentle masculine voice whispers as my neck is cradled in strong, rough hands. In a vain attempt to keep from further injury to my already damaged vertebrae, his voice not only softens but sounds distressed. “It’s pretty bad. Kim, you need to stay still.”
The pain is intense and real. My head sways back and forth in confusion as to how it all started. Fluttering eyelashes, like fine paintbrushes only paint a scene of tragedy for all involved. Although I am quit unsure at this point, without steady sight as to knowing how many are paying witness to this event. This is not how it started but it’s unclear if I’m in the middle of the story, the end or perhaps in some twisted prose, the beginning. Am I the victim of some one else’s deluded mind or am I a master of my own accounts. Didn’t I have some tool or some ability to control how these stories may unfold?
I’m gagging on salt water, my lungs aching for attention from the atmosphere surrounding them but to no avail. I feel a weight on my chest like several ponderous rocks had been placed there for some one’s perverse sense of amusement. I don’t smell the ocean or feel it’s light breeze touching my cheek like a dear friend. I don’t feel the rough sand on my finger tips because now they have mostly gone numb. I am dying and the lights in the room are spiraling towards me, making me dizzy as if I am on a roller coaster with no attendant. I am at the mercy of the mortal coil and fighting for just those last few seconds of realization. Knowing that it is not just myself and the distraught older man, I can faintly here the respectfully hushed whispers and uncontrollable sobbing of others.
I’ve never been arrogant enough to think that my death would illicit such a reaction from others but since I can’t see the damage inflicted on my body, I can only presume that the sight is pretty horrific. I think about rousing some strength from deep inside to offer comfort to those around me, but upon summoning that energy, I find that the bank has been robbed. It is the end of my life but I feel the urge to keep fighting even though I had imagined this moment so much differently. But had it been so much unsimilar? Had I not envisioned being cradled in the arms of my Goddess as I faced these last few moments with as much dignity as one can muster when approaching an oncoming tempest? The eventual slipping under the waves of mortality and the Underworld in the face of uncertainty like slipping under warm, inviting blankets in one’s own bed?
I thought compliance with fate would come, but it never did. Reasons beyond my understanding did not allow my soul to submit to this upended view of my reality. The urgings to fight were provocatively primitive as I struggled for each labored breath. My chest tightened and quivered as if being beat on by the hands of death, knocking at the door to what would be my passage to the afterlife. I looked into those warm eyes above me as if they were a beacon, calling me back into the land of the living. I gritted my teeth to conjure a bit of confidence as I felt the paramedics lift me into a stretcher, snagged away from the safe harbor of my companion. In the ambulance, I could hear them talking back and forth, chattering as if they were ordering a pizza on a late night study binge in college. So much light blinded my eyes, I thought they were checking my sight to see if my pupils had finally dilated and succumbed to the ravages of the beast that no one escapes.
The arena of life and death come to a screeching halt as I hear the voices of more friends. My body, no longer under consumed by the inevitable jaws of natural annihilation is sitting on a hard, fake leather seat of a 1950’s school bus. As I regan my bearings and look around. I realize it’s just another morning school bus ride. I am no child, however, but an adult at my present age. I shake off the rampant vision of my own demise, certain that even though the perception had been gruesome that I was no less closer to stepping through the portcullis as my associates on this morning ride. I tight my head sharply as I notice the red bracelet gracing my left wrist. Stifling a wry chuckle, I managed to smack my head on the glass window to my right. Ouch!
“Hold still,” I hear another voice say to me. Her slate blue eyes, although icy hold nothing but promise of something else within them. Like the depths of the unexplored ocean, I am mesmerized by her stare. I let her inspect my head for damage from the blow. As the scene widens it’s scope, I can see that the bus is full of friends from Deeply Rooted. I feel her gentle finger tips inspect the bump on my head. “You hit that hard,” she states in a voice that’s rather lucid, a contrast from the earlier memory of my supposed passing.
“It’s fine,” I take her hand into my own and kiss the tips of her soft fingers lightly. “I’m dreaming,”
She laughs but the tone is strained, nervous, “No you aren’t, uh” her voice suddenly becomes a bit concerned and sounding less self-assured, “Wait, are you?”
“Look around. We’re sitting on a school bus full of peers, riding to some unknown destination.” I look at her.
“Your eyes are turning red,” she notices. My hazel eyes have a distinct ring of red that usually appears when I am focused or channeling something, usually in the midst of writing or experiencing a vision in the waking world.
“I know,” In an attempt to comfort her worries, I brush my hand mildly against her warm cheek. I am thankful that even though she has been gone for so long in the waking world that my mind can still produce the texture of her skin for the sake of my own dissolution.
Some one stands up in the back of the bus and begins yelling. They are joined by more people. They are shouting so loudly that it almost turns into a type of torture. Some of the phrases are heard clearly, some of them are muffled by rage or something more. My dear friend looks concerned, her breathing rapidly increasing and her eyes unfocusing. It’s been one of my observances when she begins to lose control of her thoughts. She goes within herself. I’m unsure if I should begin to comfort her. As some one throws a bag of garbage behind our heads, I stand up, rage within my eyes. I am prepared to protect her at any cost.
“It’s time for your medication, Mrs. Frank.” The voice brings me a feeling of nauseous disgust. While the nurse may be attempting to sound cheerful, I can tell by her body language that the sentiment is forced and unfeeling. The scene has faded away from the school bus of angry peers and the dear, old friend that brought me comfort even in the midst of the Chaos. It is now a medical facility and I am standing in a plain medical blue room with little adornments to give it character. There is a few chairs set in a circle to my right. The frosted windows give the impression of the light of day, but offer no vista to make the setting seem remarkable.
I crack a vicious smile to the pretty little brunette nurse, “I don’t need your fucking medication.” My voice must be menacing or perhaps the red ring around my eyes is intensifying around my pupil. She steps back hesitantly as if her cocky attitude is weighing its self against my insanity. I see the orderlies sprout from the shadows like early onion crops unfurling from the austere wintry soil. They probably tasted as much like those onions if I cared to take a bite from one of their arms as they thoughtlessly grabbed me and attempted to thrash my body into submission. I resisted, laughing the entire time. “I don’t need it, you little bitch, because I’m DREAMING!”
“Oh not this shit again,” she mumbles under her breath.
“Come again?” I say, using my leering smile and gaze as a way to fend her off. “I didn’t hear you! You see, I’m dreaming! I have this!” I struggle to to raise my left arm to show her the ornate bracelet that has regularly followed me in dreams and acted as a trigger object for lucid dreaming. As I endeavour to prove my point to the curt little creature in front of me, I realize my bracelet is not how it used to appear. Instead of the beautiful, crimson beads, charms from visions past and the plume of the red tassel at the end, my bracelet is little more than a few twisty-ties stolen from some cheap bread bags and woven pitifully to form a ring. Even the orderlies allowed themselves a brief chuckle at the encounter. The nurse now returned the reptilian smile of arrogance and the cruel stare as she waved her hands for the burly men to hold me to my knees.
“Ah shit, what the shit… come on…” I’m cursing as pills are jammed down my throat thoughtlessly and nearly drowned with the cup of water that is supposed to help me swallow them. I’m still in disbelief over the condition of my bracelet.
“Now, wipe that stupid look off your face and come with us. It’s time for group.” She spat in my general direction. I felt the overbearing strength of the orderlies dragging me helplessly from medication room into another area. “Horse cocks, they don’t pay me enough for this shit.” she finishes as she disappears from view.
As I am summarily disposed of on the hard white-tiled floor, I grumble in anger. My burly chaperons look down at my pathetic, spit-stained vessel, hair most certainly a fright and clothed in the vestiges of the insane and whisper something to themselves. Just makin out their laughter, my ire begins to rise indefinitely. I begin to retort with another barrage of obscenities, but I am brought to relative calm by a familiar voice. I look up from the sterile ground and let my eyes focus on the person speaking to me. At first, the words are hard to hear but the voice is so calming that I am able to put my anger aside for just a moment.
“Kim,” the soft voice offers.
“Oh, uh… hello.” My voice has gone from the shrill of panic to the sing-song tone of a nutter. Well, might as well play the part, I think to myself.
“Would you like to join the others for crafts? We’re making sculptures out of clay.” His dazzling serene eyes of azure and voice that sounded like the noise trees make when they shift in the wind.
I sigh gently. “Sure, I’ll play your game.” I look around the room to see drooling masses of patients in their medicated haze deftly pounding on pieces of clay around a rectangular table. Lifting myself off the ground with little trouble but some assistance from the doctor leading the class, I make my way to an empty chair. I’m sitting directly in front of a gruesome she-beast, a woman in her mid 50’s looking like she was as much a stranger to sanity as she was to personal hygiene. I plunged inward for strength and self-control as I had done a thousand times before in the life before this one in a vain attempt to conjure the ability to keep from vomiting from the smell of her. Even her greasy fingernails seemed coated in a filth that hadn’t seen the slippery side of soap and water for nearly a decade. Why must I endure this horror? I think to myself. What on the Goddess’ bright oblivion have I done to deserve this?
The she-beast’s voice crackles in an attempt to dislodge some mucous from her throat, “You killed your baby,” Her accent is a distasteful version of a Northern Kentucky accent. No grace or romantic flair to offer to the table, just the hideous stench of her breath flanked by a tone that sounds uneducated and pathetic.
“I most certainly did not,” I shoot back at her. Even though the memories are fuzzy from the mind-numbing concoction of drugs downed earlier, I am still able to faintly recall having this conversation before. “I don’t have any children so killing my baby isn’t possible.”
She-beast laughs obnoxiously, drawing the attention of not only the attending doctor but also patients around us. Their dull eyes looking up and listlessly staring at us as if trying to regain some kind of dignity. The faces are all familiar, all people that I know except for the she-beast sitting across the table, pounding her clay the way a toddler plays with their food. My hands are busy crafting something skillfully. I work the clay as if I’ve done this a hundred times before. I feel the leader of our group, my kind, blue-eyed doctor leaning forward.
“Not this again, Kim.” He says. “We’ve been through this before.”
“But this,” I stammer meekly. I look down to see the whole of the city of Athens expertly laid out in clay sculpture form. Roads, trees and tiny houses dot the scene as well as a very familiar looking school bus. “This is what I know, this is what I’m supposed to remember.” Even my own words are confusing me at this point. She-beast is now laughing uproariously at me now, her uni-brow knitted in amusement and barbarism.
He sighs, trying to regain control of the situation with as little resistance as possible from either me or the she-beast. “What do you remember, Kim? This place isn’t real.” His voice is attempting to sooth me, but in vain, I find myself struggling against his attempts.
“Yes it is!” I say with a voice full of confidence and perhaps a bit of defiance. He doesn’t shrink back. There is no intimidating this individual. He is as certain as the rising sun and just as calm as waves coming in for high tide. Nothing I’m about to say is going to shake him or rock his stance. You can’t fight gravity when you’re already falling, I find myself reflecting upon the notion of futility in this matter.
Before he can say another word to convince me of this supposed reality, I find myself sitting back on the school bus. The attitude of those grown individuals hasn’t quelled its self but has escalated severely. For a moment, I am holding the palm of my hand against my forehead, trying to cope with the angry voices roaring back and forth at each other nonsensically. No one is listening to each other. My blue-eyed seat companion is no longer beside me now. In her place is a baby seat, rear-facing with a tiny infant snuggled beneath the covers. She is sleeping soundly even amidst the chaos of the situation. I put my hand over the infant protectively to shield her from the onslaught of bags of garbage, spit balls and profanities behind flung allover the driverless school bus
Driverless. No direction and no influence from any supposed higher power. Just a bunch of trapped individuals quibbling over some unknown thought form that renders us all in a state of peril. I am the first one to see that as the school bus weaves through the dirt roads of Athens, Wisconsin and finally hits pavement that everything is changing dramatically. The virgin morning is no longer upon us with a promise of new adventures. It is now the sobering darkness of night that is upon us. No longer are we going to school, going home but flung into some unknown destination that leaves us unaware of what is about to happen next.
A rising tide flashes before the bus as it speeds ahead into the town. I feel my eyes narrow at the sight. Only myself and one other passenger are aware of the gigantic wave bounding towards the bus. As he looks back at me from a seat just further up the row, I can tell he and I are thinking the same thing. We both go to take control of the bus but in my attempt I am blocked by the baby seat. I roar a bit in frustration but know that the wave coming towards us is going to throw us all spiraling and gasping for breath. He manages to make it to the steering wheel of the bus but it’s too late. The tidal wave hits us.
All are sent flying from their seats as the torrent rocks the vehicle cataclysmically. The anger from before turns into panic as all begin to realize the full scope of our predicament. Instead of throwing garbage at each other, I witness a few of the other passengers and members of the community holding each other for comfort. The surge of water overtakes us and while some are futility bashing the glass windows next to their seats, others are sitting quietly, as if blindly accepting their fate. My blue-eyed friend at the steering wheel kicks open the door of the submerged bus and instantly the compartment floods with water, depriving us of what little oxygen is left. He rushes throughout the bus, attempting to grab as many people as possible before gravity steals away our senses. I am bracing myself over the baby-seat, protecting the precious infant inside. It is at this moment, I begin to black out.
I hear she-beast’s voice taunting me in my confusion, “This is the part where you killed your baby.” She laughs again, this time the noise is unbearable. Like the sound of metal succumbing to the pressure of sinking into a deep abyss. Like a submarine that strayed beyond the breadth of it’s abilities and is now being crushed under it’s own weight.
A group of people sit in a circle somewhere. They are arguing quite fiercely over some unknown debate. Some one rises and leaves. His seat casts a shadow of forlorn eternity. He is not among them any more. Some woman quietly cries in the distance.
Some one raps on my chest.
“Wake up!” He roars, his voice no longer subdued but rather irritated at the thought of me perishing so easily. He raps again as I turn my head to the side and gag up a lungful of the water. “That’s it! BREATH!” He commands viciously against my want of giving up and expiring on the scene. My eyes turn to the area around me and my brow furrows in some bewilderment. The bus is nowhere in sight, but rather I feel it has plunged underneath the surface of a newly formed lake. The town of Athens is in flames around us for some unknown reason and the rest of the passengers, those who remain stagger around in confusion. Then I hear a voice. Something I can’t put my finger on is missing but I am too busy trying to recover from my brush with eternity to acuratly pinpoint my
“Kim, where is your baby?” Some woman asks me. The realization that my child is not at my side sends pangs of icy terror through my already fragile beating heart.
“No, NO!” I scream sharply. I tear away from the hold of my rescuer. He attempts to grab me so as not to further injure myself and undo his efforts to save me. I manage to break free from the protective hands of my friend and race towards this rather out of place lake that formed in the wake of the tidal wave’s destruction. I hear voices warning me not to proceed but I ignore them. My child is trapped somewhere in the depths of that cold bus, perhaps struggling for air or perhaps dead. It is my duty to protect her no matter what the cost and no matter what the outcome.
As I plunge into the depths, I feel my shark spirit guides at my side. They help me reach the bottom of the murky lagoon with a great expenditure of energy. They seem to lurk on the outside of the bus, menacing guarding me from some unknown or unseen evil that may pose a greater threat. I manage to slide myself into one of the open emergency windows and come across, in the darkness, the sight of the baby seat. The infant is pale and motionless. I find myself clumsily ambling to undo the straps that bind her, the straps that are in place to save her life in the event of an accident are now the ones that keep her tied to the briney prison. With a bought of stubbornness, I roar underwater, expelling the last precious bit of oxygen from my already taxed lungs. The effort is not in vain because this motion caused the straps to become undone and the infant was now safely cradled in my arms.
As I struggle to the surface, I can hear the she-beast laughing and attempting to jolt me from my focus with her nasty ridicule. I grit my teeth again, no longer able to summon strength from oxygen but now from the energy stored in my muscles. I kick my way up, unassisted by the sharks at my side and finally find the surface again. People rush over to pull me out of the blackened depths, again to the safety of the shoreline. I’m gasping for air and nearly to the point of passing out. Concerned loved ones comfort me and I see the man from earlier over the infant.
I realize the infant is not my own. None of my five daughters look anything like this pale, porcelain beauty. She lays motionless, cradled in the arms of the man who gives me a foreboding sense of doom that is reflected in his cerulean eyes. Taking a deep breath, he puts a hand over his clean shaven head and says with some trouble that the infant is not viable. I grab the child away, I feel people around me are beginning to form a decision to part me from this child.
I begin compressions on her tiny back, the way I was taught to do in infant CPR. I give a few quick puffs as I am swearing I am also calling out to the deities that have been my life-long companions. I hear no response but I keep trying despite the futility of my prayers being answered by them. There is the feeling of aloneness. But for just a moment, there is a ray of light that trickles into the blackness of my desperate attempts. The baby coughs. Her blue eyes open and greet my red-ringed hazel ones. I laugh uncontrollably as I realize I am no longer holding an infant but my companion who was seated next to me on the bus, full grown and now breathing heavily with a look of surprise in her expression.
The scene fades again to the barn structure at Deeply Rooted. There is a boy playing on the barn remenants. His mother isn’t immediately paying attention to him but at the last moment, I hear her attempt to cry in warning. The boy jumps from one part to another, falls short of his destination and lands perilously on the rocks below. His body is unmoving and there is an aweful lot of blood. People hurry to the scene in an attempt to help. The season is autumn as my breath unfurls from my lungs like plumes of smoke from the Lodge’s chimney. It is morning.
End of dream.