Nearly all great and epic stories – at least the unbelieveable ones, like sweet fairy tales – begin the same way. Therefore, so shall I. But my story is not sweet.
Once upon a time, while in my forty-third year, I was a married woman living in a small Tennessee town. My husband and I both had good jobs and were unencumbered by children nor weighed down with heavy debt like most couples our age. We owned a modest, two-storey, three-bedroom home which was full of Craftsman charm, all hardwoods, sleek banisters, dark transoms and a lavishly tiled fireplace. It was kitsch meets retro meets modern.
We’d spent quite a bit of time after we bought the place making it ours – renovating the kitchen and the two upstairs bathrooms, replacing a few missing lathed wooden balusters – but the little things which attracted us to the house initially like the fireplace tiles, and the tiny, odd-angle half-bath tucked under the stairs which we now affectionately refer to as the “Harry Potty,” were as yet untouched. Hubby had plans for landscaping and ideas for a garden in the back yard. I was busy with paint chips and clippings from interior decorating magazines. We were in no rush, as the place suited us just fine as it was, but it was our dream home so we just planned to make it… dreamier.
Hubby was an architect with a small, local firm. He didn’t have glorious or grand plans to make partner or to be the most well-known architect around, but he was very good at his job, and he loved what he did. He went happily to work every day.
I worked with a local non-profit which assisted seniors in need. I was currently working on a project which would fill a huge gap for low-income senior housing. I was satisfied there. It wasn’t easy, but the rewards far outweighed the challenges.
On any given evening, hubby and I would come home, cook supper, talk about our days, share our frustrations and our successes – usually over a beer or a glass of wine – and generally enjoyed one another’s company.
What I’m trying to say is, until that fateful evening when I was unceremoniously separated from myself, our lives were completely and totally normal. We weren’t looking for trouble; but it sure came looking for us. Well… for me.
That fateful Tuesday evening, hubby had gone to bed rather early, and I’d spent the last hour wandering the house, checking windows and doors, starting the dishwasher, transferring a load of laundry to the dryer, and sitting quietly in the den attempting to get through another chapter of my current book. When I found I’d read the same sentence six times, I decided it was time to call it a night. I flicked off the lamp at my side, rose from the armchair, then, suddenly struck, stood – stock still – in the middle of the room, listening intently. I felt the fine hairs on my arm and at the back of my neck rise, like hackles on a dog. Something was… off. I made another quick round of the first floor and, finding nothing out of the ordinary, climbed the stairs feeling both mentally and physically exhausted.
Soon, I found myself in bed, wondering how I’d gotten there. My exhaustion must have been such that I just drifted hazily through the motions of getting ready for, and into, bed. It didn’t take long before a heavy sleep overtook me.
I was startled out of the depths of sleep several hours later by a sound that actually made the house shake. The noise, deep and massive, reverberated in the air like the aftermath of a battering ram applied forcefully to a castle drawbridge. My husband and I looked at each other, confused, trying to make sense of what we’d just heard. If I had been the only one to hear it, I would have written it off as something which had happened in my deepest dream state, but he’d heard it, too.
Wide-eyed, we left our bed; he to check downstairs, and I to do a walk through of the second floor. I was more than a little uneasy. The sound, coupled with the uneasy feeling I’d had when I’d stood in the den earlier in the evening, were more than enough to raise my blood pressure. I could hear it pounding in my ears. Hypersensitive, I could almost identify every synapse of thought, feel each gentle drift of air on my skin, I could sense… something. Just out of reach. Nevertheless, I plodded, awake, through the top floor of the house, looking bravely for whatever had made that nightmarish sound.
When I’d checked the last bedroom and found nothing, I returned to the brightly lighted hallway to wait by the banister rail for hubby. While I waited, the lightbulb overhead sizzled, brightened dramatically, and, with an audible pop!, extinguished itself. I was plunged into darkness. Before I could draw breath to call for my husband’s assistance, something solid and colossal… upon impossible whisper feet… seized me from behind and, in one swift motion, thrust an arctic cold and unmercifully sharp shaft into the middle of my back. There was no escaping that grasp, nor the invasion of that frigid foreign object.
I gasped silently.
In slow motion, I watched, as the ghostly embodiment of my very soul was violently propelled from my physical body into a heap on the hardwood floor of the hallway. In an instant, I understood my soul, having been separated from my body, was dead. Curiously, I was alive. I suppose I assumed without a soul, one could not live. One thing I knew beyond doubt: whatever had been forced into my back, between my ribs and just to the left of my spine, left behind something dark, cold, and malevolent – and it was inside me. I could feel it writhing there, just underneath my heart. I never saw the behemoth who’d ripped me apart; he’d evaporated as silently as he’d arrived – only a vague scent of sulphur, the lighted and extinguished match, lingered to mark that he (it?) existed at all – the entire death of my soul taking no more time than the blink of an eye.
I began screaming. Horrible, terrified shrieks. Taking great, gulping gasps of air as I tried to breathe and scream simultaneously. Tears streaming down my cheeks, driven near to insanity as I realized instantly no one – not one person alive – would believe me. I slid down the wall into puddle of fear and self-loathing, coming to rest along the baseboards of the second floor hallway. When my husband finally arrived, breathless, at the top of the stairs, it was to find me still screaming and gibbering, curled into a ball.
“The blood! The blood! It’s in me. It’s there. It’s evil. Don’t you see the blood? Get it out!” I began thrashing desperately, flailing my hands toward my husband who tried, unsuccessfully, to get me to be still and calm. Finally, my typically non-violent husband resorted to a sharp slap across my right cheek which had the desired result; I instantly shut up.
“What are you raving about?” my husband asked me, not particularly kindly, for I’d frightened him. “I go downstairs for three minutes and come back to find you a hollering like a lunatic about blood and evil. You’ll wake the whole neighborhood with that racket you’re making.”
With hitching breaths, I stammered through an explanation. I could barely spit the words out; they felt ugly, thick, gelatinous, slug-like as I uttered them. And I was right, he didn’t believe me. I was crestfallen. He could not see my soul. He muttered some vague mollification about a waking nightmare, forced me to my feet, and directed me back to our bedroom.
As I sat on the edge of the bed, regulating both heart rate and breathing, he quickly disappeared into the adjacent bathroom for a glass of water, which, upon his return, he had to hold to my lips due to the violent shaking of my hands. On the floor, in the darkened hallway, dimly lit by the bedside table lamp, was my soul – lifeless, colorless – invisible to all but me.
The next day found me still in bed at eleven in the morning. My husband had been easily assured of my rightness and gone on to work, while I’d decided I needed a mental health day, and so called in sick. When my boss asked me if I was alright – apparently, I sounded terrible – I assured him I would be fine and just needed to rest. He told me to take as much time as I needed; he needed me well. I’d been supine since hubby had tucked me back in last night. Not only that, but sleep eluded me. The sandman paid no visit. No yawn escaped my lips. No drowse pulled down my eyelids. I remained completely and totally awake, covers pulled right up to my chin, listening to hubby breathe the evenness of untroubled sleep.
Truthfully, I was afraid to leave the confines of my bed. Nothing could sneak up on me if I had my back pressed firmly into the mattress. I couldn’t turn my head to the left, or I’d see my other self in transparent death repose on the hallway floor, so I kept my eyes averted, looking straight up, wondering if it was possible to count the little bumps of the popcorn ceiling. We should put driftwood planks on the ceiling, I thought.
Occasionally, I would glance toward the windows in front and to the right of me, hopeful the bright sunlight which streamed into the room would dispel the overwhelming feeling of malevolence and dread, but it did not. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to realize I hated those once glorious beams of light more than I’d ever hated anything before. If I hadn’t been so convinced it was dangerous to leave my bed, I’d have gotten up, closed the blinds and drawn the curtains tight against the sun.
Eventually, my need to use the bathroom outweighed my desire to stay safely in bed. Anything within me which had ever been brave had been virtually erased the night before, so, like a child who is afraid of the dark, I gathered what courage I still had, flung back the covers, and raced, pell-mell, for the en-suite bathroom a few steps away. I felt a vague relief once I’d slammed and locked the door behind me. The bathroom was so small that the Thing which had set itself upon me last night couldn’t possibly fit in there with me; I was safe.
The little bathroom, though far less comfortable than my bed, felt safer to me, so I stayed there far longer than I needed to, finding one excuse or another to delay my return to the bedroom. The delay was somewhat productive, however. The toilet got scrubbed, the sink got a good wipe-down, the bathtub got cleaned and, after that, since the bathtub was clean, I thought maybe a hot bath would soothe me. I ran a tub full of steaming hot water, added a couple caps full of bubble bath as an indulgence and a few drops of lavender essential oil. While the water ran, the bubbles gathered, and the aroma of lavender filled the room, I stripped down, feeling over-exposed even alone in the private little room.
Unintentionally, I caught a glimpse of myself in the small mirror over the sink and was forced to stop and look. Maybe I really was sick? My skin seemed gray, my eyes sunken and hollow, the irises, typically hazel, were black! What the hell? I leaned closer just to be sure. Yep; black. On a whim, I turned around to see if I could tell where I’d been stabbed the previous evening. I was completely unsurprised when found the livid red, puckered mark, about a quarter’s diameter, barely healed over and exactly where I expected. It had definitely not been my imagination.
Suddenly annoyed and freezing, I snapped off the water, and unceremoniously climbed into the tub, though I no longer felt the urge to bathe and the cloying scent of lavender choked me. The hot water, coupled with the cold emanating from my body, was supremely painful. The heat seared my skin. The pain was oddly pleasing and seemed to take my sudden irritation and fling it against the wall like a wet towel. I imagined I heard a wet SLAP! I submerged my entire head under the bubbles, under the water; holding my breath far beyond what I thought I could handle, until my lungs filled with the fire of strain, until, with a savage release of breath, I reemerged at the surface. I stayed in that tub until the water was as cold as I was.
One thing the long soak did for me was leech the fear from my body. Well, not all of it, but I no longer felt the need to race back to the safety of my bed, or keep myself locked in the bathroom. I laughed, mirthlessly, as I emerged from the bathroom and the unbidden thought ran through my head that I’d just come out of the closet. After all, didn’t they used to call bathrooms Water Closets? No, I didn’t really think it was funny, either. I felt… different. But then, I would feel different, wouldn’t I? I was soulless now. And that was something I’d need to take care of. I couldn’t leave my soul laying around on the hallway floor forever, could I? But, what would I do with it?
I’d never been a particularly religious person. I’d gone to church as a child because, when my mother had gotten sick, my father thought a little religion would save her. It didn’t. I had a basic understanding of the Bible, and was pretty well-versed in some of the more popular stories. I did believe in a higher-power, but not necessarily in the Bible’s version of the same. I felt my faith pulled from several religions, the basic and most underlying driver for me being to do unto others. Harm none. Give when and where I could. This had always served me well. But now I was faced with a challenge I’d never considered: Is it possible to live – really, truly live – without a soul? Could I pass, day to day, living as I was used to? Would I care? Would this blackness, which now lurked within me, spread to such an extent that I would begin to hate? To harm? To be selfish and greedy and all the things I’d always tried so hard not to be? There were no answers. Yet.
I pondered these things as I simultaneously searched my house for a means of storing, perhaps forever, my soul. The container I sought must be transparent to allow light to pass through; darkness, as the inside of an opaque box, would be detrimental. Or, so I believed. I was thorough in my search, but didn’t alight on anything I felt would suffice, so, throwing on some yoga pants and a tee shirt, slipping my hair into a ponytail, and sticking my feet into my ancient and well-worn Birkenstocks, I snagged my purse and keys and headed for the garage.
My car wasn’t fancy – it was a older model Honda Civic – but it got me where I needed to go. There was, in the next town over, a street entirely comprised of thrift, antique, and unique junk shops. It was to this street I steered my car. Everything made me angry on that short trip and I found myself wishing for a projectile weapon of some kind to aim at the idiots who thought they owned the road. At the very least, a paintball gun would have sufficed. My rage was all-encompassing; surprising. I was very lucky I didn’t purposely run someone off the road. I did, however, manage to keep it together until I arrived at my destination. When I’d parked my car and stepped out into the air, my rage burned away. The direct sunlight which I so abhorred earlier that morning had changed – being filtered by gathering clouds – and felt less intense. Still, there was hate under my heart. I did not like this at all.
The trip to Antique Row (as it was locally known) was quickly successful. I found a box made up of clear and rose pink triangular pieces of glass, fused together with solder in a way that bespoke a stained glass window. It had a hinged top, and four clear marbles as feet. It was about ten inches wide, six inches deep, and – including the small feet – about four inches tall. It was not normally something I’d choose – pink not being a color I usually preferred – but I knew it was exactly right.
After another rage-filled drive home, I climbed the stairs to the second floor hallway and stood, glass box in hand, looking at my ghostly, lifeless self. I moved toward it, slowly, uncertain if it would blow away on a gust of air caused by sudden movement, but it stayed where it lay. Could I touch it? Manipulate it? Would I even be able to get it into the box? Only one way to find out, I thought to myself.
I knelt down, placed the glass box on the floor, gently lifted the lid, and cautiously reached for my soul. The instant I touched it, I felt a searing, intense pain in my chest. A white-hot poker; crackling as if I’d been electrocuted. My soul glowed an intense white as I pushed through the pain to lift it and place it in the small box. How it fit was anyone’s guess, but it did, pouring itself into the box like water for a perfect fit. The second I released it to the confines of the glass casket – for that’s what the box was – the pain left me. Weak and shaking, I closed the lid. Holding the box to my chest, I sat back against the wall and remained there for an indeterminate amount of time.
In fact, I sat there until I heard, distantly, the garage door opening to announce the arrival of my husband, home from work. Shaken out of my entirely silent reverie, I clutched the box, rose from the floor, and placed it on the deep sill of our front-facing bedroom window.
Hubby came upstairs to find me sitting on the bed, dressed sloppily, staring at the glass thing in the window. He stood in the doorway of our room and asked, “Are you alright?”
“Yes,” I answered simply.
“What’s that?” he asked, nodding to indicate the glass box I was staring at.
“Nothing,” I responded. “Just something I picked up on Antique Row today.”
“You didn’t go to work?” he asked.
“No. I called in sick.” I said.
“Why?” he asked, concern lacing his voice.
“I needed some time. Last night really shook me up,” I explained.
He came over and sat down on the bed next to me, putting his right arm around my waist. I tipped my head and let it come to rest on his shoulder, still staring at the glass box in the window. We sat that way, silently, for several minutes.
“Have you thought about supper?” he asked.
“No,” I answered, suddenly realizing I hadn’t eaten all day and was not hungry in the slightest.
“Well, let’s go down and see what we can scrape together, huh?” he said.
“OK,” I intoned.
I allowed him to take my hands and raise me from my vigil over the glass casket containing my soul.
The next few weeks were, for want of a better word, different. And yet, they were very much the same. I felt my routine, one which I’d always been perfectly happy with, becoming uninspiring drudgery. I managed to keep up appearances, however, so, other than seeming to have fallen into a depression – which was, in fact, noticed by others – I felt I was doing rather well. My husband, on the other hand, did not. He felt ignored, hurt by my careless neglect of him. Confused by the subtle change in our relationship. Curious about my lack of inspiration for my previous obsession of interior decorating or my collection of paint chips. He felt the wrongness of me, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He asked me if there was someone else to whom I was giving my affection and, though I know it was an honest and carefully-worded question to which he required and deserved an answer, my abrupt and seething anger that he’d even suggest such a thing put him off that line of questioning entirely.
He asked me about the box in the window, and why I’d suddenly become obsessed with it. I responded, “You wouldn’t believe me.” Which was true. He didn’t believe me, having already told him what had happened.
“Try me,” he said.
“I already did,” I responded, somewhat testily.
“When?” he asked, suddenly irritated. “When did you ever tell me about that box?”
“I told you when I got it, but the box isn’t what’s important. It’s what’s in the box that’s important. I’m watching for changes.”
Now completely frustrated, he said, “Changes in what? There’s nothing in that box!”
“Like I said, you wouldn’t believe me.”
“Sweetheart,” said he, his tone more gentle, clearly trying a different tact, “how do you know I won’t believe you if you won’t tell me?”
“Because I did tell you and you placated me with nonsense about nightmares,” I responded truthfully.
Throwing up his hands in frustration, he said, “You’ve got to be kidding! This is about that night? Honey, I’ve told you and told you, you had a nightmare. A horrible nightmare, to be sure, but a nightmare nevertheless. That was weeks ago, and you’re still not over it?”
I sighed. Might as well have it all out in the open. “Something happened that night – just like I told you then – and I’m not the same person I was before. I’m changed. I’m different. There’s something cold and… evil under my heart; I can feel it there. Look at my eyes, for goodness sake! They’re black! My eyes should be hazel. You’ve seen the puckered scar on my back, right? Look at my skin! See how gray it’s become? There’s no amount of makeup that can fix this. And how it wrinkles and sags in places it never did before? And don’t you dare say it’s what happens when you get older. I’m only forty three! This kind of change does not take place in the span of a few weeks!”
He couldn’t deny having noticed the physical changes; I could see that clearly on his face. He would not lie to me, but he did not know what to say, so he simply suggested, “It could be stress-related. Maybe you should see a doctor?”
I stood, and in a dejected tone, I said, “A doctor cannot help what’s wrong with me. No one can.” And I left the room.
Several days after that conversation, I was sitting in our bedroom, as usual, staring at the class casket, when the doorbell rang. A visitor? I’m not expecting anyone, I thought.
From the top of the stairs, if you bend over just right, and if the person isn’t standing directly in front of the door, you can sometimes get a glimpse of who it is through the long windows on either side. In this case, I was not able to ascertain the caller, so I quietly made my way down the steps. I didn’t want the person, whoever they were, to hear me coming so I could pretend I was not home if it was someone I didn’t want to see – which was, truthfully, most people these days. I crept to the peep-hole and looked out. I was totally shocked to see who stood on the other side of the door and, with as much excitement as I could muster, flicked the deadbolt and swung wide the door, capturing my visitor in a hug which surprised him and nearly knocked him off-balance.
“Uncle Jay?” I cried. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, I happened to be in town so I thought I’d drop by,” he fibbed. No one just happened to be in my town. At least not any of my relatives. “Truth?” he said.
“I’d appreciate it, though I’m very glad you’re here,” I answered.
“Your husband called me. I think he thought you needed some cheering up and, as he didn’t know whom else to call, he called me. You’re not mad? He thought you’d be mad.”
“He and I will take that up later, but no, I’m not really mad. I happy to see you. Come in! Come in,” I said, ushering him inside, shutting and locking the door behind us.
I saw he was dragging a rather large suitcase behind him and, upon seeing me notice, he said, “I’m going to crash here for a few days, if that’s alright with you. Your aunt is teaching a pottery class this week so she won’t really miss me.” I felt the cold invader which lived just under my heart give a squeeze which surfaced as annoyance, but I kept it together.
“Absolutely. Let me show you to your room,” I said, and, like a bellhop at a hotel, seized his suitcase and bade him to follow me up the stairs.
“I’ve never been here before, you know. Once I’ve settled, would you give me the grand tour?” he asked.
“Of course. And while you’re settling – there’s a bathroom in the hallway just outside your room if you need it – I’ll make some coffee. Sound good?”
“Sounds great,” he said, approvingly.
I busied myself in the kitchen, having left my uncle upstairs making himself at home. I couldn’t understand what I was feeling. I loved him – or, I knew I should – but I felt nothing more than annoyed at having someone else in my home. I mentally slapped myself, understanding how silly I was being. I was glad to see him; it had been years. But the visit felt oddly forced. I guessed hubby calling him out of the blue requesting help for me… Well, we can talk about that over coffee.
He came down having donned a well-worn sweatshirt with BROWN UNIVERSITY emblazoned on the front, and a pair of jeans; there were no shoes or socks on his feet. He did, indeed, look comfortable. He smiled easily and accepted a cup of coffee gratefully, saying, “It’s a longer drive than I expected.”
“You drove here? From Florida? That’s crazy, Jay!”
“Well, your hubby made it sound urgent and I didn’t want to pay last-minute prices for a flight to Nashville and then wind up having to drive three hours anyway, so I just packed and left. Your aunt says hello, by the way. She asked if she should come, too, but I told her I wanted to see what was going on, first. Your hubby made it seem urgent,” my uncle repeated.
He was clearly trying to get me to simply open up and tell him what was – had been – going on, but I didn’t know where to start. I hesitated.
“You can tell me anything, you know. I won’t judge you.”
“I know,” I said. “But the truth is so unbelievable. Hubby doesn’t believe me, why would you?”
“Your husband said something about a nightmare,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Why don’t you start there?”
“That’s just it, Uncle Jay! It wasn’t a nightmare. Well, it is a nightmare; I’m living it.. What happened isn’t over. It’s still happening. My point is, I didn’t make it up. Hubby thinks I dragged part of a bad dream to the surface with me and am having trouble distinguishing what part is reality, and what part is nightmare. But it didn’t… I didn’t…” I paused, frustrated.
“Go on,” he urged.
“It’s so hard to explain,” I explained. “When I think about it, I really want it to be a dream. I want it to be untrue. I’d rather be crazy and locked up for the rest of my life. But it is true. I’m not crazy. I can feel it, it’s still in there, curled up under my heart, waiting. Wanting.”
“What are you talking about?” my uncle asked gently. I knew I was making no sense. And I understood I was going to have to utter the entire vile story aloud once more. Taste the ugliness of the words, feel their syrupy thickness. All of it was abhorrent to me. I felt suddenly sick. My already gray skin must have paled alarmingly because my uncle suddenly shot out his hand and gripped my shoulder saying, “Whoa there. Are you okay?”
“No. I’m not sure I’ll ever be okay again. But you might as well hear the entire thing. You’re going to judge me just the way my husband has judged me, but there’s no getting around it. It happened.” From there, and for the second time, I haltingly made my way through the whole, horrible story. Worthlessly, it turned out; my uncle didn’t believe me, either.
“Clearly,” said he, after I’d finished speaking, “you believe this thing that happened to you is reality, sweetheart, but it just cannot be. Colossal beings with ice daggers just don’t exist. Moreover, they don’t appear and disappear silently on whiff of smoke. Those are fairy tales, honey. Granted, you do look a little off-color and kind of haggard, but your husband says you barely sleep, and you haven’t eaten in days. Is that true?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said simply. I was suddenly mistrustful of my uncle, but didn’t know why.
“Well then, let me take you out for dinner and when we come home, let me take care of you for a change, yes?”
“Yes,” I said again. What else could I say?
We had (I can’t say enjoyed) a meal together at a little hole-in-the wall Mexican restaurant I typically favored. My uncle praised the place and ate heartily. I barely touched my food – it had the appeal of cardboard – and only vaguely tasted my usual frozen margarita. But I feigned engagement in the conversation, my uncle making a concerted effort to discuss anything except why he was here or the story I’d told him. I felt as if he was purposely avoiding something.
When we’d finished eating, we walked around a bit. It was hot out, and I was not in a good mood; the heat making it worse. Finally, trying to choke down words which should remain unsaid lest I injure my uncle’s feelings by giving them voice, I bit my tongue so hard it bled and suggested we go home to get out of the heat. He agreed, though tossed in a side comment about being used to the hot and muggy Florida weather. Through all his forced good humor, though, he seemed unlike himself.
We drove the short distance home and when we arrived, hubby was there. He and my uncle slapped one another on the back in greeting, along with a firm handshake and a awkward man-hug, then spent a good long while chatting over another cup of coffee; ignoring me. Unneeded, I wandered upstairs and took up my usual post, keeping vigil over my soul.
That night after dark, there was a heavy pounding on the front door. I was still awake – having not ever achieved sleep – and was so thoroughly startled, I froze. Hubby, looking at me oddly, got out of bed, drew on some jeans, and, as he left our room, ran into my uncle in the hallway. They descended the steps together to answer the insistent pounding.
I sat up in bed, listening intently. There was urgent, whispered conversation drifting up from below. Who in the world? At this time of night…? And what are they arguing about? I thought. In my new way of knowing things I should not, or could not, know, I understood at once I was not safe. I should hide. I hurriedly put on my ever-present yoga pants and Birkenstocks, yanked on the nearest shirt (an ancient Girl Scout tee) and slipped quietly from the master bedroom to the adjacent empty bedroom at the end of the hall. I hid, literally, in the closet, among all the winter clothing we stored there once springtime hit. It was dusty and the air was pungent with the scent of old ski boots, wet and dried many times over with snow and sweaty feet.
Silently, I sat among the dark clothes and boots, tucked into a corner, mostly hidden by a long, deep sage, woolen coat. It, too, smelled rank. Maybe I need to get rid of it, I thought.
Sudden heavy steps moving upward. The closet I occupied was, essentially, directly above the staircase. I could feel the reverberation of each step as multiple sets of feet moved upward. Toward me. My heart was beating so hard I became convinced it would give me away. The evil Thing in my chest stretched; anticipating. I was cold all over.
“She’s not in here,” someone said.
“What? I just left her there,” said my husband.
“She couldn’t have gone far,” my uncle put in.
“Find her. Now. Split up. You, grab that damn box!” said the first voice.
My box? My soul? I thought, suddenly even more terrified. Beyond all capacity to reason, and in a panic to save my soul, I burst from the closet and nearly bowled over a stocky, dark-haired man in a white medical coat, like you see in laboratories and doctor’s offices. What the hell? I thought.
“She’s here!” he hollered. “I’ve got her.” and he made a grab for me. I anticipated him, though, and slipped past him out into the hallway only to come up against a wall of three other white-coated men, each with a similar look of urgency and… disgust?… on his face. The man behind me gave me a sudden sharp shove between my shoulder blades and I fell forward into the waiting arms of the three in front of me. I struggled violently. Screaming, lashing, trying to get away. Begging my husband and my uncle to do something. But they both stood back, looking uncomfortable, yet determined. “This is for the best, honey. You’ll see. I made my choice a very long time ago. You’ll have to make yours eventually, too,” my uncle said, cryptically.
“Yeah, for the best,” repeated my husband, who was wearing a look of both relief and concern.
What choice? I thought.
“Stop her from screaming,” yelled the Lab Coat One.
SMACK! Someone slapped me across the face, hard, but that only served to enrage me further and I doubled my efforts to escape their grasp.
“Give her the box,” my uncle suggested calmly.
“Give her the box,” he repeated, clearly enunciating each word.
My husband stepped forward, handed the box to my uncle, who leaned over me and held the box where I could see it. Looking me straight in the eyes he said, “If you struggle, you’ll break this. Be a good girl and hold still for these nice men now and I’ll give you the box, okay sweetheart?” His placating tone annoying and syrupy. I didn’t want to obey him, but I really didn’t want my box to come to harm. It contained the most important part of me. I got the feeling they weren’t really going to let me have my soul back, though, but I had to try. I held still and shut up at once.
Lab Coat One said, “Let’s go!” and each of the four men took hold of one of my arms and legs. There I was, in the second floor hallway of my own house, being bodily removed like a common criminal. Or a crazy person. That’s it! They think I’m crazy! They’re taking me to the nuthouse! I thought, realization coming too late. I was just about to start struggling again when my uncle put the glass casket on my stomach, keeping his hand on top so as to make sure it didn’t fall during the trip downstairs. The descent was awkward, to say the least. The four men in charge of my appendages tried to get my uncle to remove the box, saying it was making their job difficult, but he retorted that he’d promised I could have it, and so I would. It was staying where it was. I did not trust him.
My husband had hurried down the stairs to open the front door again and I was swiftly and unceremoniously removed from my own house. Parked on the street in front of my house was a mid-seventies Ford pickup truck which had, at some point, been white, but was now mottled with brown rust spots and Bondo. There was a mattress in the bed of the truck. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. The Thing which lived under my heart vibrated, almost as if it was purring with pleasure.
The white-coated men carried me to the bed of the pick up truck and hurled me in, two of them climbing in with me and securing my hands at the wrists into shackles bolted to the metal truck bed.
“Is that really necessary?” asked my husband.
“You’d better believe it,” Lab Coat One told him.
Lab Coats One and Two got into the cab, leaving Three and Four in the bed of the truck with me. The tailgate was down and my husband and uncle stood at the end of the bed, looking at me; one with sad, resigned eyes, the other with serious, but vaguely approving ones. The truck took off with a roar, spraying road dust on the two men as they watched me leave, tied down in the bed of an old truck on a disgusting mattress with two men in white coats. Neither of my husband nor my uncle waved, but I watched them until we turned a corner, lifting my head off the mattress and staring at them with accusing, hurt-filled eyes.
At least I still have my box, I thought. No sooner had the thought crossed my mind than Lab Coat Three said, “You won’t be needing this anymore,” indicating my glass casket which had fallen off my stomach when we started moving. Three looked at me with gleeful eyes, clearly pleased, brought his knee up, aimed the sole of his black booted foot at my precious soul, and kicked it right off the back of the truck.
“NOOOO!” I yelled. Which earned me a quick slap across the face. I lifted my head again and watched as the box which contained my soul shattered, and my most precious possession poured out onto the dirty road behind us, tossed over and over again, finally coming to rest by a sewer grate. And that, I thought, was that. I will never be whole again.
I turned my head to look accusingly at the man who’d just altered my life. He grinned once more, clearly enjoying the power he wielded over me, then brought his elbow down hard on my skull, knocking me out, cold.
When I awoke, aching everywhere it was possible to ache, it was to find myself in some kind of old hospital room. The flaking walls were a sickly green color, the tiles on the floor – also green, but darker – were broken and cracked. The bed, to which I was restrained at four points, and across my chest, was in the very center of the room, not touching any wall. I did not seem to be hooked up to anything, simply restrained. There was, directly over my head, a bare electrical bulb hanging from the ceiling; it was off. The only light in the room coming from a small eight by eight window in the room’s door.
I had plenty of time to seek out chinks in the armor of my prison; there were none I could see. Aside from peeling paint, cracked tiles, and a sour odor I couldn’t identify, there was little else. Not even a window to look out. The ceiling was of the drop variety with little holes which formed Rorschach-like patterns the longer I stared at them. I had no way to know how long I stayed, alone, in that room, but it felt like a very, very long time. No one came to check on me and I after a while, I needed to use the restroom. Finally, I started hollering, trying desperately to get someone’s – anyone’s – attention.
It was after I started yelling when I noticed almost by accident that, in the corner recesses of the ceiling, just above the door to the room, a tiny red light had begun to blink. They were watching me.
“HEY! I KNOW YOU’RE THERE! I KNOW YOU’RE WATCHING! I NEED TO PEE, DAMMIT! HEY! SOMEONE! ANYONE! PLEASE!”
I shouted myself hoarse. When my screams became gravely whispers and my throat felt like I’d swallowed shards of glass, when tears had finally begun to flow freely, a man in a suit entered my room, flanked by two Lab Coats. The suited man was huge, bigger than any man I’d ever seen. (Well, except one, and I didn’t exactly see him.) This man was pushing seven feet, if I had to guess, had sandy brown hair, kind of shaggy but in a well-kept way. His gray suit was impeccably fitted, his whiter-than-white shirt collar starched to within an inch of its life, his tie a violent magenta. A sharply-starched handkerchief, similar in color to that of his tie, peeked out of his coat pocket. His nails were groomed, his shoes were shined, and his face, with perfectly straight teeth as white as his shirt, wore a grin which definitely did not put me at ease. It was predatory. I was his prey.
“So, you’re awake are you?” asked Mr. Suit. “I was quite put out when they brought you in, unconscious. Will you accept my apologies for the brutal behavior of my men?” He nodded, indicating his two companions.
“I really need to use the bathroom, please?” having decided immediately upon seeing him, respectful and polite were my best chances of not being killed outright.
“Certainly,” he said with silky charm, and turned to the Lab Coats, nodding.
As they came forward, one of them said quietly, “If you struggle, or try to escape, you will regret it, do you understand?”
I only nodded. He must have seen what he needed to see in my eyes, because with a look to his white-coated partner, they began loosening my restraints. When I was finally freed and standing, I realized I was so weak I wouldn’t have been able to struggle or escape if I had tried. They led me to a bathroom just down the hall. Turning my head left and right I could see similar rooms to the one I’d been in, their occupants either asleep, or watching me with feigned disinterest.
The restroom was a one-holer. No window. No shower. No mirror. Sink and toilet, that was it. Plus, I noticed gratefully, necessary paper products. Absolutely nothing which could be used as a weapon or to exact an escape. I peed forever and it was a most wondrous thing. Finally, having emptied my bladder, flushed, and washed my hands, I could delay no longer and opened the door. Frick and Frack were immediately upon me, each taking an elbow, ushering me back toward the room from which I’d come.
Once I was reinstalled into my restraints, and Mr. Suit had assured himself I was comfortable, he began,
“I hear you had a pretty bad dream some weeks ago, tell me all about that, please?” It was clear he wouldn’t allow me to refuse.
I repeated my story, spitting out the slug-like words which so sickened me. I cried when I got to the part of my forever-lost soul. I couldn’t even reach up to wipe the tears from my cheeks; they reddened from embarrassment.
Mr. Suit – who’d never actually introduced himself to me – snapped the magenta handkerchief from his breast pocket and gently dabbed my face, icily eyeing the pillowcase. He glanced at one of his lab-coated minions, who, without a word, disappeared and reappeared a few minutes later with a fresh pillow. I didn’t understand why it mattered; they were just tears and the wetness didn’t bother me, but Minion One told me to lift my head so he could replace one pillow with another. As he did so, I caught a quick glimpse of the offending pillow. Where the wetness from my tears would have puddled, there were inky black stains. What the hell? I thought. Mr. Suit shot a furious look toward Minion One, who sheepishly glanced back and disappeared with the black-stained pillow, returning moments later empty-handed.
Recovering the original subject with elegant aplomb, Mr. Suit said, “What a terrible nightmare. I’m sorry you had to live through such an awful experience.”
“You weren’t supposed to,” he added, almost in a whisper.
“I wasn’t supposed to, what?” I asked.
“Live through it,” he said, absolutely serious.
“I’m supposed to be dead, now, aren’t I?” I asked, equally serious.
“Oh, you are. For all intents and purposes, you are dead. You soul, once removed, cannot live outside your body. Your body, without its soul, cannot live, either. The two are inextricably linked. Others… well, let’s just say you’re the first who has gotten this far without being stark raving mad.”
I thought about his words. “Then how is it I’m still walking, talking, thinking and feeling?”
“You don’t love anymore, do you?” he asked, almost apropos of nothing.
“Nothing tastes right or even seems edible anymore, does it?”
“No,” I said.
“You don’t, and further, cannot, find pleasure in things you once found pleasurable, can you?”
“Your color is fading, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
“You are easily angered, frustrated, irritated, annoyed…?”
“Nothing is fun anymore, is it?” he questioned me, with a false sympathetic look.
“No.” I couldn’t believe this. He knew what was wrong with me.
“For all these reasons, and more, you are dead. Your soul, which provided you with the ability to feel pleasure, see color, experience love – both to give and to receive – to moderate anger, frustration, irritation, annoyance, and gave you the ability to create and to be creative, left you the moment your body was separated from your soul. Your soul died instantly. I’m very sorry to tell you that particular death is irrevocable. You may grieve, but it is a waste of your time.
“Your casket, as you call it, was aptly named. The soul it contained was gone. You could see it because it was, at one time, part of you. In time, it would have faded so even you could not have seen it. Your husband couldn’t see it because you’d never truly given your soul to him, had you? No, I thought not. Your happy little life was just a cover. Trying to keep up with the Joneses, eh? Well, no matter,” he shrugged, absently. “What’s done is done.
“The Colossus – your name for the thing, not mine – is not of this Earth. Truthfully, he’s not of this Dimension. (Ah… your brow wrinkles in a peculiar way when you are confused. It would almost be endearing, if you and I were destined to become friends; which we are not.) The being wields incredible power – there are none like him in any dimension. He is called The Mortal One. It’s a misnomer, really, as he is immortal. Aside from his vast size, he has the ability to cross between his dimension and ours, essentially creating a temporary rift. It’s how he is able to come and go without being seen or heard. When the rift begins to open, it sends before it a heightened electrical charge. The hallway light bulb, if you’ll recall. When the rift seals, it leaves behind the sulfurous odor you described. His other power – one I particularly admire – is he can see between the dimensions. Not just between ours and his, but all dimensions; simultaneously. Further, he is able to target people who possess certain, shall we say, qualities? You, my dear, are Chosen.”
I lay, restrained, on my prison bed, listening to this man talk about things which were not true. Couldn’t possibly be true. Dimensions? Immortal beings with powers and sight beyond anything I could imagine? Chosen? Based on what qualities?
“Cat got your tongue?” He asked, and chuckled dryly. “It is quite a lot to absorb, but I assure you, you’ll know all in time. For now, I will leave you to ponder, as I can see you are already doing. All will reveal itself. Oh, and if you need to use the restroom again, please do refrain from screaming, yes? It makes things a bit… difficult… Should you require assistance of any kind, please simply touch the red button, there, by your left hand. It’s attached to the… yes, that’s it. If you touch the button, these fine gentlemen will be along shortly.
“One last thing,” he continued. “Please do not expect meals to be brought to you. You no longer require sustenance of the forms to which you are accustomed. You’ve noticed, I’m sure, how food and drink turns your stomach? Yes, well… you’re in transition now. Food is unnecessary. This is good. Yes, very good. Have a delightful evening.”
The monologue ended and Mr. Suit abruptly left the room, followed by his two minions. I was too stunned to speak. He had to be pulling my leg. No way all that was true. He was crazy! But… when I broke it down, it all fit. The major questions remain unanswered, however. What is inside me? What was I stabbed with and how did it eject my soul? What qualities made me a target? How am I chosen, and what does that mean? Why does Mr. Suit seem familiar? My mind awhirl, and still concussed from the earlier brutal elbow to the head, I found I was exhausted beyond reason, and sleep descended quickly.
That night, and in the way of dreams, I tried desperately to show my family what was inside me, lurking evilly under my heart. It was a cold, gray, gelatinous ooze. I knew what it was, though I’d never actually seen it, and further, it knew me. As proof, I had ‘infected’ a roll of toilet paper by placing a fingernail clipping deep within the roll. It had metastasized quickly – in only hours – so that, stabbing it viciously with a sharp knife, gray oozed out of the wounded paper roll. I was horrified. It was more awful than I thought. They still didn’t believe me, even with proof. They said I was playing a trick on them, laughed at my good – though creepy – joke. They maintained I had somehow infused the paper roll with gray gel. I had not, but could not convince them otherwise. In my dream, I cried and screamed, begging them to believe me, asked them to allow me to show them the process by which this had taken place, but they would not allow or believe. White Coats came and took me away in a straight jacket and I, thrashing against the dream restraints, thrashed against the true ones holding me to the bed so violently the bones in my left wrist snapped. It was pain which finally wrenched me out of dreams and into the waking world.
When I had calmed down enough to become aware of my surroundings, the little red light in the ceiling in the corner of the room was blinking. They were watching me again. I expected the appearance of Mr. Suit’s minions, but no one arrived. They watched. I waited. My wrist throbbed awfully. Afraid to sleep further, I watched the red light blink. I watched them as they watched me. I waited as they waited. I couldn’t tell if it was daylight or true night, as the room I occupied had no windows. I suspected they didn’t realize I’d actually done myself physical damage in my dream state, but I was beyond forgiveness. The monster I was becoming stretched itself in anticipation.
Every time I felt anger, It felt joy. Every time I felt hurt or sad or confused, It felt well, and happy, and oriented. I understood clearly that every negative feeling allowed the dark coil to grow. And grow it did, because I could not bring a happy thought to my head. All was pain and horror and confusion. I hovered near hate and loathing and fear. Each of these feelings allowed the monster inside me to fill the space so recently vacated by my soul. I knew I was becoming Other. Human, but not human. Chosen. But I did not understand. I hoped, yet feared, Mr. Suit would explain it soon.
I waited a very long time. The expected urge to eat never came. The expected urge to use the bathroom was only a vague inclination, never a dire need as it had been yesterday. Was it yesterday? It could have been last week or only an hour ago, I could not tell, but eventually, the door opened and Mr. Suit floated in, followed by his two minions.
Mr. Suit had changed his clothes. Today’s superbly cut ensemble was a solid navy blue, another crisply starched white shirt, and an almost neon yellow tie and matching pocket handkerchief with a small black pattern I could not make out. Every strand of hair was in perfect place, his shoes mirrored the dull room. His bright, insincere smile the same as the last time I’d seen him.
“Good morning,” Mr. Suit said smoothly. “I suspect you may be in some pain?”
He knew. Knew, but clearly didn’t care. Oddly, neither did I.
“It doesn’t matter,” I responded.
“Oh,” said he, “but it does. If you are pained, you are still quite early in your transition. If you are not pained, the transition is nearing its final stages. I need to know, honestly if you will, how you would rate your pain on a scale of one to ten?”
I wanted not to answer him. I wanted to defy this man. I was completely and totally at his mercy and while it was true to me that my pain did not matter, it was also true that it clearly mattered to him. Mentally, I did not want to give him the satisfaction of an answer. In my heart – and especially just under it – I could not resist responding.
“About a three,” I answered truthfully. “It’s significantly less now that it was when it happened.”
“Very good. Very good. And it’s your left wrist, I presume?”
“Yes, well… we will bring in the x-ray machine to determine the extent of the break,” he said absently and turned on his heel to leave the room.
“WAIT!” I called after him.
He hesitated at the door, his hand on the frame. With his back to me, he said, “I will answer all your questions, but not now. Now, I have other concerns.” And he left me alone with Frick and Frack.
The minions performed their duties as x-ray technicians, determining I’d broken both the ulna and radius right at the wrist joint – clean through both bones. I was shocked. The pain I was experiencing was so minimal I expected much less damage. Frick (or was it Frack?) told me they’d come back later to check on me – and x-ray my wrist again. No cast. Just don’t move and if it hurts, deal with it.
I was spending far too much time in my own head. Sleep was out of the question. Though it would be an escape, I wasn’t going through another nightmare. I’d had two too many lately, and both had damaged me in some way. The little red light in the corner of the room continued to blink, and I lay in bed, eyes open and as still as I could force myself to be.
It was hours later when the minions came back with the x-ray machine. They made fast work of their assessment, and tight-lipped, rolled the machine away again. About fifteen minutes after they left, the door opened and Mr. Suit stepped back in – alone this time – and closed the door quietly behind him. He didn’t come further into the room, but stayed by the door.
“We need a sample of your blood,” he said, without preamble. “You can give it willingly and it will be easier, or we can restrain you further and take it anyway. Which option do you choose.”
My response surprised even me, as it was given without hesitation and further, without my permission, though it was the absolute truth. “You may take whatever you like from me. I will not fight.”
Satisfied, Mr. Suit stepped closer. He held in his hand a large syringe – the largest one I’d ever seen outside of a television set – and he moved with intent toward me. My horror became glee. I wanted him to take my blood. I held perfectly still, moving only my eyes to watch him as he jabbed – not gently – the needle into the crook of my left arm. I expected to see red blood – dark, thick, life-giving blood – fill the syringe, but what I saw in the clear syringe shocked me, even in my totally calm state. The syringe was filling with a thick, gray substance. Not unlike the ooze which had come from the stabbed bathroom tissue roll in my dream. I gasped, unable to help it, and Mr. Suit looked up at me from his focus on the syringe.
“Not what you were expecting?” he asked.
“No. And yet, yes, exactly what I was expecting.”
He just looked at me thoughtfully and went back to the needle in my arm. The ooze was slow to fill the large syringe, but at last he finished, capped the needle and left me alone again. The only evidence of his having been there at all was a small, gray drop and at the injection site in the crook of my left arm.
Several hours later, Mr. Suit returned. This time, his minions followed him into the room and stood just behind him, one at each shoulder. The trifecta might have been intimidating a few days ago, but now I simply didn’t care. I was no longer I, but we. And ‘we’ was more and more becoming ‘It.’ I was slipping away from myself. I knew it and I legitimately did not care. This transition – as Mr. Suit called it – was a painless process. I waited, in silence, as Mr. Suit decided where to start.
“I must congratulate you, my dear. You are the first to successfully transition. You have nearly Become. There is only one last thing which must take place before you can begin. We have but little time now, and I know you have questions.”
“Why?” I asked. This seemed to be the best and only way of asking him what I wanted to know.
“Why?” he repeated. “Ah… this is so complicated even I – intimately connected as I am – do not understand the whole of it, but I will do my best to explain.
“You have certain qualities which The Mortal One has been looking for for centuries. His role – if you can call it that – is to keep balance between the Dimensions. He is known in this dimension as Death, or the Grim Reaper or other such names. He collects souls and guides them to the netherworld which, contrary to popular belief is not Below. Neither is it Above. It is simply another dimension, side by side with this one. It is how we can explain sightings of ghosts – vague impressions of loved ones passed. The veil is thin, and though most mortals do not have the ability to see beyond it, some do and can see. It is also how we explain things which disappear and reappear. For example, have you ever lost your keys? You could have sworn they were on the counter and yet they weren’t, nor were they in any place you could think to look, but when you came back from a fruitless search suddenly they were on the counter again?
“The Dimension of Souls is guarded by The Mortal One. More accurately, he is not just the guardian but the supreme being in that dimension. Occasionally – once every few millennia – The Mortal One is given a choice: Become that which he guards or continue. How the choice is given – and by whom – we do not know. But The Mortal One can, essentially, terminate his contract and become a soul; protected forever, neither in pain nor sorrow, simply in rest. Or, he can continue on, in the mortal realm, forever. The catch is: The Mortal One must find his own replacement. This is where you come in, my dear. Firstly, all Mortal Ones have been of one maternal lineage. Therefore, after millennia, there can be many options but only One can Become. It’s a family business, so to speak.
“You’ve seen ghosts, have you not?” he continued.
“Yes, several times. I…” I began.
“You do not need to elaborate. It is enough that you have seen,” he interrupted. “You have lost and found things as I described, have you not?”
“And the biggest is that you have never truly loved anything, am I right?”
“True love? I loved a puppy once, but I don’t think that’s what you meant.”
“Then no, I have never truly loved anything. Or anyone, for that matter. You were correct earlier when you said, ‘Keeping up with the Joneses.’ My whole life was a lie.” This did not sadden me. It was simply true.
“But you were not mentally ill,” he continued, “in any sense of the word. And therefore, you are Chosen. You have the correct lineage, the sight, you have unknowingly reached through dimensions to find things which were lost, and you have never truly loved. You can act the part, but there is falseness behind it. You are The Trifecta. The Chosen. And you will Become.” he finished with a flourish of his long-fingered hands and a flash of white teeth.
All these things seemed trivial to me. I’d seen ghosts since childhood. Several times they’d tried to converse with me, but I’d never allowed contact. I was always good at finding lost things. I could close my eyes and almost will a thing back into existence. It terrified my parents and was, truthfully, why my father abandoned me so easily after my mother died. My husband simply thought I was good at finding things. I would never have been able to explain it otherwise. He was not a believer in ghosts and what might be called magic. What Mr. Suit said was as believable to me as the fact that I had hands on the ends of my arms and feet at the ends of my legs. It just was.
But I found it harder to swallow the lack of love thing. It was true. I knew it. The thing under my heart knew it, too. But in my head I wanted to believe I’d loved and loved truly. Had I not married my husband? That was love, wasn’t it? I was wrecked when my mother died and my father left me. Though now that I was examining things more deeply, I wonder if I was simply uncertain of how to move forward rather than upset over losing people who should have loved me but were scared of me.
I’d never shown my true self to my husband. It’s how he never truly received part of my soul as most married couples do. It’s why he couldn’t see my soul.
“What did The Mortal One stab me with?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s an easy one. The Mortal One used one of his own ribs. He is ancient, and his bones are crystallized, but regenerative. The essence of The Mortal One was transferred to you through that crystal of bone. Your soul couldn’t exist after The Mortal One placed part of himself into you and so your soul died so you could Become. Further, bearing part of The Mortal One within yourself would ultimately decide if you were capable of Becoming, or would simply die.”
“What am I Becoming?” I asked, though I already knew the answer. I just wanted to hear him say it..
“Oh, my dear,” said Mr. Suit with a raised eyebrow and a look of doubt on his face. “You cannot tell me you don’t realize the truth by now?”
I lied. “No. I don’t.”
He nonchalantly looked at his watch. “Well, we are nearly out of time. Your wrist has healed completely. Yes, it has. You are nearly Become. The Mortal One will arrive shortly to give you the last piece which will transfer all of his vast power to you. He has made his choice. He has found his successor. He will become that which he protects. You are Chosen.”
Suddenly and inexplicably terrified, I turned my face wide-eyed to Mr. Suit and said, “How do you know all this?”
He grinned his vile grin and said, “I made my choice millennia ago.” And with that, he turned and left the room.
I could not lay still. I could not continue to be restrained. Though I accepted what was to come – how could I otherwise when I could quite literally feel the truth of it? – I would not give up without a fight. I pulled at my restraints and found them loosened, or more accurately I had strength greater than before and was simply able to tear them away. I rose from the bed, gingerly put my feet on the floor, remembering how weak I had been when Frick and Frack had walked me to the restroom days (weeks? hours?) before. But when I tested my legs, they held; felt strong. The hospital gown I wore was flimsy, but at least was tied tightly and I remained unexposed. The blinking light in the corner continued to blink. They were watching me. Let them watch, I thought to myself.
I flew to the door of the room, wrenched it open – my heart beating with both excitement and panic – completely unsure where to go, I simply chose a direction and began to run. I ran down corridor after corridor – the building was a maze – I passed rooms of people similarly restrained as I had been. Not one person yelled or tried to stop me.
Finally, I found an open staircase and ran, barefoot, down several flights until I arrived at what was clearly the large building’s lobby. Glass windows stretched on four sides, floor to ceiling. A guard desk with the guard conveniently absent. There was the front door; would I be able to get through? This was too easy.
The door gave way as I shoved it and I was suddenly outside, running down a concrete path which veered sharply left and paralleled the long side of the building then curved gently to the right and sloped down toward a dimly lighted parking lot. There were pine trees lining either side of the walkway. My feet were becoming sore, I felt breathless; my heart racing, but I kept going. Escape felt necessary. I had to try. Excitement? Panic? Weren’t they one and the same?
The parking lot was bare, save for a few cars. At the far end of the parking lot I saw a lone car – it was vaguely red under the yellowed lights. I had just started toward it when all the lights in the parking lot flickered, buzzed, brightened intensely, and then all extinguished at the same time with a POP!. Oh crap! I thought. And redoubled my efforts to escape; the red car my focus.
I’d barely made it to the car when I felt, rather than saw, a large presence behind me. I lept – one simple, easy jump – to the top of the car and spun around. A move only performed successfully by Hollywood stunt doubles. I startled myself. My body was moving with instinct rather than by any act or decision of my own.
The sight before me was so arresting I simply stopped running. The Mortal One. He was so physically imposing I knew any chance of escape was fruitless. And the thing inside me, which was once part of the ribcage of the being in front of my eyes, stretched itself triumphantly toward The Mortal One as if saying, “Yes! I’m here. I’ve been successful! Here is your Chosen!”
I was pushed off the top of the car from within my own body, like a magnet, the thing inside me attracted to The Mortal One. From my sudden vantage point, lying on my back on the black pavement of the parking lot in front of the research center (for that’s what it clearly was) The Mortal One looked down at me and said, “Thank you.”
With one last, deep, clear breath, I accepted my fate. Wide-eyed and aware, and finally, with a Vast Knowing, Became.
Credit: Jennifer Shell
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