The loft, Earth plane.
An indescribable moment later . . .
I instantly feel the cold overwhelm me. My body feels like it’s been packed in ice for days. Everything aches. Every muscle, joint, bone, and tendon—they’re frozen solid, not wanting to bulge an inch. On my chest is a folded-up heating blanket to stack on top of the three wool blankets I’m already covered in.
I try to open my eyes, and as I see Ricky and the others I say, “Scare crow . . . ”
I look to Ms. Josephine, “Aunty Am . . . ”
I see Billtruck shaking his head at his laptop, thumping it, “Tin man . . . ”
Ricky’s grinning around the syringe in his mouth. That big-assed needle, it’s for when my heart stops during one of my little voyages to the Deadside. Not if, mind you. When. He says it’s only a matter of time.
“I had this terrible dream,” I tell them. “There was this giant tornado. And there were witches and midgets, and this yellow-bricked . . . ”
And then I hear this soft voice. “So does that make you Dorothy?”
I blink my eyes trying to see who’s talking. I try to sit up but Ricky’s having none of that. And then I feel these warm little hands gently stroking my left wrist. I look over and I see Angela and Ms. Josephine sitting next to each other.
“I can explain,” I say, but then everything starts to fade in and out. I’m about to pass out, now. “I . . . can . . . exp . . . ”
Dying really takes it out of you.
3 hours later . . .
My mouth is so dry I can barely swallow. Like I’ve been chewing on dandelions, gargling lint fresh out of a dryer, after eating a bail of hay. My body temperature is rising its way back up and I feel a warm spot on the left side of my body.
Oh, I so hope that I didn’t wet the bed. I’ll never hear the end of it . . . ever.
My stiff neck doesn’t want to cooperate, but I use a combination of squirming and rolling and arching to turn to my left side. And beside me, curled-up like a small kitten, is the prettiest thing I know.
I don’t disturb her. I just let her sleep while I study her face. It’s so calm and quiet. She should be a painting, she’s to perfect. And I just keep watching her.
I’d like to put my arms around her and hold her, but I have neither the strength nor the courage.
So, I’m just content to lay here admiring her. Her body slowly lifts as she breaths in, shrinking slightly as her warm breath escapes. It’s so quiet we could be stuck in the middle of a dream. The only light in the room is the green glow that my digital alarm clock casts across us, making it seem like we’re still stuck in the Land of Sorrows. Just the two of us in this peaceful green place. She smells like expensive bath products, sweet and flowery.
Then, as I’m watching her, her eyes flutter open like a light bulb blinking on. She doesn’t yawn or stretch, or do any of the post-nap reactions that I’d expect. No, she just looks directly into my eyes, quiet as a period at the end of a sentence.
I swallow difficultly.
She swallows, her lips coming together to make a thin little line.
And then she whispers, “Hi,” with absolutely no volume in her voice. Just the air from her lungs making the sound as it passed her mouth.
Hi, I echo.
She reaches her hand to my face and with just the slightest touch she presses her finger to my nose like it’s a button.
What she sees in me, I’ll never know. Why she likes me, I’ll never fully understand. I just hope it lasts. I feel like every moment I spend with her could be the last one. As if, somewhere, there is a tiny silk thread holding us together and at just the hint of a vibration it might break forever.
My shrink would probably say I’ve got intimacy issues and an overbearing fear of loss stemming from one of my parents, that I don’t know, walking out on me as a child.
I’d counter that since I don’t remember anything due to my gross defect in long-term memory, that it shouldn’t matter one way or the other. He’d say that the proverbial house is crooked even though I don’t remember the poor construction. And he would probably be right.
Angela looking at me, my eyes trying to record each and every second she’s near me, she says, “Did you find her?”
I’m working on it, I whisper to her.
She blinks a couple of times, smiles, and then scoots closer to me, slowly closing her eyes. Angela curls back up in her little ball and she fades off to sleep.
And me, I’m just recording and downloading all of these images to my half broken hard drive. I need these memories. I can’t loose them to Cerebral arteriosclerosis . . .
Or to degenerative brain disease . . .
A tumor . . .
Or advanced schizophrenia.
Whenever I look at an inkblot of a butterfly, from now on, my default answer will be Angela. If this moment was a color . . . it would be white and silver and gold. This is that quiet peace and serenity that I will always hope for, again.
My eyes eventually become so heavy that I can’t fend off sleep, and I fade back into the darkness of my dreams. In a few hours we have to prepare to hunt evil.
And, where we’re going, it’s going to be a lot more like Hell than any of us has ever experienced.