Phoenix

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Murmurs Among Friends

As the light began to slowly dim, Cassandra regained proper vision. She looked around her. The scene that unfolded was was nothing like she had ever seen before. To the right of her, where the lake once stood, was now a crystal clear turquoise body of water that glimmered in the sun. The sky above it was no longer black and ominous, but cloudless and blissfully blue. The sand wasn’t tan and coarse like usual, but white and soft like silk. Beautifully robust flowers and fruit grew everywhere that she could see. The laughter of children playing joyfully in the water heightened her own joy of being in such an alluring place.

“If I must dream while I await my certain death, this is the exact dream I would choose,” Cassandra told herself. A dream it must be. Nothing this magnificent actually existed, not where she is from anyway. To take in more of the overwhelming beauty, Cassandra began to turn slowly. To her horrific bewilderment, all that was on her left was the place she had thought she had left behind to entire this dreamland. A place that had always thought was truly breathtaking, now stained with the details of why she had taking her last breaths.

An absolute peace enveloped Cassandra. She could feel the same object in her hand, as her curiosity flowed, she flipped it back and forth. Finally, she looked down. “My phone,” Cassandra looked back at the stale, stagnant lake shores and then at the beautiful and serene sight to her right. She found that when she looked in the direction of the new lake, the peace increased. She felt so drawn to it. In fact, she longed for it. She longed to be with the happy people over. When she had turned to the place where such terror had ravished her, the peace was still there, but it diminished substantially. It frightened her. She turned from it and felt tears filling to the brim of her eyes.

“I’m still here, Cassandra,” that soft voice she heard came to her again. If this was a dream, how did this mystery person get there. “It’s ok. I won’t leave you, and I will keep you safe. We have some things to discuss,” the voice stated.

Cassandra felt all the residual pain leave her. She didn’t know where she was, she didn’t know what had happened after the bright light had passed over her, what she did know was that the overwhelming love, peace and joy that she felt made her never want to leave.

“Cassandra, will you walk with me,” the mystery shadow was speaking to her again, and it shook her out of her euphoric state. Part of her didn’t want to trust him as much as she did, but the other part deep down within her wanted to follow him and talk. Maybe she would just listen, or maybe that wasn’t what he had in mind at all. Whatever he wanted, a strong part of her wanted to be involved. He offered her his arm to hold onto, “ part of our walk will be difficult, but I’ll be there to help, as I always have.” The darkness of the mystery shadow started to fade away and underneath it was a teenage boy, or at least he appeared to be about her age. The calmness that settled her spirit for the past few hours intensified. The peace of his presence was something that she felt well acquainted with. He just said that he would be there the whole way, just like he had always been. What did he mean by that? The two walked down the shore line quiet for awhile. Cassandra welcomedthe rest afternoon the chaos that had abruptly disturbed her to her very core. As Cassandra neared the water’s edge she felt an energy that she couldn’t explain. All she could think of was that it was the same energy she felt around her mother.

“Mother,” Cassandra whispered.

“What’s that,” the boy asked? Cassandra couldn’t help but to be stricken by his voice. It was low and wistful. There was a melodic tone to every word. It was very clear that there was not an ounce of tension in his entire body. She couldn’t help but be very curious about him.

“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking about my mom. She must be very worried,” Cassandra realized that she had been so enthralled with her surroundings that she hadn’t considered what must have been going on outside of her fantasyland.

“Was that all,” that soothing, melodic voice questioned her. “ I am sure that you have some questions for me.” Cassandra was taken completely by surprise that he would say that. Was her sudden sense of peace and joy a false experience brought on by whatever they had drugged her with? Was she hallucinating as a way to escape the terrible things that had been happening?

“Well, no. I actually was curious about why you said that part of our walk would be difficult,” Cassandra sheepishly admitted as safe as she felt, she was concerned about the difficult part of the walk.

A brilliant smile crept across the face of the mystery stranger, “well, Cassandra, I don’t believe that is all you were curious about, but let’s walk this way. It’s not as bright and sunny as it is over here, but I have a purpose for both, I assure you.” He turned and looked at her, “ before we go on this part of our walk, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Paxton, Pax for short if you would like.”

Cassandra could feel his powerful gaze on her face. She turned toward him, “Pax... got it,” his eyes were a stunning brownish green with golden specks. His lovely olive complexion was absolutely becoming, and his thick, brown hair rested softly above his eyes. She wasn’t sure before, but now it was very obvious that he was her age. His eyes revealed so much depth and wisdom, though. How could that be?

Following Paxton’s lead, Cassandra turned toward the tree line slightly beyond the white sand dunes on the beach. Though the sand got dingy and the plants dulled the further they got from the tranquil energy at the fringe of the water, Cassandra’s inner voice told her that everything was going to be fine.

“Pax, back there you said something about being there like you always have. What did you mean by that,” Cassandra couldn’t wait any longer to find out more. This guy had just appeared in her literal darkest hour, after all. It’s not like they went way back or anything. The most interesting thing was that the people who had harmed her seemed completely unphased by the apparition looming over the body they had just dumped.

“Ah, yes, I knew that was going to come up again,” the mischievous smile that stretched over his face amused her. Humor comforted her. It reminded her of her father. He was always teasing everyone. She missed her weekends with him. Since Cassandra was very young she had divided up her time among her divorced parents. She hadn’t spent much time with her dad since she got her job. High school was enough of a challenge, but then adding in a job, friends and a boyfriend, she had simply lost track of time with her dad.

“Well, what I meant was that I have always been with,” Paxton informed her. “I have been with you your whole life.”

A puzzled look came over Cassandra, “ok, but what does that mean? I don’t know, I’ve never even met you until tonight.”

“ Oh, I very much beg to differ, Miss Cassandra,” Pax reaffirmed. “ Do you remember that night when you were young, and you stayed a holiday with your grandparents? There was a night that you were concerned about your older brother, Jared. I was there to comfort you.”

“That was you,” at a nod of Paxton’s head Cassandra continued with her questioning. “So, you’re... you’re an angel,” she gulped hard. “Jared had me convinced that I was dreaming. Actually, I’m pretty sure he had convinced me that I was crazy! Ugh, he never believes me.”

“I’m sure you are right about that, but that is only because you were the baby for so long, am I right?” He was right, and she knew it. Being the only girl in the family always kept her in the state of being made to be weaker than her brothers.

“I have been there through all of the ups and downs that you have seen. It’s my job,” Cassandra almost thought she saw a little bit of a smart alike smirk. The kind she was used to from the guys at school.

“So, if you are an angel, then that means I did actually die. Which means that this really IS Heaven. I thought that it was. I mean it’s so beautiful and peaceful; and those people over there are so happy,” Cassandra turned around to look back at the exquisite beach, but to her astonishment it was gone.

“No, Cassandra, you didn’t die tonight. However, after what happened, you are standing on the edge of the best part of you dying. If you do not proceed with extreme caution when I send you back, you run the risk of losing the gifts you were born with,” Pax suddenly looked stern. “Cassandra, you were born with certain traits, whether you believe it or not, that are very important to the future. You will change things for the better if you do the right thing, but you will change things and make them turn for the worse if you chose wrong. Are you ready to listen?”

Cassandra looked blankly into his eyes. Her mind was running circles. Nonetheless, she nodded her head in agreement. “Ok, good. Since you were a little girl you have had a strong ability to connect with your inner direction. It runs in your family. Most people shrug it off as intuition, but that leaves out the most important and true explanation. You have received a strong guide book, if you will, to all of life’s most pressing issues. Your family, more specifically the women in your family, all share this same gift. You have acquired the desire to listen intently to that guide book. In the times that you do listen and follow the way that it is directing you to go, you show everyone around you the peace that you felt on the beach when we were walking together. Sometimes life looks blissful and adorned with the magnificent poetry it is intended to bestow to you. In those moments I am there. Sometimes life feels like the place we are now. It can be dark and murky. Things are sad and the sadness can seem like it will never end. In those times, I am also there. I will always be there. If you will keep listening to that still small voice, that guide book, then you will successfully fulfill your purpose in life.”

And just like that, life made sense. The sickening feeling she felt when things were about to go very wrong, the undeniable sensation of confidence when she makes an amazingly correct decision. Moira and Genevieve always tell her to listen to her gut, and if something I’d right, she will know it. They also had shared with her that when things are wrong she will feel it. She looked down at the ground and noticed she was fidgeting with the hem line of her sweater. Something she had always done since she was a little girl.

“God has an enormous plan for your life, Cassandra Marie Quincy. What you are meant to do afte tonight will change the lives of many people. You must share the story to help others, but you have to follow the plan directly. Most importantly, you must quit that awful smoking. Your gifts will all die out if you continue to poison your body.”

“Wait... gifts, your keep saying gifts! As in plural, like more than one! What other gifts do you think that I have,” utter disbelief that she was good at one thing was enough, but now there is more than one to juggle? Yikes!

“Oh, yes, Cassandra. You are quit the creative mind with many great qualities and hobbies to accommodate those qualities,” her new friend seemed to have more confidence in her than she felt she deserved. “You will find all the answers to all your questions soon, I promise. It’s time for you to go back now, though.”

Blinking rapidly, Cassandra saw the bright light come across her face again. “You better be breathing still,” the rhaspy male voice of her captor that she had come accustomed to loomed over her once again. “She wants me to leave you here, but I can’t do that. Let’s go.”

Cassandra felt two large, rough hands wrap around her wrists and lift her torso up from the wet sand. Her head slumped backward, totally outside of her control. Whatever drug they had slipped was definitely still in full affect. This guy was clearly the lesser evil of the two that had kidnapped her. Still hurting her , with evil tendencies, but he obviously didn’t want her to die. The waves of the lake soothed her anxiousness as she was dragged across the sandbar.

The sirens slashed through the night sky, scarring off the harmonious wild life, long before the red and blue luminescence could. It wasn’t going to be long before the family and friends of Cassandra Quincy were combing through every square inch of the small midwestern town of Port Whitamer. No doubt that they would be completely oblivious to the fact that the person standing right next to them was possibly there for the wrong reasons. They would be calling her name, like they cared where she was. They would cry and hug her family when her body was found, like the cared if she was alive or dead. All the while hiding any traces of evidence that pointed in their direction.

“I hope you survive this, Cass.”

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