Just another idea I am toying with
|Decisions, choices, instantaneous thoughts and feelings directing our day to day lives. Some choices are easy and have little meaning: Ranch or Italian dressing? Five sugars or four? Walk to work or drive? Some choices are bigger: buy or rent? Is this the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with? Is this the right time to have a child? We would always like to have time to make these decisions proportionate to their importance. The decision to have ranch can be made in an instant, but weeks can be spent dwelling on whether or not to make a proposal. Sometimes, though, the biggest decisions of our lives can be thrust upon us in an instant, and in the same instant a decision is made and a course of action taken that can change our lives drastically. It is in those situations that our true character is revealed.
Another day in high school, Kris thought with a sigh. At least it was football season, and he had Monday Night Football to look forward too. He hadn’t really decided whether or not he liked the fact that John Madden had retired. He liked Madden’s love and enthusiasm for the game, but found his between play banter and statement of the obvious a little trying. A sharp noise snapped his attention away from the clock. All the students around him seemed to have the same reaction, looking around kind of absently looking for the source. Another crack brought a worried look from Mr. Jones, the teacher of the History class that half of all the seniors had the pleasure of sleeping through. At first Kris thought a car backfiring was the cause, but quickly realized that it wasn’t coming from the parking lot, but from the hallway. In an instant he was out of his desk chair and at the door to the hallway. Two more blasts confirmed for both Kris and Mr. Jones their fear. Gunshot.
“Everybody down!” Kris barely heard Mr. Jones scream. Kris was already halfway down the hallway, running toward the increasing number of screams, and through the growing onslaught of students running past him. Against the grain, Kris nearly kept his pace all the way to the Commons area. Standing in front of him, in the middle of the circular shaped lounging area, was another student that he recognized, but failed to recall a name; one of the underclassmen that played on the football team with him, but never saw much time on the field. In one hand, the kid held a semi-automatic pistol and in the other a six or seven inch long knife that he held upside down and braced against backside of his forearm. Kris looked into his eyes and was taken aback by what he saw. He expected to see violence, anger, and rage, but what he saw was something far worse. He saw nothing, which he found scared him more than anything else could have.
With a quick glance around, Kris saw quite a few students crouched on the floor, and several lying on the tiled floor of the Commons. Kris wasn’t sure how many shots had been fired, nor did he have any idea as to how many rounds the pistol would hold. In what could have been an instant or an hour, Kris realized he had somehow advanced closer to the kid he didn’t know, and saw the kid’s eyes lock on a girl who hadn’t had the presence of mind to get down or run. With a blank stare of her own, she looked into the shooter’s eyes and saw her doom spelled out in the mirrored image of her own blank look. Kris looked back to the shooter and again moved toward the shooter without registering his feet moving. As Kris got closer, he watched the kid’s mouth move without hearing the words. “Do you believe in God?”
He didn’t wait for an answer. The click of the trigger, the hammer striking the pin, the pin igniting the charge. Kris could have sworn that he heard each phase of the gun firing as he closed his fingers around the barrel of the pistol. He was aware of a pressure against his shoulder blade from the inside out, but only barely. As he tried to pull the barrel of the gun down toward the floor, he pushed against the back of the kid’s knife wielding hand for leverage. For some reason, in that instant, he remembered the kid’s name, Nick Davis. A wide receiver on the JV team that spent most of his time on the bench due to poor grades or violation of school rules rather than lack of talent.
In the next instant, Kris saw the look on Nick’s face change, and then, he was sure, saw it change again. The second and lasting look he knew was a look of terror and shock. As the light started to fade in Kris’ vision, he saw the knife Nick was holding buried to the hilt into Nick’s black shirt. Kris joined his fellow fallen students on the tiled floor of the Commons. The sirens seemed to get closer, and then fade to nothing along with his vision.
The darkness was still there when Kris once again became aware of being conscious. It was a blacker black, a deeper void of light than he had ever been aware of. It reminded him somewhat of when his family had once taken a vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota and visited one of the caves surrounding Mt. Rushmore. The name of the particular cave escaped his memory, but the clarity of the trip down the elevator surprised him. They had walked through several different caverns when the tour guide asked everyone to hold on to a railing and then killed the lights. This was almost the same as that, but there was still something different. Standing there on a metal platform next to his parents, Kris had felt so alone even though there were fifty or so other people standing there with him. His heart rate had gone up; he had even started to sweat a little despite the coolness of the dark. Then, as if someone or something wanted him to know how alive he was, Kris could feel the slight movement of air of the cave “breathing” float across his body, evaporating the sweat and cooling his skin.
That was the difference here. There was no breeze. There was no feeling at all. Unaware in the total darkness of where he was, Kris held his hand in front of his face. Or did he? He thought he did, but had no way of knowing for sure. It was then that he came to a second realization. Kris had no idea whether he was standing or lying down. It was such an interesting feeling to not have any feeling. Shouldn’t he be able to at least feel pressure on his feet or his back? Where was the tug of gravity? He could be standing on his head and he wouldn’t know it. A little more frightened, Kris was about to pinch himself when he heard an unfamiliar voice.
“He did WHAT??”
“I’m just telling you what I was told. He somehow made it all the way across that building and stepped in front of the barrel” a second voice responded.
“He knew better! We told him not to go anywhere near the scene! And now he’s dead and she’s not? Where is he? I want some answers!”
“Well, that would be the other problem. She was the only witness, and she’s not talking. Everyone else was either running the opposite direction, cowering on the floor, or had already joined us. He’s still waiting in transition.”
“What are you saying?”
“We have to send him back. There’s no choice. He is going to have to help her tell his story, or he will sit in transition forever. This brings me to our last problem. I don’t think he was acting totally of his own accord. I’ve gone back and taken a look, and while I am sure that most of the actions were his, he was being…well…pushed. I don’t know how they knew, but I am almost positive they did. They knew that he would want to help, and it didn’t take more than a push to get him there.”
“Are you serious? So what does that make him? Perhaps letting him cross isn’t the way we want to go. Perhaps letting him sit in transition is the best.”
“No, I don’t think so. If a person does good, even if being pushed by evil, the deed is still good. We know him. He may be a bit of a live wire, but he is no demon. The only way to get the answers we need is to let him cross. We have to send him back.”
Kris found himself at a loss. A loss for words as well as a loss for thoughts. He tried to place the voices, but found that not only one person came to mind but several, as if the voices of many people he knew were blended into one voice. The things that they had said were even more confusing. Send him back? Send him back where? Where was he? He could feel the anger welling up inside of him, and he opened his mouth to yell, to scream for someone to come and tell him what was going on.
As he opened his mouth to inhale, a gentle breeze floated across his body, once again reminding him of the tour through the cave. Quickly, though, the breeze turned into a wind, which in turn became a gale. Kris could feel himself moving, but had no way of knowing which way he was headed. He reached out for something to hold on to, but found nothing.
Callie walked slowly across her living room floor toward her bedroom. Her head down, her long blonde hair laying across her cheeks in unkempt fashion. Even though she had just left the dinner table, her stomach grumbled. She didn’t feel much like eating these days. Even when she was hungry, taking more than a couple of bites of food made her feel sick. She opened her bedroom door, walked inside, closed the door softly behind her, and lay down on her bed. She buried her face into her pillow and just lay there, motionless, trying not to think knowing that she wouldn’t be able to keep her mind from thinking.
She hadn’t slept much in the week following the shooting at her school. Whenever she closed her eyes, the cold hard steel barrel of a pistol stared back at her. Sometimes the gun fired and the bullet struck her full on in the chest, and sometimes she would relive the actual events. Either way, she woke shortly after having gone to sleep, pouring in sweat, wondering which ending was worse. Without thinking, her hand moved to her left shoulder where the stitches had just been taken out. The line the bullet had cut across the skin there had been deep enough to take some muscle tissue with it, but the wound was healing. The scar that she knew would remain for the rest of her life seemed fitting, a tribute to the day that she should have died.
Callie hadn’t spoken since the tragedy, and wasn’t even sure now that her voice would still work. Most questions she answered with a small shrug of her shoulders or the slightest nod or shake of her head. The days and nights all seemed to drift together, and the world was a huge blend of nothingness. It was Sunday, she knew, because the unopened paper lying on the kitchen table was the monster paper containing ads from all of the businesses in town announcing their weekly sales. Thinking about how the world could go on when her life had stopped nearly a week ago was the final straw for Callie’s emotions. As the tears started to slide down her cheeks and into her already soaked pillow, Callie held herself back from screaming. An hour later, she was once again exhausted beyond trying to avoid sleep, and even though she knew the dream would wake her soon, she allowed her eyes to close.
When he opened his eyes, Kris was elated to see the familiar designs and patterns in the texture of the ceiling of his bedroom. He had spent countless nights making pictures in his mind from those patterns and knew the location of everyone from where he always awoke in the mornings. You couldn’t see them from any other place in the room, the different shadowing and light made seeing the same thing in the same place impossible. The old man directly above where his head lay, the snarling dog by the light, and the rocking horse in the corner all made Kris feel more at home than did anything else in his house. Several minutes passed as he lay there studying those false images, smiling to himself.
Soon, however, Kris started looking around his room and felt that something was different. All of his belongings were there and accounted for, in the same positions they had been when he had left for school. Somehow the quietness of his room disturbed him. It was almost as if everything were too much the same. Rolling out of bed, he put his feet on the floor and noticed that he still wore his shoes. There was something else different, too. The feeling, or more precisely not feeling, of pressure on the soles of his feet was again absent. Were he not able to see, he would again be at a loss for what position he was in. Gravity seemed to have no effect on his body. Running down the stairs to the living room, he noticed that all of the pictures of him had been decorated with flowers and ribbons.
His living room held the biggest surprise for Kris. At the front of the room, on top of the mantle where his mom always kept pictures of the family, was an 8x10 photograph of him, draped in chained flowers, ribbons and lace. The fold-up chairs that they usually used at Thanksgiving were placed in front of it, all facing the mantle. Kris knew what this was, but refused to believe it. His mind racing, his legs started moving as well, taking him to the kitchen. Sitting on a stool in the kitchen was his mother, clad in the one black dress that she always kept for mourning. It was the dress that she had worn when her grandfather had passed away several years before.
“Mom?” Kris said, almost knowing that the effort was futile. A glimmer of hope spread across his face as his mom looked up directly at him, and he smiled. The moment was instantly taken away, however, when the doorbell rang and his mom stood up to answer the door. She had been looking out the window that passed on to the front porch as someone approached the door. Peering through the same window, Kris got his next big surprise. What seemed to be the whole of the school was standing on his front lawn, all dressed in dark colors of mourning.
“We must send him back…” The words he heard in his supposed dream came back to him in a rush. In an instant he knew the circumstances in which he had found himself. He had died. This was his memorial, presumably after the funeral. The shock of this realization was almost more than he could bear. He felt the urge to deny what he already knew to be the truth, to run up to someone, anyone, and try to convince them that he was there, that there had been some mistake. A futile effort, he knew, so instead he collapsed into a chair in the living room, which, he noticed with dismay, did not change the shape of the cushion.