I lay on the hospital bed, as pale and scared as a sheet. I had been sick, and was now sicker because of the poison I had been given, to quicken an otherwise painful death. I was shaking with fear. I knew the poison would kick in at 7:30. It was seven then. I had 30 minutes to live, and I would spend them here, alone.
I could feel the poison in my body. I started hardly to be able to breathe. Suddenly, out of the bright light, two figures appeared.
“We’ve come to save you,” said the taller of the two.
I stood shakily and stepped towards them.
“Who are you?”
I thought I had seen them somewhere before, but I couldn’t place their faces.
“We are your friends.” The short one said. I couldn’t tell if they were male or female, or even what colour their hair was. Truth be told, I could barely distinguish between their heights. The hospital seemed to be melting into white light.
At the same time, their smiles grew hard. “You will not die.” they said as one.
They took me by my shoulders, and brought me to the edge of the hospital.
Without a second thought, I jumped. Dizzy and falling, I couldn’t tell where we were, I only caught glimpses of colour and sound.
I got the feeling we were having adventures.
Everyone I’d ever met was at my house. They stood in the front yard, slurping popsicles on the picnic tables that had so suddenly apparated on the grass. I didn’t hate them being there, I suppose, But I couldn’t stand the noise, so I started towards my house.
Of course, the ground in front of me was instantly covered in bees. I didn’t notice at first and continued forward, mushing the bees into a pasty yellowish goo that covered my feet, but didn’t stop those poor limbs from being stung, and one of them even got a stick driven clean through it. I hopped painfully towards the door of my house and entered a cool, dark room, with high arching ceilings that I had never seen before.
In the shadows, immense hairy shapes clambered and swung on the rafters. As I stood in shock, two of them approached me. Seeing that they were chimpanzees, I felt inexorably placid.
Without a word, they cleared the bee mush off my feet. One of them tugged the stick out.
“What are you doing here?” I asked them.
“We live here.” They answered without opening their mouths.
“See that egg? said one. “That’s my child’s egg.” And I noticed that all through the space were nests filled with speckled eggs.
“It’s beautiful.” It really was. The nest was browny-gold, and shafts of light illuminated the egg. Wine coloured curtains were draped almost artfully, and a bit haphazardly all round.
Proud, the chimpanzee pointed to the beams a mile above us. “And that’s him too. Swinging on that rafter.”
I looked up, and indeed there was a little chimpanzee. He was agile, jumping impossibly far in each bound.
But his egg was still intact. Time didn’t seem to work quite right here, but for some reason, I wasn’t bothered.
“Oh, and your cat’s looking for you.” said the old chimpanzee behind me.
Acting on that, I went upstairs. I found myself in a small yellow room. My cat was waiting for me.
“I’ve been looking for you.” He told me.
And with that, his feline body elongated and warped, turning into a long bombazine gown. His tawny fur was swept up into an elegant bun, and his paws became dainty feet. My cat was a princess. With a yowl. this monster grabbed me by the feet and swung me out the window. My shocked eyes managed to catch a glimpse of snipers on nearby rooftops as I was bashed repeatedly against the brick wall. He held me by my ankles and my head swung back and forth and I saw stars. I shouted for my friends below to help me, or for the chimpanzees to come to the rescue, but I knew that it was worthless and that nobody could save me. I wasn’t in pain though. That was the strangest part.
Luckily for me, the world then shifted and I was looking down from the sky onto clouds.
Lying on my stomach, I was riding a brocade carpet. In the air. My right arm hung off the edge and I grasped at a cloud with it. I tried to do the same with my other hand, but when I looked at it, I saw only an enormous white wing, whooshing through the air. I was ascending quickly, and I knew where I was going.
I was going on a visit. I wasn’t scared at all. Never been one to scare easily. I’ve been through worse. And I didn’t feel as if I was really here anyway. It was almost like watching through someone else’s eyes. I only wondered what was coming next.
I caught a snail. He was small, and the colour of sand. He didn’t even really look remotely like a snail, but I knew he was. He got stronger the more I hurt him. And he was the kindest snail I’ve ever met. One day, his father came to rescue him.
“Come with me, I can save you.” he said.
“I want to join you, but she needs me more than you do. She needed me enough to capture me.”
And he turned away.
I descended the spiral staircase, feeling the floor grow colder the farther down I went, until it was colder than death, colder than the deck of a sunken ship, colder than deep space and starlight. It soaked my body, tearing my bones and brain. The concrete bunker held something precious, I could tell. But something so wild and terrible that I didn’t know how the woman leading me stood it.
“This is our top research facility.” she said. “It contains specimens never before seen by human eyes.”
I looked into the cage she had led me to. Inside was a monster. It had a slender, grey fishes tail, and seemingly no torso.
Its head was perched on top of nothing, but I could tell it was attached to the tail somehow. It had a woman’s face, but really, it was altogether too vicious to belong to any human. Its long black hair was tangled and its expression was animal, yet it glowed with a sort of ferocious grace. Eyes flashing, it reached out and grabbed my hand. I felt a deep rage and a kinship to it, as I became yet another of the monsters. My body screamed around the facility, as my soul was extracted and trapped.
I realized now that I was one of them, and would be forever and ever. My mind raced, but the monster that controlled me was faster. Though I was now a monster, I was by no means caged, and with new instinct I raked the face of the human who had brought me to what I now realized was my home. The sea.
With immense strength, I tore my kin free of the bars that held her, and we were suddenly diving towards the deep water. It was even colder than the room had been, but I didn’t notice. I dove to the bottom of the world, the water gleaming as I chased it to the end. I don’t care anymore who I am. I live in the now, and isn’t there something beautiful in that?
My house was full of brightly coloured pillows and fluffy curtains. It had elevators that would go any direction, and super fast. And it was alive. I could tell because it turned into a little girl, who hated me.
I looked up at the palm tree.
“I can’t do it” I said.
Tara punched me on the shoulder at the same time her brother, Jaime did.
“Sure you can.” she said, smiling. Her thick hair blew in the wind, and she tied it back with one of the hairbands she always had on her tanned wrists.
“No, I can’t! I’m not good at climbing trees.” Never was. My friend Quinn was always better. Wait. Who’s Quinn? I don’t remember. And then I’m back to reality.
“Well,” Jaime said “If you’re goin’ta live here you’d better learn.” Jaime didn’t look much like Tara. He had curly black hair, and was as pale as a coal miner, though he spent everyday in the warm island sun. Tara looked more like her father, with dark skin and long black hair. Her eyes were a deep brown, while Jaime’s were blue. But they were brother and sister. When I’d first met them, I hadn’t any idea. In fact, I’d just found out yesterday.
“Go on!” Jaime said again.
“We’ll even give you a boost.” said Tara.
They put their hands together and bent at the base of the tree. Tentatively, I stepped up.
“Now wrap your legs ‘round the tree.” said Jaime.
As I did, they took their hands away and stood to the side.
“Come back!” I shouted. “I’m going to fall!”
“Relax.” Tara said. “Climb it.”
With a deep breath, I pulled myself up the tree and grasped the first high branch with my already sore hands. One of my feet slipped and with a shriek, I flung out my other hand, so both my arms were stretched fully. I scrambled at the bark.
Jaime started to run forward, but Tara held him back.
“Let her do it.” and Jaime stood still.
My feet scraped the tree, but found purchase and I started to breathe more easily. I saw Jaime relax.
“Now grab the shoe.”
They had thrown one of my shoes up to ensure that I went to get it. Shakily, I reached towards it. My fingers brushed the laces, and I heard Jaime shout.
But the tree had already bent back and flung my body forward and over the treetops until I hit the ground and rolled with a series of “Umphs!” down the thickly forested hill.
“Tara?” I called. “Jaime?”
No answer. I sat on the ground in shock and fear.
“We’re coming!” I finally heard their frantic shouts.
I slowly stood and looked around. I was at the mouth of a shallow cave, surrounded by the clearest blue water I’d ever seen. The cave was covered in thick frost, and long icicles had formed at odd angles. I walked forward into the water, expecting it to be cold, but it was almost too hot to bear. However, I kept on, and it became a pleasant temperature.
Sinking into the bright water, I again heard the calls of Jaime and Tara. I saw them running through the bushes towards me.
“I’m over here!” I cried. But they didn’t seem to see me or hear. They turned around and ran the other way, shouting my name frantically. Somehow, I didn’t mind and put my head underneath the water. I opened my eyes and saw the bottom of the pool. It was dotted with shimmering shells, and smooth white sand that felt cool against my bare feet.
Content though I was, I wanted to explore the cave, so I stood and, dripping, stepped into the cave. The ice was a deep blue that somehow looked natural, though it too was not cold. I pressed my hand against it, and the warmth of my palm sunk into the frozen wall, only to land on something round. With a clink, I pulled it out, and saw that it was a globe. It was made, of course, of ice, but it clearly showed the outline of continents and oceans. It was small, about as big as a child’s fist. I went to put it in my pocket, but then realized I could not. I didn’t have one. Clutching it in my hand, I hurried forward, and on the slippery, slanted downwards ground, nearly slipped.. It was getting slightly harder to see, but I saw a light ahead. Excited, I ran faster, only to fall to the icy ground. The globe slipped out of my hand and flew down the tunnel. It should have shattered!
But no time to think about that now. I ran after it, only to emerge in a golden hall. I picked up the globe and looked up. All around me was splendour unmatched. The floor was embedded with diamonds, and the walls were tall and ornate. Gleaming chandeliers swung above me. But most surprising were the monarchs fidgeting with joy in thrones at the end of the hall. Hands wrapped tightly around the globe, I hurtled towards them.
Jaime jumped off his throne and met me in the middle of the hallway, throwing his arms around my neck. Tara wasn’t far behind.
“You made it!” they cried.
“Where are we?” I asked, bewildered and happy.
Tara took a deep breath. “We live here.” she said. “Jaime and I are the rulers of this place.”
“But...what’s this place?”
“It’s just called the cave. But we couldn’t win the war without the globe.” Jaime took it from my hand.
I was startled by this news. “What war?” I asked. “I don’t want to fight a war.”
“We don’t know” said Tara.
Now Jaime spoke “When we became the rulers here, we discovered that we could only leave the cave at certain times. It wasn’t like we were trapped….It seemed a little like the cave was protecting us. Or trying to, at least. And we found this message.” He handed me a scrap of paper.
Find the one who can find for you what you need.
I read aloud. “Weird.”
“And now we’ve found you. And you’ve found it! Now we have to find out what it’s for.”
But at that moment, the ground trembled and through the wall came a sort of wind that swept them one way and me another. Before any of us could shout or struggle, I was gone.
I was becoming more scared than I’d ever been, but only in some deep part of me that wasn’t in control. I felt perfectly calm for the most part, but was one step away from panic.
As a ghost hunter, It was important to have nerves of steel. Which I did not. And yet here I was, at the so called “ghost pool,” about to chase down the wraith of legends.
“She’s there all right.” said the little boy next to me.
He wore bright green swim trunks and had water tangled brown hair. The epitome of innocence, a pair of goggles perched on his face and he held a snorkel in one hand. Yet he was here, swimming where no one ever swam. And aware of it, too.
“I know.” I said. “How did she get there?”
The little boy squinted with thought. “I don’t know. But she’s my mommy.”
And with that, he was no longer visible.
I gasped with shock and lost my balance on the slick tiles. Pinwheeling my arms wildly, I toppled into the dark water with a splash.
After the initial speed wore off, I drifted downwards, my hair obscuring my vision. In panic, my limbs kicked upward towards safety, and air, but the water slowed them, and I felt like an enormous bird, flapping my wings futilely. And indeed, soon after I gave up, the water swirled with fury and I heard a loud, angry screech. I was surrounded by ghosts, wheeling up through the dark, their translucent faces pulled with shock, and fear and malevolence. The face of the the little boy appeared, but he no longer looked innocent. He had gaping black holes for eyes, and his sad mouth was open in a scream of rage.
His mother whirled up next. She was the one I was looking for. But I didn’t know why. Or how to capture her. I shouted after her, and grabbed onto her translucent body. She flew out of the water and suddenly I was on a sunny green lawn. The little boy sat on a tricycle nearby.
“Goodbye!” he said
And I disappeared.
When I woke, I was again on the hospital bed. I don’t want to die I don’t want to die I don’t want to die! My mind was screaming.
Shh, shhhhh. said the voices. You will not die. There are too many stories about death already. There will not be another.
I want to live I want to live I want to live I want to live!
You will. You’ve been traveling for a long time now. And so many are in your debt.
But I haven’t been anywhere! I don’t know where I am! I don’t know what’s happening!
Calm. You have been everywhere. They are coming to save you. Everyone is coming to save you.
But what can they do?
They can take you with them. To a place where there is no death.
Where is that?
It’s a story.
Tell me the story.
No, you misunderstand. The place where there is no death is a story.
I still don’t understand.
They are here. Don’t fight them. Be serene.
No! no, I don’t want to go!
It’s the only way. Goodbye.
No, I want to live! Don’t leave me!
I still don’t know where I am. But I’m not dead, at least I don’t think so. I guess I went with them, because sometimes I swing with chimpanzees, or fight cats. Sometimes I fly with my pet snail, swim with sirens and ghosts. Sometimes I climb trees and find hidden palaces. I can go anywhere. I’ve always liked nonsense. It makes me happy. But I don’t know what I mean by always. I can barely remember anything before this. I’m not scared anymore.
And I suppose I’m happy.