The stream looked exactly as it always had. Her grandfather’s hand felt no different than she remembered and the low baritone of his voice made her feel as safe is it always had. Nothing had changed. And yet, it all felt unreal.
“I’m eleven,” she said aloud in a bewildered sort of way. “I’ve been here before. I remember this.”
“Hmmm,’ hmmm’d her grandfather, staring into the water. “Do you remember anything else? The future? Anything?”
The question was so strange that she looked up from the water and into his face, which had a warm kind of glow to it. Warmer than normal, in any case. He always seemed to glow in his own way in her eyes. He was always her favorite person to be around, mostly because he never talked to her as if she were a child. Her faith in his taking her seriously is what led her to ask,
“How could I possibly remember something that hasn’t happened yet?”
She watched his face fall and saw his eyes slowly close. “What do you dream about these days?”, he asked, almost in a whisper.
Her mind began to sort through a mental card catalog of dreams able to be recalled and she was surprised to find that those most vivid were ones she couldn’t actively remember having had. Despite this, however, she concentrated and let her mind’s eye wander over days spent playing field hockey in high school and college. There were boyfriends, but one in particular stayed in focus. The sight of him made her feel lightheaded, though she couldn’t figure out why. There were children that looked so much like she and the mystery man that it made her heart skip.
“I’m older,” she replied. “And there’s a man with me. And kids that look like us. Sometimes I see them when they’re babies and other times when they’re older, about the age I am now. I don’t understand why, but I feel like I’m looking into a mirror whenever I see them.” She looked at her grandfather, sitting serenely next the water, head still bowed, eyes closed. “Why do you ask?”
With what seemed like great effort, he looked at her and reached for her hand. “You’re not going to understand what I’m about to tell you, but I want you to listen very carefully. And I want you to trust me now the way that you always have, because you know that I love you and would never do or say anything to hurt or frighten you. And I will never lie to you.”
She looked at him with her head tilted to the side, the way a puppy looks at someone offering it a can of tuna.
“The man you see in your dreams is your husband. The children are yours. This place where we’re sitting, this is where you’ve come back to because it’s safe. This is your ideal. You’ve been in a very bad accident and your mind has tried to save you from your body and it’s brought you here.”
“But you’re real,” she muttered, squeezing his hand and not believing, though somehow comprehending the truth in his words.
“Yes,” he replied, “but I’m not where you belong. Yet.”
She shook her head slowly.
“Your life is going to be very hard for awhile, but you have to believe me when I tell you that it will be worth the effort. You’re going to wake up now and the man from your dream will be holding your hand and the children will be standing next to you.”
“But I’m eleven,” she sighed.
He smiled, lifted his hand to her face, and as he touched her cheek said, “I died when you were twenty-two.”
Upon opening her eyes, there was life-affirming pain throughout her body, wires and tubes entering and exiting places they had no business existing, and there standing on both sides of her where these people for whom she had a hazy recollection, though no solid memory. They held her hands and cried with what seemed like happiness. She couldn’t be sure. Her whole life, best that she could recall, culminated at age eleven. And yet, among all her normal recollections of childhood there was one other memory, that of her grandfather once telling her, incomprehensibly, that she would wake up one day surrounded by her husband and children and that despite her doubts, she had to believe that it was true. Because he would never lie to her. Because he loved her.
“My love,” her putative husband whispered at her.
With heartfelt sincerity, she responded, “I played field hockey.”
For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Mare challenged me as follows: ‘She came to and her whole life was how she remembered it’. I challenged Kelly with, “What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?” -Mikhail Bulgakov.
Sir @ February 9, 2012