Dad had always carried a gun. Even when we were kids, he had one stuffed under the seat of his car and one in the drawer of his nightstand. They were never locked away, never out of reach. By the age of ten, I’d heard more lectures about gun safety than a recently enlisted Marine. By my dad’s side, I’d put in hours at the shooting range, and I’d place my accuracy with a thirty-eight against any trained marksman. That was why the entire thing was absurd.
My life pivoted on the next moments. There were so many small things that could’ve been changed, but weren’t. Too many lines in existence that should’ve been smudged but weren’t. There was a list of things I’d never be able to alter. People make mistakes every day.
Everything happens for a reason. I’d heard those words so many times. I only wish I’d believed them.
It was quick. I felt the icy metal in my hand and popped the chamber guard open…one, two, three, four, five…empty. As the gun spun around my digit, I felt the trigger rub against my finger, creating the tiniest itch.
Did I count six empty chambers? Wait, I think I saw a …
That was the moment I can never get back.
Where was the pain coming from? Maybe someone had pulled a poker from the fireplace and driven it through my chest. No. I was alone.
Where was I anyway?
The gun fell to the floor in slow motion, its descent tormenting me as I waited to hear it hit the carpet. But it seemed to be tethered to my body, and my body had not yet fallen.
Oh God! Help me.
When a person drifts in and out of consciousness, the screams of others sound like her own. They mix inside one’s head. The person can hear her own moans and the words of those surrounding her, slurred by whatever emotion has squeezed their voice box. I heard my mother yell.
Was she yelling at Dad? Her voice was shrill. It was the first time I could remember hearing her exact true emotion. She was angry.
Wow, I thought. No longer able to endure the waves of sound and light, I pressed my eyes shut.
“Don, always the guns! Why? Why?” She was hysterical, and I could hear him trying to calm her.
It hurt to hear her attack him. It made my chest tighten even more and obstructed the small breaths I was able to take. I wondered how he’d ever forgive her. Don’t Mom! It’s not his fault. Could they hear me?
Time was quick and slow all at once. I was Alice falling down the rabbit hole. I heard my sister’s voice and felt her hands on my chest. She was on the phone answering questions. I tried to correct her, but the words wouldn’t form.
I’m conscious. I can hear you! Listen to me.
It seemed like mere seconds later when I felt a jolt and realized I was inside the steel cage of an ambulance. All manner of medical supplies jumped about on the metal shelves. Why couldn’t I hear the sirens?
“Ma’am? Can you hear me?” He was leaning over me, tall and fair, his face kind.
Yes, I can hear you. Can’t you hear me?
He raised himself by holding on to a bar, which was bolted to the roof above him.
A second later, he was hovering over me again, something in his hand. Please don’t…don’t put it on my…
His white shirt brushed against my cheeks as he shoved a mask
over my face. And then it was dark.
I’d always been afraid of the dark. I’d made my parents line the hall with nightlights…how long ago? Yesterday? Years ago? There was a lamp in my room, which was snuffed only when my Dad changed the light bulb. I had to keep the bad guys away. I feared the things which lingered in the shadows, the things I couldn’t see. However, this was a whole new darkness. In this darkness lurked anger, hate, deceit, and the claws of creatures I couldn’t imagine scraping against the slick floor beneath my
My heart raced impossibly fast, and reaching up, I clawed at the contraption covering my nose and lips. It was stuck there, and in the absence of light I struggled with it. It should have been easy to remove, an oxygen mask. But this was no life-saving instrument. I pulled and screeched, until the thing flew from my face. It clanked against concrete in the distance.
In a beam of light that emanated from a cracked door, I saw it. The muzzle was rusted iron and lay open on the floor. I ran through the darkness to escape its binding, which still clung to my jaws.
God, are you there? Where am I?
I couldn’t stop moving as four hooded figures appeared behind me, each having unique mangled features and arms wrought with decomposition, which reached out to seduce me. The heat that emanated from them burned my skin, causing tiny blisters to appear and disappear.
Sweat beaded on my brow and streamed down my forehead.
God, help me. I'm scared.
I dodged the figures, darting right and left, running in zigzags, as though I were running from a true predator. They had no eyes, and the flesh against the bones that made up their faces was anything but alive.
I ran harder, watching the blood cascade from the wound in my chest. It made puddles on the floor. I slipped in the crimson pool under me and slid down a corridor past shut doors and blackened windows. I found my feet and immediately learned to dodge the puddles.
A genuine fear spewed from that darkness. It was a fear I didn’t have time to face. It was my deepest phobia—all the light being sucked from my existence and no one to offer me a torch. It wasn’t just the light of the room that escaped me. I was losing the illumination of my soul and I clamored to reignite it. There were beings chained to the wall screaming as though in horrific pain, and they reached out to grab me as I ran.
God, am I still alive?
Could He hear me? Was He struck deaf like my family and the man in the ambulance had been? The tortured souls were pulling at my bloody clothes, and I screamed louder and louder.
GOD HELP ME!
Then I heard a faint response. Run, Darby. Run.
Once again, I was on a stretcher staring at the man with the kind eyes. Only he’d changed. He was surrounded by a light, which broke in sparks from him and shot across the ambulance, touching every surface.
Oh, let me stay here.
His hair was longer, browner, shinier. He bent at the waist, and I could smell the ocean breeze on him. He was air and happiness.
He didn’t speak. His thoughts became my thoughts, and I was at peace. This man loved me. It wasn’t the fleeting love of a friend in need.
No, this was pure and unconditional. If I had yelled or punched him, if I had hated him, he would have still adored me. I could feel it in the way his gaze settled on mine offering comfort. This man was my brother or father.
He was someone familiar.
Don’t leave me.
Yes, I managed.
I didn’t need words either, but it was glorious to be heard again.
He knew my heart, my mind, he knew my life. The sensation of embarrassment latched on to my ribs and squeezed. He’d seen everything.
He knew all the things I’d done. This man had a window to what was good and what was evil in me. There was no perfection in my life. I’d never claimed to be without fault. He knew I’d judged; he knew I’d sinned. He knew I was a liar and a thief.
No one expects you to be perfect. Do you love me Darby? Tiny electrical impulses moved from his fingertips to my skin, and the pain was gone.
My gaze was glued on him. His face was a place of serenity where I could hide. I did love him. I loved him more than I could express to him.
Where was my family? Did I pack my sweater?
Yes. My answer interrupted the derailment of my thoughts.
Why couldn’t I hear anything? No machines? No sirens? I was, without a doubt, dead.
Darby, I’m sending you back. I need you to go back for me. Do you understand? His lips were so close, his breath cold against my ear.
No. Why? I don’t want to go back. I want to be with you. This is peaceful. This is nice. This is perfect. Let me stay.
He reached up and moved my hair, which was pasted to my neck in blood. He was sunshine in my face and love in my heart. Please don’t leave me.
You have work to do. There are things I need from you. You will see them, Darby. His focus hardened, as though he wanted me to understand the importance of his words.
Were those tears? I lost the sensation and warmth of his touch as he pulled away from me. With each sentence, each word, he moved farther from me.
Come back. Closer. Please don’t go. I’ll see who?
His posture became erect, perfect, and he smiled at me. It was the most beautiful smile I’d ever witnessed.
He loves me. It was the only thing that mattered. He loved me.
You’ll figure it out.
Before I could protest further, he reached into my chest and grabbed my heart. I sat up on the gurney screaming. The monitors and sirens blared their alarm. My ear-bending scream sent everyone running from me. The ambulance slammed to a stop, and gauze and instruments wrapped in plastic hit the floor.
The EMT returned, and as he flashed a light into my eyes, he hollered his words, not in my thoughts, but for all to hear. “She’s back. GO!”
Monique is the mother of two beautiful children and lives in a small community outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She currently works full time as an insurance agent, but her favorite jobs are mother, wife, and author.
On her eighth birthday, her mother bought her a journal and said "write whatever you want, just write". And so, a love affair with words was born. She wrote poetry and short stories in high school and college, until 1993 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
After her mother's death in 1998, deep in depression, she found herself unable to write. Nine years passed, and only on rare occasion did she attempt to write.
Finally, in 2007, under the urging of friends, she sat down and pecked out her first novel. It was raw and unpolished, but the process had been unquestionably cathartic. The next three years were spent filling her hard drive with seven complete manuscripts.
At the beginning of 2011, Monique decided it was time to edit the work and share it with the world. She hopes you enjoy the ramblings of a truly southern girl raised in a state rich with heritage and love.
You can find Monique around the web:
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