I will follow thee
To the last gasp
with truth and loyalty
– William Shakespeare
Somethings are unimaginable.
Imagine you are in the backseat of a car. The seat belt is secured firmly around you, for safety it provides. The driver has abandoned you, without so much as goodbye. You are confused, but not worried, because you have never taken care of yourself. You have never had to. You can feel the force of gravity, as the car rolls down a hill. It is not steep, but a definite decline. No light bulbs have flashed, since you could not see over the steering wheel anyway, and had no idea the direction in which you were going. Confusion turns to fear, as the night sky slowly disappears. Familiar sounds maintain a false sense of calm, but the fear in you rises. Accustomed to the sounds of rolling shores, however, you have never heard it here and it seems out of place. The quiet of the night is disrupted when you make your first sound, a call for the driver, but she is nowhere around. Turning your head to the right, the passenger looks sleepy, but he fights sleep out of fright.
Imagine vertigo sets in, although at the time, you would have no way of knowing, what vertigo is. You are feeling rather tipsy, not from alcohol, since you are too young to have known the taste. It feels like a hated fair ride, you would never take again. The car you are strapped in begins to bobble. Unlike the solid surface you are use to, more like the cartoons where they float in mid air. You would not notice, the drop in oxygen, and that your own breathing is becoming tortured, so it is simply dismissed as fear. But when you look at the person next to you, whom happens to be your brother, you notice he is breathing differently, gasping or choking. Your lungs start to burn, pain explodes from within. Fear becomes dread, as the car, no longer floating, but sinking and pushing out what is left of the air. You look at the doors, windows rolled tight, you heard the clicking noise, and knew the safety device locked.
Although your feet do not reach the floor, you sense the rising water, which is now halfway to the door. A tear turns to a cry, and a cry to a scream. You are not certain how to save yourself, let alone, your best little friend. Imagine being completely submerged, total darkness is all you see. You reach out and touch your brother, glad he is resting comfortably. You have no notion what it means to be at the end, yet you realize life is changing, locating comfort, somehow knowing you are free of life’s sins. Mind too young for connected thoughts, yet one manages to take shape. Why would your mother save only herself, leaving her two babies to drown in the lake.
In 1994, in Union South Carolina, a young mother named Susan Leigh Vaughan Smith had fallen head-over-heels for a wealthy bachelor. Enjoying the freedom and prestige that money can bring, his thoughts were far different from Susans’, who imagined, the whirlwind he had taken her on, was never going to end. At the time, he had no kids of his own, and while there was something about Susan that drew him to her, her two little boys would assure, she would not be the one he would keep. But Susan felt differently, like she had never felt before. Rather, for love of money or adoration for the man, nothing was going to stop her from walking down the aisle, then reaching for his hand.
Upon discovering she murdered her own children, to try to win over the man, interest in her soon faded, but one question, unanswered remains: what were the final thoughts of her two young sons?
Give yourself the emotion, as you stand at the Canyons’ edge, when the suppressed memory stumbles forward, of the day you tried desperately to forget. You were older than your brother, which meant stronger and wiser too. When it seemed like it was all over, you struggled and fought for your life. Little brother had been dead far before then, that is one thing you never knew. So you grew up without your little brother, whom you considered your very best friend. He was also your greatest admirer, the one who filled you with self worth and an iron clad will. You eventually comprehend, postpartum depression is an illness, boasting a host of bizarre affects. You know your mother had been stricken, and accepted the facts that her mental disability was no fault of her own, and that her pain of losing her baby, was greater than yours ever was. But you would never find it in you to forgive her. And although you did not hate or even dislike her, in fact, you held on to the love that you had. But the love would be forever stunted, turning a young boy into a shell of a man.
Since your father stood by your mother, as a man should by his wife, your mind would place both into the same restrictive box, keeping your distance and never giving them your heart. With your only allies, no longer by your side, you never learn to make friends, and forming a meaningful relationship, became the equivalent of the fairy tales you read at school. You found comfort in imaginary worlds, while you did read for enjoyment, but more, so you could escape into a happy world. But no matter how many books you read, and depths to which you mentally sank, it was still only make believe and you remained part of the real world.
Even at your lowest, however, suicide was never an option. Two views kept you going. One was the notion that life only gives you as much as you can bare. The other comes from an embrace of literature, irony was your favorite device. So the ideal of taking your own, when years prior, you saved that very same life.
On November 18, 1978, the United States would suffer its single greatest loss of life not attributed to war or natural disaster. Nine hundred people perished, the majority, under the guise of free will. James Warren Jones, known in history as Jim, emerged as a prophet, at least to those worshipers, whom chose to follow him.
Jim Jones called it the People’s Temple. A brilliant form of disguise, to mask the treachery, cover the deceit and deflect the audacity. The ‘People” sold all their belongings, gave their worldly possessions to him, and forsaken their real families and comfortable lives. Departing the cosmopolitan city of San Francisco, landing in the beauty of Guyana, they then moved deep into the jungles, truly believing tis the path of righteousness. But the prophet proved to be false, leaving the unimaginable, unimagined no more.
Imagine, once you regain focus, returning to the hear and now. Remembering the advice you were given, about a journey you have the choice to make ‘time is not your friend’, the voice reminds you once again. Hesitance overtakes you, but reality forces a look toward the sky. Curtains nearly closed, and a tingle in the back of one eye. Your heart beats sporadically and dizziness tilts you toward the edge.
The two eagles that flew passed you, now circled above your head. The two squirrels that ran underneath you, seemed harmless till one reared his head. The couple, still 30 feet from you, seemed so loving when you first arrived. The good eye now fading, there is doubt in what you see, but their raised angry voices, remove all doubt, of the obvious, vicious intent.
The two bikers, who seemed healthy, a few minutes before, were weak and exhausted. One carried the other on his back. Something twitches on your shoulder, a very light, nearly unnoticeable ting. Nonetheless you are startled, slapping your shoulder, with more force than it actually needs. You pull your hand back its all bloody, and wonder what could that be. In pieces atop your sinking shoulders, two dead butterflies, the same two as before.
Your mind is getting hazy and a cough has started to sink in. But your resolve refuses to surrender, choosing the path that fills the holes that run deep. You fought for the life you were given, when you were just a mere kid. One minute before the curtain closes, and now you find a reason to live. So you push aside caution and inhale deeply from your soul within. But with no signs falling from the heavens, you have no idea what to do. Minutes turning to seconds, regret finally makes its debut. “Why should I fight now?” But regret no longer matters, since you are bound by option two. Weight of reality, along with a shift in the wind, acts of momentum, sending you stumbling backward, nearly forty feet, before finding your footing.
Your mind begins to race, and tears flow from your eyes. The eagles circle faster, and the squirrels’ running across your feet has tripled the pain in your eyes. Imagine the couple are now faced off, in a stance that wreaks of defense. The rifles they carry, prove they are hunters, but the Canyon is protected, so what have they come to hunt? The bikers make it up the hill, with one still carrying the other. The one who is carried is far too big. His partner tries to move forward, meeting his burden to stick with him to the end. But his knees buckled, then both drop – not disastrous – but you are unsure what could be wrong with them.
Imagine in the mist of natural beauty, chaos erupts from every angle you could take. Somewhere from behind a camper, a small dog trots out, then dashes forward, feeling freer than he has ever felt. A woman appears soon after. You think she is the same age as you. Distance too far to see clearly, but she is the most beautiful human being to you. She screams out for dear Fluffy to stop running, but the dog is happy to be in serenity too. So it runs, like it never ran before, not knowing or caring the ground would end soon. The elder woman is trying to catch him, but her legs will not allow her to keep up.
Imagine… Fluffy runs off the cliff, so happy he forgets, that unlike eagles, dogs do not fly. The eagles in the sky suddenly shift direction, as if dinner was actually being served. Like guided missiles they darted downward, breaking cadence, every bird for himself. Imagine finding your soul mate, when you are at the final stage of life. You refuse to be nasty or bitter, instead you are happy to finally see her, the woman who should have been your wife. She knows her Fluffy went over, but has not comprehended he is dead. The adrenaline flow, would let her old legs roll, now imagine she trots right by you. Two blasts come from where the hunters are standing. Sobs from where the bikers collapsed.
Flem, now blood from coughing, heart pounding harder in chest. You are so very tired and have nearly fallen, taking just one, very small step. Painless path has closed. You will not wake up from a dream. All around you is happening. What are you suppose to do next?
Imagine your heart growing stronger, filling with all the love you missed. No family to love you, no friends to catch you, only make believe found in your books. Till this day you have never been kissed. But now, you have found her and wrapped in love’s embrace. This out-of-nowhere journey, has led you here, right where you are. This is the path you have chosen, yet the curtains are certainly still closing.
Breathe or less you start gasping, as you summon all of your strength. Your soulmate moves close to disaster, just a few steps left she can make. You look high toward the heavens, finding you do believe. God, Allah or Yahweh, perhaps Nature will hear your pleas. You put your head down and run straight at the wind, nothing else matters, heart pounds deep within. You have chosen your path so imagine, whatever you want to believe. Remember you have never been happy, shut off from the rest of the world. In your mind, it does not matter if you catch her since your path does not end here or now. You have found your soulmate and long to caress her; make love down by the lake. Determined to have love in this life. Prepared to chase love down. No turning back now, you run with a smile… and imagine you dive off the cliff. the conclusion
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