This is a test. This writer is conducting a test involving all 102 Sunday Scribblings prompts. This is only a test…
The bed is up there, I am down here. I was pushed off Hopi Point again, by my nemesis, my mirror image, the wicked monster that would kill me knowing that doing so would be killing itself. And this is the mystery that is before me every new morning when I’m slammed to the floor of real life, a hero, alive by the grace of an unknown thing, and rooted in the strength of an undefined knowing. Every night it’s the same dream journey we embark on, my mirror image and I, fellow travelers in long black coats on a platform, slippery with late evening dew, waiting with baggage for a train to a nameless destination.
The fragrance of first love wafts on lazy curls of steam from the mouths of the couple next to us, kissing their goodbyes. I can’t help but turn slightly toward them, so I can watch yet appear as though I’m looking beyond them, up the tracks, for signs of my train. They are a pretty couple, with the blackest hair, the deepest darkest skin. They are a sweet, dark chocolate fantasy clothed in passion, their embrace a dance, their commingled magic, the music that soon sends me on soft white wings back to my earliest memory.
We are there, the mirror image and I, when we were wee lasses of four with flushed cheeks and golden curls, in our small-town quirky old apartment house, where the International Order of Odd Fellows convened every Thursday evening above us on the second floor. The Odd Fellows would stomp about to raucous piano-playing, and we would imagine that their piano was a time machine, and every note a secret identity you could choose, and we would put on masks, and be those identities. We would be our own bedtime stories, the town mouse and the country mouse, so different, yet two peas in a pod. And on our drifting paths to sleep, as the piano’s notes became soft, tinkling bells, and the stomping became the beats of our hearts, my mirror image would whisper, “I have a secret,” and I with my blue eyes would look into her dark eyes and smile.
I draw a breath in sharply and avert my eyes quickly, to my shoes, the instant I realize I’ve been looking lovingly into the eyes of the woman next to us, the woman of the pretty couple. Both of them are staring at me with a mixture of indignance and curiosity, and I feel as a thief, guilty of successfully stealing their privacy and attempting to steal their very souls. And I felt as if I could have, that it would have been uncannily simple to reach with my mind as a hand through the ocean of their eyes, to extract, and perhaps to crush the spirits that I carry, that I rush away with in panicked haste. A cold wind brings my thinking around with the reality of chattering teeth and goosebumps. I fidget, mouth the words, “I’m sorry,” to the couple as they move away, the fragrance of first love turned foul. I look around for my mirror image who has disappeared.
It’s always this way at this point in our journey. We walk to the train station, my attention is diverted, and I find myself standing alone on the platform, troubled, looking left and right for my mirror image, for the train. I get that sinking feeling. I know this is the beginning of the nightly game in which my nemesis’ extreme hate will compel its attempts on my life, and that it stands a chance in the dream state where it can become a powerful phenomenon, a superstition, a voodoo curse, whatever it wants. But so can I, only in self-defense, though, for I am the benign heart and this is not my war. So I stand on the platform in anticipation of what form this night’s game will take, composing myself in the strength of silence. It’s getting colder. I see a snow flake, then two… I shiver, set my jaw. Finally, I hear the train approaching. I see it now, and as it gets closer what stands out immediately is a little face pressed against one of the windows. Closer, closer now, I recognize her smiling face, her flushed little cheeks, her golden curls. She waves. I look behind me. No one is there, so I wave back. I can see her laugh. Our eyes lock. The train squeals to a stop, waves of heat rise from it, the doors open, I break the gaze, pick up my bags and board humbly after the chocolate fantasy woman. I start for the back of the train. There’s the little girl. She could be me. I nod and smile at her. She squeaks, “Hi!” and grabs at my coat pocket as I brush by, and I hear her mother scold her. “No problem,” I mumble. I get to the back, organize my things and take off my coat. I hear a crinkling noise and feel something in the pocket. I dig around and find a fortune cookie still in its wrapper. I sit down, rip into the cookie, and pull out the fortune, “You are not who you think you are.” Interesting, most pleasantly so. I smile, lean back into the seat and begin to ponder who I am now and who I might really be…
Holiday memories flood my unconsciousness. My mirror image and I are fifteen, no longer in the quirky house, now in the new house in the country. We’re in the kitchen, the smell of spicy apple cider and yummy Christmas cookies thick around us. I’m at Mom’s kitchen desk at her computer, supposedly working Google magic finding her a recipe for scones. Instead, I’m making an entry to my online diary, The Something Chronicles, “Dear diary, I’ve made a decision. No more goofing off. I don’t want to be a passenger in my own life, lamenting my misspent youth. I have an idea, an inspiration. I’ll call it The Experiment. I’m going to take up writing, give the world my 2 cents, be in the news. I would never write anything boring. Oh, the books I would write! “The Inner Life of Pets,” “My First Job, Worst Job, Dream Job,” “The Three Wishes,” “My Life as the Queen of the World.” I giggled, oh that’s good! I picked up a rhinestone bracelet of Mom’s that was by the computer and balanced it on top of my head as my tiara. I looked in the little mirror on the wall to the left of the desk and I saw her black eyes, mocking, condemning. And I thought to myself, “My first act as queen of the world would be to change what I see in the mirror, what everyone sees when they look in, from darkness to light.”
I hear hollering. The train has stopped. I must have fallen asleep. I look outside. Williams, Arizona, again. What used to be Amtrak in New York City is now the Grand Canyon Railways in Arizona, and I won’t be able to exit this train until we get to the Grand Canyon Depot. And when I do get off, I’ll somehow find myself at Hopi Point in a crouched position prepared to deal with my nemesis’ onslaught. And so it is this day. The train stops, I get off, and here I am near the edge of the cliff looking at the orange-red striations of The Battleship Butte. I walk back from the cliff 15 feet or so and make the mistake of taking the fortune out of my pocket to read it again, “You are not who you think you are.” I put it back and smile. Then every thing goes into slow motion as the left wingtip of an out of control hang glider smacks me hard up into the air and over the cliff. I’m falling, spinning, wondering what it’d be like to hit the ground from this height. The hang glider is right above me. I hear the wind whistling in my ears and the knowing comes to me. I close my eyes, move like air, whistle like wind, and soon I am the wind, and disappear from sight.
I hit the floor hard, wake to the smell of cat pee. My roommate’s cat has gotten into my bedroom and sprayed my beanie babies again. I’m pissed. I go into the living room and there the sod is lying on the couch half naked. I smack him in the head with the New York Times, still in its plastic bag. He jumps up, startled, loses his robe in the process, and scrambles to recover. Oh god. I cover my eyes and scream at him, tell him I will kill the cat if he lets it happen again. He defends himself with words surprisingly well strung together for having been woken up so early, so rudely. He yells back at me, pointing out that I’ve lost every good job I’ve ever had and have become this loser collector personality engaged in the futility, the punishment and reward of needing my old lady teapots, my ridiculous Pysanky Eggs, and my miscellaneous other collections to be complete, and to not be able to find, but then to find! He’s right. I’m a loser with an overabundance of really awful hotel stories to tell because I attend at least 20 collectors’ conventions per year all over the country. I wear labels stuck to me that say, “Hi my name is” and ask people, “What’s your sign?” to determine if I want to do business with them or not. I like to call this eccentricity although my roommate is quick to call it pathetic. I live in a rundown part of New York City with three roommates, so nightly competition for fridge space is the norm. But this is why I live where I live, because I spend so much on my collectibles, I have hardly any money left over for living. No wonder my mirror image hates me.
That night it’s the drudgery of the whole train station scenario as usual. On the way I realized just how close my mirror image had come to killing me the night before. It’s getting craftier and I’m getting more complacent. I’ve been dropping my guard more so it’s been surprising me more. And I see it’s really just biding its time. Every day of every year I wake up on the floor, feeling worse and worse about myself. Pretty soon it won’t have to do the job. I’ll have done it and we’ll both be dead, but my mirror image will be laughing all the way to hell. Just this meandering thinking I’m doing right now is diverting my attention… I’m stunned by a blow to my head, my brain goes into slow motion as its gears whirl like crazy trying to understand what has just happened. I can’t see anything, can’t know anything. I feel my eyes roll back in my head as I crumple to the ground and black out.
I hear a pleasantly low and fuzzy voice telling me to come to the light. But I’m unsure, don’t feel as if I can move. I hear the voice tell me to follow the instructions. I’m confused, incapable of knowing where I am much less what the instructions are! What instructions? The voice tells me I am in the last hour, that I’m hanging in the balance of the now and then. All I can say is that I don’t want to go to the Grand Canyon again. I can’t go there anymore. I feel the warmth of compassion wash over me as light takes form and holds my hand. I glow as light becomes a soft smile. Such comfort! Now I can go. I’ll go anywhere with you. I hear a question from inside my head, “What would you attempt if you knew you would not fail?” The expanse of the answer of course was infinite. I could just as well begin with my teen dream of writing and if I didn’t like it I could change it to something else and be successful at that, too, and on and on. I heard the question, “Who are you?” I remembered the fortune, “You are not who you think you are,” and I wondered who am I now and who else I might have been if I’d taken the path that was truest to myself, if I hadn’t compromised. And then I heard myself wonder who else can I still be? I felt the intensity of wishing, “If I could stop time…”
I wake up. This time I’m in a bed, not on the floor… I don’t trust it. Maybe I’m still in a dream. I try to get up. I can’t move. I look around. Things are a bit blurry, but I can see I’m in a hospital room. A doctor greets me and tells me that I had sustained a deadly blow to the head. He performed a few quick, physical tests and asked the usual questions to check my mental state. I tried to ask if they knew anything more, like who did it? With what? And what is the date today? But I could utter only every other or so syllable. A nurse seemed to pick up enough of it to answer. She told me they didn’t know exactly what had hit me but that it was with the force of something maybe the size of an upright piano falling one story straight down, although nothing was found around my body. It was a miracle I wasn’t killed instantly. Fortunately a nice young couple had called 911 and the paramedics arrived soon enough to be able to keep me alive, barely. Among much other damage, apparently my skull had been cracked resulting in serious damage to the brain and I’d been in a coma for 3 years. A man with a New York Times badge came into the room a bit out of breath, “I heard she was awake,” he said, and sat down next to me. He took my hand and told me he and the rest of the staff are looking forward to my return to work, to hurry and get back up to snuff. I said, “Sure thing.” It appeared that I had stopped time, become someone else. I asked for a mirror. The nurse held one up to my face. I looked directly and deeply into the tunnels to infinity that the pupils are. There was no darkness, no hate. It was more like love. So, this is what a second chance feels like. I closed my eyes to sleep, the ultimate test…
Photos above by Getty Images and stock.xchg
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