(You are reading this story in progress. To start at the beginning, please click here. To view the Table of Contents, click here. This story is being written live, daily, and with some audience participation in October 2013)
I finally caught a nap today when Juliette went down for hers. Not that it did any good—I had a dream about that light I saw the other day. It was so vivid, it was like it was really happening, but it must have been a dream. . .
I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself again.
I put Juliette down for her nap around 1:00. I was so tired that I would find myself gasping for air, as if I had forgotten to breathe. Everything around me looked really sharp. . .really hard-edged, like it was cut from metal or something. That used to happen a lot in college, but I’m definitely not that young anymore. I don’t remember feeling this crappy after losing one night’s sleep back when I was in college.
I laid down on the couch with a cool washcloth over my eyes. I didn’t really mean to take a nap, I just wanted to rest my eyes a little bit and get rid of some of the redness and swelling before I had to face the other Moms. I don’t need them thinking I’m strung out, or a pot head or anything. Rumors fly fast enough when they’re about missing Yoga—I can’t imagine how fast word would get around if they thought someone was doing drugs.
As soon as my head hit the throw pillow I knew that I was going to sleep. I felt this weightlessness take over my whole body. It was actually quite comfortable. Then around the edges of my vision I saw this redness, like light seeping in through my eyelids. The light grew brighter and brighter, until I swear I could see the light streaming in between the threads of the washcloth.
And we have nice washcloths. On sale they still cost me $7.00 apiece.
When the light was so bright that I couldn’t see anything else, the weightless feeling vanished. I felt heavy suddenly. Heavy, but not in pain. Not even from the bright light. That’s how I know I was dreaming—that kind of light in real life would have singed my eyeballs.
There was no pain, but there was a tingly, prickly feeling along my scalp. Like each one of the hairs on my head, including the little peachfuzz hairs on my face, including my eyebrows and eyelashes, even the hairs in my nose (which, let’s face it, we all have hairs in our noses, even if we do our best to hide them), like they each stood straight up and off of me. Almost like I was being electrified.
I knew it wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real; I’d be fried alive if someone were pumping that much electricity into my head. And it was only my head—my arms and legs and torso all felt normal but super-heavy.
You know, now that I really think about it, it almost felt like there was a little breeze to the electricity, too, like a scan or something in the movies.
It was so strange.
But of course it was a dream.
I have to go. It’s time to shuttle the boys back to their soccer practice. Juliette has been so good today, like she knows I’m tired.
Or like she’s waiting for something. Ooh. That just gave me shivers.
I don’t know where we are. I don’t even know what happened. I’ve spent the past little eternity—has it been hours, minutes days?—convincing the boys that everything’s going to be ok.
But it’s not ok.
We’re stuck. I’d say jailed, but it’s not like any jail I’ve ever seen before. The walls are black. Not shiny, not dull, not hot, not cold. Just Black. And just. . .there. Like your hand stops moving, or your back stops moving.
But there’s no surface. Your hand just stops moving. It’s so strange.
There are no bars anywhere. There are no doors that I can see. No windows. It’s like the light—and I can’t even tell where the light is coming from—like it just stops at the walls, the same way my body stops when I encounter it. Like there’s nothing at all around us.
It’s really frightening. I can’t stand to look at the walls because of it. My brain just starts to freak out and turn back in on itself when I look at them.
I tried yelling. That was the second thing I tried. The first thing was just standing still with my mouth open.
I’ve never been good in emergencies.
I just wish I knew where we are or what is happening. We were in the car and then—bam! White light everywhere. That weird weightless feeling. Everyone frozen but me.
We never made it to soccer practice. Everyone’s going to think we’re dead. Oh, God, I can’t imagine how scared George and the Hernandez’s and the Craigs’ are.
Or maybe they’re frozen, too?
God, I’m not even making sense anymore. I pulled out my notebook and my pen for something to do, to keep from going crazy while the kids sleep, and here I am going crazy anyway. And on the record.
Maybe I am crazy. Maybe I’m having a psychotic break and I’m not even really here. Maybe I’m drooling in a hospital somewhere. Maybe the kids are all safe.
Or maybe I got into an accident, because I knew I had no business driving when I was so tired. Maybe we were in an accident and I’m unconscious. And I have to wake up to get help for the children and me.
It doesn’t seem to be working.
OK. I can’t keep gibbering to myself. I need to get my shit together.
What do I remember?
I remember picking the kids up from school. Isabella sat in the passenger seat. Garrett crawled in behind me, and Juliette was in her car seat next to him.
Kyle, Carson, and Julio all piled into the back. For once, because I was running a little late after a bad diaper mishap, they all had their shin guards and their cleats on. I waved to the assistant principal as I pulled away from the school.
I asked the boys how they were.
I turned right onto Oakwood.
I drove toward the intersection of Elm and Conifer. Right where the light hit us last time. I don’t remember actually bringing the car to a stop, but my foot was on the brake and we were almost stopped. I just don’t remember that little kick that signals a true stop.
And then light.
And the thought that maybe my dream wasn’t a dream.
I remember clutching my purse. Why would I do that, and not reach out for one of the children? I don’t know.
I remember not being able to turn my head right away. I know I wanted to, to check on the kids, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the brightness and the whiteness of the light.
I remember wondering if I were looking at God.
Then I felt my body rise up, like it was going to float right up out of the seat. That’s when I finally could turn my head and check on the children. I think I expected to see their hair floating, the detritus of the car floating up around them, like we were in space or something, but they were frozen back there, just like last time.
Only this time, all of their faces showed slack-jawed, white-eyed terror.
I didn’t have long to look. I got the sensation that something was yawning open, about to swallow us whole. I looked out the windshield but didn’t see anything.
I hugged my purse tighter to my chest, like it was some kind of shield. I feel so stupid for that, now.
And then. . .
Then I can’t remember anything.
I know time passed. I have the sensation of passing time, of having lost some time. Disorientation or something else—I can’t explain it. Maybe I fainted. Maybe I was frozen like the children, finally.
I remember vision coming to me. Not like opening my eyes, because my eyes were already open, but like, in my open eyes, vision just bloomed in, from the center out, and suddenly I could see.
I reached out and gathered up the children in my arms, who must have regained their vision at the same time as I did. I pulled them all together like little chickens, and me the mother hen. I think I finally let go of my purse then.
They started asking what had happened, but of course I couldn’t tell them anything. All I could say was, “I don’t know, but whatever it was, we’ll get through it together.”
It seemed like a good thing to say, but I don’t believe a word of it.
Oh, God. What if we're dead?
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