Chapter 7

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Voices, so many voices. All yelling, all angry, were they arguing? They all sounded like they were at the end of a tunnel, Alex tried but he couldn’t make out what they were saying or how many of them there were. He sensed he was in the middle of a crowd, he could see figures standing everywhere, surrounding him. Something was different about them, something Alex couldn’t put his finger on. Beyond the mass of figures Alex could scarcely make out the sky, as blood red and distorted as it was; it was like he was looking at a water painting through tears. He could feel a slight breeze, and dry hot air. Alex looked past the figures and saw mountains surrounding the group, or were they hills? Where was he? Most importantly, why did he feel like he had been here before? Alex felt certain that he was part of the reason all these figures stood shouting at each other, a big part. Suddenly, one voice rang out above the rest and everyone went silent. Alex could feel the tension in the air, though he had no idea what was happening. Then the voice started to speak…

The scene faded away into a black haze and Alex began feeling a sensation of vertigo as everything changed. The distortion was replaced by a third person perspective, like he was floating in the air. Alex saw himself, years younger and standing in a very familiar place, Nadia’s kitchen. He remembered this all too well. Nadia had been too sick to come to school and Alex had been told he couldn’t go see her until she was better. Alex remembered getting the idea of sneaking a can of chicken noodle soup out of his house to take to her because that’s what made people better. He was afraid her mother didn’t have any if Nadia was still sick after almost a week. Alex had waited for Mark to fall asleep on the couch before quietly sneaking out and down the little path along the lake that led to her house.

Nadia’s mother, Margret, answered the door. Alex recognized the ragged look on her face as she smiled down at the little boy holding up the unopened can of soup. She let him in, telling Alex to stay in the kitchen, Nadia was too sick and she didn’t want Alex catching whatever she had. Alex watched the scene unfold beneath him, unable to speak or move.

He watched himself standing in the doorway to Nadia’s room while Margret stepped into Nadia’s room and sat down on her bed. The dream was as clear as the day it happened, and from his perspective Alex could hear Margret telling Nadia that Alex had come to see her. Alex could remember how scared he had been back then when she didn’t respond to her mother’s words, he could see the worried look on his younger self’s face as he waited for his friend to say something. Margret put her hand on Nadia’s forehead and then to her own mouth, wide eyed and looking very worried. She took a thermometer off the small table next to the bed as Alex kept peeking around the doorway to watch. When she finally took the thermometer out of Nadia’s mouth she looked down at it and started to cry. Margret quickly sprang to her feet and ran past Alex to the phone in the kitchen, quickly punching in three numbers with a shaking hand.

In the dream Alex stopped listening to what she was saying; he could only watch his younger self turn nervously to Nadia’s mom and then peek back around the doorway to the girl on the bed. He watched his younger self walk into the room and recognized the pale look on Nadia’s face and her shallow breathing. She didn’t look up at him when he held her hand or respond to any of his pleas to wake up.

Alex remembered all this; the sound of Margret was crying on the phone and yelling for someone to get there, the feeling of helplessness he felt as something bad he was too young to understand was happening to his best friend. He watched himself look back out the door to see her mother still crying on the phone then down to the sick little girl on the bed.

“Please get better,” Alex watched himself whisper with a small and shaky voice. The three words rang like thunder in his head as the younger version of himself spoke. Then he bent down and kissed her on the cheek. Even from his vantage from above Alex could still feel her hot skin on his lips and feel her tiny hand in his own. As soon as the boy’s lips touched Nadia there was a flash of brilliant light Alex didn’t remember from that day all those years ago. Nadia’s whole body shuddered as she suddenly squeezed down on his hand. As Alex watched from above the color returned to her face, suddenly she took a deep breath like someone coming out of the water after holding their breath too long. She slowly opened her eyes and looked up at Alex’s younger self and smiled.

“Hi,” she said with a whisper. Alex saw his younger self jump as Margret came rushing back into the room and the vertigo once again returned as the scene faded away.

….    

Alex woke at the bottom of the path with nothing but the sound of spring crickets and an occasional loon call to greet him. The pain in his head was quickly fading, as was the memory of the dream he had been having. His right arm felt like it had been plunged in ice and was partially numb. Alex sat up and found himself sprawled out at the bottom of the path by the edge of the lake. He pulled his arm out of the water wondering how long had he been there. What had happened? He could see the moon over his head so at least it was still night time; though he had no idea what time. He stood up and stretched the stiffness out of his limbs. He was cold and soaking wet, the mud caked onto his clothes made them feel heavy. Shivering, he turned and slowly walked back up the hill still wondering what had happened. The last thing he remembered was walking along the lake, then a sudden pain before blacking out for God only knew how long. Had he been dreaming? If he had, it had faded away as quickly as the pain that had sent him rolling down the hill.

He made home and stepped inside. Mark still wasn’t home so he knew it couldn’t be much past midnight. Alex kicked off his boots at the door and walked to his bedroom. When he flipped on the light his eyes involuntarily shut at the sudden brightness. Still shivering from the cold mud he stripped off his clothes on the way to his small bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. He looked terrible, his eyes looked sunken and his face was pale. Mud was caked and drying to the side of his face. He had never felt so tired in his life.

 Shivering and cold, Alex turned the water in his shower on as hot as he could stand it, then stepped in and let the cold drain from his limbs. He didn’t want to think about what had happened just yet, he was too tired and wanted sleep.

 He stepped out of the shower and dried off. He was physically drained and his eyes were half closed as he threw on some boxers and stumbled to his bed, almost falling over into it. He would have fallen asleep at once had a thought not suddenly occurred to him; he had walked here. No pain. No limp.

 The entire day had been a miserable battle through pain every time he took a step or moved, yet he had walked up to the house and into his bedroom without so much as a groan. Shaking with a slight fear, he sat up and flipped the light back on again. He was almost afraid to look down. Had he somehow killed the nerves in his leg? Had he done more damage than he thought? Pain like that doesn’t just go away, yet the pain in his foot was gone. As Alex looked down he felt the blood leave his face and a cold sweat break out across his forehead. The ugly swelling and bruise that had been there just hours before was gone. His foot was completely healed.

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