God damn! We just had a near-life experience, fellas.
Fight Club, Movie
The Half Killed by Dario Marianelli
I was fourteen when it happened to me.
Even though for years after I tried not to think about it, I could never forget. I don't think anybody would be able to if I couldn't; I was very good at repressing unpleasant things.
It was the last summer I spent in Washington with my father. The last because of the accident. My mother was too terrified to let me go back, using her parental authority for the first time. My father, shame-faced and guilt-ridden, agreed, and came to visit me in Arizona instead until the end of high school.
I don't think he's ever forgiven himself, even though it wasn't his fault at all. But I suppose I was his responsibility at the time, so anything that happened to me was a burden on him, whether he could've prevented it or not.
I was bored out of my mind that day. I sat on Charlie's couch that morning with him, and we munched on cereal and watched some show neither of us cared about. I was watching the actual screen, dissecting the static and individual particles that made it up, instead of the show that was on. I don't know if my dad was really watching it or not either. He might very well have been doing the same thing I was doing.
Eventually, he seemed to stir from our lethargic daze. He looked up at me and my eyes, desperate for a change in scenery, met his.
"Do you want to go down to La Push?" he asked. "Hang out with Jake? I know it's pretty boring around here."
I smiled a little at that. Charlie was always very straight forward. No sugar-coating with him. I loved him for it.
"Sure Dad. Sounds fun."
So we loaded up into the cruiser, the Traffic-Stopper as I affectionately named it, and made our at-speed-limit-and-sometimes-slower way to the reservation outside of Forks, located next to the ever-freezing Pacific ocean.
Over my visits here, the shabby yet cozy red shack that was the Blacks' house had become a place of comfort for me. At Charlie's house, there was never really anything to do. But I had found a friendship with the Native American boy, Jacob Black, who lived here. He made the summers I spent here better, easier, and all-in-all more enjoyable for me, to the point where it wasn't a pain to come here, and I almost didn't want to leave when the time came. He was two years younger than me, but it never affected how we got along, and so it wasn't something I thought about or took into consideration unless we started talking about school.
I hopped out of the cruiser excitedly and ran to the Blacks' door, knocking with the energy that finally moving around had given me. I heard Billy telling Jake to get the door just as Charlie finally caught up to me on the steps, and then the door was opening to reveal the wide, almost chubby face of my twelve-year-old friend. But his face was perfect for him because if he had any other one, his wide smile wouldn't have fit, and then he just wouldn't be Jacob. That was how I always thought about it.
"Bella!" he greeted me enthusiastically.
I grinned, just as happy, but naturally much more reserved with my emotions. He stepped out of the way and Charlie and I stepped into the house.
"Charlie," Billy smiled from his wheel chair. He sat at the small, rickety kitchen table, eating breakfast. "Hungry?"
"Nope, already ate. Just thought we'd come bother you," Charlie responded in his dry, almost gruff voice - but that was just a voice that I had come to coin as a 'dad' in my head. If he sounded different, he wouldn't be my dad, I reasoned.
I was feeling restless again after being inside for days. Just the walk from the cruiser to the house had been refreshing. "Can Jake and I go play outside please?" I asked politely.
"Yeah, that seems fine to me," Charlie told me. He turned to Jake's father. "Billy?"
"I don't mind. Just watch my boy Bella."
"Dad," Jake pouted. "I don't need looking after."
"You're twelve years old Jake. I'm gonna disagree with you there kiddo."
I laughed at Jacob as he sulked. "Will do," I saluted Billy, before opening the door again and leading the way outside.
Jake shut the door behind us and followed me off the porch. "What do you want to do Bella?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. Walk around? Let's go down to the beach."
"Alright, if you want to," he agreed easily, and we started walking towards the La Push beach, taking a familiar path through grassy lots, sidewalks, and people's fenceless backyards. Jake chattered away happily next to me, but not in an annoying way. It was nice to listen to him. He was a cheerful, good-natured boy with funny things to say, and I wasn't really required to talk if I didn't want to. One of the many reasons we got along well.
The sky swirled with grey clouds over our heads, but it wasn't an ominous thing or even an excuse to duck for cover - it was just Washington weather. I'd gotten used to it over the years.
It began to rain lightly as we reached the beach, making me scowl. Used to it, yes. Liked it, no.
"What now?" Jake asked.
I shook my head. "Keep walking, I guess," I laughed, heading up the beach, where the land sloped at an incline, leading to cliffs and woods and dirt roads.
"You know, when you asked if we were going to go play, I thought you meant it," he joked genially with me. He walked next to me nevertheless, his hands in his pockets, whistling tunelessly. I shot an envious look at him.
"What?" he asked, nervous, finally noticing my jealous stare a few minutes after I'd been doing it. We were making good head-way up the beach.
"I wish I could whistle," I confessed. "But I just can't, somehow."
"But it's easy," he said, surprised, his eyes widening.
"For you," I frowned.
"No, for anyone. All you have to do is pucker your lips and put your tongue behind your teeth kinda…it's not so easy to describe, but it's easy to do."
"Thanks for the great advice," I told him sarcastically. More and more trees were popping up on the edge of the beach as we got closer to the woods.
"Not my fault you're whistling handi-capped. I was only doing it because you're denying me any kind of fun."
"Well what do you want to do then?" I asked, half-annoyed since he'd asked me what I wanted to do, and half-curious at the same time.
He shrugged. "I don't know," he said, but I didn't believe him because of the sly grin spreading up his lips. His smirk grew the widest right before he reached out and pushed my arm.
"Tag, you're it!" he screamed, and ran off.
"H-hey! No fair!" I cried after him, him already having a decent head-start. I hated running as a general rule, but he had challenged me now and I couldn't turn it down. I started running after him, the sand slowing me down until we reached the woods. We were much more noticeably up-hill, and the rain was falling a little harder, but that didn't matter.
Jacob was laughing his head off as he raced way in front of me, but I tried my hardest to keep up. We broke the cover of the trees and for once, blasted tree roots were used in my favor. Jacob tripped over one, sprawling to the ground, and I caught up, kicking his leg as I passed.
"You're it!" I panted, almost wheezing. Physical exercise was not my strong point, but I didn't want to lose, so I pushed my self harder.
I heard Jacob grumbling way behind me, and laughed breathlessly as I sprinted through the trees. I saw a more open patch to the side and ran for that, hoping that would lead to more even ground I couldn't kill myself on.
"Bella, no!" I heard Jacob scream right as I broke through.
It was not more even ground. It was a cliff face.
My body recognized the danger before my mind did. My heart pounded erratically, but not from the exertion; fearful sweat broke out on the back of my neck; and I tried skidding to a stop, coming to a stop at the very edge of the cliff.
But I was still unbalanced. I waved my arms around wildly, trying to find equilibrium, the grey, choppy waters threatening me far, far below. Vertigo swept over me, making me dizzier. I was fighting a losing battle. Jake burst through the patch then too, his eyes wide with fright before he made a wild grab for me. But it was too late.
I was screaming before I even realized that I was falling.
My stomach shot up to my throat, an uncomfortable tingling pressure deep inside, like when you go down the big drop on a roller coaster.
Except this was no roller coaster.
The dark waters lapped high, as if trying to reach up and drag me down faster. My eyes frantically searched for sharp rocks I was to be impaled on, but found none before I cut through the surface of the water.
At first, I felt better. The drop was what had been scary. As I landed in the water and didn't get jabbed with a rock or anything else, my immediate thought was that I was going to be okay. I could swim to the shore. This was just a big scare - I just had to figure out which way was up in the black water.
The current, however, didn't like that idea.
Before I could even flail my arms and legs to swim, I felt water so forceful it had to be powered by something else slinging me around. My eyes and nose stung with the salt water. My mouth tasted horrible.
My lungs were beginning to burn.
I had very little air in my lungs. After all my running, and then my screaming as I fell, I didn't have much of an air supply left to me. The urge to gasp was over-whelming and I tried to repress it.
I felt myself being flung and twisted, being dragged either sideways or downward or diagonal - it was absolutely impossible to tell.
The water was freezing, numbing my body quickly. I tried to swim, but it was like dust in a waterfall.
Doomed to drown.
I felt the realization hit me suddenly as my lungs screamed at me, paining me, begging me to find air. I was going to die. I had been playing tag just a minute ago and now I was going to die in this merciless ocean that didn't know that I existed and didn't know that it was going to end that existence, and frankly, didn't care.
Fourteen was a strange age for everyone I think. Back home at school, death and suicide were popular topics discussed amongst my peers - some with revulsion, some with morbid curiosity.
Remembering some of their glorified conversations, I also realized simultaneously that none of them knew a damn thing about life or death. I was starting to understand a thing or two. Too bad it was too late for all that.
My eyes drifted shut, trying to quell the stinging in them, to find some kind of relief against the numbing pain of the cold, the burning pain of my lungs, and the sad pain of my mind that was unlocking and saying goodbye.
I felt something on my back then. Very light. Like a cold breeze. You would think I wouldn't be able to feel any more cold, but it was like standing in a frigid, stagnant freezer and then feeling a chilly brush of air against your back.
That's exactly what it felt like. A cool breeze, in the middle of my back.
I almost felt fear. Was it a fish? Some sea creature come to eat me when I wasn't even dead yet? But it didn't feel like an animal. The breeze was solidifying. It almost felt like an ice-cube now. A large one. Maybe a block of ice.
My brain was slowly losing the ability to think as the oxygen dwindled away.
And then the cool breeze was at my mouth, the same process of solidification beginning again until ice-cubes pressed against my freezing lips. In a way in almost felt good. My lips parted of their own accord, and then I felt a cooler breeze in my mouth.
I gasped, finally, and expected the sea water to come rushing into my lungs. But I received something else, something drastically different.
Enough to keep me alive and conscious for a few more seconds. I wanted to open my eyes. But I was still so weak. I didn't have the ability to do that yet.
The ice pressed against my back harder, almost as if it was lifting me up.
Or pushing me down.
Was I sinking to the bottom of the ocean? Was I imagining all this?
Was I still alive? Had I ever been alive, or was I asleep, and was about to finally wake up and go home; home to a place I'd never been but knew I belonged in.
I lost the feel of the ice cube. I lost the feel of everything. There was just darkness around me, and I knew I had passed; passed from this life, or passed from my consciousness, or passed from my dream.
But then, what felt like seconds later, I felt pricking stings all over my body. That didn't feel right. And I felt shivering cold all over. Not like with the ice-cube. But numb-cold again, rapidly losing the numb.
And I no longer tasted salt water or that cool breeze.
I tasted oxygen, real oxygen.
I opened my eyes blearily, because I had the strength to do that now.
I was lying on the beach, soaking wet.
And I was alive.
I have no idea how I survived that day. I have no idea what happened while I was underwater.
All I know for sure is what happened because of it.
First, I lost my friend, Jacob Black. When he found me on the beach, he was crying from relief, but the moment he touched me, he yelped and jumped back as if I had burned him. A strange look passed his face, something between maybe anger, and fear. Then he took off running. Even though I didn't go home to Phoenix right away after that, I never saw him again. And I knew it was because, for some reason, he didn't want to see me.
And secondly, no one ever touched my bare skin again for the next five years of my life.
An idea I've had for a while and only recently finished developing completely. And it took a lot of developing.
An idea I've had for a while and only recently finished developing completely. And it took a lot of developing.
I should update soon, I've already started the next chapter. Please review, I would love to hear what you think! I'm kind of nervous about it because this story literally took days of me sitting in a beetle position on my chair, just thinking about how to make it all work. But at least I've got it outlined now.
- The Romanticidal Edwardian