That day is not supposed to be something I am supposed to have forgotten. No matter what anyone tried, I still haven't. The immense repercussions of that day have left quite the imprint on our town, and no one will forget. Considering the fact that I go to intense therapy three times a week, anyone reading this would be quick to assume I am mentally unstable. The truth is that I sincerely am, but anyone would be once they knew what happened to me, therefore I owe an explanation to everyone: the readers and the people of Mercer Island, Washington.
APRIL 7th, 2007
On this day something would occur, and I knew it in the weeks prior. From the middle of March I felt as if something was encroaching but was helpless, because I had no clue as to what it was. I just felt the force and the tension of this. The last time I had this feeling was the day before my brother's car accident. I felt something was coming, and then had a brief seizure the moment his car struck a pole without even knowing where he was or what had happened. Thankfully he lived with minor injuries; a broken forearm. This feeling had followed me for weeks with higher intensity, though. I knew the magnitude of what was coming, and it increased every day up until the incident. I wouldn't call myself clairvoyant, but for some reason I do have a bizarre ability to detect when something occurs to someone I know.
On this day, I was to meet my friends at the local Taco Bell. It was a typical Saturday, where we typically went to spend the day at a fast food restaurant and then stroll through the nearest forest. It had a walking trail, of course. This was a natural occurrence, because we all ended up going to different high schools, so we caught up once a week. At this point in time, I was fifteen, having had my birthday in February. My brother was now twenty-two, and he carried out the task of dropping me off every Saturday. I strolled into the Taco Bell, seeing my friends seated at a table in the corner. I pushed aside the thought of the force pushing on me. I joined them. My friends were Katrina, age fifteen, Samuel, age fifteen, and Kim, age fourteen. Katrina was of Hispanic descent, the Peruvian kind, Samuel was Caucasian of Russian/Irish descent, and Kim was of Oriental Asian descent through Laos. We had been friends since the beginning of middle school in 2003.
We visited old haunts together, and then told each other of our new lives as high school freshmen. Something interesting happened to at least one of us every week, so the conversations were typically never empty. "What's wrong?" asked Kim as she nudged my elbow, which was supporting my face as I stared into my Chalupa. It took a moment to register I had just been acknowledged, and the table went silent. I looked up to find them staring at me with a burning curiosity. "I just…I don't know." was all I could really answer. It was the truth. The rest of our lunch was silent and awkward. I received the occasional glance from each of my friends and they continued eating their low quality but delicious beef.
I was on a sort of auto-pilot feeling up until the moment I realized we had been in the forest for about five minutes. We walked in silence. I noticed a blue jay nested upon a low branch, which was bizarrely uncommon. We continued walking. Sam then fell to the floor. Everyone stared. "Are you alright?" asked Katrina. Sam stared up blankly. He stood up, walked over to a bike rack on the trail, stole a bicycle, and in the spur of the moment sped off without explanation. "Sam, what the fuck?" Katrina howled after him. Kim was just gaping. I stared in absolute confusion. We glanced at each other and as if we communicated, instantaneously sprinted off after him. We ran and ran for hours straight. The Sun was setting in the West. Before any of us realized, it was pitch black. Our parents were going to kill us.
I stood under a light on the trail, and Katrina sat next to Kim on an adjacent bench. They watched in horror as I collapsed to the ground. It wasn't until then I realized I was convulsing. The light above flickered intensely and shot sparks everywhere as it died. I then realized something happened to Sam. Kim and Katrina ran over to my unresponsive body. "Lucas, please don't do this!" I recognized Kim's voice. Somehow I was still fully conscious and aware of my surroundings. Trembling, I stood up. It was like a miracle, but I knew the truth. "Sam's dead."
APRIL 8th, 2007
Me, Katrina, and Kim had gone home. We were in bed, but I knew none of us were sleeping. At 6:09am, the local fire rescue called my house. I rushed downstairs to pick up the phone, and my mother had waddled her way down the stairs after, followed by my father. "Hello?" I answered. "This is Sergeant Fiskerton of the Mercer Island Fire Rescue calling to confirm we have recovered the body of Samuel McCollins in the Lincoln Recreational Waking Trail." I gaped with the phone to my ear. "He was found with various lacerations and severe cranial damage. He rode the stolen bike into a tree at high velocity, and it collapsed on top of him, causing him to be crushed." I managed to choke out, "Okay, thank you." and slammed the phone. The lump collecting in my throat was hard to swallow, and I choked back tears. I had been right. I sat on my bed in disbelief, my life rushing in fast forward. My mother walked in and attempted to console me, but all I could think about was the fact that I knew this would happen.
It wasn't until ten o'clock that we learned when the funeral would be. It would be exactly a week from that day, followed by the burial. I wanted to be like my friends; in disbelief. I couldn't bring myself to act that way, since I knew and I did nothing to stop it. Yes, we ran after him. Yes, we lost him. But I still feel the guilt even though it was his own fault. There was nothing that could be done to save him now. He was dead, in some casket. He was possibly disfigured insanely for all we knew. I ran down the stairs and out the door. I didn't know where I was going, just that I wasn't sure I wanted to come back. I ran to Katrina's house. She was sitting on the porch crying as I ran by, then attempted to catch up to me. "What the hell are you up to?" she cried with tears slowly sliding down her cheeks. I took her hand and we ran to Kim's. Katrina's mother called after her, and we simply ignored her.
Together we ran, not caring how exhausting the trip would be to run a few blocks. We disregarded the fact that it was pouring and becoming muddy added with the fact that we had no jacket or umbrella. We simultaneously pounded on Kim's door. She answered looking distraught. "What's happening?" She asked half-heartedly. Katrina looked at me for an answer, and without warning I dragged Kim past the threshold of her house. The three of us locked hands and ran back into the forest where Sam was killed the night before. Katrina shook as she realized where we were going, and Kim simply stated "I can't do this, I can't." Without sympathy I dragged them on, and inside was this burning tension. It was like the tension I felt when I knew Sam had died, but more neutral than negative. We just ran.
The girls said nothing as we bounded off of the walking trail and into the trees. We continued until Kim let out a gasp. I noticed it the moment Katrina's eyelids stretched open, her brow arching. It was a destroyed tree with a bent out of shape bicycle locked into it and under it. Police tape cordoned off the horrendous scene, and to any passerby it would've looked like a biking accident. To the group of friends, it was one of the worst phases of their lives. I pushed on, past the tape and felt drawn to the area of death, which somehow I recognized as a particular branch crushing the handlebars. I was right, for on the other side was a puddle of blood. Neither Katrina or Kim said a word as I showed them, only unanimously gasped in absolute horror. "Why are we here?" asked Kim in a depressive tone. "How are we getting back now?" asked Katrina. "I don't know how, but I knew when Sam died. I knew how to find this, and now I think I know where we're supposed to go." was all I could muster. "What do you mean 'where we're supposed to go'?" Katrina whined in a near screech. I grabbed their arms and we ran further into the forest.
We flew past the trees, kicking up dead leaves and avoiding rain puddles along with ever so slippery moss. We simply pushed on into nowhere. "Dude, we're gonna end up in fucking Canada." griped Katrina. Kim nudged me as she saw what was up ahead. Katrina had no words. I was at a loss for words. The forest no only ended, but there was nothing. Literally nothing in front of us, just the dark in broad daylight. No air came out of it. No rain went into it. I let go of the girls, and without wanting to be left behind, they followed me in anyway. The entire existence of the world disappeared. It was dark, airless, and thoughtless. There was no life energy. There was essentially nothing.
I couldn't see the girls. I couldn't see. I didn't see. I couldn't think, and how I memorized this point in time is really the most enigmatic problem in my life. I just remember it was as if someone flicked a switch and suddenly there was no forest, but an empty place I could not describe. There wasn't exactly a sky. It was just the floor, invisible under clouds of intense fog. Above were more clouds. In front were more clouds. Behind were more clouds. There was a heavy pounding behind me, and I heard heavy breathing as well. Katrina ran into me, knocking me over. We glanced at each other silently and walked forward, hoping the floor didn't fall out from under us. There was the sound of sobbing, echoing against the cloudy atmosphere. Crouched on the floor was a hysterical Kim. She glanced up at us with water-filled eyes and stood up to join us in this void. We stood together, with nothing but the warmth of each other's hands. There was no temperature, exactly. It was an airless, yet cloud-filled space of nonexistence. I decided it was time for us to walk again. We walked on together through the clouds. The clouds were now lit by something behind it. We continued walking until they cleared, and they did. Behind them was something more incredible than can't exactly be explained. There was a large field with rolling hills and tall grass. It was accompanied with a warm breeze and glistening sunlight. A crystal clear river flowed through the field, and on the other side was a tree. We turned around expecting the clouds, but it was the same field nonetheless. Above was a bright, blue, cloudless sky with a shining yellow sun. In the distance all around were captivatingly incredible mountains. With every step we took, the blades of grass we touched flew away, suddenly butterflies. I breathed in a heavy sigh of relaxation only to realize how crisp and clean the air is. Katrina ran off playing in the tall grass and chased the butterflies it became, while Kim collapsed to the ground and rolled around. I walked around in the beautiful scenery. It was then I realized the tree across the river looked strikingly similar to the one Sam hit in the forest. It was lanky with aged chips acting as bark, except the bark was new and deep brown. The leaves were a fresh green, and then I found something even more shocking. I tackled Katrina and pulled Kim off of the floor to rush them to the riverbank. "Look!" I said, pointing. They stared at a figure laying under the tree. "Sam!" shrieked Kim. "Sam!" Sam sat up and stared at us. The river didn't look that deep, so I attempted wading in it. I waded all the way across, and then looked up to find I waded exactly back to where I left the bank. My heart sank. I couldn't get across. Sam beckoned to us, and we all tried miserably to wade across, only to return exactly to our bank. This place defined physics and logic, and then I realized we may have crossed over to the Afterlife. I looked sadly at Katrina, and then the scariest thing happened. Particle by particle, she swirled around in the wind and then blew away. Kim screamed, yet her scream gained an echoing vibe to it as the same happened to her. Sam looked across the river distraught. "We'll come back for you!" I bellowed across the water body, and then the entire world we had just entered evaporated before my eyes.
I suddenly sat up on the forest floor next to Katrina and Kim. Kim pulled a leaf out of Katrina's hair. We walked back home in utter silence and disbelief until Kim suddenly shouted halfway home. "What the fuck?" This shocked both me and Katrina, since Kim had never cursed a day in her life. We looked at her with the same expression, shrugging our shoulders.
APRIL 9TH, 2007
This was a Monday. This was the first day back to school since Sam died. I shuffled down the hall to my Geometry class like an absolute zombie. I knew it from the looks others were giving me. My eyes were fixated on the floor, and every time I blinked I felt the bags under them. I plopped down in my seat with everyone staring at me, with the exception of the teacher who had the maturity to know when to stay out of others' businesses. They all knew what happened. They all knew he was my friend. They all knew, and I sat in flustered embarrassment and awkward silence. My teacher gestured for me to go to his desk. "Lucas, would you like some time to yourself in the hall or maybe the counselor's office?" he asked nurturingly. It was terrifyingly out of character for him, since he was always a complete pompous jerk to the entire class. I nodded, deciding sitting in the hallway was better than being stared down for two hours. I packed my bag and heard my joints crack as I sat with my legs crossed in the hallway. My mind was absolutely shaken with the experience of the night before. I knew I couldn't tell anyone. They'd think I was off my rocker, and maybe I was. I simply sat in the hallway until third period.
Before I had realized it, it had been two hours. As each classmate of mine walked out of the class they stared at me in sympathy. No one spoke, and I stood up when they were all gone, and walked to my English class, keeping my head down. I plopped down yet again, and this time the teacher did not offer to allow me to be alone. It was torture not being able to enjoy the inside jokes I had with my friends in that class. One in particular, Christen, was staring at me with an expression that even affected me in a sad way. I couldn't take it. I put my head down and let the tears fall where they may. No one said a word. No one looked in my direction. The bell rang, and it was time for lunch.
I walked to the outside eating area and sat on the floor, my back supported by a wall. It was raining yet again. I continued staring at the floor, observing each ant as it crawled into a crack in the concrete. Someone offered me their lunch, and I decided that while I was depressed I may as well not act rude, so I took it, yet barely touched it. It was already time for fifth period - World History. I walked up the stairs, yet I remember that I used to rush up there. I sat down in the back corner of the room next to the window of which had non-working blinds. I copied the notes and the silence had finally filled up my thoughts. I wasn't thinking anymore. There was a hole in my conscience at this point. The day ended. I sat down on the bus, not looking at the person next to me, whoever they were. I stared out the window at the rapidly falling rain as it splashed down to the unforgiving asphalt. I stepped off at my house and walked in, ignoring the chilly rain as it rolled down my backside. "Do you want to go to school for the rest of the week?" Asked my mother. The question took me by surprise, and it made me wonder, Why is it that it takes one of my best friends dying for her to ask me that question? I nodded, and decided it was better to sulk in my bed all week than to zombie around at school, being scrutinized in the fashion of a specimen in a Petri dish.
APRIL 15TH, 2007
The funeral was to begin at nine in the morning. I wore an old black suit I had worn to Katrina's Quinceañera and it was probably the darkest outfit I had. At the funeral home I met with Kim and Katrina. Katrina was wearing a long dress that touched the floor with spaghetti straps. Her small hat had a black veil on it. Kim wore a black blazer over a white blouse with a dark knee-length skirt and pumps. The three of us looked quite old for our age. It was a closed casket funeral. I remember that people spoke. I just don't remember whom or what it was they said. There was one in particular I do remember. It was Kim. She strode up to the stage with a prepared speech. Behind the podium she recited what she had written.
"I remember the first day of sixth grade. People weren't keen on socializing with me. I was the geeky Asian girl with glasses and braces. I mean, who would want to be friends with Kim Huang? I was a nobody, and no one liked talking to me. Yes, it's apparent I had low self-esteem. I remember though, that in my Geography class, that blond boy sat behind me, constantly poking me. It made me feel acknowledged. It made me matter that this boy gave me his attention. It didn't take long for us to become friends. Samuel McCollins was one of the best friends I ever had, and we maintained our friendship for almost four years." her voice was cracking, "I really miss him. I miss Sam like crazy, and now we have to all learn from this. We all have to grow from it and become better people, for Sam. I hope you all take into consideration the amazing life that we lost last week. Good-bye Sam." she walked briskly off the stage, wiping her eyes and nose furiously.
I clapped, and it caused an uproar of applause from the procession. It took a brave person to go up there in front of people she didn't know. It took Kim Huang to do so. My head was bowed the whole time. Katrina's hand reached over and gripped mine. Kim's head was resting on the empty seat in front of her, which was soaked with her tears. It was then that the funeral ended. They took his body to be buried. My mom called to me; we were leaving. Instead I did something drastic and maybe disrespectful. I dragged Kim and Katrina outside, and they deserted their shoes as we ran. Our feet pounded down the street. We were going back to get Sam.
We ran through the forest again, the leaves flying up after our feet. The icy wind stung our faces, tears filling our eyes. It felt as if we could run forever - anything to get away from the cruel world that bound us to our currently miserable lives. It was then I realized, 'what if we couldn't find a way back into that realm?'. Before I had the chance to completely finish that thought we were there. We were standing in the meadow, not even surprised but expectant of it. It was as if our wish had been granted. The only thing missing was the vital importance of our mission: Sam. We split up together and went to different parts of this infinite existence… or nonexistence. The tall grass parted for us as we ran through it, again flying away as butterflies. A warm breeze stroked the back of my neck. "Sam!" we all shouted. He was nowhere to be seen. We ran outward from our starting point in every direction. Nothing but grassy rolling hills as far as the eye could see. It was such a serene blissful place, and yet the stress pent up inside me, pressuring my conscious mind - if it even existed. There was so much about life and other things in the Universe that no living species would ever come to comprehend in their lifetimes.
This of course was obvious. We pushed on and then, the sudden evaporation. We flashed back to the forest floor. I then realized I was laying in a dirty suit on the forest floor beside two girls decked out in dirty funeral clothes.
APRIL 22ND, 2007
It was late at night, and I had been laying in my bed. I thought of the last few weeks of my life. I contemplated everything. I considered suicide, self-mutilation, even just spending the rest of my life outside of school. There was no coping with the intense feelings that had been pressuring my subconscious. I wondered everything. I didn't want the burden of the binding I had to other souls that touched my life. I never wanted it and I never understood it to this day. It was just something I felt. It was an innate sense, and no one ever listened when I tried to explain it to various therapists over the last few years. I wasted countless dollars in the process and countless time. I now know of course, that I wasted the last six years of my life trying to fix something that I never even knew about.
At that time, when I was merely fifteen I simply felt extreme imbalance. I simply felt anger and indignation toward something that was faceless. I had no point, personality, or any way of recognizing it. So that night I simply sat on my bed. The lights were on. My stomach was empty, and I didn't care. I just wanted answers to what had been happening over the last few weeks. I wondered why I had no urge to rush out to the forest like every week. I just felt that going out there would be pointless for once. Sam wasn't there anymore. He was somewhere else on the other side of the river. Katrina in the meantime suffered a fractured ankle. She fell down the stairs in her house. This of course is irrelevant to the recent events, but it is something I remember. Kim, on the other hand, was filling her sorrow with her music. As every Asian stereotype goes, her parents forced her into playing a string instrument at a young age. She was talented, but it still wasn't her forte. Her main skills were in the area of sculpting. Another irrelevant fact.
That night maybe around eleven I sat straight up in bed. I walked downstairs with no regrets, no fear of being caught out late. I stepped out the door without shoes on and ran to Katrina's. I then contemplated how I could take her to the forest with her injury. Instead I left behind common sense, and dragged her anyway. At this point she knew it was worthwhile to go along. Despite her slow gait and her constant yelps of pain from the recent stitches, she went along seeing as there was nothing else to do. Together we ran to Kim's, and thankfully we all lived within two miles of each other.
Before I knew it, we were sprinting in the forest. Katrina's stitches opened, spewing blood about her cast. Kim shrieked in horror. I stared and repeatedly shouted "Are you okay?". Katrina was wincing and we were stuck in the middle of a dark forest at midnight. It was quite the scene. She limped. We walked. And then, we fell. The air was gone, then back.
Regardless of the dark night we were in, the sunny meadow appeared, gorgeous as always. A familiar figure sat under a tree on the other side of the river. Something then occurred to me. I beckoned to him, attempting to see if he could cross to our side. He used a running start and then the strangest thing; in the blink of an eye he was exactly where he started. The laws of death were strict. The physics of the Afterlife were unforgiving. Sam frowned, and sat on the river bank staring at us grimly. We all sat on the side opposite him. Kim reached out as did he, and for once, his hand nearly touched hers. Except, an invisible force (as Kim described later) was restricting them. Katrina stood up and I stared at her ankle. The blood had gone, as did the stitches. I could even wager her ankle was no longer fractured. I then wondered if it would be the same back in the forest.
We sat staring at Kim and Sam reaching for each other. Not once did they touch. Kim's eyes welled up. "I love you, Sam." a hoarse whisper. Sam looked sadly at her. His lips formed, "I love you too, Kim." although we could not hear him. Where we was is somewhere we can't go. Some place we won't see until we're in his position. There was no reversing death.
JULY 14TH, 2007
It was exactly three months and a week since Sam's death. It was exactly three months and six days since our first encounter with the other side. Me, Katrina, and Kim made a vow to never speak of our experiences. Our parents agreed to never ask us where we went every Sunday. I had plopped down on the sofa in my family's living room, staring at the television but not paying any notice to what the show was or was about. I had a flip phone at the time; a Motorola Razr. It vibrated on the small glass side table next to me. I answered the call which was from Katrina. "Hello?" which of course was my typical phone answer. "Hey Lucas. Um listen, this Wednesday is Kim's birthday, so we're gonna go to her house and have a small thing. You coming?" she asked and informed. "Of course, it's not like I'm doing anything else this summer." was my sarcastic reply. "Okay, cool." she concluded. "See you tomorrow" we said unanimously. There was an awkward silence on both sides of the call. I slammed the phone shut in shame.
I continued staring at the lame reality show. I was a typical Saturday night. There were no jobs available in my area for people under sixteen years of age. I spent the majority of my summer laying on the sofa watching terrible television only to cynically criticize it. Every so often a friend from school would come over to criticize the shoddy entertainment with me. It was a good way to pass the time. Good, but not productive. "Lucas," asked my mother as she walked in, "what the hell is this?" she was referring to the awful series I was watching. "I don't really know, something about teenagers having kids. The only ones they show on this show are the trashy kind, though." I answered. My mother stared at it and then made a remark of the bad parenting of the mother of one of the teen mothers. I smirked.
Me and my mother had a very close relationship through my childhood; when I was still easy, and an above average student. By the time I was twelve, we just had a stable relationship, only acknowledging that we were mother and son, but having real adult conversations every so often. Usually, our opinions conflicted, and then we would argue and I would end up receiving a lecture on not making mistakes I made in the past. She was the type to dig up previous precedents to prove her case. This caused me to speak as little with her as possible when I got older, and we've been estranged for the last two years.
JULY 17TH, 2007
KIM'S 15TH BIRTHDAY
It was another Summer Wednesday, except for the festivities planned, of course. It rained as if the weather would ever care what we wanted. I was dressed, having had breakfast and all, and rode my bicycle to Kim's house. There were some streamers hung in organized areas. I found Kim, Katrina, some people from previous schools and Kim's current one, and of course her family. Her mother Ana welcomed me to their home. I thanked her in return. I walked over to Kim. "Hey, Happy Birthday." I said with a smile. I handed a small gift to her, which she passed over to her mother, who put it on a table reserved for gifts.
We spent the party on the sofa cynically criticizing some terrible films that were quite popular for being awful. Every now and then we consumed spots of party food.