A creative fiction work.
I stood on the edge of the precipice, feeling the sharp bite of the salty wind whip my hair from my face. The black turbulent sky seemed to spin in dizzying circles, hiding the sun from view. The sea swirled in bluish grey darkness below me, hiding the sharp rocks that awaited me at the bottom.
What is it like at the bottom of the sea?
A flash of lightning streaked through the inky sky, smashing into the cliff I was so precariously perched upon. The rocks below me began to crumble, but I felt no panic, no pain; the emptiness that surrounded me had swallowed me whole.
It seemed like I had been falling all my life.
I was nearing the first crests of the waves now, and I realized that the wind that should have rushed through my ears seemed to have quieted, just as the sea had. Everything went mute as I struggled to close my eyes. My eyelids refused to close, almost as if I wanted to watch my incoming death. As the thought struck me, I found it to be true. I contentedly watched the waves grow larger and larger, the white froth of the water surrounding a small outcropping of sharp stones, pointing upward to spear its oncoming prey.
I shot up with a start, my hands still flailing from the sudden panic that had seemed to have finally gripped me. I clutched at the soft cotton around me, my eyes darting through the room. I found myself in the comfort of my bedroom, my back drenched with sweat, my hands shaking uncontrollably. I took deep, calming breaths as I gazed around, this time more slowly; the mid morning sun was streaming through my window.
Something shattered into pieces in the kitchen. I followed the sound, my tired eyes refusing to take in the my surroundings that were bleached white by the morning sun.
I found my mother slumped over the spotless counter top, her face creased, her eyes empty, her slight build wrapped loosely in a bathrobe. She held a mug in between her small hands, staring down at the broken one, making the scene look even more pathetic. I shook my head disapprovingly, moving to take the cup away from her.
"Mom, don't drink that stuff, you know what it does to you," I said gently, pulling it from her. The loss of the mug seemed to pull her a little lower in her chair, making her look a little more hunched. Her hair, a deep shade of chestnut, had been wrestled into a clip with flyaway strands sticking out in odd places. I sighed loudly as I poured the contents of the mug down the sink, as I had done every day since the divorce.
Mom never used to be like this. She never looked so deplorable, so depressed, so listless. She used to be filled with an animated vigor, a strength that no one could rival. She used this strength to fight with Dad almost constantly. She used it on me.
When Dad left, he took some of Mom with him. Now, no matter how furious I am, I can't bring myself to put her in her place. Not when she's like this.
"Mom, come on, let's get you upstairs," I said quietly. She twitched what I accepted to be as a nod in my direction and began to slide slowly out of her chair. She seemed to have to pull herself up the stairs after me, each step taking much more than I would ever know. It took all my strength to leave her; it always did.
"Mom, I have to go now, okay? I have to go work. I'll be back, I promise."
She made no response but I knew she understood, for when I had reappeared at the foot of the stairs a half hour later, she'd made it back to her bed. Her room was messier than ever now that Dad was gone, with papers and books strewn across the floor and draped on chairs and dresser drawers. Mom sat in the middle of it all, her wide and unseeing eyes gazing hypnotized at the television screen. I turned to go, hesitating as I always did at the threshold. I don’t know what exactly I was waiting for; maybe I hoped my mom would come charging down the stairs, yelling at me, telling me I'd left a sock on the floor again. There was a time that I hated her, hated that fierce rage that built up inside me every time her mouth opened. There was a time I would give anything for it to just disappear. Now I wish it would bring her back.
I got into the car and drove to work, my thoughts numb, as if some major understanding link was being forged behind closed doors and I just couldn’t see it. I shook it off as I entered the convenience store, forcing my face into the plastic smile all employees wore. Here was a place I could not afford to lose.
I got the call after my shift, on my way home.
When I got to the hospital, there was no one I recognized. Faces and voices blurred into unnecessary background as I pushed my way to the front of the line, palms slamming unconsciously on the pristine white desk before me. A secretary looked up at me with a bored smile.
"My mom collapsed outside the house. The neighbors called the police. What happened?" I asked in a rush, my palms already slick with sweat. The secretary nodded towards the elevators.
"Third floor, emergency ward."
I reached her hospital room and there was no one around. A doctor rushed past me in the hallway, then did a double take. "You're that patient's sixteen year-old daughter, right?"
Her voice was kind, her features round and loving; I shied away from her, choosing to back against the wall instead.
"Where is she?"
"She's in the room opposite this one. She seemed to have been on something when we found her; there were too many drugs in her system to begin with. Do you know if she took any drugs, any pills?"
"Just her antidepressants." I shook my head. "I mean, she'd mixed them into her tea to help them go down, but –"
"There definitely wasn’t tea in that drink of hers. Whatever she’d been drinking them with slowly poisoned her system. We're just lucky we caught her alive."
I barreled past the woman into my mother's hospital room, not even bothering to hear the rest of her sentence.
And there my mother lay, wrapped in grey blankets that matched her face. I rushed over to her, panic giving way to tears, tears giving way to anger at myself for not being more careful. I clutched at my mom's cold hands, remembering faintly how I used to hate the vicious bite in them, how powerful they used to be. Now they were like the rest of my mother; an empty shell, a broken bone that no amount of drugs or love would be able to heal. I bent my head over her, more to hide the tears that fell freely from my cheeks onto hers than from strain. I felt my mother stir faintly, and I jerked my head back, my eyes wide.
Her eyes opened and the brown irises were not fixated not on me, but rather, something else, something far away. I squeezed my eyes shut, unable to keep the lie from spurting through my lips.
She sighed contentedly, her fingers finally tightening around mine. "Dylan, you're back. You're back."
Her voice broke, and I opened my eyes cautiously, afraid of what I would see. Tears sparkled on her tired face, causing her to smile and mine to crumble. She continued her eyes focused on a spot somewhere miles away.
"Dylan, you don’t know what it was like. I constantly have that dream. Do you remember that dream, the one I would always tell you?"
I swallowed, my voice hoarse as fresh tears flowed down my cheeks. "Not quite."
My mother seemed unable to discern my voice from my dad's – she continued talking, her voice growing steady as her memory flowed through the room.
"I always dreamed I was on the edge of a place. A cavern, I think, or an open cliff. There would be nothing around me but sky, and nothing below me but water. Nothing but you to keep me from falling. But ... but it was different, today. Today I saw sunlight shine through those storm clouds. Did you see it too, Dylan? Did you see the sun?"
It was that instant that I knew why my Dad hadn't come to visit my mother and would never come again. I tightened my grip on her, trying my hardest to keep my voice from shaking.
"Yes, I saw it," I whispered.
Satisfied, she closed her eyes again, and for the first time in months, a ghost of a smile had appeared on her sallow face. I moved away from her slowly, until only our fingertips were touching. Soon, she let that go, too.
Somewhere along the line the doctor had slipped into the room, watching us with mournful eyes. I couldn’t look at her as she ran tests on my mom, choosing to look out the window instead. The clouds had covered up the sun, causing a silvery halo to spark around its edges.
"She'll be alright."
I turned, struck at how stupid doctors can be.
"No, she won't. Not really."
The woman looked as if I’d slapped her in the face, and I didn’t bother to explain myself as I turned my back on her to look out the window. I just stared at the silver lining, watching the image waver then blur in my eyes.
We'll both just have to keep waiting for the sun.