His body tingled, pinpricks across his body in the pre-dawn light of his room.
And his heart was beating too fast. His eyes were wide and he wondered if this was it. He gripped the sheets of his bed in the false hope of hanging on as if he was on a roller coaster coming to the peak above the first fall. But it wasn’t his first. The first time was after going to the lake. And each time after that, it became worse.
He tried to breathe deeply through his nose and out his mouth to help bring himself down, to calm himself, but it did no good. His head pounded and that feeling of being pulled was overwhelming.
Even at the summit before the descent came, back to normalcy, he shook his head. Of course, this was happening to him. In the past ten years, life had taken a nose dive and that shitty old universe was using him to wipe with yet again.
Or, at least, that’s what he thought in the beginning.
After what seemed like hours (though he knew it had been just about three minutes), his heart started to beat slower and his breath became less as he had just run a marathon. A couple of minutes more and he felt better. The sweat still dripped down his sides onto the bed but the fan he slept with cooled his skin. He let go of the sheets and felt and heard his knuckles pop. He opened and shut them to force them to work.
He raised his head off of the pillow just to see if the sky was becoming lighter but it was still dark. His newest ‘spell’ had lasted just a few minutes but this one was double the intensity than the last one had been. He wasn’t sure what to make of it. The more he saw her, the shorter the spells but they were more intense. He figured out what was going on but he still hated them. But he knew it was worth it. Every one of them.
He rose and settled to the side of the bed with his face in his hands. Then he slowly looked around his bedroom. It was a jumbled mess. Clothes, clean and dirty, were draped over his chair and even his TV. He had little use of watching TV anymore so turning it into something to lay his jeans over.
As the spells increased (the ones that caused him to seize up and felt like he was dying), all started when he saw her.
He saw her but nobody else did.
Well, that’s what he thought at first.
Colin got ready for work by going through all his morning rituals. Brushing his teeth was last on his list before heading out the door and out to his car. His body still ached from the early morning spell but it was fading away. His 47-year-old body was still mostly healthy and residue from these attacks didn’t linger too long.
He drove out of the condo where he lived and headed to work, the windows down since the air condition wasn’t working well and he tried to save it for the afternoons when the temperature was well into the nineties. It only worked half of the time.
But even though the humidity was already rising, the breeze the car created as he drove felt good. It helped clear his head after a spell. And though the sky was light, the sun hadn’t peaked yet, giving him a little extra coolness and a few fewer cars on the road. This was his ‘thinking’ time.
Colin thought she was beautiful. She had black curly hair that hung down to her shoulders. He thought about her face and how when she smiled, she showed perfect white teeth. And though she looked young, her eyes had small laugh lines that creased when she smiled.
Colin stopped at a red light and waited. He wondered what it would be like if she had been sitting next to him in his shitty run-down car. He thought she wouldn’t care. She would only smile that radiant smile and none of it would matter.
It was easy to believe he had a thing for her. He was smitten, as his mother had like to say. Colin just called it love.
Nobody else saw her. He has seen her walking outside his condo. And by the lake, that he lived across the street from. He saw her standing to look out across the water, to what he didn’t know. And each time he saw her, that feeling crept into his body. He knew a spell was coming on. It would take a while before it became mind-numbing and debilitating. Before then, it felt different. It started off feeling… good. Almost like excitement and it was blissful.
A car honked behind him. The light had changed and he had been daydreaming. The car honked again, longer this time. Colin hit the gas and took off. He looked into the rearview where he could see in the growing light the driver was giving him an earful, emphasizing the phrase ‘fuck you’. Colin just nodded in acceptance and raised his hand in admittance.
The first time he saw her was by the lake. He lived across the street from a park and would run around the lake in the middle, especially in the fall with its crisp air. But this one particular day, he felt pulled there. He had decided to take a walk. And that’s when he saw her for the first time. She had been wearing cut-off jean shorts and a white t-shirt. She was just looking out across the water, her hands in her pockets. He walked past her, slowly a bit to take her in. He had never seen her there before and he felt an odd connection. He was about to walk past when she turned her head.
She looked right at him. But it felt different. It was like she didn’t register he was there. But for the second he saw her face; he had learned it.
Then she turned back toward the water. Colin walked on past. After a few dozen feet, he got the nerve to turn around but when he did, the girl with the dark curly hair was gone.
He daydreamed a lot about this woman after seeing her the first time. It had been the third time he saw her before he started to figure it out (the second time was just for a split second walking away from the condo towards the mailboxes and afterward he got a mild headache). It was a Saturday morning and she was walking down the street that separated the condo from the lake. He figured she was out for some early morning exercise. He had a crazy thought and decided to follow her with the excuse that he was out for an early morning stroll himself. After throwing on some running clothes, he was out the door and running down the street. A few cars passed him as huffed in the morning air. Up ahead he saw her a couple of hundred feet away.
Colin started to gain, cutting the distance in half when she turned onto the trailhead on the left. When she got out of sight because of some trees, he ran. His body was starting to rebel, his feet crying out. He thought he would slow once he got to the entrance and try and get his breathing under control just in case he caught up.
He turned onto the trailhead and looked for her. She should have been no further than twenty feet away. But she was gone.
He looked around. He should have seen her. There was no place to hide.
Colin turned off the main road. The driver that had honked gave him one last honk before driving on. Colin shook his head. But it didn’t bother him. He was still thinking about how he thought she had given him the slip on the trail that day. He had turned around and walked home. He watched out the window for two hours hoping she would pass by and while he did, that feeling came over him, the feeling an attack was coming. As he sat there waiting for her, it crept into his body, making it tingle and then becoming too overwhelming. He escaped to his room and laid down just as it gripped his mind and body. He continued for a few minutes until it faded away. After it was over, he carefully walked back downstairs to the window. She never appeared and he knew for sure that she didn’t appear while he was upstairs. How he knew, he wasn’t sure. He wouldn’t figure out the truth for another week.
The building he worked in loomed in the distance. Colin pulled in and into the back where he parked. As usual, he was first. He would go in and fix his oatmeal, catch up on one podcast or another, and wait for the others to show up. Then his day of boredom would begin at a job that he hated. When asked, he would think about making something up instead of saying the truth. But he would sigh and reluctantly say what he did. He found no interest in it other than a paycheck.
But this morning, he decided to stay in his car. He didn’t want to go in. And as he sat there, the minutes ticking by, he knew he wasn’t going in today. With everything that had happened and was happening in his life, he just couldn’t face another day of being another faceless person. He picked up his phone and was about to call his supervisor and called out of work, claiming sickness (which wasn’t too far from the truth). But stopped himself.
Two lives pulled at him. One life was lifeless and full of boredom and despair, each day blending into the other. The other life had hope and the feeling of renewal. But he wasn’t sure if it was actually possible. And once the decision was made, there was probably no going back.
He put the phone back on the seat. With that, he started the car and got the hell out of the parking lot. Nobody showed up as early as he but he didn’t want to take any chances. He drove away and didn’t look back.
Fuck it, he thought. Why wait? Today is the day.
Instead of heading straight home, Colin decided to take a drive. He needed to see a few things. As he drove, he thought about the next time he saw her.
It had been a week after she had simply disappeared from the trail. As he walked home and wondered what the hell happened, his head was roaring. He laid down on the bed just before a ‘spell’ hit him. After the pain subsided, he became scared. He was obviously having hallucinations about his girl. And those were just a preamble of something worse going on in his brain. He figured cancer.
Though his life sucked, he didn’t want to die. He made an appointment with his doctor (someone he only saw once a year for his employer’s insurance physical) to find out why. He explained the headaches and pains but no the fact he was seeing a woman that wasn’t there. He’d cross that bridge as the last resort. If there was something really wrong, seeing her was just a symptom. By the next week (a slow week at the doctor’s, he thought), Colin had gone through a round of tests. CT scan, a PET, an EEG, and an MRI. All tests came back clear. The doctor told him that it was probably due to stress, told him to look into seeing a therapist. Then he gave him a prescription for anxiety and sent him on his way.
But Colin knew it was more than that. He knew she was really there when he saw her. And the next time, it was a shock.
He never expected to see her in his own condo.
He had sat down at his coffee table to eat dinner in front of the TV like he did every day. His ritual during the workweek was get up, go to work, come home, take a shower, fix dinner, and sit in front of the TV and eat while we watched the news. Then, later on, fall asleep on the couch watching the same stupid shows until waking up and going to bed. And the process would start all over again.
But that evening, he had sat down on the floor in front of the TV to eat his Hungry Man dinner (fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, and brownie) and see the same old depressing stuff on the news when a smell came to him. He stopped chewing the rubbery chicken and sniffed. It was a foreign scent, a smell not common to his home.
He sniffed the air. It was suddenly so there. He smelled his shirt thinking maybe it was his cologne he put on after showering but it was completely different. He sniffed the air again, his food forgotten. Then he had a sense somebody was behind him on the couch. He felt the air got heavy with an unknown presence. His skin popped out in gooseflesh as he slowly turned his head. Sitting on the couch where he would normally sit was the woman from the trail.
Colin nearly choked on his food that was left in his mouth as he scrambled away, coughing the whole time, chicken flying. His heart went from normal to erratic within a second. He clutched at his chest and stared at the woman on his couch.
She was dressed in a black t-shirt and grey sweat pants. Her knees were brought up to her chest. And her curly black hair was down. She seemed to be watching the TV. As Colin’s wide eyes continued to watch her, he noticed something. He had a lamp sitting on an end table next to where she was sitting (where he normally sat) and it was on. She blocked part of the light but he could see the light through her.
Colin came to an intersection and when the light changed, instead of turning left toward home, he stayed straight, heading toward the first destination that he needed to see. If he was going to do what he thought he was going to do, he needed to see this one last time. He drove on in the morning traffic and continued thinking about that real first encounter with her. He noticed she was there but not there. Colin rubbed his eyes, but the image was the same. The woman brought up her hand and casually bit on a fingertip. She seemed to have no idea that he was in the room with her.
Could she be a ghost? She had to be.
He tried to make that fit but for some reason, it didn’t. Well, not entirely.
His heart was still beating fast from fear but it had come down to from a heart attack danger zone. He wanted to move again, to wipe the chicken from his mouth but hadn’t got his courage yet. The woman brought her hand back down from her mouth and reached out next to her. He saw that she had gripped something and held it up toward the TV.
The remote. It was clearly the remote. But he was sitting on the coffee table next to where he had been sitting. He looked from one to the other while she looked as if she was changing the channels. His TV was still showing Lester Holt.
Finally, he sat it down on the couch next to her as she continued to watch the TV. A giggle escaped his mouth.
‘What the fuck,’ he asked her.
Colin didn’t expect her to hear but she turned her head toward him, just like at the lake. She looked right at him but didn’t seem to see him. She just looked straight at him.
This was the first time he really saw her eyes. He was astonished to see that they were hazel, just like his. Colin sat transfixed as he watched her continue to look through him and then back to the TV, never once recognizing he was there. But her face showed the truth. She had heard something.
He thought about trying to reach out and touch her. Maybe put his hand on her foot. But he was afraid she would feel him touching her and jump with fright. To be honest, he had thought later, he was afraid she would disappear. That was when she laughed at whatever she was watching wherever she was. Colin turned to look and just saw the depressing news.
And when he turned back, she was gone again.
But not entirely. She left the smell of her perfume behind.
Colin drove on, leaving the city behind and driving further into the country. Subdivisions passed by to give way to homes on large lots. And then he was passing trees and undergrowth. The windows were down, and the breeze blew through his hair. He needed to see a place one last time. As the road continued, he thought about that perfume again. No matter where he was, he could still smell the sweetness of it. It seemed to have formed a bond with his brain. He could call it up when he chose. And the next time he smelled it in his condo and knew she was close by, he wasn’t scared. He had been waiting for her to come back. This time, she suddenly appeared walking through the front door. But what struck him was his door remained closed. Wherever she was, it was her door that opened and her door she closed. He couldn’t see it but knew that this was happening.
He had been getting ready for work and was about to grab his keys from the coffee table when she entered. He looked up and smiled to see her with no fear at all. But then his smile disappeared.
She was crying. Colin could see the tears rolling down her face. He watched her close her door and then lean against his. Her mouth opened and she screamed. No sound came. She brought her hands up and buried her face into them.
Colin dropped his keys back to the table and watched her. She stayed where she was, her shoulders heaving. He couldn’t hear her but knew she was sobbing.
He didn’t know what to do. But without really thinking about it, he was moving forward. He stopped just a few inches from her, took a deep breath, and lifted his hand. He held his breath as his hand inched closer. Colin felt a sudden static charge build up on his fingertips and along with the smell of her perfume, he recognized the smell of ozone, like before a summer shower. His hand fell to her shoulder and as it passed through it, the static charge caused a slight shock.
Not only did he feel it, but she did, too.
She suddenly looked up into his face. Both looked at each other wide-eyed. The breath caught in his chest.
She was seeing me.
Then she faded and disappeared. His chest tightened, and he went upstairs to lay down. An attack hit him then that lasted for half an hour and caused him to be late for work. It was the most powerful yet. He had felt like his body was being pulled into a black hole. And every ounce of his being blared with pain.
But, this time, he didn’t mind.
Colin came to a crossroads and turned right. He thought about how many times he must have driven down this road. It was nearly every day during the week to go to work and on the weekends for shopping and the occasional date.
He slowed down when he came to where a house once stood and pulled into the overgrown driveway. He just sat there, the summer heat finally getting to him with no breeze while he drove to keep it at bay. He just looked through the windshield at where the house he once lived stood. His past life was there. It was one he shared with someone that made life worth living. He thought about the flowers they planted by the front porch and how she had once sprayed him with the hose until he was soaked. They had gone in and she undressed him and they had made love the rest of that afternoon.
Colin reached for the door handle but stopped. He looked at the cinderblocks that stood, burnt and black, that once was part of the foundation. They were the only things left standing after the fire. It had raged quickly from a strike of lightning when a nighttime summer storm passed over. He had been away on a business trip and his wife had been sick with the flu. She had taken some medicine that left her nearly comatose and she didn’t wake up in time when the flames overtook their bedroom. The cause of death had been smoking inhalation and then she was just as burnt and black as the cinderblocks.
It took him a long time to recover. Depression and survivors guilt overwhelmed him. He had quit his job and got his condo. Colin just floated through life. He finally found a crappy job making crappy money. The insurance payout was still there. He hated using it. It felt guilty to use it. And that was where he was.
Or, that was where he once was.
Colin didn’t get out of the car. He sat there for a few seconds more before blowing a kiss toward what was left of his past. Then he put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway leaving the past in the past. No tears came when he did. Those were in the past, too.
He drove back toward town. The breeze from his drive once again cooling his sweaty forehead. He had one last stop to make before going home and what was going to be the rest of his life here.
Then he thought about when he finally made contact with her.
It was just three days after she disappeared in front of his door (her door). Up until her return, Colin thought of nothing else. He constantly thought about her eyes and how they looked at him. But right before she faded away, he had noticed she hadn’t looked through him that time. She has seen him.
And during this time, before she reappeared, he had noticed that she wasn’t the only thing that he saw that didn’t belong in his world. One scary moment happened the day after her disappearing trick when he was driving to work. A deer suddenly appeared in front of his car and he had to step on the brakes to avoid running it down and damaging his shitty car in the process. His car skidded into and through the deer. It passed through a solid car like it was made of smoke.
The car finally stopped, and he looked behind him. The deer just looked in his direction unharmed. Then it bolted for the woods that run along the side of the road and before darting in, it disappeared. Colin rubbed his eyes, not wanting to believe but he knew he had to. When he got to work, an attack hit him before he could get out of his car. But this one was mild and over in less than a minute. Afterword, he went on as nothing had happened.
After that moment, a border seemed to have been breached. This other world that held this woman was entering his. He had seen other people that were there one moment and gone the next. Cars on the road that disappeared in front of him. One even seemed to race him on the way home, passing him at a great rate of speed before passing through the traffic that had stopped in front of it.
This was starting to happen so much, he feared driving and not knowing what vehicle existed and which one didn’t.
He had stayed home from this fear. And that was when he started to notice things that appeared in his condo that wasn’t his. A vase of flowers, a pair of running shoes by the front door, a bubbling fish tank that held colorful fish on a table by the hall that leads into the kitchen. He hadn’t owned a fish tank or the table it sat on.
And then there was the bottle of perfume that appeared by his sink. He had tried to pick it up, but his fingers passed right through it. But the smell lingered on his fingertips for a few hours.
After each sighting, the attacks became less severe. They would pass in a couple of minutes or a few seconds and be gone. It was only when he saw her, were the extreme.
He had seen a rabbit run across his parking lot, passing through the wheels of parked cars. Except for one. It stopped at one of its tires, sniffed, and then went around it. The car then faded away as the rabbit ran on across the grass before following suit.
By this time, Colin had come the realization that he was losing his mind. Maybe not just losing it but lost. No one else seemed to notice these unworldly things appearing and disappearing. Everyone seemed to ignore them. That made Colin decide either they were all products of his own mind brought on repressed issues from the death of his wife or…
They were real.
He had thought about going to see a therapist as the doctor had suggested. Or maybe calling up a friend, but he had let all his friends go, shutting them off and pushing them away since his wife’s death. But, of course, he was scared that seeing a therapist or talking about it might actually work.
Now, he didn’t want it to work. Because of her.
He didn’t want to take any chance of not seeing her again, to not make contact. He wanted to touch her hand.
And in the very least, he wanted to know her name.
Colin made a turn just as he came to the city limits onto a road that leads him to his childhood. After a moment, he slowly passed his childhood home. It was now a rental for college kids but once upon a time, it had been his whole world. This was the place he grew up and developed his likes and dislikes. It was the place he learned to dream and believe in things.
There were no cars in the driveway, and he turned in. He stopped and, again, didn’t get out. He just wanted to see it one last time. He looked over into the front yard where a large tree once stood. It had been his climbing tree. It was so large; he could climb up into it and see over his two-story house. He spent a lot of time there, even dozing as the breeze blew through. Ne never fell out of it. He always felt safe in its branches.
But now it had been cut down just to give the renters a view of the neighborhood. Colin hated the idea, but it still lived on in his heart and mind. He sighed and looked around at where he used to live. It had changed and become smaller. It wasn’t what it once was and never would be.
He backed out of the driveway and left the neighborhood he grew up in.
Colin drove home thinking about that crucial moment that changed everything. If it had not have happened, another decision would have been made.
It had been a Saturday afternoon and he was looking at the fish tank that had appeared suddenly without the table. It just floated in mid-air above the floor. He watched the fish (more of them this time) swim about. He wanted to feed them but, of course, he wasn’t the one that had the food for them.
As he watched and wondered if they saw him, the familiar scent of perfume entered his nose. He sniffed, inhaling it like fresh air. That was when he sensed her behind him. He turned and rose. Colin watched her, smelling her, and started to wave his hand in front of her face.
But a new feeling struck him that caused him to step back a step.
She was looking at him. Not through him as before but at him, right into his eyes. His breath caught in his throat, his eyes nearly popping out. They just looked at each other, the light coming from the window behind her showing through her body.
This was different, Colin thought. But before he could do anything, to say anything, she spoke first.
“Holy shit, are you really there?”
Colin’s mouth suddenly lost all its moisture. He tried to speak but only a harsh throaty sound came out.
Was this happening, he thought. Was she talking to me? Really talking to me, seeing me? And now I can’t speak. I must talk before she disappears.
He cleared his throat as best as he could.
“Can you see me?” It came out as a whisper.
At first, he didn’t think she heard him but then she answered with a small nod of her head.
She did her own step back. “How is this possible?”
Colin’s legs felt weak. He reached out and touched the wall for support and reassurance.
“I don’t know,” he rasped. “But I’ve been seeing you.”
She nodded. “I’ve been seeing you, too.”
“I’m Cassandra. Cassie for short.”
Colin pulled into his parking lot and parking in his normal parking spot. He thought about locking it up when he exited but decided to leave it unlocked. Somebody will need to move it, he thought as he shut the car door and walked up to his steps. He entered his condo and shutting the door, not bothering with locking his front door, either. He tossed the keys onto the coffee table where they could be seen and sat down on the couch.
“This is it,” he said out loud to his condo. The fish tank bubbled on its table and her shoes sat beside the door, right next to a pair of his. They sat side by side as if they have always done that.
He looked around his place, feeling like it was a stranger’s home now. Her pictures overlapped his on the walls, his carpet swirled unmoving into wooden flooring, and his couch swirled between his brown and her grey.
Colin was excited. Just as excited when they had finally spoken the first time. They had sat down on this very couch and talked. And they asked each other questions. He asked her what her world was like. Come to find out, they were the same. Or nearly the same. The couch they sat on was two different colors. His was brown and hers was grey. She preferred Adidas where he preferred Converse. But other than a few differences, they lived parallel lives. They both worked at the same time, they slept at the same time and neither of them had friends.
They questioned each other for hours, neither of them wanted to get up to even use the restroom. They were both afraid the other would disappear if they did. And they both talked about seeing each other and the different things that would appear of the others. Where the bottle of her perfume appeared in his world, a tube of his toothpaste appeared by her sink in hers. She talked about her job working for the Park Service and her annoying neighbor, Doug.
And she brought up losing her husband ten years ago to a fire caused by lightning. Colin got the chills from that and he looked at her with wide eyes. When she was done, he told her his own mirror story. After he was done, they sat quietly.
Cassie looked up right into his eyes.
“This is fate, Colin. You and I. Its fate.”
He slowly nodded.
Once the shock had faded and as they continued to speak, neither of them realized that their hands were close to each other, draped over the back of the couch until they both felt each other’s fingers. That was when a static-like shock passed between their fingers. But they didn’t pull away. They just looked at their hands.
Colin took his hand and covered hers, waiting for it to pass through. But he felt it. It was there and whole. As they both looked at each other, they intertwined their fingers and felt the pressure.
They both laughed then and continued with the questions, their fingers never letting go of the other. The light got dimmer through the window and neither got up to turn on the lamp, his here or hers in that other place. They sat in the dark not wanting this to end, Cassie asked something that surprised him.
“I’ve seen you in pain. You usually lie down on the bed and have some sort of seizure. Is it because of, “she gestured her hand between them, ‘this?”
Colin nodded. “I think so. It’s the worse after I see you.” He shook his head wanting to calm any fears she might have. “I don’t know how I know this, but I think it’s because we’re linked somehow.”
She had raised her free hand to her mouth in concern. “I don’t want to hurt you. I hope you know that.”
“I do. I know that.”
Cassie looked into his eyes. “What does it feel like?”
“It feels like, well, dying. It’s like I’m being pulled. Has it happened to you?”
She shook her head. “When I see you, I feel warmth. I have the sense that you’re somebody I know and have missed and I’m seeing you after a long time. Then when you disappear, it breaks my heart. You’re there and then, you’re gone.”
Colin and Cassie didn’t figure out what might be happening that night. His bladder finally won over and he needed to go to the restroom. She needed to herself. They knew they would disappear after they broke contact. They didn’t know how they knew but as soon as their fingers pulled away, she disappeared in his world and he in hers.
But before they did, they had leaned forwarded and kissed. Both afraid they would find only air but finding the softness of skin. They kissed for a minute then pulled away.
After she disappeared, he sat and cried. The urge to urinate left for a while as he put his head in his hands and cried just the way she had leaning against his door until the spell took him.
Colin thought about that kiss as he looked at his living room for the last time. He had bought things and filled it up since he lived here. And nothing felt important to him anymore. It was all just a bunch of stuff.
Good riddance, he thought and stood up. He didn’t know how the next few minutes would go but leaving this useless crap (this useless life) behind was a good thing.
He walked up to the stairs and through the door of his room. He shut it and laid down on the bed.
And he waited. His mind going to last night.
She had come to him not long before he went to bed. He hadn’t been asleep. His mind was running wild with thoughts of her and what might he be able to do the next time she came to him. Could she stay here? Life would be less empty, even if nobody could see her. But would she be happy with that? He didn’t think so.
Then, in the dark, he felt his bed move, as if someone floated down and settled into it beside him.
She was there next to him.
He rolled over toward her in the dark and felt for her. For the briefest of moments, he thought that whatever power was involved was slipping away and he would never be able to touch her again.
Then his fingers felt her bare skin. It was the swell of her breast. He started to pull back, but she gripped his hand bring it forward again. He held her gently as she moved to him. They kissed, his hands on her and hers on him.
They made love.
It didn’t last long, both too excited at the moment to be in each other’s arms.
There had been no words between them the entire time. But as they held each other, just happy to be in the moment and together, Colin spoke in the dark.
“I love you, Cassie.”
He felt her head that had been lying on his chest raise up to look at him.
“I love you, too.” Then she spoke the words that started a plan.
“I wish you were here with me. I don’t want us to disappear from each other again.”
They stayed awake for another three hours talking. They talked until they couldn’t hold their eyes open any longer.
They had said goodnight, her in her bed and he in his. And one and the same.
As soon as she drifted off and away, the weight of her body slowly leaving the hand that had been holding hers clasping nothing, and before the spell started to build up in Colin’s mind and body, a plan had started to take shape.
Colin lay there waiting. It was earlier than expected since he had planned to work all day and get affairs in order. But sitting there in the car that morning he knew it wouldn’t do any good. What affairs, he wondered. He couldn’t wait.
So, he lay still and waited. Of course, he didn’t know if it would work.
He looked around his room and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. All that he saw was his and his alone. He pushed down the thoughts of worry that we’re trying to spring up from below. He had his belief that it was going to happen.
After an hour, he started to doze. His eyes became heavy as he started to drift off. Cassie came to his mind and the smoothness of her skin, the sweet smell of the perfume at her neck, and how she looked at him.
The space next to him suddenly had weight and she was there. He started to open his eyes, but she put her hand over them.
“Don’t. If this works, I want you to wait.”
Colin did as he was told.
“OK. I’m ready.”
Then… that odd feeling came over him. And this time it was different. She was still here, and it felt like the feeling he would get when he stood in the Gulf and waited for a wave. He couldn’t see it but sensed it barreling at him. In his mind, he turned toward it with his arms wide and, this time, allowed it to come.
Then it hit. His mind turned into a bright flash, his body arched backward as if being struck by a hundred thousand, a hundred million bolts. He screamed into his room, the room that he had spent ten years alone, feeling the guilt of his dead wife, the room he stayed awake for hours wondering why he had become so alone.
All these thoughts went through his mind as his heart suddenly slowed and his brain started to falter.
The last things his mind held was her hand over his eyes and the other had gripped his left hand.
One last thing to say, one last word in this world.
The last thing he heard was Cassie saying as if from far away, something into his ear. Then darkness.
The next-door neighbor heard the scream. Doug had been passing by on his way to get into the condominium pool with his flip flops smacking against the bottom of his feet. He turned towards Cassie’s door. That where it had been coming from. He had a huge crush on her and after being divorced (and letting himself go afterward) three years ago, he had found himself here living next to Cassie. He asked her out twice but she had declined. She had said there was somebody else.
But that didn’t stop Doug from caring about her. He nearly tripped over his own flip flops has he climbed her steps to her door.
“Cassie? Are you alright?” He started to bang on the door, rattling it.
Doug banged against the door for a full minute, wondering if he should call 911 when the door opened quickly.
Cassie stood there looking shocked but well. She was even trying to hide a smile. Doug was under the impression the smile was for him and smiled back, lowering his knocking (banging) hand back down to his side.
“I heard you scream, Cassie. Are you alright?”
It was hard for her to look him in the eye. Her mind was on something completely different. “Right. I screamed. I saw… a cockroach… in the shower.” She started to get a hold of herself and finally looked Doug in the eyes. “Yeah, a cockroach. Huge sucker. It startled me.”
Doug found himself thinking of Cassie in the shower. He suddenly wished he had brought a towel to the pool instead of leaving it as his place. He wished it was wrapped around his waist. But she never looked down. And she might still be in some need of saving.
“I can come kill it for you.”
Cassie’s smile grew wider suddenly and when she spoke, Doug felt a bolt to his heart that he never expected.
“No, that’s fine. Colin killed it.”
Life drained out of Doug’s face. Cassie noticed this and couldn’t help being a little happy about it.
Without another word, Doug slowly started back down the stairs. Instead of turning left toward the pool, he turned right. He was going home. He didn’t feel like the pool anymore. But Cassie didn’t see any of this. As soon as Doug turned away, Cassie closed the door and ran back up the stairs to her room.
Colin was sitting on the edge of her bed and was looking around, taking it in. So many things were the same and so many things were different.
She sat down next to him and held his hand.
“How do you feel?”
Colin thought for a moment then grinned at her.
“Pretty wonderful.” Then with a more serious tone, though a small smile still played at the edges of his mouth. “I guess we have to figure some things out, huh?”
He looked into her eyes and smiled.
“Yes, we do.”
Another universe away, just a hair and trillions and trillions of light-years away at the same time, sat an empty condo.
Questions would eventually be raised but never answered.
And time will go on.
But, in one place, one question was answered.
True love has no boundaries.