Posted By Amy, MKB Marketing on Thursday 27th Sep 2012
‘I don’t want to take you with me.’ His voice was as deep and rough as the ocean. ‘I’d rather die than let you die.’
‘Before me there were no created things,
Only eternal, and I eternal last.
All hope abandon, ye who enter in!’
Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto III
‘Pierce keeps having the most terrible nightmares.’ My mom used to
say this to all the doctors we saw right after the accident. ‘She talks in her
sleep – sorry, sweetheart, but you do – about a boy following her. Sometimes
she even wakes up crying. It doesn’t seem normal. I’ve never had dreams that
That’s because the worst
thing that’s ever happened to you, Mom, I’d wanted to tell her, is your divorce from Dad.
You never died, got resuscitated, then had a boy follow you back from the realm
of the dead.
Only I couldn’t say this to my mother. Nothing
good ever seemed to happen to anyone who found out about my problems, which had
more or less caused my parents’ divorce, even if Mom didn’t know it.
‘Often while we’re sleeping, our mind is busy
working out solutions to problems about which we’ve felt stressed while we were
awake, though our dreams might seem completely unrelated to what’s really
bothering us,’ the doctors explained, one by one. ‘In Pierce’s case, of course,
she isn’t actually being followed by anyone
in real life.’ This showed how much the doctors knew. ‘That’s just how whatever
is causing her anxiety manifests itself in her subconscious . . . the
way some of us will dream that we’re late for a class, for instance. It’s
perfectly healthy, and a sign that Pierce’s subconscious is functioning
You know what I’d like? To dream that I’m late
for a class.
Instead, I’m always dreaming that someone is
trying to kill me, or someone I care about. That’s because people are trying to kill me, as well
as the people I care about, in real life . . . so often, as a matter
of fact, that there are times I can’t tell when it’s really happening, and when
I’m only dreaming about it.
Like now, for instance. For a dream, this one
felt pretty realistic.
I was clinging to the wooden railing of an
old-fashioned sailing ship. High winds whipped my dark hair, causing loose
tendrils to stick wetly to my face and neck. They tugged at the long white
skirt of the silk ball gown in which I’d somehow become dressed, tangling it
around my legs, making it hard for me to keep my footing on the rain and salt
spray-slickened surface of the deck.
The sky above me was black as night
. . . except when lightning sliced through the thick dark clouds,
revealing the frighteningly white-capped ocean waves crashing against the
ship’s hull below me, churned by a violent storm.
My heart pounded as I held the railing, but not
with fear for my own safety. I knew I could turn around and go below, where it
was warm and dry. Only I didn’t want to. Because every time another bolt of
lightning illuminated the sky I saw him in the water, being cast
about like a piece of driftwood. With every surge of the rough waves, he was
pulled further and further out to sea, away from the boat.
Away from me.
‘John,’ I cried. My voice was hoarse with
emotion, and from overuse. It seemed as if I’d been screaming his name for
hours, but no one would come to our aid. It was just us, and the storm, and the
‘Swim,’ I begged him. ‘Just swim to me.’
For a moment it seemed as if he were going to
make it. He was close enough to the side of the ship for me to see the
single-minded determination in those grey eyes, mingled with the fear each of
us was trying not to show the other. His strong, muscular arms rose from the
ink-black water as he tried desperately to make his way back to the side of the
For every stroke he took forward, however, the
angry waves pushed him another two strokes back.
I looked around frantically for a rope,
something, anything, to throw to him, but there was none. So instead I leaned
out as far as I could, reaching down to him with one hand while gripping the
railing with the other.
‘I can pull you up,’ I assured him. ‘Just take
He shook his head, his dark hair slick with rain
‘I don’t want to take you with me.’ His voice
was as deep and rough as the ocean. ‘I’d rather die than let you die.’
I’d rather die than let you
This made no sense. John Hayden was Death. He
couldn’t die. And every single one of his previous actions had indicated that
he most certainly did want to take me with him, to the Underworld, over which he ruled.
had I spent so much time running from him?
Persephone, the girl in the myth the ancient
Greeks used to explain the seasons, hadn’t run fast enough from Hades, the
Greek god of death, so he was able to chase her down in his chariot when he
came across her hanging out with some nymphs in a field one day, and take her
to the Underworld to be his queen.
Persephone was lucky. Her mother happened to be
Demeter, the goddess of the harvest. Demeter went on strike, refusing to allow
anything on earth to grow until her daughter was released. What fun is it being
a god or goddess if all the humans are too busy starving to death to worship
you? Hades was forced to let Persephone go, and after the longest winter
imaginable, springtime finally blossomed across the land.
In reality, spring doesn’t come because of some
girl being let out of the Underworld. It comes because of the earth moving into
the astronomical vernal equinox.
But I get it. People have always been desperate
for stories that explain why bad things happen to good people, myths with happy
endings to give them hope. They don’t want to know that when we die, what lies
beyond may not be all harps and halos. No one wants to listen to someone like
me, who comes back from the dead and says, ‘Hey, guess what? All that stuff
they’ve been telling us is a load of bull.’ It’s more comforting to trust the
storytellers, to believe that fairy tales really do come true.
Still, when John said that thing in my dream
about how he’d rather die than let me die, even though I knew that could never
be, I realized something: I wanted to believe in the fairy tales too. My subconscious – just
like all the doctors had tried to reassure my mother – had worked out the
resolution to a problem that been bothering me for a long time. I’d actually
wanted to be running towards John,not away fromhim, all this time.
Only, now that I’d finally realized it, he was
about to drown.
No wonder my heart gave a lurch like it was my
own life I was watching disappear right in front of me.
‘Take my hand,’ I begged him.
I sounded like someone possessed. I was possessed, with the fear
of watching the sea swallow him up before my eyes. It figured that the minute
I’d finally admitted to myself how much I loved him I was about to lose him.
Maybe this was my karmic punishment for having taken so long to figure it out.
A sudden wave lifted him, as if in answer to my
prayers, and suddenly, miraculously, he was so close, our fingers touched.
The look in his eyes turned into something like
hope. I leaned out even further to grasp his wrist, feeling his hand lock
around mine. I smiled, overwhelmed with love and joy, daring to believe he was
safe, and that the ending to my own story might be a happy one after all.
Then from out of nowhere came another one of
those powerful swells . . .
. . . and I saw the hope in his eyes
‘Don’t let go!’ I shouted, knowing in my heart that this was exactly what he
would do. Even as I said the words, I felt his fingers loosen from around my
wrist. He was releasing me on purpose, not wanting to pull me down into the
cold waves with him . . .
A second later he was ripped away from me by a
wave so big it tossed him like a toy. I screamed his name, clinging to the
wooden rail, my tears indistinguishable from the rain pelting my face, a hole
as big as the sea seeming to split open inside me. Only when lightning streaked
the sky did I see him again, a tiny, shadowy figure crested atop a swell a
dozen yards away. He raised an arm as if to say goodbye.
Then the water closed over
him. I was alone in the storm, and he was gone forever.