02 - Drowning
Isaac Hanson popped the top of another Dr. Pepper and took a long sip. They weren’t allowed to drink these things on the road that much. The Hanson brothers just couldn’t have acne. That would never do.
He smiled as he looked at the clock above the kitchen sink. It was 2 AM – another sleepless night. Actually, it wasn’t that he couldn’t sleep, but that he didn’t want to. Well, he was afraid. The nightmares were back again…and they’d gotten worse. Seventeen years old and he was still scared of the boogeyman.
“You’ve finally lost it, Ike,” he said, walking back into the living room. He was watching Face/Off for about the thousandth time...anything was better than those late-night infomercials advertising miracle pillows and “make money in real estate” packages.
Isaac plopped down on the couch and hit play on the VCR. He absent-mindedly wondered how many nights this would be without sleep. Three? Four? He’d lost count. His eyes were so heavy. His body cried out for rest, but his mind told him no. He couldn’t take it again. Sure, it was only a dream, but it seemed so real. And it scared the hell out of him.
It’s just a dream, Ike, he told himself. It’s just a dream.
“Yeah, right, just a dream.”
He took another sip of Dr. Pepper, imagining the evil, little caffeine monsters were chasing away the sandman. “You need sleep, dude,” he said. “Sleep is your friend.”
His head tipped forward, his eyes closed. Ike caught himself and quickly jerked his head back up.
“No! Sleep bad! No sleep.” Isaac tipped his head back and brought the can of cola to his lips, slamming down the contents in one gulp. “Concentrate, Ike...watch the movie. No sleep.” He looked up the stairs, where his parents and six brothers and sisters slept soundly. “Damn them.”
The hypnotizing glow of the the television was too much. His eyes weighed a ton.
“No, Ike...no sleep.”
His tired body suddenly relaxed, the tension quickly draining away.
Unable to fight it any longer, Isaac’s head tipped forward and he fell into a deep sleep.
Isaac stood up from the couch, his body highlighted by the aura of the wide-screen TV. He turned and saw himself, sitting on the sofa, head tipped forward. Seeing himself like that sent a chill through his body.
“Am I dead?”
His head turned. A noise...he’d heard a noise.
Something pulled him toward the front door. He slowly felt himself being pushed forward. As he approached it, he reached out his hand to turn the knob. His hand passed straight through the hard wood.
“Cool,” he said, feeling excitement and fear at the same time.
Isaac moved forward and his body passed through the door. He looked around him once he realized he was outside. Something was different.
“This isn’t our front yard.”
He was standing in the middle of a forest...dark and sinister. Upon turning around he noticed that his house had disappeared, only dense trees and underbrush remained.
“Where am I?”
It looked vaguely familiar. Something about the place felt as if he’d been there before. It was almost peaceful, in a way. He felt comfortable here.
He turned upon hearing the voice. It had come from a break in the trees off to his right. A soft glow of orange beckoned to him. Again he felt himself being pushed forward as the voice continued to call his name.
He felt the dew-kissed leaves crunch under his bare feet as he plodded toward the clearing, the fiery radiance warming him as he approached.
The voice chilled him to the bone, it was almost frightening, but he continued moving forward.
“Wake up, Ike,” he scolded himself. “Wake up, dammit!”
He was standing at the edge of the clearing now, looking down a steep hill. At the bottom, he could hear water flowing. It was a soft, almost soothing sound, that seemed to calm his soul in the midst of the current chaos.
Isaac closed his eyes and just listened for a moment, letting the tranquil sound flow over him like a healing balm. For several minutes he just stood there…until the voice broke in again.
He gingerly took a step over the edge, inching his way down the embankment. The dirt was wet and slippery, though, and his feet went out from under him, landing him flat on his butt, causing him to slide swiftly down the hill. The voice grew louder as he stopped at the edge of a river.
The water glistened in the mysterious moonlight…casting eerie reflections on the overhanging trees. Isaac peered out into the water. It gently rippled with the slight breeze that was blowing through the air. The wind whistled. The voice continued.
“Help me, Isaac, help me…”
He heard a splash, the sound of someone gasping for air. His eyes peered out over the water, searching. He caught sight of someone…struggling in the middle of the river. Her…was it a her?…arms reaching out trying to grab the air. She was going under…going fast.
Without thinking, Isaac dove into the water, the chill sending a shockwave of frozen pain through his body. He swam hard…like he’d never swum before, constantly keeping his eyes on the young girl struggling for her life.
“Not much farther now,” he said. “Just a little farther.”
His lungs felt as if they were going to explode. The chill of the water was making it more and more difficult to swim. His limbs were freezing up, his body shutting down.
“Hurry, Ike…hurry, dammit!”
He paddled forward…ignoring the pain, ignoring the aching of his muscles, gasping for air. He approached the young girl and grabbed hold of her just as she was going under. He peered down upon her face, illuminated by the moonlight. She was absolutely beautiful. There was something about her…something Ike couldn’t describe.
It was what he thought they called an epiphany, a moment when suddenly everything made sense. Although, he didn’t quite understand what it was. Who was this girl? And why was he saving her? Why was HE here?
Her body was cold and lifeless…limp as a bundle of seaweed draped over his arm
“Oh, God, no!” he said. “Please don’t let her die.”
For what seemed like hours, Ike swam toward the riverbank, pulling the young woman with him. By the time he reached the shore, he was exhausted. He set her down on the ground and kneeled beside her, feeling her neck for a pulse. There was a faint heartbeat…very faint.
“Are you okay?”
She didn’t respond.
“Hey!” he screamed, trying desperately to remember any of the CPR he’d learned at the Y those many years ago. He placed one hand under her neck, using the other to tilt her head back. He cocked his head and put his ear to her mouth…she wasn’t breathing.
He pinched her nose and touched his lips to hers, giving two quick breaths.
“Come on,” he screamed. “Breathe!”
He leaned in a gave two more quick breaths. Suddenly, her chest lurched and she coughed, spitting water in Isaac’s face. He turned her over on her side, gently whacking her on the back. She gasped for air, trying to breathe through the constant coughing.
“Are you okay?” Ike asked.
The coughing stopped and the young girl rolled over on her back. She looked at him, her beautiful eyes staring into his. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly. “I’m…I’m…” she gasped, “fine…thanks to you.”
“What were you doing out there?”
“I was waiting for you, Isaac,” she replied.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “How do you know my name?”
She looked away for a moment, deep in thought. Then: “I don’t know…somehow I’ve always known. I knew you would come for me.”
Isaac simply stared at her, not able to say a word.
“I’m cold,” she said.
He gently lifted her body and pulled her close to him, wrapping his arms tightly around her. It felt good. It felt right. He breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that God has seen fit to spare her life. Thankful that he’d finally found the girl for him.
“That feels good,” she said.
He nodded…she’d read his mind.
She leaned her head back on his shoulder. “By the way, my name is…”
“Megan,” Ike said. “Your name is Megan.”
Megan laughed. “That’s right. How did YOU know?”
He gently kissed her on the forehead. “I don’t know…somehow I’VE always known.”
They sat there for what seemed like forever, enjoying each other’s embrace. The wind had stopped blowing, the sound of the crickets chirping singing the symphony of nighttime.
Megan pulled away from Ike’s embrace suddenly and turned to face him, her smile beaming rays of hope and joy into his soul.
“What?” he asked, with a grin.
She moved in close and kissed him full on the lips. “I love you, Isaac.”
“I love you, too,” he replied.
Isaac awoke suddenly to the smell of bacon frying and children screaming. He opened his eyes only to be blinded the bright sunshine pouring in through the opened curtains. He lifted his hand to shield himself from the light.
He raised up and wiped the sleep from his eyes, letting out a huge “bear-like” yawn, and looked around the room. He felt damp…and dirty.
“What the…” he said. “What am I doing here?”
He was in his bedroom…in his own bed. He’d fallen asleep on the couch last night, hadn’t he?
Sure, he had! He’d been trying to stay up…watching a movie on TV. How had he ended up here?
“Holy cow, Ike,” he said.
He shook his head, rubbed his eyes again, and ran his hand through his hair. It was dripping wet.
“What the hell is going on?”
Isaac threw the covers back and pulled his feet over the edge of the bed. He stared down at the floor with his mouth open.
His feet were covered with mud, his pajamas too. His body, like his hair, was also dripping wet. He looked to his sheets. They were filthy and wet. Ike simply stared, not knowing what to feel or think.
He vaguely remembered dreaming about a river…a girl drowning…something like that.
But it was a dream, right?
It had to have been.
Then how’d ya get all muddy, Einstein, he asked himself.
He stood up from the bed and walked toward the bathroom. He stopped suddenly.
“Who the hell is Megan?”
Twenty Years Later
Isaac Hanson yawned and made his way down the backstairs. He could smell breakfast cooking and looked forward to biting into one of his wife’s famous cheese biscuits. He could hear the sound of children…his children…playing outside. He couldn’t help but smile.
Life was good.
A beautiful wife…three beautiful boys: Jordan, Jessie, and Zachary. God had truly blessed them.
Isaac stepped into the kitchen and was greeted with a lovely smile from his wife of seven years.
“Morning, hon,” she said.
“Morning, babe,” he responded, snatching a piece of bacon from the serving platter “The kids outside?”
“Yeah,” she said, playfully slapping his hand. “They were so hyper this morning I told them to take it to the backyard. I don’t know where they get their energy. I hope they didn’t wake you.”
“Nah,” he replied. He stepped toward the window and looked out. Jordan was running around with a plastic sword, a baseball cap planted firmly on his head. Who does THAT remind me of, he thought with a smile. “They’re great, aren’t they?”
“The best,” she replied. “They take after their father.” She stepped towards him and wrapped her arms around him tightly.
“That feels good,” he said.
She nodded…he’d read her mind.
Ike pulled away from her embrace suddenly, his smile beaming rays of hope and joy into her soul.
“What?” she asked, with a grin.
He moved in close and kissed her full on the lips. “I love you, Megan.”
“I love you, too,” she replied.