Living On Oxygen for Life
Once again, I’m nervous about releasing this short story. Each part has actual events from my life within them. Even though I have serious health problems and a very dysfunctional family, I’ve been blessed. Since posting the first part of this story, I decided to adopt another soldier to write to. I’m pretty darn excited about it. I went to http://www.anysoldier.com and selected a soldier from the list of applicants. I write not expecting replies but to spread a smile and appreciation across the ocean and if I receive a letter back, I feel as if I’ve received a gift. So, on with part 2 of the short story. Tell me what you think. Tell me if you want to read the final part 3.
You are finished with your mission and you are tired, hot, and sweaty. The only thing that you can think of as you walk into the place where you live is sleep. Your mission was a week long with only power naps here and there. But even though you slept, you didn’t experience anything like what you had the previous week when you woke up with that maple leaf within your pocket. You think of it often. It’s still in the same place as you had left it from the time before your mission. You tacked on the wall near your cot. Approaching the maple leaf, you look at it and notice that it has changed some but you can’t quite tell just how exactly different it is. So, you reach out to touch it; wondering how in the world it found it’s way to you.
You sit down upon your cot. You are so tired that you leave your boots on as you decide to lie down and close your eyes. Your breathing slows to a comfortable rhythm. Before you drift into to sleep you hear a sound that seems just outside your living quarters. You’re aware that you’ve heard it before but can’t quite place where. A coldness, so penetrating, it seeps through your clothing and leaves you shivering. That is when you realize that you are back.
You are no longer in the desert. Slowly you open your eyes to an unbelievable scene that appears before you. A curtain of snow so heavy descends around you and rapidly covers everything in sight for as far as you can see. You are standing in someone’s yard, in the middle of a neighborhood. This is a different place from last time that you’ve come here. The snowflakes falling on you stick to your clothes and boots. The wind blows fiercely as you look up and down what you assume to be the street in front of you. You find no tire tracks in the snow. It’s too deep for any vehicle to make it through.
It’s bitter cold and you shove your hands in the pockets of your pants, hunching your shoulders to stay warm. You turn away from the gusting wind to find three people in the distance. You watch with curiosity, wondering why they are out in this weather walking down the street. The three are trudging through the snow bundled up in coats, scarves, boots and mittens. The typical winter apparel.
As they make their way closer to you, you begin to notice familiar things about them. On one of the three, you can see blond hair peeking out from beneath a hat. She’s the oldest of them. You realize that they are the three little girls from the field in the forest. The Maple Leaf Girls as you have come to call them in your mind over the past week. You smile at the memory you have of that moment. You walk to the edge of the street where a split railing wooden fence stands and begin to wonder if they can even see you there. You look down the street at the girls as they make their way to their home and notice the little one is dragging behind. The distance between the two taller girls and the smallest is ever increasing. The blond haired girl and the girl with glasses pass you by without even showing signs of noticing you.
The snow in the street is very deep. It makes for walking through it difficult even for an adult. There are no tire tracks in the street to make it easier for the girl. Yet, they move on at a slow pace because their school bus couldn’t make it down their street. In parts of the street, the snow is as deep as the girls’ shins or knees for each step they take and when the smallest girl reaches the fence, she’s visibly exhausted. She’s breathing hard and you wonder why she is having so much trouble where as her sisters look fine. She stops walking and bends to place her hands on her knees to take some deep breaths through her knit scarf. You begin to get really concerned for her. So you step closer, wanting to help, but she suddenly looks up and yells out. “Wait! Wait! I can’t go any further… I..I can’t..” You hear the hitch in her voice and turn to see if the other girls heard her. The oldest girl, the blond, turns around and begins to walk back to the waiting girl who now leans against the fence. When she reaches her sister, she asks how she is doing but she could already tell she was tired. She asks if she’s been walking in her footsteps and the little girl replies yes but doesn’t tell her big sister that her stride is too far apart for her.
You still don’t understand why you can hear everything, see everything and even feel everything but they can not hear or see you. Though, you are freezing your butt off, you only care that these little girls make it home. They’re home is at the far end of a long street at the back of the neighborhood.
“I have to rest,” you hear and the older girl tells the other that she wants her to wait right here and she will come back for her with the sled. Off in the not too far distance you can see a two story blue house standing at the end of the culdesac. You watch the other two girls trudge their way through the snow and finally make it to the house. They both disappear inside and shut the door. You look at the waiting girl standing here beside you and see that she is shaking from the cold. You can tell she’s scared and worried that her older sister won’t come back for her. You start to reach out to touch her but you hesitate, not knowing what you could do here. So you talk to her. You tell her it will be alright. Her sister will come back.
Five minutes pass and still no one comes out of the house. The little girl just stares at the house wishing for her sister to hurry. Faintly, you hear a muffled sound. You stand a little closer to her to hear what she is saying. “I can make it,” she repeats to herself. She takes a few steps but stops. Before she makes the decision to walk further, the garage door to their house finally opens and her sister walks out with the sled dragging behind her. The little girl wanted to cry, she was so happy. On this day, she realizes, she sees her sister in a whole new way. She is her hero.
When the little girl is on the sled, the older one begins to pull it through the snow but they don’t get very far. The snow is too soft and deep and the sled keeps getting stuck. The older sister tells the other that she’s going have to walk; she isn’t strong enough to pull her home. So, they begin to walk. Just to see if you could, you walk along with them, giving them encouragement with what you say. You really don’t think they can hear you but it makes you feel better knowing that you are trying to help them in some way by giving them encouraging words until, finally, they reach the house. Slowly, you walk up the driveway and onto the porch but stop a good distance before the door.
As she enters the house, the glass and screen door close behind her with a soft click. You slowly walk closer to the door, not sure of how near you can be. You remember from before that you could only go as far as the forest edge. You wonder why this time you can be so close to the children without returning to the desert. The little girl begins to shut the front door but stops the swing of the door with her hand. She pulls it open again and removes her hat and the scarf from her face. You see that her cheeks are red from the cold. Even parts of your body are starting to feel numb as you crouch down to her eye level.
She stands with her nose pressed against the glass door and lets out a few breaths of warm air from her mouth. With her finger, she slowly draws the letter “H” and then the letter “i.” You feel startled as she looks right at you and smiles. And that’s when you realize as you slowly fade away, your hand lifting to touch the glass, that she knows.
You jerk awake, feeling as if you’ve been asleep for a long time. You look around you and see everything is normal, the way it was before, except for one thing. The Maple Leaf. Though still tacked upon the wall, it is now frozen and beginning to thaw. The rivulets of water from the ice on the leaf streaks the wall below it. rivulets of water from the ice on the leaf streaks the wall below it.