He stared at the sky. The reds, magentas and purples streaked across it like a giant fresco. He watched as the dusk settled, and day gave way to night. He wondered how many times had he sat and watched this grand symphony. Different but the same, but different. Darkness prevailed now, and the sounds of the crickets, frogs, and an occasional splash could be heard. A boat in the distance zipped through the still water as the moon and stars took over from the dusk, and once again the vastness of the sky took his focus.
Could he stay here forever? A gently breeze caressed his skin and it felt good in the warm night air. The moon was only half but shown as bright as a streetlight illuminating the streets below it. An owl in the distance hooted and a rustling sound could be heard just behind him. A mouse or a fox he wondered? Perhaps it was a raccoon, or even a deer. He turned slowly to see if he could get a glimpse, and to his surprise he saw her.
She was of a medium build and long flowing light colored hair. He could see her smile as she saw him and gently called out, “You going to stay out here all night?” He stared at her as if in a trance, she was familiar yet… “James, are you all right?” she asked as she drew closer. James could see her clearer now, she was older probably in her late to mid sixties with long straight white hair, and she appeared to be quite agile and in excellent physical shape. “James are you alright?” she asked again this time with a more serious undertone, and she reached to touch him. James pulled back slightly, as the confusion continued to mount. She grabbed to arm gently, but firmly and pulled him closer. “James, did it happen again?” this time her voice clearly registered a concern, yet also masked a certain excitement. James stammered to reply, but before he could finish she was asking the next question.
“Do you know where you are?”
“The… lake?” James responded in almost a whisper.
“I’m not sure.”
“Do you know who I am?” she asked.
James looked at her closely. She looked so familiar, but different somehow. Finally he replied, “I know you… but I can’t remember your name.” Her face saddened a little as she muttered under her breath, “I’m getting too old for this”.
James reached for her, and for the first time he saw his own hand. It was wrinkled and old. He reached and touched his own face and moved his hand up to his mostly balding head. He was old too, but how. The confusion was overwhelming as he slowly sunk back down to the ground.
She sat down beside him and put her arm around him. “It’s okay James, let’s get you back to the house.” She said as she gently caressed his arm. “ I’ll run some tests. You’ll be okay. We just need to hurry a little if it did happen again…”
“What happened again?”
“Let’s talk when we get back, right now I want you to take my hand and I will take you back to the house… okay?”
James took her hand and they started down the trail she had come from. The trail was dark, but she knew her way well and James oddly knew the way as himself. As if he had been down this path many, many times, yet it was still different somehow. As they negotiated a small rise he pulled on hand. He was a little out of breath and they stopped in a small clearing. He turned and looked around. He could see the moonlit lake spread its arms though the wooded expanse, and as he turned the other direction he saw a faint white light in the distance. The house he guessed. He then turned toward her. She was staring at him. At first he thought she was impatient to get back on the trail, but then she spoke gently.
“What’s the last thing you remember?”
“Looking at the evening sky turn into night.”
She glanced at her watch and smiled. “Are you sure you don’t remember anything else?”
“No… that’s it… well there was one other thing.”
“What?” she replied excitedly.
“You’ll probably think this is strange”
“No, James, please tell me.”
“I …”, James stammered, “…I…”, he stopped.
“You what?”, she prodded.
“I was young, Marie…”
Excitement quickly turned to disappointment, and could be easily read across her face.
“Your name is Marie… isn’t it?”
“Yes, James, we need to hurry. Come on.” Marie exclaimed as she once again took his hand and led him down the darkened path. There pace was quickened now as if there was an urgency that had not been realized before, but now it was closing in on them. The path wound upward and then sunk down toward the light he had seen from the hilltop. As they started down the final decent an owl swooped down on its unsuspecting prey near them. James was startled and he lost his footing. At first it was his ankle, a piercing pain shot up trough his leg, and it gave out. His hand jerked away from her as he tumbled down the incline. The pain in his leg was overwhelming, but the fall was like slow motion. He tried to catch himself, but it was no use. The momentum was caring him ever faster down the hill. The last thing he saw was a tree slowly coming toward him, and he heard the screams of Marie chasing behind him and then nothing.~
Jamie awoke screaming.
The darkness around him made the room look all the more ominous. Lightning from outside shot a flash of light through his window and revealed the room. Clothes were strewn across the floor, a half built model spaceship collected dust on the desk. A loud boom shattered the silence, then darkness once again prevailed. Another flash and a slightly torn movie poster revealed hanging from the wall. Thunder and then silence and darkness again. Jamie stopped screaming. It was his room. He was home.
Just then the door creaked as it opened. A figure swiftly moved to his side. She stroked his hair back and held him gently, “It’s okay Jamie… it’s just a thunder storm… nothing to worry about…”
“Mom?” the timid reply came.
“Grandpa’s had an accident”
“No, no it was just a bad dream”
“He fell and hurt himself...”
His Mom gently positioned herself so she could see his face, “Jamie, don’t...”. Her voice trailed as the phone rang. They both knew who was on the other line.~
James Jeremiah Johnson was resting in his bed. He had broken his leg and hip, and had a nasty bump on his head, but considering everything he had been lucky. His wife of 30+ years stood beside him as always caressing his hand and monitoring all that went on. She was a nurse by trade although she hadn’t practiced (other than on James) it since they had retired a few years earlier. Back when the “fits” started.
The doctor was young probably, but he appeared to be competent. He spoke with authority and put Marie into a calm state, for even though he did not have all the answers he did exude the confidence that the answers were available. The most concerning of the injuries was of course the head. James had awoken several times, but the disorientation remained.
Marie couldn’t explain in a manner that the doctor would have been able to understand, but the disorientation was normal.~
Jamie had his best clothes on, the tie was tight on his neck, and the hand-me-down coat was ill-fitting, but necessary. The family was all here by now. Aunt Ruth and Uncle John, Cousins Tom and Charlie, even Grandma T was sure to be here by now. He loved his family, but he wished he could just stay here in his room. In the distance he could hear a soft moaning, his Mom again perhaps. It was hard on everyone. As he stood there combing his hair the face changed.~
“Honey” the sweet voice called.
James turned as she entered. Her blond hair and smile filled his heart. “You going to take all day? We’ve got reservation for 8, and after you made such a fuss.”
“Don’t tell me you’re not up to it Jamie... I won’t hear a word about it”
“I know how it ends,” James said softly.