ILLUMINATION FROM ABOVE
"Who are you?" I let it out as a scream this time. The echo bounces back and reverberates around the inside of my head. So far I have no response and I wonder if this is some new nightmare. God knows I know what that is. My whole life is a nightmare.
"Please?" My voice cracks and I can feel a sob welling up from inside. I lie on my back on a cold hard surface and I can't move. I can't even turn my head but that won't help anyway because I can't see. I try futilely to lift my eyelids but they feel like they are glued shut. I receive no answer from my hysterical demands so I lie still and try to calculate where I am and why. The panic begins to subside. I let my hands uncurl from the fists that I have held them in at my side and I realise I can move. This is a pale glimmer of hope after the immovability of a few moments ago. I try to sit up but I feel a tight band across my chest that holds me down.
I experience a wave of peace and calm wash over me. The sense of being in a nightmare is fading. I still do not understand what is going on but the terror of earlier is finally beginning to disintegrate and is drifting away being replaced with a sensible curiosity. This feeling of being safe is not coming from inside. It washes over me like a warm summer breeze, bringing with it the scents of serenity and composure like honeysuckle and lavender on a warm balmy night.
"You are safe Sammy. There is no reason to panic." I hear this but it is in my head. It is not something that makes it to my brain in any auditory sense. I am curious now. Nobody has called me Sammy since I was a child. A memory of my mother comes to me from decades ago. It floats at the top of the deep, dark muddy pool that makes up my memories like it has been pulled to the surface and recently let go again.
__________ I am at the family dinner table. The fluoro overhead flickers occasionally and my father sits at the head of the table eating slowly and deliberately, deep in thought. The meal of three vegetables and overcooked meat sits in front of me as appetising to a five-year-old as oatmeal. My elder sister chatters away to my mother who is not really listening but Sherie doesn't really care. I think that she just talks to fill up the silence.
"Sammy!" I jump at the sharp tone in my mother's voice.
"Take your elbows off the table and chew your food with your mouth closed." I nod in obedience and decide that the food will become more edible if I push it around the plate a few times.
The meal is finished and I have just brushed my teeth and I am supposed to go to bed. I think I can sneak into the living room and sit with my grandfather in the dim light that flickers from the television and watch it with him for a while. He sits in the same chair all day. Hardly anyone talks to him. I think that they see him as a part of the furniture. I like him. He doesn't say anything. I like to sit on the floor and rest my head against his knee. He just puts his hand on my head and keeps staring at the television but he knows I am there and this makes me feel real. My mother is in the kitchen washing up and I move as quietly as possible across the open doorway.
"Sammy, you are not going into the living room. It's your bedtime. I'll come and tuck you in as soon as I've finished here." I stop in mid tiptoe and silently admit defeat. It seems to me that my mother knows everything. She isn't even looking while I try to sneak past.__________
rest of the memory slips away and once more I am blind and scared.
"Who are you? How do you know my name?" The questions came out husky and I clear my throat ready to repeat them uncertain if I am heard. My answer is again a silent communication.
"We would wish to have your help. It seems to us that you might help us if you can." As this response is delivered straight into my own stream of thoughts I am trying to open my eyes. The lids are heavy and it takes a great effort of will to push them upward. A shrill scream assaults my ears and it takes me a second to realise that the tortured cry I hear is from my own throat. I fling my hands up and cover my eyes to protect them. All I can see is a blinding white light that feels like it has burnt through my retinas and into my skull. Even with my lids closed again it takes a while for the glare to fade. I moan to myself softly, a singsong keening that pours out until the pain subsides.
"Sammy, we are sorry. We forget that your kind cannot look at us comfortably. You have this with you. Perhaps it will help." I feel something put into my hand and at the same time the weight on my chest disappears.
"Sit up if it will help. We were not sure what your condition would be when you awoke." I run my fingers over the object I hold and am surprised to find that I can laugh. I am still not beyond hysteria I think.
"My sunglasses?" There is an answering feeling of amusement. It is a ripple of charged air that leaves me feeling refreshed. I do not understand why or how I interpret this as humour but I know that it is in response to my own mirth. I put my sunglasses on and I am still hesitant about opening my eyes again. I am cautious as I sneak a peak but the tinted lenses protect me and at first I am not sure if the light I see is an after-flash from before. My vision contains three pillars of light wavering around the metal table that I am sitting on. Walls of muted gleaming silver surround the room that I am in with random shelves holding alien contents that I have no knowledge off. My bed of silver metal is central and I see no sign of anything else except for the columns of light that stand around me. The hair at the back of my neck and on my arms is standing on end like it does when the air is full of static and the chill in the room has given me the beginning of goosebumps. I look for the source of my conversation.
"Where are you?" I move to get off the bench but I feel weak so I just sit on the edge instead.
"We are here. The light energy you see is what we are. We are not made like you although your body holds a small amount of electricity around it, ours is made up only of an electro-magnetic field." I am becoming used to this communication process where the sentences are delivered directly into my thoughts. I am also beginning to wonder if maybe I have become insane without any warning. These thoughts seem to be intercepted as I receive another insert into my mind.
"No Sammy. We are, and all this, is as real as what you are." I find this piteously amusing and I allow an ironic laugh to escape.
"Real? Reality seems to be a relative thing." I am sure my pathetic pun went unnoticed.
"You have no idea how often I have wondered about my reality, or the reality of the universe for that matter. What do you want with me?"
"We would use you. We would use your body as a conduit. As a means of channelling. As you can see our physiology is electrical. Our senses are not the same as yours. We would like to explore this aspect of the human. We would like to understand what it is to feel, touch, smell, taste and see. We would like to warn you though that this could be dangerous for you. This is something that we have not done before and we are not sure of what the result will be from it."
"What makes you think that I will allow you to use me for this? What makes you think that I would take such a risk?" As I question them another memory floats to the surface of the dark well that is normally covered and sealed tight.__________
I walk along the leaf littered path. The air is crisp and my nose tingles with the chill. I think that it will only be a few short weeks before the snow starts. At my side skips my daughter totally oblivious to the cold as she tries to kick the leaves ahead of her. She is scuffing her shoes but I decide I don't care. Her cheeks are as pink as the end of her nose and her plaits swing about her happy little face as she enjoys her childish activity. This is what childhood is all about and I am content to enjoy my second hand experience of it through her.
We reach the gates to her school and she stops and throws her arms around my legs. It is as high as she can reach so I squat down in front of her and the stranglehold transfers to around my neck. Annie pulls back from the hug and little mittened hands brush hair off my face and her earnest eyes meet mine.
"You promise that we'll go skating this afternoon? You said we would." I know that she doesn't really doubt our doing the activity. It is more like a promise for the end of the day, something to look forward when the final bell of school is rung.
"I promise." A bell rings out and we hear the sound of children's voices all mixed up as they rush to the school hall for assembly. Annie nearly knocks me over with one last hug and rushes off after the others. At the last moment she turns and blows me a kiss and then she is swallowed amongst the other miniature people pouring in the open front door. Only seconds later the quadrangle is bare and silent. I turn and make my way home smiling a little as I think of my vivacious little girl.
I am about a block and a half away from home and I hear a whistle through the air that gradually becomes louder and then I am thrown to the ground. The day becomes surreal as I see thick smoke blossoming everywhere around me. The ground continues to shudder intermittently and I can no longer hear anything at all. The air is thick with dust and smoke and I cover my mouth and nose trying not to choke. I cough and cough so that my lungs ache and then I vomit into the gutter. Tears stream down my face and my eyes are burning. There is only one thought screaming in my head. Annie! I stagger to my feet and all of a sudden my hearing returns. Sounds rush in and overwhelm me. So much screaming. It joins the shriek of sirens and the screaming in my head that blends into a cacophony of horror. I look around and everything is mayhem. People stumble around. Their eyes are glazed and disbelieving. The horror has not sunk in yet.
Bodies are strewn everywhere. Not just humans but animals too. I see a bird lying next to where I stand and there is not a mark on it. It lies on its back, wings outspread and a sightless eye witnesses the carnage. There a huge cracks in the ground and I watch transfixed as the earth groans and a small crack in front of me gapes open and reveals severed pipes and twisted tree roots like a giant mouth full of broken and ruined teeth.
I try to run in the direction that I came from but I realise that I am injured. I do not feel the pain but it annoys me because my body does not respond to my need. I stop and tie my scarf tight around the leaking gash in my calf. A hand reaches up from a body on the ground. I cannot see whether it belongs to a man or a woman but the eyes staring out from the grime-covered face are wide and scared. I try to feel something but I cannot. My only thought is to find Annie. I ignore the outstretched plea for help and continue on my way. I reach the school but there is no school. It has become a smouldering ruin like all the other buildings I pass.
There is no movement amongst the rubble but I walk through the devastation calling and then sobbing my daughter's name over and over. After an eternity I fall exhausted into the debris. I feel something inside me die. I don't know what to call it but it becomes a small withered husk that settles in place where my heart used to be and I think now I have ice in my veins where blood once used to be for I feel so cold.
I spend years fighting alongside other survivors of this desolation. We never win. We are Lilliputians fighting a giant. Our enemy is annoyed but that's all. I begin to wonder if we are fighting for our freedom or so we don't just give up and die. I search all the time for my daughter, or even some mention of her name, somebody that might have known her or had children that she was friends with. I never do. There are so few of us left. My hope dies now buried with my heart. __________
"I see your point." I realise that I have been crying and I bring
my sleeve up so that I can wipe my nose.
"You're right. I no longer have anything to lose." The columns of compressed coalescent light now line up in front of me.
"Ah Sammy, but you have much to gain from us. We can give you hope and knowledge and understanding. Not all battles need to be fought with death and weapons. What you get from us may aid yourself and mankind. When we explore your senses you will receive in return a little of us. Are you ready? You must lie back down again." Weakness overcomes my body and I slump back down onto the table. Memories suddenly pour in. There are more than I can follow. A floodgate opens and I remember things I do not even know are there.__________
hear rain on the roof and smell its dampness through my open window as I lie
snuggling up in my warm bed ... I am tasting champagne for the first time
and I giggle as bubbles tickle inside my nose ... I am standing at the stern
of a boat and I watch the sunset over the limitless horizon of the ocean,
the colours of the sky are reflected in the water and I cannot tell where
one ends and the other begins ... I feel another's body against mine, silken
skin sliding together and the moist, sweet taste of my lover's lips as our
bodies join together ... I stand staring in horror at a sliced finger as blood
wells and then drips onto the chopping board next to the knife that I have
dropped ... I feel my body ripped apart as my baby makes it's selfish way
into the world and then I am overcome with wonder at this miracle and I hold
my daughter to my breast so she can suckle her life from me ... My heart beats
so hard I fear it will leap from my chest and the skin on my face is pulled
tight as I ride the front seat of a roller-coaster and the night-lights fly
by so fast that they blend together in a blur of colours ... I stand amongst
a sea of wild flowers and I turn and turn and still it is all I can see ...
I am falling and now all I can see is darkness and then I land and I feel
softness ... warmth envelops me ... feel safe ... love ...
This feeling is familiar. This time I just lie still and breath deeply. I reach up to touch my face and my glasses are still there. When I am sure I can open my eyes I sit up and look around. The three embodiments of energy shine just as brightly but different colours subtly infuse their beings now. A variety of hues shimmer in their brilliant light and I can feel a faint connection to them. I think if I try very hard I might hear their thoughts.
"Thankyou Samantha. This has been very successful. We are pleased that you have shared yourself with us. This is an experience that has given us much knowledge of your race." I feel a rush of energy surge through me and with it a bolstering that is reminiscent of encouragement. I am no longer alone. The lingering faith in my right to survival is restored and I feel a blush suffuse my face because their approval is suddenly embarrassing. I feel naked under their light. My soul has been bared to them and I am suddenly aware of all the ugliness they must have uncovered. A lingering fragment of warmth and softness touches my thoughts.
"You are not ugly Samantha. You never were. For us it seems amazing that the fragility of humanity has managed to survive for so long. It is time for you to go now. We will transport you back to your environment. Success to you in your life journey Samantha." Their brilliance closes in on me. I shrink back in fear at first. Their radiant light surrounds me and then they wrap around me and through me. We are all together in one terrible magnificent burning crescendo. The lack of heat surprises me. I am flung into blinding white. Lightning forks of colour zigzag around me and then I stand in a ruined field.
Dead trees mark a parameter around it and I see a pot-holed road next to it. There is nothing to show my bizarre experience. I take my sunglasses from my face and look at them quizzically. The ground is wet and a damp breeze blows the hair back from my face. I can tell that it has been raining. I look up at the sky and see an arch of colours spanning its width. I allow a smile to pull up the corners of my mouth. I feel alive with determination. I have faith in hope and love again and I imagine I can see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I turn in the direction I think the nearest town might be and as I begin to walk I hug their biggest gift to my reviving heart.
"She lives Sammy, she yet lives. You have but to find her."