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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 

Fiction



A Recurring Dream (part two)

Slowly and inevitably, that long, merciless winter began to subside and its hold gradually began to fade. Spring came and it softened edges began to melt the frozen world. Before I knew what was happening, another summer began to emerge from the air. Its heat started early that year and it seemed to rush in, overwhelming any residual darkness. As the days lengthened, the dreams, the flashbacks and memories of my visits with her became less prevalent, slowly subsiding under the sunís glare. The heat melted the icy fortresses that blocked my path. The flowers and grasses reclaimed their place and brought a renewed energy back to the world. I didnít take as many walks alone as I had before. I was reluctant to revisit those places for quite awhile after my near-misses with those trucks and their nosy drivers. I was a bit scared and it took quite almost another year to regain my confidence. Iíd walk by some of our secret paths and gaze up over the steps to see if anyone else had been there. The elusive summer approached ever closer with each passing day. The skies brightened and their grays gradually turned blue once again. School ended and my well-deserved vacation had begun. Its bright sunshine took some getting used to but it was a welcome relief for me, relieving the burdens that had seemingly taken over.

Most of the strange premonitions seemed to have evaporated which left my mind feeling much more open. I finally began to feel like myself once again, my life was my own. I was free. A humid late-June morning revealed that the beach and its attractions were open for the season and I decided to walk down to the shore and soak in the sunlight. The rows of covered boats were back in the water and the winterís claustrophobic docks expanded under the sun. I could feel the air flowing around me with nothing standing between me and the sea. It was a beautiful day. I looked up and saw only the smallest streaks of thin white clouds stretching above me. The sun burned brightly, giving the world a warm glow that felt like a framed picture. I watched the cars drive by, an endless stream along the road, filing into the parking lot. It was a noisy crowded place.  A little kidlike me would find it easier to disappear here, far easier than a lonely figure walking alone in the middle of the night, It was the perfect place for me to escape and I embraced the opportunity.

It had been a long winter and I needed a change of pace. As I walked, I felt things evaporate. The ground seemed more inviting and less dangerous as the winter barriers had melted away into distant memory. I walked there and as the morning turned to afternoon, the sun began its heating early in the morning and I could feel the sands boiling under my feet, insulating my shoes even that early. It seemed to burn my shadow into the ground leaving a trail behind me anyone could follow. The beach was claustrophobically crowded on that late-June day and overflowed with thousands of people covering almost every square inch. It seemed alive and every square inch was filled with people camping out. It was easy to get lost in such a crowd and I allowed myself to blend in. I walked down towards the water, navigating through the blankets and coolers, hopping over a few carefully built sand castles. Some of the more elaborate ones had been reinforced by plastic pails and I tried not to mess up their hard work, dodging and jumping over them to get to the shore. Slowly, I reached the waterís edge and felt my feet sinking into the seawater saturated sands. The mud surrounded my shoes and I took them off before they became totally submerged. I took them off and put them aside, letting the waves roll over my sore burning feet. They salty water was quite effective in cooling them off and giving me a nearly instantaneous sensation of relief. I looked over the sea and towards the islands in the distance, shimmering under the hazy sun. I knew what had happened there, but I just smiled and decided not to wade into those waters too deeply. I let the memory slide into the background. Some things were better kept under wraps, especially on a bright summer day.

I walked back up the other side of the beach and once again headed towards the arcade. I passed many more throngs of people, none of whom seemed to know me. I took a turn onto the street that separated the beach from the amusement section, and could feel the pavement boiling, releasing steam into the air. It gave the world a hazy humid aura that made me feel almost like I was dreaming in a way. On my way, I noticed more and more cars streaming in and I was getting too hot for that early in the day. I decided it would be a good idea to get out from under the sun for awhile and decided that this would once again be the perfect place to escape. At first things looked largely the same as they had the previous year. As I walked in, I saw the same guy at the counter who had been there the previous year. He said hello to me and said he hadnít seen me since last summer. He asked me how my brother was doing and then wondered if anything interesting had happened over the past year. I nodded my head no, nothing exciting. He smiled and changed my dollar bills for quarters. I noticed that the layout was a little different than I remembered. Some of the old black and white games and a few pinball machines were gone. He pointed some of the new games out to me and I had the strangest feeling as I approached some of them. I looked them over, some of them Iíd heard about in my magazines while others were completely new to me. The new games seemed brighter and more colorful than the older games but also a bit noisier and more complicated.

The first one that stuck out in the crowd was Gyruss which had an unusually elaborate classical music soundtrack that accompanied the action. It a space battle game where you steered your ship around in circles and warp to different planets. The enemies would attack you in mesmerizing circular patterns. Each wave of ships would attack you in different patterns, but if you blew them all up, you got a bonus score. It was a great game, but I didnít feel it was quite as difficult as Defender had been for me. I had a lot of practice over the winter, and perhaps thatís why it didnít seem that terrible, even though I hadnít played it before. I quickly went under its spell and was able to gain a quick mastery of it like I had played it a million times before, and I could almost play it with my eyes closed. It was a cool game that transported me to a different place. For a quarter, I could become someone else for awhile. I was a pilot shooting through outer space like in the movies. I also had fun playing some of my old favorites like Asteroids, which helped to pass the time during the hottest part of the afternoon. It helped to get my mind off of things and escape into another place. A cool wind blew through when he turned on the oversized fan and I felt relieved to be out of the heat. I was lost in the games for an hour, and gradually the arcade began to fill up with other kids, who crowded around the newer machines and made it noisy and crowded just like the beach. I didnít like the crowd, and began to feel a little bit closed-in there and decided it was time to go outside once again. As I walked out, the guy at the counter saw me leaving and asked me if I was coming back later. I said yes, as the afternoon wore on, some of the kids would leave and free up some space.

I decided to go back to the beach. I tried to find some space on the sand but had no luck. I wanted to find a small piece for myself and looking around the beach, I saw that the grassy areas wasnít as crowded. I looked around and noticed that the swings werenít as busy as the rest of the area. I went to sit on one of the swings under the tree. I wasnít really interested in playing with other kids. I wanted to be alone for a little while, since the crowds were getting a little overwhelming I took an empty swing and just sat there alone. I allowed myself to soak in the warm wind. I looked across the beach and saw a few boats on the sound, lazily sailing over the waters, free at last from their long winter slumber, they seemed to be in no hurry to return to port. past the islands again, They took their time and seemed to be oblivious to anyone watching them. I looked past the islands and got lost remembering what happened just over their horizon, a little beyond what I could see. I was lost in that moment and relived our magical night at the weird night in my mind. I wondered if it had ever happened at all sometimes. I wasnít expecting anything to happen and was a little lost. I didnít notice that someone had come along beside me and sat on the next swing. Without me noticing, a girl came up beside me and sat on the swings. She started aggressively kicking her feet into the air without hesitation quickly gaining altitude. I was a little annoyed that she had entered my space, It was like she had followed me there and I found it a little bit annoying at first. I knew was being a little paranoid, she wasnít there to bother me, only to have fun. She laughed and kept going higher and it didnít bother me after awhile. She kept looking at me in a weird way, as if she knew me. I looked at her, and I didnít recognize her from school even though she seemed to be about the same age as me. She had long, curly red hair and was wearing green overalls and sandals. Her eyes were big and bright and she looked like she was ready for a day at the beach. Full of energy, she seemed to almost bounce off the ground onto the swings, without a thought. She was carrying a bucket with a crab on it, with a small plastic shove sticking out of it. Her bucket was full of seashells, held in place by sand and water. She also brought backpack that had a few books and pencils in a plastic grocery bag that she left at the side of the swings.

She approached me for some reason I couldnít quite understand why she was suddenly so interested in me. I was just sitting there minding my own business when she showed up. It still seemed a little strange how she seemed to know exactly where to find me. It was almost as if she had followed me there. My instincts told me there was something going on that I didnít understand. I looked at her and I didnít have any recollections of her. I hadnít ever met her before and I was a bit nervous what she was doing there. It was like she had followed me there. She jumped right onto the swing and started kicking her feet back and forth, quickly gaining momentum and swinging higher, going right past me. I sat there in my seat, still hanging close to the ground with my feet stuck in the sand. I didnít want to move, perfectly happy standing in place. She motioned me to start and get moving, it was summer after all. Time to let go and have some fun. Reluctantly, I pushed back and began to kick up going forth slowly until I was going up and down. It made me feel dizzy and I felt something pushing me to keep going. It wasnít something I wanted to do, but she pushed me into it. I was a little embarrassed since she was going higher than me, but she had a head start. I caught up to her quickly until we were on the same level, swinging at the same time.

She laughed at my efforts and then began to slow down so our movements on the swings were nearly synchronized. She looked towards the side and started talking to me. She said she liked the beach in the summertime, except that she couldnít go ice skating. She started asking me who I was and what I liked to do. She wanted to play a game with me and she stated to ask me a lot of weird questions. The first thing she wanted to know was what my name was. I told her and she laughed. She said too many people had the same boring name I did and she thought I should have something more original. She asked me to guess her name and I tried and tried many times. Despite my many guesses, it remained elusive. I wanted to ask her directly, but knew better. That was part of the game she was playing. She turned things around and asked me what my name would be if I was a girl. She laughed at me and asked me some other strange questions. I didnít understand what she wanted to really know, but she seemed to want to know about a few things I didnít want anyone to know about, so I dodged them. She smiled and laughed, like she knew what my answers would be before I spoke. 

After playing that game with me for a few minutes, it seemed like she got a little bored with me and just decided to just race with me. I moved up and down, propelling myself further on the swing, going faster with each push. As my momentum increased, I felt the pull on my body increasing. She said I should close my eyes and imagine I was somewhere else. I did this and as the motions increased, I felt like I was flying through space, the stars moving past me, like I was playing one of the video games at the arcade. I got lost out there for a few minutes, my mind in deep space, and the swingís momentum kept me moving for some time, pulling my body up and down and giving me a temporary sensation of freedom. After a few minutes, I was getting a little bored so I opened my eyes. I looked around for her and she had suddenly disappeared. I looked over the playgrounds, onto the crowded beach and towards the water, and there wasnít a trace of her anywhere. She seemed to have vanished as quickly as she arrived. I noticed something on the ground. Sheíd accidentally left one of her coloring books behind and I opened it up. There was a message inside that didnít make sense until I read it a few times. It was then that I realized something else about it. It was written in that strange, hidden language I had never shared with anyone else. Somehow, she had written it in our secret code.  

In that moment, I knew exactly what her name was.  

- Michael Palisano

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