Thursday, July 3, 2008


Something warm was crawling down my face. It was wet. Where am I? An eerie silence surrounded me, almost as if time had stopped. I knew I was lying down but could not feel my body. Am I dead? I was conscious yet I somehow felt as if I was in a dream. Strange, I though. It was a lonely, lonely feeling like I was the last person on earth yet however I was not bothered by my apparent isolation. I tried to talk but could not. I tried to move but could not. I tried to open my eyes but my eyelids stayed shut. In my incapacity, all I could do was listen, smell, feel, taste. The warmth found its way into my lips. It tasted like rust, no, blood.

The air was arid and thick and made my breathing difficult. It smelt unusual, I reckoned, almost like bad, burnt vegetable soup. How I made that odd connection, I don't really know. I don't recall what bad burnt vegetable soup smells like, actually. To be honest, I don't recall anything at all. My mind was a complete blank, devoid of any trace of memory. I tried to concentrate thinking maybe this would jump start something in my head, create a spark that would help me make sense of all this, whatever this might be. But my mind would not follow. It ran empty rolls, blanks after blanks. I gave up after a couple of futile tries, my head hurting after. Bad vegetable soup, the analogy made me grin. Having no memories at all, I thought, I really shouldn't be so judgmental. How do I really know what bad is, I wondered, if I don’t know what bad is? I really didn't want to make brash rationalizations so soon. Not now, not yet, not while I am here in this alien state. I wanted to know as much as I can of my surroundings as it felt very necessary. There was an indescribable urgency to it, almost like it was a matter of life and death.

Something moved in the distance. I felt it. It made a rumbling sound and then, it fell, crashing. I felt bits of sharp pieces hit the side of my face, the air then grew thicker. I started to gasp and gag. I tried to inhale but couldn't, my chest was restricted. I tried to stay calm but my frantic efforts to breath got the better of me. I started to panic and hyperventilate. I could feel, hear my heart beat faster. Each strong thump made a deafening sound in the dead silence, like a rhythm, a count down to some unforeseen doom. I tried to move but my commands were ignored. I then started to cry. Since I came to, this was the first time I felt fear. I had to do something, my life depended on it, I thought. I struggled but could not overcome. God help me!!! I cried in my head. I screamed. Then everything fell quiet again.

"Jonathan? Jonathan?" "Who’s Jonathan?" "I don't know, it just felt like something I should say. Jonathan." "What sort of joke is that, saying a name for no reason?" "It’s no joke. What’s in a name anyway, for all you know, I could be saying something in a different language and it may mean "how do you do?” wouldn't that be a reason to saying it now?" "But it isn't, it's a name! Jonathan!" "I’m fine. Thank you for asking."

I could feel something warm on my face, but it was not wet. I sensed light but I could not yet see. I tried to open my eyes again and this time, my lids obeyed, even if for a brief moment. I saw a sliver, a ray. It shone through what seemed like heavy clouds on a dark stormy day. The light was pure, sharp and strong. Dust floated about like fairies dancing in its flame. I tried to reach for it but my body was still stubborn. My eyelids grew heavy once again. As the darkness slowly swallowed me, I tried to remember what the light looked like. I have something to remember, I thought. Something...

"Where is this?" "Don’t you know?" "Would I be asking you if I did, that's a rather stupid question?" "Well, my apologies, I just presumed that your powers of observation would have been enough. Guess I was wrong." "Well, I think I have an idea, I just wanted a second opinion." "For what?" "For here!" “Where exactly do you think are we?" "Hmm, the place feels familiar, like I have been here many times before." "Yes... go one." "But one thing doesn’t feel right though." "What is that may I ask?" "Everything here feels familiar except you. You don't seem to fit in any of this." "Really now? shame..."

I heard myself moaning. A dull pain grew all over my person as I was starting to feel my body. I was pinned down. I tried to focus on what was impeding my movement but could not make sense of it. It was hard, heavy, sharp and cold. I ached on my back and legs and the pain only grew as I tried to shift in my position. I opened my eyes again, this time with not as much effort anymore. Strange, I still could not see yet I know my eyes were open. I was lost in the deep darkness. I tried to find the light but turning my head only made me hurt and breathing, more difficult. I lay there still with my breath and my heartbeat keeping me company. Where am I, I asked. I tried to call, shout, but no voice came out. My throat was parched and all I could do was moan and grunt. I started to cry and shake, the fear slowly building again.

"And what are you doing now?" "Something." "Something? What sort of something?" "You tell me, I see many people do this all the time. You sit like this, then you put your hands together like so, and then you whisper something into the air, like telling a secret. I have seen some talk loud, some even cry but this way I see most often. I actually like this the best, it’s quieter. I still don't understand what it’s for though." "Why are you doing it then?" "Honestly, I just felt like it was something I needed to do right now, like something in me is telling me to ask something. I’m just following it." "You’re strange you know that. Saying names for no reason, and doing things just because...” “So you say, but I think I don't do things just because you know.”

I suddenly gasped for air! I felt a surge into my chest, a forceful inflation. I presume it has been a while since I breathed in this deep for I started coughing violently. I felt my throat to be raw and the taste of blood filled my mouth. My body jerked with each spastic exhale and the pain shot me into full consciousness. What is happening to me, I tried to speak but still could not. I started to cry. The fear within me was building again but I tried to muster all my strength to keep it at bay. My whimpering made echoes in my confines and hearing myself somehow calmed me down. Something was different, I realized. The darkness, it was broken! I tried to find where she was and found her there, waiting for me patiently, the ray that I remember.

I gazed at her, mesmerized at her beauty. She rested there, shining, a vision. She illumined a pool that stood beneath her feet sending shards of light everywhere. They frolicked like her children, newly born to the world. I watched them dance, enchanted. I started to laugh. They are beautiful my love, I wanted to say. I chuckled even if it hurt me. It was the least I could do in my predicament, I thought. I laughed and closed my eyes. Another memory, something more for me to remember.

“How long are we going to wait here?” “Not too long I hope.” “You hope? Do you have any idea how long we actually have to sit here?” “I think I do, but I’m not yet quite sure. But don’t worry; I’ll definitely let you know when.” “So what do we do till then?” “We wait of course. What else is there to do?” “How can you say that? Don’t you get restless? I’m getting anxious just thinking about it right now!” “Anxious? How can you be anxious?” “How can I not! We have been here almost for an eternity and all you can tell me is we will just wait? What if it never comes? What if we stay here forever!?” “Do you know how long forever is?” “Yes! A very long time!” “No, I mean have you ever experienced how long forever is?” “Well, um, no! You know what I mean; it’s just a figure of speech!!” “Very well, figure this speech then for a change…. Shut up! You’re messing with my waiting.”

She was still there, though she looked weaker, fainter than before. I wanted to ask her if there was anything wrong but something else caught my eye… something that was directly in front of me. I looked at it intently but could not make full sense as to what it is. A glimmer from the pool shone on it and I could see shadows and shapes and colors too, none though felt familiar. The light shifted again and it shone on me this time. I could see a bit of my chest and my arms. I learned that I was covered in a thick crust and was bloodied all over. Seeing myself injured made me start to panic again, I tried to move, I tried to feel for the rest of my body but all I could do was hurt all over. Something rumbled again that made me stop moving. The light flickered as dust started to drain in to my prison. I heard the same noise again, this time it was louder. My chest grew tight as I tried to brace myself… this is it, I thought. I screamed!

“Why are you crying?” “I don’t know. I’m sad I guess.” “Why so? Did anything happen?” “None that I can recall, maybe just a spontaneous burst of irrational emotions manifesting itself by lacrimation, I reckon.” “Where did that come from?” “I don’t know, I never ever thought I could be so cerebral!” “That wasn’t so cerebral. For once actually, you made perfect sense.” “Why, thank you very much. Coming from you who seemed like complaining is a second language, I should really be flattered!” “Funny. You make me sound like I’m a grumpy old man.” “But you do sound like one you know, and I really don’t understand why, I recall you were quite joyful once upon a time.” “Once upon a time is the operative word. I guess age does that to a person. You tend to see things differently and the world suddenly changes. The grass doesn’t look as green, the sky not as blue, the sun not as shining, and the waters not as clear.” “I see. So stop aging then?” “Seriously! Did you just hear what you said?” “I sure did! Stop aging. Don’t people say that age is a frame of mind?” “Funny what people say nowadays to escape the bite of reality. They can sure run but they will never be able to hide.” “True, but I’m sure that when reality finally catches up to them, that they will still be much more pleasant that you! Sometimes you see, it’s not really the prize that matters but the chase!” “The chase? What can be so rewarding about the chase when you know what's there in the end? The chase can only be enjoyable when there is chance, an uncertainty in obtaining the prize. But there is no chance here, the prize is the same, life only leads to one point and that is all! Life is serious, time is precious and I don’t want to waste either.” “You’re funny you know that?” “What!? Are you mocking me?” “Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. All I said is that you’re funny.” “What was so funny about the things I said, I was serious!” “Just that I don’t believe in it. I mean I don’t discredit the fact that life isn’t serious and that time isn’t precious but you just made it sound like having fun is a capital sin!” “People have fun too much.” “And I say people don’t have fun enough. They grow old wise but stupid at the same time. They walk around thinking that the world is at fault for all their bitterness and that life is full of insufficiencies. Ironic since all their lives, they fill themselves with concepts and thoughts and theories, thinking that that’s making them the best, that that’s what it means to live, but honestly, what kind of life is that? In the end, have you really lived at all? I play around an apple tree and I sometimes feel that trees are such boring creatures. All their lives, they stay put in just one place, never seeing the world, never being able to discover and run and play and move like I. all that might, useless I said. But then, I thought about it again. Was I being fair to the tree? Then I realized, the tree sits there because.” “Because what?” “Because!” “What because!!!?? You just can’t end it with BECAUSE!!!?” “No, what I meant is the tree sits there because… for a cause. He plants his roots deep into the earth, holding the soil down, keeping it from the people who live downhill. He stretches his branches wide and high into the heavens, shielding me from the harsh sun when I play and providing the animals with places to live and hide. He purifies the air for me to breath. His fruits provide me sustenance, his wood, shelter and kindling. He stays put because he does all these things; he is busy doing these things till the day he dies.” “What has this have to do with me then? I’m not a tree.” “No you are not, but understand that unlike the tree, you do not live up to your cause. Despite how seemingly unproductive the tree is in my eyes, he is maximizing his full potential given the life it leads. He lives up to his cause. You, however, do not. You are living far less that what you really should, thereby not fully functioning to your cause.” “You talk like you know everything!” “Well, not everything, but I think I have a pretty good idea of everything about you.” “What do you mean!?, what everything, what do you know!? Who are you anyway?” “Hush, you will learn soon enough. Right now, I will advise you to do as I say.” “Whatever for? I don’t even know you!” “You are indeed stubborn! They will be here any moment; I need you to trust me on this!! Quickly!” “Who will be here? What is happening? What is going on!?” “There’s no time to explain!!! DO YOU TRUST ME!!!!??? QUICKLY!!!! They’re here already” “yes, YES! Now tell me what’s happening”, “Do you trust me? louder, LOUDER!!!!” “YES!!!!!!!”

“Where am i?”

“Professor! Professor! O thank God you’re alright! Thank God!!! We almost thought we had lost you. It was just terrible, simple terrible. You are so lucky you were able to survive!”

“Water… please. I need water.”

“Oh, sorry. I beg your pardon sir. Here you go. I’m really so glad we were able to find you sir. It was just dreadful! I couldn’t sleep for days. Dean Nichols and I were like the walking dead! When the hospital called me saying that they found you and that you were still alive, I rushed here immediately! Oh Professor Jonathan, I’m just so happy you are alright. You are like a ray of light in a grim stormy night.”

“What did you call me?”

“Huh? Sorry?”

“What did you call me? What name did you call me?”

“Your name? Oh, my apologies, the doctor informed me that you might have some memory loss from the concussion. You’re Professor Jonathan Chase, head of the History Department at the National University for the Arts. I’m Professor Doris Rushford, your assistant.”

“What happened to me?”

“Oh sir, it was just terrible! It felt almost like a nightmare! You were leading a salvage project on the ceiling of a condemned cathedral when the roof suddenly collapsed. The structure was not sound to begin with and there was a terrible storm the night before. I guess that further weakened it, despite the bracing we provided. O sir, it was horrible! We lost two good people, and almost you. Finding you was a miracle, though I know you don’t believe in such nonsense! They almost called off the search really since you were smack in the middle of the heap and that they have been going through the rubble for four straight days but could not find you. They said it was unlikely that you could have survived. I could not allow it. I would not even hear of it! I told them that we will dig until we reach CHINA if it meant just finding your body. Of course I prayed that you would be still alive. They found you on the morning of the sixth day. A large slab shielded you from getting buried further. You were lucky that you found yourself inside an air pocket and that it was still intact, for no sooner when they pulled you out did the cavern collapse. The paramedic who tended to you said that they found you screaming at the top of your lungs, eyes wide open. They had to sedate you to make you quiet again.”

“I see. And how are the families of those who were not as fortunate?”

“Grieving I must imagine. Such a terrible way to go. The school is handling all matters regarding the accident. I am sure they will clear you of any responsibility. Surely this was a freak accident, I mean…. It’s an act of God! No one could have foreseen this. Surely if you even for a moment thought that the safety of the team will be compromised, you’d….”


“Er, yes sir?”

“I think I will rest some more now. I am tired.”

“Definitely sir, yes you must. Get rested then sir, I’ll just, um, go to the doctor and tell him that you have awaken. I am really happy to know that you are fine professor. Really.”

“Thank you Doris. Thank you very much… and Doris?”

“Yes sir!?”

“Could you be kind enough to tell Dean Nichols that I would be taking my vacation leave after I get discharged. Tell him I have a tree to visit.”

“A tree? Um, I’ll send word to him. Um, Professor Jonathan….?”

“I’m fine Doris, thank you for asking.”

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