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The Choice of a Lifetime
“Give it your best shot,” I taunted my brother Ryan, grinning wickedly. He backed up on the hot sand, further away from the volleyball net.
“You got it, sis.” He smiled innocently. We had been playing volleyball for over an hour now, and the sun was blaring down its fiery rays on us. Near to the left, somewhere close, there were a couple of guys playing football. I hadn’t been thinking much of them at the time; I was mainly focused on spiking my brother.
Until the football hit my head, left me in a coma, and changed me forever.
I blacked out.
When I woke up, I was laying face-first on the sand at the beach. I spit out the grits of soft sand and sat up. “Ryan?” I mumbled voice stuffy. I sighed. It would be just like him to panic and leave me here. I dusted myself off and turned to walk to the small shack that sold snow cones and snacks so I could call my parents; but the shack wasn’t there anymore. In its place was a small, brown house with curtains hanging in the windows and a small, creaky, wooden swing hanging on the front porch. I blinked, and suddenly, there was an old, wrinkled woman sitting on the swing.
I definitely should have noticed that the house and the woman hadn’t been there before, but I had been focusing on getting home.
“Excuse me ma’am!” I called. “Do you happen to have a phone I can use?” I walked so I was closer into what could be called the yard.
She turned to me and said, “There is no technology in between the Worlds. That’s where you are, you know. In between Worlds? It’s a place to make choices. To go forwards or backwards. You have to make a choice now.”
I stifled a giggle. She must be someone who didn’t even know where she was. “We’re in Ocean Springs ma’am. On the beach, and the town is just that wa-“ I broke off. There was no more beach. The only evidence left of the beach was the sand surrounding the immediate area. Now surrounding the house was the purest of white lights someone could imagine. After staring at it and blinking several times, I realized this was not just some confused, old woman; this was someone or something otherworldly. Maybe I was dreaming, but something deep inside of me told me that this was no dream. I had no idea how to escape.
“You have a choice, Allyson,” the woman said. I wanted to know how she knew my name, but she continued. “You were hit mighty hard with that football. Right now, you’re safe in a hospital, in a coma. Your choice is to either, A, go to Heaven, or B, you can prove yourself and go back home to your body.”
“How? How do you know all this stuff? How do I get back home? I can’t just take a bus or something? And who are you? Why are you here? Did you put me here?” I rushed through all of that in a panic.
Her deep, soulful, blue eyes smiled. “All you have to do is go through the house, but the catch is, you would be risking your friend’s lives too. Jazmine and Chris? That’s a test of how selfish you are, the first real test. If you choose to go through, you have to go through three rooms to find your friends. As you take more time, they’ll be sinking deeper and deeper into sub consciousness, and eventually, you all die if you run out of time, but your souls will still go to Heaven; don’t worry about that. It’s worth a try, right?”
Killing Jaz and Chris? How could I have done that?
“And if I just move on?” I asked cautiously.
“Then everyone in your life has to go on,” she replied calmly.
I thought about it. Even though this lady was old and sounded crazy, there was something about her eyes that made me think twice about her. If I was to go to Heaven, and leave everyone and everything behind… Would that be so bad?
But what if I did take the long road and be selfish? I would be risking Chris and Jaz’s life, but I thought I could do it. How bad could it be to go through a house? Leaving behind Jaz, there was no telling how many fights she would get into without me to calm her, and Chris would get too distracted without me there to keep him on track.
I asked, “What’s so terrible about these three rooms?”
“Everything you think that’s terrible. You would have to face three of your biggest fears. Also, you would have a time limit. In your world, it’s two months, but here, it’s only two days. Once you’ve reached your decision, there is no turning back. Have you made up your mind Allyson?” she asked, but I already made my decision.
“I’ll give it a try I guess. What are you though, a ghost?” I asked, buying time before I went in, though I still wanted to know. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Faith.” She flashed a smile, and though wrinkled, she made it beautiful. With that, she disappeared in a light almost as pure as the one that was- or had been- surrounding us. The scenery changed back to the beach, ocean lapping gently against the sand. I took one, well hopefully not last, look at my home, and turned towards the house.
Turning the knob, I was expecting some giant creature to jump out at me, but the house’s interior was cozy. The living room had a long, comfy-looking couch and two green-and-white checkered chairs. The rug was soft beneath my feel. Near to the back of the living room, there was a kitchen separating the kitchen from the living room. I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding, since it seemed like nothing was going to kill me in this room. I guessed I had to go to the hallway.
But just as I strode towards it, a vision flashed in my mind, and I crumpled to my knees. Jazmine was sleeping, but her dream- or nightmare- was what sent me into shakes and shivers on the floor. Jazmine was in complete and utter darkness, without any gravity. She was completely immobile, crying out my name mentally. How I knew this was beyond me, but as I finally opened my eyes, I saw the old woman watching me carefully from the couch.
“What did you do to her!” I screeched.
“Don’t worry; it was only a dream for her. She doesn’t know that it’s real, and she’s safe right now. That was simply a flash of what you’re about to face, first door on the left. How you get through it, well, you must figure that out. Just don’t forget about the light,” she said.
She wasn’t helping, but I had to get this over with. Ignoring the woman, I reached the hall and prepared mentally for the overwhelming darkness. Squeezing my eyes shut, thinking the backs of my eyelids were better than nothing, I swung the door open and stepped…
…Into nothing. Curiosity overruling fear, I opened my eyes, and I saw what I felt. Nothing. I couldn’t move or speak. I didn’t know what light was anymore, or what anything was anymore. I had lost myself.
There was no time. I didn’t know how long I was frozen in the blackness before I finally thought about how disappointed my parents and friends would be that I gave up so easily. Wait. That sparked something in my brain. Jaz and Chris! I had to save them! Suddenly, I remembered who I was, why I was here, and what light was. I remembered what the woman had said about light. That was the Key, the Light! I filled myself up with love and hope, and I imagined the pure light that had been surrounding the house before. I felt my fingers tingle. The sensation spread all the way down from my arms to my toes. Finally, when I got my voice back, I called out Jaz’s name, but that was stupid; she couldn’t move or speak. I tried moving and found I could float, but that didn’t help me since I couldn’t see.
“Light is the Key,” a little voice kept telling me, so I imagined the white light again, except with my eyes open.
A tiny glow appeared, and a wave of relief washed over me. As the light grew brighter, I was able to see Jaz, not too far away. I tried making a motion like I was swimming in water, still concentrating on the light, and ‘swam’ towards her. I couldn’t believe she had been so close, and as soon as I disappeared, leaving me with a “Plop!” on the living room couch. The old woman was there, and her long, grey hair swished as she turned to smile at me.
“You did very well, using light and hope against darkness. Since I know you’re wondering, Jazmine is back home; she was released from you as soon as you touched her. She couldn’t see or move like you could, and that’s why she didn’t respond to you.”
“What was that darkness? Will it be as bad as the next time?” I wondered as I drank in all the light I could. It was hard to be untrustworthy of an old woman, especially in this comfy house.
“I’m afraid all the rooms are terrible Allyson.” Well scratch that thought. Faith- or I assumed it was Faith- showed me another vision. Chris was in a hospital, the monitor beating steadily, eyes closed and head bandaged. This was one was more of a shock because I hated seeing the ones I loved get hurt. When I opened my eyes this time, I found I was sobbing. Faith offered me a tissue, and I took it from her gratefully.
“Why do I have to do this?” I asked her. “Why can’t I just go back?”
“We have to send you back changed. People talk about near death experiences and how they’ve changed, right? Well this is why; not because they saw their life flashed before their eyes, and not because I’m some mean ghost out for revenge.” She laughed at that. “I apologize, but really, it is for the better.”
“I guess I can see where you’re coming from.” I nodded for emphasis. A sudden thought occurred to me. “How much time do I have left? “ I searched for some kind of evidence of a clock.
“Don’t worry. You still have a day and a half left Allyson. Also, your time doesn’t pass in this room. Go now though. The door on the right. Go!”
I braced myself this time, not knowing how I was going to save him, but I open the door anyway…
… And fell onto another chair in Chris’s hospital room. That chair plopping really had to stop. The light was very dim. I stood up, scrambling to touch Chris, but when I did, nothing happened. He didn’t disappear. A doctor walked into the room with a somber expression, but his eyes were satisfied.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “but he’s dead.”
“No! He’s breathing! How could he be dead?” I yelled. I had stood up to get face to face with the doctor, but that was a mistake, because now he was in between me and Chris. He smiled a slow, terrifying smile.
“You’re right. He’s not gone yet, but he will be.” Then the doctor began to transform. He looked like something taken straight out of a horror film; there were what looked like red tiger stripes running down his whole… Body? It was too horribly contorted to be called a body. I didn’t know what it was, but it suddenly crouched into a position to jump on Chris.
“No!” I screeched, and without thinking, I launched myself onto the creature’s back.
“Light is the Key,” my little voice told me. Of course! That’s why the room was so dim; the light must hurt it. As the creature thrashed and moved all about, trying to get me off of him, I concentrated as much as I could on that glowing purity, and for a second, I was blinded by what I had created. I was blinded by all the love, hope, and faith I saw; it was brilliant. Then, as the creature turned in the light, the thrashing stopped as soon as it had started, and I landed onto the floor with a thud as it disappeared.
“Yes! Yes! I did it!” I shouted with joy. I leaned over Chris just as his eyes fluttered open.
“Allyson? What-“ he said, but I cut him off.
“Don’t ask questions,” I smiled. “It’s all okay now.” I was so excited with happiness, I kissed him, and at the contact, I plopped on the couch in the living room, once again. This time though, I had no worries. I saw a note folded neatly on the couch next to me, and I opened it. It read,
Meet me over in the second room on the right.
I skipped to the room, somehow knowing this wouldn’t be a terrifying room. I leaned, as I turned the doorknob, that I was right. The room was exactly as mine was back home, purple walls, a simple white bed with a blue comforter, all the pictures of my friends and family on the walls. Nestled on the edge of my bed, though, was an angel. She had a cascade of long, chestnut hair, her facial features were sculpted into a beautiful smile, and her eyes were-
“Faith!” I gasped in surprise. “You’re- you’re an angel!” Her eyes were the only things the same, that deep, soulful blue, and there were huge white and golden wings gently flapping behind her. Then I realized I had known what she was all along; that was why I’d been able to trust her so quickly. A thought hit me.
“Is something going to try and kill me or something?” I took a step back towards the door cautiously.
“No, but you needed to overcome your fear of trusting. That’s when I figured I could make this room easier and give you a break. You have put your trust in me. I could tell when you used the Light, because you had seen it in me,” Faith said. “You can go back home now, Allyson.”
“Really? Will I ever see you again?” I asked hopefully.
“Yes dear, very soon.” Faith gave me a hug. “Go out the back door and into your home.” I gave her a kiss on the cheek, and I thought I would poof back into the living room. Instead, Faith laughed and said, “The door.” I practically ran out of the room, though I would miss Faith, and out the back door.
I was blacked out for maybe a second before I realized I was in the hospital, just as Faith had said. I gasped and opened my eyes. Mom and Dad were asleep on the long couch that was on one side of the room. Two chairs were pulled up next to me, where Chris and Jaz were sleeping upright, with their hands holding mine. I wondered how long they had been there. Since I didn’t have my voice back yet, I gave both hands a squeeze. Their eyes opened in surprise, and I gave them a smile.
“Nurse! Nurse! Come quick! She’s awake!” Chris yelled with delight, waking up my parents.
“Allyson! We were so worried!” my mom yelled, and she ran to hug me.
“Well look who’s up and around,” the nurse said, walking inside. She had chestnut hair and-
“Faith!” I suddenly said. This was getting old. Everyone was looking at me weird.
“Oh, you read my nametag. Now we know your eyesight is fine,” she said quickly, saving me. She checked something off on her clipboard. “Yes, Faith is my first name. I’m sorry I didn’t write that on the dry board. I just came to fill in for someone,” she said. We went through all the motions of making sure I was okay. “I’ll be back later, and we should probably get you some food too, maybe soup. Just call when you’re ready,” she added, pointing to a button on the side of the rail. Then she left with a wink.
My dad was calling someone on the phone as everyone crowded around me, and then he gave me a hug.
“That was Ryan. He had to get to work, but he’s coming back now. He’s been so worried about you, taking this all out on himself. When that football hit you, he had no idea what to do, since he didn’t have his cell phone, but he said an old woman came up and offered hers. He said she was kind of weird,” Dad said. I had to hold back laughter. So Faith did use technology.
“You know Ally, I’ve been having some weird dreams about you,” Jaz said.
“Me too, but they were kind of interesting…” He trailed off as he looked at me, blushing.
“You’ll have to tell me about them sometime,” I replied, blushing too. “But seriously guys, I just had a near death experience. Also, I need some food,” I laughed, pressing the button.
“We’re so glad you’re awake,” Mom said, and everyone nodded.
I looked up into the faces of everyone I loved and said, “Me too.”