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New Story: 370 Fair Warning
 
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dk_angel7
Superior Master Rescuer III
Adept Craftsman


Joined: 07 Feb 2005
Posts: 312
Location: Florida Panhandle

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 12:02 am    Post subject: New Story: 370 Fair Zoom Reply with quote

370 Fair Warning
(F: 18 Years Old, Mud, Melodrama, 36 Pages)
By Dark Angel
Original: 03/06/2018

The steady wind blew across the fresh cut grass. Occasionally, a small whirlpool would pick up dust as the breeze rounded the corner of the apartment complex. A few leaves bounced across the lawn with a small piece of paper.

Wooden posts marked the end of a small parking lot. A small series of waves splashed on the shoreline from a small boat that had zoomed by the public beach.

Sitting on the small porch of our ground floor efficiency apartment, I kicked my sandals off and put my feet up on a stool. I watched as the last two families were packing up their last belongings as the shadows of the late afternoon sun began to grow longer and longer.

The comfortable and cool air blew against my bare arms and legs as I enjoyed watching the end of the daily rituals of the beach-goers.

Boats began to leave the lake back to their docking. Others headed to the boat ramps where they would be pulled out of the water and placed on trailers.

I held Alyssa, our two-month-old. She was wrapped comfortably in a small blanket and contently chugged a bottle of formula I held in my other hand.

Ryan, who had turned two, was focused on blocks and other toys on a carpet surrounded by a small play fence.

He looked up at me, smiled, then returned to whatever he was doing.

It was a bit warm today. So, I was wearing denim shorts and a T-shirt.

I lifted a sweatband off my head and ran my hand through my hair.

Hmm! It’s beyond my shoulders.

I thought for a moment how much a trip to the hair salon would cost.

To heck with it! I’ll trim it away from my eyebrows and grow it long.

I never grew my hair out long. But I decided that now is a good time to start.

I now had more important things to worry about. My hairstyle was no longer one of them.

The kids where content. I was content.

We were happy.

Shawn and I did not have many belongings.

We had each other and our family.

We were just happy with what we had.

Sure, life had its problems with two infants and a single income.

That was a bit down from what I was used to. But all that seemed less important to me than it did in the past.

I heard some horror stories about married life.

In most cases, I wondered why they even married each other. Sometimes I just wondered why it was a problem and interfered with their relationship.

But for us, the three plus years we have been together was a blessing.

There was a slight rapping sound on the glass door behind me.

Shawn quietly stepped through the doorway.

For some reason, Ryan was quiet. He usually gave Shawn a robust greeting and a big hug.

However, he had fallen asleep on the top of a pile of stuffed animals.

That was quick.

Alyssa’s full attention was focused on holding onto the bottle and gulping down baby formula.

So, I just turned my head and smiled acknowledging that he had come home from work.

He smiled, waved, then turned back to the apartment to prepare supper.

I ran my fingers through my hair, picked up the baby bottle again, and returned to my own thoughts.

So much changed between us over the years and so much for the better.

My thoughts worked on the recent changes like the move to the lakeside apartment complex.

I remembered all the joy and pain that came with carrying and giving birth to two wonderful kids.

I went through the memories of the earliest days of our marriage. Even to the day, he proposed to me in his front yard.

There was the moment that I realized that Shawn was the guy whom I wanted to marry.

I remembered how it all began. The first time we met and the rocky years that followed.

*

It was my first day in Middle School, THIS Middle School. It was my 7th grade.

My family just moved into the area. Everyone else in my class had a one-year jump on me. Everyone had one year make friends and build their cliques.

More often than not, the cliques were closes – very closed.

I walked through the halls with my books tight against my chest.

The only thing I wanted to see was carpet and floor tile.

I did not want to look at all those faces wondering who this strange red-haired girl was walking through the hall.

Outside, I just stood with my back against the wall.

I watched as they passed, often three or four at a time. They were talking, enjoying each other’s company, and completely unaware of others around them.

Depressed, alone, and feeling rejected, I sat alone at a corner table in the lunchroom.

I just watched as friends introduced friends to their friends.

Cliques at large tables grew larger and sometimes noisier. You had to know people to get to know people.

Alone, I knew no one. I had nothing.

Typically, I just sat there in the corner of the cafeteria, in the same chair, at what would otherwise be a table for four.

Suddenly, a dark-haired boy with a sheepish smile approached me.

Startled for the moment, I could not breathe. Thoughts in my head stopped as if they had hit a brick wall.

I knew I had to say something. But, I could not even form the words to say in my head.

I was overwhelmed.

The brief moment of silence seemed like forever as he just stood there with his tray of whatever bland substance they were serving that day.

Looking a bit sheepish, he seemed to be a bit lost for words to say as well.

He was the first one to talk.

“Uh, may I join you?”

“Sure! Yea!”

My brain finally woke up and was able to form something to say.

It was awkward. But for some reason, it seemed OK to him.

“Hello! Uh, hi! Sure! Sure! Sure!”

He smiled, pulled out a chair, and sat down.

“My name is Shawn.” There was an uncomfortable pause. “You are new here. Where are you from?”

I don’t know why. But, I just opened up and let go.

Once I started talking, I did not stop.

I told him everything.

I told him that I felt alone, isolated. Moving to a new neighborhood did not make it easier.

I did not have any real social skills. So, it was hard for me to make and keep friends. It was particularly hard to find and keep friends who were loyal.

I told him that I felt ugly, so substandard.

So many other girls were popular.

They had the looks. Their hair was just right. They had the stylish clothing. Their smiling faces had this glow about them.

They were outgoing. They could strike up a conversation with anyone and keep it going.

I told him that I had no purpose in life or living.

Everyone else seemed to have a direction (a future) they were working towards.

They made their goals, worked to get to them, and completed them just to make further goals to reach.

Confused, I felt unwanted, ugly, and had no reason to continue living.

With both forearms on the table, I nervously rubbed the top of the fingers on my left hand.

Shawn reached out and softly laid his hand on both my hands.

Startled, I felt a knot in my chest.

I looked up into his eyes.

He looked deeply into my eyes. There was a firm look of serious concern on his face.

For a moment, I felt vulnerable, even frightened.

He started talking and did not stop.

He told me that I did not have to be lonely all of my life. It was not my purpose or destiny to feel, let alone be isolated from everyone else.

I can and will have friends. There would be good quality friends.

He told me something I already knew. But, I had brushed aside in my mind.

All these other girls had to put on makeup and spruce up their hair as if they were showing off something they were not. For most, they acted in ways that hid other intentions or to hide something about themselves they were not.

They were all show and little real.

They spent most of their time looking better than each other and the rest of the student body.

Instead of real relationships, they were looking to score. The guys were looking for trophy girls to show off. The girls were looking for stories to brag about to their “friends” who were also in on the “hunt”.

He told me that the only reason I did not feel that I had a purpose was that I had not found it yet.

Nobody knew when or where I would find my purpose. But I would find it.

But he did not stop there. He continued.

He told me what he saw in me even in the short time he was with me.

He told me that I was a sweet caring person. I was hurt because I cared about others.

He sensed a strong level of frustration over my inability to share my concern and desire to be with other people.

He understood how difficult it was to strike up friendships with other people. He also understood how most people were shallow and brushed off those who were looking for deeper relationships.

He said that my depression stemmed from the frustration over my difficulty in relating to most people. But, I did not want to get involved with anyone else’s petty political squabbles.

He said that he understood because he suffered many of the same problems.

Shawn did not stop there.

He told me to disregard what I saw in the mirror.

Disregard any comparisons with others or what others may say about me.

He held my hands tighter and looked even deeper into my eyes.

He told me that I was a very sweet, kind, and beautiful person.

He told me that I was precious, one-of-a-kind, and very special.

He told me that HE would not mind spending more time with me.

Hmm, here’s a guy I’d like to hang onto!

We spent a lot of time together from that day onward.

We were inseparable. We were even mistaken to be brother and sister.

Others knew right away that we were VERY close friends. We had feelings for each other.

Those were wonderful years and they lasted into High School.

Both Shawn and I changed. I should just say our relationship changed.

To this day, I STILL don’t know why. But, I fell back into my old pattern.

I knew my entire family, especially my brothers and sisters were popular and did what they had to do to keep it.

My family wanted me to do the same. But, the choice had to be mine.

So, I looked around the High School.

Not much changed over the years between Middle School and High School.

It just got more sophisticated.

I saw the popular girls and all the boys that hung around them.

With a few exceptions, it was the same bunch of kids from years before.

A few were gone. More had come and were already well versed in the art of personal politics.

Each girl was a copy of the other. Sure, each dressed differently and had their hair different.

But for all practical purposes, they all acted and talked the same. They all talked about the same shallow things they did in Middle School.

I had a horrible disadvantage.

There were two things these girls had that I did not. One was “smarts” such as book knowledge and current fads.

I wanted what they had, but my grade point was not up there with the top quarter of the student body.

I was a bit clumsy, so I stayed as far away from the athletic department as I could.

If I wanted to be surrounded by lots of people, this was not the group to join.

There was no way I was going to compete against that level of book knowledge, ability, and even money.

Theater, ecology, even art, other subcultures in our school required a specific talent or interest.

Yet, there was one group that did not require either of the two.

It was rude, rebellious, and loved to party hard.

The girls in the group did one or any combination of three things to stay in. They took abuse, got drunk, and flaunted their bodies.

The guys showed off one or more “trophy girls” under their arms (and sometimes with their hands in the girl’s pants) as they walked down a busy school hallway.

Just like other cliques, the girls were always talking about who did what with who and what was going to happen next. But unlike other social groups, their topics were alcohol, sex, and drugs.

This culture was noted for two things, which were jail time and fights. Fights could be over which person belonged to who, personal issues, or just plain nothing as if they did it out of boredom.

This group sparked an interest in a very dark corner of my psyche, which I tried to repress for years.

I wanted to rebel. I wanted to throw all caution to the wind.

I have tried a good life long enough. I was not going to win any popularity contests by living a clean life.

The darkness that filled their lifestyle looked less repulsive as the days, weeks, and months moved on.

It was time for a change.

It was time to run on the wild side.

Going with the advice of my older sisters, I “finally” took a deep breath, put away my modest one-piece swimsuits, and bought my first two-piece. The Wal-Marts had whole racks of them where there is little fabric and lots of flesh.

My shorts were already small and I did not want to show any “lines”. So I started to knot my T-shirts show my “midriffs”.

I bought shorter skirts that just made it within the school dress code.

I could never get used to tobacco. I had to build up a tolerance for alcohol.

I thought that booze and cigarettes would be hard to find because I was underage.

Some had older siblings, others had neighborhood friends and parents who made both vices too easy to obtain.

Of course, Shawn noticed and thought that it was just part of an identity crisis. It would pass soon enough.

He was right about the identity crisis.

He was wrong about how long it would last.

First, the guys catcalled and commented on my change.

Then they wanted to hang around with me.

Soon, I was right in with the group.

“What are you doing? What are you thinking?”

Shawn could not handle the change.

“I can’t stand the silence! Call me! Talk to me, please! What’s going on?”

Eventually, I had to make a choice.

Shawn was not popular with my new group.

Some even despised him.

It was not enough to ignore him. I had to make a clean break from him.

He was everything my group hated. He was good with school, good with staff, and good with his family.

Then one late night, it happened. The group was gathered at the usual picnic table, under a bug filled streetlight, in the public park by the community college.

The group was unusually loud. I could hear them at a distance.

The rambunctious laughter and bragging were loud. They were slapping the table and their legs. Part of it was due to the amount of whatever they drank the hours before. Part of it was in celebration of something they had done.

Oh damn! What happened?

I knew the guys well enough to know that, whatever happened, whatever they did, it was bad.

What did they do now?

I took a deep breath to calm my shaking and nervous fears, then kept walking.

More and more, I realized what they were talking about as I walked closer to the group

A large part of me died that night when I realized what the spontaneous party was about.

They had cornered Shawn after school and beat him till he was on the ground and could not get up.

They wanted to make sure he never came close to or even spoke to me again.

It was a few nights later when the phone rang at home. I was home alone when a bunch from the group decided to “crash my party”.

Two guys picked up separate phones before I was able to get to one.

One had a quirky look on his face as he handed the phone to me.

The other guy had a devious smile and looked at the caller ID to be sure who had called.

It was Shawn.

He was drunk, crying, and wanted to know why I had dropped him.

Shawn never got drunk. It was totally out of his character.

I could only walk the phone back to the counter and hang up without saying a word.

It was early morning by the time everyone left the house.

I had cleaned the house of all evidence of the spontaneous party, took a quick shower, and wet to bed.

The birds began to sing and it was still dark.

Things continued to roll in my mind.

I could not break my thoughts away from some wonderful years that were now in the past.

I was with Shawn. We walked hand in hand for the first time, laughing, and having a wonderful time.

We were soul mates, happy, having a wonderful time each moment we were together.

I was SO content. I felt SO whole. I actually felt I was in love.

My mind then flashed to wherever he was now.

In the darkness, despondent, sobbing, and trying to drown a massive depression that would never go away.

It was a depression I gave him when I left him for my new circle of tyrants.

It was a depression, as kind and sweet as he was, he really did not deserve.

I could not handle the thoughts anymore.

I felt dirty, filthy dirty.

I had taken someone whom deeply cared for me without reservation and dumped him into a violent sea of confusion and despair.

So, I buried my head in my pillow and violently cried myself to sleep.

I was in my own deep and long-term depression and sense of worthlessness.

The fact that he was beaten up again not 48 hours after that phone call only made it worse.

*

Different “school”, but same town. It was near the end of my first Summer Semester. I was now and brand new college student and was getting ready to study for my finals.

Cliques were well established, handed down from one year to another as students came and left. Everyone else seemed to know someone as they came in. Otherwise, new students blended in with others who spent most of their time in the same place; Student Commons, Cafeteria, or small Study Lobbies scattered around the campus.

Again, more often than not, the cliques were closes – very closed. Maybe not for others, but it seemed so for me.

I walked across the campus with my books tight against my chest.

The only thing I wanted to see was the ground.

I did not want to look at all those faces wondering whom this strange looking red-haired girl.

The fact that I wore short black biker shorts that did cover my hips but almost no portion of my legs, a black tube top, and black tennis shoes did not help.

I watched as other students passed, often three or four at a time. They were talking, enjoying each other’s company, and completely unaware of others around them.

Depressed and alone, I sat alone at a corner table in the cafeteria.

But, I was not alone.

Two guys sat across from me whom I knew from High School.

Both were creeps. Both were the only two who were left of the circle of “friends” from High School.

Both were the only two left in a competition among some of the boys from the group, which one would get me “laid” first.

Even then, both were sweet-talking me into an evening at their apartment.

“I need to start studying for exams.”

They did not care for their own class-work. I already knew that my homework was not even the least of their concerns.

“I need to go home and study.”

I wished I were with someone whom would get these two away from me.

But, the closest things I had to friends no longer included me.

Few of my former associates from High School went to the Community College.

Most of them were “competition” for boys in High School, formed another group on campus, and excluded me.

I could hear them talk even from a distance spreading gossip, rumors, and lies.

The tales got really dark when the topic of me came up for discussion.

Once again, I had nothing. It was even worse.

The days of being the “new kid” were long gone.

I was now just one of many campus sluts.

The late Friday afternoon became early evening.

The campus was still busy with students gathering to take the walk to several bars and pool halls that were down the road.

By now, it was too much trouble for me. So, the “bar walk” no longer held its fascination for me as it did for so many others.

Why? Too many screwed up people meeting, running into, or hooking up with too many screwed up people. Then there were the creeps that were there just to screw others up and over.

I’d rather stay home and drink alone than have my drink spiked by another freak. I did not want to be groped. Nor did I want to smell the breath of some drunk that wanted to take me into the bushes or some dark alley.

I needed to head home now.

I no longer had a reason to stay here anyway.

Classes were over. I saw enough TV in the student lounge. I already ate at the cafeteria and played enough old arcade games in the game room.

So, I finished my can of soda and told the two freaks that were sitting with me that I had to use the bathroom.

I then got up, dropped my can into a recycle bin, stepped out of the cafeteria, and turned the other direction from the bathrooms.

It was a walk down a long hall before I reached the main lobby exit.

Every one and a while, I passed a table belonging to some campus club or group. Each table had its own tablecloth, a large sign with the group’s name on it, and books and pamphlets that promoted their existence to anyone interested.

None of them really bothered me.

College Republicans or Democrats, Student Government or activities, Gun Club, Literary, and Ecology were great for those who were interested in that kind of stuff.

None of them bothered me but one!

The Campus Crusade for Christ people would leave you alone if you asked them.

So, that was not a real problem.

It was one member of “CCC” that really bothered me – Shawn.

Shawn always had a spiritual and philosophical side to him.

So, I should not be as dumbfounded as I was when he “found religion” after his brief time in a deep depressive state. The time I put him in when I dumped him for my group in High School.

Once again, there he was sitting at that table.

I usually passed by only giving him one of several silent looks depending on what kind of mood I was in.

I had not spoken to him years. So, I had not heard his sweet caring voice in a long time.

I wanted to hear it again. I wanted to hear it even if I was going to be a jerk to him.

Mistake? Maybe, but I went ahead anyhow.

I sighed and ran my hand through my hair. I calmed whatever thoughts were rolling through my head.

Ok, this is it.

I put on the best “I don’t care” look on my face that I could and slowly walked up to the table.

Shawn never did like making eye contact me since the day I dumped him.

I could tell by the look in his eyes when he was uncomfortable.

Looking very apprehensive, Shawn nervously drummed a pencil on the tabletop.

The young girl (whom I already knew he was in no way interested in dating) next to him just stared at me wondering what I was going to do and how they were going to handle it.

After making firm eye contact with Shawn, I looked down at the table.

There were all kinds of different literature neatly spread across the tablecloth.

Two books. One book was about the reliability of the Bible. The other book was on the basics of Christian life.

There were tracts and booklets of all sizes and thickness. Most of the material was “salvation” stuff. Others covered random issues important to Christian belief.

I picked up one cartoon-like booklet entitled “This Was Your Life” and dropped it back onto the table.

An idea popped into my head. It was a reoccurring question. It bugged me ever since he began sharing his newfound faith with his group of new friends and others.

It bugged me for months and I had to deal with it so it would not bother me anymore.

The best time to do that was now.

“Shawn, I do not know why you do this.”

“We have been through this before.”

His voice was quiet and calm.

“I promised that I would not repeat myself. I don’t want to be shoving this down your throat.”

“Yes, Shawn.” I rolled my eyes and looked at the ceiling. “Let me see if I remember.”

Shawn leaned forward, put his elbows on the table and his hands on both sides of his chin.

“YES, Jesus is the pro-bono lawyer who you ask to represent you on Judgement Day.”

“Yea.”

“It is all free to those whom honestly ask.”

“Uh-hu!”

“I am to place my complete trust, rely upon, and cling to him as if I was never to let him go.”

“Yes, the Greek behind John 3:16.”

“He has already done the time for all my crimes by suffering in my place.”

“Uh huh!”

“Resurrection, return to heaven, and Second Coming, I have heard it all before”.

“Uh, yea. Sounds right.”

“One thing, Shawn!” A thought popped into my head. “Why do you have to do this?”

There was a long moment of uncomfortable science.

Shawn leaned back in his chair and looked off to the side.

He then crossed his legs, raised his hand to his face, and rubbed his lips with this index finger.

Looking far off to the side, I knew his mind was turning. I knew that look on his face very well.

I lifted my hands off the table and took two steps back.

Shawn was the kind of person who said what was on his mind and did not hold back.

I was not going to like his response, which never stops him in the past.

He turned forward with a stern look on his face.

He looked down with a sigh, then looked directly into my eyes.

“Leah, there is no guarantee that any one of us is to live long enough to see the sun tomorrow.

“What!”

“Leah if you died tonight, why would God let you into heaven?”

I exploded. All my thoughts went wild and my stomach twisted.

All kinds of vile responses filled by heat at all the same time. They all came up so fast, I could not figure out which one to use.

I had not only walked into a trap, I set the trap myself then stepped into it.

I was far angrier with myself than at Shawn.

But, I could not let him know what I was thinking.

Burning fires of hate and anger tore through my entire body.

My mind flooded with all kinds of unpleasant and retaliatory things about what I wanted to do right now.

“SHAWN!”

I slammed my hands on the table and stuck my nose directly into his face.

“I am SO tired of your religious crap!”

He looked back at me. I knew in all too well. I knew what was going through his head.

His face spoke every word of, “so why did you even ask?”

“Listen, Shawn!”

I pointed my finger at his face.

“I am going to live through this weekend!”

I slapped my hand on the table.

“I am living into next week!”

I pushed myself away from the table.

“I am coming back this time next week and I am going to come to this table and SPIT in your face!”

I abruptly turned and swiftly walked to the exit at the end of the long hallway.

Yelling, screaming, and shouting, I realized that I just made a major fool out of myself in view of everyone nearby.

I took any thought of embarrassment or shame and squashed them as hard as I could.

I did not bother to look back at Shawn or anyone else for that matter.

*

“Oh, this is great!”

I could feel the panic start to burn in my chest and boil in my mind.

“This is just great! A dead-end!”

I took several deep breaths to calm my nerves.

A thick wall of tall and rough lakebed grass marked the end of the pathway.

I was usually really good at finding my way back home through the lakebed.

I just had to be aware of the surroundings and stay on the common path from the college to the neighborhood.

If you missed one turn you had to find your way back to the main path to get home.

The evening was my favorite time to walk the paths.

Walking home I can line up the stars behind a tall radio tower. I was on the right path as long as I had the tower lined up with the right stars.

Walking to the park and the college, much the same. If I kept the stars in the right place above certain structures, I would arrive on the other side of the lakebed without a problem.

But right now, it was a long time till dusk. So, I only had the sun and its shadow to guide me.

Between school and home, my mind was filled with all kind of distractions.

But my encounter with Shawn really disturbed me.

It was not just the fact that I really regret dumping my best friend and soul mate I have ever had in exchange for a bunch of slimeballs.

It was not just Shawn’s newfound faith or his eagerness to share it with others.

I really WAS afraid of death. I feared that there really WAS something unpleasant on the other side of life.

I was comfortable when I was in control and knew what was going to happen in my immediate future.

The unknown scared me. I could not control what I did not know.

I was also terrified of situations where I could NOT control my fate, nor could I trust anyone who could be in control.

I had nightmares that centered on one or both of these fears.

Shawn was someone I could trust wholeheartedly.

He was everything any girl would want in a young man.

But he was gone and now I need fend for myself.

Nevertheless, I had some more urgent matters to worry about now.

So, all that needed to be passed off to another day.

I cleared my thoughts with a big sigh and began to look at the tall grasses that surrounded me to find my way back home.

I had to keep the radio tower in front of me and the college and the park behind me.

Now I had to figure out how I drifted off the path.

My mind suddenly started to work against me.

All kinds of stories ran through my head about people who were lost on the lakebed.

There were already many stories about people falling into horrible quagmires.

Most were just embarrassing stories of falling into the wet mud.

Other people were stuck and needed help to get out.

Then there were the horror stories of people whom would swear that they were in a Quicksand. They were being sucked into the earth as if they were being swallowed alive.

I had to forcibly shake my head and tell myself something.

As nervous as the surrounding neighborhoods were about the soggy lake-bottom, we would have heard if someone had died in a quicksand.

I would know if someone were missing because it would once again be all over the news.

So I told myself that if nobody was dead or missing, my fear of the lakebed was unfounded.

For sure!

OK! The best I can determine, I drifted left.

I had the tendency to wander left if I had any question which way to drift.

The rest of the lake was to the right. A small bay was to the left.

It was easier to find my way out of a small bay than an entire lakebed of tall hard grasses and twisting paths.

So I had to turn around and backtrack.

It was not that hard to find my way back.

On one hand, it was nice to see my footprints in the soggy ground. It marked the path I walked.

Another deep nervous sigh cleared my lungs and calmed myself down.

“You are OK now. Keep your head on and you will be fine.”

The soggy ground became hard, dusty, and sandy.

I was right! I drifted to my left.

I began to see things that were familiar to me.

I was almost back to the main pathway to my neighborhood.

I was regaining my confidence. I smiled and sighed in relief.

I wanted OUT if this maze so my walked became brisk, quicker.

I rounded a corner and walked up the steep incline to what would be the safe path home.

There they were.

The two stalking sex deviants that sat at my table in the college cafeteria stood right there caught in the middle of a conversation.

The three of us just stood there and stared at each other. None of us knew what to say or do.

They were in shock. They likely were following (even stalking) me home. Did not expect me to turn around and come back towards them on the pathway.

My stomach knotted.

There was one thing I DID know about them.

They were NEVER at a loss for words unless they were hiding something.

Usually, they were planning something bad.

THEY controlled the access to the pathway.

I was unable to pass both of them without getting real close.

It was already hard for me to control my panic.

Unable to control my own destiny, I began to lose control.

I could hear my heart pound.

My arms and legs became so charged, they began to hurt.

All thoughts in my head went dark; what they wanted, could, and would do to me.

I was trapped.

My fears began to boil to intolerable levels.

Then a devious smile spread across their faces.

The words came out of their mouths almost in unison.

“GET HER!”

They turned towards me and ran.

Everything exploded.

I turned and ran back onto the soggy lakebed back down the same path that led me away from the safe way home.

A horrible thought re-entered my head.

I was running towards the same winding paths where other people became lost.

Several ended in one of many quagmires that had caught and trapped so many people.

I really had to think.

I really needed to know what I was doing.

I really had to have a plan to get out of this crisis without either getting lost or falling into a pool of mud.

I knew that I could outrun them. But that was the only advantage I had over both of them.

The idea of being alone lost, at this late time of the day kept coming back into my mind.

So, every choice I made in each fork in the pathway had to lean to my right. This would keep me closer to the main path out of the lakebed and back home.

I had to believe that they knew this. So I had to believe that they were waiting for me to make a cut through the tall grasses to get back to safety.

I had to get enough distance between both creeps and I so they would not see me plunge off the trail and into the grasses.

So that is what I did.

I turned to look behind me to see which way I could run if I had to.

I could hear them bitch at each other. They were far enough behind me to make my move.

I pushed my way through the wall of grass, turned around, and sat on my bare legs on the damp mossy ground.

One passed by, then the other to my relief. They had no clue I was hiding in the tall weeds.

I was safe for the moment.

It took me a while to regain control of my feelings and fears.

Based on what I know now, I should have stayed there deep in the thick grasses. Hiding and waiting for a time I knew that they had given up their search for me.

Then I could have walked home without any trouble.

But, I was too eager to get out of this mess.

I turned around, pushed my way through the brush, and fought my way back to the trail to get home.

The ground swished more and more the closer I got to my goal.

Every nerve in my body cringed as water seeped into my tennis shoes with each step.

But I had to focus on getting out.

I had to focus on getting to safety.

I had to focus on getting home.

I ran through occasional small openings in the grass.

Each one was covered by dry or mossy ground.

Each one except the last one.

I burst out of the tall grass onto a patch of soft mud.

I felt myself lose balance when the soft ground grabbed my feet as I ran.

My foot splashed into dark soup.

Then a million ghastly feelings assaulted every nerve.

There was the shock that I was falling through as well as into something.

A savagely gross feeling blasted through my body as the sticky, slimy, and gooey substance slid against the skin of my legs.

The sound of splashing, bubbling and sucking assaulted my ears.

All at once, several thoughts and feelings of shock, deep terror, and desperation tore through me.

I regained control of my senses for a brief moment.

I looked down just long enough to see that I was up to my knees in thick and soupy mud.

My mind flashed a desperate warning!

GET OUT!

There was the deep and subconscious realization that I was in serious trouble if I did not “get out” right now!

I panicked.

I violently twisted and turned as I desperately fought to pull each leg out of the soupy mud.

Next, I fell into a total chaos of fear and desperation. I felt both knees plunge into the earth.

I could hear myself whimper, whine, and groan as I desperately struggled.

Twisting, turning, and jerking, I fought even harder to free my legs.

My heart slammed in my chest.

But then I realized that all my efforts were forcing my legs deeper into the mud.

I stopped, was still, and gasped for air.

I could really feel the pounding in my neck and head.

My head eventually stopped spinning and I was able to gather some of my thoughts.

I was already thigh deep and almost to my black biker shorts.

Stay still! Stay still and you will not sink deeper!

I took deep breaths to control my breathing.

I watched as bubbles popped on the surface around me.

Keep cool! Keep cool, Leah!

I had to talk myself down from another growing panic.

Keep cool and you’ll get out!

But, then I could feel the soggy wet muck as it slowly crept up the skin of my legs inching closer to my hips.

I was still sinking!

Staying still only slowed the process.

A rush of fear and terror raced through me.

I looked at the thick and tall grasses that surrounded me.

They were out of reach.

I looked at the mud around me.

There was nothing to grab to pull free of the mud.

My chest burned and the fire spread through every muscle.

It was like throwing gasoline on the coals of an old campfire.

My shock grew into a feeling of heavy desperation.

I could only give off hard, whispering, and whining gasps as I desperately tried to stop myself from flying into a rage of intense and uncontrollable terror.

I slowly rocked my hips in a foolish effort to prevent the quagmire from reaching my shorts.

But my legs vanished into the soupy mire as the murky ground around me shifted and rolled.

Small chunks of mud slid against the smooth nylon of my biker shorts as I rocked from side to side.

It rose upward against the fabric as I ever so slowly slipped deeper into the quagmire.

A horrible gross feeling flowed through me.

I began to shake. My pounding heart rattled my body.

My mind began to scream about each and every possible outcome of my situation.

Each outcome was on the film of one morbid horror movie or another.

I closed my eyes and erased all thoughts.

I took one deep breath and balled both of my fists in front of me.

I never screamed so hard in my entire life.

I screamed again and yet again.

I closed my eyes and covered my mouth with both hands.

I was shaking and tears began to fall from my eyes and roll down my face.

I could no longer stop the intense grip of fear.

I knew that it was only a matter of time before I lost control of myself.

It was only a matter of time I exploded into a wild panic and began to frantically struggle.

As a result, I would plunge deep into the mire kicking and frantically clawing at the earth around me.

Nevertheless, I would forever vanish into a pool of churning soup leaving no trace behind to mark my grave.

The mud seemed to paint my shorts a slimy brown as the muck reached halfway up my hips.

Each twist just sent my body ever so slightly deeper into the quagmire.

I gently pumped my legs up and down.

I sank deeper. My hips and my shorts went under.

I lost control. My mind burned with fear. I began to sob, loudly.

I violently lunged several times as I tried to force my body upwards and out.

I lunged as if jumping would force my hips back to the surface.

The ground mounded and rolled with each violent move fighting each effort to get out.

The futile effort only pushed me deeper.

I let out a hard scream of frustration after I took a deep breath.

I was now up to the bare skin of my waist in soft muck.

I again remained still.

I felt bubbles of gaseous air rise against my legs.

I watched as each bubble popped on the surface.

I repulsive feeling rolled through my body, starting with my legs.

My emotions went wild with a morbid fear.

I wanted to scream. But, I could only give off powerful gasps and whines.

I could still feel the mire ever so slowly creep up my bare waist.

It would not be long before I sank to the bottom of my tube top.

I again looked at the tall grass around me.

They were out of reach.

I looked at the mud around me.

There was nothing to grab to pull free.

I could not get out! I was NOT getting out!

I was in desperate need of help.

I cleared my mind with a few very deep gasps of air.

I screamed and screamed again.

I kept on screaming.

After a while, I could only sob and the tears began to flood down my face.

Someone had to hear me.

Someone had to find me.

Someone had to pull me out of this pit.

I heard voices, two voices.

“Help me! Help me! Someone help me! Please!”

The voices were getting closer!

“Help! Help! Over here! Help me!”

A heavy feeling of total desperation filled my mind and body.

They had to find me somewhere within the tall grasses.

There was a chance that they would not be able to do so.

“Help me! I’m sinking! Help me, please!”

I raised both hands and waved them as frantically as I could.

Useless!

The surrounding grasses were so tall and thick that nobody could see me even if they were close by.

“Help me! I can’t get out! I’m stuck! Help me please!”

I began to sob as I screamed. I was so desperate to get out of the quagmire.

“Help me! Help me! Oh God, please help me!”

I could hear the sloshing feet of the first person approach the mud pit.

I almost choked in shock. A deep dreadful feeling filled my mind and spread to every part of my body.

One of the two creeps that chased me into the pit poked his head above the grass and looked down at me.

A sadistic look spread across his face as he turned and called to his friend.

“Hey, she is over here!”

There was a mocking and gleeful tone in his voice.

“She’s fallen into a quicksand!”

The second dirtball showed up. I then had two demonically possessed jerks looking gleefully downward at my morbid situation.

“Let’s get out of here!” The first turned and ran. “She ain’t getting out of there!”

The second’s face twisted into an inhuman bug-eyed smile as he looked at me.

He drew two fingers across his neck, waved goodbye to me, turned, and ran after his buddy.

“OH GOD, NO! NO! PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME!”

They were gone as fast as they showed up.

“HELP ME! HELP ME, PLEASE!”

There was nothing but the sound of the wind blowing through the grass and birds flying overhead.

It took me a while before I could admit to myself what had just happened.

There was a growing feeling of deep isolation.

Even the wind was still. Even the birds fell silent.

I was alone, VERY alone!

My only hope of rescue had just left me to my fate.

I felt overpowered.

Everything around me seemed to close in.

It seemed that the entire lakebed shifted into a mode, which focused on the task of slowly swallowing me alive.

Was I Phobic? Am I Phobic now? If I am, did it start at this point?

I don’t know. But, I did not want to think about it then as well as now.

Yet, some of my deepest fears pushed me closer to insanity.

Helplessness, abandonment, and doom, it all quickly grew within me and it exploded like a volcano.

I erupted into a violent series of mindless screams.

Independent, I was big on solving my own problems.

But I was helplessly caught and slowly sinking into a deadly quicksand of soft mud.

It had me and it was not going to let go. I could not extract myself.

This alone would drive me into a raging panic limited only by the fact that there would be someone nearby I could trust to pull me out.

Shawn was long gone and likely still at the college.

The two drug addicts that had stalked me for months abandoned me and would do anything they could to make sure I would never be found.

Lastly, very few people use this path to cross from the county park, the college, and my neighborhood.

This brought up the next fear that plagued my nightmares.

I was still so young with things I wanted to do and finish.

I did not want to die! I could NOT die.

Besides, I had no idea what happened after death and I did not want to find out.

Helplessly alone with no hope of rescue from a lethal sucking pit of muddy quicksand, I only had one option left.

I stayed still, held both hands out to my side, and clawed my fingers upward.

I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths.

Closed my hands into fists and began to scream.

I screamed several times.

I stopped after a while and looked downward at the soupy muck around me.

I wiped tears off my face with my hands and watched a few bubbles pop on the surface.

I was still very slowly and steadily sinking.

I had almost sunk to the bottom of my rib cage.

The feeling of wet mud creeping up the bare skin of my waist was very unsettling.

I gritted my teeth, grunted a few times, slowly moved my legs and twisted my hips.

I looked down in horror and gave off a few muted screams as a large group of bubbles rose up from underneath and broke on the surface.

More bubbles popped on the surface as I settled deeper into the quagmire.

I pushed both my hands into the air as far as I could, threw my head back, and looked deep into the sky.

Choking and gasping, my mind was completely filled with nothing but a morbid terror as I felt the earth crawl up my ribcage and up the bottom of my black tube top.

I could only drop my arms and look down after I settled deeper into the mud. The soggy earth had reached upward to the bottom of my chest.

I held my hands and arms just above the muck as I desperately looked at the grasses and the mud around me.

The grasses were way out of reach and there was nothing in the mud around me that I could grab to pull myself free.

I felt another storm well up from deep within my body.

It grew into I broke down in tears and began to sob.

My mind stepped through each and every family member I would never see again.

Sure, they caused me many problems and much grief.

But, they were family. I still loved them.

I was going to miss them. I hoped that they were going to miss me.

I then thought about another person, Shawn.

I thought of all the wonderful conversations I had with him.

I remembered how much he cared for and did for me.

I remembered his sweet smile and caring voice.

I remembered how I dumped him for a group of thugs.

I remembered the pain in his voice and eyes as he tried to win me back wondering what he had done to lose me.

I remembered the horrible shame and sorrow I felt when I first saw him after thugs from my group who wanted him to go away jumped him.

Then there was the last conversation I had with him.

I verbally abused, insulted, and humiliated him despite the fact that he just wanted a civil conversation with me.

An unstoppable wave of deep and severe terror began to grow within me.

I began to panic as my heart began to race.

There was something he said to me. It was some of the last words he would ever speak to me.

The words would be my epitaph.

He told me that there was no guarantee that I would survive to the end of the day.

I had to be ready for death because nobody really knew when that day would come.

Lastly, there was no reason to believe that the afterlife was going to be pleasant.

I was not prepared to die, yet here I was sinking into a quicksand.

So young! So much to do! So much left finish or fix!

There would never be another chance for me to tell Shawn how I really felt about him.

No chance to say sorry! I was so sorry for what I had done to him.

Air rose from underneath and spattered some mud as they broke onto the surface.

The muck began to rise up my chest as I settled deeper into the murky quicksand.

My mind filled with a horrific, thick, sense of fear and impending death.

I looked upward and my fingers clawed at the sky above me as a scream choked in my throat.

Tears poured from my eyes soaking the cheeks of my face.

Without words to call for help, I could only wildly sob.

“Leah? Leah?” A sweet voice in the distance called my name. “Leah?”

I threw everything I could into a hellish scream, again, and again.

It was Shawn!

I wanted to get to him any way I could.

The wet earth around me pitched and rolled as my legs desperately churned the muck underneath.

I frantically clawed at the loose earth around me with my hands.

I had lost control and foolishly panicked.

My feet just broke up what solid earth, which was still under me.

The earth around me just flowed through my fingers.

WHOOSH!

I felt my body plunge into the soft mud.

My chest and black tube top were gone.

I was now up to my armpits in a soft and sucking quicksand.

I held my now dripping hands and arms just above the surface of the pit.

Whining and gasping, I had to fight every urge to explode into another raging panic.

“Shawn! Shawn! Help me!”

“Keep calling! I am trying to find you!”

“Shaw! Help me! I am sinking!”

“Damn! Do not move! I’m going to find you!”

I just had to concentrate on staying still and screaming like I was about to die.

But still, staying still only slowed my sinking.

I could feel the murky earth start to crawl up my arms and reach for my bare shoulders.

My body cringed. It started up and down my spine and spread throughout my body.

I dropped both arms and they splashed into the muck in front of me.

“Shawn! Shawn! Please, help me! I am sinking!”

“How deep are you?”

“Shoulders!”

“I think I am close to you! Hang on! Keep talking!”

I had a hard enough problem keeping my head above the surface.

“Shawn, I am so sorry. I am so sorry for everything.”

“Ok, right now I want to concentrate on getting you out.”

“I am serious. I am really serious.”

“Ok!” He called back after an unnerving pause. “You were just trying to find yourself.”

This was usual Shawn.

His kind words seemed so reassuring whereas so many others were harsh and judgmental.

I had dealt with a lack of kindness for long enough now.

He cared enough to follow the two punks onto the lakebed knowing that they were up to no good.

He cared enough to search for me whether I had fallen into trouble or not.

He cared enough to find a way to pull me out of the quicksand and back onto solid ground.

I was going to jump at the opportunity if this was the time to reunite with him.

I strayed from where I was supposed to be long enough now. I knew where I belonged.

We talked for a while as Shawn worked his way through the tall grass.

But, the quicksand was not done with me yet. It was not going to give up.

I felt the muck shift and flow around my body. Something loosened up.

I felt a rush of panic.

I moved my legs, twisted my body a bit, and clawed at the soft ground around me.

The soggy earth rolled over my shoulders and began to wrap around my neck.

My heart began to race. My mind went wild with morbid thoughts of death.

My arms went under. I looked upward to the sky and gasped for air.

“Leah?”

Shawn heard my splashing and panicked grunts, gasps, and whining.

“LEAH? HELLO?”

“Sh, Sh, Sh, Shawn? I’m up to my neck and sinking!”

“Hang on. I am almost there!”

I could not control my panic. I could not stay still.

I twisted a bit and moved my legs. I lifted my arms out of the thick soupy muck and they hopelessly splashed into the mire in front of me.

I settled deeper. I had to lift my chin as the muck reached the bottom of my ears.

My body tensed and my heart pounded.

I gasped real hard as tears rolled down my face.

I knew the next time I slipped deeper into the quicksand I would be on my way to the bottom.

“SHAWN! SHAWN! OH GOD, SHAWN!”

There was the sound of shifting brush and his head poked out above the tall grass.

Mud splashed all over the place as my arm flew out of the pit. I desperately reached out to him.

I had a horrible thought.

This was a great time for revenge for all that my friends did and said to him.

This was a great time for revenge for all that I did and said to him.

He could just stand there and watch me vanish into the soggy earth.

“SHAWN! PLEASE SHAWN!” I cried with a sobbing voice. “PLEASE HELP ME!”

He reached out and grabbed my hand and began to pull.

I began to kick with my feet and claw at the muck with my other hand.

The murky earth around me pulsed with each gasp of my breath.

He could not get a good hold on my slimy hand and began to slip.

Whoosh! He lost his grip.

With another swoop of his arm, he grabbed by hand again.

I kicked harder. The whole surface of the mire began to roll.

Gasps became sobs. I felt a violent panic grow inside me.

There was the real possibility that he would not be able to get a strong enough grip on my hand to be able to pull me out.

Sure enough, his hand slipped away.

He leaned backward as to secure a better footing on solid ground.

The ground around me began to soften again. I knew I was about to make my final plunge into the pit.

My body jerked and my legs thrashed.

The murky death trapped pitched and rolled as it readied itself in its last attempt to swallow me alive.

I could only imagine the horrified look on my face as my sobbing breaths became desperate but muted screams.

I was done. I was fully convinced that I was done.

The next thing I was going to experience was the feeling of slipping deep into nothing.

Nothing but a pitch black fluid around me knowing that my next breath would fill my lungs and stomach with a thick, black, and slimy fluid.

Shawn’s hand slapped onto my wrist. My fingers wrapped around his.

He had already found some earth, which was solid enough to pull me to safety.

He had a firm grip on my arm. I had a grip on his.

Soggy muck rolled off my shoulders as they were pulled free from the pit.

I desperately hung on for my life as I struggled to break my legs free of the suction.

There was a loud sucking and gurgling sound as the deep soft mud pulled free from my back.

The ground gave off a deep groan as my legs finally pulled free.

There was a powerful yank as Shawn stepped back and pulled me back to solid earth.

The sound of the pit shifting and flowing to reclaim the empty space that once held my body was unsettling.

I tried to stand up, but my legs refused to hold my weight.

Shawn stooped downward and held my arms as he helped me to my feet.

I suddenly found myself looking directly into his eyes. My forearms resting on his.

On one hand, I saw that he was glad to see me.

He clearly still cared about me.

On the other, I saw all the loss and pain my friends and I caused him.

Every feeling I had for him began to rise to the surface.

Every painful feeling I had after I left him also rose and began to fill my mind.

My eyes began to water as a heavy and bulky weight of guilt and sorrow took over my thoughts.

I began to cry.

He gently pulled me close and I buried my face in his shoulder.

My emotions exploded.

I began to sob – hard.

“I am so sorry! I am so sorry!”

“I know. I know.”

My uncontrolled sobbing continued.

He lifted a hand and held the back of my head and dug his fingers into my hair.

“Please don’t leave me. I am so sorry.”

I begged as hard as I could.

“Please don’t leave me”.

I sobbed for a while.

He held me tight.

After I had calmed down a bit.

He let go as each of us took a step back.

He held my head in his hands.

Once again, I looked into his sweet eyes.

Tears were welling up as he looked at me.

“No, I won’t.”

He quietly whispered in a soft and broken voice.

“I am not going to leave you.”

We hugged again, tight, and for a long time.

I let go, broke down, and sobbed on his shoulder.

He was not going anywhere.

I had him for life.

*

“Leah!”

“Huh?”

“Leah, you ok?”

“Uh.”

“It looked like your mind was somewhere else.”

Alyssa looked up from a hole in the wrapped blanket.

She was worried.

I took the half-filled baby bottle in my other hand and began feeding her again.

She held it with both hands as she chugged down the formula.

Her eyes still showed a level of concern as she just stared at me.

“I’m ok”, I said with a smile as I looked back up at Shawn. “I’m fine.”

“It just looked like your mind was focused on – something.”

I looked back down at Alyssa who was still chugging and still looking at me with concern.

I sighed.

Shawn always knew me too well. I could not hide much of anything from him.

He pulled up a chair next to mine and quietly sat down and put his arm around my back.

He tenderly put his hand on the other side of my head, put his head on my shoulder, and pressed my head against his.

I tried to repress the emotions, but they just kept boiling to the surface.

As much as I wanted to leave much of my past behind, they just kept crawling back into my thoughts.

Luckily, Shawn figured out by now that we had enough discussions on the subject.

I knew what he wanted to say because he said it so many times before.

Mistakes, regrets, and lost opportunities, it was time to let all of it go once again and put it back into the past.

If they creep up again into my memories, I just had to keep letting it go.

The tears came as the pain came out from some crevasse in my mind.

Alyssa pushed the bottle aside and began to cry.

Ryan looked up from his toys on the carpet with a look of concern on his face as well.

I carefully lifted Alyssa up to my chest and held her tight.

Ryan had found some hidden gap in the play fence, wrapped his arms around a leg, and looked up at me with great concern in his eyes.

Ryan climbed up onto my lap with a little help from Shawn.

Family hugs. I always enjoyed them.

It always brought back to me what was truly important.

Once again, I thought about my brothers and sisters.

Each was lost in their social lives, activities, and their societal statuses.

Each had no idea how trivial all that was when it came down to whom cared about what and about whom.

I had a tight family to go back to whereas they tried to fill that same void by lurking in places such as bars and dance clubs hoping to belong or feeling and being important.

Jumping from one significant other to and another going from place to place, meeting to meeting, and party to party, they never saw the value of what I had.

I had a home where I was loved for whom I was and two kids that needed me almost every minute of the day.

Faith, family, and a future, I would not trade it for the world having all three in harmony.
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