God wanted to give a gift to every child on the earth. At first, he wanted to create each child a raindrop. But rain was too unpredictable. He then wanted to create each child a cloud. But with so many children, no one would ever see the sun. Instead, he had the angels cut a snowflake for each child. Every winter a snowflake that was made just for you falls, just for you.
She got pushed into the lake and she just kept sinking.
She kicked, she cupped her hands and pulled her arms in an arc, pushing water past her waist, but she sank. She sank like lead, like brick, like treasure. Until her feet hit the bottom.
She pushed off the rocks but she went nowhere. Unable to hold her breath any longer, her mouth opened in an involuntary gasp. Water rushed past her tongue and into her lungs but she didn’t drown. She took a step and was able to walk. Past an old tire, a boulder, a pile of concrete bricks, she saw people. People just like her.
“You found us!” a man said.
How was she supposed to answer? She shrugged her shoulders.
“Use your words, miss!”
“Wha… what?” It was just like on the surface. “Was I supposed to find you?”
“Well it would have been lonely down here all on your own!” the man bellowed.
He took her into a town that looked just like every other town. He introduced her to people that were just like everyone else she met. Everything was the same.
She carried on like she did before. She went to store, read the same books, took walks, and met a man. She cooked the same and ate the same. It was all the same.
Except the haze.
It must have been the water reflecting light, she thought. Maybe it was pollution or sand or rocks or a million other excuses. But it wasn’t. It was the haze of something different.
She could do and achieve and talk and work just like before. But it wasn’t like before. There were different people. There were different buildings. And the sun was much less bright.
She looked around at a life that wasn’t hers. A life that happened with a push. A life she could not swim out of.
She pushed off the bottom harder than before but nothing happened. She kicked and swam and tried climbing up the tallest rocks but she just sank back down.
And then she went back to her house. And she worked each day like she did before. And she cooked as she did before. And she bathed and talked and danced and loved as she did before.
Many years later she was dieing.
“Are you happy?” her daughter asked?
The woman looked up at her daughter, surrounded by the same haze that followed her her whole time in her underwater life.
“No, honey. Not at all.”
The old man placed his walker and took a step. Dirt gathered around the edges of the metal and, with the strength left from living for 87 years, he lifted the walker and took another step. He swung his body around and fell into the wooden chair. It sat low enough to the ground that he could grab the ends of the grass, running his hands across the top of the green, the tips of the blades playing in his fingerprints.
The chair was under a maple tree and a leaf with orange tips fell onto his lap. Summer keeps ending earlier and earlier, he thought. Wasn’t it only July? It might be August. It doesn’t really matter.
He looked up to the tree, trying to pick the sky out through the branches. The leaves were moving but he didn’t feel any wind. He realized the grass, that his fingertips could barely touch, was now skimming the edges of his wrist. He went to pull up his arms but grass latched on, refusing to return the pale arms, the pressure of the pulling making his waxy skin the color of a moon jelly.
He went to sit up but the fibers of his flannel shirt pooled into the pores of the wood.
Roots slowly creeped out of the dirt and intertwined with his leather boot laces, peaked into the cuff of his jeans, and weaved through the hairs on his legs as the roots creep up his calves then knees then thighs.
He looked up and the leaves moved faster. The branches trembled as they reached closer to him. The leaves brushed against his head, his shoulder, his waist feeling the grooves on his cheeks, the creases in his shirt, like a blind man getting to know his companion. The branches loop under his armpits, twirled around his arms and met up with the ends of the grass. The latched together like holding hands.
And the grass overtook him and the branches overtook him and the roots and the dirt and the earth overtook him.
Under the pressure of nature his breath quickened and his pupils darted to the edges of his eyes as he search for his walker. He went to scream, to ask for help but he didn’t He unclenched his fists and slowed his breathing and relaxed into the embrace of the earth.
He couldn’t feel his legs or the pains in his knees. He couldn’t feel his torso or the rolling in his stomach. He couldn’t see a thing but the darkness could never be blurry if he wasn’t wearing his glasses.
Thank you, he said. And he took a breath and his lungs filled with soil.