I Won’t Fail

I drift.

I’m kissing a guy. His face is in shadows, but I can smell the salty sent of his body and feel his hands on my waist, his lips passionate on mine. Then he slowly starts to fade – right there in front of me – and I realize I am dreaming. A feeling of foolishness, mixed with urgency comes over me.

“Come on, come on, come on,” I keep telling myself as I watch the man fade away completely, berating myself for sleeping. I don’t have time for this. Looking down, I am wearing black and white skin-tight pants and shirt. They cling not quite like a leotard though. The material while tight, is thicker, almost more like a wetsuit. Frantically I begin pinching myself on my thighs and forearms, as hard as I possibly can, but I feel nothing. My frustration grows. I’m running out of time. I Scream at myself to wake up, over and over as I bolt up off the bench and run like hell, trying to catch someone with sharp pieces of copper. Though I have no idea why.

I wake…

I’m breathing evenly and I’m not running. Instead, I stand holding my daughter in my arms. There is ice and snow beneath my feet. I look out at water so frigid, its evaporation, though extremely slow, fills the air with a scent that mimics that of the snow, only saltier. The smell of salt pulls at a memory my subconscious can’t quite grasp and irritates me, but what can I do?

In front of me and my daughter, a white seal comes up out of the water onto a flat slab of ice not more than a few feet out in front of where my ice shelf ends. He’s hungry. I’m there because I’m supposed to feed him, but I know if I get too close, he’s going to go for my little girl, not yet two-years-old. She’s tiny; just the right size for his meal. Panic fills me and I take off. I can’t come back here with her again. It was reckless to bring her this time and I harangue myself for it as I push through the door to leave.

The next day I take her and my son, not yet four, with me on a school assignment with the rest of my class. It’s an all-day field trip and I don’t want to leave them behind. We are riding in a wagon, pulled by a tractor. The kids are sleeping. The pace is slow, but I’m unfamiliar with the mode of transportation and I wonder how on earth the kids can possibly sleep through what feels jarring to me. Around us, others have laid out on bales of hay within the wagon’s walls. I try to find a more sturdy position as we travel the long distance over barren land. Sitting on a wine barrel beside the kids, I place my forearms on my thighs and drop my head. I can’t get comfy and I’m tired.

Looking down now, my eyes should be seeing the unfinished Douglas fir planks that make up the bed of the wagon beneath my feet. Instead, glimmers catches all my attention. It’s copper. Not just any copper, though. It’s the same copper I was so desperate to get to in my dream, and there’s not just one, there are close to a dozen, poking up out of the cracks between the planks. The feeling of deja vu swarms me, but the feeling isn’t quite right. Memories of a dream filled with kisses and copper fill me. I haven’t done this before, hadn’t heard of the copper before, yet in that dream I knew that I’d need to find them. I even recognize the pieces. Psychic? The question flies through my mind and I want to dismiss it as crazy, but as I pull the pieces of sharp, precious copper from the spaces between the wood and fill my left palm with them, I cannot.

A gun shot cracks the air. Panic rushes over me. I dive to protect the kids, but soon realize they are fine, but I need to move. The shooters are aiming for me. I cause my kids more harm by staying by putting them in the line of fire. I shout to a classmate close by to keep my kids safe until I can catch up with them later. My words seem drowned out. The shots are getting closer. Louder. And nerves push blood through my veins creating a defining roar in my ears. I cannot stay to make sure my friend understood. I just have to trust. And run.

My pursuers are after the copper I have just discovered. Weapons. Weapons they desire. The fact is, my pursuers aren’t firing at me with bullets. Bullets have long since been replaced with what I poses. Instead, their guns use pieces much like my copper, only, theirs are fake, dull and mine are the real thing. Mine hold value beyond what I can fully comprehend. I jump off the back of the wagon and feel the jarring in my knees and lower back as my feet hit the ground – and there he is, standing at the edge of the town we are finally approaching… the guy from the dream. Kisses and copper I think again. The memory of the dream is so vivid now I wonder how I’d ever had trouble remembering it.

Even awake I can smell his scent on my lips from where we kissed, though it was only in that dream that we’d ever met. Psychic? I wonder again, and think, no, something bigger is at play here. Regardless, I instinctively know he has information I need. Information that can keep me breathing and help me get back to my kids. Problem is, I’m not dreaming now and this man doesn’t seem to want to kiss me now, let alone give me information. I have the copper. I’m dangerous.

He runs. So do I. I follow him into a large campus building and run through a maze of rooms with sheets hanging from doorways.  Occasionally I get close, but he keeps running into the bathrooms, locker-room, shower rooms. I follow. Each time I enter a new room, the light diminishes, and eventually I lose him all together, holding on tightly to the pieces of metal in my hand. I’m breathless. Frustrated.

I head back to the place with freezing water where I had taken my daughter the previous afternoon. She’s not with me now but I’m not alone either. I’m with a girlfriend of mine, who’s offered to help me. Now more than ever, I need the guy from the dream and this place is the key to finding him. I can’t get back to my kids without him. Failure is not an option, so I’m immensely grateful for her help.

She and I stand in the manmade habitat for the seals, with water as cold as the arctic and real ice shelves flowing throughout. The seals, hidden beneath the ice are just as real, and they’re hungry, but I have to get to the other side, or I’m as good as dead. We’re as good as dead. I’m grateful for her help but terrified of what might happen to my friend, wishing there had been a way to avoid getting her involved. It’s too late now. She’s here and we don’t have much time.

I step ahead of her and plunge into the icy water. It takes my breath the moment I hit and I have to fight not to panic. It feels as though a doctor has taken the solution to kill warts and laid me in a bath of it. It stings, pricks, burns. All over. Some pain feels subcutaneous while other pain feels like acupuncture needles throughout my drenched body. I can barely feel my hands and feet but I tell my body to swim until I reach the first ice shelf. Despite the freezing water, the short distance of maybe ten feet is manageable – too far for me to have jumped, but manageable, and I climb out of the water onto the ice unscathed. Problem is, there is still one length of frigid water left for me to cross and it’s much farther than ten feet – perhaps the length of an Olympic swimming pool.

I hear my friend come up out of the water to join me on the block of ice. She stands.

“What now?” she wants to know.

“No choice” I tell her.

I steel myself, trying not to think of the cold I just experienced that had been almost more painful than giving birth. I try not to think of the seals hunting me for food. I still haven’t fed them. Without any meat for two days now, I’m well aware that I look like a nicely delivered meal. No choice… Without looking back, I step off the ice that rises mere inches off the water, and let my body ease in, hoping to avoid drawing attention with my quiet descent. I swim forward a few feet and stop. The cold is so painful it is getting hard to breath and the distance ahead is daunting. For some reason I can’t understand, I look above me and see a long water pipe laid in the direction I want to go. I smile, knowing I’m only going to have one chance at this. It will make noise and if I fail, the seals will undoubtedly come. No choice, I think again. I let myself sink under a few feet, then swim up hard, popping myself out of the water like some playful whale… and grab the pipe.

Copper dangles from a chain around my neck. I can hear my friend behind me cheering me on as I move, hand over hand, my feet dangling a foot over the deadly tank below. Somehow I know I would not have made it across this last stretch of water alive if it weren’t for the pipe, but I can see my destination in front and I know I’m going to make it across, going to find the man, going to get the answers, going to return to my kids. I won’t fail.

I wake.

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