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Michael Phillips Michael Phillips
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At the Precipice of Infinity


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She had a friend.

This writing contains explicit content and is only for adults. You have been warned.

Wrote this for my writing class and I'd love to know what anyone thinks about it.  Any feedback would be great!  Had to mark it explicit only for some curse words.


The forest surrounds me in a blanket of beauty as it pulls me away from the world.  Sundays mean that I can leave my worries at the start of this trail and forget about them for a day— and for that I am eternally grateful.  The residents of these woods sing me a new song each week as a cool breeze embraces me and sends the last of my worries away.  I've been told that at the end of this trail is a view of my town unlike any other.  I have yet to reach it in the few months that I've been trying, though I've been close before, I think.  Most of the time I will start to have a panic attack and my stomach will twist into a knot and send me back to my car in a sad state of panic.  


I always wonder how I got to this point as I start down this trail each week.  Four years at university and an actual degree to show for it should have gotten me out of this town and onto greater things.  It most certainly should have gotten me away from being a janitor at a high school.  I thought that was the point of going to college in the first place; to get away from the tedious existence I lead.  There is something else holding me here, though.  Something more powerful than a need to better my life and escape the mountain of pills I have to take to make it through the day.


"It's been a while, big guy," a voice whispers faintly into my ear.


"Who said that?" I ask to myself as I can't find a body for the voice. "Is someone here?"


"A shame you've forgotten me already, Jay," the voice grows louder and moves to my other ear. "Not a day passes where you don't cross my mind."


"Really funny, kid," I say back to nobody. "I'm really not in the mood for any jokes today."
"So, I am nobody to you now, huh?" the voice whispers again.


"Considering you are the result of me skipping my medicine this morning, yes," I answer and shake my head, punching myself in the thigh.  I thought I might actually make it to the end today, god damn it.


"They told me this might happen," the voice says back. "Just calm down and listen to me, Jay, it will all make sense in a second."


"Calm down?" I almost yell. "That's a good idea, I never thought of that."


"Shh, shh," the voice says back quickly. "I just have to think of how to do this.  You just have to trust me."


"Don't you 'shh' me!" I clench my fists and feel my stomach start to turn.  I’m starting to hyperventilate and I feel like I'm about to faint.


"I believe I may have screwed this up a bit," it says. "Just listen to my voice and you'll know who I am."


The song of the forest starts to fade and the forest around me starts to spin violently.  I just had to try something stupid like skipping my pills and trying to have a normal day.  My arms feel heavy and I can't gain control of my breath as the light of the morning sun starts to dim.  A loud ringing deafens my ears and my vision fades to black.


*


"Hello?" Fingers snap near my face and a sharp whistle sends my eyes open to nobody once again. "Jesus, man, you really got yourself worked up there, didn't you?"
I rub my eyes hard in a desperate attempt to be returned to my bed from whatever nightmare I'm having.  Instead, the sun beams into my eyes as I open them again to the forest that I trusted to clear my head for just one day.  Its beauty now encapsulates a strange eeriness even in the light of the morning sun.


"Ooh, that's a fancy word," the voice says to me. "Looks like someone got their hands on a thesaurus."


"What do you want with me?" I ask to the voice.


"I just wanted to spend one last day with my best good friend," it answers me. "Do you really not remember me, Jay?"


"No," I say back, hoping that keeping my pace into the forest will make it go away. "All I know is that I came here to make sure I could handle myself for a day and it turns out that I'm now able to lose my shit in less than five minutes."


"I think I went about this all wrong," the voice says. "I should've just started out by saying this.  It's me, Diana Green."


"Bullshit."


"Seeing as to how you haven't run frantically back to your car by now, you must believe that some part of this is real," the voice shoots back to me. "I've been waiting for this day for a long time, Jay.  It gets really boring up there sometimes."


"Where exactly would that be?" I ask it.


"I can’t really tell you," the voice answers me. "I was told to keep quiet about the who's, the how's, the where's and the what's."


I shake my head and shrug, "Okay then.  If this is real, which it isn't, and you really are Diana, which you aren't, why would you visit me on today of all days?"


"You only get one day," the voice answers me. "I wanted a day where I had you all to myself with no distractions.  Wouldn't want you to seem crazy talking to yourself around other people, would we?"


"How thoughtful of you," I answer.


"I can understand if you don't fully believe me yet," the voice says. "But if you just allow me to prove it to you, I can do that."


"Doesn't seem like I have much of a choice," I say. "I'll play along I guess."


"Thank you." The voice starts to lose its raspy tone in my ear. "Now just focus on the trail before you and clear your mind.  Listen only to the sounds of your feet as you walk and close your eyes."


I do as it asks and stare intently on the ground just in front of my feet, flushing out all sounds except for the sound of the dirt and leaves crunching underneath my feet.  The cool breeze flows past my face as I close my eyes and take a deep breath in through my nose and out through my mouth.


My eyes open to a hospital room; the sounds of my footsteps are replaced by a heart monitor that sounds slowly into the room.  Three get well balloons float above the foot of the bed.  A boy sits next it with his head down toward his shoes as they hang from his chair.  On the bed rests a young girl with an I.V. coming from her arm and another host of wires connected to her body.  She breathes slowly to the rhythm of the heart monitor— her head completely free of hair.  She wakes and opens her vibrant green eyes.  I can recognize those eyes like I saw them yesterday.  Suddenly the room becomes familiar and so does the boy in the chair who looks up the girl as she wakes.


"You're still here," the girl says to him. "You didn't have to wait for me."


"I think I've decided to just live on this chair for now," he says back. "Is that okay with you?"


She laughs and answers, "Thank you."


"For what?" He plants his elbow on the bed and leans his head closer to her.


"Spare me, big guy," she says back to him with a smile. "For being here.  For always being here."


"Nowhere else I'd rather be." His words are strained like he is fighting back tears.


"It's odd to see yourself from the outside, huh?" I feel a hand rest on my shoulder and squeezes lightly. "The first time I saw myself I didn’t recognize her either."


The hand taps my shoulder as if to tell me to turn around but I stay focused on the boy's shoes just as he was.  The hand move to my face and I feel a few fingers pull my head to the left.  Piercing green eyes through sandy blonde hair look into mine, and my throat becomes thick enough to stop a bullet.  I try to speak but I know if I do I will break down and start sobbing.  Her eyes cut through my being like a dagger.


"There he is," she says. "It's okay, Jay.  This is always hard for me to watch, too."


"Diana," I say as my eyes begin to swell.


"So, do you believe me now?" Diana asks me with a smile.


I swallow as hard as I can and say back to her, "I'm so sorry." I get choked up again and allow a few tears to run down my face and try to push through, "I've been so caught up with my own bullshit that I forgot what your voice sounded like."


"It's been a long time, Jay," she says back to me, her smile glowing even in the grey light of the hospital room around us.  I look back to the bed and see that the room is now empty except for the balloons that remain floating above it. "I'm sorry you had to see that again.  I don’t have much time and I needed you to believe that this is real."


She grabs my shoulder and motions for me to close my eyes again and I feel the cool breeze brush over my face again and the crunching of the dirt beneath my feet.  A second pair of footsteps approaches from behind me and Diana says, "To be honest, that was a lot easier than I thought it would be." She appears on my left as I turn to see her green eyes looking back at me.  She looks all around the forest and takes a deep breath, "I think I made the right decision."


"I can see you," I say to her, reaching out and poking her arm to make sure she is truly beside me. "This is amazing, Diana, I can see you!"


"I sure hope so," she says with a laugh as she looks around the forest with such a gaze it's like she has never seen a tree before. "That would have been an awful lot of trouble for nothing if you couldn't."


"Why couldn't I see you before?"


"Well you just walked into the woods and a ghastly voice started to torment you," she answers. "You needed to believe that I was really talking to you and that you weren't hallucinating or something."


I nearly trip on a root because I can't stop staring at her walking next to me and ask, "How long will this last?"

"I get one last day with my best friend." She takes her gaze from the forest and back to me. "Now that's enough questions from you, mister.  It's my turn."


"I have so much to tell you," I say back to her trying to sort out everything I want to ask her. "I'm not sure one day is long enough."


"There will be plenty of time for that later," she says back. "Just tell me what's been going on with Jay lately."


"Nothing interesting." I watch has she matches her pace to my feet as we continue into the forest. "I'm a high school janitor with a worthless degree and enough debt to collapse a small nation."


"Any new lady friends?" She punches me in the arm. "How's everything going there?"


"Not really," I answer her honestly. "I haven't exactly been the easiest person to be around for a while."


"What do you mean?" She raises an eyebrow.


"Well after you, you know," I try to answer but can't even say the word.


"Died?" She laughs, running a hand through her hair. "It's not like I'll be offended if you say it."


"Yeah," I say back. "After you, you know died, I kind of gave up on the world for a while.  I thought that I could get past losing you if I just gave it time or found someone else.  As you can see that obviously didn't play out."


"You seem to be doing okay today," she says back.


"Some days are better than others," I say. "I try to clear my head on these walks every Sunday but I always find myself leaving early for one reason or another."


"Well now you have someone to talk to." She looks to me with wide eyes. "That should make it easier."


"I think so," I say back to her, still trying to wrap my head around her walking next to me.


"There is supposed to be a view of the town at the end of this trail that's spectacular."


"I can't wait to see it." She smiles and jumps a few feet in front of me and spins to take in the view of the forest that surrounds us. "The edge of the world awaits us, Jay.  We don't have any time to waste!"


*


We continued down the trail for a few hours as Diana squeezes all she can out of me as far as what is going on in my life lately.  She wouldn't answer any of my questions about what she has been up to ever since that day she left me at the hospital.  I guess those fall into the who's, how's and what's she's sworn secrecy to.  Eventually I forget that she ever left me as we laugh about the adventures we use to have.  She reminds me of the time we let three pigs into the school junior year labeled 1, 2 and 4.  The staff was searching for pig number three well after the final bell rang before they realized that it simply didn't exist.  She loses herself in laughter at our stunt as well as the two weeks of detention we spent together after school afterwards.  Eventually we reach the end of my trail.  The path that leads to the peak overlooking the town is now beneath our feet.  


As we reach the frail wooden fence that rests on the peak we're both taken back by the sight.  The sun has begun to set and lies behind the water tower in the distance and the cool breeze grows more powerful as we lean on the fence to take it all in.  Just beyond this fence is a hefty drop into the forest below that sends a chill down my spine as I glance at the ground that lies far beneath us.  The view more than makes up for the fear, though, and I sit before the lower board of the fence and hang my feet over the edge of the cliff.  She sits next to me and rests her arms on the board like mine, taking in the orange glow that covers the town with wide eyes and a smile.
"I'd say the walk was more than worth it," she says to me as she keeps her gaze glued to the furthest reaches of the horizon.


I look to her and can't help but start staring again in disbelief that she is really sitting next to me despite having talked to her for hours now. I'd almost forgotten that she isn't really here with me. "It's hard to disagree with you there."


"So here we are at the edge of the world," she says to me as I stare deeply into the scene in front of us that is outlined in orange from the sunset. "Now what."


"Not really sure," I answer her honestly.  I never thought I would make it here without having the usual anxiety attack or get sickness to my stomach that usually causes me to call my walk into the forest early. "I never thought I would make it this far."

"You were never good at thinking ahead, Jay," she says with a laugh. I can feel those green eyes looking at me from my left. “Nothing wrong with just sitting here and enjoying the view."
"So, what are you able to tell me?" I ask, trying to think of something outside the realm of who's, what's and how's.


"I can tell you that even in your constant worry and fear of failure that you still haven't lost that smile" She runs her hand down my cheek and follows it with her eyes. "I can also tell you that when they gave me my hair back I cried with joy for almost a week."
"Cancer is a bitch," I say and try to laugh but am only reminded that she will have to leave me again soon.


"You are goddamn right about that," she says back. "I mean you're already taking my life, but don't mess with a girl's hair."


"I missed you so much, Diana." My throat is as thick as when I first saw her today.
Her smile fades and her eyes shoot through me like a dagger again as she rests her head on my shoulder and looks back onto the town, "I missed you too, Jay."


"I could have done more," I say to her, swallowing hard trying to resist the tears that begin to swell in my eyes. "You might have made it if I had just—"


"Jay." She stops me. "Nobody did more for me than you did."


"And what good did that do?" I shake my head and wipe away the few tears that escape from my eyes. "You were all I had and—"


"You gave me a reason to keep fighting." She stops me again, running a hand through my hair and looking deep into my eyes. "You have to stop blaming yourself for everything.  Not everything was meant to be fixed, Jay."

"I can't let you leave me again," I look deeply into her face and feel a sudden emptiness in my stomach. “Can you get an extra day and just stay here with me?”


“As much as I want to,” she answers, “I only get one day, and this is the day I chose.”


“Could you take me back with you?” I plea as she leans up and shoots a scowl at me.


“Take you with me?”


"Yeah, like take me with you from wherever you came from," I answer.


"You do realize that I'm dead, right?" She shakes her head. "I came here to help you get over that, not to bring you back with me."


"What if I can’t get over it?"


"You have to, Jay." I can feel the frustration building in her voice. "We like to think that everything happens for a reason.  But shit happens and people die; sometimes those people mattered a lot to us and we owe it to them to move on. That's one of the hard parts of living."


"Not everything has to happen for a reason." I stand and lean over the railing and feel a chill run down my back as I am reminded of the drop that lies before me. "But some things do.  What if you were supposed to take me back with you?  What if you were supposed to save me from the emptiness I feel without you, Diana?"


"You're serious." She stands next to me and pulls my head toward her and shooting her green eyes deeply into mine. "Things will get better, you know.  It's the hardships we face in life that mold us into the people we become."


"And what have I become?" I ask her as I stand and climb over the railing and hold myself inches from the cliff.


"Jay, what are you doing?" She clasps my shoulder and leans her head past the railing. "This isn't what you want.  You're not thinking straight."


"I haven't been this sure about anything in my life, Diana," I say back to her as my eyes begin to swell again. "You're not leaving without me this time."


I hold my arms tightly around the top of the railing and let the wind brush across my face and sends my hair into a disheveled mess.  The edges of my feet go over the edge slightly and I take another long look at the immense drop before me.  Diana climbs over the railing and stands next to me, arms locked to the railing like mine, and holds out her right hand toward me.  I grasp it in my left hand, only one arm holding me from falling into the clearing far below.


"Are you sure this is what you want?" She looks to me with a worried expression. "There is no going back after this, Jay.  You have to promise me that this is what you want."


"I've come here to find my infinity, Diana," I answer her as the fear of falling leaves me. "You reminded me today what that always was."

"And what is that, Jay?" She asks me.

"When you left me, you took a piece of me with you," I answer her with a smile trying to fight back the tears that swell in my eyes. "I've spent all these years trying to put myself back together again and you've done it in one day.  You are my infinity, Diana."


She nods at me with a smile as a tear falls from her right eye.  She squeezes my hand tight and says, "As long as you truly believe that, Jay, I'm with you."


"What is waiting for me on the other side?" I ask her as I begin to unravel my arm from the railing.


"Only a new beginning."


I let go of the railing and send myself over the edge of the cliff and turn and watch as the peak bids me farewell as I fall.  I close my eyes and let air run over my body like water and take one last breath in.  I watch as Diana's grip on my hand fades away as tears flow out of my eyes and fly quickly into the air above me.  I close my eyes again and see her waiting for me before a blinding white light and holding out her hand for me with a smile.  Just as the ground catches my body I let in the last image of the orange sky as it quickly fades to black.  She holds her hand out and looks to me with those green eyes and her smile as she starts toward the light and pulls me closely behind her.  A smile comes to my face as she leads me forward and that's when I feel it.  What I've been searching for ever since that last day at the hospital.


I have found my infinity.


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