HANNA GOLDBERG age 15

Chicago, IL

 

PROSE

"BENEATH THE SURFACE"

        Less like my daughter and more like a stranger, less like a human and more like a figment of my imagination.

         Clouds, grim and oppressive, suffocate the world that they surround. Thunder cracks are the menacing roars of the sky. Blazes of light illuminate the surroundings, but are quickly engulfed by the malevolent darkness that dominates the sea and sky. Her pale body falls over the inky blue side. Limb by limb she sinks into the murky waves. The tendrils of her auburn hair stay suspended above the water that is swallowing her whole. Her body, clothed in dark jeans and a scarlet shirt, is still visible, but distorted by the movement in the water. The tips of her fingers, her nails a deep indigo, claw at the surface. But, they give up, her motionless body disappearing into the violent sea.  But I can’t move. My feet are planted to the ground. I can’t do anything…

        My body jolted awake, I gasped for breath, searching for the missing air. I could still see her face floating just inches beneath the surface. I could remember myself staring at her, a statue, paralyzed with fear.

          “The smell of the salt water, that’s new. What did you see this time?” questioned the doctor who sat before me; his minimal hair was a pale grey, identical to the whiskers that protruded from his wrinkled chin. His eyes were warm, but penetrating. His forehead was creased with age and stress. The white tiled office was dull and uninteresting. There were no lamps or windows; the only light was the single bulb that quivered directly above my head. I stroked the smooth leather of the couch beneath me, reassuring myself that it was over.

“It was the same,” I said, barely whispering, “She falls. I can’t move. Then she’s gone.”

She was different though, I would never tell him, but she was different. Each time, she seemed more and more distant, less like my daughter and more like a stranger, less like a human and more like a figment of my imagination. As time went by, my memory of her was fading, but it was all I had left of her, so I allowed the tests to continue. However, the chances of them letting me leave, if it was what I desired, were slim. If I did leave, where would I go? I don’t own anything. I don’t know anyone. She was all I had. She was all I needed. But I let her go. I didn’t even try.

“Can we be done?” I asked, pleading to the doctor, “I want to be done,” I continued, “please, just let me be done.”

“I’m afraid we must keep going, it is the only way you will get better,” his monotone voice reverberated against the walls.

I sighed but did not moan or protest. So we continued. The doctor gesticulated towards an image he had set on the table before me: an illustration of a billowing sail carrying a boat across the sea. I laid my aching head against the smooth leather couch and waited in anticipation for the imminent episode.

         …Clouds suffocate the world that they surround. Thunder cracks are the menacing roars of the sky. Blazes of light illuminate the surroundings, but are quickly engulfed by the darkness that dominates the sea and sky. Her pale body falls over the blue side. Limb by limb she sinks into the waves. The tendrils of her auburn hair stay suspended above the water that is swallowing her whole. Her body is still visible, but distorted by the movement in the water. The tips of her fingers, her nails painted indigo, claw at the surface. They give up. Her motionless body disappears into the violent sea.  But I can’t move. My feet are planted to the ground. I can’t do anything…

         I awoke again, my limbs moving convulsively through the thick air that surrounded me. The doctor watched me and waited patiently for me to regain my awareness and return to a civilized seated position.

“Was it the same this time?” he asked, his eyes inquisitive and pushing.

I nod my head yes, too winded to reply.

“She falls off of the boat and disappears into the sea?” he kept digging deeper, pressing me for a more elaborate answer, but the warmth remained.

As I have reclaimed my strength, I nodded my head more firmly that time but pleaded weakly for the experiments to cease,

“Please can we be finished. I need to be finished. Please?”

Predictably, he did not terminate the experiments, but pressed on, pushing me further into my discomfort. His words were more solid that time, unyielding and final. He began to search for another image or object or item that he could use.

          “Shall we continue?” questioned the doctor; he had obtained the item he desired while I was lost in thought. I nodded my head to demonstrate my understanding, as I knew it was not really my choice but just a polite way to recapture my attention. In his hand lay two small bottles. One contained grains of sand, and the other was filled to the brim with shells, both most likely purchased from a tourist shop on the coast line, that we were located so near to. In preparation, I placed my head against the sofa, and waited, and waited, and waited. Faintly, the air conditioning hissed, and if I strained I could hear it distinctly. Hiss. Hiss. Hiss.  

“Well, it seems as though the sand and shells have no effect on you, allow me a few moments to retrieve an alternative item,” the doctor stated, breaking the uncanny silence that had enveloped the room. Instantaneously, the doctor had procured a new object: a sound machine.
         “I will play a series of sounds, pausing between each, in order to assess their effect on you,” announces the doctor. He began to play them directly after. First: crying…nothing. Next: screaming…nothing. After: Wind howling…nothing. Finally: Thunder…

         …Clouds suffocate the world that they surround. Thunder cracks in the distance. Blazes of light illuminate the surroundings, but are quickly engulfed by the darkness that dominates the sea and sky Her pale body falls over the side. Limb by limb she sinks into the waves. The tendrils of her hair stay suspended above the water that is swallowing her whole. Her body is still visible, but distorted by the movement in the water. The tips of her fingers claw at the surface. They give up. Her body disappears into the sea.  But I can’t move. My feet are planted to the ground. I can’t do anything…

         My body shuddered as I regained consciousness. I was unsure as to how much longer I would be able to endure the strenuous episodes. It was like reliving it over and over again, but while already knowing the outcome and knowing that there was no possibility of rescuing her, no possibility of an attempt, no possibility of moving at all.

“The thunder,” The doctor stated, thinking out loud.

“It was the same,” I responded, although he didn’t ask. I didn’t plead to be dismissed, I didn’t tell him how much pain these experiments were causing me, I just waited for his response.

“I have one last item to show you, and then you may be dismissed,” he declared. He offered me the photograph, which he had been holding underneath the bland white desk, a photograph. It depicted a small girl; auburn hair cascaded over her shoulders, her eyes were a piercing green. Her pale complexion was dotted with freckles, little marks of her identity. It was her.

         …Her body falls over the side. She sinks into the waves. The strands of hair stay suspended above the water. Her body is still visible, but distorted by the water. Her fingers claw at the surface. They give up. Her body disappears into the sea.  But I can’t move. I can’t do anything. She disappears and I don’t do anything.

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© 2019 T.A.C.O.