The Amber 7
Brook Margaret Thomas
They say birth is traumatic to the newborn, an unexpected upheaval expelling the innocent from a safe, trusted environment. Perhaps mine was that way; I have no memory of the incident. But a second birth, graduation from Amber University, I do remember: the beginning of a cruel, dangerous journey navigating the vicissitudes of life.
As one of the Amber Seven, I was wrapped in an invisible umbilical cord for four awesome years; connected to a network of simple, loving and trusted friends. Oh, we understood and enjoyed sex, alcohol and drugs; what we did not understand was where we were heading: to life in the real world and its undulating forces of devastation; a world of pretension, blinded by raging hormones, greed and frivolous adult aspirations.
1. Many Years Before
That horrible, unforgettable day, rain had been cascading along the first grade classroom window of a small elementary school in rural Pennsylvania where Tara Cook and her primary grade classmates were engaged in a cursive writing lesson. Suddenly the right hand of the studious, six-year-old quivered, causing her to drop the short, fat pencil being used to copy her teacher's simple words from the blackboard. Dazed and confused, the first-grader stared at the chalk images as they slowly became shrouded in a strange haze. Why wasn't Miss Foley reacting to this fog clouding her classroom blackboard? Tara wondered.
Looking to her left, Jimmy Four-eyes was calmly and dutifully copying his blackboard assignment. So were the rest of the pupils. Then, what seemed like only seconds later, the teacher started to collect each student's work causing Tara's heart to beat rapidly for her own paper had only half the required words. Where had the time gone? What had she just witnessed in that cloud that only she seemed to have seen? She knew it was something cruel . . . scary . . . but what was it?
At the realization that she had not completed her assignment, a sharp sensation pierced the young girl's stomach causing her to quickly raise her hand for permission to go to the bathroom; afraid that the unthinkable might happen: she might throw up in front of her friends. She scampered toward the door, unable to feel legs beneath her body.
That first brief yet terrifying encounter with a phantom event passed without a hint of definition until later that unforgettable day. Upon arrival at home Tara learned, that at her moment of crisis and confusion, death had brutally claimed the life of Bubbles, her small pet turtle.
"It was fate." her mother tried to explain as she wiped her child's tears.
Dad raised his voice above Tara's painful screams and sobs, "He just wandered through the backyard fence, Honey. Nobody could have prevented it".
An epiphany, her mother murmured in the background.
The more her consolers voiced their explanations, the further Tara sank into despair. Big words could not make this event any less horrible, and no explanation would ever soften the experience or erase death's cruel mark left indelibly upon her mind.
Nightmares ensued. Each evening behind tightly sealed eyes, the youngster ran frantically into the depths of the foggy field behind her home where Bubbles cried futilely for help; each night the tiny reptile died in the jaws of an unseen predator.
Every night Mom ran to her little one's room to quiet the screams, wipe the tears, calm the fright, and kiss the tiny forehead until Tara's fragile mind could break the remnants of the vicious REM cycle, squelching her nightmare. Mother knew all too well the price one pays for 'gifts' from the other side. She held her child's shaking body knowing it would be fruitless to attempt to explain the unexplainable power which allowed one to experience the traumas of other creatures.