There's always this moment of raw and pure fear that completely envelopes you, when you realize that someone you love is about to die. It's as if there is a wave inside of you, rising and rising, until you're just waiting for it to crest and break.
But it never does.
Relentlessly the emotions, potent and powerful, rise up inside you until you reach what seems to be the tipping point.
Still, it doesn't tip.
As it just keeps rising and expanding, memories of all your time together with the deceased fill your mind. Pain, unlike anything you can imagine pierces your heart and gut, doubling you over, forcing tears out of your eyes and anguished screams from your mouth.
And it just keeps getting worse and worse.
Nothing can soothe you-nothing at all.
The screaming, crying, flailing arms and anguished moans can do very little to relieve the pressure rising inside.
Steven had felt it before and greeted the emotions as he would an old, hateful enemy. This time, however, he was far more prepared.
The cancer had spread viciously.
Steven had sat on a hard, plastic chair in the waiting room while his father was in the ICU. A nurse had come in, saying that he could see his father if he wanted, but it wouldn't be for days until he came too once more.
Somberly, he walked a little behind the short, bald nurse. Down several halls they went, while the stubby nurse, glancing occasionally at Steven, led him to his father's room. Inside the shared hospital room, a curtain separated his father from another patient with several people crowded around her.
Lying on his bed, with a tube protruding from his chest and other small tubes keeping him breathing and alive, his father looked to be already dead. His gaunt, pale face was even more wrinkled and haggard.
The nurse was saying something about fluids building up in his lungs and that he would most likely be staying at Concordia Hospital until the end, but Steven wasn't really listening. He'd already heard it all before-the predictions, the treatments, the solutions, the experiments-none of it was new to him, and nothing had bettered his father.
Instead, he took a seat on a round, cumbersome chair in the corner of the bedroom. Collapsing on the chair, sinking into the soft, cushiony leather, he watched the nurse leave.
Jasper and Leanne, who'd gone home after Steven made it to the hospital, promised to come back later that night with supper for him.
Right now, he just wanted to be left alone in the hospital room.
Closing his eyes, he leaned his head back and slowly drifted off to sleep.
He awoke nearly seconds after his eyes had retired.
Beneath him, long, dead grass pricked against his skinny, blue jeans. Nearby, a train rushed down from a hazy cloud, tinted in the orangey pink light from the setting sun.
The train, rushing vertically on nothing but thin air, came down like a nail into a plank of wood. From the cloud-dotted sky to the ground covered in dead, burnt grass, the train pummeled into the earth. Burrowing deep, either into a preexisting hole or one that it was making, the train sped into the ground and was out of sight.
Steven only blinked, his mouth hanging slack-jawed.
Clumsily, his legs sore and back equally so, he got to his feet. Wiping off pieces of dead, withering grass from his jeans, he stumbled down the sloping terrain.
Set before him, like a canvas painted by a masterful artist, a charming lake lay at the grassy foothills he was standing upon. Behind the lake, which was adjacent to several others, the sun set behind twin, ice-covered peaks.
The hill he was on, formed an expansive, half-bowl shape around the lakes, before rising up towards towering, mountainous peaks. Watching over him with their rocky, uneven faces, the mountains rose high into dark, grey clouds.
It would've been a scene out of a Rocky Mountain vacation brochure, if not for the multitude of trains speeding vertically up towards the clouds, or down into the earth.
"Hey you." Her sweet, cherished voice came from his side. Carried by the wind her voice met his ears, tickling them as they swarmed inside, towards his heart, pumping it with electricity. "It's about time you dreamed again."
Turning around, Steven was overcome by the emotions that squeezed his eyes as one squeezes a wet towel. He took a few steps forward, afraid that she would disappear again. "Julia?"
"I love you, Steven." It was all she had time to say before he ran over to her, enveloping her in his arms. Holding her tight, unaware that he might be hurting her, he blinked away the tears.
She embraced him back, also beginning to tear up as she melted into his arms.
Her delicate body, trembling ever-so-slightly, felt amazing in his arms. Her brown hair was soft and smelled of flowers as she buried her face in his chest. Though she was delicate, she wasn't wispy or thin like Cerise, instead, she hugged him back with as much strength as she could muster.
Afraid that the dream would end soon, he let her go. He needed to know a lot before he was taken out of the dream again. "What happened to you? You've ignored all my texts since Tuesday." Folding his arms over his chest, he prayed for a suitable, satisfactory answer. "You did get them, right?"
He saw her shoulders slump, which were completely bare. All that she wore was a dark, tight black dress. Akin to a cocktail dress, but with a more distinguished, elegant design. "I haven't received a text in days… Steven, I haven't woken up since Tuesday."
"Woken up? You mean you've been here?" He made an all encompassing gesture with his hands.
"The dreams change frequently, but yes, I've been here. In these dreams, endlessly asleep." She bit her lower lip, staring at him with her bright, turquoise eyes.
"You're not…" He reached out to her again, gently feeling her bare shoulders. "De-"
"No." Her eyes widened as they met his. "On Tuesday night," she gulped, her eyes brimming with tears, "a truck drove through an intersection when my friend and I were driving. We didn't see each other, and we collided. I was in and out of consciousness for awhile, but from what I heard, I'm in the hospital now."
"In a coma." She said after a long pause, tears falling down her face. "And I can't wake up, no matter how hard I try-I'm trapped. Steven, you have to go and find me."
"A coma?" A ball was stuck in his throat, while more tears threatened to come. He'd already lost his mother, was losing his father, how could he lose the girl he loved as well? Staring up at the dark sky, he imagined God laughing at him, a sneering, mocking look on his face. The cosmic punisher was pouring out his judgment on Steven's life.
"I'm so sorry, Steven. I didn't know this would happen."
"It's not your fault," he frowned, unsure of what to do with the news she'd given him. "But I will find you, Julia. I promise to. No matter what, I'll find you and wake you up."
"No," he took a step closer to her, his lips set in a determined half-smile. Only the tears and trembling of his hand betrayed his true fear. "I will, Julia. I will."
She only smiled back at him, "And when you don't?"
"I don't break my promises, Julia-I said I would love you forever, and I've kept it so far. I'm not going to break this one either. I don't know if I believe in God or Fate, but I do know that we're meant to be. None of this happened by accident."
"Okay." Was all she said before kissing him. Passionately, as if it was their last kiss, she molded her lips into his. For a while, they stood in each other's arms, kissing one another until Steven took her hand's in his.
Slowly, they began to rise up into the air.
Gasping, she left the kiss and smiled. "Warn me next time."
His eyes sad and round, Steven kissed her again and whispered. "Life is too short to waste on warning. Sometimes, we just have to face the consequences or rewards." Massaging her soft hands, he began to rise higher and higher into the air.
Beside them, moving in swift silence, a passenger train shot up into the air, disappearing moments later in the clouds. Another train, slammed into the surface of the blue lake, sending plumes of water high into the air.
"You know, if I could dream forever, I don't think that I would want to wake up." He commented, drying her cheek with his thumb.
"If we could dream together, I think that would be the best. Imagine, everyday dreaming endlessly with you." She let go of his hand, floating away from him.
The two of them levitated above the hills below, surrounded by trains going up and down.
"I'll just have to get in a car crash, right?"
Her eyes lowered, and the smile she gave was forced. "But actually, I would prefer to be awake with you."
"Because," she looked back up at him again, her turquoise eyes a tinge darker then usual. "This isn't real, none of it is. Where we are now, is really back in reality, you asleep, I in a coma."
"It feels real, tastes real," he moved close again, kissing her on the lips.
"But it isn't. Trust me, Steven. When you've been here long enough, you don't always want to dream again."
"Well I-" Was all he was able to say before he was met by the front of a speeding train.
Leaping out of the chair in the hospital room, Steven put his hand to his heart, feeling it pump madly. Drenched in sweat, he quickly remembered where he was and came over to his father's bedside.
Steven exhaled noisily, still feeling the adrenaline coursing through his veins after being hit by the train.
Staring at his father's dying, cancer-ravaged body, he really did have to disagree with Julia.
Who would want to live in such a devastating, horrific reality?
Better, to dream, then face a life of misery.
For when he dreamt, there was no pain.
Only him and Julia.
With a soft smile, he went back to his chair, closed his eyes and let sleep take him back into its loving, deep embrace.