Chapter Thirty Three
In the late afternoon, while the sun was beginning its decent into the horizon, Steven found himself sitting back on a plane. The leather seat was cushiony, welcoming and slowly drawing him to sleep. His eyelids fell, snapped open, and then began to fall again, while a yawn escaped his lips.
Passengers from all walks of life sat in the confined, one story cabin in the small airplane. Stewardesses walked down the aisle, serving drinks, sandwiches, and snacks; one of them stopped at his seat, asking if he'd like anything.
Steven thanked her, but said 'no'. The woman beside him, middle aged with short, jet-black hair and thick, glasses jutting out on her sharp, hooked nose, smiled politely and asked for a cup of water. The stewardess leaned over Steven, handed her the cup of water, then continued rolling her cart towards other passengers.
"It's absolutely beautiful outside," the woman commented, staring out the window with a wide, fascinated smile. "Stunning. Do you have family in Winnipeg?"
"Yes, I live there." He said curtly, but with a polite smile, hoping not to carry out the conversation too long. He was simply too tired and in need of a good night's sleep. Turning his head towards the window, he did catch a quick glance outside.
Large, puffy white billows had formed a blanket over the land below. The sun, which was setting just below the clouds, was bisected by the layer of clouds. Light shone in bright, luminescent rays over and around the fluffy clouds.
She smiled, opened her mouth to say more, but Steven's eyes had already shut. Leaning back in his seat, he reflected on the day's events. Seeing Julia's grave, meeting Markus, traveling back to Edmonton; it would be the day that his entire life changed.
He now had his answers, every single one of them.
All that remained was whether or not he could truly let Julia go. At first, and quite adamantly, he'd refused any idea such as that. He'd made his promises. Even though Julia had lied to him and everything had been shifted under a new light, he couldn't break what he'd sworn to her.
Steven opened his eyes briefly, staring down the cabin's aisle. While sunlight streamed onto the carpet through the windows, he saw them begin to darken. An empty cart rolled from the back of the plane, raced down the aisle and crashed into the station where the other stewardesses were at.
"What?" Steven stuck his head out of his seat, glancing at either end of the passageway. None of the stewardesses chased after the cart or apologized for the accident. In fact, there were no flight attendants at all.
The seatbelt signal flashed on, Steven felt the plane begin to steeply decline downwards. It was like being on a rollercoaster, just as you make it over the incline and down the steep, terrifying plunge. He dug his hands into the armrest, his eyes widening.
Beside him, he saw the woman staring placidly out of the window, her jet black hair stringier then before. "Ma'am! What's happening?" He put a hand on her shoulder, recoiling as all he felt was her faded shirt and bone.
Her head rolled over to face him, but instead of the kind face that'd been there before, her face was rotting. Her skin hung like patches to her skeletal bone. Her glasses hunk crookedly down her face, having no more use since her eyes were mere, bony eye sockets.
"No! No!" Steven shoved her towards the window, away from him. Her head snapped, dipping like a bobble-head before crashing to the floor below. Her decapitated body slumped further down her seat, her rotting, emaciated corpse sending up a foul, gagging odor.
Now he could see that everyone else on the plane were decomposing corpses.
The plane continued its dive, rapidly gaining speed.
At the far end of the plane, where the service cart had crashed into, a glowing ball of light shone. It grew in luminescence, hovering closer to Steven.
The hooded figure was also back, speaking slowly, his arms folded over his chest. "This is where the pieces that have been moving finally come to their resting places. Events set in motion will finally reach their climax. All that was hidden, is now revealed, our dreams have collapsed, the table is set."
Air rushed past the airplane as it plunged the last few seconds towards the earth.
Steven held his breath, waiting for the bone-crushing, jarring stop.
"Do you ever wonder who I am? Why I plague your dreams?" The hooded figure spoke solemnly, inching up the aisle, which was slanted at a nearly eighty degree angle downwards. He laughed soothingly. "Do you ever wonder how I keep appearing like this?"
Steven only shut his eyes, clenched his teeth.
"Answer me!" The figure roared now, the glowing ball of light shaking and wobbling behind him. "Do you know who I am?"
Steven opened his eyes for just a second, glimpsing the hooded figure with a frown. 'No." Then the plane, which had been shuttling towards the earth at terrifying speeds, made its final landing. The entire body of the airplane rippled, shuttering as it hit the surface of an expansive, grey-watered lake.
Steven shut his eyes as a roaring, screaming noise filled the cabin. A few of the windows broke, letting in icy, cold, dark water. The corpses, most of them shattered by the crash-landing, floated on the rising, chilly lake water.
Instead of being killed instantly by the harrowing crash, Steven opened his eyes. Taking in a deep breath, he saw the water rising up to his knees. He unbuckled his seatbelt, taking a shaky step out into the aisle.
More windows broke in the darkening, submerged cabin.
Water rushed in, Steven waded down the aisle, hoping to find a way out of the sinking cage. Pieces of luggage, body parts and wreckage from the plane crowded the water before all the lights were extinguished.
"No! Someone! Anyone!" Steven felt with his hands, but all he could feel was water and debris. Despair mounted in his heart, he could feel the water lapping at his chin, then it gushed into his open mouth.
A hand wrapped tightly around his own, while a voice whispered firmly into his ear. "We're getting out of here!" He shut his eyes, wrapping his hand tightly around whoever was pulling on him. He didn't care who it was, he just wanted to escape from the ensuing nightmare.
More water submerged his lungs, heart and chest.
The hand yanked him deeper into the water, which he found he could breathe, though painfully so.
Since there was no light in the sunken airplane, he had to fully trust that this stranger was leading him to safety. He bumped his head against what he presumed was the ceiling of the cabin, then brushed past a sharp, jagged metal edge.
When he'd passed through what he assumed was a hole in the plane's wall, he was shocked to see who was holding his hand. Light was now filling the water, which was warm now, just as it had been when he was swept off the deck of the pirate ship.
A glowing ball of light greeted them, shining strongly near the sandy depths of the lake.
Steven let go of his rescuers hand, seeing that it was the hooded figure that had pulled him out of the wreckage. Instead of letting him die, like he suspected the phantom would do, he'd led him out of the burning, sinking plane.
He glanced behind him, watching the airplane crash into the sandy, seafloor. Flames spread out from the cockpit before deafening explosions overtook the entire vessel, sending pieces of the plane rocketing in all directions.
"Why?" Steven drifted to the bottom of the lake, his shoe-covered feet sinking into the muck. "Why would you save me? Who are you anyways?"
"Save you?" The figure adjusted his hood, his voice back to its deep, reverberating tone. "You're still thousands of meters in the air; sound asleep in the airplane chair. I didn't save you, nor do I have any intentions of doing so."
Steven blinked, taking in a breath of warm, sweet water. "What do you want with me?"
"To kill me." He withdrew a gun from his sweater pocket. He let go of it, while it floated away towards Steven. Its black, metal exterior was all too frighteningly familiar.
"Why?" He tentatively reached out for the gun, expecting something awful to happen. Only, nothing happened when he took the gun in his hand. Actually, the weapon was a perfect fit for his grip.
And Steven quickly did. No sooner did the words leave his mouth did the warm, brightly lit lake disappear. There was no figure, no glowing ball of light. He was back in his room in Winnipeg.
Only, it was the room he'd once had when he was a child.
The gun was still in his hand, water dripping off the barrel.
A scream sounded from downstairs-it was his mother's.
Steven knew what the figure wanted him to do. His heart burned with hatred and fury while he ran out of his room, sweat and water pouring from his scalp. He would get his revenge.
His mother's killer would die.
Unlike the last time he'd dreamed of this memory, he was too late to stop his mother's killing. Instead, when he'd leapt down the stairs, sprinted down the hall and entered the kitchen, his family was already assembled there.
His mother lay on the kitchen floor, blood pooling from two gunshot wounds on her chest.
Younger Steven, weeping unashamedly, cuddled close to his mother, whimpering her name.
His father was on the phone, using the emergency number to call the police.
The door the killer had used to enter the house was ajar.
Outside, he could hear the breeze rustling through the trees in the darkening night. Stepping past his family, he stopped momentarily to stare at his mother. A ball grew in his throat, while tears stubbornly wet his eyes.
"I'm so sorry," he said hoarsely. However, he wasn't here to save his mother or undue the events that had ripped his small family apart. What had happened all those years ago could never be reversed.
Still, he could get revenge on the hooded killer. With the gun in his hand, he knew that he would payback the monster with bullets.
He went around his mother and younger self, cringing as her pained cries followed him out of the door. Accompanying that noise was a soft, heartbreaking wail coming from the little boy in the kitchen. The same little boy that would grow up without a mother, wondering how the world could be so cruel.
Steven turned the safety off the gun, sprinted down the sidewalk and pursued the hooded killer. The man was already crossing the dark, empty street to the houses on the other side. Several people were stepping out of their houses, staring at the Walker's home, where the gunshot had woken them up.
None of them noticed Steven or the killer.
"Stop!" Dashing across the street, he followed the smacking noise of the man's sneakers on the pavement. He squeezed in-between the hood and trunk of two parked vans, set off a car alarm and darted across patches of leaf-ridden grass. Once he was on the sidewalk, he raised his gun and pointed it at the fleeing man's back. "I have a gun! Stop!"
He put a quivering finger on the trigger, pulling it forcefully. A single bullet shot out of the gun, creating a thundering clap and snapping Steven's hand backwards. Crying out in alarm, he dropped the gun on the sidewalk.
Ahead of him, the pursued killer came to a slow halt. Turning around, a gun also in his hand, he raised it. Then fired. Steven fell to the ground, covering his hair as two shots whizzed overhead. A third bullet ripped into the concrete near his shoulder spraying bits of rock and cement into the air.
Steven grabbed the gun, rolled over and stumbled to his feet. Moving swiftly, he raised his gun, firing twice at the gunman. One bullet went out into the street; the other clipped a red fire hydrant.
"Give it up, Steven!" The man called out, moving methodically down the concrete. Laughing, he placed another round into his pistol, cocked the weapon and rested his finger on the trigger.
But Steven fired his pistol before the man could get off another shot.
This time, since his target was moving slowly, he got a perfect hit. The bullet slammed into the hooded figure's chest, ripping through skin, cartilage and bone. Blood splattered into the air, while the killer stumbled backwards, dropping his gun.
Steven wasted no time in closing the gap between them, holding his gun securely. He punched the man in the gut, using all the pent up rage and bitterness he'd had since childhood. Screaming at the man, he put his hand on the man's hood, ripping it off.
In the darkness, Steven knew who was staring back at him.
His eyes were a bright, luminous blue. While sweat-drenched locks of curly blonde hair spilled around his face. Stubble covered a tight, firm jaw-line. The boy smiled.
He was staring at himself.
"How can this be?"
The hooded figure, who was placing his hood back on, blood spewing from a bullet wound in his chest, took the gun back from Steven. He folded his arms over his chest, while the bloody wound would began to close up. The gaping, bloody hole in the sweater stitched itself back together.
"You've been keeping yourself here, Steven. Locked down by your anger, by your past. By your promises. Why are you not looking at the killer's face? Because the killer was never important. He was just a stupid, foolish young criminal. It was always you keeping yourself captive by being unable to forgive, by your desire for revenge.
"It was always about you, Steven." The hooded figure took a step back, putting the gun back in his pocket. "The secret to these dreams, the way they suck you in-it was never about finding a key, or fighting your way out. It was always about you, were you going to stay in the dreams? Or would you realize their futility, the emptiness to dreams-your friend was right, we weren't born to dream, we were born to live. It's time to let go of what you want, and grab a hold of what you need."
Steven stared down the street, where a police car was speeding towards them.
"Sometimes, what we want the most, is what will ultimately destroy us. Sometimes, Steven, letting go is the same as holding on."
He turned away, jogging away from the police cruiser.
Standing on the cement, watching the killer and himself run away, he knew that he was unfortunately right. He was his own worst enemy; the emotions in his heart had ruled over him, defining who he was and what would happen to him.
No promise could defy reality.
No amount of love could change what was.
Steven shut his eyes, a red, bloody tear fleeing down his grimy, stubble-covered cheek.
Then he awoke.