At the Precipice of Infinity

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


Jay goes on a walk into the forest of Appalachia to get away from the world for a day.

Submitted: September 28, 2017

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Submitted: September 28, 2017

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The forest surrounds me in a blanket of warm beauty as it pulls me away from civilization.  Every Sunday it treats me to an escape from my daily grind and takes me further and further into its depths.  I haven't reached the end of the trail yet, but today I feel like that is finally going to change.  At the end of this path is supposed to be one of the most breathtaking views of my town through the thick forests of Appalachia.Whether or not I make it there, I'm excited for a day alone. 

This week was a rough one for sure.  The daily reminder from the world that I wasted four years at university and all the money that went into it working as a janitor at a high school started every day with a nice and gloomy tone that made it hard to smile most of the time.Not to mention my usual bouts of anxiety and the bounty of pills I take each morning to make it through the day.I won't let that bring me down today, though.  Today I get to forget about it all and pretend it away. 

The cool September breeze embraces me as I continue down my path.  Residents of the forest grant me entrance into their home and sing to me with a proud confidence and I can't help but smile.  High-reaching trees enclose me from the troubles that this world has brought me and smile down upon me as if they are greeting a familiar friend.  The smell of the air as I breathe in is almost intoxicating. 

"It’s been too long," a voice whispers in my ear. 

"Who said that?" I ask to the nothingness whose voice sends a nervous chill down my spine. "Hello?" 

"A shame you've forgotten me already, Jay," the voice rasps into my other ear and I stop and try to find a body for the voice. "How rude of you to forget me.  Not a day passes where you don't cross my mind." 

"Who are you and how did you know my name?" I ask and quicken my pace.  The voice is so clear it feels like it is right next to me. "What do you want?" 

"You fail to see what is right before your face." The voice starts to resemble a familiar tone. "Just as I remember you" 

It has to be in my head.  If I ignore it, it will go away. 

"At least you got something right," the voice says to me with a laugh. "You'll have to try harder than that to get rid of me, though." 

All in my head, that's it.  The stress from the week has me losing it, simple as that. 

"Have you called your mother today?" The voice asks me. "I've missed her too since I've been gone." 

"I haven't called her today, no," I answer to nobody. 

"So, I am nobody to you now, huh?" the voice asks me with a scoff. "Never thought you'd think so low of me, Jay.  Was it something I said?" 

The voice sounds so familiar to me but I can't place it on anyone I can think of.  This is what I get for not taking my pills this morning and trying to have a normal day.  God damn it, James, you can never just have a normal day, can you?  

"Hey, now, don’t be so hard on yourself, Jay," it says to me in a friendly tone. "We all have our days, man, just calm down." 

"How can I calm down when I'm literally losing my mind?" I ask to nobody once again, my pace down the trail at an all-time high. "I'm arguing with myself like a mad man." 

"I've been waiting to visit you for some time, Jay," it says to me in a cheerful tone. "Can’t we just have one more day like we used to?" 

"Yeah, sure," I scream into the forest. "Let me just frolic through the forest with a voice that’s in my head and act like everything is normal.  God damn it, why can’t I just have one normal day?" 

"Shh, shh," it whispers into my ear calmly. "It's gonna be okay.  You just have to trust me." 

"Don't you 'shh' me!" I scream to nobody again, clenching my fists as tightly as I can.  I'm breathing out of control and I feel like I'm about to faint. I look into the sky and grumble, "You can't just give me one fucking day, can you?" 

"This just in, our young adventurer has completely lost his shit," it says bluntly. "Think hard and you’ll know who I am." 

No longer can I hear the morning chorus of the forest.  I desperately look around me to find a body for the voice that rests in my ear and find nothing.My breath is out of control and the forest begins to spin around me so fast that I fall to my back onto the ground beneath me.  My ears start ringing and my vision fades to black. 

* 

"Hello?" Fingers snap near my face and a sharp whistle causes my eyes to fly open to nothing 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 and awake from the nightmare that has come upon me.  The sun beams into my eyes as I open them to find the forest I had trusted to clear my head for just one day.  Its beauty now encapsulates a strange eeriness to it even in the light of the afternoon sun. 

"Encapsulates," the voice rings in my ear. "You've become quite the wordsmith.  Where did you learn such a fancy word?" 

"What do you want with me?" I ask in desperation as I stand slowly from the ground and pat away the dirt that sticks to the majority of my clothes now. 

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

"No," I answer in frustration, continuing down my path into the forest in hopes that the fresh air will snap me out of whatever the hell this is. "All I know is that I came here to make sure that I can keep my mind under control and It only took five minutes for me to completely lose my shit. 

"You're just a little flustered right now, my dude," the voice says to me with an endearing tone. "It's me, Diana Santarelli, at your service." 

"Bullshit," I say back to it in frustration. 

"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 says to me. "I'm not here to piss you off or anything.  I was just given the opportunity to speak to you and I took it.  It gets really boring up here, let me tell you." 

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

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

shake my head and look to the tops of the trees as I continue down the path, “If this is real, which it isn’t, and you really are Diana, which you aren’t, why would you decide to visit me today of all days? 

Well, for one thing, I obviously haven’t talked to you for so long and wanted to check in on you,” she answers. “Management told me you were having some trouble and as soon as I heard your name I knew I was the one for the job.  This is the one day you always spend alone so I figured you'd rather not look like you were talking to yourself in front of people. 

“How thoughtful of you,” I say to her drylyAnd you can tell management that I’m fine and to mind their own damned business.” 

And yet you still hear my voice,” she says back to me. “Trust me, Jay, I’m here to help you.  You just have to let me do that.” 

Doesn’t seem like I have much of a choice,” I sigh, trying and failing to clear my rotten mind with the forest that continues to pull me further and further. “I’ll play along I guess.” 

Excellent,” she laughs into my ear and takes a breath. “Just take a deep breath and try to calm yourself down.  Just focus on the trail and clear your mind.” 

I do as she asks, focusing on the sounds of my feet as they hit the dirt path beneath me.  I breathe in slowly and sink into the sounds of the forest around me.  The cool breeze brushes over my face as I stare off into the trail that my body now follows on its own.  I close my eyes and breathe in deep through my nose and out through my mouth. 

My eyes open to a hospital room; the sounds of the forest become silent and are replaced only a heart monitor beeping slowly into the room while a few get well balloons float above the foot of the bed.  There is a boy sitting next to the bed with his head down and studying his shoes.  He refuses to look up to the girl that lays on the bead with an I.V. coming from her right arm and a whole collection of cables and wires attached to her entire body. 

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

Diana taps my shoulder as if to tell me to look to her but I stay focused on the boy's shoes just as he is.  The hand on my shoulder parts ways and I feel a few fingers under my chin and it pulls my head to my left.  Diana stands before me just as the voice told me.  As I see her,  all the memories that I buried along with her rush back into my head and I find myself unable to speak without breaking down and crying.  Her green eyes pierce through her sandy blonde hair and I feel her gaze deep in my soul. 

"It's okay, Jay," she says with a smile and nods toward the hospital room that now lies empty before us; the balloons remain high above the foot of the bed. "This is always hard for me to watch, too." 

"Diana," I manage to say through my throat that feels thick enough to stop a bullet right now. 

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

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

"It's all good," she says back to me and raises her shoulders up and back down. "I'm sorry you had to see that again.  I don't have much time and I needed you to know that this was real." 

"Is this real?" I ask her as she grabs my shoulder and motions for me to close my eyes again. 

The cool breeze returns to my face as I look down at my tireless feet that continue into the forest as if nothing happened.  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 pan around the forest to try and regain my bearings on where I am and smiles as she looks ahead of us and takes a deep breath, "I think I made the right decision." 

"I can see you," I say to her in disbelief as I tap her on the arm to assure that she is really beside me. "This is amazing, Diana, I can see you!" 

"I sure hope so," she says with a laugh as she gazes at the forest around us like it's the first time she's ever seen a tree. "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 with a chuckle. "You needed to believe that I was really talking to you weren't hallucinating or something." 

"You still haven't answered my question though," I say as I look down to my feet to keep from staring at her. "How long will this last?" 

"I told you, Jay," she says, running in front of me and back stepping in front of me for a moment. "I wanted one last day with my best friend." 

"There's so much I want to tell you," I say back to her trying to sort the endless questions I have. "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 lately with you, Jay." 

"Nothing interesting," I shrug, keeping my gaze on my tireless feet as we walk. "I'm a janitor with a worthless degree and enough debt to collapse a small nation." 

"Any new lady friends?" She asks me with a playful punch to my arm. "How's everything going there?" 

"There was one girl, her name was Janice," I answer with a sigh. "I haven't talked to her for years, though.  I'm not even sure she even knows if I'm still alive or not." 

"That's too bad," she sighs. "Did something happen?" 

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

"Died?" She laughs, running a hand through her hair. "It's okay, Jay, 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 everything for a while.  I thought that I could get past losing you if I found someone else.  As you can see that obviously didn't play out." 

"You seem to be doing better now," she says back. 

"Some days are better than others," I say. "I try to clear my head on these walks every Sunday.  I haven't been able to make to the end of this trail yet, though." 

"Well now you have someone to talk to," she looks to me with a smile. "Looks like we're going to have to change that today." 

* 

We continued down the trail for a few hours as Diana squeezes all she can out of me as far as how my life is going lately.  She won't answer any of my questions about what she has been doing ever since the day that she left me at the hospital.  I guess that falls 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 our old adventures.  She reminds me of the time she let three pigs out into the school labeled 1, 2 and 4.  The staff was looking for the third pig for hours before they realized that it didn’t exist, and she can't laugh hard enough at her epic stunt.  Eventually we reach the end of the trail and to the path that leads to the peak of the town.  It seems that today is the day that I finally get to see the glorious view I've been told about for so long. 

As we reach the peak and stand high above the town we're taken back by the sight.  The sun begins to set behind the water tower in the distance and the cool breeze grows more powerful as we lean on the frail wooden railing at the edge of the path.  Below the railing is a hefty drop that sends a chill down my spine as I gaze at ground that lies so far beneath me.  The view more than makes up for the chilling height, though, and I sit before the railing and hang my feet off of the edge and rest my arms on the lower board of the railing.  She sits next to me and rests her arms like mine, taking in the view with wide eyes and a smile. 

"I'd say the walk was more than worth it," she says to me as her gaze is taken to the furthest reaches of the horizon. 

I look to her and can’t help but stare in disbelief that she really sits next to me despite having been talking to her for hours.  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 lies 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 sick to my stomach that usually caused 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 as she rests her head on my shoulder and looks back onto the town, "I missed you too, Jay." 

"I can't let you leave me again," I rest my head on hers 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 but 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 deep into my being. "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 climb over the railing and hold myself inches from the cliff. "I'm a janitor with a useless degree who has to take enough medicine to put an elephant to sleep just to make it through each day." 

"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 entire life, Diana," I say back to her as my eyes begin to swell. "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 I fall and 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 from the fall and I let the last image of the orange sky as it fades to black and I am able to grab Diana's hand before the light.  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.  I feel a smile form on my face as she looks back to me surrounded by the blinding light behind her.  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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