Only minutes had passed when the front door swung open. “Linda.” His voice, filled with despair was left lingering in his mind like an echo. The hours in the car had filled him with angst. He needed to know that he had made it in time. He could hear the panic in her voice when she had called.
The door had cut through the thick, moist air in the apartment. All the shades were closed and aside from the dull candle flame, there was little light. “Linda.” He says again as his eyes adjust and he makes out a figure on the floor, kneeling in front of the couch. He knew it was her immediately because he had spent the whole drive back thinking about her standing there with waves in her normally straight, long blonde hair, her beautiful green eyes smiling even as her lips didn’t move. He loved it when she wore that white cotton dress, tattered on the edges as it was long enough to drag on the ground as she walked. He thought she looked like an angel, stood at the door waving goodbye to him hours earlier. And for the millionth time since that day she had chosen him in high school he thought how did I get so lucky?
Linda was lying face down on the couch, her hair soaked with sweat and her white dress red from blood. Her olive skin white. “Linda? Oh My god! Linda, please answer me.” Steve’s face went from flushed to pale as his heart momentarily forgot its duty and the blood settled into his feet. He was trying to process the scene. Getting down on his hands and knees he lifted the blood-soaked dress and saw Eve halfway out, her skin an eerie blue.
He gasped “Oh my god.” as his worst nightmare was playing out in front of him.
“Oh my god… Oh my god.” He kept repeating over and over as he grabbed onto Eve and began to pull. She was so slippery. He couldn’t get a good grip.
“Linda… you have to help. Wake up.”
Every passing second seemed like an eternity as the pressure grew. He finally found some traction and pulled more. Out she came and his exhilaration sent him into a frenzy of sensations he hadn’t felt before. Nausea, anxiety, heart racing with lightheadedness all added to the complexity of this situation. Pull it together he whispered to himself and then thought that he needed Linda. She would know what to do… She always did.
“She isn’t breathing. Linda!” he screams as he sticks his finger into Eve’s tiny, fragile mouth.
“Please, please, please…” he mumbles as he turns the baby over and pats her back.
Flipping her back over he desperately searched his mind for the file labeled infant cpr training from over ten years ago. That summer in high school when he was a lifeguard at the local pool. With very little confidence that he would remember, he breathed a sigh of relief when it became unnecessary as her eyes blinked open and she let out a loud cry. “Thank you” he whispered. Tears flowed down his cheeks and he tried to force air through his tightly closed throat. Holding Eve up against his chest puts him at ease as he can feel her chest moving and her body wiggling. Crying tears of joy and rocking back and forth he calls out again.
“Linda… Oh my god Linda.. You did it. Our baby is here. Look at her, she is so beautiful. You did it honey…”
Linda was one of the strongest people he had ever known. She made him strong.
His voice starts to get a little softer now as he is noticing that Linda still isn’t moving or responding.
“It’s okay sweetie. Eve is okay.” He says now feeling that constriction coming back to his throat the momentary joy fading quickly and breathing becoming a little more difficult. He puts Eve onto the floor and places a hand on Linda’s back. Shaking her gently…
“Linda…” His voice now a mere whisper. He feels her face and it is cold.
“oh god… Oh god… please no.” He cries as he lifts her dress and sees blood pouring out uncontrollably… The doctor had warned that her anemia could cause bleeding out after birth.
“Noooooo…Linda.. noooo! I cant do this without you.. Linda.” Oh god… what do I do now? He thinks. He is now shaking her a little more vigorously. He sees the umbilical cord still attached to Eve. Laying her down on the couch he rolls Linda off of the couch and softly places her on her back on the floor to give her CPR. As he turned her over, he saw her belly distended and a bluish color like a giant bruise and another gush of dark red blood poured out.
Knowing it was highly unlikely anyone would pick up he still felt he needed to try. He grabbed his Picpocket, dialed 911 and placed it on speaker sliding it into his shirt pocket. He immediately began pushing on her chest humming the beat to the song “Staying alive” as he had been taught so many years ago. This was the first time he had used his training on a real person, not to mention the love of his life. Please, someone please pick up! 3 minutes had passed of 30 pumps and 2 short breaths… and nothing. She was blue. And still no one had picked up the phone. This can’t be happening! Why had he listened and gone to see the Ancients today? Why couldn’t Eve have just waited until he got home? Remembering Eve, he looks over at her laying on the couch and sees the umbilical cord.
I need to cut the cord he thinks as he manages to stand up on his wobbly legs. Panic coursing through his veins and somehow still clinging to some shred of hope, he runs to the kitchen rifling through drawers as if it was his first time in that kitchen. He finally finds a knife and grabs a couple of towels from the dryer. He returns to Linda and falls to his knees. It was like just for a moment in the kitchen he was able to pretend that she was okay and seeing her there crushed him all over again.
As he held that knife in his hand sitting over Linda, now covered in blood the thought of her not waking up was becoming more real and he didn’t think he could go on without her. He placed the towel between her legs and picked up Eve placing her on one of the towels, wiping off her head and her face looking into her eyes and knowing he would have to keep going for her sake. He took a deep breath and said “Linda I promise you that I will take care of our daughter. I promise you that I will keep her safe from the horror. I failed you but, I won’t fail her. And he cut the cord.
An automated voice came on the phone, “We are experiencing a large call volume. We are so sorry for the delay and are trying to get to you as soon as possible.” There had been rumors that no one was even working at the call centers anymore. That the Grand Master had decided those systems weren’t of any value and had shut them down. Steve was starting to believe they might be true. Earlier that evening the Ancients had told Steve location of the only place left untouched by the horror. They had given him instructions on how to get there safely and ovoid the checkpoints as well. They had said he must leave tonight.
Beeeeepp… Linda’s phone beeped again announcing the Code red emergency. Luckily they had been gathering baby supplies. Even though Eve had planned on breastfeeding she had purchased a box of formula just in case.
He began loading up the baby bag and the car. Grabbing everything he could fit. Ten minutes had passed, and the same recording was still playing Then it sent him to a messaging service. Please leave a message after the tone and we will return your call as soon as possible.
“My name is Steve Nelson and I live at 2335 n flamingo dr…I think my wife Linda is dead. She just gave birth to our baby girl and she is bleeding so much…. She just won’t stop bleeding.” He hung up the phone and laid down next to Linda placing me on her chest. This is our baby Linda. She is so perfect, just like you.” He rubs my cheeks. Props himself onto his elbow and moves Linda’s hair from her face with his finger, touches her face, and leans in and kisses her lips. Feeling as though he didn’t want to go on breathing. His whole reason for living was gone he looks over at me and says “I don’t know if I can do this without her.”
The story of Steve and Linda and how I came to be…
That morning just before I arrived my father Steve, was sitting at the kitchen table with the Sunday paper and his usual Sunday morning breakfast; English muffin, jam no butter, and coffee. He was completely oblivious to the significance of this day. In more than one way this day would not only change his life but, could potentially change the whole world. Human nature is to worry incessantly over a decision that we feel could change our lives when often times those decisions turn out to have very little impact. Dad would soon find out that it can actually be the little decisions that create the biggest impacts. Like the butterfly flapping his wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere, that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location.
I had been a high-risk pregnancy, mom was severely anemic and three weeks earlier her doctor had strongly suggested that she stop everything and rest. Her work at the nursing home had been having some obvious implications on her health; her ankles were swollen and she would sometimes get so dizzy she would bend down and almost blackout when she stood up.
Later my father would tell me how he loved everything about my mother. He would say that she lit up the room, and moved with grace. He said I reminded him of her when I bit my lower lip when I was upset or stuck out the tip of my tongue when concentrating. Since the moment he met her he said she became his reason for every decision he made, including getting a degree. He had always been interested in psychology, but Linda had said that she had dreamed of having a treatment center for people who were suffering from depression and addictions. She imagined Steve as the resident psychologist. Her words, “I am so proud of you honey.” Meant everything to him as he received his diploma.
So, when he picked up the paper intending to look at the classified ads, he was instantly irritated to see blasted across the front page, “Storms and Destruction Headed Our Way- Is the End Near?” “Who writes this crap” he mumbled under his breath. That kind of headlines and garbage, stories packed with fear-driven, innuendos were the exact reason he had asked the papergirl to cancel his service. With a new baby on the way, he didn’t want to be continually reminded that the whole effing world was falling apart and destruction was inevitable.
Dad had only picked up a paper the day earlier to look at the classified ads. With school finished and mom unable to work he was in need of a job. Choosing to ignore the headline he quickly flipped to the classified ads. That was when he realized he needed a pen. He took a glance around the kitchen and noticed his school bag sitting under the built-in desk a few feet away. Ah ha he thought. Sliding the bag out from under the desk he began rummaging through it.
Becoming frustrated as he rifled around and wasn’t having any luck. He slid out his textbooks to make it easier to see the bottom. That was when he noticed something shoved in between the pages of one of the books. Curious he momentarily forgot about his search for the pen, set the bag down and reached for the book. Pulling it from between the pages he saw the dirty residue left from the hand of the man who handed it to him months earlier. Suddenly he remembered the pungent odor of the unkempt, disorderly man. The smell had been so strong it triggered his gag reflex and Steve was forced to hold his breath for the rest of the encounter. A mixture of rotting meat and spoiled cabbage emanated from this man who was, wearing pants at least 5 sizes too large and an oversized coat. Normally he would have just tossed whatever had been handed to him in the nearest garbage but, he was more concerned about holding his breath and not offending the man who obviously had fallen on some hard times. Now as he pulled out the article he couldn’t help but wonder why the man had chosen to stand there of all places. He certainly didn’t appear to be attending the school. And he suddenly remembered what the man had said as he started to walk away, “You sir, must read this! The world as we now it is coming to an end and this is what they don’t want you to know.”
“Hmmm…” he sighed with a little chuckle as he thought Well, it can’t hurt to see what this guy had to say. It does seem according to the Florida Herold that the world is most definitely coming to an end. The title read, “The Death of the Ego is the Only Way to True Liberation.” Ha…he thought. Now you’ve got my attention. Ever since the Grand Master had taken over, fear was spreading like a virus. Steve felt it too. All of the time he would catch himself looking at his pickpocket listening to the rants of the Grand Master about how as humans, our mere survival is being threatened and we must fend for ourselves. The Grand Master would say trust no one. The media was just a constant stream of people being tortured, losing everything, sickness, suicide. They were referring to them as deaths of despair and there was an app that would update you on the increasing number and how people were choosing to end their own lives to stop the suffering. Strange to download an app for such a morbid purpose. You would think that watching the number increase would be disheartening or make people sad. Instead, most were jealous. They were being revered as the brave ones. They were free.
The stories of the world coming to an end and the constant storms destroying different parts of the world had created little prisons of the mind. In these prisons, the prisoners were kept in solitude and tortured with voices playing fear and sadness. Focused solely on survival, there is no one else, preservation of the self is the only importance. This creates isolation and loneliness. There is no more hope, dreams of a better life. Those thoughts drove them deeper into despair, making them more aware of how far away happiness felt.
The article began, “Burrowed deep inside the soul of every human is that which provides contrast—the darkness so the light can be experienced and desired. The human experience is an experience of evolution. We are evolving our souls in hopes one day we can rid ourselves of this parasite–the darkness—and live only in the light. A parasite; by definition is an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense. The ego holds the soul captive, in shackles using the only weapon it has—the weapon of fear—fear of death. This is by far the most powerful weapon of all and the host must rise above the effects of fear for the ego to be completely abolished. The only weapon strong enough to fight fear is love.
Steve was drawn even deeper into the content of this article when he turned the page and saw Remember The Wizard of Oz? This happened to be one of Steve’s all-time favorite movies and he had just been referring to the Grand Master as the Wizard of Oz- A great puppet master controlling the world with fear. The article continued, I believe the wizard of Oz depicted the ego and just like the Wizard, the ego is responsible for all human suffering. OZ like the ego is hiding behind the sheet scared of living but controlling everything with this loud, mean voice. The ego creates little movies that play out in the mind. It is the director deciding which reels of your past will play and which reels about your undetermined future will play and it uses fear to keep you from ever trying to look behind the sheet because it knows once you do you will see the Truth that the voice is not you and all you ever have to do is stop listening and take back control of your own mind deciding what movies you want to play out as your life.
Wait a minute… he thought. Was this article saying that the suffering people were experiencing could all be stopped just by changing the way we thought, that all human suffering was simply a figment of our imagination. Like everyone who is starving, beaten, cold is creating it themselves. And all they needed to do was stop listening to the scary voice in the mind and imagine something different. He noticed himself getting angry as he thought about all of the awful things that had happened to him in his life. What is this guy trying to say, it’s my fault?
In his philosophy class last quarter, the teacher had mentioned that he was concerned about an epidemic of depression, mental illness. He said that one in five people in the U.S. are on some sort of prescribed medication for those things and this medicine wasn’t to heal the sickness or an ailment—they were, “Get happy pills.” He would say “Can you believe that people need to medicate themselves just to feel happy in one of the most abundant countries in the world, people who feasibly have everything—need a pill for happiness—crazy right! We have all gone mad.”
It seemed his philosophy professor may have agreed with this article. What if people were self-medicating because they had caught this ego parasite and it was the ego telling them they don’t have enough and that they aren’t enough. What if this is what is causing the increase in suicide?
He pondered it for a moment. Could the ego be caught like a cold and suddenly you are sad? he wondered. He thought about those Saturday morning cartoons where there would be an angel and a devil sitting on either shoulder of the protagonist who would eventually find themselves in a predicament where they would be torn between heeding the loving voice of the angel or the fearful voice of the devil. What if we all have good and evil within? What if the goal is for the good to triumph over the evil once and for all –in a battle to the death– leaving society to live in a utopia like Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden? He wondered.
The article continued to say that the only way to defeat the parasite was not to feed it. It fed on fear. You must believe without needing evidence or proof that Paradise is right where you are and you just can’t see it because it is being blocked by the veil of the ego covering your eyes from the truth. Then at the very bottom it had a hand written arrow like something a child would write on a note they passed in class. It said “turn over.”
Steve turned the page over and it said,
If your mind is filled with horror, soon your body will be too. Then it’s all around you and there is nothing you can do… If you want to cleanse your mind and purify your soul, come to Howards Glenn and you will meet your goal. See you soon. This created such a curiosity. Steve thought why Howard’s Glenn? And, it doesn’t give a day or a time? He looked at his watch and thought about his day. Linda hadn’t been feeling well and probably wouldn’t mind having the house to herself for a few hours. He had only planned to search for a job and do some yard work and he could always do that when he returned.
His mind was running with at least a million reasons why he shouldn’t go. The biggest reason being that Howards Glenn was a nearby reservoir that had been labeled unsafe due to the alligator families that had settled there. But, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was supposed to read that article and maybe there was something he needed to see so he went.