So, unable to think straight, I'm sharing the beginning of Still Rock Water, which you can see on the right sidebar.
My God, I'm flying. Or hallucinating. Blank it out. Close your eyes.
I'm so scared. My fingers reach out for reassurance. Nothing. Since emerging from the tunnel, my senses are spinning and the bed no longer supports my body. Wait. Tunnel. Death's a possibility. Can't be. I wasn't sick. Perhaps I died in my sleep. If I keep my eyes shut, maybe I'll wake up. Counting doesn't work. How long should I wait? Five minutes, an hour? I can't see the clock anyway, so how would I know? Impatient, I wriggle, or try. I can't feel my legs.
I ease my eyes open. White fluffy mist. At least I'm not surrounded by a casket. I reach out but don't make contact with anything solid. I won't close my eyes again. Now I'm curious. Right, I'll look down. I panic at the absence of anything beneath me. No bodily reactions. Hold it together. I can do this. At last, I focus through the blur below. It's as if I'm looking through a telescope with a haze around the edges.
An old car sits sideways behind another, with traffic driving around them on a motorway.
If this is heaven, it's very much like earth. Then, I'm falling—diving. I struggle, but a powerful force pulls me right through the roof where I land without feeling. Inside the car, I'm as helpless as I am in real life. It's scary. I don't want to be manipulated like this. Get me out of here.
Thick hands grip the steering wheel. A diver's watch clamps a hairy wrist. Cars slow outside the window and a woman peers into my car.
Where are the almond-shaped fingernails I've always taken care of? Overwhelmed by shock, rising panic and rapid heartbeat, I'm sitting in the driver's seat of a jalopy. A faint sound of thunder echoes inside my head. The taste of iron and smell of oil sicken me. I struggle, but the body doesn't move. Wait. Thoughts slam into me.
'Accident. Think, man, think'. Rigid with shock, I—we centre on a digital clock. Nine-zero-zero. Morning.
I've got to work this out. I'm me, but I'm also part of a strange man. His name is David. Multiple personalities? I've heard of that happening. I've suffered enough distress to cause the effect. Although I can't move, perhaps I can wish myself away. I concentrate, but it does no good. All David's panicked thoughts and body reactions pump through me.
He twists to the back seat. Worry rises, gripping his heart so hard he finds it hard to breathe. His four-year-old son Tim remains upright strapped into a child-seat—eyes closed with his head slumped forward. David leans back and touches Tim's shoulder, then checks for the faint pulse under his ear. He grasps the tiny wrist, and looks for any movement under the delicate eyes.
I'm staggered. Something tells me I should help him, help them both, but I don't know how. David's the one with the body. I'll just watch and wait. At some point I might escape.
With shaky hands, he reaches for his mobile phone and dials the emergency number. Following instructions from the voice in his ear, he climbs over to sit beside his son. The boy's head must not be moved in case of injury, and David must breathe for Tim until an ambulance arrives.
With the reassuring operator's voice crackling around my mind, I'm feeling everything David does, panic, worry and confusion. Maybe I can influence him rather than let his emotion drain me. With something like a heart-felt prayer, I will the child to breathe—assist the father to remain calm and help his son.
The child's head remains slumped forward, and David mustn't move him. With great care, he blows from the front but he can't reach the boy's mouth. A strong sense tells me whatever I do will be of some help. But what if, by participating, I'm trapped here forever without a body of my own, living through someone else's consciousness?
Terror squeezes David's heart. “I love you, son. Don't die.” He groans and his eyes blur. The operator tries to reassure him.
It's no use avoiding the situation any longer. It's as real to me now as my own life. I can't allow the child to slip away before help arrives. I urge David forward to lift the child's lip from the side. With empathy rising in me like a song, I assist with the breath of life.
By twisting his head, David's tender breath through the side of Tim's mouth brings results. When the blue eyelids flutter, David's heartbeat quickens in relief. After another breath, Tim opens his eyes and coughs. David murmurs, “Hello, little man. Are you okay?”
“Yes, Dad,” Tim blinks and looks around. “I heard your voice through a long sort of tunnel. It was so bright ... and I saw a happy fairy.”
Compassion swells my heart and lifts me away. I'm floating free.
* * * *
Liliha opened her eyes in her own bed again. In the dark, her fingers slid over the ridges on her patchwork quilt.