She sank into the depths of her memories. The vague impressions of concerned faces and screaming machines drifted away. The smell of the sea tickled her nose and then she was submerged, weightless in a calm sea, with no idea why or how, and beyond caring. The heaviness, the unbearable weight, of living was gone. Her breath came easy under the water. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to sink.
When she opened her eyes, a glowing orb was drifting toward her through the murky water. As it got closer, she could see it was a jellyfish, but on top of its graceful body, something flickered. It was the face of her mother. She reached out to touch it. Another jellyfish, dark and dense, darted in front of her. On this one was her father’s face, the blank eyes even more terrible than they had been in life. The mother orb disappeared far beneath her in a stream of ethereal tentacles. Several more of the misshapen and sinister masses began to swarm around her. Herself, crying, hands over her face. A coffin. A blood soaked towel. Many more she couldn’t see, wouldn’t see. Frantically, she slapped them away. Another shiny orb darted past her, too fast to see what was inside. The dark ones fled to the growing expanse of murky water above her.
This one, her savior, was brighter, livelier. She turned around and around, trying to see it clearer until it swam downward. She looked down and gasped. The bottom was aglow with hundreds, thousands, of glimmering jellyfish. No longer content to sink, she swam. With each stroke, another orb came up to meet her, as if in encouragement. Her babies’ faces, smiling or sleeping, brushing their tentacles lightly against her face, her arms, her breasts. Herself, in a wedding gown. The tree house in the orchard. A pile of hay in a barn. A tire swing. The hammock in her grandparents’ back yard. Every orb was leading her closer to the bottom. She could feel the warmth radiating from them. Always, the brightest and fastest, zooming in and out among the others, beckoned to her. It rested on the bottom of the sea–a single point of bright light, waiting.
As she got closer, the other orbs drew away from her, still present, but passive. It was harder to swim, the water more substantive. When the struggle became too much, the incandescent sphere rose up to meet her. It closed the distance slowly. Finally, she could see the reflection. It was her husband’s face. Not the gaunt, hollow-eyed, diseased face she’d seen last, but a younger, larger-than-life version. He had a full head of dark, curly hair. One eyebrow arched, a toothpick dangling from his smirking mouth, he was the 16-year-old boy she’d seen, for the first time, leaning against a 1948 Chevrolet Stylemaster. She reached for him, and stared at her outstretched arm. The fingers were no longer gnarled, the fingernails were manicured, her arm was lean and tight. She was young again. The tentacle reached out to her. Her fingertips glazed it and an inconceivable warmth spread throughout her being. The light traveled down her arm and lighted her whole body. For a glorious minute, she felt the touch of first love again.
The sigh that escaped her reverberated to the ends of the ocean. Then, ecstasy turned to pain. A jolt of electricity entered her leg. The grip on the tentacle of light snapped and she writhed in agony. Something was holding onto her leg, pulling her quickly forward. She kicked and then the sinister shapes containing her worst memories surrounded her. They were wrapping their tentacles around her arms and waist and legs and chest, every touch an electric shock. She moved quickly upward. The light disappeared. She couldn’t see through the sludge.
When her head broke the surface of the water, it wasn’t a relief. The air strangled her. Her breathing was labored again. The weight returned. The piercing scream of the machines receded to measured beeps. The doctor was in her face, asking if she was okay. She lifted her arm. It was wrinkled and the consistency of tissue paper, tubes running from her bulging blue veins to bags of fluid, She stared in horror. The doctor shined a bright light in her eyes and nodded.
“That was close.” He placed her hand on her stomach and patted it.
His hand was ice-cold.
The Speakeasy #128 prompts:
1. Beginning Sentence: “She sank into the depths of her memories.”