Tuesday, August 11, 2009

FFC August: Light

As her thoughts slowly gathered, she felt an undefined panic rising. She tried to move but couldn’t. She tried to see but was surrounded by impenetrable darkness. She listened and the sounds were muffled and indistinguishable, and very far away. That was when the memories started slowly emerging…

Kate had been through possibly the worst week on the job in all the years that she’d been employed by the city. She was exhausted after dealing with people who put more effort into milking the system rather than legitimately earning a living. And she had NO respect for the women who continued to have baby after baby when they couldn’t afford to feed themselves. Escape was what she needed. Escape from dealing with other people’s irresponsibility… escape from dealing with unreasonable expectations… escape from humanity.

Telling her friends only that she’d be completely disengaged for the weekend, she headed for the family cabin. She knew her family’s typical schedule and hoped the cabin would be empty. She was in luck – nobody was there and even the air carried the fragrance of peacefulness. Breathing deeply, she smiled and threw her bag on the couch near the fireplace. Kate spent the next hour going through the prep steps learned from countless family retreats. She soaked in the silence like a soothing balm. The physical labor of bringing in firewood felt good and cleared her head. Everything about being there felt right.

One of her dad’s “rules” was that, whenever anyone visited the cabin, they were to sign in and make note of anything memorable from their stay. Kate grabbed the book to sign in and started reading back through previous entries. She was transported back to simpler days when she had the whole summer free from responsibility. She thought wistfully to herself that growing up wasn’t quite what she’d expected it to be.

Her reverie was interrupted when she heard – or felt – something change. Not sure of what she detected, she barely breathed as she focused more intently. The rumble grew under her feet and in her ears. Before she could even move to the window to see what was happening, the cabin came crashing down around her.

She wasn’t sure how long she’d lain under the debris before she regained consciousness. It had been early evening when she picked up the family log but she’d lost track of time reminiscing. Kate tried again to move and felt pain but couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from. She mentally moved from her right shoulder to her elbow to her hand. In it, she believed she still held the family log she’d been reading when it happened… whatever “it” was. She released the book and moved her fingers to make sure she still could. She felt around and slowly maneuvered her hand up to her face. She was relieved to find no gashes or obvious injuries there. She did the same with her left arm, finding it twisted behind her. She moved her fingers and worked her arm out from behind her, back to a more normal position, wincing in pain as it was released from its unnatural contortions. She hoped she hadn’t dislocated her shoulder. She rested briefly and focused on listening. There were sounds of life coming from somewhere and she realized that the Ranger must be assessing the cabins for damage. Her first thought was that she’d be rescued but she quickly recalled that, distracted by her venture down memory lane, she’d neglected to let the Ranger know she was on the property. She redoubled her efforts to work herself free.

Kate searched for just a fragment of light that might give her direction but there was only darkness. She was able to move a few bits of debris around to create somewhat of a pocket for herself. She shifted into an almost-sitting position and determined that, aside from a few probable bruises, she was otherwise uninjured. Again, she tried to detect light coming from somewhere, anywhere, but there was nothing. She held her breath for a moment to listen for sounds of somebody searching. She hollered out and waited but couldn’t tell if there’d been any change in the noises outside. She moved a few more pieces of debris and discovered that only part of the cabin had collapsed, and part was miraculously still standing. She made her way over to where she knew the side door to be and pulled on it. The door resisted opening but eventually gave way, creaking in protest.

As she stepped outside, the moonlight was like a long lost friend. Within the darkness of the surrounding trees, the light from bobbing flashlights looked like beacons. Breathing a huge sigh of relief, she called out to her rescuers and started making her way toward those beautiful lights.