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Message in a Bottle
Walking aimlessly through the forest, I tried to clear my undying thoughts. I watched my feet as I traveled between the towering trees as they cast dark and dank shadows to whatever may linger below them. The russet bark added a rough texture to their trunks while their leaves and needles littered the ground, leaving a soft underbelly below the canopy. My footsteps hardly made a sound, leaving me oblivious to the nature around me. A grey sky, hardly able to been seen through the thick branches above, gave the scenery a blue tint.
My eyes rose to a bright item in the distance. Curiosity had led me to a single door standing upright, unknown to the world. I studied the texture of the chipping and peeling white paint, worn by weather and time. Dark oak was visible where the paint was no more. Large squares had been etched out creatively, giving it less of a bland look.
I began to extend for the round brass knob, interest getting the best of me, when my gut instinct kicked in. I paused as my thoughts told me not to move on any further. I could see my reflection in it just as if I were peering into a broken piece of glass. I ignored everything I was telling myself and continued on my quest to grab the knob. My fingers easily surrounded the metal, cool to the touch, as they turned it eagerly. The heavy door swung open by itself soon after I released the knob.
Indiscreetly, I stepped onto warm, white sand. My eyes widened at the sight of the sun encircled in a cloudless, blue sky. This new place I had stumbled upon intrigued me. The surprising warmth overwhelmed me, causing my fingers to unzip my jacket. There was no way I was going to need too many layers in the some-odd eighty degree weather.
A breeze of salty air blew my hair away from my eyes. An ocean of flawless blue water spread out across the landscape greeted me warmly. White sand met at the water’s edge, creating the ideal landscape.
I turned back to my entrance just to make sure this was truly real and that I had an escape route home if necessary. I didn’t want to tear my eyes away from the doorway back to my world, not knowing if I should venture on or trust my instincts and stay back. Before me stood just an image of the gloomy forest I had originated from, looking oddly out of place in this bright world. My mind was fighting with itself. One part desperately tried to tell me this was not in my best interests to explore this place. Yet there was the other nosy half that was destined to search for anything that may be able to be uncovered.
Hastily, I twirled around to face this new place after choosing to side with the rebel inside. I began to feel my feet sink into the ground. I glanced at my shoes to find them filled with sparkling sand. My hands darted down to loosen the laces from their bows. I found no reason to try to tromp through sand in tennis shoes while I could walk easily barefoot instead. As I tugged on the laces my eyes wandered to the tiny shells that littered the sand. They gleamed with their many colors in the bright sun. I placed my toes in the soft sand before leaving my shoes and jacket behind off to the side.
Seagulls passed overhead, squawking to each other, eager to be heard over the crashing waves. Their screeching faded as they flew out of hearing range, leaving only the constant roar coming from the sea.
With the state of mind I had acquired over time, I was not planning on staying in one place for long. I could never actually sit still for long periods of time. I needed to be moving. I needed to find something to occupy my time with. Without another thought I ventured down towards the shore with the thought of possibly finding a tide pool.
Abruptly a sharp pain shot through the toes on one of my feet, all the way down to my heel. I attempted to catch myself, but soon ended up with palms forward and belly in the sand. What I pictured to be a rock that had pulled me down revealed itself to be a glass bottle wedged into the sand. I gripped its slender neck to retrieve it. Soon followed a loud popping sound made by the hard cork as I wedged it free. I fished down the neck of the bottle to snatch a piece of paper. It slid out easily, just enough for me to unroll the wrinkled parchment. Scrolled out in familiar handwriting was an unaddressed note.
“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing of all is, even if we are apart, I will always be with you,” I read aloud. I scanned over the words a few times more, soaking in every mark of the pen.
I stood up and folded the paper carefully before placing it in one of my pockets. I was beginning to realize how lonely I was here. Hoping this wasn’t all there was, my feet moved further down the beautiful landscape.
The sun continued to beat down my neck as if there was no tomorrow. The heat felt wonderful since I didn’t get a lot of sun back home, but I wouldn’t be able to take too much of it. Soon I would need to find shade. I wandered along the shore searching for something that might not even be there. As I strolled alone I took not of how there were no animals, including marine life. Not a single soul to be found, besides myself.
My thoughts moved to an upcoming tree. Thank God. Some place to sit. I could finally get out of the sun for a moment. With a sigh, I plopped down beneath the tree. I considered heading back to the door and to my world, but I didn’t want to get up from the sand just yet.
Something in the distance caught my eye. It moved down the sand, standing on two legs. As it walked closer in my direction the figure became more and more distinguishable.
There was an old smile I recognized. She stood before me in the turquoise long-sleeved shirt, white pants, and white leather shoes I had always remembered her wearing. Large square-framed glasses perched on her nose and her grey hair was in tight curls close to her face. Wrinkles of wisdom and age framed her eyes and mouth, adding character to her looks.
“Hello there,” she said in her crackly voice before letting out a chuckle. “Come give me a hug.” She opened her thin arms to welcome me into them. Her arthritic hands spread towards me.
My eyes grew wide. I had no idea how to approach this. I sat there dumbfounded like a fool. I knew I needed to do something. There was no way I was going to waste this moment.
“Grandma,” I stammered breathlessly as I brought myself to stand. Slowly I leaned into her open arms. Bewilderment still lit up my face. “I’ve missed you so much,” I said thoughtlessly.
“And I’ve missed you,” she stated while she squeeze tighter.
My eyes began to water. I tried to wipe away a warm tear that had escaped down my cheek before it moved any further.
“No need to cry,” she began. “Don’t ever believe you are alone. I’ve been watching over you.”
“But everything is so wrong,” I exclaimed, my voice cracking in the process. “Our family is torn to an extent where it will never be fixed. Everything has gone downhill.”
“Oh, give it some time,” she cooed.
I leaned into her once more, making sure to take a whiff of the scent of musky perfume and cigarettes. She hugged me tight once more. I closed my eyes tight, wishing away everything that had happened in the past, hoping it would instantly disappear. A few more tears streamed down my face.
The next moment I opened my eyes to find myself lying in bed, wrapped up in warm blankets. Clouds covered the sky outside my window. A crushing feeling of depression came over me as I went over everything that had happened. There were no more blue skies, and warm beaches. The happiness brought by the sun was no longer to be seen. Home was dull and unwelcoming.
I sighed. “It was just a dream,” I told myself as I stretched. Yet, miraculously, as I sat up and swung my feet over the side of my bed, something crunched in the pocket of my mesh shorts. I dug deep into my pocket to reveal the worn piece of paper. I could not stop the smile from illuminating my face.