I jolt awake. What a crazy dream. Rubbing my bleary eyes, I pull myself out of bed and lurch like a zombie to the bathroom.
“Come onnn, hurry up! I’ve gotta pee!”
“Rebecca!” My mom yells from another room. “Hurry up and give your brother a chance to use the bathroom!”
I decide to give the door a couple strong slams with my fist for good measure before flopping against it when, to my surprise, it swings open, and I fall face first into a patch of grass.
I must’ve tripped getting off the bus. Pushing myself to my knees, I look up, and I see… them. Zombies. Stepping off the buses. Tearing down the flagpole. Uselessly crashing into the school doors again and again. Hundreds of zombies.
How or why this is happening, I don’t know. But I do know that I need to be quiet. Carefully, I shift from my knees to my feet, but I forgot that I fell through the glass bus door, and the crunch of broken glass beneath my shoes is the worst sound I’ve ever heard.
If only the zombies agreed. Maybe then they would have run away. Instead, my chest burns, and I can’t breathe as I watch the three hundred and eighteen heads that make up my peers turn and lock their eyes on me.
I don’t wait for them to make the first move. I run.
The drumming of their hundreds of pairs of heavy feet is nearly drowned out by their even heavier breathing.
I slide across car hoods and duck between legs. At some point, I wrestle with a jock zombie and steal his baseball bat. It’s always worked in zombie movies, and it serves me well now.
I swing left, right, up, down, and everything in between. Finally, I’ve bashed enough zombie brains to give myself a bit of a head start, and I duck around the back of the school for a breather. And there he is.
I should’ve known he’d be here. It’s our spot. Well, more accurately, it’s where I like to hide and watch him walk to the bus after school. But when I daydream in class, this is where I imagine we would sneak off to. He steps closer. His arms reach for me so he can pull me in and comfort me. I don’t hesitate. I throw myself into him, nearly knocking him over. Tears sting my eyes as the musty smell of his basketball jersey covers my nose. Gently, he strokes my hair.
“B— B—,” he says.
“It’s okay.” I assure him. My voice is muffled. “You can call me babe.”
His voice is deep and gravelly. “Brains!” He shouts, as he clutches my skull and squeezes.
I open my eyes. Just a dream.
With a heavy sigh, I swing my legs over the edge of my bed, trying to hold on to the smell of his jersey, but it fades too fast. The hardwood floor is cold against the soles of my feet, and I throw my blanket around myself like a cloak before making the trek to the bathroom.
“Come on! Keep up!” Rebecca yells from the top of the hill.
I pull my cloak tighter around me as I push through the snow. The wind picks up, and it’s hard to make out the vague shadows of people and sleds ahead of me through the blizzard. Snow packs itself around my ankles, and my slow trudge becomes an even slower shuffle. It piles on, past my knees, to my waist. I try to dig it away, but it’s building too fast. It’s up to my sternum now, and my breathing is shallow and panicked.
“Help!” I scream, “Somebody, help!” But the wind snatches the sound away and has no desire to carry it to anyone’s ears.
Just as the snow reaches my armpits, a crack shows in the clouds, and the warmth of the sunbeam that reaches through is the best feeling I’ve ever felt. The warmth spreads, and I stop hyperventilating. There was nothing to be scared of.
The sound of birds chirping brings my attention to my surroundings. The vines of the jungle look like old chains that the trees had to struggle against to grow up toward the sun.
Looking down at my chest, I wonder why I ever thought I was trapped in snow. It wasn’t snow. It was quicksand.
My breathing becomes panicked again as I feel myself start to sink. Slowly, I swim forward. If I can just reach that log at the edge of this quicksand pit, I’ll be fine.
The quicksand reaches my throat. Keep moving forward.
I feel its damp touch under my chin. Keep moving forward.
I hold my breath as it buries my mouth and nose. Keep moving forward.
I squeeze my eyes so tight that my tears can’t escape. Only my right arm remains free. Reach. Come on. Reach.
The rough texture of bark blesses my fingertips, and I pull like I’ve never pulled before.
The jungle sounds like hope as my ears breach the surface. As soon as I am able, I explosively spit the mud from my lips and gasp in the beautiful, delicious air. Up and forward I pull until I can messily clamber ashore.
Rest. I think. I’ll rest now. I close my eyes and sleep.
Opening my eyes, my first thought is just how nice it is to be out of that middle school boy’s body and back in my own. I stretch and pull the covers off myself before making my way over to the nursery. There they are; my little twins. I make my way over and lean against their cribs. Their sleeping faces are so peaceful; the true embodiment of angelic.
Going through the pains of pregnancy and birth once was plenty for me, and a year and a half later, I know that I won’t ever be doing that again. But standing here, right now, I know it was worth it. I would have pushed out ten children just to see these two perfect faces.
I lean over and scoop up little Jamie, who stirs slightly but stays asleep. My shoulder becomes a pillow. Peyton is next and sleeps so soundly that if it weren’t for the little snores, you’d worry that they had died. My other shoulder becomes their pillow.
I think that mornings like these are what is best about life. The only sounds are the gentle snores of my babies and the little chirps of birds outside. I wouldn’t trade this life for any adventure, and I stand there gently bouncing them in my arms and wishing I could hold onto this moment forever.
There is a gentle pull at the back of my mind that is trying to get me to wake up and get ready for school, but that seems silly. And is that the ringing of an alarm clock I hear? No, it must be my tinnitus. I’ve always had tinnitus… haven’t I?