(CW: Depression, suicide)
A bead of sweat rolled from his temple and into his already dampened hair. The ticklish feeling of the droplet slowly sliding across his skin caused him to roll over in bed, as he mumbled to himself : "don’t…". Ever since he could remember, the exact same dream had haunted him, only, the images were getting clearer and clearer with every passing night. It was not a nightmare — or it had stopped being one for a while now — since his mind had already registered the events of this peculiar dream that never seemed to alter. Only this time, things were different : the images playing inside his mind were so vivid that it seemed almost real.
Ethan walked down the usual misty path, his expression contorting with pain as jagged stones dug into the smooth surface of his bare feet. The air around him felt heavy, as though it had just stopped raining and the bright sun had come out to evaporate the thick film of water that covered every inch of the ground, but the sun was long gone and even the moon was nowhere to be seen from where he stood. The little he could see around him was thanks to the dim light emanating from the threatening crimson-coloured clouds that had gathered in the sky above him. His legs felt tired, as though he had been walking down this path for days without any rest, but even he himself did not know whether this was true for this was where his dream would always start.
Usually, Ethan would simply allow the dream to lead him wherever he needed to be and he would go with the flow with no second thought, but this time, he felt very conscious in his own body, even if his physical movements did not seem to be his own. He felt the strong urge to turn around, at least to see where he had come from and what lay behind, but he could not do so, for he was forced to obey his body’s pre-planned motions. Ethan had walked along this same eerie path thousands of times before, but for some reason he was seeing everything differently for the first time ; it felt as though he were looking at everything through a pair of fresh eyes. He felt the chill of the cold night air rustle through his hair and the hairs on his arms stood on end causing his whole body to quiver. The path ahead felt treacherous, but even though his limbs were aching with fatigue, his feet never stopped moving along the path that he realised that he now knew off by heart. There was something he was hoping to achieve, somewhere he knew he had to be, but somehow he knew that he would never reach his destination. The path ahead would indeed prove to be difficult, and he knew for a fact that he would never make it in time. Every single factor of his situation was in favour of him abandoning this futile quest, but the person leading him in the dream had something that he had long lost : hope...
He walked and walked through the deserted woodlands, paying no heed to his surroundings. All of a sudden, a new realisation dawned over him, as though he were reading the mind of the body carrying him for the first time, which finally made him fully understand his carrier's motives : it was her — he needed to find her, he needed to reach her before it was too late. At that precise moment, Ethan felt that both carrier and passenger merged into a single person, with a single goal in mind.
He was aware that time was running out, and even though he felt physically exhausted he forced himself to move faster. His legs obeyed, somehow propelling him into a full-speed run. Muscles burning from the excessive effort, the boy advanced into the unknown. The mist ahead of him turned into a heavy fog, blinding him and making it harder for him to move, but he felt that he knew the way, for his surroundings felt very familiar. He pushed through bramble bushes, ducked under and jumped over random tree branches that blocked his path. More than once he found himself flat on the ground, having tripped over stones or tree roots that had grown outside the ground, his body writhing in blistering pain from the deep cuts and scrapes that covered his bare skin, but he still forced himself up and sprinted as fast as he could, until he finally reached it : the edge of the cliff.
There she was; the woman he had been after for years now. She was standing on the edge of the cliff looking down into the deep misty valley, dipping hundreds of meters into the unknown. His racing heart nearly stopped when he saw her body swaying in the cold wind, as though she were a mere leaf obeying nature's command. He did not understand why, but the only word he could manage to whisper to her was : "Don’t..." ...
She was on the edge of the cliff looking down into the deep misty valley, dipping hundreds of meters into the unknown. It was a quiet place, peaceful, almost too quiet as though announcing death. There was no one around for it was the dead of night, where people were usually sound asleep, as she would also have been, were it any other night... She hovered over the edge of the cliff in a dream-like state as images she would rather have kept at bay started to flow through her mind...
Life was not easy for Kate. Like everyone else, she had her good days as well as her bad days. Yet, lately, she felt that all her good days were morphing into hellish days and that she would never be facing a good day ever again. The woman felt that she would never smile again after the ordeal that she had passed over the past days. The accident was still fresh in her mind, the gut-wrenching screams kept her up at night and the guilt was much too strong to ignore. What was the point of living for a woman who had nothing left to live for?
Kate stared out of the kitchen window from her victorian house which gave over the cliff, thinking of her beloved husband and her only child. Little Madeline was playing in the garden, chasing a butterfly, barefoot in the lush green grass. Her husband was sitting out on the porch reading a book comfortably in his favourite armchair as he watched over their daughter, making sure that she did not wander off too far, for just a few yards beyond the frail picket fence lay the deep valley over which their house was built. On weekends, Kate was in charge of making lunch for the family and very often they would invite their neighbours to join them. They had a son about Madeline’s age and this would give the children a chance to play together. There were not many inhabitants in the area and so, Kate and her husband were glad when the Lords had moved to the cliff-side of the valley.
Her life seemed perfect back then. She had managed to purchase her dream house; she had married the love of her life and after having tried to have a child for more than ten years, they had been blessed with little Madeline just as they were about to give up trying. At least from any outsider’s point of view, her life was perfect, but for Kate, things were not so simple. Day in and day out she felt stuck in a timeless loop, however much she tried to spice up her life, she would often find herself bored and wanting more. She was constantly searching for something but even she, herself, did not understand what it was... She often unfairly vented her frustration on her husband and soon began blaming her unhappiness on him. The poor man was patient and still loved Kate dearly despite her depressing nature, he tried his best to make her see life through his eyes and how he chose to be happy, even during the worst of days, but in vain. Soon enough, she took up drinking to drown her sorrows which only put further strain on their marital life.
She had not realised how her own unhappiness had slowly been killing her husband. He was a strong man, but after years and years of struggling to keep their family cheery, to no avail, he felt useless and even he was beginning to sink into depression. He tried to keep himself busy with little Madeline, and tried his best to keep the joyousness in their home, but it killed him to see his wife so unhappy with the life they had made for themselves. Very often, Kate would return home drunk, and they would fight over the most trivial things. It was the only way he could get through to her and over the years, it became their sole means of communication. Their home on top of the cliff was a lonely one, and as the days passed it only grew lonelier...
As hard as she tried to fix things at home, Kate simply could not see the point; she had lost the will to live. Little Madeline was growing older by the day, but she had not even realised it. Her husband was growing more and more distant from her and she had not even felt it for she was losing her grip on life and everything started to feel so insignificant to her, that she even gave up trying.
Kate was sitting outside on the porch one evening, smoking a cigarette, an empty bottle of whiskey at her feet, when she heard her husband’s car pulling into the driveway. She heard his footsteps rushing down the gravelly path as he made his way to his wife's regular evening spot, but Kate did not even stir to show interest in his presence. This had become their routine for years now, and she knew that he would come right over to her to kiss her on the forehead and ask about her boring day. However, even in her drunken state, Kate did notice more commotion than usual coming from his direction that day, but still, she could not be bothered to turn her head to see what was happening.
Her husband had to clear his throat noisily in the doorway a few times to catch her attention, until Kate finally turned around, a look of utter annoyance on her face. That same look quickly morphed into confusion when she saw that her husband had their family suitcase next to him and little Madeline in his arms.
"Whass goin' on?" Kate asked as she attempted to get up from the armchair,
"We’re leaving," her husband’s dry response came back, echoing loudly in her mind, making her head spin.
"No, Nooo? Leave? Wha—you m—mean leave?" Kate mumbled, trying hard to focus her vision on the two very blurry people standing in front of her.
"Kate, we’ve been through this already... just get some rest — we’ll talk about this when you're ready. Our plane leaves in two hours—" he replied impatiently, obviously annoyed that she had forgotten that this was the day that they were meant to leave.
"Bye mommy..." came a timid voice, as Madeline waved her battered teddy bear at her mother, but gripping her father tightly indicating that she had no intention of going nearer to her mother than needed.
"NO! Y’cant take er' away!" Kate shrieked as her brain started to piece together the scraps of information that were getting through to her.
Her husband did not wait for another second, he turned around and walked back up the path to where he had parked the car.
"No, NO!" Kate shouted as she did her best to stand up.
Still swaying slightly, she frantically grabbed her own car keys from the coffee table in front of her and ran towards her car, hoping that she could maybe catch them at the airport. She was still confused about everything that was happening, and all she could remember fumbling to get her car keys into the keyhole, turning them to start the engine, and speeding off blindly. She was aware of having closed her eyes for a second to try and stop her head from spinning, but the moment she opened them again was the moment her life spun completely out of hand. The loud crash pierced through her drunkenness, immobilising her, and all she saw was a horrifying grey flash as her husband's car went hurtling into the fragile picket fencing, and spiralled over the cliff, down the valley, ending up in a deafening blast of flames below.
As the images of her beloved husband and daughter screaming as their bodies were ripped from their seats and slammed against the interior of the car as they fell to their deaths, lingered in her mind, Kate felt ready to let her body fall to its death in the same valley that her family had lost their lives a few days ago, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, she heard a desperate whisper "Don’t..."
Kate’s eyes snapped open, she was breathing heavily and her heart was pounding in her chest as she pawed at the strands of hair that were being pulled from her head after having gotten stuck to her neck by a mixture of tears and sweat.
"Honey, honey, are you okay?" her husband’s sleepy voice croaked through the silence of the night, as he got up beside her.
"You’re here, you’re still here!" Kate exclaimed happily as she hugged her husband and kissed him on the forehead.
"Yes honey, where d’you think I went?" her husband asked, slightly confused by his wife’s sudden strange mood.
"Is it the baby?" he asked, wondering whether her sudden agitation had anything to do with her pregnancy.
Kate touched her baby bump, "Ethan..." she whispered, "Honey, we’ll call him Ethan..." she whispered to him as a single tear rolled down her cheek.
Kate was glad that her husband had not turned on the lights, for she did not want him to see her in such a state. Knowing him, it would obviously cause him to panic for no reason. She lay back down in bed and rolled over, giving her back to her husband who followed her lead and also went back to sleep.
Kate stroked her belly, her throat tightening as she reflected upon the strange dream she had just woken up from. An incomprehensible mixture of feelings stirred within her as she pondered on Ethan's message. Kate's life was not easy. Like everyone else, she had her good days as well as her bad days, and even if her good days were slowly morphing into hellish days, that same night, she vowed to herself not to let things get out of hand. Like her husband, she would simply choose to be happy — even during the gloomiest of days, for if her life were in her own hands, then so were her emotions.