Memories of a Photo

I trudged through the burning ground, dragging my way across the endless scope of scorching heat and pushing against the rough grains of sand beneath me. One step. Two steps. Three steps. By the fourth step I collapsed, my entire body no longer able to support me and I dropped the violet strapped journal onto the dusty earth. A harsh wind blew against my body, tangling my hair like wildfire and whisking the book away with it. I pushed myself off the ground while I struggled to regain my strength, but to no avail. My hands clenched in frustration, grasping bits of sand that seemed to burn through my skin. My eyes, tear-stained and red, squeezed shut to regain focus. As I commanded one of my legs to move, a grunt of pain escaped my throat. I couldn't go on. I was stuck on this blasted island, doomed to lie here forever. No one could help me. My eyes flickered, hoping for rejuvenation, but it was impossible.

Surrounded by nothing but sand and the sun's rays, I helplessly allowed the heat to swallow my body so that by chance I could rest. I softly sighed as my mind drifted away. One by one, thoughts ran through my head. Slowly I saw a blurred image of me sitting in church. Wearing a pink frilly dress, I swung my short legs against the wooden pew as my parents listened to the Sunday homily. Absolutely bored out of my 5 year old mind, I was immediately drawn to the sound of a "psst," to my right.

Curious, I slipped out of the back pew to find my brother with a bunch of colored pencils in his hand. "These were on the table. Look! We can color these pamphlets!" I eagerly grabbed the pink colored pencil from his hand and started coloring. The ushers' gaze behind us didn't faze me until I saw the embarrassed look on my mother's face as she dragged us back to the pew. My brother and I could only snicker in our seats as we turned around and stuck out tongues out at the ushers.

Their faces registered shock, but finally they turned away and their images disappeared from my mind's eye. I shrugged my shoulders a bit as I unconsciously readjusted my position on the sand. I could feel a smile creeping onto my face as I imagined myself sitting at the head of our dining table with a plate filled with fried chicken and supreme pizza spread before me. After what seemed like hours of picture taking, my brother presented a huge mocha chocolate cake. I grinned at the marvelous sight of it while my family hovered at all sides singing, "Happy Birthday." I closed my eyes, made a wish, and blew out all 10 candles.

Then as soon as the image came in, it faded away, only to be replaced by another. My lips curled into a deep-set frown and my head tossed from one side to another. A car. My brother. An accident. I could see the look of horror on my face as I shouted "Josh!" at the top of lungs, only to have it break once the front of the car collided with his stomach, the frontal force knocking him to ground, and one wheel rolling over his right arm as it extended lifelessly on the black, gravel pavement. I could hear screaming in the distance, a stampede of people rushing over to see the calamity, all the while running past me. I did not speak. I did not think. I only shook, wrapping my arms tightly around me as my knees gave out, unable to stop the shivering throughout my entire body. Silently, I rocked back and forth, my eyes staring in disbelief and terror at the corpse almost surrounded by complete strangers.

With a gasp, my body shot up. Taking deep breaths it first seemed like I was staring into nothing, but looking to my left and right I saw the plain fields of gold once again, and I was alone. Realizing that I had drifted off, my mind slowly went back into place. I blearily stood up, my left leg almost giving way, but I pushed all my strength to my other leg to keep myself standing. I dropped my head downward, taking a minute to collect myself as I took another deep breath in. I couldn't stand here. I couldn't stay here. I had to find a way out.

My body seemed drastically immobile, but I pushed, strived, and fought to endure the pain of this never-ending obstacle. My throat ached for some type of liquid. For an island I found it unbelievable that I couldn't see any water, but I knew that I had to go on without it. I pictured my family waiting for me at home with open arms and my friends ready to bring me into a group hug. I shook my head and lightly hit it twice as if to knock some sense into myself. From that I just knew… knew I had to live.

As soon as I thought that, I continued past the tiny speckles of gold dust, not feeling the heat of the sun anymore but the rush of determination to get off the island. It didn't matter how, just as long as I survived. Moments all too soon I saw the wave of the deep blue ocean riding up against the coast, and there among the glory of it all, stood a man three years older than me with a goofy grin on his face. "I knew I wouldn't get rid of you that easily!" he shouted across.

I stood still. Were my eyes deceiving me? Was this sight for real? Was it really him? Questions jumbled around, but I knew that I could finally get off the godforsaken island. I could only smile as I weakly walked forward to the white jet ahead. I could see him mutter something before running over to me. "You're so slow. What'd you do here?"

"Nothing really," I answered. "Just experienced that cross road between life and death you know."

"Well it's good to know that you were thinking about me." He held out a violet book, some of the cloth that originally covered its wooden frame torn away. As I fingered through it I noticed that some of the pages were wrinkled and some others completely missing. But when I got to the last page, he laughed. "Hey look! There's a picture of you and me at your 10th birthday party. Good times, good times…"

I didn't say anything; I just looked at the photo my brother and me. Then a smile of relief slowly spread across my face as he put an arm around my shoulder and led me forward. There was nothing left on the island as I watched the waves ride against the shore, but as I stepped onto the jet I heard a faint whisper from the wind, almost as if it were saying, "Live."