I Am

He climbed into the car where the smell of leather and plastic filled his nose. Settling in, he responded to the driver’s quiet greeting, fastened his seatbelt, and they were off.

After a few minutes scrolling through his phone notifications, he sighed and looked out the small window into the rain. Clouds were dark, but barely discernible through the thick downpour. Water streamed across his window in viscous, shimmering worms. As lightning gnarled through the sky and thunder grumbled, he thought about the headline that had disturbed him earlier in the day. It soon threatened to depress him and he tossed the thought aside.

Something tossed it right back at him. First he flinched, as though he’d been hit with a pebble, then he blinked and shook his head.

“I’m fine, thanks,” he said in response to his driver’s concern. A bit far from fine, he looked back out into the rain. A figure sat next to him, drenched and shivering. Startled, he closed his eyes, cleared his throat, and tried hard to think of something other than that headline.

Tap, tap on his right shoulder. He felt a little water seeping into his shirt. Looking outside again, there she was, soaking wet and crying, sitting as though in the car with him and mouthing the word please. Her eyes were fixed on his with such intensity that he couldn’t help blinking rapidly. Please. She reached through the door and touched his right hand. He tried to move away but she gripped it firmly, pulling his hand into her lap.

A feeling completely foreign to him crept up from his hand to his head. It was cold and alone. It felt like hatred and neglect. He tried again to escape but this time she had both his hand and his arm. He yanked and twisted his body, but she, with amazing strength, pulled him into the space where she was sitting just outside the moving car.

He braced himself, certain that he was about to hit the road at skin-ripping speed. But he didn’t fall. He was sitting on nothing, but he was inside something. His thoughts and feelings, confused and panicked, bled away as other thoughts filled the vacancies. He forgot about where he was going, why, even who he was. In his place, the girl was coming alive, flexing his limbs and thinking his mind.

A club. A coffee shop. School. Home. Empty. Shouting. Panic. Alone – so much alone. So much fear. This mind was a dark place which should have been full of light. It was concrete where there should have been flowers, trash where there should be clean running water.

Time – his time and hers – paused. For an entire day, he sat in that place just outside the car, in the rain, becoming her. He calmed her when she cried. He held her when she hurt. They were two souls taking up the same space.

Please.

The space began to grow wider and taller. Eventually, it felt safe and warm – he learned how to make the sun come out. He learned how to grow flowers and make coffee. He learned how to breathe fresh wind and how to make shining rain in a garden. He made sunsets and campfires and loads of wonderful food. He constructed greenhouses and towers and cliffs above the ocean. Best of all, he gathered souls together there, inside his world.

There was one moment early in his development that unnerved him. It was when she asked,

“Are you Death?”

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