What do we fear most? Is it the potential terrorist attack at the place we work? Is it getting caught in gang crossfire on the way home? Or is it that murderer that just got out of prison or the mugger that has been terrorizing the neighborhood?
No, what we fear most has nothing to do with real possibilities. Reality doesn't scare us nearly as much as fantasies or the nightmares that we hold so dear. But the good news is that nightmares almost never come true. Nightmares like dreams are just unlikely possibilities that we will probably never hear from in real life…perhaps.
Michael always took this road fast. Why shouldn't he? It was long and strait, no cops and woods all around. There was no real risk. Besides he was invincible 17, nothing could hurt him.
His headlights were piercing the night sky bouncing off the thin layer of fog that covered the woods. Suddenly, a deer jumped into his lane, he swerved into the other lane to avoid hitting the animal. However, as he began to straighten, he saw a pair of headlights peeking over the hill coming toward him. There was little time to react. He swerved again this time off the road. Worse was to become still worse though, the loose dirt pulled the car straight into a tree nearly killing Michael.
* * *
Banners were everywhere; everyone he knew was there. His family, his friends, even the guy he swerved to miss was here. His welcome back party was a much larger affair than he had hoped for. All Michael wanted to do was rest. Somehow, even though he had been in a three week coma, he still felt like he needed to sleep some more, but that would have to wait.
He shook hands, gave and received hugs and was welcomed and loved by all that was there. He must have told the exact story of the accident about three hundred times. As the party was winding down, several people asked Michael to give a speech. They must have thought that he was some kind of hero, but Michael didn't. Soon though, he found himself standing on a table addressing the silent crowd.
"Well, um, I don't know exactly what to say. I'm probably the luckiest guy alive. There's no sign of permanent damage, and um, I'm still here. I just thank my lucky stars that I was able to come home and be with the people I love and who love me." The crowd gave an "aw" as Michael climbed down, some sparse applause broke out.
While the crowd was applauding Michael's bravery, his mother was noticing something wrong. In her mind, the emotional speech was said coldly. Also, every time Michael thought no one was looking, his ear-to-ear smile would become a frown. He must be tired, she thought. Soon she whisked Michael away and put him to bed, which was where he wanted to be in the first place.
The next couple of weeks passed slowly. Summer was still in and there was little for him to do. He still went for check-ups to make sure that there was no problem, but there was still no sign of brain damage. However, in his mom's view, there might as well have been. Her son was acting very strangely. His eyes that once seemed to always be lit with joy were always looking sad and droopy. He never talked any more, he rarely spoke to anyone, and usually he was the life of the party.
Michael was sitting alone in his room staring out the window from an angle. His mother came in to the room and sat gingerly down next to him, but Michael didn't even look away. "Michael, can I talk to you?"
Michael jumped as if he had never detected her presence. "Oh, what about?"
"Well, you just seem to be so sad lately. You were once just bursting with joy and life but in the weeks you have been back you've been hanging your head low and avoiding human contact. If anything you should be more alive, you are the luckiest person I know!"
"I wish I had died in the coma. I wish it had ended there," said Michael.
"You can't even remember being in the coma. You didn't know it was happening. You've got so much to live for."
Something in Michael snapped at that point, he changed his position to face his mother and further more, brought his face to within mere inches of hers. "You're right, I don't remember laying there unconscious but I do have memories from that time period."
"How can you remember anything, nothing happened?"
"I don't remember what happened but I had a dream, a nightmare, a terrible nightmare that lasted three whole weeks. Do you know what that's like? That kind of nightmare? You can't possibly imagine it."
"I can't but what do you remember?" his mother pulled back.
"I remember being beaten by several men much bigger than me. I remember having my leg broken and everyone running away from me refusing to help me. I remember so many horrible things."
"Oh, Michael, I am so sorry." She embraced her son. They stayed like that for several minutes but his mom left and Michael continued to stare out the window.
Time is relentless; it marches on, as it does in this story. Soon it was a few days before school re-opened and while all of Michael's friends were ecstatic about being Seniors next year he was still very down, he spent a lot of time staring out of that window.
"Michael, you home? I've got something for you!" shouted his mom as she came in the door.
"I think he said he was going for a walk. He should be back soon," said John, his younger brother.
His mother didn't say a word but with a nod acknowledged his location and sat down to watch TV. Hours passed. Soon, dusk settled and his mom was in a frenzy trying to think where he might be. Eventually, as night fell across the land, the two set out to drive around and look for him with John in the passenger seat.
They passed the local elementary school and on a corner of the playground, with his back up against the pole of a streetlight sat Michael, with his head in his hands. They dashed out to greet him; overjoyed that they had found him. Immediately Michael shot up into a standing position.
"Michael, what are you doing here?" asked his mom still coming closer.
As she got close enough to see his eyes she could see tears rolling down his cheeks. "It's all real mama, it's all real!" he yelled.
"What's real, what's wrong, I think it's time to go home."
"Over there," he pointed toward a corner of the building, "that where three sixth graders jumped me when I was only 8 years old. Don't you remember, they beat me so bad I had to see a doctor."
"Yes I remember that," said his mom.
"Over there," he points to an open field, "I broke my leg playing kickball and all the kids ran away from me and refused to help me. I had to wait for a teacher to find me nearly fifteen minutes later! It's all true mom, it's all true, it really happened!" he fell to the concrete crying. His mother fell silent for a few minutes.
His brother couldn't make any sense out of what Michael was saying. He just knew he should keep quiet until a more appropriate time. "I'm so sorry Michael," said his mom, but she got no response. "I think it's time to go home."
"What about the memories there, the dog that bit me daily, being shot with a bb gun for asking to shoot it once and even the time the rain overflowed the creek and washed away Tiger. I have nowhere that I am safe, nowhere!"
* * *
There under an orange streetlight in some distant place in America lays a young boy, the exact opposite of us, terrorized by the truth and his past opposed to his future. Where can a boy like this go, even his own soul shakes him to the core now. The coma didn't hurt him physically, but he did leave a lot of himself at the scene of that accident.
Remember that boy, you could be seeing life through his eyes, trapped in your own nightmare with no escape in sight. Think about it and call me when you wake up in the morning.