Marble or granite. Maybe concrete. I’m lying on something very hard and very flat. Perfectly smooth, like slate. It seems that it should be cold, but I am not cold. In fact, despite the weight of my body pressing my shoulder blades and my hips and my heels into this apparent bedrock beneath me, I’m quite comfortable. I feel enveloped, secured. Stationary.


This place is absent of light or scent. Perhaps I am dead. Lying on the slab in the morgue, covered with a white linen sheet, zipped tightly into a black plastic bag. But I’m too warm for that. And there is pain, only slight, yet pain nonetheless, in my shoulders, my hips, my heels. There is fear, anxiety. This place should not have either of those. For, if I’m dead, I have nothing, anymore, to fear. No earthly worry should burden me here. But, I am worried. So, dead I must not be.


I test my limbs to see if they will move. Perhaps a change in position will ease the pressure of the granite. In spreading my arms and bending my knees, I find my movement limited by some invisible cocoon. As though wrapped in swaddling clothes, I cannot reach out.


As the realization that I’m truly, claustrophobically bound sets in, I find myself cataloguing my senses.   I can feel, but only constriction. I can smell, but only a sterile coldness. I can taste, but only my own familiar palate. I can’t see, or if I can, all I see is empty blackness reaching to infinity, devoid of light.


But I can hear. As surely as the earth turns, I can hear a spinning, a whirring. The instrument of cacophony is approaching, the volume and intensity of the song increasing exponentially with each beat of my heart. It must be a truck or a train or an airliner headed straight for me. I’m Pearl White and I’m strapped to the tracks with a locomotive bearing down on me. I’m Huck Finn in a rowboat on the mighty Mississippi with a steam ship’s bow looming over me. I’m Dorothy in the path of the tornado and there is no escape.


Panic hits my belly and like fire, energy spreads from my gut to my chest to my arms and I burst free from my encasement, flip over and attempt to rise. As the sound grows ever louder, ever more frightening, ever closer, I can feel myself on my knees. Instead of being clasped in prayer, my hands are planted on my hips and I’m breathing heavily, like a football player between downs. I test my sight again, snapping open my eyes, and see the monster that has interrupted my sleep.


“Eet’s okay ma’am. Eet’s okay,” he says in heavily accented English. And he continues on his way. Slowly, realization comes to me. I’m not dead. I’m not Pearl White or Huck Finn or Dorothy and her tiny dog. I’m in a sleeping bag, on the floor of Logan International Airport on Christmas Eve and my encounter was not with anything magical, only with the guy on the little Zamboni clearing the concrete floors by the escalator. What a relief. What a letdown.

Robin Behl, La Cuentista

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