Breath is Spirit. The act of breathing is living. (Author unknown)
At first nothing happened. The smoke clouded his eyes. He saw his room through sheer black veils. Black and white veils: he could see Amy, too. She hadn’t even realized what was happening. Tom felt the smoke move through his hair, brushing over his skin. The hair on his arms stood on end. He was in death’s embrace. Mr. B fell over as the tendril that was sucking his life released from around his body. He gasped for breath.
Tom started to say another one of his literary prayers when vertigo came over him. It was like the other night. He tried to breathe but there wasn’t anything there. It didn’t hurt. If anything, it felt like he was breathing backwards, that his life was leaving his body. He had nothing to hold on to, to fight against. This was quicksand, or the gentle irresistible clutch of freezing to death.
He tried to say something about walking in shadow of death and having no fear, but he had no breath, and he couldn’t remember the words. His dizziness played Boggle with them in his head. His ears were ringing.
In his semi-conscious daze, he saw the apparition of Amy flying like a rocket toward him, closer, closer, CLOSER–
Cold air forced itself into his nose, mouth, and the very pores of his skin. He breathed Amy into his body. Tom dreamed and was awake at the same time.
“You’re an idiot, you know that?” he heard her say.
He coughed. He felt like his was two persons at the same time. The white, pure cold seeped into every layer of his body. His chest convulsed. Amy helped it with a snap of his belly muscles that felt like a heimlich maneuver, and kept going. Blood rushed to his eyes. In front of his face, he saw black venom pushing out of his body. His ears popped. They bled. Piercing sound, like slow nails, pushed into his eardrums.
Amy trembled with fear. Something wrong was about to happen. Tom didn’t understand. He couldn’t help what happened next. He gasped for real, good air, and felt himself breathe part of Amy’s life into his body. He heard her groan. Spiritually speaking, it felt like she lost twenty pounds.
The good air brought Tom back to his senses, though he could still feel Amy moving inside him. The piercing sound was Mr. B, belting out the sweetest version of “Amazing Grace” he’d ever heard. The cloud’s texture broke into jagged bits with the sound. That was why it hurt so much when it came out of Tom’s ears. A tentacle of smoke tried to reach for him, but it cowered like a someone who’s afraid to touch a candle flame.
“Oh God,” Amy said. She slumped, listless. “I can’t move.”
The cloud moved on him again. Tom couldn’t think of more words. He screwed his eyes shut and held his breath, but he felt it sneaking in around the squints. It felt like black, bleeding ants were crawling inside his body. The one phrase that jumped into his head was the one from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, about how children need to teach adults to see things clearly. He didn’t understand why.
Amy cringed from the ants. She moved like a tired swimmer, trying to willing her arms and legs to move. The ants crawled on her body first. He felt them moving inside his own lungs, too. He remembered Cinderella being eaten like a cake. She was going to be devoured and he would be eaten from the inside out. If only he could breathe for her, too–
He thought it, and that quickly, he did it. It happened the way things do in dreams. “No,” she said weakly. “I won’t…” Tom breathed himself into her. Amy twisted her head, no, no, no… Tom had been a lifeguard in his teenage years, and had brought two people back to life using mouth to mouth resuscitation. Firmly, he breathed himself into her again. Breathe, he thought. Come on. I can’t do it without you.
His life took hold inside her and her need to live took over. Amy breathed in. Tom saw sparkles in front of his eyes. She breathed again, harder. He was fading fast. Tom held her hand again. It felt like they were back on the window ledge, only they were both holding each other up.
The creature had nothing to feed on. Amy grew stronger. The ants shriveled up and died against the cold of her body. Tom wanted to tell her to stop, but she couldn’t stop drawing him in. Tom’s eyes bugged open. He gasped for breath. In his dream, he slapped her. They taught you to do that in lifeguard school; a panicking swimmer can drown both of you.
Amy shook her head. That was the answer. She wasn’t breathing him in — she was breathing IT in.
Tom’s cheeks hollowed and his eyes rolled back. Like water spilling down a drain, the creature seeped into every bit of his body. Mr. B kept whistling. The creature seemed too weak to fight. Mr. B had said Tom was the bridge, and “bridge” was right. His ears, his eyes, his mouth, everything was a miniature aqueduct. He wanted to throw up at the sensation. In another dream layer, he heard it screaming. The black passed into the cold and vanished.
After what felt like a 60-second inhalation, Tom let his breath out. Amy left his body. He slumped to the floor. “It’s over,” Tom said, and Mr. B did too. He kissed his policeman’s Bible and said something in Gaelic for his mother. Aloud, to Amy, he asked, “Isn’t it?”
Gentle, soft, cold arms wrapped around him. Yes. We did it! He would have hugged her if he could, but his head was clearing, and the image of her was already starting to fade from his conscious mind. Soon she’d be gone. What if this was like that movie with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore and he never saw her again?
“Shit. No. This isn’t fair.” He had a flash of inspiration. “Wally, knock me out.”
Mr. B looked at him like he’d just spoken Sanskrit. “What?”
“You’re a cop. Make it quick. I can only talk to her in dreams.”
Wally shrugged. “Ah hell…kids these days…”
Tom felt a short, sudden grab to his neck, then everything went black. It wasn’t comfortable, and there was going to be a bruise.
* * *
In his dream, Amy was still holding him in her arms, and laughing. “That’s the most fucked up idea of romance I’ve ever heard.”
“There’s no way I was going to let you fade away without saying goodbye.” He kissed her. Her lips were soft and cool. She smiled and kissed him back, and pulled him tightly to her. The moment lasted a while. That was the good thing about dreams.
“I have to go,” she said. She rested her forehead against his.
“Yeah, I know. Just my luck.”
“Your luck?” Amy tapped on his chest like she wanted to hit him, but in a loving way. “For about five seconds, while I was inside you, it felt like I was alive again.” She interlaced her fingers, good and tight, around his. “We were closer together than… God, I don’t have the words.” She sighed. Now it’s back to… well…” She shrugged. “Heaven’s got to be better than Limbo.”
Tom caressed her face. What was the point of saving the girl if she had to go away anyway? Amy took his fingers, kissed them, then really kissed him, one last time. She hugged him tight, and whispered in his ear, “Thank you. See you in your dreams, Tommy.”
“How can you see into my eyes like open doors?
Leading you down into my core where I’ve become so numb?
Without a soul, my spirit’s sleeping somewhere cold,
until you find it there and lead it back home.”
“Bring Me to Life,” Evanescence
* * *
“Dream Girl” is the first story that I’ve been proud to say that I wrote in a very, very long time. I have to give special thanks to BeKindRewrite for Inspiration Monday, Amy Lee and Evanescence for the song “Bring Me to Life,” which inspired this story, and the Free Library of Philadelphia, for a stack of books on ghosts and things that go bump in the night. For sure there’ll be a rewrite to polish it up, but for now… this just feels really good.
“Emerging Ghost” by Jezebel at deviantART