The burning in my arms grows stronger, bringing me back from the brink of unconsciousness – back to a painful reality. I cautiously open my eyes, expecting to see something, but there’s nothing there. Dried tears feel like glue.
Where am I? What’s happening to me?
Thoughts flash through my mind faster than I can grasp them, battering my weakened awareness. With effort, I open my eyes and feel a throbbing pain. To my despair, I can only see darkness. A pulsing in my arms grows quicker and quicker until it feels as though it’s on fire.
Someone is trying to control my body and mind. I resist, convulsing.
Stay strong, Sophie – you have to stay strong – I try to motivate myself.
Dad’s words of wisdom were the only things that kept me going – no matter how annoying they once were – thanks, Dad. An intense burning in my arm distracted me from trying to take in what was happening. I slowly turned in the direction the pain was coming from. Something was holding me down – my attempts to twist away only increased the pain. It felt as though boiling water was running through my veins and exciting from my right arm. I closed my eyes and clenched my jaw. My groans drowned out a grinding sound trying to escape from my pursed lips. For a moment, I believed the burning was subsiding. I concentrated on the pain radiating from my arm, tears collecting in the corners of my eyes.
Dammit, what the hell is going on?
Very slowly, I turned my head a little farther to the right. My eyes had gotten used to the darkness by now, but I could only see shadows. The muscles in my arm contracted in an attempt to lift it up. This only intensified the burning sensation – without success I tried pushing my arm against the bed until I realized some-thing was holding it back. In a panic I tried moving my limbs to no avail – I was paralyzed. A feeling of helplessness cocooned in endless terror.
Someone tied me to this, and something was causing a hellish burning pain in my right elbow. Why am I so helpless? So tired … where am I?
I could hear it clearly. I didn’t imagining it – someone was calling my name, again and again, louder and louder.
I have to answer. Somehow – I have to answer.
All attempts to cry out were fruitless. Fear is choking my voice; I envisioned manly hands clutching my throat. Squeezing without mercy. The harder I tried to scream, the harder it was to breathe. I heard nothing – everything was still. All I felt were tears streaming down my face.
You have to overcome your fear, Sophie. Now is the time to be strong!
How often had I heard that from Dad – how often had I thought… That’s it! Dad had taught me a little trick on how to act in dangerous situations - and so I took a deep breath, held it and started to count. He used to say it was a sign of strength. Essentially it was a silly game, designed to help me overcome my fears. Sixty-one, sixty-two. My lungs screamed, begging for air.
Don’t give up. This is just the beginning.
Ninety-three, ninety-four. My thoughts slowed, the pain subsided, and I stopped crying. My surroundings became blurry.
Keep going Sophie, I told myself, you can do it – you’ll set a new record! One hundred twenty–two, one hundred twenty–three, one hundred thirty–three, one hundred thirty–four. Against my will a reflex I could no longer control to open my lips and forced me to take a deep breath. My lungs filled with air as though it were the last breath I would ever take. I had outwitted my fear through my own will to survive. My breathing and heartbeat racing along at the same speed. The burning sensation was back, my arm, pulsing I screamed as loud as I could, giving voice to the pain gripping my body. A piercing cry filled the room, allowing some of the fear to escape with it. As the cry fell silent, I heard someone open the door and call my name out loud “Xama!”
The voice sounded familiar – there was something warm and protective about it, and it came at just the right time.
I’ve heard this voice before– hope began to return.
Vertigo overcame my senses, as though the bed was spinning – or perhaps it really was? I heard my name again, nearby right in front of me. A hand began moving next to my head removing something. I cried again, but this time they were tears of joy. A piercing, gleaming light struck my eyes, driving away the all-consuming darkness. Engulfed by a brilliant light, I was blinded once more. I couldn’t swallow, and my throat began to restrict – fear returned. When my eyes had adjusted to the light, I saw a face and heard someone call my name. I knew the face and the voice.
I tried to recall who that face belonged to – who was it?
In a flash, everything turned blurry as if someone had snapped the lens on a camera all the way till it couldn’t go any further. The voices, still calling my name, faded away and seemed to recede. I wanted to say something, but my body wasn’t responding. My eyelids became so heavy I could hardly keep them open.
Tired, I’m so tired! Everyone just go away, leave me alone. When I wake up, everything will be over.
It will all be over. Darkness spread, and I could feel the last bit of strength slowly abandoning my body. It seemed as though all my strength – everything I had left – was spilling over the bed, spreading across the room. Even my thoughts were fading, and a feeling of inner peace came over me. No more pain, nothing to hold me back from simply falling asleep and resting, forever.
Is this what it’s like to die?
But there were still people there … I could hear faint, faraway voices. They came closer, then receded again. With every breath I took – each one could be my last – the voices sounded clearer. They were speaking in unison, chanting. Three words I had never heard before… words that will forever be engraved in my mind:
“Communitati – vis – nostrum
communitati – vis – nostrum
communitati – vis – nostrum”
The voices faded into the background but left something behind – the will to live. My breathing deepened and life returned to my body. I can’t explain what happened. Next. It’s as though a life force had collected in one corner of the room, then made its way towards me until it seeped into my body shaking off the suffocating exhaustion that enveloped me like a heavy blanket.
“Xama, wake up, you can’t fall asleep!”
Someone was talking to me – I could still hear the monotone chanting in the background. The voice was clear and vibrant, and it breathed new energy into every cell of my body. I recognized the voice.
“Wake up, Xama.”
I cannot go to sleep now, do not go to sleep, Xama! My fingers clutching at the sheet, slowly balling into a fist – desperate to stay awake.
Again, I strained to pick up my arm. All of a sudden, it began to lift with ease. A warm, soothing feeling was radiating through my entire body – an unstoppable force of life. This thought kept me from being still, so I moved my left arm. Then both legs – I smiled – I was free!
The voices became clearer and more distinct. I opened my eyes to a startling scene. A group of men looking down at me, singing: »Communitati – vis – nostrum« As they sang, they moved in a circle around me. They covered part of their faces with their hand, each resting his left arm on the man standing beside him making a chain - there was some-thing else … something very odd – inexplicable. They were all pressing their right thumbs onto the forehead of the man next to them. Once again, a deep male voice interrupted my racing thoughts.
“Xama, close your eyes.”
It sounded like a command, but it felt more like a protective reflex – so as not to witness what was coming next. Memories from my childhood surfaced. Back then, when I was afraid, I used to keep my eyes closed, believing that if I couldn’t see anyone, then nobody else could see me either. Why couldn’t things be that easy now? Seconds felt like an eternity. Suddenly my arm felt as it had fallen asleep – like it didn’t belong to me anymore. Hadn’t I just moved it a couple of seconds ago clenching it into a fist?
Silence. Where have the voices gone?
Feeling both curious and anxious, I carefully opened my eyes What I saw next took me by complete surprise I was somewhere else. The bed, the chanting, and the faces had all disappeared. My arm was perfectly fine. Only my heart was racing, pulsing all the way down to my fingertips. I saw a figure in front of me ¬– one I recognized immediately. Channing Tatum, from Magic Mike, was gazing down on me, from a poster at the end of my bed. He’s sexy yet tender smile totally gorgeous and somehow protective. He wasn’t real, just a poster at the end of my bed. But that didn’t matter. Reassured me that I was back in my room, in my own bed, safe and sound. It was all just a …
Kay-Ky – Kay-Ky – Kay-Ky, what was it, anyway?