The Pull (finished)

My life ended on the last day of May in 2015. It was also the day my life began. It was the day I went home and didnt look back. Not because I didn't want to, but because I couldn't. Before I get ahead of myself, let me go back to where it all began. It was a warm autumn day in 2005. A lazy breeze was kicking up the red coloured dust on my quiet-ish street in the small outback town where I lived. It was a lazy, quiet afternoon and there was little going on apart from a few local kids disinterestedly kicking a faded red footy around and trying to decide how next to cause trouble. Too quiet, perhaps, because no one seemed to notice a pretty four year old girl with reddish blonde hair appearing as if out of thin air. It wasnt until the bunch of kids playing at the other end of the street - Jimmy, Jake, Alice, and Josh - got bored that they noticed her. When they got to her they found her slumped on the kerb, blubbering away and calling for her mommy, tears flowing down her rosy little cheeks.

I don’t remember any of it. All I know about that is what mom and dad have told me. But they still cant explain how I got to be there in the first place. They ventured a guess that some young couple deserted me as they were taking a trip through our small back country town. Maybe they were having problems. Maybe they were unstable. Or maybe they were just selfish people who no longer wanted the responisbility of being parents. Either way, mom and dad just couldn't figure out why someone would want to give up such a beautiful, sweet, good-natured girl. When they found me sitting there all alone it broke their hearts.

Naturally they took me under their wing. Their youngest daughter had just turned 21 and gone off to Melbourne to study for some kind of art degree. They were too old to have more kids but, seeing me as a blessing, they welcomed me into their hearts and nurtured me with every bit of love and admiration they had to give. As soon as I was old enough, they sat me down for the talk. I guess I should have been pretty hurt to find out I was adopted. But Mom and dad were the best parents I could ever ask for, and as such it didn't really pain me to know that I wasnt their flesh and blood. But as time went on, part of me began to wonder about the truth, and I knew that I couldn't run from it forever. I knew that one day I would have to begin searching to found out why I was left on the side of the road. To know who didn't want me, and why. Mom and dad searched for years to find out anything they could, but could never uncover anything about me. There was no missing persons reports, birth certificates, hospital records, or records of any kind.

But one day, the answers came. I think in a way deep down I had known all along that I didn’t belong in this world. I was smarter than everyone else in town, including the adults. I liked to dress up and look pretty but I got bored when my friends starting talking about makeup and boys. Even though Australia was beautiful to me, I found the landscape slightly dull, like I was used to surroundings with more life. When I was sitting alone I sometimes felt like I was being called back somewhere, like a voice that I could almost hear with my own ears. And as a kid I frequently dreamt of being in another world not too much unlike the one I was growing up in.

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It all started with another dream. I was stepping onto a plane. Not like the ones you fly on when you go on holiday, but rather a bare cargo plane with a row of seats running along each side of the fuselage. It was full of people as confused and bewildered as I was. There was one empty seat and I sat down in it, strapping myself in wihout a thought. Not a single one of us knew what we were doing there or where we were going. Before I knew it we were soaring up through clouds and into clean, radiant light. And when the clouds disappeared, we were flying through a bright corridor of light. I wondered why I could see all this when I was sitting inside a plane, until I realised that the plane had disappeared, and it was just me, flying alone through this corridor surrounded by white light. I reached out and touched the wall, and it rippled like a rushing river of water.  And I went on like this for some time, mesmerised, until suddenly I was falling back through the clouds, back towards earth. And as it came closer I could see I was above the countryside surrounding home. I fell for such a long time, all the while getting closer to the ground, and after a while I realized that it was different somehow. Everything was brighter, greener, more alive. I emptied my lungs and took a deep breath, feeling like I was drinking the air. And before long I was swooshing across the land. It was so beautiful. It felt like when I walked into the library after it got renovated a few years back. It was totally different. But little things told me it was still the same old library.

Tips of grass began to brush across my face and the dream started to fade away. As it did I noticed three words being spoken softly in my ear, over and over. “Come home, Lillien.” Even as I opened my eyes, I could still hear the words bouncing softly around, and without thinking about it my eyes searched the room. I gave a tiny shudder, saying the name Lillien, wondering where it came from. I realized that my skin was tingling and I pulled my covers up a little closer, trying to stay warm.

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When I got up that morning that I felt like things were different. And even though it was only a dream, I realised that things had been feeling different for a long time, it was just that I hadn't noticed. I realised that the grass didn't look as green and my hair didn't shine like gold in the sun anymore. I noticed how the flowers in the garden lacked colour, and when I stopped to smell them I thought they should have smelt alot nicer. Dogs didn’t seem as cute and cuddly anymore and cats didn’t feel as fluffy. Sunshine didn't seem as bright and when I closed my eyes and pointed my face towards the sun I didn't feel the chill disappear like it used to. The wind felt a bit more stale, the water running through the stream in the back paddock became tasteless and less refreshing. Even chocolate started losing it's flavour. I started losing touch with my friends too, and when I was with them I drifted off into another land, dreaming about flying through the green wonderland from my dream.

It was a week after the dream that I had it again. I was flying across the land again, but this time it was the land I was used to, burnt and grey from all the bushfires, lifeless and dying of thirst, starved, with few animals roaming it. And in this dream, I was soaring towards my house. As it came over the horizon, I could make out the shape of mom and dad in the front yard, waving at me. And out of the corner of my eye I saw a tear fall to the wind, because I hadn’t seen dad since the heart attack took him three years ago. But as I was flying along, it seemed like they were getting further away, almost like I was being pulled in the opposite direction. And everything was getting darker, so slowly that I didn't notice it at first, like when mom used to turn the lights down slowly so I didn't get scared of the man in the closet. I was starting to panic, calling for mom and dad, trying to claw my way towards them, willing myself to fly faster, and getting scared because I couldn’t reach them. I started yelling for them, and all the while they were becoming stick figures on a landscape of grey nothingness.

As everything faded out to black, I opened my eyes. I could feel a line on my cheek where a single tear had rolled down onto my pillow. It was still dark, and I lay there, motionless. Seeing dad had got me thinking about how much I missed him. Every time I had thought about him in the last three years my heart had ached and my stomach had hurt, and the dream had sparked my sadness again. I turned over and looked at my alarm clock. I figured there must have been a power cut in the night. Because it read 7:14 and it seemed a little dark for that time of the morning. I sat up, rubbing my eyes. I went to the window and opened the curtains and noticed that Jim, our next door neightbour, had already left for work. But that would have meant it was after 6:30.

Later that day mom took me into the next town to see the eye specialist, who told us that there was nothing wrong with my eyes. But he gave us the name of a specialist in Perth, six hours away. Mom said that if it hadn’t gotten better in two weeks she would take me down there and we could stay the night. I was looking forward to it, even though it came with more painful memories. Our last visit had been three years ago, to see the lawyers about dad's will.

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The last dream happened on the night of May 30th. I was walking down a tunnel made of glass walls that were shimmering as though they were the surface of an ocean. I expected the tunnel to end in light, like in the movies and books, but instead it was completely dark. Even though I was scared I kept walking towards it because I had nowhere else to go. And then I realized that I’d seen these walls before. They were the walls from my first dream. Even though they were translucent, I couldn’t see anything through them except vague shapes surrounded by more darkness. I felt pulled, like the corridor was an escalator moving me in one direction. I walked for such a long time and the whole time it seemed like the door at the end never got any closer.

I blinked and looked around. I wasn’t in a corridor anymore. I was standing in the middle of a street in the pitch black of night. I was near a dim streetlight that only shone brightly enough to reveal the pointed line of a white picket fence and the edge of a large leaf-covered tree. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I wondered why it all looked somewhat familiar, until I realized this was my street. Except I didn’t recognize it at first because the trees were all full of leaves, the grass was growing, most of the houses were double storey, and I couldn’t hear the wail of police sirens or the loud burr of dirt bikes being ridden around by the town's resident bogans.

“Lillien?” It was spoken softly, but it broke the silence like a whip, and I spun around. I couldn't see anything at first, because my eyes were still adjusting. But after a moment I saw a man walking towards me. And though I didn't know his face, he felt familiar, like an old friend. “Hello?” “Hey, darling.” came the reply. I stared straight ahead, saying nothing. "Lillien, it's Dad." "Sorry?" The man looked back at me, lovingly, like he had known me my whole life, and as he did I suddenly remembered waking up on the kerb all those years ago, lost, confused, and wondering where the heck mom and dad had gone. “Why are you calling me Lillien?” “Lillien is your name.” “No it's not, it's Janine.” “It's a lovely name. But in the world you came from, it's Lillien. It's what we named you.” “I don’t understand.” I said. He went on. “Lillien, have you ever felt like you don’t fit in?” “Yeah, so.. lots of people don’t fit in.” “Your not part of that world, Lillien. How have you been feeling lately?” “Different, actually.” I said. “Like, a lot. Every day the world around me feels less like a magazine and more like a newspaper.” “Well that’s the pull, hunny.” “Wha – whats the pull?” I didn’t like the sound of it. “Baby, the pull is what brings you back.”

He sighed, and took a deep breath. “About ten years ago someone discovered how to open doors. Doors to worlds that began like ours, but took a different path, and are now very, very different.Around that time a local scientist was experimenting with the technology, but it was highly experimental and was extremely hard to control where the door opened, and for how long. Anyways, when you were three years old, you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you walked through a door that had been opened by accident. "I'm confused." I said. “So your telling me, Im a time traveler?” “No hun, not time. Your living in the right time and place, but in the wrong dimension It's like your standing in the next room but the door is locked and there's no key.” He stood and looked at me for a while, waiting for it to sink in.

"What’s the.. pull?” I said. He stood and thought for a moment. "We are meant to stay in the world we were born in. That's just the nature of things. When we walk into another world, it's like bunjee jumping. As far as we go from our own world, it is always going to snap us back home, whether we like it or not." “But I don’t want to go home. I have a home.” I cried. He put an arm around my shoulders as I sobbed.. “Please don't cry. It cant be stopped Lillien. Eventually, the pull will reach out across the void, and grab you and drag you back. Its just it's way of bringing you home. But we have a home for you here, and we've been waiting for you for a very long time.” I kept crying. I was thinking about all my friends, and mom, even dad.

I turned away. Even though it was a dream, I didn’t really want this stranger to see me crying. Snapshots from all the happy moments in my life were playing in my mind, and I was thinking how it was all fake, because I never belonged there in the first place. “Wait!” I said. I turned around. Dad was standing there patiently, looking kindly at me. “How long have I got?” “I dont know. But it's not long baby. It’s actually a miracle that the pull has allowed you to stay so long. Most people can only stay for days. Sometimes even just a few hours. But we’ve been searching for you your whole life. We love you very much Lillien, and we can't wait for you to come home.” I started remembering all the dreams I used to have. Sometimes, in those dreams, there would be two older people. I didn't know their faces, but they always seemed familiar.

His voice was getting softer, and I could see all the houses and the trees slowly fading into the darkness. “Wait!” I said. “Ive got so many questions!” “I know baby, but the answers will come.” came the soft reply. "I love you." And then his face faded away altogether. I was staring at the dulled morning light, which I had gotten used to lately, filtering through my royal blue curtains. The dream was still fresh in my mind. I wanted to pretend that it was just a dream, but deep down I felt I couldnt. I felt like my heart was tearing in two, just thinking about leaving everything behind. I felt weak and old, like I didn’t have the strength to get up. I was having trouble focusing on my room, and I felt like it was spinning slowly, like I had vertigo.

The week after that was a strange one. When people were talking to me, it sounded as though they were talking from the other end of an empty room. I felt out of touch with everything, as if the world was only half real, and I was only half real within it. Sometimes I sat their for hours, not thinking, just feeling lost and confused. And several times that week, I would walk around a corner to see a man or a woman staring at me, and I would blink and they would be gone. When I walked out of the library on thursday I could have sworn that I was walking out into a completely different town for just a moment. Then I looked left towards the bakery, and it was back to normal. And all week I had this longing that I couldn't fulfill. I felt agitated, erratic. I couldn't stay still and when I sat down it was like my mind was telling me that I had somehwere else to be. By the end of the week, I was thinking alot about the last dream, and starting to take it seriously.

Then came the 31st of May. I blinked my eyes open. I could hear mom in the kitchen, making scrambled eggs on toast. The smell was drifting up the stairs and I wondered what it would be like to never smell mom’s cooking again. I realized that there were a million things that I took for granted, and I pondered never getting to see, or smell, or touch any of them again. I got up and walked downstairs and gave mom a big hug and said “I love you mom. So much.” She held me at arms length and looked at me for a moment, checking to see if everything was alright. Then she said “Well, I love you too Janine.” She paused for a moment, searching deep into my eyes. “You okay bubba?” I knew mom had seen the changes in me lately. I knew that I wasn’t just feeling distant, that I had been acting it too. Once everything began to lose its colour, and with the changes of the last week, I became detached, and I had been acting depressed and flat. I wore the best smile I could manage. “Yeah, I’m okay mom.” I looked at her. She had a beautiful face. I mean, she was sixty five years old, she wasn’t a supermodel. But she had the kind of face that was always smiling, even when times were hardest, and always loving you no matter what you did or said. I took a deep breath. “Mom.. I need to tell you something.” Mom put her arm around my shoulder. “C'mon hun, lets go sit down.” She led me over to the heavy jarrah dining table and pulled me out a chair. I think she had known for a while that this talk was coming.

“Mom..” I struggled with the words. They were stuck in my throat, and I was fighting a well of emotion. Mom sat there patiently, looking kindly at me. “Mom, I...” I drifted off. I couldn't finish. I was looking at the floor, scared to look into her eyes. But then I did anyway, because I knew I would only find understanding there. Understanding, and love. “Mom. Im so sorr-“ “Hey, shh.” mom said calmly. She paused for a moment, finding the right words, before taking a deep breath, and I knew straight away that she had seen this talk coming. "From the moment me and your father found you crying on that kerb, we knew that there would come a day when we would have to let you go. We always knew that we had you for rent, Janine. You have been the greatest gift that God could ever give, and I'm just thankful that your father had you by his side when it was his time.” Something inside of me broke and the tears started to flow. The dream flashed into my mind for a moment and suddenly I knew that everything dad, my real dad, said in that dream was the truth. That I would have to turn my back on mom and walk away from her, never to see her again. “Oh baby, please don’t cry.” Mom said. “I love you so much, and your father did too. He was so proud of you Janine. Of the woman you became, and the kind of person that you were and still are today. I know Janine, that however hard it will be to let you go, that it will be to a better place than this one. I know, because I don’t believe that God would take you from us unless it was to something better. This is a painful world to live in Janine, and sometimes me and your father looked at you playing and laughing, and we knew you didn't belong here. We knew that you weren’t meant for this world, that you came from a better place.”

Mom let me stay home from school that day. I could have gone, to say googdbye to my friends. It might have been the last time I would ever see them. I could have gone to give ruff the little jack Russell next door one last pat and cuddle. I could have done a lot of things. But all I wanted to do was just hold on to mom and never let her go. We sat on the back porch in the big swinging chair, sipping tea, talking for hours. We talked about growing up and about boys. We talked about the girls at school, who was popular and who wasn’t, who would look the best at the school ball. We talked about flowers, and birds, about the drought, all the grass in the fields dying, all the rivers that had run dry, all our friends who had gone out of business because they couldn’t grow crops any more, all the people we knew who had to move to Perth and get city jobs because the bushfires took their home and everything they had. But most of all, we talked about dad. We laughed about how he used to come home and throw me up in the air and tickle me till I cried. We laughed about how he used to swear when he was trying to fix something in the back yard, and how me and mom would stand at the back door and giggle because we were watching his plumber's getting bigger and bigger. We talked about how good he was at reading stories and how I couldn’t stay awake through a single chapter when he was beside me with a book. We talked about how he couldn’t cook for jack but made up for it by keeping us warm through winter with lots of wood and by keeping the fireplace going. And then we talked about how much we missed him. We cried a little, hugged some more, and then made ourselves feel better with more tea and biscuits.

I was staring at the ground in silence, a million things running through my mind. I was trying to remember every detail of dad’s face, count how many friends I had, the boys I would have liked to have kissed, and how many kids I wanted to have when I grew up. When I looked up, mom was staring at me with a smile that said silently “I love you.” I smiled back at her, and in that moment I knew that she had been ready to let me go for longer than I could have imagined. At that moment we heard a big sucking whoosh like a gigantic vacuum being turned on. A big gust of wind blew past us, and the tea cups hit the porch. Ruff began barking like crazy next door. We instantly looked at each other, and we both knew this was more than just a gust of wind. We got up and hurried around to the front of the house. I didn’t see it at first, because I was looking at the leaves that were blowing around and all the dust that had been kicked up out of the gutters and the kerbs, and the tree by our front gate that was swaying from the massive rush of wind moments before. And I noticed something wasn’t quite right, because it wasn’t just the leaves that were swaying, it was the tree trunk as well, like some big galoof giant had come along and kicked it in anger. In fact, the whole area around the tree was swaying, and I knew that wasn’t right. Because big thick tree trunks don’t sway, and neither do solid lamp posts, or parked cars, or the double storey houses in the background. Wait. Double storey houses? We didn't have any double storey houses on our street, let alone on the whole block. The rich area of our town was on the opposite side. "Just what the hell is going on here?” I said to myself, and then I saw it.

I realized suddenly what I was looking at. Nothing was actually swaying, but there was a big circle of something in the way that was making everything look distorted. Like there was a big glass ball that someone had rolled down the street and left sitting there. But you couldn’t see it at first because it wasn’t something, it was more like nothing. “Janine.. what is it?” I heard from beside me. “I don’t know, mom.” But even though I had no clue what I was looking at, a small part of me knew what it meant, a part of me that I pushed down, not wanting to acknowledge. I was drawn to this thing, like I was slowly being pulled into it. “C'mon mom.” I said, not entirely convinced by my own words, even as I started to walk closer, step by step, not wanting to leave mom’s side. Part of me felt like it was me walking towards this thing, and part of me felt like it was the thing coming towards me, like we were meant to meet and I couldn't have run from it, even if I had tried to. Without thinking, the words "the void" slipped from my mouth.

As I inched closer to the bubble, I felt more and more drawn into it. I looked down and I saw that all my arm hairs were standing on end, pulled in the direction of the bubble. A dull sensation was running through my entire body like a charge of electricity. I felt like gravity was pulling me towards the centre of this thing, like I was trying to walk but not run down a really steep hill. I think, in the back of my mind, I had known as soon as I rounded the corner of the house, but I wanted to believe it was something else, like the aftermath of a bolt of lightning. Or maybe I was still asleep and hadn’t woken up yet, and the whole day had just been one really nice, really long dream. But deep down I knew right from the start. And finally my mind got to that point where it couldn’t explain this thing off with excuses anymore, and had to accept the truth of what it was, no matter how outrageous it might sound.

The truth hit me like a stinging slap to the face. My jaw dropped in horror. I felt like I had been punched in the gut and I doubled over. “No!” I screamed. It couldn’t be. It was too soon. I hadn’t been given enough time. I looked straight into the blurry, swarming hole and yelled "Go away! Its not time, I'm not ready yet!” And it looked back at me with its swirly mess and without words, it said to me "You don’t have to be." With my jaw still open I turned around and looked at mom, standing just behind me, a look of utter fear and dread on my face. Mom was captivated, staring, slightly bewildered with a small amount of fear. She turned her head and look back at me, into my eyes. The hurt and the longing which had already begun on her face was mixed with all the love and endearment she had ever known for me. I knew this was it. I knew this was my time. I felt myself being pulled away from her, and I willed myself to stay where I was. But it was no good, it was like falling and trying to fight gravity. I tried to move in her direction, but the harder I tried, the more I slipped away. “Oh, Janine.” she said, and I knew that I could say goodbye now, or never. “Mom..”  I cried. “Mom.. I don’t want to go.” I knew it was useless but I was beyond reason, filled with panic, just wanting to hold her forever and never let go. “Its your time to go Janine.” She paused for a moment, building up the words. “Janine?” “Yes, mom?” I choked out, barely audible. “Janine, no matter what, you’ll always be right here in my heart. Don’t ever forget that little cupcake.” “Im sorry, mom. Im so sorry.” “Don’t be Janine, theres isn’t a single thing for you to be sorry about.”

As I was staring at mom, and as I was reaching for her, she started to waver a bit and I knew I was entering the void. And as mom started getting harder to see I realized that it wasn’t because the door was closing, it was because my eyes were full of tears. And as she faded away I heard her words drift across the void. “I love you Janine. I’ll never stop loving you. We both wont.” I sunk to my knees as rivers of tears started to run down my cheeks, and I cried and cried. I called out, in a whisper, because it was all I could manage, “Thank you, mom. For everything.” And faintly, just as the void closed, carried on the breath of a wind like an angel’s whisper, came the softest reply. “No, thank you Janine. You were worth every single minute.” She shimmered and then disappeared like a mirage, along with everything around her, and then everything straightened up so it was normal again, and she was gone. I collapsed as the last of my strength and will fell away and began to cry uncontrollably.

The end




e p i l o g u e

They found me 2 hours later, curled up on the side of the road, sobbing like a baby. I didn’t know where or who I was. I had entered this world the same way I had left it – lost, alone, distraught, crying like a baby. They, my parents I mean, had known I was coming, because of the pull. Every year they had posted artist’s impressions of me at the age I would be around town. Not that they needed to, it was a small town and everyone on my block knew each other. They all knew that if a girl that nobody knew showed up alone, the pull had brought Lillien back to Dave and Linda Waters. Not too long after I had appeared out of the void on to an otherwise empty street, a few kids had seen me from far off and checked to see if I was okay. Their names were James, Jacob, Aileen, and Joshua. After trying unsuccessfully to get answers out of the sobbing wreck that I was they had realized that I was the long lost Lillien. They had gone tearing off to the Waters' place, three streets away, hollering like it was the end of the world. The Waters weren’t there, but the Samsons next door told the kids that they had recieved a call from the local scientist about a void opening and on a stroke of hope had gone searching. In the opposite direction.

Eventually the Waters were found and brought to where I was laying on the sidewalk in the foetal position. They walked slowly up to me, crouched down, put their arms around me, and said “Hey baby, we’re here now.” I was so distraught that I didn’t even notice at first, but after a while I felt their warmth against me and reached out and fell into their arms. And then they started crying too. Crying tears of joy.

I still think about mom every day. And dad, too. Gosh I miss them. Everything’s different here. Everything’s greener, brighter, more colourful. Everything smells better, tastes better, feels better. Here people are good to each other. They don’t shoot and stab each other in the street for their shoes or the change in their pocket. Here people understand each other. They help each other. Here people are beautiful, inside as well as out. There are still bad people in this world, but in my little corner of it, its a place I wake up every day and smile. I think Im going to like it here.

The End

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