Monday, February 27, 2157
I found myself in a bed.
It has a white frame with arching head- and footboards made of metal. The sheets are clean and the mattress is comfortable.
It looks like one of those hospital beds you see in old World War II movies, but this bed looks too new to be 200-plus years old. Who knows. Next to me is a matching white night stand, tall and square, with a pitcher of water and a glass on it. Without thinking, I poured myself some water and drank it down in one gulp. Then I had some more.
I don’t know now long I’ve been in this room. The last thing I remember was pining for my books. I may have collapsed. I may be in heaven. I don’t know. I may be in the other place, but that I reject out of hand. I have been in the other place. It wasn’t like this.
I remember dreaming. The details escape me now as I collect my thoughts and myself. The one theme I remember from the dreams was the sound of ocean waves.
The ocean scared me as a kid, a fear I kept closely guarded. Whenever we took trips to the sea, I remember going close to the shore only with one of the adults in my life, never alone. It felt like a ritual I had to go through. I walked in small steps to the waters edge. My mom or dad or uncle or aunt would launch his or herself into the water with full abandon. I let the waters lick my feet while I stood motionless, eyes fixed on the enormity before me. I allowed the licking and teasing for a period of time, long enough to answer, yes, I played in the water, when ask if I had gone in. Then I would turn slowly and walk the other way. I made sure not to run. I fought hard not to display any of the fear that engulfed me. I would then spend the rest of our time at the beach making sandcastles, far away from the licking waters of the encroaching ocean. I never turned my back on it. My castles always faced inland. They lacked a proper ocean view.
Folks left me alone because they figured I just like making sandcastles. It was an effective front to mask my fear.
At night, as a kid, I dreamt of drowning. I knew how to swim. I learned in a pool. But I never applied that knowledge to the ocean or even a large lake because of the drowning nightmares I always had. They always followed the same pattern. I’m in the water, swimming, then suddenly, I was under the surface, going deeper and deeper. Strange sea creatures attended my descent. Then a panic hit me that I’m running out of air. I try to swim back to the surface, but can’t. My arms and legs no longer function. I’m stuck floating haplessly underwater until I’m able to wake myself up.
These nightmares began when I was very young, too young to have known about the changes the planet had been going through for 100 years before my birth. By the time I came around, though, at the dawn of the 22nd century, it was a done deal. So perhaps knowledge of what was came programmed in my DNA. Perhaps that’s where my fear of water came from, a fear so profound that I wouldn’t ever say or write the word, at least until quite recently.
But in this room, I can hear the waves as they crash on the craggy shoreline outside the window. Out beyond is the swollen San Francisco Bay.
My great-granddad put a lot of his faith in a barrier being built to keep the Bay from rising. It sat just beyond the Golden Gate. He told me how he would ride his bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and stare for hours as construction ships put this large dike together. He spoke of the progress mankind has made. We are ready for anything nature throws at us, he said. He said he understood the inner workings of the dike because of our Dutch heritage. We’ve fought the sea for centuries, he said.
The sea won that battle. The dike barely lasted 2 years after it was finished before it began to crumble and decay. The quakes didn’t help. Great-granddad never came to look at what happened. But he always had a vacant look in his eyes when he talked about it. In unguarded moments, I could hear him mutter, it should have worked. It should have worked.
Now the ocean fills the bay. Its force creates impressive waves. And I find their sounds soothing. The waves no longer frighten me. I no longer fear drowning in them. Again I mused that maybe I’ve died already, thus I have nothing left to fear. Except that in death, I do not think I would have hunger. And I’m starving.
Oh! Yes, I can remember one of the dreams I had. I was swimming in the ocean and I was swimming underwater. But I wasn’t drowning. Somehow, I could stay underwater for as long as I wanted without the need to surface for air. I swam among kelp beds and schools of fish. We all just hung out together. Had I evolved gills? I don’t think so. But perhaps I had evolved beyond fear.
Hunger is pushing me to go towards the door of this room and see what’s on the other side. And who. But I linger in my bed longer, sipping water, and listen to the waves.
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