What Lies Beneath

By Shannon O’Neill (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

The pool of sticky blood in her bed was the end of Myra’s stable mind. She breathed deeply and tried to think of list of other possibilities for the blood but the truth was painfully obvious.

Her baby was dead.

Screaming incoherently, she threw back the covers to examine her mess. Blind with self hatred, Myra stumbled to the bathroom.  She grabbed her husband’s prescribed back pain medicine and poured a handful of pills into her shaking hand.  She attempted to swallow the lethal dose of medicine but could not due to her racking sobs. As she began to compose herself, she remembered where her husband kept his gun for emergencies. Turning towards the door, she realized that it was not her bathroom door. Instead there was a huge, oak door blocking her path.  Myra was momentarily stunned by its beauty but quickly regained focus by shaking her head. She cursed herself for imagining things and threw open the door. Rather than walking back into her bedroom, Myra was standing in the middle of a small clearing, surrounded by magnificently tall oak trees.  Vividly colored leaves danced with the soft breeze as they floated to the ground around her. There was an explosion of questions in Myra’s mind, but no one was around.

‘Hello?’ she called into the woods.

There was no answer. There was not even a small stir in the bushes or any bird chirps. Myra recovered from her initial shock and began to explore. She followed a dirt path that led to a cluster of small cabins. Eager to find someone to answer her questions, she walked up to the closest cabin and knocked on the door. No one came to the door. She waited for a few moments and then tentatively pushed the door open. Her eyes made a sweeping inspection of the room and she was surprised that she recognized it. Rather than seeing the home of a stranger, she was looking at her mother’s dining room. The table was set with Thanksgiving dinner and her family had their heads bowed in thanks. She saw herself as a five-year-old, making a face to her brother from across the table. Her grandfather finished giving thanks and everyone furiously attacked the meal before them.

Myra watched the scene with wide eyes, unable to comprehend what was happening. The whole room radiated with festive joy and realization hit her like a jarring blow. This was one of her earliest and fondest memories with her family. Before she could enjoy watching more of the dinner, the room faded to black. Myra stood in the middle of the room, confounded. Now what? She exited the cabin and decided to continue down the trail. Another cabin was only a few yards diagonal from the one she just left.

As Myra approached the cabin, she noticed it was different from the first. Instead of being a simple log cabin, it was more modern. There was a satellite dish on the roof and a porch light. Unfazed, Myra roughly opened the door, eager for more memories. She walked into a hospital room. There were two figures laying in the bed, one pale and thin holding a young woman. This was the day her father lost his battle with lung cancer. Myra had blocked out this memory for a reason and turned to leave the cabin. But the door only led to a deserted nurse’s station, not her escape from the memory. Reluctantly, Myra turned back to her dying father. Her dad was rambling to her younger self even though he was visibly struggling for air. Myra watched as her father closed his eyes and pushed the younger Myra into sitting position.

“Okay, baby girl, you need to go,” whispered her father. He hugged her one last time and let go, letting go of life.

“Be good…” he managed as he drew his last pitiful breath. Both Myras stared at him for a long time, both hearts breaking. The low, constant beep of the heart monitor echoed in her head like a broken record. He was dead.

Myra bolted from the cabin as soon as the scene disappeared. She collapsed to her knees in the tall grass as memories from his funeral flooded her mind. She remembered standing in line with her mother as an endless crowd of strangers flooded into the church, praising her father’s life.

Managing to stifle her tears, Myra carried on to the next cabin. As she walked up the porch steps, loose floorboards creaked under her feet. Spooked, Myra brushed away cobwebs as she opened the door. When she entered the room, she was standing before an open grave. One lone man seemed to be finishing preparation for the burial as the funeral precession arrived. Myra could not recall this memory. She stepped closer to read the gravestone. There was no message; it just simply read ‘Myra Marie Higgins 1984-2010.’

Myra was completely baffled. Did she go through with killing herself and this was her heaven? These cabins were not what she expected Heaven to be like by a long shot. As Myra continued to watch, black-clad mourners surrounded her grave. Surprisingly, there were not many in attendance. She saw her husband silently crying, vainly trying to comfort her mother.

‘Everyone must hate me,’ Myra realized, ‘but they didn’t understand my pain.’

As her casket was lowered into the cold ground, Myra surprised herself with tears. She cried for her mother’s grief and her husband’s confusion. She cried for her lost baby and the fact that she was all alone in this Heaven.

But this is what I wanted,’ persisted Myra to herself, ‘death.’

Myra’s swollen eyes wandered back to the few lingering mourners and her heart broke for her mother. Myra’s selfish perception of death suddenly changed. What had she really done? She didn’t solve any of her problems, she had just run away, like a coward. The people she loved were left behind to deal with their terrible grief. Her mind trailed back to the previous cabin, to her father’s death. Her father’s life had been taken from him, he did not choose to be inflicted with cancer. With her head hung in shame, Myra left the cabin with the picture of her own gravestone burned into her memory.

Sunlight caressed her face as she walked away from the troubling cabin. She slowed her pace and took a moment to appreciate the warmth on her face. She knew she never took the time to really enjoy this in her life and now she wanted to soak up as much sun as she could, because who knew what would happen to her after the final cabin. Before moving on, Myra cursed herself for succumbing to her own weakness and wasting her life.

Myra entered the last cabin but did not walk into some kind of recorded scene like she had three times before. She was all by herself in the dim cabin. The room appeared to be empty so Myra turned to leave but something caught her eye in the center of the room. It was a photograph facing up on the floor. She picked it up and held it close to her face. The picture was of a laughing baby girl and her mother. As some kind of cruel joke, the mother was herself. Disgusted, Myra flicked the photo back onto the ground, facedown. However, the photo flipped over, the smiling faces teasing Myra. She picked up the photo again and couldn’t help but admired what her baby could have looked like if Myra hadn’t killed herself.

The beautiful girl already had a full head of dark hair just like her mother’s. She looked soft and plump, caught mid-laugh in the picture. She was wearing a pink onesie that had ‘Daddy’s Girl’ printed on the front and wore bright yellow booties. It was the prettiest picture Myra had ever seen.

‘This was why,’ Myra thought to herself as she curled into fetal position, photo in hand. She cried herself into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Myra awoke to the sun shining in her face. Her hazy mind began to recall what had happened to her. She committed suicide. She was laying on a dusty cabin floor, crying over what could have been. Rolling over, Myra was surprised to feel a comfortable bed under her. Curiosity made she open her eyes and she was surprised to find herself in her own bedroom. Lifting the plush covers, she was even more surprised to see she was laying in her own blood. Remembering, Myra wept with a bittersweet smile on her lips.

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