That piercing sound split my ears with a ringing and the world went black. A sharp, direct pressure shoved me backwards. Eyes squeezed shut, I stumbled and fell flat on my back, wheezing as the air was forced from my lungs on impact. Carefully, I drew in a breath, coughing slightly as my lungs protested and i struggled to rise to a sitting position.
"Well, that was certainly a graceful entrance," there came a female voice off to my right.
I opened my eyes, startled by the sound, but was blinded by intense sunlight. I blinked, adjusting to the brightness and slowly focusing on the source of the voice. When I could see clearly I made out a young girl sitting cross legged to my side. I jerked to sudden awareness, realizing I was in completely unfamiliar surroundings. I sat in a meadow, washed in golden sunlight and decorated with colorful wildflowers nestled in the delicately swaying grass.
I turned to the person beside me. She had blonde hair that gave off a radiant glow in the sunlight, bright eyes and freckles. She gave off an aura of health and cheer that I found myself immediately jealous of.
"Who are you?" I asked, unable to resist sounding spiteful.
"You really don't recognize me?" She cocked her head, "I suppose I don't blame you, we've been out of touch for a very long time,"
"You didn't answer me," I persisted, "who are you?"
She smirked, shaking he head.
"That doesn't matter," she went on, "what matters is that I am not your enemy, just remember that,"
I scowled, annoyed at her cryptic response, and looked around to observe more of the meadow. The longer I looked at it, the more I realized something about it was... Off; as though it was there, but not solid.
"Where am I?" I asked, hoping for a more direct answer.
"You?" She shrugged, "you're still in the driver's seat of your truck with a bullet through your chest,"
Her blunt explanation triggered a sudden flashback. I recalled sitting behind the wheel of my truck, crying, with a gun clutched to my chest.
"I shot myself..." I muttered, casting my eyes to the ground.
"Yes, you did," she replied matter-of-factly.
"So... I'm dead?" I asked, looking back to her.
"Well, no, not yet," she shrugged once again, leaning back on her arms and kicking her feet out in front of her, "your soul is still in your body, but you get a chance to decide what happens next; you can move on right now, leave your life behind, and set your soul free from your body. That's all there is to it, if that's what you decide,"
"Didn't I already make that choice when I pulled the trigger?" I furrowed my brows, slightly irritated as I felt this conversation was a waste of time.
"It's never too late to choose life," she said, "you've still got plenty of fight left in you,"
I clenched my jaw, considering what I would be returning to.
"I would never be able to have a normal life again," I stammered, "I'll always be the girl who tried to kill herself. Everyone will know how broken I am,"
"So?" She countered, "why let that stop you?"
"What do you know?" I spat back at her.
"Remember when you got your first horse?" She raised an eyebrow, "he was given to you because he had such a bad attitude no one else would ride him,"
"He tried to buck me off every time I got in the saddle," I answered, "he once dumped me so hard I broke my pelvis,"
"You sure did," she laughed, "did you stop riding?"
"Of course not," I shook my head, "I loved that horse, I wasn't about to give up on him just because I got hurt,"
"Exactly," she grinned.
I leaned back, tears welling up at all the fond memories I had made with that horse, learning and growing every moment I spent with him. I realized there would be no more such moments. I would never see him again.
I choked back a sob at the sudden overwhelming regret I felt.
"What about joining Theatre in school?" The girl went on, "that scared you, and still yet you took on a major role in your first play,"
"I was the villain," I recalled, trying to hide the shakiness in my voice, "I was so afraid of crowds I thought I would pass out,"
My heart pounded as I closed my eyes and remembered the incredible anxiety I had faced when I first walked out on stage.
"But You didn't," she said smugly, "you performed so well that no one recognized you; you convinced an entire audience you were really Lady Vendola,"
I sighed, my pulse slowly returning to normal, and opened my eyes to look the girl in the face.
"What's your point?" I pried, finally giving up on holding back the tears.
Something new flashed in her eyes. It was a far cry from the cheery optimism they held before. She looked genuinely worried for me.
"When have you ever let pain or fear stop you from living your life?" She asked flatly.
I opened my mouth to argue, but nothing came out.
I couldn't recall a single time I had given up on something just because it scared me. Not once had I let fear control me.
Not until I pulled the trigger...
My vision grew blurry and my body shook as I was wracked with sobs. What had I done?
The world seemed to grow increasingly vivid around me; light and color shifting as I struggled to find something to focus on.
"What do I do?!" I shouted, panicking as I searched desperately for my only companion in this place.
"You just have to choose," her voice thundered all around me. My senses were overwhelmed and I found myseld starting to hyperventilate.
"I don't want to die!" I screamed; whether it was to her or myself I was unsure.
Suddenly everything grew silent and calm once again. I raised my eyes, trying to catch my breath as my crying subsided. I found the girl kneeling directly in front of me, eyes alight with what looked like pride.
"I know you don't," she smiled, resting a hand on my left shoulder and giving it a reassuring squeeze, "remember, you're steong enough to overcome anything, all it takes is the courage to try,"
I sniffed, wiping little wet trails off of my face and taking the steadiest breath I could manage.
"Why are you helping me?" I asked.
She laughed and pulled me into a tight hug, enveloping me in a warmth that made the world melt away.
"I'm helping you because you're the most important person in my world," she said softly, "now take a deep breath; this is really going to hurt,"
Before I could even wonder what she meant, the same, sharp pressure that had pushed me into the meadow shoved me back out of it. The air was forced out of my lungs by the impact and my eyes squeezed shut from the pain.
This time when I opened my eyes there was no sunlight. No meadow. I was back in my truck, and when I looked down I saw my chest stained with blood pouring from a circular entry wound in my left breast.
'Take a deep breath.'
I did as I was told, drawing in a deep, shuddering breath. It hurt like hell, and I felt a wet rattle in my lung as blood trickled into my chest cavity, but at the same time it was the best feeling I had ever experienced. I had taken that breath myself; I was fighting for life because I wanted to.
"Ma'am, can you hear me?" A man's voice brought the world back into focus; I looked to my left and saw two EMT's standing in the open door of my truck.
Beside them, in the window, was the girl from the meadow, but not the bright, cheery version of her I was accustomed to. Her face was pale, her hair dull and tangled, and her eyes were bloodshot from crying. The most alarming thing, though, was the blossom of red that bloomed on the left side of her chest, staining her shirt with crimson in stark contrast with her pale skin.
I raised my hand to cover the wound on my chest and watched as my reflection did the same.
'I am not your enemy, just remember that.'
"Yes," I answered, finding strength in the realization that the girl from the meadow wasn't some stranger cheering me on from the sidelines... Just me, reminding myself how strong I could be;
"I'm going to be okay,"