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A near-fatal incident stirs an awakening of an adolescent’s ability to connect with entities from the deep and dark hidden world, that which is beyond our natural awareness. A world of lost souls, both good and bad, all trying to reach out to the boy now that they are aware of his surreal capability.
Coming to terms with his psychic ability that he neither asked for nor knew how to wield it, he is unwittingly drawn into solving a grisly mystery from beyond the grave. This will become the greatest test of his faith in himself.
Will he survive?
On Phil’s fourteenth birthday in 1974… Miserable simply did not describe how he felt. He couldn’t wait to be discharged from the mid-century built community hospital. The building was covered in dark gray walls which had seen better days, cloistered by gardens that struggled to survive. Phil reflected on the state of the hospital and pondered upon whether it matched his own mental state because he was convinced something was seriously wrong with his head since the accident.
He desperately tried to keep his eyes firmly shut, doing his best to relax and with a bit of luck, bring his heart rate down to a respectable level. Praying for the morning to arrive, he beseeched, “Dear God. I’ll never try to impress Jason again …or anyone else for that matter. I’m so sorry that I tried to show off by jumping into the river.”
Tragically, it was this birthday, his fourteenth one, when he nearly drowned after he jumped off the tree. That day would be forever etched in his memory. He trailed along with his friends who hung out with the older kids from school as they cooled off in the river.
Jason who was one of the oldest in the group brought out a long rope from his backpack and deftly tied it around a strong looking branch off a tree as it extended over the river. The dare was simple. Each boy had to swing over the river as far as he could in readiness to release their hold of the rope just before it started to return to the shore.
Phil did his best to hide his attraction towards Jason, after all, if anyone found out that he liked boys, he’d be in deep trouble. As he thought of the consequences for his attraction of other of his own sex, he couldn’t help himself as he gave a furtive glance at the object of his desire.
Jason was considerably taller than Phil and had lustrously dark curly hair. His shoulders were so broad, developed over many years of playing rugby, in fact far more than he should have instead of studying, but he certainly didn’t care. The sports star was the coolest and the most successful player on the field. Even the way he smiled was cool, reminding him of an Elvis Presley impersonator.
While the boys got ready to impress the girls, Phil secretly hoped to gain Jason’s undivided attention. Whoever jumped the farthest in each round, would be rewarded by a kiss from sweet Emily-Lou. She was one of the hot cheerleaders, and it was generally whispered by the boys that she only rewarded tough boys, usually with a kiss on the school grounds. Phil joined the group with only one goal in mind. To be alongside Jason but he didn’t dare let anyone know about it.
Bolstered more by Jason’s gaze on him as he climbed the tree rather than the girls’ attention, from the safety of a thick branch, he held on to the rope with all his might, but something made him freeze. It was pure and simple unadulterated fear. He was so high up on that sinewy tree, perched precariously on the branch. His only savior was the greasy rope, slippery from the countless instances when other children had gripped it firmly before launching themselves off and into the river.
Right now, getting Jason’s attention was no longer was on his priority list, but hearing the taunts from some of the boys shook him up enough to help him take a deep breath. He quickly looked around and noticed Jason and a few of the kids did not take part in the jeering but watched him with some concern.
He wrapped the rope tightly around his hand before shouting bravely, albeit somewhat awkwardly and not feeling very much like the older boys at that moment. In pure fear and with his eyes firmly shut, he jumped, praying that he had swung high enough to release his grip on the rope, effecting a perfect entry into the slow running river rather than slamming into terra firma.
Despite all hopes of swimming majestically in front of his friends after what he thought was a great swing into the river, Phil, in fact, woke up feeling the hard dirt on his back. He wasn’t sure what happened, but the urge to breathe was strong enough for him to push away the frantic hands that prodded over his chest. He felt confused, reeling in pain and completely out of sorts.
His first impulse was to cough and retch while trying to push away a hand that was trying to turn him onto his side. Phil decided to sit up, but darkness quickly enveloped him again, before eventually waking up in the community hospital.
He wasn’t sure how long he had been in the hospital, but Phil seemed to continually repeat cycles of lucidity before lapsing into unconsciousness for the whole time he was there. He didn’t verbalize it, but he wished that all the whisperings stopped around him so he could get some decent sleep.
He wasn’t sure how long it had been, but sometime later when he was fully awake, his gaze was drawn to the familiar sight of his parents who stood before his bed. Their faces said it all, through their deep frowns and pale complexions. This was a worrisome time for them.
His mother tearfully asked as she rushed to his side, “Phil darling, how are you feeling?”
“I’m okay, I think. Not sure what happened though.” He responded, smacking his lips and trying to lubricate his mouth. He was so thirsty. It felt like it had been days since he had a glass of water.
His mother frowned, looking indignant as she sharply responded to him, “What happened? Young man, you nearly drowned! That’s what happened! We told you so many times not to go near the river to swim. That river has many unexpected currents coursing through it! How many times do we need to remind you that many people have tragically died in that river?”
Some things never change. Phil might have nearly died on that occasion, but that still didn’t stop him receiving a lecture from his mother even though he was laying on his hospital bed.Give me a break Mom. I just wanted to impress the others.
What complicates things more was not the shame of being rescued and puking in front of all the kids, particularly Jason, but it was the fact that from the time when he was able to open his eyes, Phil noticed shadows streaming across the walls of his cold room. These shadows seemed to be urgently whispering incoherent words. He couldn’t understand what they were saying, because they all talked over each other, but nevertheless, it was constant chatter.
It was eerie to see them but even more frightening to witness their urgent whispers. Phil had been embarrassed to mention these things to the treating doctor who came to check on him later that afternoon, in case he might have thought Phil was losing his mind. The man spoke like a pompous old schoolmaster, despite his youthful appearance. Phil tried to explain to him about the shadows and their whispers when the man abruptly interrupted him.