31. 32. 33. As I count I add Mississippi between each number. This is so foolish, playing hide and seek in the forest, I can’t remember the last time I played this game. I am 22 years old after all. We all want to feel the nostalgia of being a kid again. Before playing, we were reminiscing about our childhood memories. 48. Mississippi. 49. Mississippi 50. “Ready or not here I come!” I yell at the top of my lungs, I hear my echo fall off the trees.
I turn around and I am disoriented but then all my senses start to heighten. My eyes focus on all. I am given wolf ears and hearing all. Taking in all the brush and soft susurration of the branches. I get the smell of decomposing leaves and the wet clay making the forest's atmosphere close and thick. I look at the narrow path, realizing there is no map to follow, I see knotted roots that made the path uneven and crooked. My ears pick up a crunch of twigs and I look left and my eye catches a glimpse of maroon material.
My feet start to move and the path fades as it leads into the never-ending forest. My feet follow the naked earth with the mountainous root and leaf. I let my hands touch their skin as I pass, feeling their gentle spirits soothe my own. I start to hear a set of feet walking in sync with mine, like a duo, the walk gets faster, turning in a jog and then a run. “I see you, Rachel!” I yell. Our feet pounding on the soil and twigs cracking beneath our feet, laughter fills the air as I chase Rachel. “You will never catch me, Saige!” Rachel yells back. The burgundy of her shirt disappears between the trees.
I try to catch up and I run faster, my legs moving like machinery as if controlled. I bash trough some bushes, I look back and I can’t see the path anymore. I sprint away running again, my heartbeat bolts after the other. Suddenly I feel the earth give in. In shock I open my eyes, I am falling, and it feels like time is frozen. I see the periwinkle sky staring me in the face, I reach my hand out and brush the endless blue above me. I am waiting for the impact, for the pain to come. I feel my bones move in a way they shouldn’t, all the air in my lungs escapes my lips. I feel pain shooting through my arm and I know it’s broken.
I lay on my back a minute while my brain process what happened. I sit up straight and I examine the terrain I am in. I’m in a hole. The ground gave way. I look at my mangled arm and undo the knot around my body to get my jacket off. Struggling, I make a sling to put my arm in. I scurry to get on my feet and I slip on the gluey mud and fall over. My hand gets nicked by something hard and cold, I suck my palm where the blood is seeping through my skin. Curiously I start to dig next to the outline of the object to get a clear picture of what it is. It looks like a silver tin. About the size of the average book. I dig further and pull the tin out of the soil.
I wipe the dust off the lid and my fingers trace the underlying structure on top. I see it’s a type of Victorian-style pattern, forming and curving around the edges. It looks like a collector’s item, antiquity, exquisite, and precious. It needs a good cleaning and seems to be rusted shut. I try to open the lid without success. I shake the box but I hear nothing. It seems heavy, it has weight, and something needs to be inside for sure. But what? I will look at it further at home. How am I going to get out of this chasm? I try to grab hold of the wall to pull me up but I only get fists full of mud. I take a deep breath.
“Rachel!” I call out and a silent song fills the air.
“Alice!” The melody continues.
“Griffin! HELP!” I wail.
“HELP!” I yell again. Leaning against the mud wall, I hear sticks snapping and bushes rustling. I make myself small in a corner, and hope that whatever it is, predator or marauder, will go away.
“Saige! Where are you?” Alice’s panicky voice rings nearby.
“Help! I am here! Solace floods over me, and then I remember, "Look out for the hole! “I warn them.
“Oh Saige, what have you done?” I hear while Alice’s blond head pops over the edge. Like it was my fault the earth crumbled beneath me. “She was bored and felt like she should dig a massive pit, Alice.” Rachel said sarcastically.” Are you okay honey?”
“No need to be rude.” Alice mumbled. “What happened Saige? Are you okay? Are you hurt? ” Griffin asked in his gruff manner. “I was chasing Rachel through the forest and the earth gave way and I fell in the hole, I think my arm is fractured. But that’s not important, look at this guys, I fell over and cut my hand open on something and I dug out this box. It’s rusted closed and I couldn’t get n peek inside.” I replied, showing then the metal rectangle.
“We have to get you out first before it gets dark. He said looking up at the twilight. ”I will go to the Impala and look for something to get you out, I will be back soon.” Griffin declares as he vanishes through the trees. “He is such a peculiar guy.” I said “and oh so handsome” Alice added with a swoon in her voice. “I think he and I will…” “I wonder what’s in the box.” Rachel blurted, interrupting Alice. A silence settles between us as we stare at the tin, our thoughts running away with all the possibilities of what could be. Griffin appears with rope, and they pull me out of the pit.
Sitting in the passenger seat of the Impala, Griffin takes me home after coming from the hospital; my arm in a cast and a few cuts and bruises later. The drive is quiet and the air thick and hot, my brown hair sticks on my clammy skin. I look in the side mirror and touch the bruise on my collarbone. I sit back with the tin box on my lap and examine the pattern on it and where the lid meets the body, which seems solidly closed.
“I wonder what’s inside, don’t’ you? “I asked too loud. I feel my cheeks get hot and I know I am blushing. “Thank you for taking me home, and helping me get out of the pit” I added quickly.
“Your welcome.” he said with a sincere smile, looking at me for a second and turning back to concentrate on the road.
Then again silence. This is vexing, did I offend him somehow? Something has shifted in Griffin’s way towards me since we met a few months back.
Just as I stretch out to turn the volume up on the radio he answers, “What do you want to be in the box? Money? Jewelry? A weapon? Nothing? “
I cogitate my answer. “The universe.” I whispered. I stretch my arm to the radio and turn the volume up. Griffin is known for the best-mixed tapes ever. I sit back and wonder how quickly the vibration of sound gets to one's ear, and I make a mental note to look it up later. I listen closely to the Indie rock music exploding from the speakers. The rest of the ride home I listened to the radio staring at the street lights out the window. I get out of the car thanking him for the ride and dropping me off. I start climbing the stairs to my porch and I can feel his stare burning on my back. I unlock the door and put my hand on the knob.
“Wait…” he stuttered. I come to a halt and wait. “Look for my galaxy in there, would you?” I hear the car pull away and I go inside.
I’m alarmed by a loud banging in my head, I try to open my eyes but can only squint. The one curtain is only closed to mid-point and the blinding sun creeps in like rays of spies, scrutinizing humanity. In my befuddled state, I feel for my phone on the side table, knocking everything over and I feel it under my hand. I look at the screen and see a great amount of missed calls and messages. I see the time and realized I almost slept through a day. The pain killers knocked me out. The illusory banging in my head is coming from my front door now. I jump up speed walking through the house.
“Coming!” I croak.
I clear my throat and try again, “coming!”
The banging continues, I turn the key and the lock clicks open, Rachel opens the door and pushes past me.
“Hello, sleepyhead.” She fiddles my hair as she walks towards the kitchen. “Coffee anyone?” Rachel shouts from the kitchen.
In astonishment I stare at her invisible trail, her rosy aroma still hovering about.
Next, I see Griffin entering with a trunk wheeling after him, “where can I work? “He asks. I point to the living room. I follow him down the hall and I sit down crossed-legged on the one-seater couch.
“Hey Rach, what’s going on?” I asked confused.
“We are here to open the tin, of course, Griffin brought his tools” she explained excitedly.
I open the search engine on my phone and type in “the speed of hearing” and press enter, occasionally gazing up when I think he’s not looking. Little as 0.025 seconds, satisfied with the results I lock my phone and put it aside. I try not to stare too much. Is it going to be like this on every meeting? Not speaking but staring. Staring had become our only form of communication. Griffin wouldn't look at me so much as through me like my head was transparent and he was fascinated by an object a few centimeters behind my skull.
“How is your arm doing?” he asks.
Surprised at the sound of his voice, I answer “Not bad at all, I thought I would be in agony.”
“That’s good, I’m pleased that it doesn’t hurt.”
“Can I ask you something?” his eyes fixes on mine.
“Shoot away.” I said
“Will you maybe go on a date with me?”
Rachel comes in with a tray of coffee. “Let’s do this!” she said with enthusiasm.” Go get the box, Saige.”
Griffin sighs and walks to his toolbox and takes out his grinder.
I stare at the warm white sparks coming from the touch of metal on metal. We are all waiting on tenterhooks for the tin to be opened.
Griffin picks up the box and hands it to me, our skin meets in the middle and I feel a quiver of electricity ignite throughout my body.
“It’s yours to explore.” he said bright-eyed.
We sit on the couch like dominoes falling, me in the middle. I cautiously take the pouch out the tin as if it will disintegrate at any second. I let my hand glide over the suede, the material fine and luxurious. I open the knots on top, I stick my hand in and pull out a self-carved wooden chest. A creak fills the air as the hinges open. On a soft velvet cushion rests a scroll tied with twine.
“Is that all? Rachel asked. “I was hoping for treasure.” She mutters under her breath.
I carefully take a strand of twine and free the knot. I steadily unroll the parchment, my hands going opposite of each other. The scroll extends until the last curl. We all stare at the symbols on the paper trying to make sense of what it could be.
“I have seen such markings before.” Griffin said, pulling out his phone, “I have an app on my phone that could determine what this is” he added. He takes a photo and we wait for the results. The phone makes an alerting sound and we all look at the screen,
“I wonder what’s written down, we need to interpret this.” I said, my finger tracing the symbols.
“Maybe it’s just a love letter” Rachel commented.
“Any thoughts Griffin?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, anything is possible. It does look prehistoric and well preserved.”
I take the scroll and put it in the scanner next to the computer and look at how the Hebraic symbols appear on the screen. I open the translator, I copy the first line of symbols and paste them in the translator and the text pop up.
הקורא היקר שלי
My cherished reader.
I repeat and I print the document and I read it out loud.
My cherished reader,
I hope these words bring you as much joy, healing, happiness, tears, excitement and that sparkle of emotions inside that it did to me. Through all tough hardships, depressing moments, happy glimpses, astounding days, marvelous matters and phenomenal pleasures.
Life is a journey with the deepest, darkest oceans of fret and the highest most psychedelic mountains of gracious solace.
Be your sun every morning, and know you get a chance to shine.
Be your moon every night and don’t hide the most beautiful parts of yourself if you want to light up the dark.
Be your own sky, be vast and open to life.
Be your own sea, keep crashing in your own waves so you can learn how to be still.
Be your own planet and find the parts of yourself you can live with and change the ones that can destroy you.
Be your own universe.
Look for your light when it’s dark, even when you burn, let your explosion produce little diamonds and transform your pain into pearls of wisdom.
Be a galaxy in the sense that you don’t need affirmation from anyone that you are a galaxy. Be a galaxy in everything you do and watch the whole existence make room for you.
There are as many atoms in a single molecule of your DNA as there are stars in the typical galaxy. We are, each of us, a little universe.
Be your own universe and don’t be afraid of your own greatness.
Be well and prosper.
Your neighboring universe
Without realizing my hand was in Griffins, I looked up at him and he smiled.
“I guess we got what we wanted. “He said, holding my hand tightly as if afraid to let go.
I walk past the frame on the wall. I stop and reverse to remind myself of the words written. As the words depart my lips, Griffin embraces me with his arms around my waist and we read it together, every day since we found it ten years ago.