Tala Chapter 1
It wasn’t the first time I died, and it wasn’t the last, but it would always be the hardest
I’d appreciate your feedback on this entry. Please, be honest, let me know if you’re interested in reading more, or if it’s a dud. Thanks, friends!
I woke to the sun, same as always. I never need an alarm, no matter the season, my eyes opening to the sun and closing when the moon is high in the sky. This morning was no different and as the first light of the day drifted into my room, Hank snuggled closer to me, sniffing my neck, and thumping his ridiculously long tail against my bare leg.
I sighed as I ran my hand down his silky coat, marveling, as always, at its smooth softness. I scratched his head, between his long and pointy ears and then leaned over to press my forehead to his and he returned the gesture, a ritual of love that contented us both.
Hank was a rescue, though I bounce daily trying to decide who rescued who. Thinking back to the day we met, I must admit that I was the quintessential damsel in distress that morning. Hank found me in downtown Cincinnati, in the middle of morning rush hour. I stood at the crosswalk, waiting to cross 4th street at the Sycamore intersection, impatient for the light to change. The noisy crowd of office workers behind me worked the thrum of a bad headache, earned honestly from a date with a bottle of Kentucky bourbon the night before.
I was in a hurry that morning. I was meeting a new driver and I was running late. We needed a driver familiar with Cincy, and this guy seemed like a great catch. After waiting for what seemed an hour for cars and trucks to rush down through the intersection, the light finally changed and I stepped off the curb.
At least I thought I stepped off the curb.
The second my boot hit the pavement, I saw one lone car approaching me, and it wasn’t slowing against a red light.
In that instant of seeing the car rushing me, time stopped. I mean it stopped. Nothing moved, including me. My brain blinked in fear but not my eyes. They were frozen open and while I could see everything ahead of me, I couldn’t see anything peripherally. With one black boot on the street and one in mid-step, frozen in the air above the street, I waited. And watched. The air around me crackled with electricity, sparkling in the mid September sun.
I couldn’t move my stupid eyeballs in my head, but what I could see, directly in front of me, was heat waves coming off of everyone and everything. Like dry asphalt on a country road in the dog days of summer, heat radiated off of every surface.
Except Hank. He ran up to me, a vision in salt and pepper, his hackle trail a raised black line along his spine, ears alert, eyes flashing. He growled softly and grabbed my wrist in his mouth, tugging me forward with him. The second he touched me, I felt my foot, the one suspended in air, hit the street beside my other foot. I stumbled forward, afraid I was falling, but Hank righted me, holding my wrist, and sitting down beside me, his side pressed against my leg. I tried to pull my arm from his mouth, but he would not release me. He shook his head and pulled me forward, into the street.
The car that almost ended me that day was still, its driver leaning slightly into the steering wheel, his face suspended in a mask of determination, not horror as I would have expected since he was in the process of slamming two tons of steel under his command into my body. His brow furrowed, a slight smile on his lips, his knuckles white with a death grip on the steering wheel, he looked amazingly calm. And familiar. He was the driver I was rushing to meet that morning. Eric Benz, from Sharonville, just up the road. Son of a bitch. What the fuck was going on?
Led by brave Hank, whose name I didn’t yet know, we ran across the intersection, everything still quiet and unmoving. Once we reached the other side, Hank led me a few blocks down 4th street and then turned into Lytle Park, stopping in front of Abe Lincoln.
Hank finally released my wrist, and I rubbed it, like it was on fire. It wasn’t, but it tingled like it was asleep. I kept shaking it, trying to wake it up. Hank sat at my feet, directly in front of me, his long tail swishing silently while he gazed into my face.
I looked around the quiet park, gazing at the trees and flowers and benches. I looked back at Hank. Who was this dog? Who did he belong to? How had he found me? Why did he bring me here, to this lovely park in the middle of downtown? He cocked his head to the side, and then righted it. Then, he panted, smiling a big Shepherd smile just for me. I reached out a tentative hand to stroke his soft face. As soon as I touched him, I heard Shunkaha. I pulled my hand back and looked around. There was no one there. I looked at the dog. This dog, that was somehow more than a dog. I reached out to pet him again and again, in my head, I heard Shunkaha.
I know how that sounds. But I know what I heard.