She walked in stiff heavy steps toward the telephone pole. The air was completely still, even the ever persistent cry of the crows was noticeably absent. It was as though all of time was frozen, nature standing in awe-filled respect for this moment.
Her boots crunched under the frozen gravel, and she hugged her arms to her chest to fight off the chill. The heavy ache that taken permanent residence in her heart became even more palpable, nearly unbearable.
Why did she come out here today? She wondered.
She stopped just a few feet short of the pole and took a few deep breaths. She had died here with her brother just a year ago. His body was gone, but hers had somehow kept breathing and waking and living every day.
She took a few more steps forward, removed the glove from her left hand and gently touched the pole. It was weather worn and splintered. She was both repulsed and fascinated with this roughly hewn beam. It held a power line, live wires. How ironic that it also held the power to kill.
She let her mind wander back to that morning… He had been tense and late, sleeping through his alarm. His usual cheerful demeanor was gone, and instead he furiously gathered his things in frustration. She hung back, observing quietly. She adored him. Six years her senior, she had watched him grow into an adult with such ease and joy. He had taken her on as an apprentice of his life, showing her how he had taught himself to fix his car, laughing as he failed miserably at playing the guitar, and gently quietly listening with committed attention to her often immature and under developed thoughts.
He had adored her, too.
That morning, he had snapped at her to hurry up, then paused and intentionally stilled himself to look at her. His brow furrowed, he closed his eyes, let out a long breath, and when he had reopened his eyes, a strained peace came over him.
“Sorry, Rael,” he said with some effort.
She gave him a weak smile. He flashed a giant one back, and she immediately felt a wave of relief. They chatted happily as he drove through the early morning light to her school. She was rattling off all of the classes she was going to have next year as a freshman, when the car suddenly hit a patch of black ice.
Rael shook her head as snapshots of the accident flew through her mind, somewhat out of order, missing pieces. It showered her mind quickly, but then stopped on the one moment that changed her life.
Again, she was looking at the pole but now it had blood on it, dented with dark red streaks. Her mind wanted to stay there and not turn her head, not see with such clarity the broken body of her brother lying on the hood of his car (he had just changed the oil last weekend, was the thought that had oddly flown into her head at that moment). Bleeding. So much blood.
She knew instantly he was gone. And like a dam that had held back the rest of the universe, waters came rushing into her soul, threatening to drown her.
After that day, she had struggled, fighting to keep her head above the waves. Anders had been her world, an unshakeable thing. She had never been afraid or felt unsafe.
But all of that died right here.
She ran her fingers over the dent.
How had a year passed already?
Against all reason, she smiled. Ander’s life and love had shaped her. He had nurtured her, taught her how to learn, strengthened her bones with the confidence he placed in her, in who she was, and in her ability.
But it wasn’t until he died, that she began living. It had taken her the full year to realize that even his death was a gift. She cringed to acknowledge that truth, and more than anything she wanted him back.
But she couldn’t deny how just like this telephone pole in the countryside of Alaska, his death held power, it fed into her life, and lit up places of her soul that she couldn’t have seen before.
Rael let her hand fall to her side as she looked up into the grey sky. Her heart was still heavy, her boots iron weights on her feet. But inside she felt the humming of a deathly power, filling her both with fear and awe.
She saw his smile in her mind. He lived there now. And she was light.