I close my eyes and take a deep breath of island air . Its sweeter then Santa Cruz and so much warmer then home. Taking a few steps closer I wince at how sticky this uniform is in the humid weather. Its impossible to suppress the smile seeing myself in the reflection of the porthole dressed in the Navy whites Murray has dreamed us in.
Its a memory, probably one of the clearer ones he has left. His mind is all over the place lately and though its after we cut our deal I feel I should do my best to help him keep it together these last days. Right now I’m content to ride his dream basking in the warm Hawaiian weather strolling on the USS Oklahoma. He seems happy sitting with his friends, laughing and playing cards. Out of the corner of my eye their names ripple silently past on the threads of the dream.
I brush up against the information like a cat as the name of the ship echoes in the back of my mind. Before I start trying to place where I know this from my thoughts are drowned out by the buzzing of planes and the whistle of bombs. The battleship shudders as I am blinded by the bright flash from the explosion of a neighboring vessel. I stagger back and I hear Murray’s mind grasping at the cohesion of the memories. “Is that how it happened?” his rumination rumbling through the scene like a peal of thunder. The screams of the living disappear and I can only hear the deafening wail of the dead. I desperately try to maintain some semblance of composure as the dreamscape twists into a terrible nightmare bucking us both wildly.
Colors drain and the pacing of the dream speeds up with a panic. I can feel Murray’s heart struggling to keep beating. I refuse to let this be the old man’s goodbye…we both deserve better. As I will Murray’s world to slow I taste blood in my mouth. I bet I bit my lip struggling in the waking world. Its not easy to ignore as I brush away the battle into a hazy gray. Murray, young Murray that is sits on his knees staring at his hands straining to reconcile not being in the horrible place I just tore him from.
Pursing my lips I softly whistle, the crisp uniform blows away like smoke leaving behind a laughing figure in a gaudy floral print shirt. My shoulders drop as the smell of pine trees rushes up carrying us to a place after Pearl Harbor. I fall down on the soft grass watching Murray and the woman who pulled us both from the horror. I feel a tear roll down both our cheeks, a helpless smile taking ahold of our face. At the same time we mouth her name silently and she reaches out to brush her finger tips against our cheeks. Betty Ann Mcphearson.
I pulled us apart retaking my place in the dream as a faceless observer. Powerful events sprung up and disappeared as if someone took Murray’s life and flipped through the events like a cartoon. I watched their first date at the edge of the Montreal river in Wisconsin melt into the shimmering backdrop of a hospital where their daughter was born. I violently shook as I watch Murray follow the infant around the living room of their house outside of Madison, overwhelmed by the raw emotion this dying man had in these cherished moments. Somehow as Maggie grew older she looked closer at the hiding place I perched in to watch from and I swear when watched give her speech at the podium when she graduated she looked right at me and waved.
I felt that creeping fear start to creep up from the desperate part of his mind that understood what was happening now and braced against it. The scenes sped up their transitions and strayed off more at the bitter then just the bittersweet. His mind started to confuse memories which smashed against each other dangerously. Houses he lived in literally crashed into each throwing us around as he wrestled against the image of his dying wife. Murray screamed as the woman before flittered between Betty on her death bed or Maggie at the funeral. I tried to gain control but someone slammed into me just as the two images blurred together and Murray collapsed sobbing at the foot of the false of his dead daughter.
Whipping around my jaw dropped as I looked upon the nightmare recollection of the first man Murray killed in the war. Something I knew from our visits to be something to have haunted him for decades. The Japanese solider lurched forward, trench knife in hand ready to cut down the poor old man weeping in his handless, helpless against the rigors of his failing mind. I roared taking a step forward and buried my hand into the nightmare’s chest so I could crush its black heart. Murray gasped looking up at me, I think for the first time ever really seeing me for what I was.
He reached forward at me and struggled to form words as his world literally crashed around him. Reaching up and pulled together the fractured pieces of his dying mind and condensed them into something solid. Something clear for him to hold onto. “Ar..are you…him?” he managed between choking tears. I shook my head and felt my eyes drift to my feet. I’m not am I? Just another ghost who won’t accept the grave…When I looked I wasn’t me anymore. I was her. All sunlight and hope I held Murray tightly in the tiny place. I wrapped him in a hug and kissed his brow and in her borrowed voice I whispered, “Its time to come home.”. I felt him nod as I floated up and away from the scene.
Snapping out of the dream like that left my body feeling like pins and needles. I blinked a few times to clear my vision, focusing on the steady beep of the machine next to Murray’s bed. I clenched my eyes tightly and stepped forward to rest my hand on the old man’s cold chest. Biting my lip I patted him, whispering a thank you I closed his eyes. I only got steps into the hall before a nurse ran past me to his room. I felt my knee’s give way and just collapsed on the floor. My chest tightened and just started crying quietly there in the hall. As the rest of the staff met the nurse at the doorway I felt them all turn to look at me. Tears rolled out of my dead eyes onto the Mask and I could hear one of them whisper behind me, “Poor thing, I think its his first death.”.