The Past Life Challenge!
Claire couldn't sleep. Strange to think it had been a year. A year ago today when she had gone with Trevor to the carnival. A year ago when they had gone into that bitter old psychic's battered tent. They had both only wanted to come in out of the rain, already soaked. She could still remember the woman's bony finger, touching her forehead. Had that been a flash of light she had seen against her skin before she had blacked out? Before her and Trevor had ended up on what she still believed was a hypnotism induced version of the Titanic? Or had any of it been real? Claire thought about it, wondering if that had really been a past life where Trevor and her were married. Wondering if they really had kept encountering each other throughout the ages, not really knowing whether Trevor was Cupid or not. It was a ridiculous thought. But still, it had been a year ago today. She headed for her bedroom, and tried to get some rest. * * * * Trevor tossed and turned in his bed. He could hear sounds, explosions, almost like echoes in his mind as he tried to get to sleep. His skin was sweaty, and a breeze rustled through the flimsy curtain over his window, the night air warm outside as his bed sheets twisted around him. * * * * Claire was tossing too, unable to sleep. She looked up, seeing the tree limbs outside her window casting shadows on her ceiling from the glow of a distant street light. The dark shapes waved in the warm breeze outside. Something was happening. She could feel it, like a vague electrical charge in the air. Something strange and magical. Suddenly a blue light flared on the center of her forehead, right where the old psychic had touched her a year ago, and Claire fell into darkness. * * * * Trevor twisted and turned, and at the same moment, a blue light flared on his forehead as well, and he fell into the sounds he was hearing in his mind. * * * * A bright new fireball was slowly curling up into the crystal blue Hawaiian sky, huge in the distance as Claire picked herself up off the debris strewn tarmac at the air base. Her eyes widened in horror as she looked at the rising explosion, ignoring the smell of smoke and burning oil that was so thick and heavy in the tumultuous scene around her, as finally the sound of that distant blast reached her. She kept her eyes on the explosion, ignoring the chaos that was erupting all around. Screams were coming from nearby, where a row of bombed U.S. planes were in flames on the runway. There was alarms and people shouting everywhere. And above the heat and noise, the inhuman sound of flames, devouring, burning. But Claire's only fear was somewhere else, with someone else, eyes still on that distant fireball, her voice a whisper. "The harbor... they're attacking Battleship Row... Oh god... Trevor..." Somehow she knew he was there. She was certain of it, even though she didn't remember being there a second ago. She didn't understand how, but she knew Trevor was there, in the distance. A growing buzz high up in the sky signaled the approach of more Japanese planes, rising in pitch as they started their attack dives. Claire didn't bother looking up, thinking of Trevor in danger at the naval ports at Pearl. She began to sprint desperately towards the distant harbor, dashing through the fires and wreckage sliding by her on either side, as the sound of the aircraft grew louder. Shadows of the unseen planes flying above flashed over her in the hot sun, their engines roaring. Then the high pitched squeal of descending bombs. Explosions shook the ground behind her where she had been Claire stumbled when they struck, but she kept running, desperate to get to Trevor as fiery bits of debris rained down around her. Her eyes were frantic and full of tears, pushing her way through the waves of unbelievably searing heat emanating from the burning planes around her, slipping slightly on spilled fuel. She had to get to Trevor. Claire had the vague sense that they had been arguing, that they had vowed never to speak to each other again. At least here, wherever this was. But she had to find him. The fear of losing him again was the only thing that made sense in this madness she found herself in. An MP was crouched beside his jeep on the runway before her, looking for whatever cover he could find in the chaos of planes attacking overhead and explosions all around. A few rounds of strafing gunfire punctured the runway before her, but Claire didn't care. She jumped into the driver's seat of the jeep without breaking stride. The engine was still running and she gunned it into gear, tires screeching away from the startled MP, who yelled out after her. "Hey! What do you think you're doing!" * * * * "Claire! Claire, where are you!" It had taken a second for him to realize he was on a ship. Trevor stood on the deck of a battleship. The three huge gray barrels of the ship's foremost turret hovered just behind him, sailors sprinting underneath. Beyond that, the massive mountain-like hulk of the ship's superstructure towered into the air where the bridge was. Standing on the wooden deck, Trevor took it all in in a single scrambled second before looking towards the sky. Another concussion wave from some unseen blast thumped hard against his whole body and he closed his eyes, trying to stay on his feet. Looking in the direction where it came, he saw that the destroyer moored alongside the ship he was on was in flames, starting to tilt into the water as he watched the sailors on it's deck frantically clinging for their lives. Pillars of smoke billowed into the sky as far as the eye could see. Explosions ripped through the air, roaring with a deafening rumble as those fiery orbs blossomed up everywhere. The air was overwhelmed with noise as everything seemed to shake, bombs impacting, klaxons blaring from the dock and from several ships, the hot rumble of flames broken by the screams of sailors yelling in anger, or in fear, or in pain, trying to make sense of what was happening, just like he was. Somehow he knew, Claire was there with him, somewhere, even though he didn't know where 'there' was or how he had gotten there. He needed to get to her, even if he did nothing else before he died. Breathing heavily, Trevor looked up at the sun, shining blood red through a rising plume of black smoke towering over him, the smell of it searing his nostrils. As he watched, a squadron of distant enemy planes in formation passed across that red disk, coming in to attack. There seemed to be planes everywhere, the sky was filled with them. Suddenly the huge ship beneath him jerked a millisecond before a searing heat and a hard punch of air knocked him to the deck. In a panic, Trevor tried to catch his breath. Pushing himself up on his palms, he twisted around to see a huge wall of dancing orange flames amidships behind him, still rising slowly into the sky as the whiz of shrapnel whistled past his head, bouncing and dinging off the metal on the deck. It was then that he finally began to grasp that the ship had been hit. Trevor's ears were ringing from the explosion he didn't remember hearing. Scrambling to his feet, he sprinted away from the massive fireball rising above him. Even from over forty yards away, the heat was almost unbearable against his back. Hearing the growl of airplane engines, Trevor looked up as several Japanese Zeros sped past, close overhead and low to the ground before their menacing buzz faded over the sound of fire and panic. Trevor kept running towards the prow of the ship, clinging desperately to the chain railing that lined the ship's bow. Pausing, he tried to clear his head. "Claire! I've got to find Claire..." Looking out over the water Trevor saw the rest of Battleship Row. Bright explosions were blossoming everywhere, their glow reflected in the harbor waters. Panting and gasping for air, his gaze shifted to a single Japanese aircraft skimming the water's surface, before rising into the plane saturated sky. For a moment Trevor wondered what it had been doing. but then he saw it. The small tell tale wake from the submerged torpedo the plane had dropped, whispering closer, coming right towards him. Trevor gripped the chain railing tighter in his hands, feeling the steel bite into his palms as he watched the torpedo approach, unable to look away. There was literally no place to run. Trevor closed his eyes, wishing he could see Claire one last time. For some reason an image of her running towards him flashed through his mind even as he heard the torpedo getting closer. Opening his eyes he watched in surprise as the torpedo sliced through the water beside him. For a moment he caught a submerged flash of a long dark shape as it passed, converging with the ship further aft. Instantly the world seemed to spin, swamped by a bright orange glare as it whirled around. The floor of the deck beneath him seemed to drop away, leaving Trevor desperately gripping the chain railing. Then he realized he was the one tumbling through the air, the sky spinning until he slammed hard against the gray side of the massive battleship, blown off the deck and hanging overboard above the water some thirty feet beneath him. Trevor gasped in pain, but he didn't let go of the chain railing, holding it tighter nd refusing to fall. His boots scrapped uselessly against the steel wall before him. Then suddenly his entire sense of up and down seemed to shift for no reason. Slowly Trevor realized... he wasn't hanging against the side of the ship, he was laying on it as the ship began to list. Looking up at the looming bulk of the ship's superstructure, Trevor noticed that the horizon seemed tilted in relationship to it. Then he realized it wasn't the horizon but the massive burning ship itself that wasn't level anymore. The battleship was sinking fast. "No... please, not like this... not without Claire...." Trevor looked down at the water beneath his feet, trying not to panic. Then he heard an all too familiar sound that sent a chill through his bones. Craning his head around, he saw two more torpedo tracks approaching in the water, moving towards his already burning ship. And suddenly... Trevor knew what he needed to do. Taking a deep breath, he let go of the chain. He slid downward against the grey painted hull, the friction turning hot against his clothes until he tumbled into the cold silence underwater. Trevor kicked, his arms flailing, suddenly disoriented by the transition. Reaching out blindly, his hand hit the hull before him underwater. It was dim in the low light, and he couldn't tell which way was up. In the silence of the water the metal expanse under his fingers shuddered again, as Trevor noticed bubbles flowing past his eyes at a diagonal. Craning his head as his eyes followed them, Trevor watched them hit the surface far above. A bright red glow flicked above the surface, where flames were burning right above him. Then a dangerous rain of metal fragments, some small, some huge, some red hot and trailing bubbles, dropped through the water all around him, threatening to drag Trevor to the bottom as he dodged between them. Turning in the middle of the water, Trevor planted his boots against the sinking battleship's hull, kicking away with all his might. He swam underwater for as long as he could, trying to get clear of the ship as his lungs began to burn from a lack of oxygen. Finally he was forced to kick fo the surface, bursting through into the noise and chaos above. The surface of the water was on fire. Trevor couldn't believe his eyes, not understanding what was happening. Until he saw the thin film of oil on the water around him. A slimy skin that was on him too, having covered him when he had surfaced right through it. Eyes widening, Trevor watched the fire sprint quickly towards him, flames traveling up and down over the undulating waves. Taking a desperate gasp of air, Trevor plunged down into the water again as the blaze flashed through where he had been, and continued to burn. Looking up at the flames, Trevor blinked. Fire looked so different from underneath. **** "Trevor!" Still holding the steering wheel, Claire was standing up in the jeep as it idled forward on the frenzied harbor dock. Military personnel were running everywhere, ignoring her as she screamed out his name. More enemy planes filled the air above as multiple explosions, one after the other, moved through the harbor buildings around her, rocking the cement under the jeep's tires. "Trevor!" Claire suddenly heard anti-aircraft fire, and she looked over. Some of the burning ships in the harbor had sailors firing back now, rows of bright tracer bullets glowing like shooting stars as they reached out for the attacking Japanese planes. One stream of tumbling points of light connected, cart wheeling down a Zero high in the air as its wing crumbled away. It fell closer and closer, and Claire instantly ducked down into the jeep when she saw where it was going to crash. Claire held her ears, crouching behind the dashboard as a fireball rose into the sky above her. Standing up, her eyes went wide when she realized the jeep was still idling forward into the explosion. Frantically, she slammed on the brake petal, causing the jeep's tires to screech to a halt in front of a wall of flame and burning wreckage. Claire scrambled out of the jeep as fast as she could. The jeep started idling forward as soon as she let go of the brake petal, moving into the flames. Then a second explosion flipped the jeep onto it's top behind her running form, the entire vehicle now on fire.. Stray bullets strafed the ground near her as Claire ran to the edge of the water, searching desperately as she called out. "Trevor! Oh god... Trevor! Where are you? Trevor!" **** Still swimming underwater, Trevor paused, swearing for a moment that he had heard Claire's voice. Kicking for the surface he cleared the water, the world distorted as the water cleared from his eyes. He was free of the fire, and as he treaded water, he looked around. "Claire?" he asked softly. Suddenly there was a terrible screech of bending metal high in the air above him. Trevor looked up only to see one of the huge towers on another battleship starting to swing slowly down in his direction, finally giving way as the rest of the ship burned. Tons of girders and equipment fell towards him, looming overhead. "Oh... crap..." Trevor swam in a panic, kicking and pumping his arms for all he was worth. The water churned between his rotating strokes, blurring his vision as his breath came quick and frantic. Every second seemed to stretch endlessly on, expecting the falling superstructure to crush him at any moment, still hearing the wail of bending metal **** Claire heard it too, looking in terrified awe as the huge superstructure started to collapse into the harbor. She noticed the tiny figure of someone beneath it, coming her way as he desperately tried to swim clear. **** Suddenly there was a deafening splash behind Trevor's kicking legs as a five foot wave lifted him into a thick white spray of falling water, obscuring everything. He was submerged for a moment, swallowing sea water into his belly. Reaching the air, he was finally able to breath again, coughing as he swam in a foamy white carpet of disturbed water. "Trevor!" That time he was sure, even though he couldn't believe it. That was Claire's voice. "Claire! Claire, I'm here!" Another large wave washed over him but he shook it off, breathing heavily as he looked up at the dock. It was nearer now. Claire was standing there at its edge, watching him. As he bobbed there in the water, Claire looked like an angle, reaching out for him with the sun flaring out from behind her shadow. The blue sky behind her was dotted with plumes of dark smoke as planes flew overhead, explosions still ripping the harbor apart. And suddenly a strange thought came to him. Claire looked really good in a nurse's uniform. "Trevor! Are you okay?" "I'm coming Claire!" He swam to the edge of the dock, ignoring the bullets splashing into the water nearby. Trevor saw only her, even as the fighting and destruction raged on around them. Taking her hand, he finally scrambled out of the water and into her arms. "Oh god, Trevor... I was so afraid I'd lost you..." She held him tightly, not caring that he was soaked to the bone. "Claire, you're safe. Thank the gods..." Another concussion wave washed over them. "Safe for now.." Trevor sounded frightened. Claire exhaled, touching his wet face. "Trevor, first the Titanic, now this. I'm really starting to hate the water..." Still in each other's arms, they finally remembered to look around at all the chaos and death that was still erupting everywhere. Claire looked into his eyes. "We got to get out of here, Trevor..." "Come on, Claire..." Their fingers intertwined so they wouldn't lose each other again as they both started to run, dodging around the flaming wreck of a burning fuel depot on the edge of the dock that had tossed barrels far out into the water. The sounds of gunfire, klaxons, and explosions were loud all around them. Together they dashed through a squad of marines who had their guns pointed to the sky, trying to sight the Japanese planes as they fired their rifles into the air. Still running, Trevor and Claire found themselves along a narrow strip of the dock, a long building wall on one side and the water on the other, burning from oil spilled out of busted fuel barrels bobbing in the harbor. Suddenly there was the sound of a bomb screaming down and as they looked up, the roof ahead of them burst upward in a fireball, parts spinning high into the sky as the wall of the building in front of them collapsed down, leaving a burning wreckage a dozen yards before them that was blocking their path. They had no where else to go but back. "Come on, Claire..." As they turned and ran, they heard the approach of a diving plane, coming in to attack. A dozen yards ahead, the squad of firing marines turned towards the Zero as flashes of light strobed along it's wing. Suddenly the cement plumed up in a cloud of fragments and smoke around the marines as heavy caliber gunfire from the plane strafed their position, and every one of the marines went down. Claire and Trevor stopped in their tracks as the sound of the plane's engine roared over head as it lifted back into the sky, another plane in the distance behind it coming in for another run. "Trevor... those men... oh my god..." Claire said, looking at the cut down marines, still hearing the approach of the second plane. "We're trapped here, Trevor..." "And that second plane has no other targets..." he watched helplessly as the approaching Zero leveled off, diving towards them. The building to one side was too long to get away. And the water on the other side was on fire. Trevor watched it sadly. "The gods aren't letting us out of this one, Claire..." "Trevor, I love you..." He turned to her, holding her as the growing roar of the strafing plane's engine became louder in their ears. "We love each other, Claire.." Caressing her face, he kissed her, tears coming to his eyes. Claire kissed him back, wrapping her arms tighter around his neck, standing there holding each other in the middle of so much death and destruction as they heard the approaching plane begin to fire. Their lips were on each other as they closed their eyes, waiting to die together. Two rows of strafing gunfire impacts blazed towards them, kicking up twin lines of cement chips in a blink of an eye. The lines passed within inches of their embracing bodies, making them flinch. The plane's engine roared louder as it rose and climbed back into the air. Both took quivering breaths, breaths they had never hoped to take. Claire and Trevor cautiously pulled their lips apart and opened their disbelieving eyes. Everything around them was going quiet. The roar of enemy planes was starting to fade into the distance. Flames and secondary explosions were still rumbling everywhere, but none new erupted as people began to appear, running back and forth as the Japanese squadrons disappeared into the distance, the first wave over. Claire and Trevor were still motionless in the others arms, standing in the hot sun, trying to take it all in. "Trevor... What happened?" He looked down at the twin lines of bullet hits to either side of their feet. "A reprieve..." Claire couldn't believe it, taking a deep frightened breath. Then something occurred to her, stopping her as she held Trevor in her arms. "When we said we loved each other... When we gave in..." It started to dawn on Trevor too. "Maybe that's the key. The lesson..." Claire didn't know what to say, her chin on Trevor's shoulder as she held him, eyes uncertain as she looked down. Fires still burned around them. "Trevor, are we dreaming?" Trevor didn't sound certain either, pulling back to look into her eyes. "Or are we remembering..." A breeze moved a lock of her hair across her forehead in the sunlight. "Trevor, I know I was in Chicago. A few minutes ago. Home in bed..." He smiled as he held her tighter. "Sounds good to me..." She wrapped her arms around his neck again, holding him close as a warm Hawaiian breeze washed over them, her eyes misting up as all that had happened began to sink in. "Don't you ever leave me again, Trevor..." "Claire, I-... Wait." A strange look came across his face. "Trevor, what's wrong?" Claire looked into his eyes. "Do you feel that?" "Feel what?" "A tingling on my skin. Right up-" He reached up to touch it. But before he could, they both watched as suddenly an intense blue point of light flared on both of their foreheads, and the world collapsed into blackness around them. **** The warm wind was still blowing through Trevor's open bedroom window, curtains swaying in the breeze. Trevor was alone in his bed, his body covered in sweat as he tossed and turned in a restless sleep. **** Claire was turning in her bed too, as the shadows of the trees danced on her ceiling. Her sheets were wrapped around her, but she didn't wake up. In her slumber, she was waiting. Waiting for that next flash of blue light, the next dream of a past life, if a dream was really what it was... By Steve Oyervidez (Inspired by the upcoming movie "Pearl Harbor")