Like any other early summer morning, a breeze carried the roar of Niagara Falls through the city streets, rumbling through window screens, permeating rooms of homes, which most families naturally acknowledged. Unlike himself, Ryan shivered. Lately, he always felt chilled. The radio alarm then resounded with music from the Rolling Stones song, “Paint It Black,” the lyrics echoing through the room. Rising effortlessly, Ryan stretched his lean body. He barely saw his shadow flit across the wall and vanish before he exited the room. Hearing the underlying grumble of Niagara Falls, he shook his head. The thundering sound conjured memories of his and Heather’s beginning.
They had been more than just a pair of photo journalists. Right from the unexpected instant they photographed each other while capturing the scenery of the mighty Niagara Falls, electricity tingled between them. Ryan remembered how the white water thrashed, spewing and splashing its way down over the edge of the falls.
It had been by chance they later crossed paths at the Como Restaurant the next day and ended up shooting photos past dusk, watching the moon rise. They giggled from the mist tickling against their cheeks from the Niagara River tumbling over the falls edge. It also had been that night they met someone called the Healer who bid the couple a long-lasting bond. Without interruption, hours flowed into days that streamed into weeks, which rolled into sharing an apartment together, “Are we moving too fast, love?” Ryan had queried.
“Ooooh, silly, it can never be too fast for soul mates.” Heather ran her fingers through his wavy brown hair, down along his cheek bone, brushing his lips; “Besides, what was it the Healer told us?”
“Ah, the Healer,” he smiled, “Let’s see. The ions of the mighty Niagara often manifest love.”
Ryan sharply looked around because it seemed he heard himself talking with Heather. He stood quivering, bemused and alone in the apartment. Closing the apartment door behind him, he began to jog. Despite his actions, Ryan’s mind conjured the image of Heather’s face; her emerald eyes always enticed him to embrace her even closer until his loins felt her lean into him, warmth flowed throughout his body. His memory strengthened. Heather pressed her mouth firmly upon his. Nudging her thigh between his, Heather wrapped her arms around his slim waist. He hardly had held her as his body reflexed to her movements.
Ryan stopped suddenly as the sprinkling of water on his face and arms from the turbulent Niagara extinguished his memories. Unaware that he had been jogging in the direction of the Falls and momentarily perplexed, Ryan found himself leaning against the guard rail, “Must’ve been in another blackout.” The blackouts. They were happening often now. He watched the tremendous flow of the water spewing over the brink. His body flinched; his entire being sparked with energy. He felt like he was rising from the ground, pulled towards the river’s roughest current.
“These ions!” Ryan turned away to walk in an opposite path from the water, to the Healer’s shop. He arrived there almost instantly. For a few seconds he was confused, “Even my sense of time is off,” he remarked to himself. In a jumbled way, the Healer’s words reverberated in his mind: “Mighty, ions, love, Niagara.”
To Ryan, the Healer instinctively channeled a sense of ancient wisdom. Even in his presence for the first time, Ryan’s spirit rose to a higher level of consciousness. Unexpectedly, those moments before they even met, Heather’s spirit had intermingled with Ryan’s. The flash of connection still caused him to tremble. Perhaps that is what inspired him to encourage Heather to meet at the Healer’s place should they become separated. This was why now he stood alone for nearly an hour in front of the deserted holistic shop. Heather’s sweet scent seemingly filled the air, which took him by surprise.
He closed his eyes only to be teased by an image of her face, her green-faceted eyes coaxing a smile to form on his lips. When Ryan opened his eyes, he found himself standing inside the shop. Gazing around, he noticed the familiar love seat and two angel-backed chairs with an oval table. Across the walls, shadows of candle flames flickered about the dimly-lit room.
Bewildered, it was Heather’s voice he heard, but he whirled to face the Healer.
“Where’s Heather? Her voice?”
The Healer waved his arm, motioning for Ryan to take a seat.
“Yes, yes. Awareness.”
They shook hands, but Ryan felt as though he had gripped only air. He hesitated.
“She awaits you as you await her,” The Healer’s lyrical tone slowed Ryan’s racing heartbeat.
“Ever since she’s been gone,” his voice wavered; “Ever since the tragic collapse of that bridge in the city,” he stared across the table.
“Heather?” His arms reached out to her, his heart pounding. Her presence faded. He slumped deeper into his chair, “Heather, my Heather.” He watched the large crystal ball in the middle of the table as it reflected white flames. Then the rattle of glasses took Ryan’s attention to the Healer carrying a tray with drinks.
“This is a very bewildering transition for you,” Ryan nodded. His trembling fingers wrapped around a glass, which they seemed unable to grasp. After trying a few more times, he just let the drink set on the table.
“Just one more time. I want to see her, talk with her, feel our energy. She’s still close.”
“Of course,” the Healer agreed.
Ryan closed his eyes. He strained to hear any words of hope from the Healer, but silence filled the air. Ryan’s expectation of Heather’s appearance and the desire of her calming touch absorbed his energy that increased his anticipation.
Opening his eyes, Ryan saw an illumination of Heather’s face; her skin glowed. Her misty emerald eyes sparkled. A shadow of the Healer appeared behind her, his hand on her shoulder. Ryan stretched his arm over the table to grasp Heather’s hand, but his hand disappeared into hers. Heather shuddered. Her hand remained open, palm up. Ryan leaned closer to her, searching her glistening eyes.
“Ryan, I infinitely love you.”
“And I love you. God, I miss you, Heather. Was there much pain from the accident?”
The host’s shadow faded completely behind Heather.
“There won’t be much time. He is confused,” the Healer whispered to her.
“I didn’t feel any pain, Ryan.”
Ryan rose from his chair and stood next to Heather to hug her. His hands and arms melted into her, and she shivered. He felt slight warmth, “So it is; you are gone. Was it painless? I wish you were here. I want…oh to hug you, kiss you, make love. If only we could step back in time.”
“I ache for your caress, your body against mine. But love, I didn’t feel any pain because I didn’t have an accident.”
Ryan could barely hear Heather’s words. She began fading from his sight. Then movement became slow motion, and Ryan understood her last words, “Heather! Some kind of whirlwind is pulling us apart!”
His embrace only flowed through Heather. A soft, white glow lightened the dim room as his body melted into hers. Suddenly, the room was very dark. Heather was gone. Ryan heard the click of a lighter and watched the Healer appearing to glide from one candle to another until all were lit again in the room. The Healer sat down across from Ryan. The mighty Niagara Falls’ rumblings sounded deeper and closer. Louder, “She said she didn’t have an… But, then…” Ryan tilted his head; “I am the ghost? How could that be? I don’t remember any collapsing bridge or drowning.”
“That’s because you didn’t die from an accident on the bridge.”
The Healer’s clear sapphire eyes mesmerized Ryan. As though sifting through old photographs, flashes of memories streamed through his mind. Then, abruptly they stopped, and he saw himself standing next to his parked car in front of the store where he had bought a newspaper, a store near Niagara Falls. Just as he opened his door, he turned towards the sound of screeching tires close to his side. Another moment and he saw only bright red, then gray, then black. He heard a voice, of familiar lyrical tone, “I am here Ryan. I will guide you through this transition.”
Ryan stared at the wall behind the guide, “Is that? That’s her shadow upon the wall?”
Ryan took a step to the left of Heather’s shadow to stand in front of the candlelight, “My love,” Heather whispered as she saw an impression of him. He felt her too as he watched his shadow silhouetted next to hers.
One final time within seconds, Ryan stood near the edge of the frothy falls. His energy melded with the electrifying ions, rapidly moving towards the rising vapors of Niagara Falls, thundering his sole exodus.