Chapter 17 – Returning to Reality

When I woke up, I could still feel the chill from within. I blinked several times, trying to get used to the darkness that was enveloping me. I wondered if we had succeeded or if it was all an illusion after all. I turned toward a corner of the place in time to see a glint of light disappearing into nothingness. As if not believing what could have happened, I began to feel myself, trying to see if I was hurt or not. I felt much more reassured when I knew that I was still in one piece. I tried to get up from my spot, attempting to see into the darkness. I walked around in the dark for about a minute or so before realizing I had some object in my pocket. I suddenly realized that I was in modern clothes again. A sense of relief swept over me. I reached down to check my pocket to find a penlight hiding in there. I had no idea how it had slipped in before everything happened, but was glad to have some source of light with me. I clicked the penlight on and scanned the area once before realizing that it was the old warehouse not far from town that we used to hang around a lot when we were still in high school – all five of us. We used to call it our version of “camping.” If you couldn’t go camping, you might as well bring “camping” to yourself – as we put it.
“Ting Wei! Jing Jing! CJ! Roger!” I yelled out in both excitement and anxiousness, hoping and wishing that they’d made it back safely like I had.
I raced around the warehouse rapidly, looking for signs of them. Panic increased each time I realized that it was just some hidden object in the dark when I shined the light on it. My hope began to fall as I made my way slowly around the warehouse again.
“Ting Wei! Jing Jing! CJ! Roger!” I attempted to yell out again. “Please!”
“If you insist, Miss Zhang Shao Han,” A familiar voice said somewhere in the dark.
“CJ?” I said, my voice wavering.
“Of  course, who else?” CJ teased.
I finally shined my light in the direction of the voice. I could see him smiling back at me as he put one hand up to protect his eyes from the light.
“Zhao Jia Le, you scared me half to death!” I yelled, running toward him.
“I’m glad to see you too,” CJ said, hugging me back. “It’s all right, stop crying, will you?”
I pulled away from him, wiping away my tears, not realizing that I’d been crying. I hit CJ on the shoulder after making sure that he was still in one piece.
“Let’s look for the others, shall we?” He said after knowing that I was all right again.
I nodded, still sniffling.
He pulled out a penlight from his pocket also and we began our search together, not wanting to take any other risks if we separated.
“Maybe they’re outside,” CJ said as we returned to the entrance of the warehouse again.
“Could that happen?” I asked, looking at him.
“Maybe,” He said.
We opened the door and walked outside together. I felt a lot better after seeing the moon shining above us like many nights before.
“I guess we don’t need this anymore, huh?” CJ asked, tapping on his penlight.
We clicked the lights off at the same time and walked around the front.
“The tree!” CJ and I exclaimed at the same time as we passed by the big tree to the left of the warehouse.
We walked closer to the tree and found Roger lying under it.
“Roger!” I exclaimed, feeling more hopeful for the other two.
I continued on my search to the other side of the tree as CJ tried to revive Roger.
“How’s it going?” CJ asked as he and Roger joined me a minute later.
“No idea why they’re not here,” I said, disappointed.
“Calm down,” CJ said, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Let’s try the other side.”
“I’ll look in the back area,” Roger offered.
“No!” CJ and I exclaimed at the same time.
“Whoa!” Roger yelled back, putting his hands up as shields. “I’m just trying to be helpful.”
“What we mean is maybe we shouldn’t separate until we’re all sure that we’re where we are,” I explained.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Roger asked, gesturing toward the tree in front of us.
“It might be an illusion,” I said.
“You’re paranoid,” Roger said, giving me a look.
“Better safe,” I said.
“Guys,” CJ interfered. “Let’s find them first, okay?”
Roger nodded, knowing too well of our current situation.
We made our way toward the other side of the warehouse, looking more cautious for any signs of Ting Wei and Jing Jing.
“You guys!” Roger called out a minute later.
“What?!” CJ and I asked at the same time.
“Come here,” Roger said. “They’re here.”
We joined Roger behind the little shed a distance from the warehouse.
“Finally, we’re all here,” CJ said, sounding more than relief.
“Let’s wake them up,” I said.
It took us about two minutes to try and wake them up.
“What happened?” Jing Jing asked groggily, stretching at the same time.
“We’re back,” I blurted out.
“Huh?” She asked.
I froze myself, lost in thoughts as I realized what might be happening.
“You didn’t lose your memory, did you?” CJ asked, appearing in front of us at that time.
After standing up from her spot, Jing Jing looked around for a bit before turning to us again.
“We’re back!” She exclaimed in excitement.
“It appears so,” I said.
“You mean…” Jing Jing said, somewhat disappointed.
“We need to make a round of inspection to be sure,” CJ jumped in, gesturing toward the warehouse behind us.
Ting Wei and Roger joined us at that time.
We made our round around the outside of the warehouse at first, looking for every possible signs or marks of past activities that we happened to leave behind during our many visits. Then we entered the warehouse again, making yet another round – at least for CJ and I – to verify our whereabouts and our own existence at that time. We sat down to rest in the center of the huge room at last, looking around the place out of habit – still somewhat shocked and/or numbed. We finally let everything sink in for us as a gust of wind blow by and shadows of the trees outside moving back and forth. As if needing a bit more of verification, CJ turned to Roger and pinched him on the arm – to which Roger yelled out in pain and jumped about a foot away from CJ.
Yes, the curse was finally lifted among us. It left like it came – without a trace. It was finally over. We could finally go back to our lives now. However, there was one last thing I had to take care of before we could all go on.
As the others were straightening up and starting to leave after another round of walking and/or stretching routine, I walked to where Ting Wei and Jing Jing were. Jing Jing spotted me first. She managed a friendly smile my way. I smiled back, but just a passive one – or maybe I was just tired from our little experience from before.
“Shao Han,” Ting Wei said. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” I answered. “I need to talk to you about something real quick.”
Ting Wei looked toward Jing Jing once before following me. I led him outside toward our favorite tree – CJ and my favorite to be exact – before beginning.
“There are some things we still need to take care of. I know everyone’s tired right now and it’s not a good time to talk. So…let’s meet tomorrow by the sea. Same time, same place,” I said.
“All right,” He said, smiling. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I nodded before walking away from him and everyone else – into the darkness of the night.
Someone once said, “If there are no changes, there will never be any improvements.” Someone also said that, “If you don’t know how to let go, then how could you ever achieve?” If we all knew that from the start, we wouldn’t end up in this obstacle. But it was too late to dwell on the past and blame each other. The best solution was knowing when to stop when you finally learned of the truth. And I finally knew what that truth was.
© Monday, July 14th, 2008
Posted: Saturday, March 13th, 2010