|Image Courtesy of Morgefile|
Four Years From Now.
I open my eyes, and I am falling.
The sky is clear and blue, the wind is more of a gentle caress than a brutal frapping. My descent is peaceful, nowhere near high velocity.
I take in the lush green landscape moments before gravity takes me, allowing me a gentle landing. I touchdown not with the force of a comic hero's arrival, but with the ease of a lost feather.
I rise slowly, overwhelmed by the sense of peace but plagued by my own apprehension. As if in response to my mental state, my hand closes around something of cloth and steel.
Although I know what it is before I look down, I cannot help but marvel at it's beauty when I first see it. The katana sword is utterly flawless, its cutting edge reflective of a mysteriously absent sun.
It's a child's voice calling out to me. It pulls my attention away from the sword and across the field.
There's a long-haired little girl several yards away. She's dressed in a plain pink jacket that is unzipped to her midsection. She smiles brightly, and even in the distance I can see the gap where her front teeth should be.
Her smile grows wider as she removes her hands from her jacket pockets. "Daddy!" She cries out gleefully and races across the field. She crashes into my midsection with more force than a child her size should have, wrapping her arms around my waist as she presses the side of her face into my stomach. "Daddy! You're here! You made it!"
I'm suddenly aware that I'm still holding the sword.
Still trying to make sense of all this, I bring my left arm up around the girl's shoulders.
She beams up at me, stepping away and raising her hands towards me, clenching and unclenching her fingers in that oh-so familiar pleading method.
Suddenly, she looks down to the sword and giggles. "Daddy, what're you doing with that?"
Just as suddenly, before I can even begin to formulate an answer, the girl takes my wrist, grasps the hilt and gently pries the blade out of my hand.
"God said you were silly, daddy." The girl continues giggling as she tosses the sword away like it's refuse, "You don't need that here."
Again she steps back, blissfully unaware of my bewilderment, and reaches up again.
Unsure of what else to do, I scoop the girl up by lifting under her arms. Again, she giggles with happy excitement.
She wraps her arms around my neck and plants a warm, loving kiss on the side of my face. Only when she pulls away do I recognize her eyes.
"Oh my God." I breathe, "Niyana?"
She shakes her head, forehead furrowing. "Of course, daddy! Who else would it be?"
I shake my head, overcome by joy and disbelief. I pull her close and squeeze.
"But daddy." She whispers, "You can't talk like that up here, okay?"
When she pulls away, her index finger is raised to her mouth and she quickly shakes her head.
My bewilderment passes. I know exactly where I am. "Okay." I nod, holding my daughter by the waist.
A warm, forgiving breeze washes over the both of us, catching her hair and letting it fly.
"Isn't it beautiful, daddy?"
I shake my head, taking in the sheer majesty of it all. "I've never seen anything like this." I reply honestly. "Niyana..." I hesitate, "Can I ask you a question?"
My daughter looks back at me, putting her hands on my shoulders and beaming. "Sure, daddy."
"If I'm here...does that mean I'm dead?"
She shakes her head. "Of course not, daddy. You have to go back in a little while."
I fight off the tears brought on by a bittersweet answer. "I'm not ready to go back yet." I confess.
Niyana hugs me. "You have too, daddy." She whispers, "But you'll be back again, I promise. I asked God to bring you here to play with me."
"I'd like to play with you." I whisper back, grinning."
Niyana allows me to put her down and then takes my hand. "Come on, daddy." She nods her head to the distance. "Run with me."
"Where will we run too?"
She shakes her head. "It doesn't matter. Let's just enjoy the run."
Niyana, my daughter, takes off like a shot down the hilly field.
No longer asking questions, nor caring how much time I have here, I follow.