Chryss looked across the shattered expanse of her doomed plane. The world as the Athaerians knew it was in its final death throes. All around her rang the muffled cries and pitiful moans of those unfortunate enough to be indoors when the rift opened. They were now trapped, pulled inexorably into the abyss along with their entire dimension. There wasn’t much time. Soon it would be too late. She made her way to the planar gate, the experimental device that her father had designed for just such an emergency. He had warned those fools on the council. He had warned them but they wouldn’t listen. “Harvesting temporal energy from the continuum is perfectly safe,” they had said. Chryss wondered how many council members had changed their minds about the dangers now that they could see the results of their work. But it was too late for them. It was too late for everyone. The rift was dangerously close now, but Chryss was almost there. Just a few more feet. The ground inches behind her crumbled away and swirled into non-being. The certainty of her own death filled Chryss with despair, but she made a final bid for salvation. She leapt out into space, the stones under her feet vanishing as soon as she lost contact with them. Desperately Chryss reached out her hand. She could feel the cold tendrils of the rift reaching out to envelop her in their all-extinguishing embrace, but just before they closed their irrevocable grip, she made contact with the last solid thing in the realm: the planar gate. Warmth flooded Chryss’ body and the feeling returned to her extremities as a wave of power swept over her and carried her far from the devouring force of the rift. The kaleidoscope of color and sound was overwhelming, and Chryss could feel herself slipping from consciousness. With her last ounce of energy, she looked back and saw the final remnants of her world, her plane of existence slip into the void, destroyed by the ruthless justice of the rift.
Chryss awoke in a warm, dark place. She tried to ascertain her surroundings, but discovered her physical form had been so diminished that she was barely larger than a bacteria. She reached out with her mind, searching, hoping, praying to find at least one other Athaerian who had escaped. She found none. The only consciousness she could feel was that of a totally new kind of being. It surrounded her on all sides, and after a while, Chryss realized that she was within it. Over the course of several months, Chryss became stronger and her physical form grew. Eventually she was able to move around in her liquid environment. She found the outer walls of her safe haven and kicked, but they remained immobile. It wasn’t time yet. When she focused, she could hear the consciousness around her. It was trying to discover her name. “I am Chryss Tynn,” Chryss said, “I am the last of the Athaerians, although I no longer resemble them physically. I thank you for your protection, but I believe I am now strong enough to venture forth.” The other consciousness didn’t respond, but Chryss heard it contemplating a new name. “Kristin,” it thought, “That’s a good name. If it’s a girl, we’ll call her Kristin.”
Finally, nine months after the destruction of the Athaerians, Chryss felt a change in her surroundings. The walls of her sanctuary were closing in, pushing her towards an opening that she had not noticed before. She emerged into the bright, cold world and opened her mouth to greet her protector. Her vocal cords were not the same as they had been and all she could manage was an inarticulate cry. She tried to right herself and get on her feet, but her arms and legs didn’t respond as they should have. Everything was different and she was not ready for this world. She began to cry in earnest, but then a large being wrapped her in a soft, warm cloth and she felt strong arms around her. She heard the voice that she had previously only heard in her head speak aloud. “A girl,” the voice said, “My beautiful baby girl. Welcome to the world, Kristin.” Chryss opened her eyes for the first time and saw the most beautiful being she had ever seen looking down at her with love and wonder on its face. Chryss stopped crying as peace filled her. In that moment, she knew everything would be alright.
Adam B was born a poor black child. He doesn’t remember much about this part of his life, because soon after his fifth birthday he was given a table lamp and told to venture forth into the unknown. He made his way towards the Great Lake region about the same time Sasquatch was awakening from his hibernation. As a fellow introvert, they became fast friends although they never actually spoke a word to each other. One day, Sasquatch realized that young Adam needed good people to teach him the basics of human interaction. He picked out the couple currently known as Adam’s parents and bid the young lad adieu.
Mr. and Mrs. B were very pleased, if at times confused, by their new son. They taught him scripture and he went on wild adventures with his siblings. For a couple years, Adam went in search of his old friend Sasquatch, since his family told him that Adam’s former life was probably a far-fetched invention of his imagination and he wanted to prove them wrong. So he left home and traveled the country with Al’s Circus. Eventually he became the star-performer, until the fateful Needle Incident. Do not speak of the Needle Incident. Let’s just say it ended in Adam falling through the air at terminal velocity to land in a truck full of pillows. Also do not speak of what was among the pillows.
Anyway, Adam eventually found himself back at the B’s residence, and proceeded living out his childhood as an apparently normal boy. Every once in a while, while grocery shopping or walking down a street, strangers will stop and salute him, hailing him ‘Lord Werriam,’ but we try to keep that hush-hush.
Trying to trace Andrew Newton’s origins is a tricky task at best. This is partly because he is a very secretive man and mostly because he is a figment of the Singular Spectrum’s collective imagination.
No one is sure which of us was the first to imagine Andrew, but he’s been around since the old days when it was just the Adams and me. Back then, he wasn’t a contributor – he just sat around reading over our shoulders while we tried to write and eating all of our oatmeal. As we added new authors to the mix, however, they began to contribute their brainpower to his existence as well and eventually he grew strong enough to write posts for himself.
All of the authors here imagine Andrew in different ways. To Adam Beckmeyer, he’s an android butler with a heart of gold. Adam Swensen sees him as a disembodied face with telekinetic powers, and the Allen sisters insist that he’s actually a clone of Jonathan Frakes (or Jack Black, depending on which sister you ask). Aaron and Kristin still haven’t begun to imagine him yet. Kristin has mentioned a figure dressed all in mauve who stands outside her house and hums the theme to MacGyver incessantly, but that’s probably unrelated.
As for me, I imagine Andrew as a slightly less handsome and witty version of myself. His sense of humor is similar enough to mine to work well as a complement without overshadowing my jokes, and he is a writer just like me, although not quite as profoundly articulate. He’d be the ideal brother if he wasn’t imaginary, but that’s okay. I love him just the way he is.
I came home from heaven in the soul-sapping heat of late summer. I could see my plans in the distance like glass castles, big and bold and shining and so much more fragile than they looked. I tripped over myself in my haste to move in, and as my stumbling footsteps shook the ground the foundations cracked and the tiers and towers crumbled under their own weight. The shock and shaking threw me to the ground and knocked the air from my lungs.
“Breathe,” He said, but I couldn’t hear His voice over the shattering.
I picked up the biggest pieces and stacked them in grotesque, jagged arrangements as high as I could until they fell again. I cursed and spat in the dust as the edges cut my hands and my heart, and I mixed the dust and the spit and the blood and the curses with furious hands. I used the mud for mortar, but it only served to smear the glass – my towers would not stand, and soon the only pieces left were too small to hold. I sat in the ruins and screamed about injustice and remorse until I choked on my own words.
“Breathe,” He said, but what did He know?
I glared at Him across the plain of shards and took one deep breath – in, but not out. I puffed out my cheeks and my chest and arranged the fragments on the ground into words. ”I’M GOING TO HOLD MY BREATH UNTIL YOU FIX IT,” I threatened. ”I WANT IT BACK JUST THE WAY IT WAS.”
He bent down and drew one word in the dirt by his feet. I knew what it was before I saw it, but I stood to look anyway.
“Breathe,” He wrote, and the tears in his eyes shimmered like broken glass in the sun.
I felt the air turn from life to poison inside my lungs, draining my strength and forcing me to my knees. As my vision tilted and blurred and dimmed I saw a shape rushing toward me. He gathered me into His arms and struggled to hold my shaking body as I fought against myself to hold my burning breath hostage.
“Breathe,” He whispered, but I had forgotten how.
I slid down into darkness, and all of my complaints and fears and frustrations lost their hold on my mind until I was left with just one thought: what a waste, to throw away your future over the loss of something that never existed. With the last of my strength I opened my mouth, but my lungs remained still. I thought I felt something – a finger, perhaps, on my lips, and from an impossible distance I heard a shout ring out.
“BREATHE!” He screamed, and light blazed through the abyss.
Air tore through me in rasping, desperate waves, and my heart rushed to make up for the beats it had missed. I struggled to my feet, His strong arms supporting me, and I took one last look at the remains of my grandiose plans. They seemed pale and insubstantial in the stark light of day – scraps of dirty rags on unholy ground, hardly worth fighting for – and it was the easiest thing in the world to turn away.
Past the edge of my fallen little world I saw a breathtaking expanse of peaks and valleys, trees and plains, light and shadow and possibility, unspeakably beautiful and stretching out into forever. He stood in the space between the disaster and the divine, and He held out His hand.
“Come,” He said, and His voice was still and small and irresistible.
I ran to meet Him across the plain of shards, and as I took His hand I drew one deep breath – in and then out. The air was cool and clean out there, heavy with the scent of life and growth, and with every breath the weight on my soul grew lighter.
It had never felt so good just to breathe.
Drawing in air must be an art. I can’t think of how else to describe it. Something so natural it can’t be taught, or learned, or imparted. And CPR doesn’t count.
Just thinking about this makes me wonder; who showed me how to breathe? Who told me how it works, how to use it for speech?
The fact is that no one did. I wasn’t taught, I didn’t learn…but someone did give me the knowledge. I would call breathing an art; an ability gifted to each of us by God.
And oh, how I need it! Breath whispers and screams through my lungs, pushing my voice through my lips out to those around me. Breath sustains my corporeal being. Holding my breath helps me win at hide and seek. Letting my breath go provides laughter an escape from my body.
Breath is living. To “breathe our last” is to live our ending moment. Breath doesn’t touch my soul, of course, even in death. But my soul goes out into the world by way of my breath’s ins and outs.
Still, I wonder how I know to breathe. How do I know to take in and to let out this oxygen and nitrogen mixture? How can I know I need it, outside of moments when my body feels a threat to its continuance, such as the moment before I break the surface of the water, or when the wind blows too heavily against my face?
As I’ve pondered these things, little though they may seem, it occurred to me that breathing isn’t up to me. I can pretend sometimes that it’s under my power, but it isn’t. No more than the beats of my heart. My body knows to take in air because of one thing only; the command of God for it to do so. In fact, the instances wherein I use my ability to hold or release my breath more often lead to panic than to peace; to hyperventilation more than ease of inhalation. The trick of this art of breathing, this art of living, is in surrender. We must comply with the Word of our Father.
Here’s a lesson in breathing, then; never use control.
1. the air inhaled and exhaled in respiration.
2. respiration, especially as necessary to life.
3. life; vitality.
4. the ability to breathe easily and normally: She stopped to regain her breath.
5. time to breathe; pause or respite: Give him a little breath.
Some days, I forget to breathe. I am helpless without outside forces acting on me to make my lungs and I move.
And thank God I’m helpless, because if my need for my Creator was any less, He wouldn’t need to come into this helpless body Himself and force my lungs to inhale and expel His glory.
Since you are reading this, I can assume you’ve made it.
Made it where?
Simply put, you have made it here. You have made it to “now.”
I’m not sure where you are, who you are, or what your story is, but I can guarantee that you have been breathing through it all. I don’t know what the last chapters in your life have brought, but I can guarantee that during these past chapters of your life, your lungs have been filled with the precious gift of air, causing you to breathe.
Therefore, you’ve made it!
You’ve made it past that stressful week.
You’ve made it through the death of a loved one.
You’ve made it around the giant obstacle that presented itself to you and you kept breathing.
Don’t you ever forget to breathe.
The earth around you may tremble and everything will become unstable, but keep breathing.
The skies may grow dim and darkness will surround you, but keep breathing.
Things will look up, though at this point it may not seem possible.
Please! Don’t stop breathing through it.
While life is unpredictable and will throw you curves, breath is still consistent. You must continue to breathe.
You’ve made it here thus far. Just keep on breathing through whatever has come your way.
Breathe in and breathe out.
Do it again.
You will make it through. Just keep on breathing through it.
It won’t be easy. Life is not easy, but it can certainly get better.