About TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT by David Pilarski

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Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds. – Franklin D. Roosevelt


Chapter 2: First of Many

Matthew awoke suddenly and became immediately aware of how uncomfortable he was. The bed was incredibly hard, and something scratched at his face. When he opened his eyes, he realized he wasn’t in his bed at all. His first sight was that of the brilliant, blue sky with an occasional white, fluffy cloud moving slowly across it. As he became more fully awake, Matthew realized he was lying on the ground, and the source of the scratchy discomfort were long, thick blades of green grass. He sat up bewildered and in total disbelief. The young man looked around and struggled to make sense of his surroundings. He realized he was in an open field with tall grass and sporadic purple wildflowers. It was oppressively warm, but there was a strong wind providing some relief from the heat. Matthew was overcome with confusion. The last thing he remembered was falling asleep in his bed.

“Where am I?” he demanded aloud, not knowing exactly whom he was addressing. His first thought was his grandfather’s farm, but there was no field there such as this, and the landscape was altogether unfamiliar. Suddenly, he heard voices in the distance. Matthew slowly stood up and looked directly behind him. Just beyond a small tree line, there was another adjacent field where he saw some movement. Matthew focused more intently and saw at least two men on horseback and a number of people working in the field. He had absolutely no idea where he was or how he had gotten there.

He decided to walk over to the neighboring field in an attempt to stumble upon something familiar. His last conscious act that he could recall was turning off his computer and crawling into bed. He reached the tree line and walked through it until he had an open view of the next field. As he walked, Matthew noticed the vegetation changing. The field was covered with green spiny plants whose flowers seemed to be a fuzzy, soft white. Matthew bent down to get a closer look. He had never seen such a plant, but when he reached out and touched the flower, it had the consistency of a cotton ball. It suddenly dawned on him that these were indeed cotton plants. Matthew straightened and resumed walking as bewildered as before about how he had come to be in this place.

As he approached the workers in the field, he noticed that the two horsemen looked to be of Caucasian descent and the field workers of African descent. He also noticed their clothing was rather strange as well. The male workers donned white, long-sleeved button-down shirts that hung loosely on their bodies and long pants cut off at the calf. The women were wearing long, brown dresses with aprons and red scarves tied around their heads. They were apparently harvesting the cotton off the plants and placing it into baskets on the ground beside them. Matthew’s mind flashed to the hay baler and he wondered why these people weren’t employing a more automated system of picking the cotton. Maybe this was a small farmer who couldn’t afford fancy equipment and hired migrant workers instead. One of the women workers stood to stretch her back, no doubt strained from hunching over the plants. Matthew then turned his attention to the two white horsemen. They were also dressed in strange clothing, wearing similar white shirts, brown cowboy style boots and hats. He also noticed a most surprising item dangling down from their saddles. They each had a whip, which added to his confused state of mind. Matthew finally reached one of the workers and stopped.

“Excuse me,” Matthew said politely while simultaneously trying to suppress his panicked feeling. “Can you tell me where I am?”

He was sure it sounded like a ridiculous question and felt a little foolish asking it, but it was after all, the burning inquiry of the moment. The worker not only had no response, but did not even stand up to greet him. Matthew bent down to get at eye level and repeated the question but was again met with no response of any kind. He stood and walked over to the next closest person and tapped him on the shoulder from behind.

“Excuse me, I seem to be lost,” he said.

This time the male worker stopped, looked behind him and brushed his hand across the same shoulder Matthew tapped as though swatting away a fly.

What the hell? Matthew thought.

Even if they didn’t speak English, they should have at least acknowledged him. It was as though they had not even seen him. He walked over to one of the horsemen and again attempted to politely address his request, but he not only ignored Matthew’s question, he didn’t even acknowledge his existence. Matthew glanced over to the other horseman who was a good forty yards away. His heart leapt when he realized the man made direct eye contact with him, but it was short lived when the horseman quickly gave his steed a swift kick and trotted off. Matthew knew that man had seen him and was frustrated that he had ridden off so quickly. No one else here seemed to be able to see him. The fear he fought to suppress suddenly overcame him.

Where am I? he thought. Then the questions stormed through his mind.

Why was he standing here with these strange people, none of whom would acknowledge him? Where was his bed, his room, and his home? More than anything, he wanted to get out of here. Panic began to rise within him. He jumped in front of the male worker and screamed.

“Hey! Hey!” Matthew yelled in desperation. “Look at me! Can’t you see me? Where am I? What’s going on?!”

Not surprisingly, the man looked right past Matthew. He was frightened and felt completely out of control. Matthew had no idea where he was, how he had gotten there, or why he had become invisible. Then he heard one of the men on horseback speak.

“Finish up your baskets and bring ’em over to the gin-house for the final weighin’ of the day,” the man called out to the workers.

Evening appeared to be imminent as the sun began to set in the horizon. A bell began ringing in the distance. The workers complied with the horseman’s request and filled each of their baskets over the course of the next few minutes. Once completely full, each worker picked up his or her basket and began to walk silently to a large, barn-like building about a half mile off in the distance. In the absence of any other possible option, Matthew decided to walk along with the group. There were about twenty of them, and they were all completely oblivious to Matthew’s presence. He had never before experienced the impotence of being invisible. He felt trapped, hopeless and terrified. As a means of comforting himself, Matthew told himself that this thing, this dream or whatever it was, could not last forever. Eventually he would be back in his bedroom; he just had to endure it until then. He would just follow the group until this ended, which he continued to tell himself, would be only moments from now. It seemed that since no one could see him, no harm could come to him. His mind quickly jumped to the horseman who made direct eye contact. If he could indeed see him, why hadn’t he offered to help? Of course, he really did not know if he was a friend or foe. With that thought, Matthew suddenly felt safer being invisible. He hoped he wouldn’t come across that man again. It didn’t occur to him that if one person could see him, maybe there were others who could as well.

As they walked along, they eventually reached a dirt road at the very edge of the cotton field. On the other side of the road was another large, open field. The road seemed to lead to a group of buildings, which appeared to be their intended destination. Just fifty yards away, Matthew noticed a single log pole with a dangling sign blowing in the breeze. He quickly jogged over to the pole in order to get a better view of the sign.

Terra Nor Plantation
Since 1749
Virginia’s Pride Cotton Plantation

“Virginia?” Matthew mumbled under his breath. “How could I possibly be in Virginia? 1749? This farm is over two hundred and fifty years old!”

Matthew glanced back toward the farm and noticed the group was lined up outside a building, which he could only guess was the gin-house. He quickly caught up with them, feeling less vulnerable blending into the mass of humanity than standing alone. He reached the outskirts of the yard and quickly looked around at the different buildings. To the left of the road, there was the gin-house and another barn structure, which smelled as though it housed some animals, an all-too-familiar odor to Matthew from the countless hours he spent on his grandfather’s farm. To the right of the road, there were several small, crude wooden homes, which apparently housed the field hands. The dirt road continued beyond all of these structures and gently curved around another tree line to a large white building another half a mile away. Matthew focused his vision and noticed the building had huge white pillars, a red brick porch, and fourteen windows across the entire front of the home. This whole scene definitely had the makings of a southern plantation, straight out of his mother’s favorite movie, GONE WITH THE WIND. Surely, there would be a phone in the big house. Abandoning his desire to stay with the crowd, his new goal was to reach that house and find some means of communication. He would call home and get some answers. He did not stop to consider what those answers could possibly be, but at the moment, the promise of speaking to his parents was the only thing keeping him going.

As Matthew continued along the dirt road past the gin-house, he came upon a man reading a piece of paper. The man took no notice of him but continued to read the paper. Curiosity got the best of Matthew, so he went behind the man and read over his shoulder. Shock and terror ran through Matthew’s blood as he read.

To Be Sold and Let by Public Auction
On Monday the 18th of June, 1859
Male and Female
Also for sale at Eleven O’clock
Fine Rice, Gram, Paddy, Books, Needles, Pins, Ribbons
County Courthouse
Richmond, Virginia

Matthew felt dizzy and was suddenly overcome with nausea. He knelt to the ground and placed his head between his knees. After a few moments, he gathered himself and looked up. The man had walked away but left the paper lying on the ground right next to him. A strong gust of wind carried the paper away as Matthew watched it scurry across the ground and eventually lodge itself against the branches of a nearby bush. He didn’t know what to think, what to do or where to turn for help.

Panic stricken and feeling the need to find shade from the intense heat, Matthew stood and ran over to the first little home he came upon in hopes of finding someone or something to wake him from this delirious state. He quickly reached the first little hut and went inside. It had one room with a dirt floor. There were no beds but only three planks of wood resting on the ground. There was a crude fireplace and an empty basin in one corner with a few cooking pots and pans neatly stacked inside. There was no phone, no TV, no radio, no bathroom, obviously no electricity. As Matthew wondered how anyone could live under these conditions, a towering large man walked through the door followed by a woman and a young boy who could not be any older than sixteen. Seeing this family unit made him long for his own. Matthew said nothing in hopes they might notice him on their own accord, but as he expected, they didn’t acknowledge his presence.

“Benny, go tend the garden before mama gets supper for us,” said the man who was obviously the father of this small family.

Yes, sir,” replied the boy obediently as he turned and walked back out the door.

“Carrie, I gots word from Big George,” the man continued once his son left the hut. “There’s a group from the Connor’s Plantation plannin’ to go tonight after dark.”

“Tonight?” responded Carrie in protest, obviously troubled by the news. “But Thomas, we don’t gots enough dried food yet. I thoughts we was goin’ to leave in a month.”

Thomas was not deterred.

“George says we can meets up with ‘em three miles down the James River,” he continued. “Moses herself arrangin’ this trip. We can’t wait. This the best chance we gots to go north and frees ourselves. Besides, I heards there mights be a slave auction happin’ soon. With the master’s poor crop this year, he can’t’ keep feedin’ all us much longer. He goin’ to have to sell some of us.”

A chill overcame Carrie as she gave Thomas a panic-stricken look. Flashes of a day four years ago came back to her. Their master had sold five of his slaves that day and one of them was a twelve-year-old girl. Carrie watched in agony as the overseers pulled the girl from her mother’s last embrace, never knowing if they might someday see each other again. That image of their hands slowly slipping away from one another until they were separated still haunted Carrie. The screams of the parents and child ripped away from each other still echoed in her mind to this day. She now knew they had no choice but to leave tonight and make do as best they could.

Matthew stood in the corner frozen with disbelief. Clearly, he was witnessing a scene from a different time. He had no idea how he had gotten here. All that mattered to him now was getting out and going home. The idea of being trapped here was beyond fathomable. His mind was racing as to how he could escape but was completely void of any ideas. He suddenly realized how similar his predicament was to that of these people. Except at least they had each other, he thought with self-pity.
Thomas walked toward his wife and embraced her lovingly.
“This the day our ma, pa and grandparents been dreamin’ for us,” Thomas proclaimed. “Most of alls, this what we wants for Benny. He smart and can have a different life in the north. It’s time we gives him what he deserves. His own free life!”

Carrie slowly looked up at Thomas and gave him a reassuring smile.

Several hours seemingly had passed since Matthew had mysteriously been transported to this strange place, and darkness was beginning to settle on the plantation. Benny had returned from working in their small garden, and the family was sitting down to eat what Matthew assumed would be their final meal here. It was a meager feast comprised of rice, corn and beans.

Matthew decided to slip out of the hut and explore the big house, hoping a clue would emerge, giving him some indication as to what was going on and the slim possibility of finding a phone. He walked outside navigating his way back to the main home through the growing darkness as evening approached. When he arrived, Matthew knocked at the door out of habit from polite, Midwestern manners, but no one answered, so he opened it and entered the home uninvited. He couldn’t shake the feeling of breaking and entering, but he told himself he had no choice. He hadn’t asked to be in this position, and all he could do now is try to find a way out of here.
The foyer of the house was huge and Matthew immediately noticed the spiral staircase leading to the upstairs hallway balcony.

“GONE WITH THE WIND for sure,” Matthew whispered to himself almost amused at the predictable absurdity of it all.
There was no one in sight, but he soon heard voices coming from somewhere on the first floor. He stepped inside the grand foyer and began to make his way through the house, searching for the source of the conversation. The house itself was amazing. The ceilings were much higher than that of his Indiana home, and the banister woodwork was beautiful. He successfully navigated through a series of hallways and rooms until he finally reached what appeared to be the kitchen. He pushed open the swinging door and walked inside. There were two black women wearing stained white dresses feverishly tending a multitude of pots boiling on the stove. Sweat visibly dripped through the red bandanas tightly tied across their foreheads.

“Excuse me!” Matthew said forcefully as he decided to try again, hoping that whatever had turned him invisible had somehow turned him back. “Can you hear me? Can you see me?”

The young man got his answer when neither woman looked in his direction but continued to focus on their task at hand. Matthew was just about to resume exploring the house when he heard another voice just outside the back door of the kitchen. He briskly walked outside and saw a man hunched over on one knee busily moving his hands on the ground. Matthew walked up and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Excuse me sir,” he said, no longer even expecting a response. “Can you hear me?”

Matthew walked around in front of the man and saw him raise a hatchet and swiftly bring it down onto an old stump. Matthew peered through the darkness and saw the man holding a decapitated chicken by both feet, and Matthew suddenly became ill again. He felt the intense need to get away from there as quickly as possible and began to run around to the front of the house in full sprint. He ran to the small house of Thomas, Carrie and Benny. The familial love and affection he had felt there had given him a small sense of connectedness in this unending nightmare.
When he reached his new sanctuary, he found the family quietly packing some food and a few meager belongings. They said not a word as they completed the process and began to walk carefully in a single file out the door of their small home. Matthew could feel the nervous energy dancing between them as they embarked on this terrifying journey. He could not contemplate what unknown fate awaited them if they were to be caught. As Matthew contemplated that possibility, he remembered the whips dangling from the white horsemen’s saddles.

For lack of any other viable option, Matthew decided to join them on their journey. Being apparently invisible, he believed he was safe from the threat of the overseers. It also occurred to him that even if he was spotted with the group, he was neither black nor a slave and really had no reason to hide. The idea of him hiding struck him as strange since he could not get any one to see him no matter how hard he tried. Hiding seemed to be the only thing he was capable of doing at this moment. If only he could transfer his invisibility to the fleeing slaves.

The four quickly ran through the field the slaves had tended just a few hours before, guided only by the dim light of the half-moon above. They came upon the line of trees which separated the two largest fields of the plantation. Once they cleared the tree line, they were in an open field of wild flowers. Further ahead, Matthew could make out what appeared to be a much denser brush of trees on the edge of the wildflower field. This must be the forest cover the family was targeting to make their dangerous attempt at escape. They ran through the darkness for what seemed like a half an hour when they came upon a river. Matthew surmised they must have covered a few miles during that time.
“Let’s stops here and rest,” suggested Thomas.

All four parties bent low to the ground to catch their breath and tried to stay out of sight as much as possible. Matthew saw nothing but the whites of their eyes, within which, he could see their fear. He speculated that they now began to comprehend the severity of the offense they had chosen to commit. He was struck by the reality that it was too late to turn back now. They had escaped the confines of the plantation, and that was the first step. Whether or not they ever made it to freedom was still a huge uncertainty, but they had run away nonetheless and if caught, would be severely punished. Matthew’s own current state of despair seemed to temporarily drift away as he once again contemplated the fate of this family. They were risking their lives and their family unity by fleeing the plantation. They risked everything for one singular purpose -- the hope of a free life in the north. After a few minutes of rest and catching their breath, Thomas whispered to his wife and child, “We only gots a ways to go up the shore before we reach the meetin’ point,” he stated with an encouraging tone.

“What’s the meetin’ point?” asked Carrie as she slumped over to grasp her knees from exhaustion and catch her breath.

“It’s a giant old oaks tree on the shore of the river with a wooden swing hangin’ down from one of its branches,” replied Thomas. “Someone from Moses’ group is awaitin’ to help us cross the river.”
Matthew wondered who Moses was.

After too brief a rest, they resumed their journey with a brisk walk. Thomas was leading the way, Benny behind him, then Carrie and Matthew, unbeknownst to them, bringing up the rear. It occurred to Matthew as they walked that he was getting further and further away from the plantation and may not be able to find his way back. He considered the possibility that he would need to leave this nightmare at the exact same point from which he had entered. Maybe there was some kind of a portal or something in that field where he could somehow access his own space and time. He suddenly was filled with regret for coming along. He should have stayed right there in that field, in the exact spot he had awakened. Maybe if he had stayed there, he would already be back in his own bed, in his own room and in his own time.
He did not have long to wallow in regret and fear. Thomas suddenly stopped in his tracks and silently stood for a moment as the rest of the group followed his lead. Matthew snapped out of his torment when he realized the cause of the delay. He could hear something in the distance causing his blood to run cold – dogs. Somewhere behind them, dogs were barking.
“Run!” Thomas yelled.

They all quickly ran as fast as they could up the shore. Carrie stumbled and fell but Thomas quickly lifted her up. The barking grew louder as the dogs drew closer, and then they heard voices.

The overseers! Matthew thought with a ball of stress suddenly forming within his stomach.

The dogs were on their scent. It was only a matter of time before they would catch up to them. Matthew had to remind himself that he was safe. He was first of all, invisible and second, a free white man. He again wished either of those conditions applied to Thomas, Carrie and Benny.

Thomas suddenly stopped  when he knew what must be done. With that realization, came a darkness that swept across his soul by what it meant but he could not allow himself to be consumed by it. They were on a mission and he had to see it through to the end for his wife and child.

“You both listen to me now!” Thomas urgently whispered. “Keeps goin’ ups the shore. We don’t gots much time before they catches us. I’m goin’ back to distract the dogs and you two keep runnin'. Keep runnin’ and runnin’ and don’t stop for nothin’. Run till you's free! Don’t never looks back! Get to the meetin’ point!”

“No, Pa! We won’t leaves you!” protested Benny with desperation and fear in his voice.

“That’s right!” added Carrie, her voice cracking from emotion. “We’s a family, we sticks together!”

“You both listens to me,” Thomas began again. “They gonna whip us bad if they catches us. Benny too, and then they probably gonna sells us to different masters to keep us apart. There’s no goin’ back now. We ain't got a choice! Do as I tells ya!”

Thomas placed both hands on Benny’s shoulder and looked in his son’s eyes.

“Son, you’s the man of the family now,” Thomas said with as much strength as he could muster. “I wants ya to take your mama and gets cross that river and don’t stop. I want my boy to be’s a free man!”
Matthew could hear Benny sobbing as he spoke. “I loves you, Pa,” Benny said, barely able to say the words.

“I loves you, too, boy,” Thomas replied with deep sorrow while hugging his son. He struggled to hold back tears and keep himself together in order to remain strong for his family. Benny buried his head deep into his father’s muscular chest where he always felt safe, where he always felt loved.

Thomas tried to summon a strength and resolve deep within he knew was needed now for his wife and child. He kissed Benny on the forehead and gave him a reassuring smile as he paused one final moment to look deep into his son’s big, brown eyes. Thomas wished he could convey to his son all of his wisdom and knowledge in these final moments. He wanted to somehow transfer everything he wanted to say throughout Benny’s life as though he were always going to be there over the course of the next several decades. But alas, Thomas knew this was the end, and a sinking feeling befell his heart. Time stood still for a few seconds as Thomas felt a sense of peace surrounding his next course of action. He never felt more connected to his son than at this very moment. He knew that all would be okay with his wife and child. He somehow knew they would make it and his sacrifice was worth their freedom.

“I so proud of ya, son,” Thomas said, as the tears now freely flowed down both their faces.

“Oh, Pa,” Benny said clinging to his father.

Thomas released his son from their embrace and turned to Carrie who looked at him with tear-filled, loving eyes. They both knew this was the only course of action they must take in order to provide Benny the best life possible and break the twine of slavery that had bound their family for generations.

“I can’t says goodbye,” Carrie said, barely able to speak as the tears streamed down her face.
Thomas looked deeply into his wife’s beautiful, hazel eyes.

“You knows my heart is yours,” Thomas said as he held Carrie tightly. “Always has been. You mades me so happy. You deserves to be free, and I wants that for ya both even if I can’t be there’s wich ya.” Thomas paused a moment to collect himself in order to summon the strength to speak the final words to his wife whom he loved with all his heart.

“I’d rather wanders the Earth as a ghost, my love, than pass through the gates of heaven withouts ya,” Thomas said with immense clarity, purpose, and love.

“Oh, Thomas,” Carrie responded as she lifted her left hand and gently caressed Thomas’ right cheek.
Thomas, who towered over his wife, bent down one final time to kiss her on the lips, a ritual he had done so many times over these past two decades, but none with so much meaning.

Their final kiss.

Thomas made it count as their passionate embrace filled his soul. It also reassured him the importance of the personal sacrifice he was about to make.

To save his family.

They all swiftly embraced and kissed each other one final time. Each had tears of love and sorrow freely flowing as they knew this would likely be the last moment they would ever share together again as a family. Thomas lifted his head and listened again for the sounds of their pursuers who were drawing even closer. They were almost out of time, and Thomas knew he had to act right now.

“Now, go!” he said with great urgency. “Son, you takes care of your mama. I loves you both more than the stars in the sky. Ain't nothin’ ever gonna change that.”

Thomas turned and ran back down the shore in the opposite direction in hopes he could run their captors off course and buy his family some time. He never looked back for he knew the pain he felt in his heart would be magnified all the more. He couldn’t possibly bear seeing them stand there in their own sorrow as they watched him disappear. He couldn’t risk any delays or become swept away by his own pain that may neutralize him, because now every second mattered. He had to remain strong. He had to be their rock just as he has been for their entire lives.

Unconditional love. No power greater in the Universe.

Matthew stood there with tears in his eyes and a huge lump in his throat.  What can I do?! He thought. Helplessness settled in as an overwhelming wave of panic began to consume him. He  yelled out in frustration. “God damn it!” he screamed. “What can I do to help them?! Jesus!”

Carrie and Benny took one more futile look backward through the darkness to catch a final glimpse of Thomas before he disappeared and then began running again as quickly as they could. Matthew couldn’t take watching this family being ripped apart, unable to control the well of emotion churning within. The tears welling within his eyes now began flowing down his face.

“It can’t end this way!” Matthew yelled in disbelief. “This isn’t happening! Christ! This can’t be happening.” Then Matthew realized that he could possibly do something to help them.

“No! Thomas, wait!” Matthew pleaded as he ran after him. “Let me go, Thomas! Let me take your place! Let me distract them!” The panic and pain in his voice was palpable.

Matthew was suddenly startled by a shrill alarm. He quickly sat up and opened his eyes. His focus was dazed at best, as he tried to get his bearings. After a few moments, he realized he was back in the comforts of his bedroom. He was sweating, and his sheets were drenched, but he was actually in his own bed. There was no sign of Thomas, Benny or Carrie. He was safe and overcome with relief that the horrible separation had been just a dream. Thomas was safe. They were all safe. It had all been a dream unlike any he ever had.

“Rise and shine, sleepy head,” said his mom as she walked down the hall passing Matthew’s doorway.
Matthew looked up and smiled with immense relief. He was filled with a peace and contentment never before associated with the simple pleasure of waking up in his own room. He jumped out of bed, still trembling and flipped on his computer. Still caught between the two realities, he searched the word, “Moses,” and in doing so, several Biblical references appeared. He quickly scrolled through them until he found one that referred to slavery. Matthew highlighted the text and clicked on it. A picture of a black woman appeared in the upper right hand corner of the screen with the name Harriet Tubman beneath it. Matthew’s eyes flickered back and forth as he read the article. He soon learned that Harriet Tubman was a former slave who escaped to the north to freedom only to return to help other slaves escape. A network of other sympathizers across the country formed what was called the Underground Railroad. Matthew began to recall what he had learned in Mr. Smithburn’s middle school history class. He went on to read that Ms. Tubman was sometimes referred to as “Moses” by slaves as a title of her importance in freeing as many of them as possible.
Matthew was baffled as to why his subconscious mind had reached into his memory and hijacked a character from eighth grade history to appear in his dream. What’s next? Eli Whitney and his cotton gin?

At least it was just a dream. That was too much drama for him. He was still haunted by the all-too-real emotions he just experienced. Thankfully, Matthew was now standing there in his own reality, in his bedroom safe and sound. Yet, he was still experiencing the fear of being caught by the overseers or the dogs. He was weak with sorrow at the thought of Benny and Carrie being separated from Thomas forever. And what would become of Thomas? Would he be killed? He seemed to remember hearing that sometimes slaves who had attempted to run away would have their feet or legs cut off to prevent them from ever running again. He then marveled at Thomas’ bravery. Matthew believed if he had been born a slave, he would have died a slave, confident he lacked the courage to ever risk running away. What gave Thomas such courage? Not to mention the completely selfless act of running back toward their pursuers to sacrifice himself so that his wife and son would know freedom. Who would do that? But yet the second he posed the question, the answer rang loudly in his own mind and heart. His own father would do the same for him, his siblings and his mother--that much he knew for sure. The giving, kind, selfless, and protective, paternal love Matthew has always known from David now took on a much deeper meaning and appreciation. It was something Matthew would certainly never take for granted-- unconditional love. This experience also made him realize how important it is to tell the ones we love so dearly how much we appreciate them and how we feel because we truly don’t know what lies ahead in life.

Matthew was extremely happy that things were back to normal, and he could begin the first day of his last week of high school. It wasn’t until he glanced over to his monitor that he noticed the shiny object he found yesterday in his grandfather’s field. Preoccupied by his dream, Matthew had completely forgotten about his treasure. His heart jumped in anticipation as he remembered about the phone call he and his dad would be making to NASA today. After getting himself ready for school, Matthew grabbed the paper with the NASA phone number and ran downstairs.

David and Ann were sitting at the kitchen table finishing breakfast. Impulsively, he bent down and kissed them each on the cheek, thinking of the turmoil of the family in his dream.

“Good morning!” he said enthusiastically.

“Well, thank you,” said his mother, completely taken off guard.

Not one to dwell on the spontaneous show of affection, Matthew immediately asked his dad, “When are you going to call NASA, Dad? I wrote down the number of a research center in Cleveland.”
Matthew was not prepared for the look of befuddlement on his father’s face.

“NASA?” David asked as his coffee cup paused half-way to his mouth.

“Yeah, NASA,” Matthew repeated. “You said you’d call them, remember?” Surely his dad couldn’t have been that tired last night that he had forgotten the plan.

“Why would I call NASA, son?” David questioned.

Matthew felt his patience wane, and it clearly showed in his tone of voice. “The thing I found in the field yesterday,” Matthew reminded his father. “You remember, right?”

Mathew’s facial expression clearly gave no hint of any such recollection.

“Matthew, what did you find?” he asked, trying not to upset his son who obviously had a lot riding on this NASA call.

Matthew gave a frustrated-teenager sigh.

“Dad, yesterday in the field at Grandpa’s farm,” Matthew began. “I found that shiny, oval object. We think it might be some kind of meteorite, remember?”

“Meteorite?” David repeated. “Matthew, if you found a meteorite yesterday, this is the first I’ve heard about it.”

Matthew stood before them in total silence for a few moments, completely perplexed by his father’s ignorance of the events that transpired these past twelve hours. His parents silently stared back.
“It’s in my room. I’ll show you,” Matthew stated with slight desperation.

“Son, I’d love to see it when I get home,” David said as he stood and headed for the door. “I’m already late. I really have to run. We’ll talk about this when I get home.”

Matthew noticed his mom and dad exchange a non-verbal “he’s obviously crazy” type of look.
“You already know about it,” Matthew stated again. “The oval object I discovered in the plowed corn field next to where we were baling hay.”

“Tell ya what, sport,” David said, trying to appease his son. “As soon as we both get home, you show me your oval thing okay?”
With that, David placed his coffee cup down on the kitchen table and made his way to the door. He kissed Ann, said goodbye, stepped into the garage and left for work. Matthew then turned to his mother in hopes that she didn’t suffer the same temporary amnesia on the topic as his father.

“Mom?” Matthew said questioningly. “You remember, don’t you?”

“Are you feeling okay, honey?” she asked while walking over and placing her right hand on his forehead. “You don’t seem to have a fever.”

“I feel totally fine!” Matthew replied curtly. “You don’t remember anything?”

Before Ann could answer, Samantha ran down the backstairs to the kitchen in a rush.

“Matthew, we’d better get going or we’ll be late,” she announced impatiently.

Then Matthew realized that his sister had seen the oval as well last night, just before he went to sleep.

“Sam!” he said with renewed excitement, hoping he would receive a validating response. “You saw it!”

“Saw what?” she asked while walking toward the garage door.

Not her too! Matthew thought, beginning to feel completely exasperated.

“The oval, God damn it!” Matthew yelled in frustration.

Ann gave Matthew a disapproving look for his language.

“Whatever,” Sam replied. “Let’s go, because I can’t be late for exams.”

Defeated, Matthew walked out the front door with his sister, and they both got into his car. He started the engine and backed down the driveway. As Matthew applied the brake to engage in forward drive when they reached the street, he paused and glanced back to his bedroom window in the front of the house.
What is that thing? he thought to himself.

“Come on, space cadet,” blurted Samantha. “Let’s go!”

“Oh, sorry,” Matthew said as he was suddenly whisked back to reality and finally drove off to school.

The eighteen-year-old boy from Indiana, who had never seen the ocean, was about to ride one incredible wave. 

Albert Einstein

" Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. "

DavidPilarski.com: Triumph of The Spirit

Helen Keller

" No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit. "

DavidPilarski.com: Triumph of the Spirit