Free Falling

I went walking out on the ice covered Lake Michigan. It was scary at first because I was afraid I would fall through. I tip-toad. But then I thought, “It’s not how hard I step. It’s all about my weight.” The ice held up like I was walking on concrete.

I relaxed and ran and stomped like a crazy man. I fell over a few times. Sometimes I slid. The ice was flawless, so I would glide for about a minute.

Because I was having such a good time, I lost track of where I was. I couldn’t see any land. There was just ice stretching everywhere. The sun had dipped down beyond the horizon so I had no idea of which direction to head.

I thought to just stand and wait and it would come to me which direction to walk. But I didn’t get the feeling. Mostly I was aware of how quiet it was. The wind whistled by me now and then, but it didn’t affect the profound silence. I thought I could get swallowed up by it. I couldn’t move my feet. I thought, “Oh, no. I’m going to freeze.”

I felt a nudge from behind. I managed to turn around. There was a polar bear a few inches away. I figured I was hallucinating because they’re not native to Chicago. It made sense because one of the symptoms of hypothermia is imagining things that aren’t there. Then I remembered another symptom is you no longer feel the cold. You actually experience the feeling of warmth of sun. I thought, “Well, at least I’m going to have a fun death.”

The polar bear held out it’s paw. I took it in my hand. We walked along the ice. At one point I started to skip. The polar bear didn’t. I don’t think their bodies can do it.

I started to lose sensation in my feet. I fell to the ice. The polar bear picked me up and put me on his back. I held on to his thick fur. I started to feel warm again. It didn’t feel like the imaginary kind. I fell asleep.

I woke up in the hospital. I had a bunch of i-vee’s in my arm. One of my feet were bandaged. My head hurt a lot. The nurse came over and asked how I was feeling. I said, “soooo tired.” The nurse said, “You’re lucky to be alive…There’s someone waiting to see you.” The nurse opened to door to my room and said, “You can come on in.”

The polar bear walked in. He said, “I’m so glad you’re going to be okay. You know it’s really strange. I never come this far south. But I found myself walking this direction. And then, lo and behold, I found you.”

I said, “I thought you were a hallucination.”

The polar bear said, “I know, I thought the same thing when I first saw you!”

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