Response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt, Melody.
Have you seen death snatch someone? It’s an experience that splits your world in half between now and afterlife, a secret seam that was there all along becomes visible. And frayed. You don’t look at the sky the same or feel the wind on your face the same and you try to remember things with a weird urgency, afraid you’ll forget what made them your person.
You test yourself often, little quizzes pop without warning. Can you still hear their voice? Their laugh? You play a slide show in your head, relieved they are still with you…today. Tomorrow?
Losing someone is hard. Losing someone to a disaster, natural or man-made, can be harder. Rescuing a person from certain death, saving their loved ones from misery, is profound and miraculous. I have a friend who has made seven such miracles in her young life. She is a search and rescue dog, a chocolate Labrador named Melody.
Melody is made of goodness that comes from someplace not of this Earth. She is here to help when humans blow things up to kill each other. She finds people five, 10, 20 feet below solid cement at great risk to herself and when they’re pulled out alive, she wags her tail and whimpers in a way that says she knows this should not be, these attacks that rip the circle of life to pieces.
She will search over jagged edges and in hot, dark crevices with bleeding paws and a cut up nose until her handler calls her off, and not rest one second before. Even then, she comes reluctantly, bowed head and wide, restless eyes.
Melody’s handler has told me stories of her amazing live rescues and sad body recoveries.
This is how I imagine Melody would tell us herself.
I’m walked to one edge of the pile to have a look and a smell. It smells of things that don’t belong in the air, gasoline and melting metal. Sulfur vapors burn my nose but don’t worry, I open my mouth to breathe better. I can do it. I will do it.
Firefighters push scent rags in my face, silly guys. Do you think I’d forget what humans smell like? I love you. I will never forget. I take smells anyway, to make them happy.
Let me in there! I want to go in. I’M IN.
This is my side now, my area. It’s mine and if you are in it, I will find you, I promise, you’ll see. I’m walking now, careful, quick steps along cracked concrete, testing temperature with my nose. It’s too hot but I continue. I smell you. I feel you under my burning feet, slight vibrations when you bang something. Wait for me! I’m coming.
I hear you now, you sound scared. Please don’t use all your air. I bark to comfort you. Can you hear me?
I’m crawling, sliding along sharp pieces I can’t see from chalky dust in my eyes. I stop and listen and smell and blink until my eyes work again. I’m sorry I made you wait. Please stay. I’m closer.
Something screeches and moans in front of me and I creep backwards as the beam breaks apart. My handler calls to me and I give her barks…no call off. I’m coming again, I’m coming.
The air is different now, it squeezes my lungs. I try not to pant so fast. I don’t hear you anymore. Are you there? Please be there. Are you there? No sounds. Nothing. I keep going.
The sun shines through the hole from the beam. I can see much better! I stand up. A broken pipe hits my head and drips something hot on me.
I see you! I do! You are covered in grey dust but I see your long hair blowing in the wind.
BARKING THE SPECIAL BARK. I choke. I’m sorry. I wheeze and BARK AGAIN. You’re not moving?
Here come the boots to help! They have ropes and hammers and jacks to lift rocks. They are right over us now! Are you still here? Please be here. The fireman is calling me up to surface. They see you now! I don’t want to leave you.
COME he says. COME!
I’m right here. I’ll be right here when you come out. I COME.
I’m up and out and breathe deep breaths of outside air. I’m excited to see you! They push me aside but I creep back.
Here you come! You’re coming out! You are no bigger than me! A puppy. He is holding you that way when something is wrong. You don’t move and you’re bleeding. I lick your small foot when you’re carried past me. Did it move? Are you still here?
Who did this? I want to see them. I want to see their face and what is in their eyes where their soul should be. I want to lick away the anger and misguided hate. I can do that, you know. I can bring someone back just by sitting with them, leaning against them. They feel my spirit and won’t be so sure anymore, just a crack in a wall but a start. Where are they? I want to try.