Disclaimer: Okay folks, Saban . . . Rangers . . . .you get the drift. :) Well, I was in a pretty contemplative mood when I wrote this, so consider yourself duly warned. If you canít figure out who Iím talking about, email me. (Email me anyway . . . I like email :)

A Heartbeat
By Rachel Lynn

There is only a heartbeat between life and death. No one knew that better than him. Heíd seen enough examples of it to pound the lesson home. Only a heartbeat. It was a simple vibration that anyone could feel, all it took was a single touch. But it was that simple thud that separated the vivacious from the silent. He knew the silence, and he dreaded itís absence of sound, the surrealness of feeling the beat one moment, for the last moment.

Enough tragedies to last a lifetime, maybe even two lifetimes, and a heartbeat marked them all. He put a hand on his chest, and felt the steady rhythm. He was still alive, despite everything. But to what purpose? Why had those before him fallen? Better yet, why hadnít he? The steady rhythm of beats mocked him. Life or death. A heartbeat.

What force determined when it stopped? Was there a reason for it? Was there an explanation for why his had resumed itís steady pace? He had watched teammates fall. He had willed their hearts to beat on, but they hadnít. They were silent forever.

But his had started again. For a few short seconds, nothing had stood between him and death. But one heartbeat, followed by another, and then another, had brought him back. In a beat, his world had changed forever. Nothing was the same; no one was the same.

He could see the changes. In the buildings, in the trees, in the people, in his friendís eyes. Everything was different, and the strangeness of it all threatened to over take him. Nothing was familiar anymore, there was nothing in this world that had been in his. Objects and people looked vaguely familiar, like an old memory turned hazy by time, but there was something in all of them that set their world apart from his.

Two years was a short time in comparison to the span of a lifetime. But for him, two years might as well have been an eternity. An eternity he couldnít bring back, and one he couldnít seem to catch up to. He felt his heart beat in a steady staccato. He had survived in body. But his spirit . . .

His best friend. His best friend from the time theyíd both learned to speak their first words. He barely recognized the person his friend had become. The person he had known had changed in those two years. There was a canyon between them, now. A canyon he couldnít seem to cross. Time. Two years had irreconcilably changed something that had taken most of his life to build. His friend was different from him and his silenced teammates. In the blink of an eye, a moment in time, a beat of a heart.

His heart still beat rhythmically with life. But in some ways it would be easier if it didnít. Heíd be with those who had gone before him, and the ache that had taken up permanent residence in his soul, would vanish.

There was no way to steal back the lost time. He knew that. The days were gone forever, and he mourned their loss. The rest of the universe had continued, while his had been on hiatus. This world was foreign to him, and vaguely he wondered if it always would be. He felt like a visitor, a traveler. Belonging, but only for a short while before he was expected to move on.

He wanted to go back. Back to the place between beats. Back to the times before. He had been innocently unaware then. Naively trusting in everything the light touched. But all he saw now was varying degrees of darkness, and the shadows threatened to overwhelm him. Vainly, he was trying to resist them as they closed in. Shadows of the past. Shadows of the people heíd been unable to save. Shadows of his former self. Shadows of what might have been.

A beat. A single beat. How had he become a stranger to himself? Why couldnít he even recognize his own face in the mirror anymore? His life had altered itís course. For better. For worse. There was no choice but to chase away the demons that gnawed relentlessly on his soul. Life or death. A heartbeat. His beat on.