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Blog 6

The object of the two friends’ quest was, in fact, currently sitting on one of the many park benches outside star-shaped Fort McHenry contemplating life. Jerry knew he should be attending his birthday party but didn’t want to bring anyone down with the general malaise he had been experiencing for several weeks. His friends and family were having such a good time, and Jerry didn’t want to disappoint anyone.
     The young, nationally ranked swimmer with Olympic aspirations wasn’t exactly what you would label ‘handsome’ with a gawky, lanky six-foot-three-inch frame he was still growing into, light brown moppy head of hair, and almost comically thick-lensed glasses. In fact, the only knock on him in the swimming world was Jerry’s dismal sight. There was concern that would slow him down on turns and relay transitions at the very highest level. Jerry’s time and interest were primarily occupied by four things: obsessing over UFOs and otherworldly contact, school (where he maintained an A-minus average), swimming, and loving and spending time with Angela; not necessarily in that order. 
     A multitude of concerns lent themselves to his current state. The first of these was quite common for young men his age just graduating from high school and getting ready to go to college and forge their own path. He had no idea what he wanted to do. What major should he pick? There was no place offering UFOlogist, or he would snap that up in a hot flash. Jerry had been obsessed with UFOs and close encounters for as long as he could remember. He had even seen one, from a distance, when he was twelve. He and Shane had been camping in one of their friend’s backyards, spending the night stargazing, when a brightly glowing ball of light appeared out of nowhere far up in the sky directly above them. The object hovered for a few moments before making three quick bursts, moving faster and farther than any human vehicle possibly could each time. The UFO followed these maneuvers by shooting out into space with a flash. Of course, the event blew the minds of all the boys present, but it maintained particular significance for Jerry. That being said, universities didn’t offer such courses, so he knew he would have to pick a different major and pursue his obsession with otherworldly life on his own time. 
     The second issue Jerry sat on the bench contemplating concerned matters of the heart. He had loved Angie, truly loved her, since the first moment he laid eyes on her when he was fourteen. They began dating officially two years later and had never looked back. He couldn’t imagine living without her, but here he was, a year ahead in school, planning to leave the state for at least four years. How could that possibly work? Angie was more than a high school sweetheart to Jerry. He was convinced she was the love of his life and wanted desperately to marry her someday and make a family. But both of their relatives had high expectations for them. Jerry had been offered and accepted a full athletic scholarship for swimming to Stanford University, which was all the way across the country. Angela had a year left in high school, and the Baltimore Institute for the Arts was already considering her for a full ride. She had a multitude of artistic abilities: singing, painting, sculpting, and playing the piccolo. If both of those situations played out, the two of them would be spending nine months a year away from each other for at least four years. That was horrible, and Jerry hated the thought of it. But he also felt the alternatives were limited. How could he turn down a full scholarship to one of the best institutions in the country? The same applied to his lady. Neither of them wanted to limit the other’s possibilities to grow and succeed. Angie, as always, had been incredibly supportive throughout the process of college applications. She had encouraged him to take the scholarship offer, knowing what an incredible opportunity it presented. She never wavered at his side, regardless of the issue or challenge. And now he was about to leave her for the West Coast, and he hated himself for it. 
     The last issue clouding Jerry’s heart was the oddest and most disturbing of all. For the past several weeks, he had been experiencing nightmares, which awakened him every night. They were alarmingly intense, more memory than dream, but that was impossible. Jerry had never been to the place the visions always depicted: a dark, vast expanse of nothing but grassy fields stretching as far as the eye could see. The young man was a die-hard city boy. Even on vacations, his family preferred visiting urban areas instead of the country in foreign lands: Paris, Dubai, London … the list goes on. The only broad, grassy fields Jerry had ever seen were soccer and football fields, but the ones in his dreams were vastly dissimilar from these. Set within these grounds were two or three reasonably small wooden structures, one of which looked like a barn or storage building of some kind, but he could never clearly make them out. Yet it was not the peculiar land Jerry found himself in during these dreams, nor the murky edifices contained therein that bothered him so; it was the unyielding shadow continually pursuing him through the fields and around the buildings. This foreboding presence exuded wave upon wave of pure, unrefined hatred. Jerry could not see whatever it was clearly, but he could feel the shadow and the utter contempt it held for him, and he feared it mightily. 
The dreams always ran a similar course. Jerry would be in this place so foreign to him, yet at the same time so familiar, without knowing how he arrived nor the reason for coming. As he cast about, endeavoring to gain his bearings, a soul-sucking cold would wash over and through him, prefacing the arrival of the shadowy presence and its overwhelming detestation of Jerry. Whatever it was, this thing would then pursue him doggedly, growing ever closer by the moment. Just as Jerry was about to succumb to the hunt, the raw despair and terror of the moment would jolt him wide awake, his ragged breathing sounding like gale-force winds to his ears. This fruitless chase re-ran itself nightly, leaving more significant and lasting residues of fear and hopelessness each time. This was the change Jerry’s friends felt in him yet could not possibly fathom. He didn’t want to burden them nor his family by telling them what was going on, but he also knew the dreams were beating him into submission, and he had to figure something out quickly.

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