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Authors: Adalynn Rafe

Ripple Effect: A Novel (10 page)

BOOK: Ripple Effect: A Novel
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Chapter 14


The ground beneath us rocked and shook. Grabbing Kelly’s arm, I clung to him for support. Around us, thick smog filled the dark night. It smelled like exhaust and smoke, mixed with the salty breeze of the ocean.

Something lit up in the distance and allowed some sort of light to see by. Below me was a floor that looked kind of like cement and asphalt mixed together, and before me a metal railing. Looking to the side of me, I found a tall command tower with guns and missile launchers attached to the deck.

Kelly frantically pulled me back from the railing. Flying through the sky, a ball of fire raged toward us. My eyes widened as I watched it come closer. Curving, the missile hit the hull instead of the deck, causing the floor beneath us to tremble.

The air wasn’t filled with smog, it was filled with smoke. We were in the middle of a battle on an ocean.

My throat tightened and the horror almost chocked me. “Kelly, we are on a ship . . .”

Kelly glanced around, recognition gleaming in his eyes. “It would seem that we are.”

Five men in United States naval uniforms ran past us, the sound of the steps echoing behind the noise of creaking metal. Though easily panicked and scared, they hid it behind their stoic masks. Their dark uniforms looked straight out of World War II.

“Engine room is under water!” a young sailor yelled.

Another looked to his friend in arms and saluted. “It was nice working with you, sailor. We’ve made our nation proud.”

“You don’t mean . . . ?”

“We’re going down.”

The young one’s face filled with sorrow. He saluted the other man before leaving.

My heart stopped as I stared at the brutally honest sailor. With brown hair and blue eyes, I realized it was Kelly. It was like he had aged years in the time between now and his teenage state, though I knew that he had died at eighteen. Something he’d seen in the war had changed him.

The man stepped with dignity to the railing and stood tall as he overlooked the wreckage on the water. Their ship had been nailed and beaten by the enemy forces for an hour. The ship rendered its services so that the carriers could make it through. They took the fire knowing that they would die, but it would serve a greater purpose.

Chaos and panic surrounded Kelly, but he stood calm. Every man on that ship knew that it was the end and he would die. Even the few that lived had accepted the fact. Kelly took the white cap from his head and held it at his chest. Perhaps he always knew that he would die for his country.

“Kelly, come on. There are two available seats left on that life boat.” This man spoke quietly, leaned toward his comrade, as to hide the fact from other soldiers, pointing over his shoulder towards a life boat filled with relieved men. “Owens! Stop being noble and get on that boat!”

Kelly glanced at the boat, not surprised. A sailor had taken one of the spots.

A burdened sigh escaped the man. “You are my best mate. I can’t leave you.”

Kelly glanced into the hazel eyes of the man while noticing the absence of his naval cap atop of his matted brown hair. The man looked only a few years older than Kelly. He seemed familiar to me.

“Get out of here! You have a brand new wife at home. Go home and take care of her,” Kelly ordered sternly.

The man embraced Kelly before leaving. “Goodbye, old friend. God be with you.”

Kelly turned away from him and resumed his gaze into the wreckage filled ocean. Debris floated through the darkened waters; some pieces lit on fire and some not. “Goodbye,” he whispered, perhaps to life more than his friend.

Things moved in slow motion as I moved around the torn up deck. Men threw their hats from their heads. Hoisting life boats—the ship sinking more and more to the side—the men heaved relentlessly, determined to get off the sinking vessel. Some sailors acted more reserved, like Kelly, just waiting for their turn to die. They knew that no one lived forever, especially not in war.

We stood on the
USS Hoel.
According to one of the men who sat calmly at the edge of the boat, we were in the Battle of Samar in the Pacific Ocean.
October 25, 1944

Floating eerily on the darkened waters, Japanese fighter ships anticipated the sinking of the American threat. The powerful Japanese artillery had pieced apart the naval vessel until it could take no more.

Grimly, I stood next to my Kelly. He was still beside the old Kelly, watching the battle scene in silence. The ship tilted, nearly vertical now. Clearly they anticipated their death.

Time sped up as the sound of screams and sirens went off. My head spun from everything hitting me so quickly.

Clinging to Kelly was the only thing I could do. The ship would sink any minute and I personally did not want to experience the feeling of drowning to death. Kelly didn’t deserve it either, not for a second time.

“We need to go,” I said quickly.

Kelly watched the dark, turbulent waters, his face calm. “I died decades ago.”

The ship buckled beneath us, causing me to crash into him. “Kelly . . .” I stared up into his face, purely terrified of what came next. He looked so dreadfully calm.

Kelly held me but didn’t look at me. His eyes were glued to his old self.

I almost started crying. “Do you really want to drown again?” I choked.

Bright eyes pierced through me. He snapped out of his trance and now focused solely on me—in his arms, eyes gleaming, begging him to leave this place. “No,” he answered.

The other Kelly looked behind him one last time. Not an ounce of fear was in his countenance. He saluted his ship before diving off the side and plunging into the dark waters below him.

My Kelly stared at him with a shocked expression.

“Kelly, we need to go!” I yelled, desperately trying to grab his attention.

With teary eyes, Kelly hugged me to him tightly—not only to protect me, but because he
me—and closed his eyes.


*              *              *


Kelly’s arms dropped away from me. He couldn’t help but to gasp. Clearly, he was familiar with this world as well.

In the middle of a field sat a small rustic cabin. Snow filled the ground and the trees were naked, creating a mystical winter forest filled with narrow trunks and branches lined with icicles. No sunlight appeared in this world, but the dark sky was open and clear, giving us perfect visibility of the stars and bright moon.

Kelly took my hand gently and led me to the cabin. Snow crunched beneath us. The chill felt good on my skin and the air cold—and clear of smoke. It felt pure.

Two frosted windows and a solid wooden door acted as gateways to the cabin. The wood appeared old and weathered. The hinges of the door creaked and released rust flakes when Kelly opened it. Inside was one large room with a cot, a table and two chairs, and a fireplace. It smelled dusty with a hint of mold. Shelves lined the far wall, holding large cans, which I assumed held food. A funny thing: the fire had been lit, as if we were expected, casting an orange glow into the space.

“So, where are we?” I asked quietly.

Kelly lifted a can from the shelf. “My grandfather’s cabin in Vermont.” This cabin had to be hundreds of years old. “He would take me on hunting excursions with him when I was boy. I would stay with them during the summer.”

My eyebrow rose.
Kelly is just a boy.

“He taught me honor and dignity. Because of him, I learned how to be a man.”

I took a step toward Kelly and stopped. His strong back was to me, his hands resting on his head. I wanted to reach out and touch his burdened shoulders, run my hands up his neck into his soft hair. My arms ached to hold him close, to soothe him through touch.

As if aware of my gaze, Kelly turned around and stared at me. Blue eyes pierced through me, leaving me with a racing heart and burning cheeks. Fire-cast shadows flickered across half of his young face, his smooth skin. After his eyes traced over me, he bit his lip subtly.

I wanted to say, “Kelly, everything will be alright,” but nothing came out.

Suddenly Kelly wrapped his arms around me and held me tightly. He let out a loud sigh before he began to cry. I stared into the glowing fire behind him, surrounded by the empty mantel. As I affectionately rubbed his back, I felt tears gather in my own eyes.

“Eighteen,” Kelly said quietly, eyes closed. “I was only eighteen.”

Pressing my cheek next to his, I urged him to not worry. But how could I expect that when all I could do was worry? For the both of us.

His hands ran through my auburn hair, a euphoric feeling I had never felt before—that I never wanted to end. “So many years . . . I’ve searched for that answer.”

“Kelly,” I whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

“I’m really dead. I hoped it was just a dream––”

My hands clenched his upper back and I fought a sob. I wished so hard it was just a dream! But holding him now, I couldn’t be more grateful. “Kelly, I’m happy you’re dead.”

Shock filled his voice. “What?”

Moving my head back, I stared into his gleaming eyes and smiled. “Kelly, I wouldn’t want to be dead with anyone else. We can’t change our fates.”

Kelly’s soft hands brushed the tears from my cheeks. “Being here with you is all I could ever ask for, but, are you sure this isn’t a dream?” His brow creased and he cleared his throat. “I’ve been dead long enough to know that some of my family members have surely died—though there is no trace of them.”

I held his hand to my cheek. “I’ve only seen my dead dog.”

Kelly smiled. A spark lit in his eye and he bit down lightly on his lip.

“You were a very noble man, Kelly. You were a million times better than the person that I ever was,” I admitted. It was not to seek his pity, but to tell him how wonderful he was.

Kelly tucked my hair behind my ear gently. “You hit a bump, Cecily. You were just as noble and heroic as I seemed. You gave your sister her life.”

Yet, all that I could picture was my dead body on the rocks. I didn’t see my sister or my mother or Hazel. All I saw was the broken body of a traumatized, abused girl.

“I still don’t understand this life after death thing . . .” I stated, bringing my mind away from the darkness of my death. Kelly seemed to agree. He dropped his hand to his side. “I mean, really. I have always assumed that once you die, you die. The light is off, no one is home, our energy returns back to the earth and that’s it.”

Kelly shrugged. “I knew that there was something for us, but not like this.” My eyebrow lifted in question. “I thought we would turn into energy balls . . . or something,” he explained. “I always hoped that we would come back in some form . . . but I never expected for us to come back like this. We are so

“It’s rather rude, if you ask me,” I stated seriously. His brow furrowed. I rolled my eyes. “It’s rude. You die and you have a body and you hope that you are just dreaming––but you’re not. It’s a big joke. And you can’t go home or wake up.”

“Your family is religious. Are you?” Kelly asked.

Avoiding his accusing eyes, I looked away. “I was. Until my father died. If God is so great, then why would he take my father from me at such a young age?”

“I understand how you feel.”

My eyes narrowed slightly, a sign that I didn’t believe him. “You do?”

“I was angry at the universe once. I wanted to go to Europe, not Japan. I remember it all now . . . I was so angry. Stopping the Nazis was the entire reason why I joined the armed forces.”

“You probably would have lived if you went to Europe . . .”

Kelly shook his head. “The war in Europe was practically through when I joined. Japan was my only choice. The fact I was still in school held me back. It would be easy to blame that stupid recruiter from the Army for upsetting me and making me turn to the Navy. Or blame my parents for having me last and my brother first. But in the end, it was ultimately my choice to join the Navy. It was my fault I died.”

“Do you regret it, Kelly?”

“It was meant to be, I guess,” Kelly said honestly. “No regrets.”

“I wish I could agree,” I whispered. My eyes glued to the falling snow beyond the window. “It is cruel of death to take me—”

“There is nothing you can do now,” Kelly reminded me calmly. “You’re dead.”

Closing my eyes, my jaw clenched and I breathed, “I know.”

Kelly touched my neck softly, just above the collarbone. The fire cracked—background noise to my pounding heart. “Cecily—”

I opened my eyes and couldn’t take my gaze from his face.

Kelly kissed me, cradling my head in one hand and touching my neck with the other. I held his face in my hands and was lost between the feeling of his soft fingers massaging my scalp and his warm lips on mine. It was all so euphoric and surreal. He broke our kiss and nuzzled my cheek softly with his nose. I kept my eyes closed, breathing deeper than I thought, and smiled, rather teary.

“This is real,” he whispered in my ear, before kissing my cheek.

BOOK: Ripple Effect: A Novel
8.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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