THE WATER TOWER

by Aaron Steinmetz


I don't remember where I met her, but when I did, I knew we'd be in love forever. Of course, when you're fourteen, you have many "true loves," but many people said we had something different; something stable. Even my parents didn't mind the time we took a moonlit walk along the beach of Patrick's Point, because they knew that we knew the importance of abstinence. Of course, this trust was broken when we stayed up until midnight in my room on my fifteenth birthday. Although we were never allowed to be alone together in a private place, we still saw each other. Our song was Elton John's "Nikita," and every time it came on somewhere (no matter where) we'd slow dance to it. She had brown, shoulder-length hair, wore glasses that she kept having to push up on her nose, stood about a foot shorter than me, and had a laugh that could lift my spirits before I knew they were down. For her, past meant nothing, and the future meant everything. Unfortunately, as most stories go, this all changed.

To my parent's unawareness, we were talking in my room. We heard some commotion outside, when men with masks burst in my room, grabbed us both and dragged us to their van. Blindfolded and gagged, we drove for, what seemed months, until we finally stopped and they took us outside. They ripped the blindfolds off our heads and all I could see around me was a vast, desert-like area, which I later learned to be mid-Nevada. Above us stood a towering Water Tower with a door and a window, and a long rope ladder coming to the ground. Further away stood a trailer. One man was slightly older than the others. He gave orders to all the other men and then he untied my beloved and forced her up the rope ladder and into the Water Tower, where she wasn't seen for a long, long time.

One man, whose name I can't remember, gave me a pitch fork and hoe where I dug along the dirt. Days went by and nothing changed. I just kept digging and plowing the area. Sometimes I would dig out as far as two miles away when I had to return and start again in a different direction. Days turned into weeks, then months. I slept in a bunker, just below the ground, I ate bread and water mostly, and I just kept on working. At night, I would sneak out of the bunker and wander around. Knowing I couldn't go anywhere, I just sat on the ground looking up to the window of the Water Tower, hoping that she would look out and see me. I never went up there, I never knew what was going on in there, and I never knew what was going to happen next. I later found out that my guard knew of my nighttime excursions, but didn't do anything about them, realizing that little escapes like those helped to prevent big ones, like the one I finally achieved.

One day, while digging, I chanced upon a wooden crate. I unearthed it and found piles of TNT inside. Two years had passed, and, now seventeen years old, I knew this might be my perfect chance of escape. I left the crate alone, marking the position with a circle of rocks, close enough to recognize, but far enough away to look natural. Two days later, I overheard a conversation between my guard and, I can guess, the old man. He said, ". . . they're coming tomorrow, so I want extra protection." The guard acknowledged, and I went back to my work. The next day, trailers arrived. There were at least twenty of them and they all carried, I think, crime bosses (that's just a guess though). Night fell, and I went into action. The guard, thinking I was on just another walk, disregarded my leaving. I went to my hidden fortune, took the TNT and slowly set up enough explosives at all the trailers but one. I hid the explosives underground and returned to my bed.

Morning came and I immediately went into action. Using a large rock, I broke the head off my hoe. I used it to knock the gun out of my guard's hands and knocked him out before he could say a word. I scaled the ladder and, with the guard's gun in hand, I slowly opened the door to the Water Tower. I saw her for the first time, sitting in a chair, muffled and tied. Her hair was to her back and she'd grown a lot. To my surprise, she was not looking at me. She was staring at the door, or behind the door, which was still open. Realizing I could see no one else in the room, I slammed the door as hard as I could against the wall. An older, man fell to the ground, but quickly got up. I clubbed him with the butt of my gun, and he fell down, unconscious. I untied her and held her for a long time. When I heard some commotion in the trailers, I took her to the ground with me and flipped the switch. A loud explosion, followed by many more rocked the tower. I told her to tie up the old man and then left. I ran down the ladder and into the trailer I knew belonged to the old man and guard. I ran in and found a phone. I called the police and soon they arrived.

Night fell before we could leave the prison I had lived in for two years. As we walked away from the Water Tower, I looked at my beloved and saw a distant look on her face. I put my hand on her shoulder to comfort her, but she didn't look at me, or anything. To this day, I don't know what she went through at the top of the Water Tower, but whatever it was, it changed her whole outlook on life. For days after we returned home, on her request, we never saw each other. Finally, I knew I had to see her. I called a radio-request line and asked them to play "Nikita" at exactly eight o`clock. Knowing she'd be listening to the radio then, I stood outside her door until I heard it come on. When it did, I walked in, took her in my arms and we danced the whole song through.

* * *

To many people, dreams are just figments of imagination that amount to nothing; dreams can't affect our normal way of life and they only lose their power once you've woken up. I have proven this to be untrue. Everything I have told you in this story has been true, a dream that I experienced over the course of one night. For about a second after I woke up, I had no idea where I was or what was happening. For more than a day after I woke up, I had to remind myself of all my schoolmates' names and that I was fourteen and not seventeen. And to this day, I think back at my true love and wonder if someone is ever that perfect and whether I'll find her. I never found out why we were kidnapped, who the people really were, or even what her name was. But most importantly, I never found out what happened to her during the nights while she was in the Water Tower, and the worse thing is, I'll never really know.

I don't know if really experiencing this dream would have been worse than just dreaming it. I can tell you that every day that went by was just as real to me as the days I feel when I'm awake. It scares me sometimes what my mind can do to me in my dreams because I occasionally have real dreams like this one, though they usually last a day or two. So in every aspect, this dream really happened, and in my mind, qualifies as a very authentic memory that happened two years ago.


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The Water Tower, 9 February 1997