The path wound up the side of the mountain, often doubling back upon itself. It started out rocky, but quickly turned into a crystalline white sand. The texture was so soft, I found myself scooping it up and letting it run through my fingers and down my arms. It was difficult to walk through, so I found myself crawling, revelling in the sensations as I progressed. Distracted by my progress, I was not prepared to round the last corner and come face-to-face with that which appeared before me.
The sand trailed further upward, flanking a sloping garden of epic proportions. Within the sand boarders, marble walls enclosed lush gardens that housed orchids, roses, and flowers that I’ve only seen in books. Flowing down the centre, was a pool that seemed to go on forever. The colour of the water was an unearthly greenish-yellow, that seemed to get darker towards the foot of the structure.
There were people everywhere. Why did I not encounter a single person on my ascent? It would seem, like a water park, people were emerging from the foot of the pool and returning to the summit for another go. Curious, I fell into line with the others, climbing the hill.
Something felt wrong. No one was wet. How on earth could people emerge from a pool, completely dry? My curiosity was piqued even more.
As we approached the top, the path disappeared into the side of the hill. The top of the pool was not accessible from outside. A tunnel led us into what seemed like the centre of the earth. It led straight into the hill for a few minutes and then abruptly came to a 180 degree angle. As I turned, I saw an escalator leading sharply upward. I stepped on, and was immediately fascinated with intricate patterns within the marble walls as I rose. It was all very calming…soothing… comforting.
As I reached the summit, the pool and the gardens appeared before me. It was breathtaking. Although the colour of the water was surreal, it was disturbingly inviting. I was drawn towards the edge. What was I thinking? I was fully clothed! Before I knew what I was doing, I was standing at the lip of the pool. I felt myself step forward. I couldn’t stop myself. I plunged into the murky depths.
Instinctively, I gasped, knowing that the sharp intake of water would be my demise. Nothing happened… The water didn’t feel like water at all. Tentatively, I took another breath. It was as if I was breathing air. Not realizing I was doing so, I relaxed, and I felt myself being pulled forward, through the mysterious liquid.
I had never felt more at peace. Every stress in my body seemed to fade away. The liquid moved me, slowly, along the length of the pool. I did not have to swim, I could breathe, all I had to do was relax, and let the calm wash over me. It seemed like an eternity, yet I reached the far end of the structure, the beautiful white marble rising in front of me.
I heaved myself out, amazed to find myself completely dry. I stood for a moment and marvelled in the fact that I hadn’t felt so serene in 30 years. I needed more.
I headed back to the hill, wanting to experience this blissful feeling again. As I got to base and started to climb, I saw a young woman who seemed to be feeling the same confusion, yet peacefulness as myself. I smiled at her, and she smiled back. As we ascended, and then stepped upon the escalator, we clasped hands. Without speaking, we knew we had to see if the same thing could happen if we were together.
Without hesitation, we approached and edge, squeezed each others hands, and jumped. It was the same as the first time. Time stopped, stress disappeared. But this time, linked with another human, we connected. I felt her heartbeat through our linked hands, and I know she felt mine. We did not let go and slowly drifted, together, towards the end of the pool. We emerged, even more renewed, and headed back to the hill again.
As we reached the bottom, a wizened old man emerged from the shrubbery. “Don’t go again,” he said. We looked at each other, puzzled, and looked back at the man.
“Why on earth not?” I asked. “After everything I’ve been through in my life, I’ve never felt this relaxed…this happy.”
My new friend nodded, agreeing with me.
“You don’t understand,” he insisted. “Every time you go through the pool, you lose time.”
I shook my head, examined my hands, (for I did not have a mirror) and asked him, “Are you saying I get younger every time I go in?” I laughed, “I surely have no problems with that…”
He shook his head and looked sad. “You do not lose years, you will not get younger. You lose time. How many times have you swum?”
“Twice,” I responded, “and I’m looking forward to a few more.”
My companion and I turned away from the old man and began to walk up the hill.
The old man yelled at us from behind. “Every time you swim, six months goes by in the world from which you came. You’ve already lost a year of your life. Your family has given you up for dead. The world you knew, is forever changed. The more you swim, the less chance you have of going back to who you were!”
A smile played across my lips, and I looked back up the hill to my destination. “Perfect.”