This is how the story unfolds…
I thought it was that persistence, nagging annoyance of the alarm blaring in my ear. I am not sure why I came to that conclusion. After all, my sleeping patterns are like clock work when any kind of alarm is involved. I slept through an alarm once about ten years ago and almost missed a flight. Ten years! And since that occurrence, I have been tainted and banned forever from entering a deep, methodical slumber when I know I need to arise at some early, sinful hour. So, why did I think of it as my alarm? I’ll never know.
Because of this reason, I was shocked back into reality out of a profound episode of R.E.M. And deciphering just where I was at that instant, my mind raced in piecing all the confusion together to form a meaningful clarity that put me at ease. I was at Thousand Pines Christian Camp in Crestline, CA with Ryan Axtell, Mat and Lisa Weddle, and the Merrell clan. I was stuffed into an oversized walk-in closet lying on the bed realizing that the constant shriek I was hearing was not an alarm at all, but a piercing scream booming from a smoke detector.
Ryan never stepped into my “servant quarters” adjacent from his massive, luxurious suite equipped with a fire place, queen size bed, and revolving ceiling fan that oscillated fresh, cool air throughout his spacious surroundings. Since the king never appeared, I ignored the emergent cry of this smoke detector thinking that it was a false alarm and hoped that in a matter of seconds – please – the thing would shut off or self-destruct.
Yet, when my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I noticed shadows from silhouettes being projected onto a grayish smoke-like film that lingered over my head. These clouds formed a blanket about me causing a claustrophobic sensation. I batted them away with my hand only to see the smoky clouds waft their way back into place. I started choking as my humble closet of accommodations reeked of mesquite. I leaped out of my uncomfortable, rock substance of a bed and ran to see if his majesty was OK. There was no sign of him. His bed sheets were strewn about and the door leading into his suite was open. I rushed out into the hallway trying to hear voices of familiarity, but when words, moans, or any combination of the two did not intermingle, I suddenly was overwhelmed with a sense of aloneness.
The smoke was getting thicker, dancing, whirling about the air. The stairway that descended into the kitchen was transformed into another world. I wondered if my friends were swallowed, drowning in the eerie murkiness that now claimed downstairs. I thought they had been engulfed into this sea of oblivion, lost forever, since there was no trace of them – sound or sight. The visibility worsened with the progression of each step.
In absolute bravery, or maybe stupidity, I climbed down the stairs into the smoke infested kitchen. I began hearing the voices of comfort. There they stood all accounted for. My friends were OK. They had clustered together devising a theory as to why our “house” was engulfed, and infiltrated with smoke. It was due to a chimney malefaction, and instead of the smoke rising, it made its dwelling among us, sticking to our skin, and taking up residence. Ron Merrell was fatigued and sauntered back to his room. Mat and Lisa Weddle disappeared into the smoke calling it a night. Ryan Axtell looked bored and called it quits. And I felt as though I was a child just released into a candy store with all expenses paid – even though I hate candy. But my adrenaline and excitement dissipated when the others wandered away at the old news. I missed the memo, the meeting, and wasn’t apart of the club. I was ready and set to conquer the world. They just wanted to go back to sleep.
But wait… Now I am compelled to ponder this amazing story and the ramifications that ensue. Why were all my friends gathered downstairs with the exception of me? Do they think I am indispensable? Granted, I have survived some fairly life threatening situations, such as jumping a rolling tire going 75mph down a major freeway – in the fast lane and driving a Ford Econoline Van. I’ll give them that. But what were they thinking?… “Oh, he won’t burn. Let him sleep. He needs the energy for tomorrow’s chapel in case we are all gone”. Can you imagine me also singing and leading worship? I can’t either. That would be another smoking story, but one not involving a fire or a house!
It could have been my very last breath…