Stress Can Kill You

Health fads and fitness gurus preach endlessly the benefits of a well rounded diet with a regular exercise program.  Which is great!  I completely advocate for nutritious food and daily movement.  But they’re missing one of the most important – if not the most important – part of your health.

Stress management.

Without stress management, the rest of your health becomes irrelevant.  Yes, you can quite literally die from unmanaged stress.  Stress can hurt quite literally every aspect of your health.  By learning the effects of stress on the body, it’ll become easier to recognize and thus simple to treat.

(Just a heads-up: this post is full of science terminology which I did my best to simplify to its most comprehensible.  If you’re looking for the inspirational aspect, skip to the last few paragraphs!)

The Musculoskeletal system is more commonly associated with stress, though still under tended.    When the body is stressed, this system’s natural reaction is to tense up muscles in order to prevent against injury.  Typically, your neck, shoulder, and back muscles are the ones to take the brunt of your stress.  Because of their central location, tense muscles in these areas cause back pain, severe headaches, and promote stress related disorders.

Effects of stress on the body
taken from APA article

Respiratory side effects of stress typically revolve around labored breathing.  This isn’t typically an issue for most people.  However, for anyone diagnosed with respiratory diseases such as asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis, heavy breathing presents potentially dangerous episodes.  Also, stress-induced labored breathing can evolve into hyperventilation which often accompanies panic attacks.

Closely related to breathing is the cardiovascular system which pumps oxygen and nutrient filled blood throughout the body.  Stress triggers an increase in essentially every area of the body which requires extra blood.  The heart compensates for this need by pumping harder and faster.  Acute stress (also known as the fight-or-flight reflex) is less harmful to the body as it eventually passes, allowing the body’s functions to return to normal.  Chronic stress, on the other hand, lasts for prolonged periods of time and leads to long-term heart conditions including heart attacks, hypertension, and strokes.  Repeated acute stress can also produce these conditions.

Image result for cardiovascular system

As someone with gastrointestinal difficulties, I know first hand how much stress throws the digestive track off the rails.  Initially, stress typically induces one of two coping mechanisms involving food: eat nothing or eat all the things.  Both promote dangerous habits.  Stress triggers acid reflux, general stomach pains, and, in severe cases, stomach ulcers.  Similarly to eating, intestinal difficulties as a result of stress ranges from constipation to diarrhea.

An area of the body many people don’t associate directly with stress is the reproductive system.  For women, stress creates irregular periods and makes PMS symptoms worse (which nobody wants).  For men, chronic stress alters the production of testosterone and sometimes causes erectile dysfunction.  Of course, sex releases endorphins which in turn help make you feel better.  Nevertheless, if your body is far too stressed out to begin with, it can actually disrupt libido (aka sex drive).  While that isn’t a problem to everyone, it could become problematic for couples trying to have a baby.


I know.  Lot’s of science and lots of information all at once.  I apologize, but wasn’t it enlightening?  It’s alarming how many physical ailments are caused by mental stress.  I mean, unmonitored stress could literally kill you!

This is exactly why Your Just One More advocates so strongly for self-love and self-care.  There’s a fine line between challenging yourself and pushing yourself over the edge.  Far too many of us end up doing the latter.  Each one of you holds such potential and talent far too valuable to neglect.  If you don’t take time for yourself now, how will you have time  when you desperately need it?  Life is too short to spend it in perpetual stress and agony.  Give yourself a little love and watch how far it’ll carry you.





If you need help managing stress, below are listen national help lines and their contact information.  Asking for help is BRAVE, not weak.  And as always, feel free to comment or email me personally.  I’d be happy to talk over anything you’re struggling with.

Crisis Text Line: (US) 741741  /  (Canada) 686868

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (US) 1-800-273-8255

List of international hotlines:









Information included in this post was collected from the American Psychological Association.


September 2017 is World Suicide Prevention month.  Not just America and not just awareness.



This means the entire world has been called to action.  Action means more than tweeting “don’t kill yourself b/c there is more to live for #suicide”.  It’s great that you wanted to kind of be supportive – even though that kind of language is exactly what keeps suicidal or depressed people quiet in the first place – by tweeting, but this only goes so far.  In fact, it might even trigger someone who’s been fighting the voice telling them to do it.  Instead of posting some vague statement under 140 characters, why not really do something about it?

An amazing organization has already taken the initiative.  TWLOHA [To Write Love On Her Arms] has paired up with to fundraise $100,000 for treatment and support for those struggling against suicide.  They have 3 options on their webpage (): buy WSPD pack of merchandise, donate directly, or start your own fundraising page.

As someone who’s survived suicidal thoughts/actions and lost friends/colleagues to suicide, there was no hesitation.  Just yesterday I created a fundraising page with the hope of surpassing $500 for others out there who need the love we all have to offer. Below is the link.  I emplore you all to donate, share this post, and do your part in saving lives, including your own.

If you, yourself are struggling with these thoughts or actions, don’t hesitate to call the suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255), a trusted family member or friend, or even me.  I’m just am email or facebook/Instagram message away.


There Is No Point

Wouldn’t you say it’s about time we push away all falsities and just grasp the raw truth?

Life has no point.

It doesn’t.  Now don’t get all righteous on me and say it’s our job to make the world a better place and what not.  Don’t jump to conclusions; just listen.  For centuries upon centuries, no one has been able to solidify enough real information to give us the answer we need.  There are countless sources with contradictory information, though.  The earth and all its characteristics were made from God, straight from Genesis 1:1.  Our galaxy was created in an astronomical explosion and, thanks to gravity and a few other properties, the universe came to be, from “A Day Without Yesterday” written by Mark Midbon.  I could go on and on talking about reality being a mere fragment of imagination or being puppets of a greater being, but you don’t really care about any of that, do you?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad you’re here!  It’s important you acknowledge why you’re really here instead of the basic “I want to be a good person”.  You’re probably here to find some source of inspiration that will miraculously push you to conquer life and magically accomplish your biggest dream.  Or you’re here because you’re at the end of your rope yet still grasping at straws just in case you missed something.  Either way, we are all searching for the same thing: purpose.  We are all hoping someone out there knows a trick to find life’s true purpose that no one else has heard of.

I hate to break it to you, but there isn’t one.

But there are also over 7 billion.


Yes, you heard that correctly.  No, wait, I don’t mean that one person has to live up to over 7 billion reasons to exist.  That’s impossible and, to be frank, just plain anal.  Putting that much pressure on one person is going to kill them faster than any disease.  To that, many people usually just say, “Screw this,” and abandon any real direction or desire to accomplish goals.  Neither one of these extremes are going to reward you – take it from someone who’s tried both and hit rock bottom each time.

There is no point.  But there are also over 7 billion points.

No human is supreme.  But there are over 7 billion unique souls.

Think on that for a moment while you listen to this short audio clip from a recently released Netflix film entitled To The Bone.  It’s a movie about a 20-year-old woman named Ellen who is struggling with anorexia nervosa.  (Don’t worry.  This audio does not focus upon any topic that may trigger someone currently with/who had an eating disorder.  However, it will most likely make you uncomfortable.)  

Ellen’s first time seeing her new doctor, Dr. William Beckham

*hands you tissue* This is a hard idea to come to terms with, especially hearing it like this.  Eli (as she calls herself) begs her doctor for hope, but There are enough idiotic inspirational quotes out there that mean nothing.  Beckham knows better than to feed falsities to a girl so good at seeing through society’s bullshit.  The path he chooses is honesty.

“There is no point.  Or at least big picture – we don’t get to know what it is.”

Obviously, this isn’t what Eli wanted to hear.  Like many of us, she wanted the magic words that would save instantly save her.  No more searching or struggling or deliberating.  Just a reason.  He refuses to give it to her.  Maybe that’s because he doesn’t want to lead her on.  Maybe it’s because he himself doesn’t know.  Or maybe he knows that the reason he gets up and faces each morning will never be the reason Eli chooses life over starvation.

That’s the case with everyone.  That’s why there can be over 7 billion points to existence or none at all.  There is no one on this earth who can “save” you or appoint you a reason to stay alive.

The reason is up to you.

Other people can help you, but the choice to put down a razor blade or to apply for a prestigious job or to attend a missions trip is all yours.  Before I have anyone jump at my throat, I understand what is meant by the term ‘this band saved me’ or ‘this speaker turned my life around’.  My adolescent therapist, Twenty One Pilots, Dan and Phil, and Lilly Singh were those people for me.  I used to say they saved me from the life I’d been living.  Which is partially true.  My therapist showed my eyes where to look for a new side of the equation.  Tyler and Josh of TOP created honest and comforting music for when I thought I was alone.  Dan and Phil used their platform to show people (typically people like me) that there was a way to move on.  Lilly showed the world that there was nothing holding anyone back if you didn’t let it.  So sure.  They had a hand in my awakening.








But to say they SAVED me, that’s just not true.  I saved myself.  Me.  Kaden Elizabeth Hurley.  I cried to a friend instead of suffocating all emotion.  I made the choice to I made the choice to stop purging my food.  I pulled off the road instead of crashing into a tree without a seatbelt.  I made the choice to engage with those idols mentioned above and to incorporate parts of their success tricks into my life.  It was me.

I gave my own life meaning.

Taking someone else’s passion and trying to make it yours only backfires on you.  Life’s point has to be important to you.  Fight for your country, knit hats for homeless people, get out of bed even when depression strikes, I don’t care.  Wait, no, I do care.  I care an awful lot.  I care so much that I’m here for you, right now, telling you that you’ve had the strength, the skill, the dedication inside you all along.  I can’t tap into it and guide you to a promotion or a counseling center or a medical discovery.  That’s your responsibility.  All I can do is remind you of your uniqueness.  Over 7 billion people and not one repetition.

So do yourself a favor when you’re done reading this.  Think of something you need to make your life feel complete.  (Write it down in the comments or on twitter if you want to be held accountable.)  Channel that concept into your everyday life.  Adjust your purpose if you need to, but never forget it.

Because remember, life has no point until you give it one.

Eat to Fuel YOUR Body

The other day, I was at one of those typical backyard BBQs with a pool and music and miscellaneous homemade dishes.  When it actually came time to eat, I opted for coleslaw, gooey mac n cheese, and a zucchini muffin.  Others at my table loaded up with burgers, hotdogs, and/or chicken.  Obviously, they noticed my lack of meat.  It took awhile for anyone to actually ask me about it, which I thought was kind of funny; it’s just food!  “Are you vegetarian?” I smiled, knowing this conversation could go one of two ways: 1) shame the shit out of meat and processed foods or 2) explain that I’ve experimented with food until I found what worked for my body and what didn’t.

Don’t worry.  I chose the latter.  Why bother stirring up unnecessary tension and hostility?

This discussion got me really thinking about food, cultures, our bodies, and how different they really are.  For example, my best friend’s family immigrated to America from the Philippines (an Asian island), and they were shocked at the food portions and choices in here.  Where they’re from, meals were much smaller, first of all, and they didn’t eat atypical American breakfast foods – i.e. pancakes, omelets, etc.  Instead, the focused on foods similar to those pictured below: eggs sunny side up, rice, fish or pork, and pickled veggies.
Courtesy of Red + Black Apron, a typical Philippine breakfast!

To someone who grew up in central Pennsylvania with an abundance of home cooked donuts, blueberry pancakes drowned in syrup, and crunchy, greasy bacon, I never would’ve considered eating anything like this that early in the morning!  Their way of eating was just so different than mine, it threw me for a loop.  But is it okay for us to eat so differently?

Is a raven like a writing desk?

(Yes, the answer is yes…) Very few people throw a fit or become overly judgey when it comes to different cultures eating different foods or at different times in the day.  We think it’s interesting, hence foreign cuisines being a massive part of taking vacations.  So then why, here in the world’s largest melting pot, do people feel the need to shame other people’s food choices?  Who cares if you dislike chocolate or avoid red meat or only buy whole foods?  It’s your body and your goals.  You know what works best for you, not the other 300 million Americans trying to force their own diet upon you.

The number of social media accounts, commercials, even books dedicated to body shaming are endless which is totally awesome, because our bodies deserve love and appreciation.  But, uh, I think you guys forget to mention other things that go along with body appreciation.  I don’t know, like, the custom diet each unique body fuels itself with?  If our bodies are as different as we have come to believe, then why do our food choices have to fit into a certain mold as well?  Come on, a marathon runner wouldn’t maintain the same diet as a crossfit athlete.  I mean, look at them!

Matt Fraser – Fittest Man in 2016 and 2017
Edna Kiplagat – winner of 2017 Boston Marathon












Yeah, I know this is an extreme comparison, but it gets the point across.  Both of these amazing humans have worked out what the best food is for their specific lifestyles.  Marathoners, like Edna, focus their meals around carbohydrates and fats such as peanut butter sandwiches.  Crossfitters, like Matt, work their meals around protein and complex carbohydrates such as chicken breast with a sweet potato.

Whether someone lifts or runs, avoids animal products or can’t get enough of them, calculates exact macros or flows more intuitively, that person does so for personal health.   I, myself, enjoy vegetarianism.  Since I weightlift so frequently, however, I needed to make adjustments to ensure I got enough protein.  After some trial and error, I’ve found which foods help me perform at my best and which foods hinder my abilities.  That’s all I need.   It’s none of my business why someone follows a certain diet, and he/she shouldn’t feel pressured to defend that diet.  Respect other’s choices, because they don’t really affect you.

Life’s too short to fuss over what diet your friends are on or which snacks the celebrities are skipping.  Eat what makes you happy and feel good.  It’s that simple.

Superwoman is my Superhero

You know those moods that turn into funks that turn into a long-term slumps?  No, not the kind of funk that all the girls out there go through once a month *coughs* *raises hand*.  It’s more like the progression Harry goes through in Order of the Pheonix when he’s kind of being controlled by Voldemort.  Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about here.  You feel angry or upset all the time and end up pushing responsibilities away and cease all creative evolution because none of it really matters anyway.

Yup, I admit to it.  This has been me for the past year or so.  When I woke up, I had no real reason motivating me to get out of bed, to put makeup and clothes on,  to complete even the littlest tasks.  I blamed this on my depression and anxiety teaming up to see if they could get me to crumble again.  I just went through the motions with as little active thinking as humanly possible, hoping they would eventually go away.

Stop grimacing at me!  I’m only human, too, okay?

Thankfully, there’s this cool thing called YouTube where one is able to spend copious hours of their life laughing, learning, crying, cringing without really realizing all of that time has passed and you haven’t showered in two days…. Anyway!  On YouTube, I am a massive fan of only a few creators (all, I’m sure, I will address at some point here and in a video on my own channel) who’ve produced worth while content.  One YouTuber in particular has gone above and beyond making videos to really making a difference for women, education, and poverty.  This creator goes by the name Lilly “iiSuperwomanii” Singh.
Lilly Singh, killing it as usual.

I’ve been watching her videos for, what, two years now?  Probably more: depression alters your perception of time.  Her real life humor and emotion captivated me to watch not only her main channel but her vlog channel as well.  In March 2017, she published a book called How to be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life that outlines her philosophy on truly living life and being as successful as possible.
Here it is!

I wasted no time purchasing a copy and devouring the first chapter, then the second chapter, and before I knew it, the book was finished.  After watching her videos for so long, I thought I had a grasp of who Lilly was, but this book brought me to an entirely new and powerful level of her true self that filled me to the brim with emotion.

For those of you who don’t know, Lilly actually went through an episode of depression toward her final years in University where she was studying psychology.   She described it as “hitting rock bottom”.  Instead of staying lost in that crippling realm of chronic self-hatred, she decided to fight for a way to be happy.  She is now one of the most influential women in the world, and God knows she won’t stop there.

Back to the present where I had just closed the back cover of How to Be A Bawse to see one final gem of wisdom with the definition of a bawse.   BAWSE/baus/n: a person who exudes confidence, hustles relentlessly, reaches goals, gets hurt efficiently, and smiles genuinely because he or she has fought through it all and made it out the other side.  

I soaked in every podcast, interview, or short clip of her speaking about the book I could find.  From each recording I clung to a phrase or an idea that added fuel to my fire.  This may sound annoyingly cliche, but it’s true; Lilly’s testimony of success awoke something within myself.  I felt it come alive, warmth flowed from my chest to the rest of my body.  It was beautiful yet stern.  The message was clear: stop waiting for everyone else, because you know damn well you are the only one who can do this.  

I believe everyone needs someone to look up to who truly embodies their definition of success or happiness or both (Lilly is absolutely both for me).  Don’t try and copy their every move; let their individuality empower your own unique strengths and embrace the worthwhile ideas that she/he stands for.  Lilly is my person.  Who’s yours?

Suicide is NOT a Joke

When people see the title of this post, I’ll bet at least half of them scoff in annoyance.  To those of you who do not understand why I made the above statement, see this through someone else’s eyes for a moment.  Just a moment then you’re free to make your decision on the concept.

First things first: say the word.  Just to yourself.  Whisper, “Suicide.”  As Hermione Granger once said, “Fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself.”  Once you take away the taboo of saying suicide, approaching the topic becomes loads easier.

When my therapist told my parents about my suicidal thoughts (not my plans or actions, mind you), their reactions, though in different forms, were of the same emotion: terror.  Yes, I know, the idea of your child killing herself is scary.  The reason I said terror instead of fear was because when they would look at me, all I could see in their eyes is the same look that I imagine an individual holding a triggered grenade would have as he/she looked at the threat in the palm of his/her hand.  But besides being suicidal myself, I have interacted with people who have attempted to kill themselves and helped talk someone out of that downward spiral.  They had kept their pain in the dark, adding on to the power it held over them.

People who haven’t experienced suicide automatically just say, “Oh, well, why didn’t you just tell someone?  It’s not that big of a deal.”


This.  This is why we cannot tell people.  To the vast majority of the human population, being suicidal is seen as weak and a joke.  So please explain to me how the hell someone suffering from severe depression and suicidal thoughts is supposed to have enough confidence in real help when insensitive, ignorant shit like this is plastered anywhere from a billboard to a post on Tumblr.  It even reaches churches.  There is an annual talent show type thing that my church has every March.  The deacon who throws it together approached a few Youth Group members (myself included) about performing the following joke: Four journalists are pacing around the hillside in agony because they have no story to write about.  They agree they may as well jump off the cliff.  On the count of 3, all but one plummets to their death.  The last one standing exclaims with glee he now has a story to write about.  Oh, okay, so our life struggle is something to be used for entertainment?

Think before you speak.  You never know what battles are being fought right before your eyes…




A Letter to a Lost Little Girl

Dear little girl sitting criss-cross applesauce on the rainbow mat before me,

You sit so quietly at the front of the group, stuck between two obnoxious children who know not the meaning of respect.  I see the way you keep your head slightly lower than the others, how you pull your knees to your chest as tightly as you can.  A buffer – for what, I’m afraid only you and your tormentors know.  Your eyes wide, seeing everything that no one else would’ve taken notice of.  A red shirt.  Tapping a shoe.  A sharp laugh.  It’s simple survival skills: spot the danger, flee for your life.  Our ancestors’ ability to detect and evade danger was sharpened to a fine point.  It had to be, or else the predator would sink its teeth into their necks and end the human race before it started.

But you, my Love, your predators have no fangs or claws to rip into your skin.  They have fists that punch, gestures that sting, and words that bruise.  They may not maim you physically, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t destroyed your heart.  You feel powerless, right?  You think there must be something wrong with you.  That maybe, just maybe, if you were better they would leave you alone.  

But better at what?

My Darling, when I met your warm yet fearful dark eyes in that classroom as you whispered your question to me, my body flooded with compassion.  Your classmates inquired things like favorite movies or favorite characters, but you?  All you wanted to know was that you weren’t the only one.  You were maybe 7 years old, yet already your life was being mutilated by people who had no idea their words and actions could possibly hurt someone.  

All I had time to say to your hurting soul was that you were beautiful and amazing.  People often got picked on if others were jealous of them.  I’m so sorry that I was cut off before I could finish.

Little girl who reached out to someone they saw as an idol, I want you to know that I love you even when it feels like no one does.  I want to let you know there is more to life than ignorant bullies who find life’s biggest thrills in hurting those of us with a heart.  I want you to know that I was bullied all through my middle and high school years, and probably will encounter more of it in the future.  I want you to know that people will come into your life who care for you so much that even when your bullies mark you up with insults and jeers, their love will heal those other injuries before you even realize they’re gone.  I need you to know that you are not alone.  You never will be.  I promise.

Now it’s your turn to promise me something, my beautiful Little Girl with a bright future.  Promise me that you will always keep fighting.  That you will strive for happiness in whatever shape or size you can get your hands on.  That you will acknowledge those harsh interactions, but remember that they can never tarnish your shine.

I offer you all my love.  The only thing left is for you to love yourself, too.


New Spoken Word!

Check out this spoken word I just posted.  I was inspired to create this piece by a little girl I met at an author visit.  She had wanted to know if I had been bullied; I said yes, I have.  She then asked how I became so strong.  I honestly had to fight back tears.  I couldn’t believe she looked up to me that way!  I chose to honor her through this piece in the hopes it will give her the strength she – and you – needs to find her own power within.



Ripped Phonecase

She sits in a deathly silent classroom.  One sound attracting every eye in the room.  “How are you screw up,” they seem to whisper.  “How dare you not be like the rest of us.”  

Her fingers are preoccupied with a piece of plastic sticking off her tattered phone case.  Little tugs and rips had finally taken their toll: the entire back was torn off, exposing a rough layer underneath not ready to be handled by persistent, germy fingers. A little piece of the case comes off between her fingertips.  The extra movement bounces her phone off the desk with cludd that reverberates around the room of quiet students.  Less than a moment and each pair of narrowed eyes snap to the sound.  “How dare she…” “How dare she..”  She drops the little piece to the floor as if nothing had happened.



The rough, barren field sizzled in the blinding sun that sat in the center of a pure blue sky.  Not a single cloud drifted even close enough to block out its searing rays.  Any plants that managed to grow were shriveled and brown from the deprivation of water.  No wind blew to drive away the increasing heat, hot enough to begin melting the plastic on the pack that had long since slipped from her shaking grip and fallen to the ground behind her.  It was empty anyhow; she had finished the last of the water two mornings ago.  Mile after mile passed without realization and direction soon lost any shred of importance.  The sand seemed to be shifting constantly, unless it was just her imagination.  Her intakes of breath, the only sound to be heard for miles, had grown gradually shallower until each breath was a gasp and stung her chest.  Her feet and her flat-bottomed staff rhythmically shifted onward through the sand.  Her limbs ached with fatigue, her head throbbed, her sight faded in and out of clarity.   The bandage wrapped around a deep slash in her calf had turned to a dark shade of crimson.  

Without meaning to her legs buckled and she collapsed to her knees, a soft groan escaping her chapped lips.  Her eyes slipped closed as she collapsed, her body pressed against the hot sand.  Consciousness slipping, she wondered what had brought her out to the middle of nowhere, to Death’s very doorstep.  Just as darkness prepared to envelop her, a face flashed past her mind’s eye.  A smile lit up a young man’s hazel eyes and brightened every aspect of his face.  A surge of determination flooded her veins, energy flowed through her body, and her heart thudded with anticipation.  Her eyes shot open and she coughed to clear away the sand she had been breathing in.  Grunting with exertion, she struggled to her feet and, leaning heavily on her staff, began her strainful journey onward once more.  She was conscious only of the overpowering love growing in her chest for the man in her memories and the hope of seeing him again.  

The sun moved across the sky, finally coming to rest on the horizon in front of her.  Her face was burnt, her hair a tangled rat’s nest, her clothes stiff and sweaty, the bandage around her leg had slipped off and lay abandoned somewhere in the desert.  In the distance, a small village was slowly being covered in the shadow of the setting sun.  She knew help could be found from the people in the village.  Using what voice she had left, she shouted to the village in the hopes someone there could help her and maybe eventually help her find the man from her memories.  Her voice came out strangled and hoarse from days of being unused.  Her tongue felt like sandpaper and her throat was sore.  She was parched.  Lights flickered into existence around each house and voices began conversing loudly as people emerged from a few of the huts.  Focusing everything on the face in her memory, she lurched forward a few dozen steps but all energy was gone.  Giving up, she fell forward, but instead of slapping onto the sand beneath her feet, several sets of arms caught her.  She wavered on the edge of consciousness, but was, however, aware of one set of arms lifting her up and holding her tight to his strong chest, his heart beating and his chest rising then falling with each breath.  Voices faded away until nothing but the crackle of a fire reached her ears.  The arms set her down gently onto a soft bed of straw where the warmth of the fire engulfed her and unconsciousness took hold.  

It seemed hours later when her eyes fluttered open and darted around the room, taking in her surroundings.  She wasn’t sure of the duration of which she had been sleeping, but from the bright light coming in the window, she judged that it was morning.  Looking down at herself, she was surprised to notice that the dirt had been cleaned from her body and the bandage around her calf had been replaced.  She saw she was now in the middle of a small, empty room besides a roaring fire where a pot, hovering over the flickering flames, was beginning to boil.  As she slowly sat up and her sore body protested, a groan slid through her lips.  The young man she presumed to have carried her in was tending the fire, but upon hearing her grunt turned around.  He was of average height but strong, judging by the muscle showing through his light shirt.  His hair was dark and closely cropped to his head.  She gasped, her eyes widening.  His hazel eyes showed both joy from seeing her and concern at her current condition.  He moved slowly toward her and laid his hand on her cheek.  

It was the young man she’d seen in her memory, the one she couldn’t take her mind off of.  He was the instrument to her survival, the one thing that was worth pushing forward through endless desert for, the one she knew she loved.  All her memories returned in a sudden rush. She remembered fleeing from her own village to escape the diseased invaders, losing her mother and sister to the same illness as the plagued attackers, being ripped away from her love and seeing the anguish in his eyes mirroring her own distress, running into the desert in the hopes that the intruders would not follow, what seemed like miles and miles of empty desert without a single sign of human life and despair as she thought she’d just die alone in the wilderness without ever seeing him again.  She reached out for him with a smile.

“Don’t worry,” she heard him say.  “I love you.  I won’t let you go again.”

As she stretched her hands out to wrap around his waist and just before her fingers touched his shirt, the young man began to shimmer.  His expression didn’t change, a smile still on his face, almost as if he didn’t know what was happening.  She froze for a few seconds, but as he continued to shimmer, he began fading.  Frantically she grappled with the air, going straight through his body in her futile attempts to hold him here.  Behind him, the walls of the hut, the fire, the door all faded faded out of existence.  Still trying to hold onto him, she looked up into his loving hazel eyes, his warm smile bringing out the slightest of dimples in his scruffy cheeks and watched in sickening horror as, piece by piece, her saving grace became transparent and disappeared.

Sand, from horizon to horizon replaced the hut and the gleaming sun beat down upon her.  She gazed slowly about her, searching for the slightest shard of evidence to prove he had been real.  Instead, she was rewarded with barren wilderness.  Her mind went numb and she lay down on the warm sand, as warm as the fire that had been in the hut.  Closing her eyes, she listened to the shrill call of vultures as they circled above her in the sky.