by Stephen Reid Andrews
All rights reserved in the author
I must be dead because I no longer feel pain. Slowly my eyelids flicker, and I awake to the most brilliant white I have ever witnessed. I’m standing in a large room with a uniform white ceiling, white walls, and a white floor. The brightness of the room is complete and appears to have no imperfection. As far as I can see in front of me, the room is empty, and the whiteness of the walls merging with the whiteness of the floor and ceiling provide the sensation that the length of the room stretches on with no end.
As I assess my surroundings, I wonder if I am not dead but only dreaming. The images are surreal like a dream, and I seem more like a spectator than an actual participant, although I know I am an intricate part of the scene. Because this is not how I pictured death, I decide that I must be dreaming.
I notice other things that lead me to believe I am dreaming. For one thing, I look down and realize that I am in my normal causal clothes – a polo shirt, loose fit jeans, and tennis shoes. I can’t imagine that angels wear such cheap shoes – unless, of course, I’m in hell.
Whether in a dream or a spiritual state, I know somehow that I am having a very real experience and am completely at peace.
"David," I hear a woman's gentle voice behind me speak my name.
Turning to see the speaker, I am calmed by the sight of who is standing in front of me. Jennifer, my wife, is near me in the room. From her posture, it’s obvious she was quietly watching me examine myself and my new environment.
She looks as beautiful as the day I married her. Her soft skin is radiant, her sandy brown hair is freshly curled and flows over her shoulders like soft feathers floating in the air. Her blue eyes are bright and happy. She's dressed in white, and she is not in pain. I am relieved because the last I saw of her, she was laying on the floor of the mall. She is the most beautiful person or thing I have ever seen. I want to reach out to her and embrace her, but I am unable to move my arms towards her.
Jennifer smiles at me, like she usually does when she's happy to see me, her delicate pink lips stretching her mouth. However, from her expression, I can tell that there is something more behind her smile. Her expression foretells that she has something serious and important to tell me.
I try to speak to her, but I can’t form any words. Without a sound from me, she raises her hand as if she was anticipating my question and puts her finger to her lips in a motion to kindly silence me. I obey and stop making any effort to speak.
In Jennifer’s other hand is a small box that is wrapped like a wedding present in slick white wrapping paper with a gold ribbon tied in a bow. Jennifer lowers her finger from her mouth so she can grab the small box with both hands.
I want to hold her, but I can’t move towards her. There is an angelic glow about her that seems to operate like a shield which I can’t penetrate. My inability to reach out and touch her is the worst imaginable torture.
When I was lying on the mall floor, I thought she might be dead, but here she is, in front of me and offering me a gift. Maybe she is dead – maybe both of us are dead. Suddenly, I am overcome with the hope that we are dead and that we will be able to stay in this beautiful dream world together forever.
Jennifer alertly looks around like she has been startled or like she has somewhere to go or is expecting someone to interrupt our meeting.
“David. I don’t have any more time. Here, you have to accept this,” she says.
My arms are able to move but only enough to reach out to take the gift. Without touching me, she gently places the gift in my open hands.
As she retracts from the gift and moves back three steps from me, she shares her parting words. “David. You can’t waste time mourning for me. You have to use this gift.”
Mourning for you? I think to myself as she continues to back away from me. I don’t need to mourn for you. You’re right here. I say in my mind although I am trying to say the words aloud.
As Jennifer backs away from me, her image blurs and tears apart like a static-riddled picture on a TV screen. I am afraid that, if she leaves me now, I may never see her again. I want to reach out to prevent her from leaving, but, with my hands tightly gripped to the gift in obedience to Jennifer’s command, I remain unable to move. The static image of Jennifer slowly finishes tearing apart in front of me as I lose control of my thoughts.
Briefly, I see darkness like someone turned off a light using a switch. Then, a split second later everything is bright, as if the light was switched back on. As the brightness penetrates through my eyes, I am aware that my body is uncontrollably shaking. Even though I am shaking, my muscles are tense and frozen. I can’t stop my body from quaking, and I can do nothing to relax my muscles. Because I can still think, I suppose that I must still be alive even though I can’t feel or control any part of my body. I’m scared, but not as scared as I was when Jennifer’s image was backing away from me or as scared as I was lying on the mall floor believing that Jennifer was dead.