Chapter I: The Road
I woke up from a dream of loving embraces into the cold arms of morning air. I refused for a moment to open my eyes, lest the thin veil of illusion be lifted. The stolen caresses seemed a cocoon of warmth printed on my skin and I revelled inside the sweetness of the memories for just an instant longer. I shivered. The cold was seeping slowly inside the covers, dispelling the feeling of kisses. Time to wake up then. I slowly opened my eyes to find the night still behind my curtains. I lifted the covers in one swift movement and headed for the bathroom, teeth violently clattering. Five o’clock in the morning is an ungodly hour to wake up, especially for someone who doesn’t enjoy a restful sleep. I sighed. At least my bag was already made.
I thankfully slipped into my jeans and shirt, then I walked to the window and drew the curtains. The night sky above Cologne was a deep gray, lit by a feeble moonlight and glowing orange on the horizon where the light from the street lights touched it. I pressed my forehead for a moment against the windowpane, my eyes fixed on the shining red dots that decorated a crane like Christmas lights. I had never seen the city at this time of day. It seemed empty, a ghost city with the growing moon shining high above the dome in the distance.
I retreated from the window and headed towards the kitchen. I turned on the coffee machine. While it heated up, I grabbed my hairbrush, as I usually did every morning in one of my many time-saving rituals. Then I realized there was no rush. I sat down at the kitchen table with a sigh of relief, and lit a cigarette. A few moments passed by with as only noise the ticking of the clock. It was a big round clock with a black cat in its middle, from whose nose the indicators protruded. I had received it from my mother in the period of my childhood when I had a cat-craze. Fortunately, it still worked after all those years.
The machine was heated up. I placed a capsule and let it purr cosily while the small jet of coffee splashed in my cup. The smell of coffee invaded the room, bitter and aromatic, smelling of early mornings and hard wakings.
But not today. Today was the first day of my very first holiday. Well, not really. My first holiday I passed in bed between tea and books, prostrated by pneumonia. But that was last year. This year, I had quit. I took of sip of coffee, reminiscing. Day in day out the same complaints, the same problems, the same solutions. Even the voices of the customers started to blur together into one nagging sound. Whatever had I been thinking taking that job? I wondered. Then I remembered and swallowed hard. I drained the cup of coffee in once, and thoroughly burned my tongue with it.
“Goddamned it all to hell!” I exclaimed and dropped the cup in the sink, nearly breaking it. Though it had been my fault, my resentment towards the cup went so far that I decided to leave it unwashed until I got back, as a punishment.
I grabbed my bag, wrestled into my coat and closed the door behind me. I sighed as I turned the key in the lock. I wondered if I really wanted to leave at all. I wondered what I really did want.
“Not being alone,” a voice in my mind whispered. I felt the void open itself before me, a crack in the earth under my feet. As always, I pushed it farther away, so far that I could not feel it anymore. Only then, I could no longer feel a thing. As soon as the realization of the situation I was in became clear, something froze inside me. Something that protected me from the harm of too much pain, but that obscured any kind of feeling.
I ran down the stairs towards the basement where my car was waiting. I had baptized her Gretchen. It was a two year old Ford Fiesta, black and shiny. I loved her. She was my best friend. I got in, greeted her and caressed the wheel.
“It’s a long road baby,” I said as I turned the GPS on. “Eleven hours, to be exact. We can do that, can’t we?”
I turned the key in the ignition and Gretchen roared to life, as if she was affirming my words. Sometimes, I wondered if I wasn’t completely insane, the way I treated inanimate objects as if they were people. I felt like they responded to me better than real people did. At least they didn’t contradict me, annoy me, or bother me in any way.
Soon, I was exiting the city, driving up towards the high way. The street lights flew by like shooting stars around me, and for a moment, I felt the thrill of leaving home, of going somewhere unknown, of being free. But only for a moment. Because it was me, and I was used not feeling anything at all. After a quarter of a century of living with someone, you get used to them, for good or for worse. Like a convenience marriage. I wondered if those people in arranged marriages were as miserable as I was with myself, but just as resigned about it.
I took the exit towards Frankfurt am Mainz and turned on the radio on to have some distraction. The beat blasted through the car, but I couldn’t feel it, could grasp it, couldn’t taste it. I remembered a time in the past when I could, when every note of music, every wave in the sound made me thrilled. As if my soul was vibrating in harmony with the melody. But these were memories of a time long gone. People had told me all my life that that’s what adult life is: a sequence of boring events repeated day by day. Something inside me must not have been agreeing with that, since I was trying exactly to break this chain. What had gone through my head? Leaving my job and booking a holiday on a whim? I wasn’t an impulsive person, quite to the contrary: I always considered every side of a situation before taking a decision. It had gone quite differently this time. While absent-mindedly reading a magazine on the subway on my way to work, I had noticed an ad about a Tuscan villa. It was a limited offer, which was only valid one week - which explains my haste. The villa came fully furnished with all needed appliances, plus a cleaning lady. It was like an isolated hotel room, just what I needed. It was not far from the sea, in the Tuscan hills and nearby the Trasimeno Lake. Never mind it was going to cost me a full fortune for just seven nights. But I hoped, I wished, I prayed those seven nights would give me some kind of relief, releasing me from the burden I always carried around. But my boss wouldn’t let me go. The equation was simple: I was sick of my job, so I quit.
I pushed the acceleration treadle, overtaking a rather slow Mercedes in front of me. Was it me or was it imitating a snail? I considered I should still enjoy the lack of speed limitation of my beloved country before I would pass into Switzerland.
On my left, the night sky started to turn opaque with the coming light of day. The world was still cloaked in shadow, and as I passed a bridge, the lights were crowded like galaxies on the adjoining hills. It was beautiful. After all, I loved my country, with its picturesque landscapes and its romantic past. I realized it wasn’t only romantic – one cannot very well forget two World Wars – but the feeling it gave me was nonetheless of beauty and a kind of certainty. A safety I was about to step out of. I took the exit towards Basel, Karlsruhe and Heidelberg. Seeing that last name, I swallowed hard. Heidelberg was the place I had completed my studies in philosophy, with a minor in philology. They were quite useless to me at this particular moment, but that wasn’t why there was a knot burning in my throat as if I was a cat that had ingested a hairball. I had left something there. My old life, and with it, my sense of wonder.
I decided to ignore my feelings for the thousandth time and turned my attention to the immediate problems. I needed to fill the tank.
“What do you think, Gretchen? Time for a break?”
I turned into the first gas station that I found, which wasn’t hard on this road. After filling up Gretchen; I entered the shop. Not because I needed something, but because I needed to have something, something that would change the bitter taste in my throat. Looking around, I wanted to buy the whole store in the hope that one of the flavours would erase the bile in my mouth. But I knew it wouldn’t. The memories of Heidelberg were tainted with a regret so deep it hurt like an empty hole in my chest. It had been my choice, the only way to control my life. Even today, I did not fully understand that choice. It didn’t feel like it was a choice at all, more of an obligation. A means to survive.
I finally settled on a cold cappuccino and orange-flavoured ice-cream. Once, I had loved those flavours. Now, only the first tasting exploded like colours in my mouth. But it didn’t last.
I went back to Gretchen, and sat down in the driver’s seat with my door open. I absent-mindedly looked over the parking lot. The sun was rising crimson above the tree tops that fenced the lot. On the far side, a child was crying loudly. The mother came to him and picked him up, throwing him a bit up in the air a few times. I smiled, a broken smile of missing. I had once known that perfect feeling when someone comes and takes away your grief with one simple gesture of human warmth. And now I was completely and utterly deprived of it. What would it be like if my mother was alive?
I sighed, and threw the cappuccino cup into a bin. No matter throwing “what if's into the world, it didn’t help.
I started Gretchen up and we headed towards Switzerland. Still more than two hundred kilometres left until we would pass into La bella Italia. I had once been there as a child, with my parents. It had been the first time I had seen the sea. Though I must have been about three, I remembered vividly the feeling of elation at seeing the endless expanse of azure water touching the horizon. I couldn’t forget the feeling of sand under my feet either. You felt like you sank into it, but still were held up, still able to walk. The first time I went into the water was magical as well. I was wearing a buoy and I felt like I was soaring as the waves carried me. I remember screaming of fright when one big wave seemed to haul me into the unknown. Then my father had approached, holding the buoy steady, giving me the safety that I needed in order to be able to let go.
I looked outside. The Alps started rising around us. As I was meandering through the mountains on small roads, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the peaks, the flowers and grasses growing through the cracks in the rock. Nothing was further away from the freedom of the sea than those rocks with their eternal gazes. But at the same time, nothing inspired me more awe for the planet I was living on than these everlasting monuments it had erected. I stopped at a gas station for the sole purpose of breathing in the mountain air, and watching the play of light and shadow on the faces of the Alps, while I smoked a cigarette leaning on Gretchen. Why did I feel more at ease with cars, cigarettes and mountains than I did with human beings? I did have friends, and most of the time I found them interesting. But they seemed more like acquaintances, people I saw from time to time. And I had fun with my colleagues at work, but nothing was substantial enough. Something inside me kept me away from people, and I didn't know what that shadow was or what it meant, but it irrevocably inserted itself between me and the rest of the world.
I threw my cigarette on the ground and crushed it. The sun was high in the sky by now, but it was April and still a bit chilly here in Switzerland. I shivered. I was hungry. I had been driving for a few hours since my ice-cream. Though I had a very healthy appetite, I usually tried to watch what I ate – I had been a chubby child and I wasn't planning on becoming a fat adult. The sandwiches at the gas station looked delicious, though. I bought one with a coffee to go and left munching with pleasure. In two minutes, it was gone. I threw away the plastic wrapping and returned to Gretchen to drink my coffee. Right there, in the heart of the Alps, I had a moment's satisfaction. Only one moment, but that was better than none.
I started Gretchen up, and we continued towards Italy. We entered the country a while later, and I took the exit for Milan. I played with the idea of visiting the place, but I knew the cleaning lady would be waiting for me to show me around. I had to get to my destination on time.
There is something about Tuscany that makes it romantic. You cannot really imagine it before you've been there. When I saw the hills with their patches of colour, cypresses everywhere, and the picturesque villa's, I almost couldn't believe my eyes. Its charm made this place mythical and magical. Here, in Tuscany, the greatest minds of the Renaissance had wandered and created marvels. No wonder, surrounded as they were by pure beauty. Nature was coming to life in this early spring, and I could already feel the warmth seeping in. I opened a window and let the wind blow through my hair.
I passed Bologna, and then Florence. I felt sad for not being able to stop, but I promised myself to come and visit. After all, what was I going to do alone in a villa the whole day?
I was on the Raccordo Autostradale Bettolle-Perugia when I saw the first sign for Cortona. My heart leaped in my chest. Almost there!
Some twenty twists and turns later, I passed next to the town of Cortona itself. It was perched on its hill with the small houses scintillating in the sun like bricks in a labyrinth. It was exotic in its way, this amalgam of living places in the middle of fresh green under the spotless blue sky. The GPS made me turn right, and I met with a more primitive sort of road. Because I was driving fast and my window was open, a gust of sand flew right in my face. I coughed and cursed, pushing the brake frantically. Luckily, a few metres further, the GPS instructed me I had attained my destination. Thank God.
« We're both alive, darling, » I said, stroking Gretchen's dashboard. I got out, staring at the tip of my black sports shoes, afraid to face the villa in front of me. As I was getting the bag out of my truck, I heard a voice call my name.
« Amaryllis! Amaryllis! »
I turned around, stupefied. The road was empty. I looked up to the villa. There was no-one around.
« Amaryllis! »
The voice seemed to come from above. I looked up to find nothing but the blue sky staring back at me. I wondered if I had a concussion or something like that. I shook my head, dispelling the strange feeling, and looked up again at the villa. It was magnificent. It was painted sandy yellow and flanked by two high cypresses,. The door and window frames were turquoise. It was two-stories high, and mine for an entire week. My heart leapt in my chest. I almost ran to the door and rang.
A few moments later a friendly old woman opened the door.
« Bongiorno, » she said.
« Err...Hello, » I answered and started digging in my bag for the confirmation of rent. She motioned me to come in. I didn't pay much attention to the hallway, busy as I was burrowing into the recesses of my bag. Finally, my hand emerged holding the crumpled paper. The woman took it and nodded. She opened the door to the living room. I had to hold my breath. It was very large, adorned with a fireplace, paintings and a huge plasma TV. The salon was in brown leather, the windows covered with bordeaux velvet curtains. It was like a dream. The lady nodded and said something in Italian, but I just stood there, staring, mouth wide open. She finally had to pull me by the hand. On the right side of the living room, there were two wall-glass doors leading to a small patio. Through them I caught a glimpse of clear blue water. A private pool, guarded by cypresses. The patio was wonderful, its roof decorated with ivy. I sighed and dropped my bag.
« Lago Trasimeno, » the lady said, pointing at a distant hill. The Trasimene Lake.
« Veni, veni, » she insisted, taking me by the hand. The kitchen was next. It was built in dark brown wood. The lady opened up the fridge, which was fully stuffed with food; there was a mini-bar with different sorts of alcohol. She subsequently opened up all the cabinets, showing me all the necessities and finally, a cupboard with a complete assortment of red wine. I bit my lip seeing those. The last time I had touched red wine... I shook the thought and followed the lady back into the hallway. From there we climbed upstairs. She first showed me the luxurious bathroom – everything in pink, shining marble. There was a bathtub and a shower, and also a wall-long mirror.
There were also different bedrooms on the first floor – obviously the villa was normally rented by families. The biggest bedroom sported a double bed and was completely covered in white, as if the snow had come down in the room, covering it up with a perfect layer of candid purity. I gasped and dropped my bag. It was perfect. I reached out and touched the bed frame. So sad it would only be put to use for my restless, lonely nights.
The old lady was looking at me, with something like pity, I thought. What does a woman do alone in a villa? she must have been thinking. I nodded at her, smiling. There was something grandmotherly about her, something protective and loving. I suddenly wished she I could hug her, and receive the affection I so craved. But she turned around and descended the stairs. I followed. Her handbag was on the table in the kitchen. She took it and extracted the keys, which she handed to me. My heart leapt in my chest. Mine!
She turned towards the door and I waived her out. I breathed deeply out. I was alone.
I returned to the kitchen and looked for an ashtray. There was one in the closet which held the glasses. I lit my cigarette and watched the clouds of smoke drift lazily through the air, while secretly thinking that unpacking is the greatest nuisance on holiday. But underneath it all, under the enthusiasm about the place and the annoyance at the unpacking, there was the fear. It was pulling at me with renewed force. I crushed my cigarette and started wandering around aimlessly, touching everything, marvelling at the beauty that was temporarily mine, but also trying to fight off the pervading feeling of restlessness. I felt empty inside, hollow, as if there was a hole punched through my chest.
Then I decided to go crazy. I headed outside. The patio was very private, even with the large view, because the villa was guarded by bold, upright sentinels: several cypresses surrounded the pool. I smiled and took off my clothes. Only when I had removed them, did I realise how heavy they had been and how light I was feeling now. Then I took the plunge.
I emerged out of the water, coughing, cursing, and violently shivering. I had just been submerged in a bucket of ice.
“Amaryllis, idiot, it’s March! What did you expect?”
Highly disillusioned, I got out of the water trembling as if I was having a fit, and ran as fast as I could to the bathroom. There I wrapped myself in two gigantic towels, plugged on the hair-drier and started waving it all over me until I felt human again. God, how could I have been so stupid?
The thing is, it was not that stupid. I just hadn’t gone swimming for such a long time I had forgotten the clash between the human body and water that happens at first touch. More importantly, I had forgotten that the human body adapts. But at that moment, I was so sensitive, so scared and oppressed by anxiousness, that the thought did not even cross my mind. I felt uncomfortable all the time, even in the situations that a normal human being should feel good. I just lived, dragging day after day, like a monotonous string of gray pearls.
“Shit, shit, shit! Why is my life like this? All the time? Why?”
I threw the towel away and looked in the glass. I felt pale and wasted, but I didn’t look like that at all. My eyes drifted over my high, freckled cheekbones, my small nose, my firm lips, my hazel eyes. I realised I was beautiful, but I could not see it. I just looked pathetic with the dark hair strings glued around my face. My shoulders were too small, my breastbone too accentuated. I reached for the towel on the floor and threw it against the mirror with a yelp. Then I collapsed, sobbing with frenzy. Cradled on the cool floor, I lay there outside my body for a long time, watching myself from above like a ghost.
When I finally gathered the strength to lift myself off the floor, dusk had already fallen. Fiery clouds danced on a marble sky, reflecting their rosy sparks in the cerulean blue of the pool. I sat down in a deck chair, shivering, watching absently the marvel of night falling. I was alone. I felt as if the air I was breathing was acid and it tore through the tissues of my body, making me porous, making me empty.
“No!” I cried against the sky, hoping something, someone may hear me yet. But no sign appeared – nothing but falling darkness.
I entered the villa and went straight to the cupboard holding the red wine bottles. I picked one at random, nervously opened it and put it to my mouth. Bittersweet. Like the memory of when I had last drunk it. I gulped until I could not more, and beyond that. It tasted red and painful. It tasted like more than enough, too much. And still I kept drinking. When I put it down, I saw that the liquid had receded beyond the lower half. That was the last thing I noticed before everything went black.
Chapter II: Meeting in the dark
The dark was deep and I was sucked towards it in a whirlwind with no name. Was this what it felt like to be inside a black hole? Spinning, spinning into a night I had never met before. Was I dying? Then suddenly the spinning stopped, and I was motionless and dizzy. The wind had died down, and I landed on something hard. I looked up to meet the dark, damp wall of a cave.
I suddenly thought of what a normal person would do. They would first ask themselves how they got there. Then they would start exploring the place. I just cowered in a corner and started reciting the table of multiplications. I was trying to suppress the fear before it suppressed me. But out of the shadows surrounding me, I kept seeing murderers suddenly jumping at my throat. The place was eerie and cold, damp seeping on the walls I pressed myself against.
I turned around. Out of the speaking darkness, a light lit and sparkled on the walls. In its wake appeared a man in his mid-thirties dressed in jeans and a striped shirt, wearing a cowboy hat.
“What?” I asked.
“Three times eight. Twenty-four. Your age.”
“How do you know that?” I wondered aloud, simultaneously repressing the silent army of questions that was gathering in my mind.
“I just do; I am not going to kill you; you are not technically dreaming; no, I am not evil; you are indeed not dead; and yes, you will get out of here.”
I just stared at him. He had just answered all my questions. Did he know everything?
“All I need to know.”
“What the hell? What’s the meaning of life then, while we’re at it?” I asked.
“The meaning of life is love.”
“How is that? I don’t love anyone; will you suggest my life has no meaning then?” Besides the fact that this was the most aberrant conversation I had ever had, it was true. My life didn’t have any meaning at all.
“Maybe for you it doesn’t. But for those who love you, it has all the meaning it needs. And by the way, this is not the most aberrant conversation of your lifetime. The one with Adam was.”
I instantly recalled the scene he was referring to. We were debating the free will of frogs after a philosophy class in college. I had been in love with Adam, but I had never told him. We had been best friends, until that one night. That one beautiful, miraculous and tragic night.
“That was a wrong choice.”
I bowed my head and felt a tear sting over my cheek.
“I had no choice.”
“You always have a choice. That’s why you’re here.”
“Would you care to elaborate?”
“You came to Tuscany because you hated your job, your life and your friends. You hated everything. You wanted to know what it was like to live. That’s what you thought when you saw that add in the paper. Do you remember now?”
I slowly nodded. I remembered. It was a grey morning and I was languidly browsing through the paper when I saw that line: come and taste life! I so much wanted to. I had always heard people say how short it was and I didn’t remember ever really enjoying it.
“So as I say, that’s why you’re here.”
“But… what is this place? And who are you?”
“Well, my name is Ariel. I am technically a being like you, only I have no body. It has a lot of advantages and a lot of disadvantages as well. I miss the smell of peaches a lot, for one. But I get to help people who are lost here. Those times are getting hard and harder every day on earth, and people cry for help because they feel alone.”
“Because we are not alone?” I asked mockingly.
He smiled calmly and lifted his hand. The light grew, and in its wake I saw hundreds of faces extending as far as my eyes could reach. They looked strangely at me, as if they were from another world. With a bang, I realised they were. They must be. They were… perfect.
“It’s the way we choose to look. It’s what your brain makes of it. It’s not material at all. We have no bodies.”
He touched me then. I did not feel skin contact, only a slight feeling of joy, right there, on my arm. I startled. He only smiled.
“It’s alright. That’s what touching us feels like.”
“What are you then?”
He lifted his hand again, and the silhouettes disappeared.
“People call us angels. But I was a man, once (called Tom then, if you must know!) and there is a lot of difference between us and the definition you have of angels. We’re not all that… shapeless and bleak. Angels always seemed so damn boring, I must say. It’s just ideology. You’ll get it, once you’re dead.”
“Thanks for the prospect.”
“Oh, it’s not all that bad, trust me. The first time is the worst. But you’ve already done it. Several times. Now you’re stuck in all those things you got entangled in your previous lives. I’m here to help you.”
“And how exactly are you planning to do that, Tom?”
“I liked being Tom. It was my last life. I had a house in South Dakota and I used to watch the sun come up every day.”
“Didn’t you have to do more than just stare at the damn sun to become an angel?” This was getting more aberrant every second.
“I told you, wrong ideas you humans have about “after”. Now, little missy, stop stalling. We’re here to work on you.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
He threw his head back and laughed.
“Have you listened to yourself? Pleading in your head “please help me”? And just now, while you were being haughty? Why can’t you just be honest with yourself? There is nothing wrong with needing help. Nobody can live alone, completely cut off from everybody else. My colleagues you just saw, you think they’re just hanging in the air? They’re helping every single day. But only when people ask for help. That’s the trick.”
“Ok, so I need help. I feel like I’m mental now.”
“Being human means being mental. Otherwise you’d be all robots. It happened, you know. On a world named Neda. They all put themselves into machines.”
“What happened to them?”
“They plug in and out of a power source. They create nothing, teach nothing, basically, do nothing but “live”, if you can call that living. It’s very sad. They don’t feel anything at all.”
“Like me then.”
“Oh no. Nothing like you. You regret that you can’t feel. They just… don’t feel. They don’t really live. But it matters though, don’t doubt it. They matter, however they are. They never asked for help, they made their choice. They’re immortal now.”
“Oh great for them. Now, I don’t want to become like that. Any ideas for me?”
“Well, there’s always Adam. He still loves you.”
“I refuse! I don’t want to depend on a man to be happy!”
“You’re so scared of depending on someone that you have closed yourself in your own worst nightmare. You’ve cut yourself off from everyone you love. When is the last time you called your father? You’re afraid you’ll lose everyone, so you're already leaving them before they can leave you!”
It hit me like a slap in the face. Yes, of course I was. I couldn’t have it – my father dying, Adam leaving me. How could I bear this again after being a part of something? How could I go back to being this island, void of feeling, sense, life? I could never bear it! I would never bear it! I would never do such a thing! Creating peril in my own life for the sake of others? Never!
“You see? That’s what you really think. That’s what you thought the night of your graduation. The night you left him.”
It had been dark in the room, but dawn was slowly starting to point at the window. A ray of light came down Adam’s eyelashes, soft and silver. He was beautiful, his hair crazed like that over the pillow. Naked skin and the smell of him still on me. Him on me. I suddenly felt dirty, like something alien was invading me. No! I felt it crawling on my skin, and I felt the fear. It woke shivers on my back and twisted my stomach. No! No! NO! What was this? What was happening? I want to scratch, to get it all away. I wanted to snuggle close to him, to hold him, pull him against me. I remembered crying out in passion the night before, crazed with fulfilled desire. I had loved him so long, two years. I had been so close to him, but always an inch away. And last night… We had graduated. There was wine. And God knew if there was one thing my brain could not resist, it was red wine. He had brought me home. On my doorstep, I had felt extremely audacious. I had grabbed his collar and pulled him in after me. He declined, saying I was too drunk. But then I saw it. The sparkle in his eyes. I knew. He wanted me too. I melted away in that first kiss, that wonderful lightning created by our bodies. It felt like paradise. I wreathed my hand in his hair, twisting, twisting. That hair lay now spread black against the pureness of the pillow. That hair I would never, ever touch again. My fingers ached from the thought and I cried out.
“No! Why! It hurts! No! Don’t do this! Stop, Ariel, stop please! You’re hurting me!”
He rested his palm against my moist cheek. I felt light invade that side of my head, and the aching slowed a little.
“I am not hurting you. You are hurting yourself.”
Then I saw. The other one. He was blond, with blue eyes. I had wreathed in his hair too. I had cried out in ecstasy under his sweating body. And I had loved him. He, however, had not returned the favour.
“I don’t remember this guy… but I remember feeling this way!”
“It’s because you did. In another body, another time.”
I swallowed hard. My throat hurt from all the emotions being forced upon me all the sudden. I was completely overwhelmed, not being used to the rush of feeling through every cell of my body.
“This is healing. People usually get there by themselves, but it’s a long process. It’s like learning algorithms. If you get it right from the first time, then it goes smoothly. If you learn a mistake, you’ll keep repeating it… until you learn it right. You learn to learn again.”
“What’s right then? What did I do wrong?”
“Hold on, this is going to hurt again.”
“Damn. Didn’t know angels were so much like doctors! No anaesthesia though, apparently!”
“You have no idea!”
Then the rush came again. I was alone. I was looking at things in a very strange perspective, until I suddenly realised I was in a cradle. My body parts did not respond very well, and I felt some strange, stinking wetness around my loins. The desire to screech filled my throat, but surprisingly, I was able to suppress it. For a while. When I started yelping, I expected to be helped. Right away. Right now! I’m annoyed! Get over here! Help me! Help me! Why does no one hear me? I want to see a familiar face! I want to feel good again! It’s stinging me! Where are you, creature with the warm skin that is closest to me? Where are you, you need to take care of me! You need to help me feel better! Come! Please someone come! It stings! What is happening? I’m scared now! I’m very, very, very scared! It’s very unpleasant! I don’t like it! Why does no one care! The creature with the warm skin! She does not love me! She is not there when I need her! This hurts more! This hurts inside my stomach like a gash! I feel the tears wetting me all over now…
“No! Let me out!”
“It’s alright.” He was holding my hand. “It is not your mother. This is the other life.”
I sighed deeply and wiped the tears from my face.
“What happened to me then?”
“People found you, quite soon after. Your parents had been deported. You were Jewish. But that, the loss of them… you never recovered. It left a gash inside. The feeling you were abandoned, when in fact you never were. You never searched for it, so you never found it. When he left you, the other, your life fell in ruins around you. Because again, you were abandoned. And even if you did not remember this episode I just showed you, your soul remembered it for you. And you felt incomplete, always incomplete. In need for someone to fill you up.”
“How ironic. I’m German.”
He laughed. “Get over it. Life has a sense of humour.”
I smiled and sighed again, very deeply.
“It starts making sense now… everything. It’s not even my fault.”
“It never was. But you chose it. You loved you parents: you had been together in another life. You chose this because you wanted to be with them. You were willing to pay the price. You loved them. You have known how to love and do not worry, you will remember how to do it again.”
“Where are they now?”
He smiled mysteriously. “I am not allowed to tell you this. It belongs to your future, and that is forbidden realm for this operation. Yes, operation! Do not dare to laugh!”
I burst into a hysteric, cleansing laughter. His body seemed to shake along with mine.
“Well, now we have the premises, let’s get started.”
“There is more?”
“What, did you think it was so easy to heal a soul? It took lifetimes to break yours, why should it take seconds to mend it?”
He got up from his crouched position in front of me and held out a hand.
“Come on now, let’s bring you to your convalescence ward.”