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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Dark · #2260815
Another slice of afterlife.
“Why does Grandma want to die?” Rob muttered angrily. It was more a frustrated complaint than a question.

Grandma Tess was lying limply in the beige hospital room, hooked up to expectant monitors and a morphine drip. The unmistakable tang of antiseptic hung in the dry air. Her eyes were closed, and her chest fluttered occasionally with small, ragged gasps. The body that had been so lithe and strong looked frail and shrunken now.

“She doesn’t want to, but she knows she has to,” Rob's mother explained. “I think you’re old enough to understand. She wants to go out on her terms, with dignity. She doesn’t want to lie there helpless with a machine doing her breathing. Her whole life was music and movement, you can’t know how hard it is for a dancer to lose her legs.”

Tess hadn’t wanted to drag out a life constricted by pain and prisoned by infirmity. The rapidly progressing multiple sclerosis had robbed her of her profession, her mobility, and her very sense of self. The Do-Not-Resuscitate order in her chart was absolutely in character for the proud, driven woman.

Naomi blinked back tears as she remembered the glorious days when her mother was prima ballerina at Les Ballets Brighton dance company. Tess had chosen both daughter and career after an unfortunate love affair left her pregnant and alone. It hadn’t been easy for a single mother to return to the stage, but somehow, she’d managed and even triumphed. The small, but critically respected company had flourished during Tess’s star turn. And, she continued to dance and teach behind the scenes as ballet master after retiring from public view. Naomi’s own career as a set designer had been inspired by her mother’s passion for dance.

Now, Tess’s family and friends were gathered to support her during these final hours, taking shifts to sit with her as the last moments ticked away. They shared funny stories and heart-warming memories. Everyone agreed that Tess was one of the 'good ones'. The final outcome may have been inevitable, but still came as a shock. Rob and his mother turned to each other, grief-stricken, as the steady beeping of the heart monitor gave way to a strident tone of alarm.

“She’s gone,” the doctor said gently, and switched off the flatlined display. He looked at his watch, and made a note in Tess’s chart of the time of death. “I’ll leave you to say goodbye, take all the time you need.”

A powerful influx of air startled Tess back to consciousness. It felt good, strong and healthy. She hadn’t drawn a breath like that for months. The hot blood pumping through her veins felt like a flood released from a broken dam. Her limbs filled with life and she flexed vigorous legs that miraculously moved to her will again. And that wasn’t all, Tess shook out sweeping gossamer wings and marveled at the amazing transformation.

I’m a fairy! She thought with childish delight.

There was no sensation of taking flight, but Tess found herself twirling in midair, swooping in glorious arcing loops, glancing back occasionally at the sparkling bursts of color that came from her own wings. She re-created her favorite dance pieces with an effortless grace and boundless energy. How and why were of no concern. Tess could hear the music in her memory and there wasn’t any need for an audience. No earthly stage production had ever come close to this level of joyous free expression.

Come to the light.

Was that a voice, or her imagination? Tess suddenly became aware of a bright glow off to her left. It was that glow that reflected and refracted as she beat her translucent wings to a transcendent rhythm.

That must be the light people always talk about, the one you see when you go to heaven. Maybe I’m an angel now, she thought hopefully.

The hypnotic blue-white glow grew larger and larger as Tess approached. She felt a thrilling sense of anticipation as she wondered about the afterlife. Would she spend eternity dancing in a three-dimensional ballet of mystic celebration? That would certainly be her idea of heaven. The perfect light continued to expand, becoming her entire world as a blinding, incandescent flash cut off further speculation.

“Oh my, that was a big one,” Marge drawled listlessly, and took another sip of her gin & tonic.

This can’t be all there is, Bob thought to himself as he drained another can of beer.

He considered himself a bit of a backyard philosopher, often dwelling on the big questions that didn’t seem to trouble Marge at all, bless her simple heart.

There has to be more to life than drinking in the dark and watching the damned bug zapper.

Author's note:
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