by Z.S Allen
A confusing encounter with death and the divine.
|I woke up straining to see through the fog of what I thought were my morning eyes. Everything was a haze, a multi-colored blur, until the unfamiliar white walls caught my attention. I threw a sideways glance to try to decode my globular surroundings. Next to me were what looked to be life-support machines, their tubes jutting out in a thick, tangled mess from overuse and disregard.|
“What’s wrong, what happened?” I mumbled.
My eyes began to shift into focus as doctors and nurses rushed me down a brightly lit hallway; the type of hallway that’s too bright, operating table bright..
The unmistakable stench of disinfectant and latex brought me slightly back to an uncomfortable consciousness where I caught a quick glimpse of my once white dress shirt, now soaked in my crimson blood, and grayed from smoke.
“So much for work,” I muttered under my breath.
“He’s waking up! Get him into the room and prepped for surgery, Stat!”
One of the nurses bent down, hovering but a few inches above my face and took out a small flashlight. She shined the miniature flashlight once in each eye, and then told me that everything would be fine. She put away the flashlight and grabbed a syringe from another nurse. She held the syringe with a clear liquid up to the too-bright lights and flicked it twice.
“This won’t hurt a bit, Chase,” she said slowly as she focused on the needle before injecting the clear liquid into a receptor site off the main I.V tube. “You’re very lucky I hope you know. Now, count down from ten for me, will yah, Hun.”
. . .
Once again I woke up in an unnatural haze, my eyes blinded by the sunlight tearing through the white mesh curtains. There’s an annoying beeping sound in the room, I rolled to my right and saw a tiny computer screen, the thin green lines jumping and falling with the unpredictable rhythm of my heartbeat.
“Well, at least I’m alive I suppose…” I said to myself, pausing after to think. “Hmm…definitely a hospital room.
The whiteness of everything was sickening, a dead give-away; everything was beyond clean, it was immaculate. I scanned my body quick without really noticing anything wrong, a bruise here, a scab there.
“What am I doing here? Is there anyone here?” I asked aloud to the empty room.
“Oh, Mr. White, you’re up!” answered a booming voice from the opposite side of a gleaming white curtain that hung from the ceiling to the floor. “We have been waiting for you to wake up. Everything has checked out; so you are free to leave whenever you feel fit.”
“May I ask why I’m here, exactly?”
“You were in a pretty serious automobile accident in the middle of the city, you see. You ought to be thankful that you’re alive.”
“I feel like I’ve heard that somewhere before.”
Out from behind the curtains came an incredibly tall, aging man with a long white beard and a white doctor’s coat that was the whitest white that I had ever seen. The man had a certain presence about him that made you feel like you’ve known him your entire life—even if you’ve never met him before. He carried with him a clipboard with a stack of ancient looking parchment paper that looked like it was nearly too brittle to write on.
“Have I had any visitors? There doesn’t seem to be anything from my family? How long have I been here?”
“You’ve been here for a few days, but you’re all fixed up,” he said with a comforting smile. “They had you transferred from another hospital, so perhaps your family left things for you there.”
“That bad, ay? Well, I feel fine now thankfully. I suppose I’ll be on my way if you say I’m okay to leave. Thanks for your help, I certainly do appreciate it.”
I grabbed my gray overcoat from the foot of the bed and walked innocently past the giant dressed in a doctor’s jacket with a passing nod, and continued out the door towards an exit sign at the far end of the corridor.
“It’s been great getting to know you, Chase!” he yelled, his voice just as deafening at the far end of the hall as it was when he was standing right next to me. “I’m sure our paths will cross again someday.”
I turned around and back tracked a step, working to conjure up a suitable reply. I noticed that the walls of the hospital were glowing in a way that I’ve never seen before; it was as though there were lights shining through from the other side, illuminating the walls like headlights through a white sheets.
“I’m really sorry Doc, I realize I’ve been here for some time, but I can’t remember your name for the life of me, or anything at all for that matter.”
“You can call me Eros,” he said with a friendly snicker.
“Eros? I think that sounds familiar,” I replied without any note of conviction.
“Eros, it’s Greek,” he said, his words stampeding down the hall like rolling thunder.
“I’ll remember that. I hope at least. I can’t seem to remember much of anything as I said. That’s normal, right?”
“Yes, certainly, you did suffer some memory loss. You probably have no idea how you ended up here in the first place, am I right?”
“You’re right, I don’t, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Anyway, I really should be off, thanks again for your help.”
I followed the Exit signs for a good thirty minutes, trying to muffle the clacking of each step by walking on my tip-toes. I felt like there was something important going on somewhere in this massive hospital, and my echoing ‘clacks’ were an awful distraction to everyone involved.
“Okay, where is this Exit at, this is getting absurd.”
The thought of being lost in an endless maze of too-bright hallways and conspiring Exit signs was becoming a legitimate concern, not to mention this place was a ghost-town. I hadn’t seen a single soul since my meeting with Dr. Eros.
I turned my twenty-first corner and predictably followed the Exit sign hanging inanimately from the ceiling. My patience was dwindling and by this point I was thoroughly convinced that the signs were guiding me towards the psych-ward.
Just around that twenty-first corner, however, was my saving grace; a wall with the familiar sheen of stainless steel elevator doors, flanked graciously by a hospital directory.
I hit the downwards facing arrow without hesitation, and waited anxiously, tapping my foot furiously as I waited for one of the doors to open.
‘Bing’ sounded the elevator as the doors parted. I stepped inside to an elevator that was lined with mirrors. On the right side, there was a three-by-five foot panel full of buttons ranging from Lobby to 228, and the 228 button was lit up. I put my curiosity in my back pocket for a moment and tapped the Lobby button before turning my attention then towards the mirrors. I looked myself over, patting my pockets for my wallet, phone, any of my worldly possessions while twirling around, craning my neck in every painful direction possible in order to get a thorough scan, but with no success.
“What’s that?” I asked my reflection as I gazed curiously at an ancient-looking scroll of paper in the back pocket of my jeans.
“This looks familiar.”
I carefully unrolled the cloth-like, browned parchment, and on it was a note signed by Dr. Eros, but all it read was, “Not quite yet.”
My eyes snapped up away from the parchment in a sudden burst of adrenaline, and I quickly grasped the safety rail as the elevator began to rattle and shake uncontrollably. The line had broken and I found myself on death’s doorstep in the same hospital that revived me from a near-fatal accident. But now was not a time for irony.
moment later I surrendered to my fears and accepted my misfortunes; leading to a grueling introspective nightmare that left me pale as the moon, but contented enough to dig my grave with my pride intact. I sat down on the floor and digested my final moments as best I could. My fate was now in the hands of an elevator in freefall, and that was all I could be certain of.
There was a brief moment that spanned an eternity–one of the most disconcerting moments of my life. In the midst of freefall, death lurking in the mirror just over my shoulder, his sickle gleaming in the dim light, when I closed my eyes and dove within.
But where I expected to find fear and sorrow, a life unfulfilled and dreamless, instead I found myself overcome with an earth-shattering tranquility that could only be entirely understood by one who had reached true Nirvana, or a man on the steps of his final judgment.
I looked on despairingly as the illuminated numbers on the elevator panel dropped in speedy succession, each getting faster by the second—18, 17, 16…
The presence of the concrete at the bottom of the elevator shaft was almost unbearable. I watched the numbers continue to drop—8, 7, 6… I laid down on the elevator floor and felt the tremble of the elevator as it finally approached its untimely grave, and looked up at the mirrored ceiling, watching my every last move like I was filming a documentary on my final moments. But out of all of the chaos, the last thing I remember–3, 2… was the unbelievable smile that spread over my face. …1.
. . .
I awoke to total darkness, a dense black veil of nothing. Once again my mind immediately alerted me that I was in an unfamiliar place, or that perhaps I was now blind. A few moments of the still air and dense black went by, leaving me to believe that either my soul couldn’t quite find its way, or that I was alive, and in a gruesome condition.
I estimate that about an hour had gone by when the darkness began to give way to light and color and familiarity. I noticed the pleasant aroma of medical plastics and sterile air. I was alive! I am alive!
“Chase, you’re awake! Oh my goodness, Doctor, Doctor, hurry, please, he’s waking up!” my mother yelled. “Come quick!”
“Chase, Chase, can you hear me?” asked the doctor.
“I hear you. Where am I this time?” I asked, struggling to garner the energy to even speak.
“You’re in the hospital, you’ve been in a coma for a week since your accident,” said my mother brokenly, trying to talk over the tears from somewhere behind the doctor. “You’re going to be alright, hunny!”
“I thought I was transferred to another hospital? Where’s Dr. Eros?”
“No, Chase, you were here the whole time under the care of the nurses and myself,” the doctor clarified. “There was certainly no transfer, and I’m not familiar with a Dr. Eros.”