The Purgatory Blues: Chapter 1

I was ready to die when it happened. I’d been ready for months. And as I lay in that hospital room, as they pumped serums into me and pick out all the splinters of skull, I knew the moment had come. And I was not afraid.

I was relieved.

There was no pain. I think I was beyond it then. But I could hear everything – the shouts of the nurses as they ran down the corridor, the murmur of the surgeon as he concentrated, the rustle of his sleeves. I heard the monitor flatline. My surgeon started cursing as the crash cart rumbled in. I don’t know how many times they tried to resuscitate me. But eventually they had to call it.

That was when I opened my eyes. Not my physical eyes, but the eyes – or perhaps awareness – of whatever was left of me once my physical body was gone. My body lay next to me, cold and motionless. Pale. Red matted the side of my head and my face was a mass of bruises. I looked away from my former shell. I didn’t need to see the damage. I’d lived it.

The surgeon pulled down his mask, revealing a thin, downturned mouth in the middle of an aging face. A nurse came around the side of the bed, walking right through my non-corporeal self to fold my body’s arms. She didn’t seem to notice a thing. When she was finished, she went over to the surgeon and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Do you think they’ll catch the guy who did it?” he asked. He sounded weary and frustrated. I reached out for him almost instinctively, touched that he cared. No one else in my life had.

She just patted his shoulder. “Come on,” she said, and turned him toward the door.

When they shut that door, I saw him. He stood behind it, barely more than a shadow. But when all the people were gone, he stepped into the light.

I knew he was like me, because he was staring straight at me. He was tall and thin – almost skeletally so – with jutting cheekbones and a sharp chin. His eyes were large and lilac-colored, and black hair hung to just above his shoulders in greasy strings. With his wide eyes and pale face he looked like a rag doll.

“Are you ready to go to the afterlife, Rachel?” he said. He extended his arm.

I nodded and placed my own, translucent ghost-hand in his. I’d always wondered what kind of a place Heaven was.

Unfortunately, Heaven wasn’t where we were going.

***

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