What I Have Been Doing Lately, and a Call for Artists

So, first off:

I realized today that I have missed the last two or three posting deadlines. I wanted to put up another chapter and maybe another book blurb. I in fact have something vaguely chapter-like written up on my favourite writing site. But I don’t want to post it without giving it a good look-over. And I haven’t had time to do that.

On Friday I will by flying to Sofia, Bulgaria to give a presentation on ancient Egyptian mortuary texts. The presentation will be less exciting than it sounds, I assure you. I have  been hectically preparing it all week, in addition to the thesis preparation I have been doing for my advisor. I am happy to say that my presentation is essentially ready, and my thesis pages will be sent off first thing tomorrow morning.

So now you all know what I have been doing rather than engaging in more entertaining pursuits. Real life is so tedious when you’d rather be writing. And I haven’t even got to real life yet. I’m still stuck in the student life.

Regrettably, I don’t see myself posting prior to about a week from now. If I’m overwhelmingly bored in Bulgaria, I may find the time to concoct a book blurb or spare piece of prose.

And now, to the second part:

I don’t think my blog has enough art.

I like art, of just about any variety. It inspires me. It’s fun to look at. It breaks up long lines of prose.

I can’t do art.

So if there’s anyone who would like to have their art put up on a blog, feel free to contact me. I’ve added a page over in navigation with details on what I’m looking for.

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The Purgatory Blues, Chapter 2

 Click here to read from the beginning.

***

The last time I had been in a hospital, I was four. I was visiting my mom. When she told me she was going up to Heaven soon, I asked her where it was and when I could go see her.

“It’s a beautiful place,” she’d replied. “It’s like having everything you want, but better. And when you get there, a long time from now, I’ll be waiting to greet you and hear about all the things you did while I was gone.”

From this description, my idea of Heaven was filled with fluffy pink pillows and soft, wide eyed animals that were my eternal playmates. What else do you expect from a four year-old?

Even when I got older and one conception of Heaven was replaced with another, I never shook the feeling that there was something soft about it. In my mind, the pearly gates were smooth and silky. The clouds were made of down. I knew the whole St. Peter thing was just a metaphor. For most of my life I went back and forth on the issue of God and life after death. But when it came down to those last moments, I still half-expected to be transported to the clouds, with a toga and a harp miraculously in my hands.

In some ways it’s hard to describe where I actually began my afterlife existence. With my body gone, I didn’t perceive things through my senses. But my first impression of my new bearings was – flat. Everything seemed flat. There was no vibrancy. The world was suddenly cool and drab and quiet, or as close as you can get to those things in another plane of existence.

The guy who brought me said, “Welcome to Purgatory.” He didn’t speak, as such. He just…decided which thoughts to share with me, and they appeared in my head.

“Purgatory?” I echoed.

“Also known as Limbo, the Waiting World, or any other host of names.”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“My name is Conner,” he replied. “It’s my job to help you adjust to the loss of your body, your post-mortem existence here in Purgatory, and any next steps you want to take.”

“I don’t mean to be self-righteous, but I kind of always thought I’d either go straight to Heaven or Hell,” I said.

Conner laughed. “A lot of people say that. But most of us start out in Purgatory. Anyone who has unfinished business in the physical world stays here until it’s resolved.”

Then they go to Heaven or Hell?” I asked.

Conner did the spiritual equivalent of a shrug. “They go somewhere.”

I tried to consider the life I’d left behind. But I couldn’t really think of anything that might tether me to it. I’d been ready to go for months and I’d made my peace with anything and anyone I cared about. Maybe there had been some mistake.

“Look,” I said. “I don’t want to think about my old life anymore. I’m ready to move on and I’d like to see what’s next.” Anything, I thought, would be better than what I had. “So whatever papers or equivalent stuff I have to file here, I’d rather just do it now and get going.”

“It doesn’t work like that, Rachel,” he informed me. From the warmth of his tone I gathered he’d been down this road before. “You don’t just leave Purgatory because you want to. Whatever is holding you back…you have to find it. And fix it.”

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.

***

Click here to read Chapter 2.