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I’m not breathing!
I can’t feel my arms or legs!
I can’t move!
“Time of death,” said a tall man dressed in surgical attire. He had cotton-colored hair, a snowy white moustache, and a long beard. “1:17 P.M.”
“This doesn’t make sense,” a female doctor replied, shaking her head.
She leaned over to examine me. Penlight illuminated my right eye and then my left. A stethoscope pressed against my chest. The female doctor turned around to look at the heart monitor. Hastily, the tall man withdrew a golf ball-size crystal from his front pocket and circled it above my chest. Blue light flashed from its center before he stashed it away.
Despite being in a bright, sterile room, snake-like bands of black shadow burst from the walls and dropped to the floor. The female doctor didn’t notice as the bands whipped up my body and into my ears, nose, and mouth.
My vision dimmed.
Scenes of my life appeared in front of me as if I were standing on the sidelines observing. Everything I’d ever done played like a movie in fast-forward: standing in my crib, learning to walk, to ride my bike, my first day at Whitmore Elementary School, fishing with dad at the pier, my freshman prom with Sarah, getting my learner’s permit last month. The visions ended with me collapsing on the lawn earlier today and Sarah running toward me with a look of horror on her face.
Suddenly, I’m back on the hospital gurney. I lifted toward the ceiling; an exact copy of my physical made of cloud. I looked down at my body. My mortal eyes were glazed and half-lidded. My face was a sick, milky color. A luminous cord the width of a shoelace stretched from my human head into the back of my spirit head.
Something popped inside my skull. The connecting cord turned to sparkle.
“I’ll notify those in the waiting room that the patient passed away,” the tall man said. “The mother, and I believe, the patient’s girlfriend, are in there.”
The doctor’s face looked almost as pale as mine on the gurney.
“This should not have happened,” she said, as she peeled off a latex glove. “This boy should not be dead!”
Sound disappeared. I propelled upward through a spinning vortex of stars. I stopped and suddenly my world was bright and filled with pain, as if my skin had caught fire. I was standing on the front porch of my house. Shafts of sunlight beat down from the clear blue sky. I grabbed at the doorknob and my momentum carried me forward through the wood and into the foyer. Sunlight beamed from the windows like lasers.
I ran across the hallway through the closed basement door and down the steps into the dark, cool cellar; and relief. Filamentous illumination drifted off my spirit body. I scratched my arm and my fingertips raked along what felt like real skin. I patted my chest and thighs, they were solid. All my memories, dreams, and hopes were intact. I was an identical blueprint of my former self.
I went back up the steps and pushed my head through the closed door. The sun had set and the house was dark, except for the kitchen. The wall clock showed 8:45 P.M. Hours had passed in what I perceived as seconds.
I stepped all the way through the door, looked for my reflection in the windows, and saw none.
I headed into the kitchen. Glow cast by the overhead fluorescents heated my spirit flesh, but the discomfort was bearable. Ma sat at the table in her ratty blue robe. Her face looked chalky and devastated. Bone-white fingers gripped her coffee mug.
“Ma,” I said.
She didn’t respond, just stared ahead in a stupor.
Her lips contorted with grief.
“My husband and my son,” she muttered to the air. “Both gone on the same day. Why? Why has this happened?”
She started to sob.
I stood in absolute shock. It had been two years since a stroke had left my father in a coma at Pine Brook Nursing Home. Ma and I did our best to keep him cared for and comfortable. I even got a before-school job at Pine Brook cooking breakfast three mornings a week so I could spend time with him, arriving early and talking to him before my shift started, hoping by some miracle that he’d respond. Say something. Anything. He never did.
Ma dabbed at her eyes, raised the mug, sipped, and then set it, hands trembling, back onto the table. I reached around to hug her, but my arms passed through her body.
“I’ll be right back,” I said into her ear.
I turned and walked through the drywall, through the insulation and vinyl siding, and into the night. Crickets chirped. Moths fluttered dizzyingly and bumped the back porch light. A car droned down the street. The world was as it should be.
When I stepped back through the wall, 10:30 P.M. beamed from the stove’s clock and Ma’s sobs emanated from upstairs.
“You’re coming with me,” said a gravelly voice. “Your time on the Earthlevel is complete.”