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You hear it echo in your ear. You know what it was, but you do not have the reaction you know you normally would. Your stomach does not drop and you don’t even feel yourself as you hit the ground. You are numb, but you don’t even realize it yet. Crowds of people are surrounding you, and all you can think is, “What happened?”
The confrontation everyone has talked about, your life flashing before your eyes, suddenly makes sense to you. You’re in your bed with your wife, watching early morning cartoons and your two daughters are sitting at the end of your feet. You look over at your wife with as much love as you did your wedding day. You gaze at the backs of your daughter‘s heads and reminisce about the day each of them were born. You feel like the luckiest person alive, nothing can go wrong. You aren’t rich, but you provide for your household and do what you can with what you have. Since you opened the hardware store, you’ve become an institution in your small town. Everyone goes to you, and you’re known as Mr. Fix-It to your neighbors and friends. As you sit and conclude this is the life you‘ve always wanted, your youngest daughter starts to climb your shoulders and giggle along with her older sister and mother. You pull her down, and begin to tickle her.
The sun’s bright glow creeps in through your eyelids. They feel translucent. You squeeze your eyes together scrunching your whole face. Then, you begin to open them. At first, you can’t see anything because the aurora ablaze in your face almost blinds you. You blink a few times before everything starts to focus. You make out a figure in the distance, but it’s shape is so dark you cannot tell if it is a figure of a person yet. Everywhere around you is so white, it appears to be glowing. You notice you aren’t in front of your store anymore, and no one is surrounding you.
You want to stand up and examine where you are better, but your head feels dizzy. It reminds you of when your daughters begs you to spin them around the room as if they are Cinderella at the ball. You place your hands down to help yourself up, and you notice what you are placing your hands down on is not cement or grass, it isn’t carpet or hardwood, and you look down to see the smooth, almost slippery, material under your hands. The floor is as white as the walls surrounding you. You start to become unglued. You’re looking around and feeling there is no end because you can’t see where the walls come together or where they meet the floor. You look down and you feel a wet droplet slide down your face. You become petrified when you try to find where the tear fell, and it feels as if there is no floor anymore. You can’t move, you shut your eyes, lower your head and start to whisper, “Wake up wake up wake up.”
As your eyes continue to leak the salty drops down your cheeks, you raise your fingers to wipe away the tears. Your fingertips brush your face, however, and it’s dry. You raise your face to see the dark figure you saw before standing in front of you. You analyze what is standing in front of you as a person, but you can’t make out a face, as if everything is a blur in a background of sharp clarity. You shield your eyes with a curved palm as you hear a deep, capricious voice say, “It’s ok, I know what you’re feeling.”
“Like h*** you do,” you feel your vocal chords vibrate out between your lips. You look up to see who you’ve just insulted, but the shadow is gone. “S***,” you exclaim as you realize he was possibly your only means of explanation. You try to remember what happened, and suddenly realize you can’t. In a panic, you calm yourself down by closing your eyes, concentrating on the routine you were quickly taken from.
The alarm clock buzzes country music in your ear: 5:00 in the morning. You kiss your still sleeping wife on the forehead before swinging your legs over the side of your plush mattress. You step lightly to the bathroom where you twist the faucet in the shower to hot and get in. Standing in the shower letting the warm droplets and steam envelop you, you feel a pang of guilt for going in to work on a Sunday. The store is closed, but your oldest customer called last night begging to get his ceiling fan fixed. It is the middle of July, and the heat is almost unbearable. You promised, but saw the look on your girls’ faces when you told them. Sunday is family day. As you wrap the towel around you and run your hands through your soaked hair, you promise yourself to finish the fan as soon as possible. You want to get back before mid-afternoon. When you reach the store, you get the lanyard out of your pocket and fiddle through the ring of rattling keys. That’s when you hear the piercing crack in the air.
Your eyelids pop open to wipe away the visual in your head. You remember the last thing you heard was a chain of screams and frantic yells of aid. You pull your knees to your chest, and wrap your arms around yourself. You start to feel a sharp pain in your chest as the dark figure begins to approach you again. “What is going on? Is this the hospital?” The dark figure shakes looks at you and you are able to make out a face. He is tall with oblivious green eyes. He looks confused, and is dressed in dress pants recently pressed and a white collared shirt with a faint sweat stain under both of his armpits. “Do you know what is going on?” he asks.
You explain to him your experience earlier. A look of revelation spreads across his face. His eyebrows go from being furrowed in confusion to spreading upward with his eyes opening widely and staring past you. “We died,” he says more as a revelation to himself. You frown at him, roll your eyes, and look down as you begin to make a more reasonable explanation for yourself. You look up to suggest the hospital again, and see he is gone.
When you look to where he once stood in front of you, a prism of colors are splashed where his feet were. As you stare at the rainbow in bewilderment, you begin to meditate the events that took place. If you were shot, who did it? And most importantly, why? You consider the hospital again. Possibly a coma. If you were dead, you know you’d go to heaven; and if you were in heaven, you would not want vengeance so much. You then realize, if you are in a coma, your family is probably by your side. You want to clear your mind to try to listen. Maybe you’ll hear them talking to you like you’ve seen in movies. You close your eyes for focus and wait. Nothing.
How much time has passed? Minutes, hours, days? You do not know what to do anymore. You won’t admit you died, you can’t. You have a family to get back to. Are you fighting for you life in a coma? The concept becomes less and less logical to you. Where are you? This can’t be purgatory. You aren’t even Catholic. Is there anything to explain the complete emptiness you feel? It’s as if you’ve been scraped clean from the inside out. You are in a panic, and have been since you woke up in this place, but surprisingly, you notice, your heart isn’t racing and you aren’t sweating. Something is wrong. You rip open your button down flannel shirt and look down. That’s when it hits you and you realize what has happened. The last thing you see is a flash of rainbow.