She bent down and gently kissed his forehead, then stepped across the plush carpeted floor and slipped on her Hushpuppies. I have to do this, she told herself. She picked up her hand luggage and stepped out the room. She paused at the doorway and looked back in. There she saw her life, evident in her bedroom, the comfort, the happiness, the wealth and all there. Her eyes shifted and found her husband. A wave of emotions rushed through her; gushing from her heart. He was everything to her: he gave her his love, filling her world with happiness.
Pictures of their lives together cascaded through her mind. The good, the bad, the love, the passion, the dreams…. Tears dripped down her pale, cold cheeks, unnoticed. Her body wept; her mind and soul cried.
Her husband stirred in their bed wrenching her back from her thoughts.
I have to go, now! It is better this way, better that he does not know, safer that he does not know, easier that he does not know.
Tears still falling she turned around and walked hastily down the flight of stairs; each step causing more heartache, taking her further away from her life.
The urge to turn and run straight back to her bedroom and her life; so strong; but she knew that they were close. She felt it.
They knew where she was. They would get her soon. She had to go, save herself, save her husband. They were after her, no one else needed to get hurt.
She turned the handle of the front door carefully and stepped out onto what was a familiar street. Today however it was strange and distant.
“Jack!” screamed Amy running down the hall of the art museum. Jack turned; horror gripped him as he saw Amy, his sister – in – law. She ran down the hall towards him, her red hair dancing wildly about her. Her face eclipsed by anxiety, looked scared, quite unlike its usual happy countenance.
“We tried calling,” she stammered as she reached him, “but your cell is off.”
“Amy, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Sarah, she’s at the hospital, it’s critical.”
“What… what’s wrong, what happened?” Somewhere inside he felt his heart plummet; fear and panic penetrated his peaceful world.
“I’ll explain on the way. Let’s go.” She grabbed his arm and hurried him out onto the street. They hopped into her Tazz, the engine hummed, tyres screeched as they raced to the hospital.
Jack sat uncomfortably in the passenger seat gripping the seat belt. Were it a normal day he would have chastised her for her characteristic horrific driving
“Amy, what exactly happened to Sarah?” Jack stuttered
“There was a robbery at the bank today,” rambled Amy fighting back her tears.
“Yes, but what does that have to do with Sarah?”
“She was at the bank today, Jack. The robbers panicked and opened fire, shooting at random. Sarah was hit, and the only other thing I know is that her condition is quite dicey.”
Jack numbed as the news pierced his ears forcing him to take cognizance of it.
How could this happen? This morning was so perfect. A bright morning, a wonderful breakfast in bed, everything seemed so right. Sarah shot. How could this happen? She’s such a wonderful, caring person. She’s always safe and careful; she never gets involved in trouble. She has such a huge heart. She was loved by so many. She has so much still to do and see in life. She’s so young. How could this be happening? How bad is it? Will she live?
Of course she’ll live, it is not her time. She’ll be fine, She will pull through in no time, I’m positive about it.
I hope it will all be okay. God, I hope she will be fine.
The red Tazz screeched to a halt with burning rubber at the entrance of the hospital. Jack jumped out. His neat, salt and pepper hair blew into his glasses, his Mont Blanc fell from the pocket of his tweed blazer as he bolted into the hospital foyer.
The street was quiet, peaceful, and clean; too clean, especially for that early in the morning. Where were all the neighbourswho were usually up and about at this part of the day? It was a lovely, sunny morning. She stopped for a while to bask in the warmth of the sunlight that glazed the world in gold.
Hold it, her mind enquired, wasn’t it just night? I am sure that when I left home it was night, and that was not such a long time ago.
The thought of home and everything that she had left behind her brought about fresh pain and sorrow.
Time changed unnoticed and although it looked like the street where she lived, Sarah knew that it was not. These thoughts played in her head for a while and then she thought, Obviously, everything seems different, that’s because I am different. My life is changing. I am walking away from what I know. I have to leave; I have to forget in an attempt to protect the ones I love.
That thought did not explain much, but it was the best that she could come up with and that was good enough for her, for now.
It was then that she noticed a little girl waving at her from across the street and almost telepathically, calling to her. She sauntered towards the girl who looked like a Botticelli cherub.
“Will you have some tea with us please?” asked the little girl.
Sarah smiled and followed her new friend to the backyard where a tea party awaited them.
“Sit please.” the girl gestured to an empty plastic stool as she removed a cup and saucer from the tea tray. She tipped over the teapot and filling their cups with the imaginary brew.
“My name is Angela. What’s your name?”
Jack sat at the side of his wife’s hospital bed clasping her hand. They always felt so soft and tiny in his. Her hands were cold. He wept, rubbing her hands to warm them in an attempt to keep her well.
“Wake up Sarah. Please baby wake up.”
He cried by her side for hours, family and friends came and left almost unnoticed. He sat vigil at her side, from the moment he got there. Eventually he fell asleep, his head on the edge of his wife’s bed. Sarah was a respected and loved pediatrician at the hospital and so Jack stayed with her all night, undisturbed by the visiting hours.
“What’s my name?” Again she was baffled. Surely she had a name. She knew she did yet what it was she did not remember. She felt lost, alone and estranged from this world and herself. It was right for her to be there, of that she was certain.
“Sarah”, the name whispered woefully from some distance. She shut her eyes for a while as she lifted her cup to her lips. Sarah, the name sounded right.
“My name is Sarah,” she said as she opened her eyes but the girl, her tea set, the backyard all vanished. Sarah stood alone on the quiet street once again.
She walked down the street of the alien world yet she was familiar with every rosebush, hedge, barking dog, traffic light, pothole and drunken vagabond. Despite the familiarity, something was definitely out off joint.
Coffee, that’s what I need. Sarah scanned the strange, familiar world and headed for ‘Pete’s Pot’, the local coffee shop.
The shop, usually a warm place, was a cold, sombre hole. Sarah sat at the counter and ordered a black filter coffee. Shortly someone sat next to her. Sarah faced the other person and discovered the little the girl from the garden, who smiled at her. Her doe eyes seemed no one colour in particular. They were not scary but brilliant with beauty and compassion. The girl looked right into Sarah’s eyes as if searching the depths of her soul.
“Who are you?” The little girl’s voice broke the silence, which lingered for eons as they stared into each other’s eyes.
“My name is Sa…,” she was about to give her name when she fell silent.
She knew this girl, not just from earlier that day, from somewhere in her past. Sarah sat dumbfounded as recognition dawned. The girl was her, or rather the spitting image of Sarah as a child. Her eyes were the only difference.
“But how…, who are you?’
The girl smiled, got up and left the shop as quietly as she had arrived
Jack stepped out of the hospital into the park adjacent to the parking lot. He sat on a bench and gazed at the water feature that stood at the centre. He was furious. He wanted to fight, to hammer someone or something. He settled for punching the bench, his tender, hand bruising easily.
“Jack, I just spoke to mum and we think you should go home and rest a while.” Amy seated herself on the bench trying very hard to project strength and optimism.
“How could He, it, do this? Sarah was a wonderful person.”
Jack looked to the sky crying out for some explanation and begging for his wife’s life. His pain and anger was as much a part of him as his hair, nose or teeth.
“Don’t take her away from me.”
Amy reached across and embraced her friend who buried his face in her shoulder. They sat there for a while holding each other offering the comfort, support and understanding that lives in the heart of friends.
Sarah ran down the road. She came to an abrupt halt. She was nowhere. There was absolutely nothing around her but a four-way crossing amongst vast emptiness. Sarah acknowledged that although she was running from ‘them’ she did not know whom ‘they’ were.
Jolted by the sudden voice, Sarah almost screamed. The child from the coffee shop manifested before her.
“Who are you?”
“The question, Sarah, is who are you? And what or who are you running from?”
Sarah fumbled, how does one answer that question?
Who am I? Who is anybody? What kind of questions were these?
Am I my name, sex, race, religion, occupation? These are all irrelevant.
“I don’t know.” was the only reply she had.
“Who are you, and where are we?”
“I,” the girl replied, “I am you. You are me. We are nowhere yet we are everywhere.
We are, to some extent, the same being. In your mind, you ran away from home, hoping that “they” would not harm your husband but “they” would not harm either of you, besides they will get him eventually when the time is right.
There was no need to run. You were running from me and here we are. We would have found each other, it was, and always will be inevitable. Death is always the destination on the long journey of life.”
“Death!” gasped Sarah, “What’s going on. Please, none of this makes any sense.”
The girl’s expression grew intense. In her eyes was an ancient light.
“You are here and so you are dying. Your soul is no longer a part of the physical.
Death is not what you think it to be. What you see death as an end a perpetual deep sleep. Death is an awakening.”
“I’m sorry but I do not understand.”
“You have come to me like everything does. You are dying in the physical world for ‘dying’ is the name you have given to the process of the release. You believe death to be the end yet we exist indefinitely.”
“Are you death?” Sarah cried out frustrated.
The girl nodded, “I serve that purpose, but I am also life. I exist beyond life and death, beyond light and darkness.”
“What are you, God?”
“Yes, I am God. I am Krishna, Jehovah, Christ, Allah, Buddha or any of the other millions of names that have existed through time. I am also none of your Gods. What you associate with God is your understanding of the eternal energy. None of the forms associated with me is me. I am beyond name and identities, but all your prayers in all your tongues fall upon my ears.”
Sarah froze, absorbing the encounter and the revelation. Deep within she knew all this to be the truth.
“Sarah it is time for you to come home. Return to the eternal energy.
I give you this chance now, to go and say your last goodbye to the physical world.”
“How will I find you again?”
“You are apart of me. It is not a matter of finding. It’s about realizing and accepting.”
The girl rose like an angel to whisper into Sarah’s ear and dissolved into the emptiness.
Jack and Amy burst into the hospital room. Sarah looked around at her family and friends that had assembled into her room feigning smiles.
Jack sat at her side.
Sarah’s hoarse voice broke through her parched throat and chapped lips.
“Jack, I want to tell you something before it is too late.”
Jack leaned closer to spare her from straining her voice.
Sarah whispered her message, kissed his cheek and closed her eyes.
“I love you too, endlessly.”
Jack kissed his beloved wife one last time and caressed her cheek as his tears fell onto the sheets.
Days after Sarah’s funeral, Jack was back at the art museum. He dealt with Sarah’s death far better than expected. He stood in the centre of the museum, staring overhead at a replica of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. He grew tired off standing and decided to lie on the floor. He continued to stare at the painting; grinning insanely.
Amy discovered him half an hour later, laying there. She went everyday since Sarah’s death. She was surprised and concerned to see Jack uncharacteristically lying on the floor.
“Jack, you okay?”
“Amy! Hey! I’m great, just admiring the artwork. Amazing isn’t it? Man’s fear of death. Sarah was not afraid. Thanks to her, neither am I.”
Jack rose and linked his arm through Amy’s.
“Let’s go and get some tea, maybe even something to eat before we go through the ritual. You ask if I am okay. You offer your help and shoulder. Convey your mother’s love and receive my standard, ‘I’m fine, thank you’. We’ll hug and go our separate ways until tomorrow.”
“I’m sorry Jack. I didn’t realise how pathetic and depressing I had become. It’s just; you seem so at ease with everything, which is quite unusual considering recent events. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Everything is fine, don’t worry.” Jack hugged Amy and they continued their walk to the coffee-shop.
“Jack,” Amy starred uncomfortably in front of her as she spoke. “If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly did Sarah whisper into your ear before she died?”
Jack laughed, “Is nothing sacred? Well, if you must know, she told me she loved me. She told me never to doubt prayer. She left me with one final question to ponder on: do we live, and sleep occasionally or are we constantly asleep and just live briefly?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He took her hands in his, as if she were a child, and looking into her eyes he said,
“Life is a dream and in living it we fulfill it.”