This story is by Barbara Spencer and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Suspended above the building, I see broken, tiny bits of my home, dust still settling. The silence is latent—a stillness that follows the rending of body, mind, and soul. I spot my blue dress lying in the rubble. It is part of the mess, part of the trash. I was stirring soup on the stove and now I am hovering above the demolished kitchen. My home has disappeared.
My father, who lives in the apartment above me, is struggling to move. I can hear his groans. More cries and screams are reaching me now.
It is good I am not in the debris; my body would be painful to wear right now. Helping my father or anyone else is not possible. It is good my children are not at home.
Sirens resonate from far away. Fires are growing although I cannot smell smoke. I see the entire city. Other buildings have been blown into pieces and I am not alone floating in the clouds. We do not speak to each other; there is nothing to be said.
I am confused. The weight of war is gone. The tedious tensions with my husband are gone. I feel no physical pain, but what is happening to my children?
I must get to the school. I see them huddled in the basement of the building with all the other children. Frightened, they are crying. I want to wipe away their tears. Does Henry have his inhaler? No one is comforting my little Sasha. Who will help their father take care of them? He is not an attentive parent. Will Philip be there for his younger brother and sister? Here comes my eldest now. He is embracing the little ones. Where will they sleep tonight?
I am alone with nowhere to go, nothing to do. Will I ever be with my children again? Am I lost? Am I stuck? How long have I been here? Time is playing tricks on me. Without time there is nothing to define or confine me.
The clouds are becoming thicker. I am not breathing. I am one long breath. I can feel the person I was disintegrating. Pieces of me falling like leaves off a tree. It is a relief. I am experiencing exactly what is required. The world below me is becoming hazy. Details are blurred.
Memories engulf me. Like slides in a projector I see places I have been, people I have known; those I have hurt, those who have hurt me. Family and friends I have loved and helped. No guilt, anger or pride; only the cinema of my life. Other lives appear on the screen. I am in ancient Rome but it doesn’t look like me. I am not a ten-year-old boy but his feelings are strangely familiar.
The slide show continues with life before time. I am not really made of bone and skin. I am formed by the stuff of earth, sky, and water. I have developed lungs and I’m taking my first breath out of water. I am protoplasm swimming in the sea. I am a molecule, a particle of potential, a thought floating in the darkness of space. I drift with the planets and the stars.
My attachment to earth is dissipating. Before my life is over I want to see my children once more. I struggle to return to the school. My screams are silent.
I am distracted by the blackness surrounding me. It is deepening. And yet, it is alive with minute, flashing specks of light. A darkness of light—a void of possibilities.
I am being sucked into a tunnel. In the darkness I see a light coming towards me. This isn’t a dream although I have no way of pinching myself. There is too much depth of knowingness to doubt its validity. I still love my children, but now it is comfortable and right to be disengaged.
When I reach the light, I am greeted by my mother. She is shining like a sun. She lets me know without words that my time has come. I am in the right place. Other glistening entities are here; my grandmother, my grandfather. A crowd of golden, sparkling body shapes as far as I can see. Everyone is so beautiful and happy. I sense it is a joyful gathering to welcome me. No one speaks but their presence is calming.
Thinking of death while alive I thought I would miss the soft breeze of a summer’s day or the sweet singing of birds. However, I am full of the richness of this place. I miss nothing.
It turns out there is a joy that surpasses any smile provoking, stomach fluttering, giddy joy we feel on earth. It is a joy that is our essence. It is what we are made of. It lives within us and is unleashed when we die.
I hear the peace. The melody and origin of the sound is unknown but it reflects the uncontained joy of this place. I smell roses but I have no sense of touch. I don’t miss it. I am fulfilled. I am immersed in a state I never experienced on earth.
Above the crowd of souls is an intense white gold light. I know this light. It warms me like the sun peeking out of clouds. I am unable to draw my attention away from it. It would not be possible to withstand the fullness of this light while in my earth body. I would not survive.
I have been here before. On earth I was disconnected; a stranger to myself and everyone else. Now words, boundaries, rules are disappearing. I am losing self and becoming one with the light and the dark, one with the whole. I am home.