As I hovered above my body, I could smell my fresh blood and I could smell the gunpowder. In the distance, I could hear an ambulance coming, or perhaps the police. Someone had reported the gunshots.
I’m dreaming; this really isn’t happening. I’m going to wake up any moment now.
It was then that a bright light appeared above me. I turned away from my body and looked up, and there, replacing my ceiling, was a golden tunnel. Light poured out of it and washed over me, and something close to singing reached my ears. Heartbreakingly beautiful singing. The voice of angels.
I could see people inside the tunnel. Not people, really, but spirits, souls. They were all glowing.
The light in the tunnel was inviting. I felt its pull. I wanted to drift up to it. I needed to drift up to it.
But I also felt fear. No, terror. If I was dead—and I was seriously suspecting that I was not dreaming—then God awaited beyond that golden tunnel. God and judgment and hell.
So I resisted the pull. I resisted with all my might.
And that’s when I saw the beautiful dark-haired woman standing in the far corner of my bedroom.
She approached me slowly, smiling warmly, her hands folded together at her waist. She was wearing a white translucent gown. No, the gown wasn’t translucent.
She was translucent.
Good God, I can see through her! This can’t be happening.
Now she was standing before me as I hovered over my dead body. I tried standing, but I was unable to control my movements. I felt helpless and trapped.
“No, James. You have passed on.” Her voice was soothing and full of love. So much love.
“Do I know you?” I asked.
“Yes,” she answered, and I saw the tears in her eyes. I think they were tears of joy, but I could have been wrong. I also realized that her lips weren’t moving.
Yeah, this is a dream.
“I don’t know what’s happening to me,” I said. I could hear the panic in my voice.
The woman held out her hand to me. “It’s okay, James. Take my hand.”
Never had I felt such love. So real and palpable. It came in wave after wave from this strange woman, washing over me, around me, through me.
“Take my hand, James. It’s okay. Come with me. I will explain everything to you, but for now, it’s time to go.”
Her hand was small and elegant and seemed suffused with an inner light that appeared to reach out beyond the hand itself.
“We need to go,” she calmly said again.
And with those words, the glowing tunnel above flared in intensity. But instead of taking her hand, I said, “I know you from somewhere.”
She only smiled as another wave of love washed over me, engulfing me completely.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“You will remember,” she said, “in time.”
“You are so beautiful.”
She stepped forward and held out her glowing hand. Like a Michelangelo painting, I reached down for it, and when our fingers touched, a fleeting, haunting image of the two of us flashed through my mind: she and I were in a golden field, with the sun high above. We were desperately, madly in love.
“I miss you, James,” she said. “We all do. It’s time for you to come home.”
Something deep inside me was overjoyed by her presence, but it was buried deep beneath the confusion, the horror, and the fear.
“Don’t be afraid, James,” she said. “You are deeply loved.”
“I’ve done some bad things,” I said.
“I know,” she said.
“I don’t want to go to hell,” I said.
She looked away, and now there were tears on her high cheekbones, burning like golden drops of liquid sun. She said nothing.
“Am I going to hell?” I asked. I heard the desperation in my voice.
At that moment, something started happening: she started fading before my eyes. “Please, James,” she said, gripping me tighter. “We can be together again. Everything will be okay.”
“Will it?” I asked, pulling back. “How do you know?”
Frozen with fear, afraid to face what lay beyond, I didn’t move. And when she disappeared altogether, the golden tunnel in the ceiling disappeared with her, and I was left alone with my own dead body.
And that’s when the eternal cold set in.
The tunnel in the sky shone brightly now.
I could feel its pull, like a siren’s song. Every instinct in my nonbody told me to go to the light. That going to the light was the natural thing to do, that it was the right thing to do, that it was the logical thing to do.
No, I thought. Not yet.
Lately, the tunnel had been appearing less frequently and its pull seemed to be diminishing. As if it were giving up on me.
Don’t give up on me yet, I thought. I need more time. Just give me a little more time.
The light in the sky wavered. It always wavered just before it disappeared. I continued gazing up at it, continued fighting its gentle pull. Why the tunnel existed, I didn’t know, but it was a part of my life now—or more accurately, a part of my death. Where and to whom it led, I did not know. But I suspected it led to heaven.
Or to hell.
The wind, like something curious and blind, moved over the ceramic tiles of the outdoor hallway, feeling everything, touching everything. But not me. Never me. Instead, it went through me. On the hillside beyond the balcony, something crashed through the trees and then scurried up the hillside. A raccoon, perhaps.
Maybe it’s scared of ghosts.
When I looked up again, the tunnel was gone.
Don’t give up on me, I thought. Please.
It was late afternoon, and I was standing near Pauline’s sliding glass door as the setting sun angled down into her living room, splashing across the polished Pergo floors and straight through me.
I was drawing energy from the sun, which meant I was in a high-energy state. Pauline, however, wasn’t in a high-energy state. She lounged languidly on her couch, and I suspected there was a strong drink in her very near future.
“You suspect right,” she said, standing with considerable effort. “Hey, you’re shadowing,” she said as she passed by me.
Indeed, I was. I looked down, and there I was on the floor, a vague shape of a man. Gleefully, I moved my arms, and the shadow’s arms moved as well.
A thrill coursed through me.
Pauline appeared a moment later with an apple martini in her hand. “I’d offer you one, love, but it’s going to take more than a shadow to put it away.”