Thursday, August 16, 2012


On Tuesday, Xara shared with us about near death experiences. So today I am sharing flash fic about a near death experience. WARNING: This has some graphic moments so if blood squicks you out, beware.

Once more I found myself staring down at the post card in my hand. Ever since I found it shoved in the back of that book I haven’t been able to keep it out of my mind. How could someone, some stranger, know the deepest fear in my heart? 

So there I was. The rich colored leaves of autumn crackled under the seat of my jeans as I settled on the ground with my back leaning against the cool stone. In the summer, when the weather did not require so many layers of clothing, I could feel the words carved into that small monument of rock and grief through my thin t-shirts. But then, in the fall, all I felt was the cold seeping in through my jacket. As I sat there staring, a crisp breeze swept its way through the grave yard and I was transported.

The postcard that inspired the story.

That day had been a day like this one in many ways. The breeze was the same, and the leaves. But it was different in the most important way, that day we had been together. The grounds crew of the university had raked all the leaves from the commons into giant piles and it seemed like the perfect beginning of Thanksgiving break to throw ourselves at the piles with abandon after escaping our last class. 

After a brief but fierce battle amongst the leaves we found ourselves laying on our backs, staring at the brilliant blue sky, surrounded by a riot of leaves. In that moment, we’d felt like the only two people in the world. I’d reached over and taken hold of his hand, needing to touch him. We’d laid there like that for a moment that seemed to last forever, happy and flushed, the connection of our love stronger than I ever could have imagined.

Until, only a year later, we were 
ripped apart. How could I have known? Such a tiny thing, a few cells stacked up against each other. How could a few unruly cells shatter that bond? And another year later, found me sitting there, staring at a post card that screamed my soul to the world. 

Tears rolled quietly down my face as I remembered the feel of your fingers entwined with mine, the warmth of your hand, the brilliance of your smile. And even as I remembered, the fractures within me pulsed and ached as if I had shoved a finger in a new wound. I was afraid because I knew I could not live like that. No one could survive when they were that broken inside. But if I let go of that smile, those fingers, who would remember?

As I sat there, in my despair, I cried out in a prayer. Not to any God, because what God would I want to talk to? The one who let you die? One who made you sick? One who left me all alone? No I cried out in prayer to you. Help me. Help me. Help me. Over and over again, it became my mantra, consumed me until there was nothing else in me.

As my prayer overflowed my being a quiet calm descended over me – not a calm in which pain dissipated and peace settled but a calm in which the pain was so great that all else fell to the wayside. I savored the sharp heat that emanated from the base of my wrists as I watched the blood burst forth in the wake of my razor. I was mesmerized as I watched pools of red flow from me and soak into the grass.

Finally, the last of my false warmth was eaten by the cold ground and I hurt no more.

I nuzzled into his chest as I slowly woke up. I always woke up before him but I loved to be the one to wake him up so it worked out. His arms tightened around me and I snuggled closer. His hips started slowly rocking against mine and I smirked to myself. Gently I began to untangle my arm from his hold in order to wake him up properly but I was stopped dead in my tracks as a fierce pain shot through my arm.

My vision whited out and I bolted upright in the bed as I clawed at my arm unable to comprehend the agony blazing forth from my wrist into the rest of my body. Tears streamed down my face and sweat poured out of me. It felt like the pain had to end or my heart would seize in my chest.

Torturous moments later, I felt cool hands take my arm and soothing lips kiss it. Slowly, relief spread from those kisses and for a moment I was nearly giddy from being painless.

“Shhh. It’s okay.” He whispered as he wrapped his arm around my back. I looked at him and then looked down at the arm he was still holding in one of his hands. I was shocked to see a vertical slice up the entire forearm. Muscle and layers of skin lay open and raw. I felt gorge rise in my stomach at the mutilation.

All I could think was Who did this to me? And as I was about to open my mouth to ask, it all came rushing back in – the cancer, his death, my unending pain, blood in the grass.

I turned to look into his eyes, bright blue and sparkling with love just like they always had been. “I did this.” I whispered.

With aching gentleness he cupped my face in his hands and brought our foreheads to rest against each other. “I know.”

The sorrow in his voice sliced through my soul and I couldn’t stop the tears flowing down my face. “I’m so sorry.”

Tears were streaming down his face as well when he replied softly, “Me too.” And finally, for the first time in over a year, we were wrapped in each others arms, complete. I let the joy of his touch wrap around my heart and fill my soul.

I was jerked suddenly from our embrace when a shock shot through my body. It should have been painful but the time for pain had passed. I looked up, confused, and asked, “What was that?”

He was quiet for a moment and then replied, “You died in the cemetary. But the groundskeeper found you and called an ambulance. They’re shocking you to get your heart beating again right now.”

I felt my heart speed up as panic washed over me. “NO! I can’t go back.” I grabbed his arms and prepared to fight not to let go of him. Another shock rammed its way through my body.

Without forcing me to release my hold, he twisted so that his arms were wrapped around me and his head settled on my shoudler. “But you have so much life left to live.” His words were barely audible as he spoke them directly into my ear.

I shook my head, “I don’t want to live it without you.”

“I’ll always be with you.”

I gripped him tighter. “Not like this.”

“No, not like this.”

After a moment, he leaned back and looked me in the eyes. “What about the people who will miss you?”

I wanted to ignore the question and stay lost in his eyes but as I continued to stare they began to reflect scenes I recognized. A paniced woman grabbing her keys and racing to the door, tears streaming down her face – my sister. A man rushing through the doors of the emergency room, strain in every line of his face – my best friend. A woman, rocking and praying and holding my hand as I lay silent in a hospital bed – my mom.

These were the people I had left by the wayside, ignored in my grief and still they loved me. “I don’t want to go back,” I protested again, but with less strength this time. Another shock rocked through me and I lost the last of those future reflections.

“It’s time now.”

I stared at him, trying to memorize his features once more, remember forever how he made me feel. The shock came more quickly this time and I could feel this reality slipping away. I had one more question – “Why did I get to see you?”

He grinned, “Because the Almighty Beloved knew I was what you needed.” He paused. “And because I’m the only who could ever talk a lick of sense into you.”

Another shock.

I leaned forward with the last of my strength and kissed him fiercely. “I love you.”

Another shock.

A bright light began to take over the bed we had been sitting on and he stood to walk back into as I was being pulled back into my reality. The last thing I heard before I smacked back into noisy chaotic world surrounding my body was a whispered, “I love you, too.”

When I woke up I found myself in the middle of the final future reflection I had seen. My mom was holding my uninjured hand and praying quietly to herself. I squeezed her hand and she looked up. A look of undescribable relief and love took over her face as she gasped, “Oh thank God.”

2 weeks later

I was still in the hospital but now I was out of the medical unit and in the behavioral health unit. I looked at my shrink and for the first time since his death, I felt like talking. It felt like a brand new beginning when I took a deep breath and said, “I want to make sure I remember him. Can I tell you about him?”


Kathleen Hayes

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stay Away from the Light

Somewhere, a man is jogging. His heart seizes, and he collapses. A reckless driver decides that text just can't wait until he gets where he's going, and he drifts across the double lines into oncoming traffic. Your cat chooses now to finally fulfill his mission, so he rubs against your legs at the exact second you take that first step down the stairs.

On the way to the hospital, each of these patients' hearts stop. They are dead—for a few seconds, or minutes, even. Doctors work frantically to revive their hearts during those precious moments of twilight, the wavering between life and death.

The white light, growing brighter as you traverse a dark tunnel. The visits with long-lost relatives, or complete strangers. Watching everyone attend to your body without you having any connection to it. Complete and total peace.

The near-death experience (NDE). The stories become legendary. Some people say they talked to God, or Jesus gave them a guided tour of the afterlife. People watch the operations being performed on their bodies, or sit with their loved ones as they pray for them. Others report darker, more frightening apparitions. Not everyone has an NDE, and no two afterlife experiences are alike, but the basic traits are similar.

Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel conducted a study of three hundred forty-four patients revived after a cardiac arrest. Only sixty-two of those studied reported signs of an NDE. While none reported a negative experience, of those sixty-two, only thirty-four had positive emotions associated with their NDE.

What leads to someone having an NDE? Well, beyond a heart that stops beating and starts up again? A recent study of fifty-two heart attack patients revealed only eleven had NDEs.

The patients' religion, gender, age, race, or even the amount of time it to revive them had no bearing on the likelihood of a near-death experience. Near-death experiences appear to be a world-wide phenomenon. Given the lack of single identifying characteristics of those experiences these images, it seems neither nature nor nurture have any bearing on someone's afterlife visit.

Is there a medical explanation behind these metaphysical experiences? Has science found a common denominator? Is it because neurotransmitters in the brain are misfiring, or an excess of carbon dioxide gasses in the bloodstream? The study mentioned above did find elevated levels of CO2 in the eleven patients that reported NDEs. Of course some scientists point out that high CO2 levels are what cause cardiac arrests in the first place, so the levels will be high in all the patients, including the small percentage of those reporting NDEs.

Post-traumatic care reveals that medications are not inclined to induce these visions. Dr. Ring concluded anesthesia is more likely to cause a person to forget these occurrences. Is it possible everyone is having these experiences, but they can't remember them afterward? The effects of a near-death experience can be produced by certain drugs in the arylcyclohexylamine family. By reproducing the effects in a controlled environment, have scientists negated the possibility of a more spiritual explanation of near-death experiences?

The nature of the NDE makes it impossible to prove or disprove their link to a higher calling. Everyone experiences it differently. It becomes a part of them and affects every decision they make for the rest of their lives.