The last thing he remembered was the crash.
Metal colliding into metal.
Glass shattering into his skin.
High-pitched ringing in his ears mixed with screams.
The sticky sap of his blood as it dripped down his cheek.
He peeled an eye open and blinked furiously at the blinding light above him. He held up an arm to shield his vision from all the white around him. A hospital room?
“No, you’re not in a hospital room.”
His head spun in the direction of the voice, forgetting momentarily about the glass shards pierced in his face and the pain that…was no longer there? A hesitant touch of his cheek revealed smooth skin. His eyes swiveled in panic to the figure lounging across the room, his black trench coat a stark contrast to all the white.
“Easy, it takes a little time to adjust.”
Heart pounding, he examined his body. Pale blue dress shirt, gray tie, gray slacks, the clothes he was wearing during the crash, clean of blood. He lifted up his shirt and gingerly touched his abdomen. The pain of his car door crushing his ribs and puncturing his side was still fresh in his mind, and yet, his fingers traced smooth muscle, untorn and unhurt.
He turned his gaze back to the figure.
“I always hate this part, but here goes. You’re dead, buddy. Sorry.”
He blinked, shaking his head slightly, trying to process the words. “No, that’s not…I’m in a coma, right? I’m-ow! Did you just pinch me?”
“That usually stops the rambling.” The figure chuckled, having crossed the small room in two strides and was now leaning against the bedpost. “Look, I know it’s hard to believe, but you’re dead. Not in a coma, not miraculously alive. Dead. Unequivocally and absolutely dead.”
He stared at the figure, which he realized now resembled an ordinary man, except he had a scar from the right side of his nose down to his jawline.
“I didn’t know angels could have scars,” he blurted out.
The man laughed. “Alright, someone’s coming to their senses. Here’s the thing. That car crash you were in, you caused it.” He held up a hand to signal he wasn’t done speaking. “I know you don’t remember it right now, but your memories will return soon and when they do, you’ll remember every horrific detail, including the mother and child in the other car who died.”
A flash of a car, turned upside down.
Heat emanating from the flames that burst under its hood.
His head spun with dizziness, and he shut his eyes as the scenes faded back to white. A sudden urge to vomit overtook him and he heaved over the side of his bed. Nothing came out, which he supposed made sense, since he wasn’t technically alive. Collapsing back onto the pillow, he stared into the patient expression of the man still leaning on the edge of his bed.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, what’s done is done. But what you’ll do next, that’s up to you. I’m offering you a chance to right the wrongs.” He waved his hand around the room. “Angels, Reincarnation, we have so many theories about what happens when we die. But there’s one thing we all got right: it doesn’t end when your heart stops beating. Life and Death, they’re forces greater than any one’s control, and they work together to keep everything spinning. You and me, we’re Life and we’re Death. You completed Life, and you’re at the halfway point. Question is, are you ready for Death?”
© Jade M. Wong 2016
July 29th’s Word: gigil (n.) an uncontrollable urge to pinch or squeeze someone
July 30th’s Word: tadhana (n.) an invisible force that makes things happen beyond the control of mortals
Leave it to me to wrap up Word High July in August. Good to know my tardiness is as ingrained into my DNA as anything else.
There’s also a standalone prequel to this story! ~> Eleven-Twenty Nine
Credit for the beautiful photo goes to Greg Rakozy.