Joel slept on a lumpy mattress stuffed with dead men’s clothes. He had become obsessed with near death experiences and the afterlife after a serious car wreck that challenged everything he thought he believed. The light he saw was radiant and filled his heart with a longing to be bathed deep with it. Hundreds of voices softly called to him with promises of eternal love, and he understood the sincere truthfulness of each one. Each step took him closer to the light and the feelings of love grew stronger as he drew closer. Suddenly, the light and the intense emotions filling him were ripped away by a single electric shock as the doctors did their job.
His therapist dismissed his experience as the brain being deprived of oxygen and attempting to make sense of the situation. The priest he spoke with tried to comfort him with the suggestion that he was given a second chance and the promise that the almighty would still be waiting for him when his time came. Neither the therapist nor the priest was capable of understanding his loss and mere words fell far short of explaining it. After years of struggling, he decided to find his own answers.
He studied every facet of spiritualism he could find which often left him deep within the pages of obscure books dealing with the occult. After a few request for interlibrary loans, he noticed the local librarian began wearing a pouch on her belt he suspected contained mace. He also noted that the owner of the local antique book store always found an urgent need to be behind the counter whenever Joel entered the store. His unrelenting quest for knowledge left him with the reputation of the town freak, but eventually, the pieces fell into place, and the answers he sought became clear.
It was true that the soul passes into eternity at the point of death, but he discovered that a person’s spiritual essence lingered and held a last desperate grip to life by binding itself to clothing or any item in contact with the body as the soul passed between the planes of existence. That wisp of life soon faded and joined the soul on the eternal planes, but it left a window of opportunity. Shortly after landing a job as a custodian at the local hospital, Joel was able to test his theory.
He discovered that when he slept upon a hospital gown laden with spiritual essence, he could faintly see that eternal light in his dreams and sense the souls sliding between the realms of existence. When he tried two or three gowns, the voices became clearer, and he could see the shadowy forms traveling toward the light. Other times he woke in a cold sweet while shivering in fear beneath the covers and weary of the shadows that seemed to move on the walls.
To those who watch and wait, opportunity presents its self indiscriminate of a person’s intentions, and Joel was rewarded by his patients.
One stormy night, a tour bus passing through town missed a curve and tumbled down a steep rocky mountain side. The bus carried a team of college football players celebrating their victory over the team rival. They were all drunk and loudly taunting each other about the dancers at the strip club when the bus snapped the railing and descended into chaos. Only three survived the final smash at the bottom, and the hospital called in all hands to deal with the emergency.
Joel worked with eyes shadowed by lack of sleep, but he kept one eye on the pile of bloody clothing set aside for disposal with a sense of wonder and temptation. He had never considered using spoiled bloody clothes, but to lay hands on so many spirit laden clothes at one time was a unique opportunity. As he finished cleaning the room, he stuffed the clothing in a bag marked for incineration and quickly rolled them from the room.
He tossed a thin sheet of plastic over the mattress to ensure nothing soaked through and replaced the sheets. It did not take long for his weariness to stamp out conscience thought and for his body to slide into a deep sleep despite the contents of this night’s mattress.
The light appeared before him with an unexpected intensity and a strange darkened tint. Instead of the loving whispers, he heard cries of pain, and he saw spirits fighting in feudal attempts to escape the drawing light. He felt himself sliding closer to the light, and he frantically tried to find some purchase beneath him to stop the movement. Terror gripped him as he noticed that there was nothing beneath him to stop his slide into oblivion. Pain stuck through him like a sudden burst of lightning as the light touched him, and he was absorbed by it. His body released one last shuttering breath as his soul left the mortal realm, and the shadows in the room slowed their chaotic dance to move no more.
Eddie D. Moore travels extensively for work and he spends much of that time listening to audio books. The rest of the time is spent dreaming of stories to write and he spends the weekends writing them. His stories have been published by Jouth Webzine, Saturday Night Reader, Every Day Fiction, Theme of Absence, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Adventure Worlds. He can be followed on Twitter @EddieMoore27
Betty Rocksteady is a Canadian author and illustrator. Learn more at www.bettyrocksteady.com.