THE LIVING WORLD

28 Sep

A voice almost penetrated the charcoal gloom and Bernard thought he felt weight. Back in wherever it was he’d found himself … was it Heaven or was it Hell? … he’d had no awareness of weight at all. But everything had been so confusing for the last how-many days or weeks in that Afterlife and in the company of someone who might have been God or might have been Satan or possibly could have been an unbelievable amalgam of the two that he found believing in the evidence provided by his senses something he could hardly be expected to rely on.

He struggled and somehow managed to flicker his eyelids but all he could see was an unfocussed charcoal world with black shapes moving here and there inside it. He groaned, but it was a hiss, deafening to him but silent to the world.

“I think he’s stirring,” one voice might have said, though he couldn’t be sure. “And look: his eyes!” it added.

“He’d have been on his way to the mortuary without your inspired intervention,” said another.

“I was a nurse before they made me redundant,” rumbled a female voice. “I liked nursing, but you know how things are…”

Suddenly he liked the female voice. Suddenly it wasn’t the loathsome treble that he’d always heard when women opened their mouths. Now it was beautiful, like harps are beautiful, and musical, in stark contrast to the man’s groaning bass.

But then, there were harps in Heaven, if that’s where he’d really and truly been. He’d heard them. And choirs with soprano voices with madrigals and folk songs by the score. And meadows of tiny white flowers being woven into beautiful chains to hang round an angel’s neck.

“You must have given him the kiss of life for absolutely ages,” rumbled a bass voice. “I wass getting jealous! And then all that pummelling away, massaging his heart. You’re the kind of woman a man needs to have around!”

“I hope you’re not being a pervert, Terry,” giggled the soprano.

“I was thinking of what you just did, Amelia,” sighed the bass. Terry, she’d called it.

“If you hadn’t heard the bang as he fell then we’d have been too late to do anything,” she purred.

Terry lived in the flat next door and Amelia called on him ever so often. Amelia was a woman and suddenly something in his mind flashed the suggestion that he’d seen her lots of times and might have known she was pretty had he been bothered to think about it or even look. But she was pretty. And a nurse? He hadn’t known that! But then, he hadn’t really known anything about anyone had he?

He closed his eyes and went to sleep. Not to death, not to the nightmare of the Afterlife, but to honest-to-goodness sleep.

And when he opened his eyes again everything was different.

The charcoal monochrome had gone and shapes appeared. He groaned. It was deafening, but it was sound and it was him.

“Hello!” said a lovely voice.

“You’ve got a lovely voice,” he managed to say, and to his almost total surprise it seemed to come out just about right.

“So you’re a bit of a Romeo are you, chatting a girl up the moment you open your eyes,” she teased. And he knew she was teasing. That was something he’d never understood before. Teasing. But here and now he knew teasing and even smiled at it.

“Where … am I?” he asked.

“Now that’s better!” almost laughed the lovely voice. “You’re in hospital with pipes coming out of most orifices after recovering from a heart attack that might have killed you if you weren’t lucky enough to have really Christian neighbours…”

“Christian?” he asked.

“It’s what you call people who save your life,” she said, a little tartly. “They could be Muslim for all I know, or Buddhists or Baptists or Jews. There are some really good Muslims around, but what the woman did was extremely … er, Christian. She brought you back from death because your heart had definitely stopped, and you’ll see the bruises on your chest when you’re up and about to prove it. And, you lucky man, she breathed the oxygen of life into your lungs. That was some inspired kiss, that was.”

“She … she kissed me?”

“She saved your life!”

“And I was dead?”

“As good as. The grim reaper had his paws on you, and that’s a fact.”

“The grim reaper?”

“You know. The hooded guy with a dirty great scythe. Now you just lie still and stop babbling. Doctor’s on his way and he wants to take a good look at you.”

“That’ll do, nurse.” That was a new voice from a new face, a man this time, smiles and reassurance and too young to be much more than a foetus. The nurses drifted away and scurried around another bed. Bernard’s eyes drifted after her.

“I’m looking at a woman…” he whispered.

“Pardon?” asked the doctor.

“No matter. She said I might have died.”

“That’s a moot point. Your heart certainly stopped beating but, it seems, your brain kept working or your neighbour would never have brought you round.” said the doctor, busily fiddling with pipes and dials.

“I met God,” sighed Bernard.

“That must have been nice,” replied the doctor, used to the ramblings of newly conscious patients.

“It wasn’t really.”

“Oh. Why not?”

“Well, God and the Devil were one and the same and Hitler’s head was a football and everyone was making daisy chains or playing music of strings or flutes and the bus crashed…”

The doctor shook his head. Here was another rambling patient, newly recovered from the brink of death and what sounded like a nightmare. “It must have been quite a meeting.” he murmured.

“It was horrible! But it showed me a few things about myself that I’m only beginning to understand. But I’m seventy and there’s an awful lot of stuff I’ve left too long. I’ve never…”

“You’ve never…?”

“I’ve never had a girlfriend … and I suppose it’s too late at my age!”

The doctor smiled, then chuckled. “Never say never,” he murmured, and wandered off.

© Peter Rogerson 28.09.16

I reckon I might have typed THE END under the last sentence because that’s what it seems to be. I might edit the whole thing over the days to come and see where that leads me. I might even slip a little bit of something new here and there in it if I think the effort’s worth it. Or I might not.

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