You feel the last of your will slipping away with the ticking of the clock on your hospital room wall. Your eyelids are so very heavy. Blinking takes so much effort now. Maybe you should let them fall shut, just for a few minutes. Everything is blurry anyway. Sounds drift in and out. A thought here, another there, float across your mind in fragments. The ticking of the clock fills your ears.
TICK. TICK. TICK. TICK. TICK.
While closing your eyes for the last time, your final breath is released.
Pain and suffering do not end when you die. It is true that organs stop functioning and activity in the brain ceases. Your body cannot be reanimated after you are dead. Dead is dead. The person you once were no longer exists. After you die, your soul goes to Heaven or Hell, is reincarnated, or simply winks out of existence, depending on your belief system and how you lived your life. People are over which theory about the afterlife is correct. This saddens me greatly as they are all wasting their time. It is only once death occurs that humans find out the truth, as I said before, pain and suffering do not end when you die.
The sound of the clock is replaced with the harsh shrill of alarms. Your body has died but your soul remains locked inside. You can still feel the damp sheets covering your torso and legs. You feel the muscles relax as your bowels release their contents. You hear the nurses and doctors as they scramble to your bedside to revive you. Cold fingertips open one eye as a bright light is shined into your retina before it is released again. It does not close all of the way. A million thoughts race through your clearing mind. You can see better than you have in months. You must not have died after all. If only you could tell someone you were still alive. You try to move but your body does not respond. You suddenly become terrified as you see a nurse prepare the crash cart paddles.
Every single nerve ending explodes in a cascade of the most terrible pain you have ever felt. You feel the electricity flow from the goopy paddles on your chest and side. You scream in agony for them to stop. You are ALIVE damn it! ALIVE! Your body will not move.
Another burst of pain rockets your body. Sparks should be shooting out of your fingers and toes. Your eyes feel as if they might melt. No tears fall. No sound escapes your dead throat. It is over. You really are dead and in tremendous pain. No one can help you. You are trapped in your own body. Surely, an angel of mercy will come and see that someone upstairs forgot your escort to the afterlife. Surely, someone will come along and point the way out of this hell. You just have to be patient, that’s all. You have lead a good life, been kind to others, and tried your best to do the right thing all of the time. A sheet covers your face as you listen to your loved ones being escorted down the hall. You are left locked in your prison to bear the pain, that is slowly residing, in darkness.
Footsteps approach the bed. The sheet is lifted as nurses go about unhooking you from the machines. You would think that they would be more gentle removing the sticky pads that monitored your heart rate but they snatch them off indifferently. You feel like the world’s largest rag doll as they turn you this way and that to remove the catheter and IV. You get angry and wish that you could shout at them. You are a human being after all and you just died! The least they could do is show you a bit of compassion. You have never felt more helpless in your life. The sheet is draped over your body once more.
Your anger fades away, chasing the pain down to where ever it goes when it is done torturing you. Conversations ebb and flow as people walk by living a life that they probably take for granted. You try not to envy them but it is difficult. There they are, up and walking around instead of being under a sheet trapped in their own bodies. If they only knew. Your thoughts get interrupted as someone starts to wheel your hospital bed out of the room. You are somewhat relieved to leave the unknown voices behind. You were never a jealous person in life, to be one now that you are dead is unacceptable. Patience is all that you need. You hold onto this with more zest than is sane for a fresh slice of Hell awaits you still.
Autopsies are unpleasant under more ideal circumstances. You know, when you are alive and are observing one for the first time. They are a horror show of infinite proportions when you are the participant being cut open. Remember, you are trapped in your own body. You feel the cut of the blade. You feel your ribs being cut open and your organs being removed. You feel…….EVERTYHING! You pray for death in vain as death has already claimed you. Can you die twice? Is there a death in death? You pray for that miracle. Please, just let this stop. Anything, just anything but this, you pray. You cannot cry. You cannot scream. You cannot whimper or beg for mercy. All you can do is feel, feel, feel, and feel some more. Why? I would love to tell you that the worst is behind you, but it is not. After everything that can be harvested from your body has been taken, you are sewn back up and slid into a freezer compartment to await the funeral home. As the door slams shut, locking you into darkness, all you can do is continue your litany of pain and sorrow. You feel the cold bite into your skin. Under normal, living circumstances, you would be shivering. None of that matters. The only thing you can think of is the pain. Your thoughts are one continuous scream that no one can hear.
The mortician picks you up in the middle of the night. Your family had already made the arrangements when you got sick. I watch as they load you into the back of the vehicle. I can hear your screams. I cannot do anything to ease them at this time. This saddens me for I know they will grow fiercer before the sun comes up. I will stay with you, my old friend. You do not yet know that I am near. In time, you shall but you will have to suffer even more before that sun stretches its first rays across the horizon. In the early morning hours, a soft mist curls its way around the streets as I follow you to your next destination.
I sit outside of the window as the mortician begins his work on you. I know that he will never capture your glow. How I miss the twinkle in your eyes as you spoke! My sorrow grows heavier as I watch your life’s blood flow out of your body. Embalming fluid fills your veins as your screams become shrieks that threaten to explode my mind. I want to turn away, flee into the mist, but I cannot. You never turned your back on me in life, I shall not turn mine on you in death.
You do not sleep when you are dead. Did you know that? Time has no meaning now that your body will never heal from its wounds. It is already starting to decay. These thoughts have not entered your weary mind, so to speak, but in time, they will. The mortician is done. I was wrong; he did capture your glow. I wish that I could gaze upon your face happily as before. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do so as the hours wear on through the first morning light. I fear the embalming has prolonged your suffering and may break your spirit. I wish that I could show you a sign that I am still here with you right now. The funeral is tomorrow and I do not know if I will be permitted to attend. I know that you can still feel everything. If I could only snuggle against your face one last time. I will find a way, my dear friend.
I do not leave your side until I hear a familiar voice outside the funeral home. Even though you cannot hear me over your soul screaming, I tell you that I am coming to your side and rush towards the sound of my only hope. Your child has always been so very kind to me. Your kind and loving spirit shines brightly through eyes that are more like yours than you ever suspected. I announce my arrival as kindly as possible. A knowing look greets me. Even though there are strange looks and mild objections from the mortician, I am permitted inside. You have raised a fine child, your guardian angel. I shall praise this angel’s name for all of eternity for granting us both this reprieve from Hell.
Your screams ram into my soul as we enter the room. Your child tries not to weep as I approach you. One last snuggle. Please know that I am here with you. I press my cheek to your face that was once so warm and full of life. It feels so very different now. Cheek to cheek I beseech you to feel my presence and my touch. I almost give up hope when your soul stops in mid-scream. I am here, my old friend. I say to you as I feel your soul shake in disbelief. I know that you suffer more than any human should. I will not leave your side. Know this, this pain will end but while you suffer, I am here. I cannot physically go with you, but I shall remain as connected to your soul as ever if you wish. For the first time, you feel a sense of relief. Yes, the pain is insane but you now know that you are not alone in your suffering.
I attend your funeral, hidden in a nearby tree. I do not interrupt you as you listen to the service. I feel your sorrow, pride and awe as you hear your loved ones and friends speak. Eventually, everyone departs, leaving the two of us alone. Neither of us speak for a very long time. I could listen to your thoughts, but I feel now is not the time. I wait until you are ready.
“Why haven’t I left my body?” You ask finally.
I have been waiting for this question, knowing that the answer will not be easy or comforting.
“A soul can only depart the physical body when the energy in that vessel has been used up. Energy does not die nor does it dissipate. It changes into another form. Right now, your body is technically dead but it still is releasing energy.”
“What do you mean?” You ask.
“Are you sure you are ready to hear the answer? It is not pleasant, my friend.”
“No, I am not sure, but tell me anyway.”
“Think of it as a metamorphosis. Right now, your old shell is decaying. The energy in the cells of your body are breaking down, changing into another form. It is only until this process is complete that your soul can be released. You see, the soul is trapped until every part of your body dies. Since you were embalmed, this is going to take much longer.”
“You mean I am trapped in here! I will have to feel my body rot! I will have to lay in my own rotting body fluids and feel that!”
“Not for long. Thankfully, the nerves will be the first to die. It will still take a while, but you will slowly stop feeling everything. It has already begun. That is why you are not in nearly as much pain as you were previously.”
“So this is Hell, huh?”
“No, my friend. This is not even Purgatory. Hell is much, much worse. Hell makes what you have been through look like the best day you ever had in life. I’m afraid that this is just the space between.”
“Is it a test? Like some final test to see if you have what it takes?”
“No, it is just what is. Every human being goes through this place, the space between. Animals are born with the knowledge and are better equipped to handle it. Humans, however, were given every advantage but this one.”
“Why not? We are smart creatures. If we knew what this was like, we would fight harder to avoid death. We would be more compassionate with the dying. We would…..we would…..”
“Destroy more innocent lives knowing the pain that awaited them. Mutilate corpses because you knew that they would feel every slice of the blade. Invent new and increasingly more terrible ways to hurt one another. Humans as a whole are vicious creatures. One human is compassionate. No, it is a good thing that the truth about death was kept from you.”
“You are right. Honestly, I don’t know how I would endure all of this without you. At least we humans get a guide to help us through this space in between.”
“Not all humans get a guide. Only the ones that bond with my brethren.”
“What about innocence children? Surely, they do not have to suffer through all of this?”
“Thankfully no. The truly innocent are released as soon as their bodies die. I do not know how the energy that traps your body differs from theirs. I only know that it does.”
“So, what do we do now, my old feathered friend?”
“All we can do, we wait for the day your soul is released.”
“What happens then?”
“Then, my dear human friend, I will show you what it is like to be a Raven. On that day, I will show you the world through the eyes of a raven.”