Chapter 1 (Updated 6/27/22)
It began the way most things do – with a stab to the heart. Dying that day
wasn’t on my agenda. Not to say I wasn’t depressed. Of course I was… Yet,
I’d somehow accepted that living small was safe. It was comfortable, familiar. It
kept my disappointments to a minimum. If I cried sometimes, randomly, well,
that was part of it. It was my life and I had no serious intentions of leaving
They said the attacker was lucky – a stab to the heart is hard to do. I knew
that because I heard the conversation of the crowd that had gathered around my
cooling body. Apparently, the ribs are a pretty good defense against things
seeking to pierce the heart. Evolution or God… Our bodies seem to have a
bit of wisdom when it comes to survival.
Floating above the circus of co-workers and rescue personnel, I noticed one
individual who seemed calmer than the rest. Joyful. There was something
soothing and grounded about him. I guess I glided over, because suddenly there
he was, staring at me with piercing green eyes. Gray wisps of hair seemed to
dance from his eyebrows and a crooked smile highlighted his somewhat crooked
“Fergal O’Hara,” he said as he tipped a flat tweed hat. “Nice
to meet you.”
Feeling a little off guard because in no way did my random after-death
musings ever lead me to consider anything Irish, I gaped. “Are you
here for me?”
“That’s right, my dear. Are you ready? We’ve got a nice warm body
waiting. I wanted to give you a chance to get used to your new state,
but…” He tilted his head. “You seem like a fast learner. Shall
Me a quick learner? The most I’d done since finishing community college was
tread water in a job way below my abilities but that paid the rent. Barely. I
was the 40-something living in McLoser Villas and sliding into Prozac and
YouTube videos of rescued puppies.
As a medical receptionist at a podiatry office, I aspired to showing up. I
had a quote from The Office TV show taped on the bottom of my stapler that
pretty much summed up my feelings to a T. “I’ve always subscribed to the idea
that if you really want to impress your boss, you go in there and you do
mediocre work, halfheartedly.” Thanks, Jim. You get it.
In fact, the most exciting thing to happen at work was dying in front of it.
Apparently, my employer’s wife thought I was “the tart” who was banging her husband,
Dr. Donald Dong (his real name, I kid you not). My auburn hair was the one
thing I had in common with Dr. Dong’s mistress according to a sobbing Mrs. Dong
as they dragged her away from me. Her rage refused to see the other details
that didn’t match and, well, there I lie on the cracked sidewalk in front of our
office’s smudged glass doors.
“What do you mean you have a nice warm body waiting? I just left a
perfectly functioning warm body… Don’t I attend some kind of after-death review?
Or get bathed in healing crystal energy or something?” I’d watched enough
B movies to figure that one out.
Fergal rubbed his jaw. “That’s not the way it works. At least for you. You’ve
got a different assignment that needs your immediate attention. Now my dear,
shall we see what it’s all about?”
Suddenly I felt cold. “Is there no going back?” I turned towards
my body. Sure it wasn’t perfect. There was a bit of a squishy middle, my roots
were growing out (why couldn’t I have died with fresh highlights?!), and yeah, my
love life was a work in progress (I had just signed up on Match.com. Kill me
now. Oh wait…), but it was my life. I wasn’t done, not by a long shot.
Just the thought of starting over again was overwhelming. “I’m not
ready for a new life! I’m just getting it together in this one!”
“Darlin,” he said as he leaned close to me, “You want the
antidote to your life? A way to fill the hole gaping in your chest? Do
you even see the metaphor of your death?”
He had me there. Even I had to admit that I’d lost my way and was going
nowhere fast. Hence the depression and a freezer full of Chunky Monkey ice
cream. When I was young, I had dreams. I wanted to study medicine. Or be an
elementary school teacher. Or even a philosopher. Everything seemed so
exciting. Instead, I somehow found myself working in a run-down office with posters
of bunions, hammertoes, and ingrown toenails.
Yeah, I wasn’t setting the world on fire this go ‘round. “Okay, Fergal.
“That’s all that’s required.” He gave me that crooked smile again
and something in me relaxed. Death isn’t so bad I thought.
And then I felt a thousand volts coursing through my new body and the smell
(This is part of a new novel idea, using the writing prompt from Sunday Scribblings, “antidote.”)
Photo by Alice Popcorn