Frenetic voices. Piercing sounds. Alex floated in a black abyss as a hard object thrust over her dry tongue and down her throat. She could not inhale enough air and suffocation was seemingly inevitable until enriching, cool oxygen surged into her lungs.
She fought mentally hard against the insidious pull of unconsciousness that waited, like an ugly toad on a lily pad, to invade her brain. She tried to lift her right hand to remove the hard thing that scratched her throat but her body could not, would not, respond. She heard a man mutter something savagely under his breath before she briefly surrendered, like the hypnotic sweet lure of a morphine rush, into the black.
What happened? One of the emergency departments doctors challenged a resuscitation nurse as he rhythmically pumped oxygen into Alexs lungs. Shes twenty-two years old and walked in here with a laceration on her leg, for heavens sake!
Dont know, the nurse answered shortly as she nodded at the monitor above Alexs bed. And now shes going into v-tach and looks as if it will about to get worse.
Alex could feel her brain wavering between unconsciousness and consciousness, falling into oblivion and climbing toward awareness. It was so very easy to fall and so hard, so very hard, to climb. A celestial light suddenly pierced the black void and a sweet perfume engulfed Alex as she fought hard against the sinister pull of the all-consuming dark; however, the scent persisted, waking her, almost tormenting her in its ferocity. She knew she had to win the fight. Like a slow infusion, the memory of the scent surfaced in her troubled brain. It was the scent of datura flowers. Her mother had loved datura.
The swift realization she did not know where she was slammed into her brain like the plunge of a mallet. With leaden eyelids that would not open, she could sense and hear the presence of tense people surrounding her as anonymous hands hurriedly placed sticky
things on her chest as other hands tugged at her limbs and needles simultaneously pierced her skin on either arm. She was aware her upper body was naked, but she didnt have the energy to care.
Alex felt disembodied and barely human, like an inanimate ragdoll. She desperately wanted to give in again into the life-leaching dark force dragging through her bones, but someone pulled up her eyelids with a rough tug and, in turn, shone a bright light into her eyes. Her head recoiled from the transient glare, but she noticed a ghostly formation of a woman behind the frantically rushing hospital staff. The celestial vision had a soft smile on her face and her long auburn hair was so familiar. An angel, Alex thought. Im either dying or already dead. Suddenly, the haze of befuddled confusion and consuming darkness vanished. Everything seemed so clear now, crystal clear.
Ignoring the cluster of hospital staff surrounding her and with a smooth, swift movement, Alex sat up and flung her long legs over the side of the bed, her feet dangling as they barely touched the floor on the elevated bed. Alex stared unwavering into the eyes of a nurse standing in front of her. The woman flinched and shivered but visibly dismissed her uneasy feeling with a shrug and continued to inject further medication into Alexs arm as she lay on the bed. Alex wondered why the woman flinched. Could the nurse somehow see her sitting up?
Alexs thoughts transferred to the translucent angel watching the proceedings. Shes definitely waiting for me, Alex decided, before glancing behind her. With interest, for a few lengthy moments, she gazed at her human body lying on the bed, surrounded by frenetic staff. She glanced up at the monitor on the wall, but she couldnt read or understand it. They were just squiggly, out of control lines.
She wriggled her bottom forward and with an effortless jump sprung onto the floor and stood at the foot of the bed beside the translucent woman. She watch
ed the emergency team work frantically on her body. Palpable, vicious tension flew between the staff and a single bead of sweat rolled slowly down the doctors forehead as he discharged another defibrillating shock and yelled more instructions.
Its time for us to go now, Alex, the translucent woman told her in a quiet but firm tone.
Alex tilted her head to one side and took a long last look at her earthly remains. Okay, she agreed and immediately found herself and the woman encapsulated in infinite white space. Wow! That was ... was so quick.
Alexs brain resonated with clarity as she slowly turned in a circle and perused her new surrounds. She knew her body could feel physical sensation, but she could not feel her feet touching the floor. Was there even a floor? She looked down at her bare feet and noticed she was wearing her favourite vintage Chanel black dress, which clung like water to her sinuous body. Her forehead furrowed with quizzical lines.
I know this is a really tedious question youve probably heard like about a million times before, but where exactly are we? And who are you? You look just like all the women in our family. All the Lasalles women have always looked exactly the same: always have, always will. And wheres Mum and Dad? If Im dead, why didnt they come and get me?
The woman laughed. Your reputation precedes you, Alex. Your mother assured me youd ask at least five questions before I could even introduce myself.
Ecstatic warm happiness flooded Alexs body like lightening: she was definitely going to see her parents again. The warmth, the joy, the relief, was incredible.
She revelled in the information for long moments before eventually focusing intently on the transparent woman. Besides the fact she was a lot shorter, she had the same long wavy auburn hair, translucent pale skin, and a sensual small black spot just under her left eye. She turned her attention to the womans clothing and saw a la
vish full-skirted azure-blue gown with an intricately woven gold-coloured wide belt.
How odd, Alex thought. Her clothing looks like an era from centuries ago. Why would an angel wear an old-fashioned dress? Where was the ubiquitous halo and wings?
I am indeed a Lasalles ancestor of yours, Alex, the stranger interrupted her thoughts. I died in the eighteenth century. My name is Yolande and Im here to-
But wheres Mum and Dad? Alex interjected. If Im dead, why werent they the ones to come and get me?
Details will come in time, Alex, and youre here with me in this place to make a decision: the most important decision of your life.
Cal! Wheres Cal? I cant believe I forgot ...
Hes fine, Alex, just fine. His injuries looked far worse than they actually are, Yolande pacified, raising her hand. The hospital staff have everything well under control.
But I have to go back and make sure hes okay, even if its just for a second. Please help me do it. Please, Alex begged, her hands clasped together. He looked so badly hurt in that car accident we had; so much worse than me. I barely had a scratch whilst his head was soaked with blood, so take me back! she demanded. At first I accepted all this, but now ... Alexs head swivelled, frantic for an escape, some way she could get back to Cal.
Yolande sighed. I cant take you back at this very moment, Alex. Its not the right time, not yet.
Panting, Alex flung her body onto the white floor. But there is no floor, she realised. This space is nothing. Maybe I am now nothing.
Any last vestige of the pervading calm and acceptance left her brain and she clawed at her throat with her hands. Her heart pumped so erratically she could feel her blood coursing through her jugular veins. I mustnt panic, she told herself. Please God, please dont let me have one of those panic attacks I used to get. The horror, however, wouldnt go away and she imagined angst-inducing black ants startin
g to trudge relentlessly through her veins, biting and infecting every part of her body. Alex could feel her body temperature rise and that overall hot prickly feeling she would get that pre-empted a panic attack. She all too well recognised the feeling; shed had occasional panic attacks ever since her parents had died.
Yolande bent over Alex and peered into her pallid face. Relax, Alex, relax.
Dont be so stupid, Alex snapped. She closed her eyes and willed her body to return to the hospital, envisaging the scene in the emergency department. She imagined nurses rushing, heard the intrusive alarm of her heart monitor, the crying of a sick and fractious child in the next bed, and the insistent ringing of telephones.
Stop it, Alex, stop it! I know what youre doing and you must not go back there. Focus on my voice. Were Lasalles women. Were strong, Yolande insisted. You need to stay with me, Alex. Stay with me. Dont try and mentally escape because if youre too agitated in this realm, youll return to your body in the hospital and perhaps will not live.
Alex slowly inhaled and exhaled through pursed lips. Thats it, relax, and...