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May 13, 2024

A New Sleep: Part 3

By Tom Hamilton

The concoction was not mixed with Cherry Coke as Pat had envisioned, but with some sort of ultra-tart lemonade. Which made it nothing more then a minutely tweaked version of the Reverend Jones' Guyana 'Flavor Aid'. No wonder they had to hold the congregation at gunpoint in order to make them drink it. Oh, he had thought of some of the easier, less painful methods. Possibly some sort of lethal injection. Something to just quietly stop his heart. But that would be more like they were killing him, and he couldn't risk that. It would be more difficult to get the chicken shit bastards to do it. That would make them feel more like murderers rather than suicide-assisting mercy killers. He didn't want any second thoughts or guilty consciences. He had to be absolutely positive that it got done. Whatever awaited him on the other side, bring it on. But it had to get done!

He took another sip from the straw to fill his mouth, and with a grimace like a twelve-year-old boy snorting a shot of bourbon, he swallowed the noxious liquid. Well, he didn't turn into a pumpkin yet. His stomach felt a little queasy, maybe. But he still felt halfway decent all things considered. So he knocked back a little more. He wasn't really situated properly to be drinking, because his head was not in the upright position, and this time the fatal formula went down the wrong pipe. This caused him to commence coughing, and that's when the burning began. The deep heating sensation spread like a brush fire. Until it felt like someone was holding a blowtorch to the inside of his esophagus. He had not been able to feel his chest for weeks. Now it felt like gasoline was filling up in his lungs. That's when the real pain began.

His throat welled out like one of those bullfrogs on the National Geographic. His eyes heated up like two hard eggs which were boiling inside the roasting pot that was now his skull. He felt as if they would jump from their sockets like two cue balls scratched off of the sick green table of his face. He could feel cataclysmic explosions throughout his body as the cyanide invaded and raided his every tissue. Tears ran from his eyes like bugs escaping from insecticide. Phlegm erupted from the wretched volcano which had been his mouth. The dead yet dying muscles convulsed and the steel framed bed shook as if hit by a tropical wind, the poison which was killing him ironically reanimating the limbs, whose stillness had been the cause of his wish to parish. His eyes lolled, like the digits on a broken speedometer that some crooked used car salesmen had tampered with. His hands inadvertently clawed at the sheets in an involuntary spasm. The intruding militants infiltrated his blood and reached the Capitol of his spastic existence, overthrowing his heart in a revolution of death. The thrashing ceased and his movements settled as his mind slipped into a new sleep. And one of his questions was answered immediately: It was a conscious sleep. He did have an acute awareness. He could not however, see himself. He did not float above the crust he had shed like the folks on those 'Beyond and Back' TV shows. Yet whatever wind which might be left of him did feel ethereal: disconnected from pain and discomfort. Like a radio which had been loudly blaring FM static had been suddenly switched off. Now he was floating in a great topless chasm. An omniscient blackness stretching in all distant directions. It was the rich, thick, darkness of a blind man. Had the Atheists been right? Could this be the ultimate nothingness? The end of the mind? But how could the brain be eliminated if he still had thoughts? Yet, he was dead. This much he was sure of. He did not see any bright light at the end of a tunnel. Which was a staple of the tales told by the survivors of death.

For a brief and vanishing instant he thought that he could see a long silver mast in the vast expanse. It rose gray and steely without a flag. Proud in the darkness like a lightening rod. But before Pat could even get a clear focused fix on it, the image was gone. Had it been a tower?

He felt as if he were flying. Yet he could feel no wind. Nor could he see anything around him. Still, he did not feel afraid. Suddenly, he began to notice a burst of color. At first he couldn't recognize the shade. Like it was a mixture unknown to him. Then there were more tones than one. Then, it was like he had blended in with the fray. Or no, he was riding on the colors. He realized at that moment that he was mounted on a rainbow. Well, it did not have the length and width of a full scale grand rainbow, one like you might see sparkling in the sky, storm-drenched motorists arching their necks to turn and glance back over their shoulders just to catch a glimpse of it, nearly wrecking their cars from not paying attention to the road, while the rain still fell with the sun out.

No, this was a much more compact version of that huge vision. What you might call a slice of rainbow. Pat was not sitting or standing on it. It was more like he was attached to it at a seventy-five degree angle. As the piece of a rainbow continued to hurtle towards an undisclosed location.

From the very outer rim of his right eye, a second blast of color made its self known to him. And he could see another man, who was standing on his own personal ration of rainbow. Although the man was not wearing any clothing, his genitalia could not be viewed. That isolated patch of his anatomy had been somehow scrambled. Like a digital image which had been touched up, so that it could be blocked out on some censored television program. The man looked as if he held a great deal of fear and uncertainty behind his face, yet he acknowledged Pat with a friendly nod. But before Pat could return the greeting, another bright blast of color kept pace with their floats. This piece of rainbow carried a pale women who was very thin. She was also nude, but, like the man, her breasts were altered by the same form of editing. Until they resembled blurry disassembled particles instead of a part of her body. She was sitting on her rainbow with the same pride and posture a Victorian lady might have. As if she were mounted on a steed, sidesaddle. Except that she had no saddle, and the colorful craft moved ahead in the place of a horse. She looked as white as a corpse with the funeral home make-up still on. Two runny turquoise eyes, which were much too bright for her dead skin, stared out from inside her sunken sockets. They glowed like shattered marbles on a laundered sheet. Or a feline's eyes hit with a flashlight in a room blacked out by poverty.

The pale, thin woman did not motion to him as the man had. Indeed it was as if she hadn't noticed him at all, and for that Pat was grateful. For he felt extremely uneasy in her presence. And found himself hoping that she would somehow speed up, or that his float would slow down. Anything to disrupt their synchronized flight.

Suddenly, he was distracted again. This time by a much larger and much brighter light. This one did not creep up on him from behind as the others had. But sat dead ahead, glowing with the yellowish white hue of a star. It began to shine with the force of a quasar as they moved closer. Could this be the light which the survivors had spoken of? As it continued to sparkle and then burn silver, more light spread across the groundless dome of the mystery firmament like an artificial dawn. And this radiance revealed an infinite number of people or souls, all attached to the fragments of the rainbow. All hurtling towards the mysterious supernova. There must have been hundreds, no thousands, all vying to catch a glimpse of their illuminated destination.

As they made their approach, the star dimmed somewhat, until they could see that it was not a star at all, but a body of earth. It hovered like some regal oasis, miraculously hanging in space, seemingly without assistance from the bleak blackness. As he and the others rode closer, Pat could begin to make out the landscape.

He could see tall tropical palm trees, pregnant with ripe coconuts at the underbelly of their sharp branches. A shining mountain of pure silver separated a higher cliff from a lower plain. Plush kelly green grass, as thick as tufts of movie star hair, grew from the top of the hill. Moist purple vines climbed up the face of the divider wall. A springtime array of huge original flowers in unannounced colors sprouted from the life giving stems. A shimmering waterfall, which came from nowhere, plummeted down from the higher plateau and thundered into a gleaming pool below. The waters boomed down with the force of the famous Niagara, only to temper impossibly and taper gently into the lagoon below. Where the waves looked to be alive and tiny flecks of gold darted to and fro like water bugs. The surface was gleaming and hypnotic and beckoned all who looked upon it with the promise of peace. At that singular moment, Pat felt an insufferable need. A gnawing hunger and fascinating desire far greater than any mortal pang he had experienced during his life time. A longing to be cleansed by the divine waves.

Their rainbow rides had slowed to a halt now, and Pat, along with the other souls, were just hovering in place. The miracle ships were anchored so thoroughly that Pat thought there must be cables somewhere holding them afloat. Yet he saw no such restraints nor did he hear the hum of an engine. They were simply suspended as if by magic.

They continued to stare in astonishment at the island paradise. Tall alpine sunflowers grew from the rich lawns. They were not limited to any traditional color and instead swirled like shades in a paint mixer. Mushrooms as huge as a dog's house and as black as leather popped up in every available corner. Psychedelic purple lilac trees swayed in a wind they themselves created, as to enhance their beauty by dancing.

Then, and before Pat's awestruck eyes, the lawns began to change. The solid Earth transformed into a cooling liquid. First, to an oak green, then to a calming robin's egg blue. And now Pat realized what the benign waters were trying to tell him: when someone dies, their soul must be purified. The grime of their sickening sins washed away like chimney soot. Every soul required a new baptism. A second immersion. And with this water. John the Baptist had known this. Even the homeless rummy who washed his face in the birdbath behind someone else's house knew it. The male prostitute who washed his hands in the black rimmed sink of some rancid, roadside, cruisey, homosexual restroom instinctively knew it. No, the body could not be redeemed. No deposit, No return. The flesh would have to be sacrificed to the waiting mice, worms and beetles. After all, those creatures were awaiting a sign from their own animalistic messiah or insect deity. But the soul did not have to be forfeited, it could be delivered by the loving liquid.

When Pat came back from the rooms of his mind, the entire island had begun to change. Now the serene trees and pastures were gone. Replaced by a beauteous teal ocean. Staring into these breakers stirred up haunting emotions, like fixating on the green irises of a striking young woman. The mountain and the waterfall had vanished. And all they could see before them was a swatch of luxurious emerald sea.

Until suddenly, a mass began to collect its self below the surface. Pat and the others watched intently as the particles illuminated, momentarily taking on the now familiar colors of the rainbow. Before changing back to the original gray. Then The glow emerged from the jade waves. Water could even be seen dripping off of it. Slowly, it began to adopt the image of a man. Soon, it became apparent that it was a humanoid figure which had risen out from the island sea. Translucent lights flickered upward like a neon sign throughout the body and carried the form into the black Heavens. As if to protest or somehow oppose the concept of gravity. Though, it was hard for Pat to tell how the laws of gravity applied here. Which way was up and so forth. Now the colorful brightness cooled, like lava beginning its slow transformation into rock. When these tones quieted, they were replaced by the most beautiful man whom Pat had ever seen. The man was very trim and fit, although not muscular. His wheat brown hair was cropped short, so that it barely came down to his neck. Pat guessed the man's height at about six feet tall. His weight had to be in the neighborhood of around one hundred and ninety pounds. He was famously handsome with a genuine, earnest and honest face. Loving pale blue eyes searched the crowd without prejudice. He wore a matching sky blue pants and shirt. Or maybe his body really was made from the sky, Pat couldn't tell from his vantage point.

Then, with shoes as white as untainted snow, the man began to walk across the island sea. But before the spectators could even be taken aback by this miracle, the man raised his right arm. A fierce purple beam shot out from his fingertips. The ray traveled out to Pat's left at the speed of light, only to connect softly with one of the multicolored crafts. On that hunk of rainbow sat a kindly looking, elderly man, a wide and healthy smile held on his face. And Pat realized that whatever wretched disease had ailed the man during his final days, it was now gone forever. The beautiful man who was standing on the water smiled back at the old gentleman, who in turn got up and strolled off of the raft and onto the purple beam. Which had now hardened into a solid path.

As he did this, many other rays began to escape from the hands of the beautiful man. Bronze, coral, teal, mahogany, flamingo pink, white, black, tan, mint, peach. All connecting to the crafts of the rainbow riders. The elderly man reached the favorable figure presiding over the precious pool. He stepped off the path and disappeared into the Utopian sound. For one horrifying moment, Pat thought that he might be left out. That perhaps a vein of light would not search out his ship. But then, a particularly lovely shade of carnation pink came up to meet his raft. And he ...

Suddenly, Pat sensed a sort of hubbub off to his left. He could also hear a humming sound. Like the voices of bees or some quiet modern engine. And that was when he first saw it. What he could only describe as a sickly yellow mass. It was lingering and churning in the dark air above a bevy of rainbow squatters. Pat glanced back at the beautiful man. In the hope that he would recognize and dispose of this threat, whatever it was. But he simply floated there on the water. As now hundreds of privileged people hopped off of their wondrous trails and into the pious pool.

That's when the screaming started.

The yellow mass quickly descended from where it had been hanging. It fell sharply, like water being poured from an old oaken bucket. It converged upon a lady who looked like she could have been a housewife. Although she wasn't wearing any clothes, as none of the souls were, Pat could picture her in an apron. As she went to take a step onto her own personal lilac path, the batch engulfed her naked body. She looked like someone who had accidently fallen into a tank of manure. The foul yellow poured from her ears, nose and mouth like vomit. Although this did nothing to alleviate her possession. Then she was gone, totally absorbed into the evil clot.

Pat switched his gaze back to the island sea. But now the beautiful man was gone. The attack on the housewife had created a panic. The riders were now abandoning their celestial carts to sprint at full speed down the colorful escape routes. Many of the trails had lost their original bright colors, and had faded down like an old black and white snapshot taken at a motel during nature's recession of Autumn. People were leaping off these paths and into where the laundering lagoon had been replaced by the jade sea. One short man was in such a tizzy that he jumped too soon, missing the island altogether, tumbling into a endless free fall through the bottomless limbo. Others plunged recklessly into the pool, making large and noisy splashes, like some fat jokester bellyflopping off the back yard diving board. Others tried in vain to locate the beautiful man, or pinpoint the spot where he had been. Swimming for their very afterlives.

But by now, everywhere that Pat could see there was another venomous blob, mutilating and then absorbing the damned. A dark haired and physically fit man tried to avert this fate. But fear and alarm caused him to take a fatal misstep. He would have plunged into infinite space as the short man had. But, for a few seconds at least, the horrid assemblage seemed to be saving him. It actually broke his fall, knocking him back on to the path, which by now had turned charred and black. But in the next instant, the carnage lunged again and completely devoured the man as surely as if he were overcome by a raging fire. He flailed violently against the lethal nothingness, and even freed himself for a brief heartbeat. That's when Pat noticed that the man's arm was missing and had been reattached to his cheekbone. Amputated, then melded terribly back together by the horror. Then the putrid blotch besieged the man again like a swarm of hornets, and Pat could see him no more.

Then Pat's worst fear was realized as the pale, thin woman with the turquoise eyes stood up. Her monstrous gaze searched out a young lady perhaps two floats away from hers. The girl was very pretty with long back hair and batting lashes. She sensed the malevolence in the pale, thin woman's stare and quickly began clambering down the runway, which had joined her boat at a high and difficult angle. A climb which would have been tough to navigate under any circumstances. And Pat wondered what awful sins the girl must have committed to be judged so harshly. She had to turn completely around and lie on her stomach in order to plant her toe on the difficult absolution route. The pale, thin woman's face wrinkled and contorted, like a tear in a table cloth. Pat thought that she was going to scream. But no noise sounded from her haggard and chapped lips. Instead, a rancid river of foul turquoise sprayed from her throat and out into the blackness. Where it hung like a cloud of pollution above the chimney of some corrupt and crooked factory. Before congealing and adeptly changing form. Until it took on the shape of a sharp saw blade. The obscene spinning wheel effortlessly cut the black maned girl in half. Hitting her with such force that the upper portion of her body hurtled through space with the force of a shot put. Her two dismembered legs stood up for a fraction of a second, as if they were just too shocked to fall. Then her bottom half folded and hit the trail with a meat rack thud, before slowly peeling off the narrow walkway and falling into the blind forever.

Pat shut his eyes hard and took two desperate sucks off of his tongue. He could hear shouts of mayhem and misery coming from every direction. He was beginning to reach a wretched reckoning. Evidently. The pale, thin woman was some sort of accuser. And if you were among the unfortunate ... for no reason at all, Pat opened his eyes. And when he did, they witnessed a miracle.

Just as he had forgotten all hope, the beautiful man had reappeared above the island Sea. He was hugging a young man with waxen blonde hair. A tranquil countenance graced both their faces. There was a whole group of delivered worshippers standing in a circle in the waist deep water. They smiled from within the protection of the gold flecked pond. But that wasn't even the best part: The beautiful man was looking directly at Pat. Right into his eyes with all the light from every star in all universes and Pat had never known such a carefree release. Such a feeling of total and unconditional love. Not at any juncture, nor in any experience during his lifetime.

Then, another hellish noise distracted him. The pale, thin woman had wrapped her legs around a black man. Her skin had turned the same Indian blue color as her eyes. She was retching the ravenous poison onto where the man's head used to be. What was left of his body dangled down as limp as a wet cloth.

Pat looked back at the beautiful man within the preserved flock. They were all smiling at him now, motioning for him to walk down the carnation pink path and join them. The trail joined his float at an easy angle, and it hadn't even turned down to the charred flint the other floors had been forced to adopt. He still had time to walk down and greet the others who had been spared.

The pale, thin woman. The Accuser. She could not enter into the waters, Pat sensed that. She may be the boss, out here in the darkness. But she could not face the beautiful man made from light within the waters.

But now Pat could hear a deafening flapping. Like the massive gate of a thunderbird. The pale, thin woman had risen above the remains of the unfortunate black man. Why he was not absorbed like the doomed others Pat did not know. She was held aloft by a pair of huge membranous wings, which the blue substance had formed. The mass could be solid at times from what Pat could gather. Yet it always seemed to be moving. Like liquid on an unbalanced table. Pat saw the mysterious gruel up close for the first time. He could see cigarette butts, bottle tops and other loose pieces of garbage floating in the septic wings, like pieces of trash embedded into an old asphalt parking lot. Pat would have gotten sick himself if he hadn't been so terrified. The pale, thin woman leered at him and hatched a carnival rigger's smile. Her teeth were black and yellow with blue stains, like someone who had just chewed up one of those pills which reveals cavities. Or the color of veins before the blood is exposed to the open oxygen. The abomination continued to sneer at Pat with a vicious accusation which he could not begin to comprehend. And Pat knew that this was his last chance. If he did not make a break for it now, he would be next on the hit parade.

The terror lost its grip on his heart for a quarter of a second. And his mind told his limbs that now would be a good time to dive for the ramp. And that's when it first occurred to him. Amidst all the excitement and wonder and horror it hadn't even crossed his mind until now.

But he still could not move his arms and he still could not move his legs.

-- Tom Hamilton

Article © Tom Hamilton. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-11-20
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