Halloween Day. It started off like any typical day. The alarm went off at 6:15 AM, just like so many other mornings for countless years. I threw the blanket off and swung my feet to the floor. The bare, hardwood floor usually felt cold to the touch that time of year. Strangely enough, however, the floor wasn’t cold at all – nor was it warm. It was just – there. Equally strange was the fact that I found myself feeling rather refreshed and energized that morning. I was up ‘til about three in the morning last night, I questioningly thought. How did I manage that? I pushed the thought aside as I knew I had to get to work soon. I stood up and then noticed that I was already dressed – shoes and all. Well, I thought, that explains not feeling the floor. What did I do last night to go to bed like this? Instinctively, I took a sniff at my clothes and was satisfied with the fact that they didn’t wreak of anything. A quick glance showed that my clothes were not overly wrinkled. Deeming myself acceptable to be out in public, I shrugged off all of the oddities of my morning ritual, walked out of my apartment and down the stairs to the floor below and out the front door of my apartment building.
As I had managed to shave off a considerable amount of time from getting ready for work, I decided rather than cram myself into that over-packed sardine can called the subway, I would just take my time and walk to work. For months, I had wanted to stop by the new coffee shop along the way, but had never had the time before then. I continued to feel unusually energized, especially for only three hours or so of sleep. While I definitely thought it weird, I wasn’t about to argue with the feeling of invigoration. Maybe I don’t need the coffee, I jokingly thought, letting out a snicker. I had barely gotten down the block when I ended up being bumped by a guy looking down at his cell phone as he came up rapidly from behind me.
“Excuse you,” I annoyingly said as he turned around and looked in my direction. Either he chose not to look at me or was completely oblivious to what had just happened, but he looked around with a puzzled expression and then almost immediately went back to whatever was engrossing his attention on the small screen in his hand and resumed his pace. “Jackass,” I muttered under my breath as he walked away. I then resumed my trek.
When I reached the coffee shop, it was setup like most small coffee shops you find in most cities, with a young man with a brown, somewhat shaggy beard and matching hair put up in a man bun dressed in a cheaply made set of Jedi robes for his costume, and a young woman with three different shades of blue in her hair, black lipstick, a small nose ring and oversized, horn-rimmed glasses. She was sporting a small witch’s hat and a frayed, black dress that passed for a witch’s robe. The young woman was finishing up with another hipster type dressed in what looked like whatever clothes could not possibly mismatch each other more badly. As the young man walked away, I assumed my place at the register and began to place my order – a simple affair of a black coffee with a squirt of vanilla syrup and a blueberry muffin. As I relayed my order, the young woman simply typed in a series of keystrokes and then walked away from the register without so much as a “hello.” While I had experienced this kind of thing before, at least the person behind the counter would at least tell me to wait a moment.
“Um,” I said to the young lady as she stepped away, “excuse me. Did you get my order?”
Apparently, I must not have appealed to this rather rude young woman in some way, as my question went unanswered. After giving her a few seconds for the benefit of the doubt, I raised my voice slightly and said, “Excuse me, Miss?”
Again, no reply – and I knew there was no way she couldn’t have heard me, as the ambient noise in the shop was rather low. At that point, I felt my irritation rise, and I raised my voice even more and said, “Hey, I’m talking to you!”
Yet again, no response. She just went about adjusting the food display case as if I weren’t even there. At that point, I was beyond irritated, as she was obviously just ignoring me.
“I want to speak to your boss, lady!” I demanded, angrily. I then turned my head to the guy with the man bun and yelled, “Hey! You the boss here?!”
This time, it was the young man’s turn to join in the “I don’t hear you” game, as he didn’t even acknowledge my presence. I had my fair share of bad service several times in my life, but that instance had become the topper on the cake as far as I was concerned. It was beyond ridiculous.
“HEY!” I yelled even louder. “What, are you deaf and stupid?!” As before – no reply. Finally, fed up, I yelled, “You know what?! To Hell with all of you!” I then stormed out of the shop, almost pushing the door off of its hinges in fury.
The rest of the walk to work went by quickly. All the while, I tried to calm down from the obvious brush off that I had received in what was, from what I had heard, one of the friendliest establishments in the city. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why I had been so obviously ignored. When I arrived at the office, I walked into the work area and noticed that several of my co-workers were gathered in the small break room just off the main office space. On top of that, I noticed that some of them had looks of shock on their face, with one even crying lightly.
Oh, God, I thought, worriedly, what the hell happened?
At that moment, I saw Jack walk out of the break room, walking slowly to his desk while looking down at his phone in utter disbelief, shaking his head lightly. Right about that time, my boss, Emily, walked up to Jack – dressed to the nines, as always – and asked him, “Jack, you okay?” It was the first time I had seen something resembling actual concern on her face in the five years I had known her.
“What do you think?” he replied to her, tersely.
At first, Emily looked at Jack glaringly, as if offended – though it was hard to take any expression of hers seriously with the ridiculous amount of makeup she wore. She then softened her expression and said, “Right, sorry.” There was a pause, during which I decided to step towards them and find out what was going on. “How’s Kim doing?” Emily asked, softly.
Aw, dammit, I thought with mild annoyance, stopping my stride, that’s right! Kim was supposed to come by with breakfast before I left. I totally forgot. She’s going to be mad.
“Again,” Jack said with growing contempt, “what do you think? She just found out her boyfriend is dead in his apartment! You think she’s turning cartwheels?!”
That statement made me freeze in place for several reasons. One, at least to my knowledge, I was the one and only boyfriend that Kim had, even if she had dated several of the guys in the office before that. Second, the office was notorious for playing pranks on each other, especially on Halloween. Third, I couldn’t believe that a prank like this would have ever crossed anyone’s mind in that office – much less my girlfriend! If this was what they had planned for a prank, I was definitely not laughing!
“What the hell, Jack?!” I blurted out. Just like the coffee shop, no one acknowledged or replied to my angry query. Oh, wonderful! I yelled to myself. Them, too?!
Unable to contain my frustration any longer, I cupped my hand around my mouth and loudly called out to the room, “Okay! Ha ha! Very freakin’ funny! Joke’s over now! I’m right here!” The response was not one acknowledgement of my presence or even shock at the ire in my words. All I got was more of people talking to each other in disbelief over my “death,” as well as some tears being shed over it. The disturbing part was just how convincing the crying was – and I had never known any of them to be particularly good at faking something like that. It was then that I started to become progressively worried about the situation. I didn’t believe that I was dead, of course. Still, the situation as a whole, I felt, was out of control.
I don’t know what made me think that Kim was actually at my apartment – as there was no way that could be the case – but I found myself leaving the office and walking back to my apartment at a quickened pace. As I got closer to the front door, I was once again stopped dead in my tracks as I saw the short, thin, dark-haired beauty that was Kim pleadingly stopping an EMT wheeling a gurney, carrying a body covered from head to toe by a blue-white sheet. I continued to approach slowly as I could make out Kim asking through heavy sobbing and free flowing tears, “Please. Let me…just…see…him.”
The EMT somberly shook his head and reached up his hands to the top of the sheet. I closed the distance between me and the scene unfolding before me and watched as the EMT gently lowered the sheet from the head of the body. The shock at what I saw could not be described, as I saw the face of the dead body – my own!
No, I thought, numbly. That’s not me. Can’t be. There’s no way in hell that’s me.
I then watched as Kim cried even more intently as she placed her forehead on the body in the gurney. At that moment, I felt something warm and comforting press against my forehead. As impossible as it was to believe, I knew the feeling of her skin on mine, unmistakably. Absently, I brought my hand up to my forehead. As my hand passed before my eyes, I noticed that I could see through it slightly. A series of images then briefly flashed before my eyes of me in my bed the night before. I was lying in bed, gasping for air as I clutched at my chest. Each breath became more and more of an effort. The images then stopped as a flood of clarity washed over my consciousness. The images were memories, and I then remembered what had happened the night before.
I remembered how I had drank much more than I had at any time in my life – and I considered myself to be able to drink anyone under the table. I didn’t give it any thought, as I had done such stupid things like that before and paid for it the next morning with a monster hangover and a headache to end all headaches. However, it was apparent to me at that moment that I had drunk too much at the Halloween party the night before – so much so that my heart would give out. I remembered being so drunk that I had to be carried practically dead weight from the party into Jack’s car – with Jack and Kim’s help – and then from the car into my apartment, where I was then tucked into bed angrily, yet lovingly by the love of my life. She was, however, so angry as to not kiss me goodnight like usual. Little did I know that would be the last I would ever see of her while I was alive.
“No!” I blurted out in denial. “Stop thinking that, dammit! You’re not dead! YOU’RE NOT DEAD!”
“I’m afraid you are, dude,” I heard a voice from behind me say, calmly.
I turned around and saw a man dressed in a white sport coat with matching pants, white loafers and a black turtleneck sweater. He was dark-skinned with no hair and had his hands in his pants pockets.
“Wait,” I said as I pointed to the strange man, “you can hear me?”
“And see you,” he replied with a calm face. “In fact, I’m the only one who can.” He then took a hand out of his pocket, pointed at the gurney behind me and said, “And yes, that is you there.”
I turned slowly back around and saw Kim kiss me before the EMT placed the sheet back over my head. That feeling of her lips on mine immediately wafted over me, then passed just as quickly. I brought my fingers to my lips instinctively.
“That’s a pretty common thing,” the man in white said as he walked up beside me. “Residual sensation from the touch of a loved one – it happens to those who have just passed on, but haven’t moved on yet.”
“Moved on?” I asked, feeling a mix of fear and curiosity at the statement.
“Your body has died,” he replied, matter-of-factly, “and your soul has been released. Sometimes, it takes the soul a moment to realize that he or she is no longer alive, like you’re doing right now. However, without fail, the realization does set in. Still, whenever there is confusion, that’s where I come in. I help those souls come to terms with what’s happened and help them move on.”
“What?” I stammered. “What…are you?”
“Just think of me as a guide,” he replied with a soothing tone, “which is what I am. I’m here to help you move on to the next step in your journey.”
As the man continued to speak, I found myself beginning to believe him more and more with each word. There was a comfort to his voice – almost like the comfort I felt in the arms of my mother after waking up from a horrible nightmare. Any doubts that I had about the situation began to fade, as I began to accept that I was no longer among the living. I watched as the gurney was wheeled and locked inside the ambulance, followed by the unceremonious slamming of the doors. Kim continued to cry uncontrollably as the EMT climbed into the cab of the ambulance and started the engine.
“I’m sorry, Kim,” I said softly, as I felt a warm tear roll down from my eye and down my cheek. “I am so, so sorry, baby.”
I felt the hand of the man in white on my shoulder as he squeezed it reassuringly. “She knows, man. She knows.”
I stepped from the man’s hand and over to Kim. I put out my arms and went to hug her closely, only to have them pass through her and envelop myself. In that moment, although I couldn’t touch her, I could feel the overwhelming sense of loss and the radiating warmth of her love for me as it flared through me. I then looked back over to my guide.
“It’s all right,” he said. “Most do something like that before they move on.”
I turned my head back to give Kim one last look as I whispered. “Goodbye, Kim. I’ll always love you.” I then lowered my arms and stepped back to my guide.
He placed his hand back on my shoulder – that feeling of reassurance returning to me. “It’s time, man.”
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Relax, man,” he said with a warm smile. “You’re going someplace good – I promise.”
At that moment, a bright, tunnel-like light appeared to my right. It was almost blinding in its radiance. I could feel comforting warmth emanating from it. In that moment, I knew that my guide was right. I was going to a better place.
“Ready?” my guide asked me.
I turned to him, wiped away the almost dry tear from my face, and calmly replied, “Yeah. I’m ready.”
He patted on my shoulder as he placed his hand back in his pocket and began to walk towards the light. I followed a step or two behind him. As I got closer to the light, though the light was blindingly bright, my eyes stayed wide open. The light grew brighter until I was engulfed by it. The warmth I felt from before enveloped me fully. All the fear, all the tension, all the stress, and all of the doubt I had ever felt in my short life faded away in that moment. I had left all the troubles of my earthly life behind. I had found true peace.