It had been a while. A while, since the accident that she thought would stop the pain. The pain that would not bleed, would not surface and would not go away. The pain that the phantoms adored, for it was just like them- always hiding away in the darkest of the darkest corner of the mind, but taking up so much space that a knife through the intestines would sound like a party idea.
She had shot herself. And that was the phantom’s gate inside. He controlled her. Made sure she sent away her daughter to the city. Made sure she grew her own food in the greenhouse. Decided when the skies were grey and when it would rain. Whispered to her to keep people away, and threatened her by saying if not there’s no escape. Not even hell. Just this never ending cycle of day and night in this intermediate state after physical death.
“Why do you have to show me the mortal world then?” She’d ask it one day.
“Why do I have to see this meaningless world go on if I’m supposed to just find my right path to finality?”
“Because-” the words would echo in her head.
“Because, all stories are complicated. Maybe your desires are not always what you need, rather your wants. And we both know which is higher”
That wasn’t the darkness speaking. It was something else.
She’d strike her hand to the window and whisper back that she didn’t know what to do, and the tears would follow after that. But the darkness would have arrived by then and engulfed her whole.
Now she got up, her back aching and her feet sore. How long was she asleep?
Not from the material world, for that is a completely different story.
She decided to clean the place. Her frail arms picking up the debris around her. But she was slow, her osteoarthritis coming in the way.
And she’d thought, all pain would go away once death took her. All lies!
She still applied hot water bag to her knees and sometimes soaking it in a warm bath helped too. She still needed to protect her joints by resting and eating a well-balanced diet. Less strain and the right shoes were a must as well.
Death was supposed to be the permanent cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living, physical organism. It was supposed to be the end of life, the end of breathing, the end of all hopes and pain and dreams. Death had to be a void and she had to be sucked into it, never to return. Instead, death turned out to be a traitor. An imposter of Life, that mimicked Life’s distressing ways- only taking away the hope of the existence of the void where all pains cease. Death, after all was just a ploy.
The doorbell rang, a loud cheer into the void.
She never opened it anyway. People ought to know it by now, she thought. It’s been months since it was made clear. Nobody gets in her way. Nobody-
And yet again, another ring, now quite impatient.
She was on the floor, her hands clearing away the cereal bowl that had fallen off the table. She got up, holding her knees firmly, her back a sore arch. When she finally got to her feet, she felt the orthostatic hypotension kick in. That always took her a minute.
And the doorbell got more impacting.
“Argh” came out the frustrated sigh as she limped her way towards the main door and opened it.
The clouds weren’t grey anymore and the sun was out, peeking through the clouds.
And on the porch steps, stood a young girl, mostly in her twenties. And just one look at her, reminded her of herself, taking her back to the days that was more of a rollercoaster ride, where life and it’s struggles and happiness that came along with it, itself was more than enough to make you high.
The girl wore a black V neck style shirt and a jeans skirt. She had an yellow file in her hand and she gave a warm smile as soon as the door opened.
“Hello ma’am, may I come in?”
A little taken aback by the sudden gush of warmth and affable environment, she almost shut the door to the sunlight outside and would have run back to the dark depths of the house. But something told her not to. The phantom had not appeared yet.
But he always did. And she knew she had to push the stranger out.
“I’m afraid not. Good day.”
She’d almost closed the door. Almost.
“You don’t seem to recognize me”
I do, she thought, I do so very well. It felt like someone had grabbed the Time Turner out of Harry Potter’s Wizarding World and brought back her younger jovial self.
“I’m Naomi” the girl spoke on. “Your granddaughter. I don’t blame you for not realizing it. I was just a little girl when-” her chattering trailed off. I can’t hold her accountable for what happened, she thought.
“Anyway” she continued. “I’m a doctor now” she said while giving a happy smile, as if she knew of that little dead part of her grandmother that had suddenly woken up to be proud. “And I’ve been looking into your life and everything that came after. And I’m here to talk. Anything you want to say. It can-“
The distance grew shorter and the length of the day longer. The stars could wait, like those light bulbs on the way to the beyond. For now she was ready to embrace the sun once again.
“Come in” she interrupted. The girl stopped talking, first surprised and then happy. “Thank you” she said and entered, holding the yellow file close to her. The translucency of the file could not hide all the words. The words ‘Cotard syndrome’ spilled out as if to make a big show of victory. The delusional belief of thinking oneself to be dead. Just another Medical condition among the million others.
As if it were an omen, before she could close the door behind her, she saw the phantom outside on the street. And as her eyes got accustomed to the sunlight, the darkness faded away into the light.