Eyes burn in bleak ash that carries my limbs through vast nothingness. No horizon to gauge my distance, no ground anchors my feet. I float, a wisp of my former self, so long gone, I find memories have clouded with the surrounding ash, dampening my former existence in a haze of regret and confusion. Who took me here? I couldn’t tell you. No judge or jury fashioned my sentence.
Images of my old life flash like waking dreams and haunt my torrid existence. This Hell worse than that of my mundane life. Never a religious man I neither held close an unearthly God nor abhorred one. Never cheated nor killed. This place couldn’t be for me.
It took me a long time to realize why I landed here. Since time held no meaning I can’t say how long, but its’ education brought clarity. This life is my punishment for not living my earthly existence to my full potential. Having wasted my gift of life being my true crime.
A bump to my back drew my attention from my introspection, the contact foreign yet alluring since its absence in my old life. Another’s eyes blink as the peer into mine with mirrored perplexity. Then the haze birthed another, then a few more in collection so close I could speak to them if I only possessed a voice.
Myself and this man watch them as they kick for traction through the air, scrambling, shoving each other in attempts to gain higher ground. Why? What were they fighting over? A new darkness altered my endless horizon, calling to me without a voice to my unhearing ears. A pull had me tethered in want. A desire I know not where it calls me to, but I need to reach beyond my bleakness to this new darkness for anything but the numbness of non-existence.
Energy fills my languid bones and I stretch my sinewy arms, but the dark is too far, my reach too short to match this draw, so I panic and scramble like the others without purchase, fearing if I don’t try, this darkness may go away. I cannot survive here any longer. This world isn’t for me.
The man at my side grabbed hold of my ankle and threatened the ground I’d made. Instead of booting him off as the others were not opposed to doing, I reached down and corded my arm with his, pulling him along. We couldn’t verbally communicate, only our eyes connected, but he understood and tried harder, fighting with me instead of against me, propelling us further ahead of the others in mid-skirmish.
The first change in temperature confused me, its coolness stifling the muggy heat clinging to my skin, shedding more of the resistance holding us back. Breathing this in made my lung seize a before taking a cleansing breath in, the expansion of my lungs a welcomed tremor of pain so refreshing my eyes prickled with tears, blurring the darkness now fully surrounding me and my new friend in this journey.
Light.
At first I balked, thinking it was taking us back to that horrible prison, but this light was filled with welcoming voices humming within with indiscernible encouragement that flashed within me and evoked a soundless sob.
A chance. It was a second chance. Undeserving of this gift, I thanked whomever was responsible, no closer to believing in the “all mighty” but believing this Afterlife was not my place and others were giving me and my friend a chance to change our fates.
This time, I have to do it right, and this time, I won’t be alone.

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