The end of my cigarette glowed in the half-light as I took a long drag and inhaled the calming smoke into my lungs. Ahead of me, in the distance, a young man lumbered forward with a tottering, unsteady gait. His neck was obviously broken, bent at a horribly unnatural angle, and his left arm was torn away at the elbow. From what little light still remained, I could see streaks of blood running down his misshapen face. His clothes were ragged, dirty and torn. I would have been terrified of him were he alive…but he wasn’t. The living are often horrible, looking out for their own ends and going through life oblivious to the needs of others. Meanwhile, the dead just want something, usually help, before they pass on to other side. That’s where I come in.
The young man was directly in front of me now. I could hear his ragged breath, rattling, uneven. I haven’t yet figured out why the dead still breathe, despite the fact that it is not only unnecessary, it’s futile. Perhaps they are merely trying to keep some semblance of rhythm until they reincarnate. Perhaps the dead don’t truly die until they decide to stop breathing. That is, until they decide that they are not going to reincarnate, but will instead step off this crazy ride we call life and devolve back to the stardust from whence they came.
Looking intently at the young man, I waited for him to speak. His lips moved in an almost inaudible “Where am I?”
“You’re on Caernarvon Street,” I replied, taking another drag of my cigarette, “By the looks of it, you’ve been in an accident. I hate to tell you this, but you’re dead.”
His ragged breath started to come in short, sharp bursts as started to turn frantically, gazing about him as if looking for something to cling to.
“Now don’t start panicking, mate,” I said, “It’s not like there’s anything you can do about it. The only thing you have to decide is whether you’ll reincarnate, or whether you’ll take a sabbatical. And by the looks of what you’ve been through, I’d say a sabbatical might not be a bad thing.”
The young man started to sob.
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
“Take me home!” he pleaded.
“I can’t do that, mate. I’m sorry. Is there something else? A message you need to pass on?”
The young man took a deep, ragged breath.
“Tell my mum I’m sorry.” I nodded and smiled. “Help me.” he asked.
Holding up my carnelian pendant carved into the figure of Nephthys, I pressed it lightly to his chest and said “Ale nan limyè a” which, roughly translated means “Go to the light.”
As if some higher force were using the fade-out function on the movie editor of life, the young man began to slowly fade from view, his form becoming lighter, more translucent, until a mere shadow of him remained and then he was gone completely. I flicked my cigarette butt into the curb, tilted my head back and looked up at the ever darkening sky.
So there you have it. This is what I do. I help the dead to cross over to wherever it is they are going, making their transition that little bit easier and preventing them from hanging around as what we – the living – commonly know as ghosts, purely because they are lost or have unfinished business. You see, the thing is, the dead have their idiosyncrasies too, and lets face it, you wouldn’t want to find yourself unable to cross over because you couldn’t get the message across that you’d left the oven on, now would you?
Of course, I wasn’t always like this. There was a time when I was like you, just a regular average girl going about her regular average life. Then I died. Well, to put it more accurately, I died and came back. I fell off a boat during a family holiday and drowned. The doctors said that I was dead for ten minutes. When I woke up in the hospital, I saw my family of course, but dead people stood amongst them looking lost, confused, frightened. It was as though I had stepped into their world and they had somehow seen me as a beacon when I was being brought back, and simply followed me.
As I recovered, these lost souls began to speak to me. I spoke back to them, but I was completely at a loss as to how I could truly help them. Then, one day, I confided in my grandmother. She was a remarkable woman, the wisest, kindest lady I will ever have the pleasure to know. She sat silently and listened to my story. When I had finished, she got up, walked over to the dresser and took the Nephthys pendant from out of one of the drawers.
“Help them” she said, as she handed it to me.
My grandmother passed away soon afterwards. She was one of the first people I helped to cross over, and, to be honest, it made the grieving process all the more bearable.
I have never told anyone else about my gift (I call it a gift, even though I have never been able to reconcile whether it is a gift or a curse), so you may be wondering why I have chosen to tell you. Well, to put it simply, I need to exorcise the experience of the last person I helped to cross.
I was in my bathroom. I had just taken a bath and had dried myself off, and was standing with the towel wrapped around me while I fumbled around in the cabinet for the hair-dryer. Finding the dryer, I plugged it in and was about to begin drying my hair when I felt the now all too familiar sensation of the newly deceased in need. The temperature of the room dropped ever so slightly, and I felt a slight tingle on the back of my neck.
“What is it you need?” I asked, as I turned to face the freshly departed soul. Actually, no, I began to ask the question as I turned, but I didn’t finish it, for the image of the dead before me made me jump so violently, that I dropped the hair-dryer into the still full bath. It crackled and sparked as it hit the water, and then all the lights went out. So there I was, standing half naked in my darkened bathroom, a towel wrapped around me, my hair dripping wet, while caught in the waning light filtering through the frosted glass of the bathroom window, my mother gazed at me.
“Help me” she said.
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