Theodore “Ted” Chambers has been mauled by a German Shepard. He never told his wife he loved her in all their married life.
Approaching the wooden gate, taking a brief break, the dog gazed at him.
The dog had been gazing at him since Ted had arrived, to trim branches protruding on the road, causing a potential hazard.
Extending his right hand through a gap in the gate to stroke the dog, it stuck its head through the gate and bit Ted’s femoral artery, severing it.
Ted dropped to the gravelly rough floor, blood spewing as severe agony rushed through him,
Being 300 or so yards from his van, seeing the blood drain out of him, he knew he wasn’t going to live.
Knowing he’d never get help in time and being on a country road, he attempted to crawl like a crazed baby to his van.
I got to get to my phone to Rachel I love her.
I never told her in 18 years.
Please God, this one fucking time, let me say it.
Command anything and I’ll do it.
He thought like a man on death’s door, wanting, needing to right one last wrong before he departed the earth, as he crawled and eyed the blood gushing out of his artery.
His hand was painted red, the blood continuing to flow and gush through his fingers, trying to stem the bleeding.
By some miracle, he managed to crawl to the van, smiling like a man seeing a glass of water in the Sahara desert.
He let go of his pumping artery, lifting his right hand on the foothold, trying to heave himself up with the last ounce of life he had in him.
He heaved himself up, put one hand on the white-painted van’s drivers door and grimaced, revealing a set of false teeth under an unshaven brown moustache.
Blue eyes now intent, he made a final desperate grab for the door before falling dead, leaving a running bloody handprint on the door.
His last thought being:
I am so sorry Rachel, I didn’t make it.
I tried. Until my last, dying breath.
Ted awoke to find himself in a white room, the walls, the marbled floor, the leather chair he found himself sat on, the table in front of him, all white.
As he came to, he heard the distinct playing and strutting of harp strings.
Ted rose fast, as quick and sudden as a man back from the dead, and looked around him.
To his immediate left and right, there were beautiful women with feathery white wings, each with a glowing semblance of a ring around their heads, each playing a large golden harp.
Ted thought as his eyes bulged and his mouth hung agape, spinning three hundred and sixty degrees clockwise, feet now feeling like a mixture of concrete and rubber.
The angels had gorgeous crisp blonde, cherry, black, and brown straightened hair, wearing crisp white gowns, with white sandals, playing with unison with one another music that was unlike anything he had heard while alive, all smiling with expressions of softness and kindness, revealing perfect white teeth.
“Hey, where am I?”
He asked the nearest Angel, a blonde with pink lips parted, smiling a generous smile at him.
The Angel didn’t answer, instead of carrying on playing the harp, her soft gaze not leaving him, as if he hadn’t spoken.
Ted put his hands to his head like a man having lost his mind,
hands finding not the receding hairline, a progressing hairline he’d had been living with for the last twenty years,
but instead, a full head of brown hair, as he had when he was younger.
His mouth hung involuntary agape, feeling the fullness of his hair, noting with disbelief that his false teeth hadn’t fallen out, as they always had when he had opened his mouth wide.
Ted now crunched his teeth together, unable to believe that he now had a perfect set of white teeth himself, flexing his jaw, rubbing his cheeks, find them too to be soft, vibrant, and youthful.
“Do you have a mirror?”
He asked the blonde-haired angel, who again said nothing, stopped playing her harp and walked toward him and outstretching her hand, with that same warm smile, taking his with the gentleness of a mother taking her child’s.
She led Ted toward the far end of the white room, walking with him to a blank white wall.
“Here you go”
She whispered, mouth near his right ear, before snapping her fingers.
A large white mirror now appeared in front of both of them.
Ted couldn’t believe what he saw.
He had initially thought he’d seen a doppelganger of himself from twenty years ago in the mirror, with a stunned expression,
wearing all-white suit and shoes, standing beside a golden blonde winged woman with her arm around his shoulder. Ted tried to run in terror, unable to believe what he saw in the mirror, thinking this was some sort of purgatory and himself from twenty years coming to slay him, again and again, and again and again, for eternity, for his own stupidity: stroking a large strange German Shepard.
“No, no it’s okay, calm down”
The blonde angel said again in that calm, soft tone, gently but firmly gripping him to keep him in place, keeping her arm around his shoulder.
“It’s not your doppelganger, and it’s not you from twenty years ago coming to slay you for eternity”
She whispered into his ear, knowing exactly what he was thinking, before turning his face toward her, as delicately as a newborn baby, and saying:
“it’s you, Ted” smiling a radiant, dazzling smile.
She said pointing, turning his face to the mirror, and doing a waving gesture, clarifying it was indeed Ted and the angel and their reflection.
Ted asked, only able to get the word out with great difficulty touching his cheeks again, his face a realm of utter shock, as the angel continued to smile, and rubbed his back to comfort and reassure him, before saying:
“You’re in heaven Ted, well, not heaven, yet. We’re in the waiting room, outside that door there, is the “Stairway to Heaven”
She said, pointing to a pink door that now stood next to the mirror, having materialised literally God only knew when.
“Ted, we angels saw and heard your desperate plea, to tell your wife you loved her as you never had done when you were alive, we thought it was so sweet, and we knew that your wife had always wanted to hear that you loved her”
The blonde angel said to him, now leading Ted back to the white leather chair he had woken upon, before pushing him back on it, with slight force. It felt soft and smooth under him, very comfortable.
“So, we thought we would give you that chance”
She said, looking at the other angels, who had now stopped playing their harps and smiled, nodding.
Ted asked, dumbfounded, now looking up from where he sat in the chair, gazing at the blonde angel as she now stood in front of him.
“Because your wife deserves it”
the angel said matter of fact as if he should have known this, before taking his hand in hers, resulting in an almighty white flash.
Ted now found himself in Ted and Rachel’s bedroom. Noting the curtains are drawn, giving the room an awful dark and depressing look, both the angel and Ted seeing Rachel, back to them, sitting on their double bed, holding a large portrait of Ted and herself to her chest, sobbing.
The angel said to Ted, gently ushering him to the bed, as Ted seemed to freeze, before jolting forward, hitting his shin on the skeleton of the bed, causing him to stifle a grunt of pain and an audible thud, muttering “Fuck” under his breath.
At the sound of the noise, Rachel turned around, as fast as the head-spinning scene from The Exorcist, and was stunned by what she saw, dropping the large portrait she’d been holding, shattering it.
Her recently deceased husband looking like how she’d first met him, twenty years younger, and a gorgeous, golden blonde slender woman, with feathered wings and a circular glow around her head.
“No, no, no, no, no”
Rachel said unbelievably, clawing at her face and dropping to her knees, sobbing once again, not being able to contemplate what she was now seeing.
Ted said, with his cheeky grin, the angel next to him, his arm around his shoulder.
Rachel said, through stifled sobs, thinking it must be a hallucination or shock or plain grief or a nervous breakdown.
“I did. I’m so sorry. I was a stupid bastard again.
If only I’d listened to you and not went to work that day, I’d still be with you.
I went in the most stupid way possible, a damn dog. A dog!”
Ted said with mock anger.
“Come and sit on our bed with me”
He said, hauling his wife up from her knees and into the bed, the angel standing there like Ted’s assistant, smiling.
He laced her hands through his and said:
“I came back to tell you something I had never done throughout our married life, that I love you, Rachel”
The mention of the phrase completely broke her, open-mouthed, she sobbed and fell into his embrace.
“I always did, I hoped you always knew that”
He said, floods of tears now coming from both of them, even the Angel started to well up.
“Rach, I gotta go now, but I promise you and the kids will be fine, Graham will be fine, you’ll be there and support him, I know you will, and Scott, he’ll be a mechanic, as we wished he would be, and Mel and Sammy, they’ll be absolutely fine, they’ll have boyfriends, their kind of jokey but they’ll treat our girls well”
He said to her as he gently pulled himself from her iron grip.
“No!! Don’t go!!!!”
Rachel sobbed, now on her knees pulling at his legs.
“Rach, it’s okay, I’m okay, and you’ll be okay, trust me, in a few years, I’ll send a man down to you, not to replace, no, God no, but to support you until it’s your time”
Ted said kindly, smiling.
Rachel finally let go and her arms and head fell to the floor as if to worship.
The blonde angel put her arm around her and said:
“Rachel, don’t worry I’ll look after him, I won’t steal him from you, I’ll make sure he’s safe, any arseholes up there and I will personally tear them a new arsehole”
The angel said, wearing a comforting smile, making Rachel feel an ounce better.
Rachel got herself together and sat on the bed, disbelieving, still sobbing, as the angel and Ted ascended a white staircase, materialized like magic, leading into blinding white light.
“Everything will be fine Rach, I know you will be brilliant with the kids, I will be back when it’s your time, we’ll go together, up these stairs”
Ted said with a smile.
Rachel said while trying to stifle sobs.
“The stairway to heaven, Rach”
He replied with a warm smile, his crystal blue eyes, seeming to dazzle against the blinding light, streaming tears himself, before he and the angel give a gentle wave goodbye, as Rachel did the same, before Ted and the angel had gone up into the light and up the stairway.
Rachel slowly dropped her waving hand, tears streaming, her face contorting into a now alien expression for her.
The beginnings of a smile.
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