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Blinking again, I continued timidly toward the voice still pleading with me to respond. The cave was short and ended with a simple tall, wooden gate. I snickered as reached out towards the wooden planks.

A gate seriously? Why is there always a tunnel ending in a gate?

The planks were wet and swollen, waterlogged for no obvious reason. I played along expecting now to see the cliché, brilliant white light, but the boards were pressed tightly together, there was no peeking through to the other side. My subconscious, obviously lacking any imagination, brought forth only the traditional images I would recognize as the path to the everlasting. A few thin rays of purple light found their way through the boards. It was pitch black behind me. No place left to go but forward. I was apprehensive, but I wanted to move out of the wet, dirt-packed walls saturating the air around me.

“Era let me help you dear one” The melodic voice called out to me again. It was smooth as silk as it reverberated against me like a giant concert speaker. As I opened the gate and walked out of the dirt cave, my condescension and fear turned to amazement.

“Who are you?” I whispered timidly. “What is this place?”

“Era, here come this way.” I took a few steps unable to resist the beautiful voice calling for me.

“Do you know me?” I turned around quickly but found no one there. “Why you are calling me by that name?” Light overcame my eyes and engulfed me in thick, brilliance.

“Here, let me show you. How are you, what brought you to me?”

“I can’t see you,” I stammered.

“What do you mean? Why are you speaking out loud and why do you still cling to that shape Era?”

“I’m always in this shape. Do you need me to whisper?” Totally confused I tried to anticipate what the voice was asking for.

“You are not here to stay. Are you stuck in your form? Did your instance end abruptly dear one? What is the last thing you recall?”

“I don’t know. I was in the lab. We were doing a test. I want to see you, but it is too bright for my eyes and your voice, it’s like music.” There was a low, strong, chatter like crystal glasses vibrating in a china cabinet, during an earthquake. I put my hands over my ears and dropped to my knees as the sound overwhelmed me.

The soft roar faded into the distance, and I found myself standing in bright sunlight. I could taste fresh, tart, strawberry hot from the sun, picked and eaten over the plant. The little piece of red fruit was still on my tongue. The taste removed me completely from the blinding light I cowered in before.

Looking down I could see my tiny pink feet in the mounded garden dirt, strawberry juice dripping on my skin. The plump, red fruit looked like it should be sweet but the sour taste surprised me. Small white and yellow flowers dotted the ground. I wanted to grab them and squish them.

Stunned, I knew exactly what day I was reliving. There would be fireworks later and presents for me. My uncle would bring me a necklace. Everyone else would bring me toys, and I liked them too, but he was the only one who knew how much the shiny baubles thrilled me.

The family would be there to celebrate my birthday and Independence Day of course. I was stuck there in the garden-dirt eating a fresh strawberry not wanting to get muddy. I knew someone would pick me up and carry me out of the freshly watered garden soon. It was a good day. Everyone was there, everyone was alive and happy. It wouldn’t be that way much longer.

“How about this my love, this was the meadow from our last time together. I’ve kept it here waiting to show it to you.” The purple entity spoke. The vibration in the air retrieved me from the garden and cleared my vision.

A bright, white area rippled around from right to left. The emptiness filling with a meadow, green, lush, alive with rustling trees and swaying tall grass. The wind blew warm, and the sun was low in the sky. It looked crisp and clear. No rain today, I thought to myself. There were sounds beyond my vision. A gathering of people, lighthearted and joyful, speaking in a language I vaguely understood. Like the smell of freshly baked bread, the sounds of life invited me closer so I could breathe them in more deeply.

Walking toward the gathering of people I noticed my feet were covered with leather, my legs were tan, and they felt strong and capable. I could smell the skins wrapped around me, but it was nothing like the leather boutique at the mall. This was warm and furry smelling leather, the heavy scent of animal musk still lingering on the pelts. It was raw and powerful.

“This is our mountain range. We lived here. You and I were happy. We shared a long and glorious instance. Does this vision please you? Does my shape put you at ease?”

The most beautiful Indian boy I could have imagined walked toward me out of the purple light. He spoke very softly in words I didn’t understand. He aged as he shimmered before me. A young man now he looked to be in his early twenties, tall, muscular, strong, and as I met his extended hand with mine a wave of thick electricity pulsed in my arm and down the length of my body lashing me to the ground beneath me.

In an instant, I understood the life he was showing me, and I fully understood my place in it. A valued woman in my tribe, a mother of three hunters, an elder, a healer. My actions were teaching the young women around me. Those who follow me will know what I learned from the women who came before me.

The worries of my day rushed into my mind, and I was burdened, but it was all for the service of others. There were no monetary needs, no bills to pay. My concerns were for the happiness of my family and those around me. Looking up at him, I noticed he aged further. The purple entity looked to be searching for just the right image to present to me.

“I do not remember this place,” I conceded in a hushed tone. I scanned his chiseled face for some clue as to where I was at that moment. “I would remember you.” I ran my hand across his chest and felt his heartbeat. I was safe, content, and happy, but I had no idea why.

“Era, you are not here to stay. I am sure of it now. This place you see here, we use it to greet those who have come home. It doesn’t always look the same, but this was my last place with you. We entered various worlds together, but at this time, we left separately. My form failed before yours and you followed soon after.”

“I understand what was expected of me in this life. Is it always this way? Do we always remember our burdens after we die?” I asked.

“Yes, every action is carved on our souls. Much like a tree trunk records each year that passes. Each experience becomes part of who we are and what we understand. We take only the understanding with us into our next incarnation and we build upon it further. We are not saddled with the details.”

“I don’t believe in all that but it’s a nice thought. We are all born alone, and we all die alone. I am not aware of any proof to the contrary.”

“Ha, you are bound tightly to the body you cling to. We have some work ahead of us when you finally discard it. Faith escapes you still.”

“I don’t know what you mean. Haven’t I already discarded it?”

“No, I am quite sure you have not. Your current form is very strong, and you are tethered firmly to the spinning ball of gas and mud it’s made from. Yet here you are with me?”

“This is supposed to help me figure out how to use my abilities. Someone at the lab will figure out I’ve gone a bit too far. You haven’t given me your name?”

“I am Heiron. I’m not sure why you are here. I’ve waited for your return, but you are not here to stay. I am confused as well. You search your mind for something you knew, in your current incarnation.”

“Yes, I suppose I knew the answers before at some point,” I replied.

“Then you have the answers still. Come closer to me. Waste none of your thoughts on fear. I am not capable of harming you. You are mine and I am yours above all others. I will determine what you require if I am able.”

“Wait you are mine, above all others? That sounds matrimonial. I am perfectly happy to be near you, but all this doesn’t make any sense.”

“We are separate in your current incarnation, but together in many ways still. I am not a spouse to you as you know it in your present state, but I am yours. We are bound, my existence, and your existence eternally. I’m here but to help you. When you dwell here, you are here to help me, and the many others bound to you. I thought this scene would calm you, be pleasing to you, but you are still anxious. The form you hold, the life that goes with it, does it not enrich you?”

“Enrich me? No, my life definitely does not enrich me.” I laughed. “I made a huge mess and there is no way to fix it. I am capable of terrible things. I can feel myself slipping away in tiny slices. I’m not sure what will become of me.”

“Let me clear your mind. There is no reason for this anguish.” The shimmering man stepped toward me, took my hand, and wrapped his arms around me. The words he used to soothe me were foreign, hard, and precise, each syllable blending to the next in a melodic rhythm. The peace I felt at that moment was exquisite, unlike anything before. My life melted away, all I knew sloughing off me as he spoke like a snake shedding its skin. I wasn’t hearing him with my ears or speaking to him with my mouth. I knew I wasn’t actually standing anywhere. I didn’t have a body.

Intertwined with this being, I began to understand everything I’d seen, and everywhere I’d gone since I left the lab was within him. As I became more aware of the true nature of my situation, I could see him plainly. He was a large, brilliant light, all the colors of the spectrum pulsing and morphing into one another. The facade of the earthly meadow fell away, and I could see I looked just like him. I was aware of my true surroundings for only a split second, but for that instant, I felt the limitless expanse of brilliant, pulsating orbs all around me. I knew the completeness of their infinite community.

The burdens of my earthly life floated away. Not one item truly mattered. The incident at the steakhouse that started this nightmare, my ability to heal and kill, my rage, and self-loathing none of it mattered. My son and my husband their happiness was all I thought of. I would find a way to fix what I ruined. It was clear nothing could touch me, not my real essence. When I was ready to discard my earthly life, this light being would be waiting for me. The death I feared would be a welcome transition.

Faith, the handsome man was right, I had none. The deeply coveted secrets of my soul were effortlessly shared with him as he embraced me. There was no way to conceal from him all I hide from everyone else and I was truly ashamed. He began to speak aloud, slowly and softly until finally, I understood him.

“Mourn the loss of their body if you must, but turn your eyes toward heaven, your thoughts to their souls and pray for them, meditate on them. This is all the comfort you can give. Lighten your heart and carry on with your moment on earth for your end will come all too quickly. Only then will their light smile upon you again.” I felt the pain and loss in each word he spoke.

I dwelled on the deaths of my mother and grandmother, my grandfather, and everyone else I lost over the years. Their deaths left me orphaned. I never let go of my grief. I cloaked myself with it instead, choking out any hope of lasting happiness. With every drop of pain in his voice, I knew he relived the sorrow I clung to so tightly. I would let it all go before I saw him again. I wouldn’t need it any longer.

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