Earthbound

 

The first thing I noticed about being out of my body was that everyone in the hospital room appeared brighter. They glowed. The second thing I noticed was that I was still shaped like me. I wasn’t a ball of light floating around the room.

My spirit body, when I examined it, shimmered with an aura like everyone else’s, but it was transparent. I held up my hand and could see through it—not to bones or anything internal, but to the blue coverlet on the bed where my physical body lay.

Tubes snaked from my arms, and my chest rose and fell, so it appeared I wasn’t dead. However, I looked hideous: greasy, dull brown hair clumped in thick strings on my pillow or plastered against my face; dark circles under my eyes that made them look as if I’d been in a rumble; and lips that could have used ten applications of lip balm.

Which made me realize the third thing: Inside, I was still me. If I was dead—which was possible, since the machines might have been forcing my body to mimic life—then I hadn’t elevated to a more saintly version of me. Judgment and cynicism still came easily.

Damn.

Shouldn’t death have made me more evolved?

And where was the tunnel? The light? My dearly departed loved ones? Shouldn’t someone who could tell me it wasn’t my time be here?

More importantly, where was my family?

Medical personnel were the room’s only other occupants, and they were leaving. All looked as if they’d fought a valiant battle, and perhaps they had. They’d tried to save me, and, while the results were nothing to high-five about, they hadn’t declared me dead.

No sooner did thoughts of my family wink out of my head than I found myself in a waiting room. Two men and two women I didn’t recognize sat on a couch along the west wall of the room, staring at the floor.

My eighteen-year-old daughter, Silver, sat on a padded metal chair, elbows on her knees, face in her palms. Her long, brown hair veiled her hands. She wore the same jeans and long-sleeved, green T-shirt she’d had on when I’d last seen her.

Rory, my ex-husband, perched on the edge of another chair next to her. Also in jeans and a T-shirt, he stroked Silver’s back with one hand while he held his girlfriend’s hand with the other.

Clara Spencer. A classy lady. Even in what I assumed was the middle of the night, she had on what I can only refer to as an ensemble: blouse, blazer, skirt. Her short brown hair was smooth and glossy.

I liked her. She was pleasant, and she hadn’t been boinking Rory while we were married, so all was good on that front.

At least my ex had found a decent replacement for me when our marriage broke apart. Clara would help him get through this as long as he didn’t screw it up.

He should have already married her, though I wouldn’t wish that on any woman. He’s not a jerk or abusive, but life with him can be silent and lonely. Strong and silent may sound sexy, but living with it had been depressing.

The doctor who’d been at my bedside entered the room, and everyone looked up with fatalistic hope in their eyes. When he said “Rory McQueen?” the four strangers in the room resumed staring at the floor.

Rory and Silver leapt up. Clara began to rise and then sat again, back rigid against the chair.

“Doctor, is she …?” Rory choked.

“She’s alive, but her heart is weak. I’m sorry. She might last the night, but it doesn’t look good.” The doc hesitated. His nametag read “Dr. Richler.” The bags under his eyes looked almost as bad as mine.

Thanks for knocking yourself out to save me, Doc. I hoped to thank him in person one day.

Richler continued. “You can go in and see her. Take as long as you need. If there’s anyone else who might want to say goodbye, you should call them.”

“What do you mean? My mother doesn’t have heart problems. She’s only forty-six,” Silver said.

“She had a catastrophic coronary.” Richler checked his chart. “The paramedics revived her once already. Her heart won’t take another episode and there’s a ninety percent likelihood she’ll have another one.”

“No.” Silver waved her hands at him, shooing his words away. Tears streamed down her face.

Rory hooked an arm through hers.

“Take us to her, please.”

They followed Richler from the room, Clara lagging a few steps behind.

I tried to walk along with them, but, apparently, when you’re disembodied, you simply think your way places. No sooner had I decided to go back to my room than poof! There I was.

My body hadn’t changed since the last time I’d seen it, but I inspected it anyway.

Having one foot in the grave hadn’t made me more intuitive. I couldn’t tell if I was about to have another heart attack.

Death has never frightened me. I’m a risk taker, a live-in-the-now kind of gal. The idea of exploring a new dimension excited me, but I didn’t want to leave my kids. If an opportunity to avoid dying arose, I’d take it.

Rory’s voice approached. He doesn’t talk much, but when he does, he’s loud. I heard him assuring Silver that everything would be okay. Nice of him to do that, but not practical. Her mother was dying. You can’t pretend that falls under the everything-will-be-okay umbrella.

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