The Oldest Vampire




The Oldest Vampire
Rick Adelmann

Hiram Parmenter sat idly on the park bench. He enjoyed rising early, usually around three a.m., to sit in the park and avoid the throngs of people the daylight would bring. Oddly enough, Hiram felt a little light-headed, a bit dizzy. He attributed it to the muggy air and his age of eighty-five. Yet, he didn’t like the feeling.
He gazed about the dark park, taking a deep breath to clear his head. He looked up and, to his amazement sat an attractive young woman on the bench directly across from him. “I didn’t see you sitting down, young lady. Where did you come from?” he asked testily. He enjoyed his solitude and didn’t like to be bothered. It was one of the reasons he rose so early.
“You didn’t see me because I didn’t want you to see me, touch me, smell me, or know of my presence in any way,” she said with a sweet, demure voice.
“Huh. You’re an odd one,” Hiram said, shrugging. “What’s that on your lips, girl?” he asked, squinting in her direction.
She reached up and touched her full lips with her fingers. Looking at her fingertips closely, she licked them. “Just a little blood. I got sloppy tonight,” she said, grinning sheepishly. After licking her fingers, her tongue circled her lips, lapping up every drop. “By the way, my name is Dixie. What is your name, deary?”
“I, I’m Hiram,” he answered. He was perplexed by the woman. He studied her features and found her to be beautiful. Her pale skin shined in the lamplight; her wide dark eyes were penetrating. However, he found something fluky about her. She appeared across from him as if brought to him by a gust of wind. The gentle morning breeze continued to drift through her long black hair. “Did you cut yourself?” he murmured, his voice warm with concern.
“Oh no. It’s not my blood.”
“It’s not? Then who’s.”
“It’s your blood, deary. Can you not feel the cuts on your neck?”
Hiram Parmenter’s eyes opened wide as his hand jolted to his neck. “What the hell?” he said when he felt the two small gashes. Hiram looked at his finger, seeing blood, he glared at the woman. His wonderment of the woman turned to vigilance. “What’s all this about?” he asked. “I don’t remember you stabbing me.”
“I didn’t stab you, you silly man, I bit you,” she explained with a smile that revealed teeth that were longer and more pointed than normal teeth.
“Without me knowin’ it? I would have known it if you got close enough to bite me.”
“Oh, Hiram you have a lot to learn, deary,” she said crossing her long slender legs. “We have hypnotic powers. They make it easier for us to approach our prey,” she said. Dixie rose from the bench and sauntered over to Hiram. Her tall, thin frame added to her seductive charm as she swayed towards old Hiram.
“I, I don’t get it,” Hiram stammered.
“You will. You’re one of us now. You see, I’m a vampire, and I just initiated you into the family,” she whispered, leaning over him. “Normally, I find younger men, but you looked so lonely sitting there in the dark, I felt sorry for you and chose you.”
“I’m not lonely,” he exclaimed. “I like my solitude. So, you needn’t bother feeling sorry for me,” Hiram grumbled. “If you’re a vampire, and you bit me, why aren’t I dead? Huh? Tell me that,” he demanded.
“That’s simple enough. I didn’t suck all your blood out. Don’t be offended, deary, but I didn’t like the taste of your blood,” Dixie admitted. “Something was missing.”
“Probably my testosterone. I’ve been missing that for years.”
“Well, maybe that’s it. Like I said, I usually go after younger men. They have plenty of testosterone. I don’t have to hypnotize them to get close,” she shrugged. “In any case, now you have become one of the undead.”
“The what?”
“Oh, I hate that term,” she said. “Being undead makes me sound like I’m a walking corpse. We’ll stick with the term, vampire.”
“Hell, you can stick to what you want. I’m no damned vampire,” Hiram growled. He became tired of this silly game of hers. “There ain’t no such thing as a vampire.”
“Yes there is, Hiram and you’ve become one of us.”
“Is this some kinda candid camera stunt,” he said, looking around for the camera.
“Oh, please, Hiram, just accept it. You’re going to live forever and never age.”
“Ya mean I get stuck in this eighty-five-year-old body for eternity? That doesn’t sound like a prize to me. It ain’t fair.”
“Calm down. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t drink that old, stale blood of yours,” she apologized. “I would have preferred killing you, but now we have to deal with this.”
“How about if I put some chocolate sauce on my neck. You can finish the job,” Hiram said, his voice trembling.
“No. That just won’t do, deary. Once I made you a vampire, there’s no turning back. You’ll have to drink blood, like the rest of us.”
Hiram pulled his dentures out of his mouth and said, “OO can I bit someone wit deez?”
“Put your dentures back in and try again,” she sighed with impatience.
He put them back in and repeated, “How can I bite someone with these? I can’t gum the blood out of them. Besides, I don’t even eat rare steaks. There’s too much blood!”
I see your problem. You’ll just have to adjust, deary,” Dixie said.
“I don’t want to be a vampire,” Hiram moaned as he realized his situation. “How long have you been a vampire, Dixie?”
“Well over two hundred years. A British soldier found me bleeding on Bunker Hill and started lapping up my blood. The poor soldier couldn’t get enough of me. But, left some to keep me alive. So, here I am, all these years later looking just as good as I did then.”
“Can you imagine spending two centuries stuck in this broken down body,” Hiram said in a near rage. “You’ve got to do something!”
“Well, there is one way. You’ll have to kill yourself, Hiram,” she answered.
“I don’t believe in suicide.”
“Then hire someone to do it. Pay someone to stick a stake in your heart,” Dixie sat down next to him on the bench. A look of concern and guilt flooded her features.
“That would be the same as suicide. Can’t do that either,” he responded.
“Well then, I don’t know what to tell you,” she threw up her hands. “You’ll just have to learn to live our lifestyle. It will be daylight soon. I’ve got to get back to my crypt. Good night, deary.” Dixie rose from the bench and ran off into the darkness.
Hiram got up from the bench and grabbed his walking stick. He grumbled to himself as he weakly walked towards his home. “I don’t want to be a damned vampire,” he uttered through clenched dentures. He walked alone through the cold morning air, his mind whirling. “That ain’t no life for an old man like me,” he said, his voice rising.
Walking by a bench, he took his wooden cane and fiercely slammed it against the seat. The cane splintered, with one end of it jammed between the wooden slats. At the same moment, Hiram lost his balance and fell forward.
The next morning, the local newspaper’s headlines read; Hiram Parmenter, eighty-five, was found impaled by his own walking stick. Somehow, the cane broke in two, with one-half stuck through the slats of the park bench. The elderly, Mr. Parmenter, fell on the cane, stabbing himself through the heart.


Miss Jasmine’s Ghost




Miss Jasmine’s Ghost
Rick Adelmann

The security guard at the private school had one final duty before leaving for the day. The school of dentistry had day and night classes. Nathan was assigned the night shift. He didn’t mind working late. It was a lot easier to walk the outside perimeter of the building in the moonlight than circling the building in the hot Sun. The day-shift guy had to deal with that.
Nathan’s final duty to perform is closing and locking the school. This meant he must be sure all the students, teachers, and administrators were off the property. It wouldn’t look good for him if the alarm went off because with someone in the building. His job is to turn off the lights, securely lock all the classroom doors, turn on the alarm, and lock up the outside doors. It’s not a hard job and he doesn’t burn up too many brain cells doing it. But, it’s an ideal job for a college student.
Classes at the Dental school end at ten o’clock PM. Of course, the students are gone within minutes of the end time, however, the teachers seem to drag their way out by half past the hour. Administrators soon follow. Nathan usually finishes his duties a little past eleven, unless one of the staff has extra duties to perform.
The single-story academy was constructed oddly. When they had built it, the building was intended to be used as a warehouse. It remained that way for the first twenty-five years of its existence. When the school leased the building they added inside walls to divide the back portion into classrooms and the front of the warehouse into offices and break rooms. They had done a good job of the reconstruction. One would not know it was a warehouse at one time.
Then there are the back classrooms. Four stand-alone rooms that are separated from the main wing of the school. In order to reach the classroom, the students need to walk down a long corridor, turn left through a double door, proceed down another doorless hallway, finally, turn right into a foyer with four doors. One on each wall. No one knows why it was constructed that way but, the students and teachers are uncomfortable using those classrooms. Nathan, especially, feared the set of classrooms that are isolated from the rest of the building.
Most nights, Nathan closes up the building alone. He struts up and down the hallways, in his gray well-fitted uniform. He listens to his footfalls as he enjoys the solitude. The dark and the quiet of the building seems peaceful to him. When he locks up the front offices, off of the main lobby, and the classrooms he feels comfortable.
That’s how it all appears on the first Friday night he experienced her. He strolled along, not conscience of any troubles. No one left in the building, no trespassers, and no alarms accidentally tripped. He headed down the long corridor to the rear of the building. The area that was away from the rest of the classrooms. It ordinarily hadn’t bothered him, in the past, to walk to the rear. After all, there were neon lights along the ceiling and no sign of trouble. However, tonight the lights seemed to be dimmer and pulsated oddly. The flickering made his vision uneasy and threw odd shadows across the long, blank walls. The waves of light gave the allusion that the hallway was becoming narrower as he walked.
He walked gingerly along and moved closer to the double doors. He drew a deep breath, his eyes darting about, and continued. He failed to understand what was causing the anxiety. Normally, the tales of the back rooms didn’t bother him. With each step closer, he felt the hair on his arms rise. He felt a need to look behind him, he knew that he was alone, but felt eyes on his back.
Nathan reached the end of the hallway. During class time, the double doors were always left open. However, at night, after the students left, the last teacher leaving always closed the doors. The teachers, in the rear classrooms, never stayed late. They never stayed by themselves. They wouldn’t admit it to anyone except Nathan that something unnatural was back there at night.
The teachers knew Nathan would have to secure their classrooms at night. They, thoughtfully, left the doors unlocked and the lights on when they left. When he arrived, he went from room to room and did his duty. The same procedure each night. It took only moments to secure each classroom. He went through the four rooms and walked out to the small foyer that connected to four rooms.
The hall light switch sits by the exit door. Once he flips that switch off, he would be in total darkness. The thought of the darkness engulfing him sent shivers up his spine. Nathan reached for the switch, looking back, over his shoulder, to the classrooms. He turned off the lights. Before he could open the door to the long corridor, he heard something unexpected. The low voice of a woman crying.
He flips the lights back on. The voice grows louder. The first cry was more of a whimper; low and sorrow filled. As the cry becomes louder, Nathan feels as if the sound is coming from around the corner, near the dental lab. “Hello. Who’s back there?” he calls out.
No answer, except the increasing sound of the piteous sobbing of a woman.
“I’m sorry if I locked you in one of the classrooms,” Nathan calls out again. “I’ll be right there to let you out.”
He dashes back to the classrooms and unlocks each door. He makes a thorough search of each room. All the time, listening to the sobs, but unable to tell where they are coming from. He goes through, not only the outer rooms but the closets within them. He peers under the desks and in every corner. The crying unexpectedly stops at the moment he locks the last classroom door.
There was only one other door. An exit door to the outside break area. He knows that it had been locked hours ago. There is no one that could be out there; it is isolated by high walls and locked gates. No, the sound of crying is definitely coming from inside.
As he stands in the hallway, totally perplexed by what he heard, the feeling of being watched comes over him again. The shiver returns as he quickly ran to the doors to the long corridor and switches the lights off. The sobbing starts again. This time loud and heart-wrenching. The feeling of dread falls over Nathan as he burst through the doors. Fumbling with his ring of keys, he locks the doors with trembling hands.
The trot down the corridor to the front offices seems to take forever. He is at the end of his shift and only has to wait for Amelia, the school purser, to be ready to leave her office. Her office is in the front of the building, far from the back classrooms.
“Amelia,” he blurts, “you’re not going to believe…”
“Yes I am,” she said, stopping him. The young lady looks up from whatever she is working on and smiles knowingly. The cute girl with straight brunette hair continues. “You’re not the first one to hear Miss Jasmine crying.”
“How…How do you know who it is?” Nathan stutters, still trying to catch his breath from the run down the corridor.
“We assume it’s her,” the woman of thirty-five said. “Miss Jasmine was a teacher for over forty years. About ten of them here at this school. The administrators decided that she was too old and forced her into retirement. Miss Jasmine loved teaching and it broke her heart to be let go.”
”what happened to her?”
“On her last day, after the students had left, she went into the dental lab and prepared a lethal drug. They found her, the next morning sitting at her desk.”
Now that he knows the story, Nathan felt relaxed. Looking around Amelia’s office, he asked, “Others have heard her too?”
“Many, but only when they are alone. Oddly, she’s only been heard on Fridays, like today.”
“Fascinating,” Nathan said. “maybe next Friday I’ll try to talk to her.”
“Well, aren’t you the gutsy one,” Amelia said, winking with approval. “The other security guards quit after meeting her. Maybe I’ll join you.” She added.
Nathan smiled as he answered, “Okay, I’ll come and get you before going back. But, if she cries only when there is one person to hear her, she may not show up with both of us there.”
“I’ll stay behind the double doors,” Amelia responded. “She may not know I’m there.”
“I’ll be looking forward to our date,” Nathan said, walking from the office.
“Date?” Amelia said, her eyes wide.
“Yea, you, me, and Miss Jasmine.

The next Friday became just another work day for Nathan and Amelia. He went back to the rear classes a number of times, during the day. He didn’t feel dread and dismay he had felt last week. It’s just another day.
At the end of the night, all students and personnel had left the building. In fact, they left quite early. All except Nathan and Amelia. Once he checked the main campus he went to Amelia’s office. “Are you ready to go?” He then noticed a third person in the office.
“Hi, Nathan. I think you know Doctor Donaldson, one of the instructors on staff,” Amelia said.
“Of course,” Nathan answered. “I just locked your classroom. Did you need to get back in?”
“No. I’m here about something else.” The dentist in his late forties said. “Amelia told me about your plans for tonight.”
Nathan sat on one of the chairs in front of Amelia’s desk as Donaldson took another. Nathan sharply gazed at Amelia with his arms crossed. He spoke to the doctor without looking over at him, “Did you want to join us tonight, doctor?”
“No, in fact, I came here to persuade you against such action. You don’t know who you will be communicating with back there.”
“He thinks we will be in some kind of danger if we open a link to Miss Jasmine,” Amelia said, a grin on her pretty face. “It’s just for fun. If there is a ghost, how is it going to hurt us?”
“Yea,” Nathan agreed. “what about all those people on the ghost shows on TV? They never get hurt.”
“Okay, listen,” the doctor said, his rubbing his temples. “I’m a Christian and firmly believe that those sightings, you see on TV are fabricated or much worse.”
“What do you mean?” Nathan asked.
“Demons, Nathan. Demons, like their leader, Satan are liars,” the doctor said, trying to convince the two from going back to the rear classrooms. “They take on the guise of departed family members or friends. They know about legends and folk tales and use them to fool people. They can impersonate whoever they choose. You think they are harmless entities, but, in reality, they are trying to lead you astray. They are trying to separate you from Jesus.”
“See that? You Christians are always trying to convert us,” Nathan scoffed. “As Ophra says, ‘there are many ways to heaven’. I’m going down there and see what your demon has to say,” Nathan laughed, turning to Amelia he said, “you coming?”
“There might be something to what he says, Nathan.”
“Fine. I’m going alone.” Nathan rose from his chair, his face red with anger and trudged to the door. He wasn’t sure why he was so angry. He thought of himself as a level head man, in control of his emotions. He shrugged it off and headed for the hallway.
“Maybe we should follow him,” Amelia suggested.
“Maybe we can keep him out of trouble,” Donaldson responded.
The two of them followed down the corridor, about ten paces behind Nathan. They didn’t want him to feel their presence if they could. Nonetheless, Nathan knew they were there. He turned around, “So you decided to join me after all.”
“Not join you, watch your back,” Donaldson said. “We’’ stay on this side of the double doors. If you need us, give us a shout.”
“I don’t know what I would need you for, but suit yourselves,” he chuckled as he passed through the doors without hesitation. As promised Amelia and Dr. Donaldson stayed back, making sure they could hear Nathan if he called.
“What are you thinking?” Amelia asked, looking up at the doctor’s hard expression.
“I’m thinking that he’s in for a big fright. One that he is not prepared for,” he answered.
“I’m a believer in Christ,” Amelia said. “I haven’t lived for Him. In fact, I feel guilty about Nathan being back there. Last week I kinda pushed him into confronting Miss Jasmine. I would be scared to go back there.”
“I’d be scared too,” the doctor conceded. “But, you and I have the Holy Spirit to protect us. Nathan has no one.”
“Unless the experience changes that,” Amelia whispered, leaning against the door.
The doctor nodded and said, “good point.”

Nathan went through his usual procedures. He checked the patio door for security. It was locked. He took special care of going through the classrooms, assuring himself that no one could be hiding anywhere in and around the classrooms. He then turned off the lights and locked the doors.
He walked across the foyer towards the hallway. He felt a little shaky as he proceeded. The light in the hallway shrouded him, but he still felt uncomfortable. He watched his shadow walk along with him, painted on the wall like a black chaperon. It looked as if the shadow was moving independently like it made slightly different movements. But, Nathan saw that only in his mind.
He went to the door that led out of the three classroom area into the long hallway. He saw Dr. Donaldson and Amelia peering, questioning, through the glass window in the top half of the door. ‘nothing happening tonight, Nathan called out. “Sorry to disappoint you.”
He placed his hand on the light switch and said, “I’m getting ready to leave. If someone wants to talk, nows the time to do it.” He looked over his shoulder and peered into the darkness of the classrooms.
A long pause ensued as all three of the investigating team stood like statues. They then heard it.
The sobbing of a woman. Soulful, sad sobs that brought pity into the hearts of the trio. Nathan looked at the window of the door and saw that the others had heard it too. Their saucer-like eyes darted to each other and back to Nathan in the foyer. He put his finger to his lips and quieted them.
He turned and walked back to the classrooms again. He heard the volume of the wailing rising as he drew closer to one of the classroom doors. “You don’t need to cry,” he said, looking at the rooms. “God can lead you to another world, just ask Him.”
The sobs grew louder and seemed more frantic.
Nathan pulled a small tape-recorder out of his pocket and turned it on. “Would you like to speak to me?”
“Are you Miss Jasmine? What would you like me to do?”
” Come to my class,” a shaking voice whispered to him. He looked back to the door window and it was apparent that his two companions didn’t hear the request. They stood silently listening, waiting for something to happen.
Nathan looked towards the classroom that Miss Jasmine once occupied. There she sat. Behind the desk, the murky figure of an old, plump woman sat waiting for her pupil. The gray mist rose and waved to Nathan to come to her. As he slowly shuffled closer, her figure became more clear. The large bun on top of her head was coming undone. She had bulging eyes on either side of her bulbous nose and a crooked smile that sent shivers up his spine.
He slowly moved towards the room. The closer he got the wider and more grotesque the smile became. “No, I don’t want to be in your classroom,” Nathan stuttered.
At that, the smile left Miss Jasmine and a deep raspy voice echoed throughout the hallway. “You will come to me!”
At the sound of that voice, the doctor and Amelia dropped to their knees. Not from fear, but in order to aid Nathan. “He needs prayer,” the doctor said. He led Amelia in prayer for the protection of Nathan. Fervently, he asked for intervention.
Nathan couldn’t move. His feet were frozen in place. He couldn’t step forward or backward. Fear gripped his whole being. He trembled, his eyes wide and his mouth open.
The creature, who looked like an old woman, stood and floated through the desk towards Nathan. As it moved, it changed its appearance. It morphed into a huge male figure that had a wolf-like snout and blazing red eyes. Drool dripped from its jaws as it slowly crept closer to the petrified Nathan.
Nathan continued to hear the words, “you will come to me”. The raspy voice repeated over and over the command. Then, it stopped and Nathan could see the gaze of a demon glaring down him. The creature was poised to attack, but, oddly, didn’t move any closer.
Nathan felt a warmth move over him. Not a warmth of a fire or the warmth of the blazing sun. No, it was the warmth of love as if the arms of someone who loved him were wrapped around him with protection. Nathan heard the commanding words spoken, “Be off with you, demon!”
The creature, within inches of Nathan, lost its form. It became a glob of black smoke. Thicker than any smoke he’d ever seen. So thick that he couldn’t see through it. It hovered in front of him a moment, then shot off, through an outside wall and out of sight.
Nathan instantly felt the fear, hatred, and gloom leave as well. He looked around him and knew he was free of the entity. Doctor Donaldson and Amelia must have felt the same transformation; the evil force had left.
Nathan saw that the double doors were wide open and the two Christians were walking towards him. Both were smiling broadly. “Was that you?” Nathan asked.
The doctor answered, “Indirectly, I suppose. We knew you were in trouble so we prayed for intervention from God.”
“So, that was God around me? I felt his love and protection,” Nathan said.
“It was probably an angel sent by God to protect you. That’s the way the Holy Spirit works,” Amelia said. “Now maybe you won’t mess with things you have no understanding of.”
The three walked out of the area of the back classrooms and ambled down the long corridor. After a few minutes of silence, Nathan said, “Now, tell me about this Jesus of yours.”

To Prevent a Suicide




To Prevent a Suicide
Rick Adelmann

“Look, Helen,” he said, drumming his fingers on the dining room table. “I understand where you’re coming from. You’re dedicated to your career. Fine. But you also have a family. That family never sees you anymore.”
The impatient woman, who he pleads with, was dashing around the house in a mad scramble to get ready for her evening work. “We’ve been through this before, dear,” she answered curtly. “I am not a puppet who answers to every one of your needs, or to the children’s, for that matter.” Helen stopped at the door that leads to the dining room, her hands on her hips as she tapped her toe. “I am a trained therapist and I am not going to waste my talents and education sitting at home every evening to watch television.”
The tall handsome woman stopped to check the time and then to straightened her dress. Helen, in her late thirties, looked a bit older because of her stressfully lifestyle. Long hours and deep commitment to her work have prematurely aged her. Her chestnut brown hair is streaked heavily with gray and her face is pale, showing signs of fatigue. She glares down at her husband, Jim, who is still hunched over the table. “I have a right to use my spare time as I wish,” she stated defiantly.
“Even when it hurts your family?” Jim snapped back at her, as aggressively as she is with him.
“Oh please,” she says with a laugh. ”Don’t be an old fool. It doesn’t hurt our family by working a double shift at the clinic. You and the children will have to adjust. In fact, that’s what I tell my patients at the office. We’re all living in a time of constant change and we must all learn to adjust to the changes.”
“Save your jargon for the crazies that call you tonight. I don’t want to hear it. What I’m telling you is that the kids miss and need you. You’re at the office all day with your patients then spend every evening at the suicide prevention center. It’s just too much!” Jim Kenner’s voice filled with emotion. But, he knew his words were bouncing off a stone, hard wall. “Go ahead and do what you want. I’m tired of fighting with you about it.”
Helen Kenner paused at the door and sighed as she looks back at her dejected husband. His head held in his hands as he stared at the table top. “If only you could see the good that I’m doing you wouldn’t be so hard on me,” she said. After a moment of silence, she leaves the room.

* * * *

Helen sat in the small cubical, waiting for her first call of the evening. Maxine, the day therapist, left the office a short time ago. She received only a hand-full of calls. That’s good news for a suicide prevention center, however, it makes for a boring evening.
Helen is the only therapist on duty for the next hour and she felt very much alone. She longed for someone to speak to. The small office can be so quiet when one is alone and waiting. Unfortunately, all she can do is stare around her bleak cubical and ponder about her argument with Jim. Had it really been all her fault that she is in a troubled marriage and have unresponsive children? Helen fiddled with the mouthpiece on her headset as her mind rushed to answers.
“No, it isn’t my fault!” she said out loud. “How can they misunderstand the importance of what I am doing?” Helen began tapping the eraser of the pencil in her hand on the desk. “I have a career, an extremely important career and I’m not giving it up to appease their trivial desires.” She then scolded herself, I had better start thinking more pleasant thoughts if I am to be of any use to my callers.
She hates the boredom and inactivity on slow nights. Even though a slow night means there’s no one contemplating suicide. She again starts fiddling with her pencil and flipped through the notepad in front of her. Helen’s eyes darted around the room. They stopped on the clock above her cubicle that reads half past six. Then her eyes travel to the door a few feet away, in hope of seeing the seven o’clock girl enter. She will have to bring a magazine or book to read in the future. Helen thought about the blank walls of the office when the phone rang.
“Hello, this is Helen, may I help you?” She said, with a smile in her voice.
“I need to speak to someone,” a trembling elderly ladies voice said.
“Well, that’s what I’m here for. Let’s start with your name, shall we? Helen continued to smile.
“Let’s just say it’s Betty. I don’t want to give out my real name, just yet,” the woman stuttered.
“That’s all right, Betty, we don’t need that right now. What is it you want to talk about?”
“I….I tried to kill myself a little while ago. I stopped myself, but, I still have the desire to try again.”
So she doesn’t really want to do it, or she wouldn’t have stopped herself. Helen thought about the statement Betty made. She said she would ‘try’ to do it again. She didn’t say she would do it. “You don’t really want to die, do you, Betty?”
“I don’t know what I want,” Betty cried. “I’m so confused and lonely. I don’t know what I want.” She began to start sobbing uncontrollably. All Helen could do is listen and wait. This reaction is typical of her callers. By the time the person is ready to call the center. They have been through hell. As a last resort, they call Helen. The sound of a kind, caring voice is sometimes all they need. But, Betty said she had already tried, so it may be a serious problem.
Finally, Betty stops crying, “I’m sorry I did that, dear. I generally have better self-control on my emotions.” Betty apologized through sniffles.
“No. No need for an apology. It is a healthy outpouring of the pain. If you feel like crying, go for it. Don’t be ashamed to show emotion.” Helen encouraged her and continued. “Tell me, Betty, what made you call me?”
“I just wanted to hear another voice, Someone to talk to.”
“Do you have a family member who you can confide in?” Helen probed, looking for the key to this ladies problem.
“No. I’m an old woman totally forgotten by my family,” Betty replied. “I’m living in this nice, brand new condo with no one to be with. Oh, Helen, the loneliness is unbearable!” she said with a heavy aching in her voice. “The worst part is that I brought this all on myself.”
“Now let’s not be too hard on ourselves, Betty. The dutiful mother, being neglected by her selfish children is not a new phenomenon.”
“Please, believe me, I am the one to blame for where I am,” Betty whispered into the phone. I could have had a loving husband and devoted children as well as grandchildren. I threw it all away years ago.” Betty began to sob again. Choking back the tears, she added, “I can’t talk about it anymore. Please, I’m sorry, goodbye.”
Helen became alarmed. “Hello, hello, Betty are you there?” she asked to no avail. “Nuts,” said, throwing down her pencil. Well if she wants to talk again, I’ll be here.” But, she didn’t call again that evening and, after a few calls from other people in need, Helen soon forgot about the old woman.

* * *
The next evening, under protests from her family, Helen was back at work at the center. It was a slow evening and she was just beginning to think about the open-house at her son’s school she was missing when her phone rang.
Helen heard the familiar voice from the night before and the memory of that call immediately sprang back into her mind. “Hello, is this Helen, the person I spoke to last night?” Betty asked.
“Oh, yes,” exclaimed Helen. “Please don’t hang up this time. I’d like to talk to you.”
“I’m sorry. I was so upset yesterday that I could barely speak about it anymore.”
Betty appeared to be in better control, Helen thought. Her stutter was gone and there was a certain sweetness to her voice. “How are you feeling today, Betty?” asked Helen cheerfully.
“Not much better, to be honest with you. I’m still depressed. I’m still at a point where I don’t care if I live or die. I hate just existing,” she said, her voice now dripping with pain.
“How long have you felt this way?”
“Off and on for about ten years. It’s been much more intense in the last few months,” Betty continued. “My daughter’s wedding was in July and I wasn’t invited. I didn’t even know she was engaged. I feel forgotten by everyone I ever knew.”
“Last night you said it was all your fault,” Helen reminded her. “Can you elaborate on that?”
There was a long pause from Betty’s end of the line. Helen heard a shuffling of clothes and felt an uneasy tension as Betty sighed deeply. “Where do I start?” she asked in a soft voice. “I suppose I have to give you a short history of my life. No,” she quickly corrected. “I’d bore you with that.”
“Tell me what caused the rift between you and your family,” Helen insisted, leaning back in her swivel chair.
“My family doesn’t care about me because I never cared about them when they needed me the most,” she said. “When my children were young and needed a mother, I was busy holding down two jobs. I didn’t have time for them. To make matters worse, we didn’t need the money. I wanted to promote my career.”
“How did your husband react to this?” Helen asked.
“I’m afraid he acted badly; not that I blame him, now. At the time we were constantly bickering. He wanted me to stay at home in the evenings and I thought he was being dictatorial. But, I was wrong. All he wanted was a normal family life.”
“He left you?”
“No, not at first,” Betty said, thoughtfully. “He stayed with me for some time. He then got to a point where he couldn’t deal with not having a wife home with him and the kids. That’s when I moved into this wretched condo.”
“Where is he now?”
“He died soon after our breakup. Before I came to my senses and realized what I had given up. I feel guilty over his death. I made such a mess out of my life,” she said, no longer sounding sweet. Her sadness over her loneliness turned to anger and self-hatred over what she thought she caused. I could feel a deep depression rolling over her and her self-loathing.
She developed the same trembling in her voice that she had the night before. She reluctantly continued. “My children blamed me for his death. They said he died from a broken heart brought on by my years of neglect as a wife and mother. I sometimes think they’re right.”
“You’re letting them get to you on that point. You feel guilty about the break up of your marriage and your children want you to feel worse. They have a power over you that’s causing the guilt. That’s too much of a burden for you to bear.” Helen wanted to console Betty as much as possible but Betty wouldn’t have it.
“Whatever the case, my husband died a broken man. My children disowned me, and I’m alone. I can’t stand living like this.” Betty’s voice was shrill and Helen could tell that the situation was getting out of hand. She’d heard the voice of despair before and Betty was at the abyss of no return.
You must calm down, dear,” Helen said in her most soothing tone. “You must let me help you.”
“You could come out and visit me,” Betty pleaded. “All I need is someone who cares to talk to me. I need to see a friendly face. I need to know that at least one person in this crazy world cares about me.”
“I wish I could, but it’s forbidden. We cannot leave the phones and visit a caller. I’m sorry, Betty,” Helen answered.
Betty began to sob, breaking Helen’s heart. “I’m so alone,” She wailed. “If you don’t come out here I might get desperate. And, don’t send out paramedics, I won’t let them in.”
Helen didn’t like being emotionally blackmailed like this, but what could she do? The old woman wouldn’t be a physical threat to her. She leaned back in her cubicle and glanced around the room listening to Betty sob. “All right, what’s your address? I’ll come for a short visit on my way home.”
“Oh, thank you, my dear,” she quickly regained her composure. My address is, 1221 W. Pico Street apartment 3D.” Betty hung-up before Helen had a chance to respond.
“What have I gotten into now?” She thought there would be no harm in breaking the rules, just this once.
At 11: pm Helen ripped off the sheet of paper with the address on it and dashed out. Helen knew the part of town Betty lived in, however, she couldn’t remember any condominiums on that street. She traveled west on Pico Street directly to the address where the condo was supposed to be. She couldn’t find it. She assumed she made a mistake so she did a U-turn and looked again. It was dark and hard to see the addresses. She slowed down and searched the address numbers on the curb. There it was, 1221 painted on the curb, but no condo. A chain link fence surrounded a large empty lot. Helen sat in her car and reread the address on the slip of paper and thought that she may have written the address wrong.
Across the street from the empty lot was a service station. It appeared to have no customers but it was open. She drove into the station to ask direction. She ventured into the office and found an old man sitting in a swivel chair behind a beat-up wooden desk. He looked up from his crumpled newspaper and stood as he saw Helen coming in. He was a short man in his sixties with gray hair and a short crop of whiskers.
“Can I help you, Ma’am?”
“I certainly hope so,” Helen said. “I seem to be lost. I’ve been looking for this address and can’t find it.” She handed the slip of paper to the old man. He took it from her and, after he put his glasses on, read the address.
“Why sure that’s easy to find,” he said, chuckling. “See that lot across the street,” he said while pointing. “That there used to be a grocery store with this address on it. About a year ago they tore it down and made plans to build condos on the land.” He smiled at Helen with a puzzled look.
Helen was indeed amazed at this information. “That can’t be,” she stuttered. “I’ve been speaking on the phone to a woman who lives there.”
The old man gave her a queer look and chuckled again, “It’s plain to see that there ain’t no building at all on the lot. In fact, there’s a sign on the property giving the address. You can check it yourself,” he advised her. “You probably got a wrong address.” He handed the slip of paper back to Helen and sat down picking up his newspaper again.
Helen quickly strutted out of the station, walked across the street, and found the sign. She found it facing towards a cross street and it did give the address, 1221 W. Pico Street. Under it, the sign read, ‘Future site of luxury condominiums.’
Helen stood, staring at the sign, totally confused. Why would she give me a wrong address if she was so desperate to see me, she thought. The question circled through her mind while she drove home.

* * *
The following evening was the same as the past two, slowing and boring. That was until the phone rang at 6;35 pm. Helen heard the indignant voice of Betty.
“Where were you last night? I waited up for you for hours. This is so important to us, why didn’t you come?” she asked, sadness dripping from her words.
“I did come,” Helen whispered, fearing the others in the office would overhear her, “There was no condo at the address you gave me.”
“Don’t talk nonsense, deary. It’s the condos on Pico Street. I’m there now, looking out the window at the gas station across the street. I’ve been here for years,” she lectured. “You must come, we need to get together.”
“I found the Chevron station with no problem,” Helen answered drily. “But there is no condo, just an empty lot.”
“Oh, please come,” she again pleaded with a shaky, pitiful voice. “We need to talk. It’s so important.” Betty hung up without warning again. Just as she had on the first night.
Helen began to think there was something fishy about these calls. She didn’t leave the office this time. She was angry at the way the old woman was trying to manipulate her. She decided to finish her tour at the center and try to forget about the incident. At 11:00 pm her curiosity got the best of her. Instead of driving straight home, she drove down Pico Street. However, there was no change. The empty lot stood at 1221 across from the Chevron station. Helen shrugged her shoulders and headed for home.

* * *
The next evening, and every evening for the next week, Bettys called continued. Always at 6:35 and always a desperate call for help. She continued to ask for a face to face meeting that would benefit both of them.
Helen began to mull over the unorthodox direction these calls were going. The same time, the same plea, the wrong address, why all the mystery? Helen had a close friend, Sergeant John Merlo, with the police department. Maybe he could help her find this woman. The next day she gave him a call and indicated that Betty was suicidal. She explained that it was of the utmost importance that she reach her.
On Monday evening, Helen and John showed up at the Suicide Prevention Center together. He brought along the equipment he needed to trace a call once Betty called in again. By 6:15 he was ready to go.
“This is really important to you, isn’t it Helen?” the sergeant asked, settling into the seat next to her.
“Yes it is, and I’m not sure why,” Helen said. “I’ve had callers refusing to reveal their identity before, and it was no problem. This woman has some kind of hold on me. There’s something about her that draws me to her. I can’t explain it, especially about the address. She insists she lives on an empty lot on Pico.”
Helen and John watched the clock tick by. The phone rang on schedule. It was 6:35. The policeman jumped up and ran to the machine he had waiting. And gestured to Helen to answer the phone.
“Hello, Helen deary is that you? Oh, of course, it is,” she said, coldly. “I think there’s someone else with you tonight. But, never mind that.”
“Betty, how are you tonight? I do want to see you. Can we talk about that?”
“No, Helen. It may be too late. This is my last call to you. I think I’ve given you enough time to think about who I am.”
“I don’t understand. I’ve been trying to help you through your prob…”
Betty didn’t give her a chance to finish before interrupting, My name is not Betty, you already know that. You must listen to me so that I may not exist. I do not want to be here, miserable and alone and the only way I can alter my life is if you listen. Jim is right, by working two jobs and staying away from the family will ruin your family life.
Bryan needed you at all the school open house that you shrugged off. All the baseball games you missed, the poor boy eyed the stands hoping to see you. You never showed up. Cindy needed you at the girl scout meetings and you weren’t there. Most important, you neglected you husband who loved you and so desperately needed you. Please go home and save us!”
“Don’t let her hang up,” John Merlo called to Helen. “There’s something strange happening with my equipment.
It may be too late. Was her final warning, she hung up. Helen stared blankly at the receiver for a minute before hanging up. John came back to her cubicle with a serious scowl on his face. “That was strange,” he said, loosening his tie. “The number she was calling from is nowhere near Pico.”
“Let me see that,” she insisted, pulling the slip of paper from his hand. “That, that’s impossible,” she stammered.
“That’s what I thought. The number she’s calling from is your second line right here in the cubicle,” he said. “Is there anyone else here?”
“No, I’m always alone when she calls. Or if someone is here, they don’t use that line,” she explained.
“Is there anything else I can do for you, Helen?”
“No, John, thank you for your help. I know who she is now,” Helen said, nodding at the piece of paper and smiling. She leaned back in her chair and quietly thought about what had happened. No matter how impossible it seemed, there was no other rational explanation.
“Now that I know who Betty is, we’ll both rest easy.”

Through God’s Eyes


Through God’s Eyes
Rick Adelmann

Lucy began having problems with her eye for the last two months. She’d always had good eyesight but, for some reason, she began having blurred vision. The blurring didn’t prevent her from seeing entirely. It merely appeared to her as if she were walking through a fog.
Lucy Prentiss was always to prideful for her own good. She couldn’t admit there was anything wrong with her. However, this time, her husband insisted that she see an ophthalmologist. Her neighbor referred her to her doctor. Mrs. Symington was an active member of a local church where Lucy attended on Easter Sunday or whenever they had a luncheon after services. Mrs. Symington called it Ressurection Sunday and explained why to Lucy, but it didn’t seem to register with Lucy.
In any case, Lucy was told that Doctor Cherub was a nice man and an excellent eye doctor. Mrs. Symington held Lucy’s hands like a motherly figure and said, “If you tell him that I referred you, he will go out of his way to help.”
Lucy called his office, and sure enough, she got an appointment for the very next day.
Tuesday afternoon, Lucy Prentiss walked into Dr. Cherub’s office and was surprised to see the waiting room empty. The only person present was the receptionist. The attractive young woman had blonde, almost white, curly locks falling down across her shoulders. Her pink cheeks framed an infectious smile.
Lucy walked up to the front desk and looked at the name badge the receptionist was wearing and found her name to be Angela. “Hello, Angela. I see I’m your only patient right now,” Lucy said cheerily.
“Indeed you are, Mrs. Prentiss,” Angela replied. “This is our lunch hour. Since Mrs. Symington was gracious enough to refer you to us, we will go the extra mile for you.
“How delightful,” Lucy exclaimed. “Good service is hard to come by in this day and age.”
Angela leaned forward and winked merrily. “That is so true. Now if you could take a seat and fill out these forms we can get right to work. The doctor will be with you in a moment.”
She completed the forms, and immediatelyAngela called her in. The receptionist led her into the examination room where Dr. Cherub was waiting. “What have we here?” he asked, his voice soft and reassuring. He took the forms from Lucy and directed her to a seat.
Lucy liked the way the elderly man looked. He was short and broad shouldered. His white hair was thick and full of waves. His face was clear of frown lines or any blemishes. Doctor Cherub read the form over and gave a few thoughtful um-hums while reading.
“Well young lady, let’s see if we can help you with your problem,” he said. “We want you to see everything clearly, don’t you know.”
As he began the examination, Lucy said, “I’ve never had a problem with my eyesight before, doctor. I don’t understand what happened.”
“One never knows,” Dr. Cherub answered in a whisper. “Things like this could come along for any number of reasons. Then they go away for a better reason, don’t you know.”
Lucy held still as he looked into her eyes. She thought about the statement he had just made. Rather odd, she thought.
“There I have it all worked out,” he said with a huge smile.
“What? So soon?”
“You bet ya.” then he called out for his receptionist. “Angela, please bring our new friend a bottle of Mark211.”
Angela promptly walked into the examining room with a small bottle with an eyedropper in it. Her smile was just as dazzling as when Lucy walked in. It was as infectious as the doctors was. Lucy couldn’t help but grin along with them.
“Here you are, Doctor. Is there anything else?”
“No, that will be all, dear girl.” Dr. Cherub handed the bottle over to Lucy. “Now, this should help you see clearly, don’t you know,” he said, looking into her eyes. “Make sure you are seated when you apply the drops in your eyes. Tilt your head back and put two drops into each eye. Then sit back and look around you.”
“Is that important? Looking around?” Lucy asked. It seemed like a trivial point to make.
“Oh my, yes,” he said. “It is almost the most important part of the cure.”
She again was perplexed by the little man and his methods. “Well, okay, if you say so, Doctor. How long will I need to take the drops?”
“Until all is clear to you.”
“How will I know—“
“When it is clear to you, don’t you know,” the doctor answered as he ushered me out of the office.
The doctor and Angela stood at the office door and cheerfully waved to Lucy while she left. While walking to her car, she thought to herself about the incident. It was the oddest doctor’s office she’d been to. It also occurred to her that they didn’t speak of the charges or billing. There wasn’t anyplace on the paperwork, she filled out, asking for insurance information.
She gave it little thought as she got into her car. Lucy decided to try the eye drops since she was now sitting down. There was no time like the present, she thought. She pulled the bottle from her purse, shook it up, and leaned her head back. She counted one two of drops that entered each eye. She kept her head back as she blinked wildly, then looked around her. Everything was clear, no blurring! She was ecstatic. Her eyesight was normal. Before this she was fearful of driving her car, now, all was clear.
Lucy started the engine and drove out of the parking lot onto the main boulevard. Almost immediately, she noticed something was wrong. Her eyes were fine, she could see everything. Clearly, it was something else. However, the cars around her seemed to be driving erratically, and the people in them gave off a perception of evil.
The cars were speeding past her and cutting her off. Then they seemed to take turns tailgating her. She never experienced such hateful drivers.
They blared their horns and shouted profanities at her using the vilest language she’d ever heard. A pick-up truck pulled up alongside her. It was the first time she had a chance to look into the face of one of these drivers. She looked over and was shocked to see a repulsive, ugly man. His face was scared and covered in cream colored puss and was oozing from open boils. He stared at Lucy with hatred she’d never felt before. He then sped up and cut her off. It caused her to momentarily lose control.
Lucy Prentiss was frightened beyond her comprehension. She had to get off the road and do it quickly. She looked to the right and was relieved to see the entrance to a park. She roared through two lanes of traffic and skidded to a halt in the parking lot.
The terrified girl sat clutching the wheel with her eyes pinched closed. She came to her senses and breathed evenly for a moment. Then, grabbing a tissue from her glove box, she wiped her eyes clear of the medication.
What the hell just happened, she thought. Lucy managed to climb out of her care and mad it past strolling families and children playing with her eyesight returning to a blur. She found a park bench and sat in order to calm her nerves.
“That was dangerous, Mrs. Prentiss.”
Lucy heard the voice of Dr. Cherub and looked to her right. There he sat, smiling as he did in the office. She turned to her left and discovered Angela sitting and watching her. “Where did you come from?”
“We followed you, honey,” Angela whispered, leaning into Lucy.
“I could have been killed,” Lucy said, still shaken by the experience.
“Well, I told you to be seated when you put the drops in. I suppose I will have to be more specific on my instructions,” the doctor said. “You shouldn’t have been driving, don’t you know.”
“Yes you do, doctor,” Angela agreed. She then looked at Lucy and touched her hand. It immediately drove all the tension and fear from her. “Now that you’re seated, you need to put the drops in again.”
“Oh please, they cause hallucinations. I really don’t want to go through that again.”
“No no no, my dear,” the doctor said. “They’re not hallucinations. You can see clearly with the drops in. Go ahead, try it once more. We’re here for your protection.”
Lucy sat quietly for a moment, looking back and forth to Angela and the doctor. She slowly opened her purse and pulled out the bottle with the eye dropper. She then went through the same sequence as before. After completed, she clenched her eyes tightly shut, afraid of what she would see.
“You need to open your eyes to see clearly, honey,” Angela said softly.
“It is important to see clearly, don’t you know,” added Dr. Cherub.
“They’re back,” Lucy gasped, looking at all the ugly, hateful people in the park. “Moments ago there were normal people walking by, now they are hideous creatures.” Her voice trembled as she asked, “Am I seeing demons?”
“No, my dear,” the doctor said, holding her hand. “They are people like you, but you see them as God sees them.”
“That’s what we meant when we said, you needed to see clearly,” Angela said. “You, as a natural human being, can not see the sins of people on their outsides or in their hearts. But, God can. He sees the ugly sins that mankind has committed over the years. Lucy looked at the men as they leered at the women with lust in their hearts. The women wanted the jewels and fine clothes the other women wore. Lucy could feel the racial hatred, the envy, all the lies painted on their souls.
“Because of these sins, He must reject them from His kingdom,” Angela explained with pain in her voice. “You have been given a gift to be able to see those sins.”
Lucy continued to watch people walking by her. They were totally unawares of what she saw on them. They didn’t know she could see what they’ve been trying to hide all their lives. Lucy now understood why she needed to see clearly. “What about me?” she asked.
“Do you have a hand mirror in your bag?” Angela asked.
Lucy fetched it out and looked at herself. She nearly screamed with horror at the sight of herself. The skin on her face was peeling off in large chunks and blood, and white puss slid down her cheeks. “That’s the sin that God sees?” she asked as she began to weep.
“Yes,” answered the doctor. “Only you and God know what sins you’ve committed that caused what you see. He’s allowing you to see through His eyes.”
Lucy dropped the mirror back into her purse and looked at all the roving people again. This time, among the throngs of sin-scarred people she saw a few others. These few were sparkling clean. They had no impurities. They glowed with a white light that was clean. They were bathed in light and showed contentment in their smiling features.
“Who are they? Angels?”
“No we are the angels,” Angela responded, with a smile. They are those who accepted the free gift of cleansing from God. They are Christians. Jesus died for all mankind, they are the ones who accepted his salvation and asked to be cleansed of the sin they committed.”
“How do I get clean?” Lucy asked. “I don’t understand.”
“Only Christians can tell you about it. Angels are forbidden,” Angela said. “Go talk to those who are in the light. They will explain it to you.”
Doctor Cherub leaned towards her and whispered, “Or you can talk to Mrs. Symington if you feel awkward talking to strangers.”
However, Lucy was anxious to know. She walked to one of the women she saw in the light. Lucy turned to say good-bye to the doctor and Angela, but they had vanished in the few short moments it took Lucy to walk a few steps. Lucy smiled and ran up to the lady she saw in the light and asked, “Can you help me?”

Through the Hedge



Through the Hedge
Rick Adelmann

He didn’t remember a thing. David Peters sat back in the car seat and looked through the windshield. All he could see, passed the broken glass, was the trunk of a huge tree. It appeared to be sitting within inches of him. He knew the engine of his Buick would stop it from coming that close. The airbag had stopped him from flying into the tree and, other than being a little shaken up, he felt fine.
He gazed around him and pieced it all together. A memory of what had happened flashed back to him. He traveled at a high rate of speed and lost control of the car. He drove off the road and there he sat.
After a few pushes on the driver’s side door, it popped open with a loud crunching sound. David slid from the seat onto the asphalt of the deserted road. He looked down at himself and felt his limbs, satisfied that he hadn’t broken anything he chuckled to himself and thought, the insurance company is going to love this.
Of all the places to have this happen, David thought, here I am out in the middle of nowhere. He looked up the road and saw nothing but open fields on either side. He turned around and saw an identical view, no vehicles, no houses, nothing.
“Now what?” he said out loud.
“You could go through this hedge. It’s a short cut to a more pleasant place.”
David Peters spun around and came face to face with a white-haired young man. He wore a Roman style toga, sandals, and a most reassuring smile.
“Where the hell did you come from?” David stuttered.
“Certainly not from there. I came through this hedge that runs along the side of the road.,” the stranger answered.
David looked to his left and saw a six-foot high hedge, right where the man said it stood. It looked dry and had little color left in it. I didn’t see this shrubbery before, he thought.
“There’s an opening here,” the man said, walking through it and out of David’s sight.
“Hey, wait a minute,” David called as he plunged into the opening in the hedge. The wall of dried leaves and branches seemed to part for him as he moved along a narrow path. From the road, it appeared like any simple hedge, once he entered it, it became an elaborate and much wider maze. The narrow pathway seemed to beckon him forward. It twisted left, then to the right, and back to the left again. David’s sense of direction became misaligned. He became confused.
The man who plunged in ahead of him was nowhere to be seen. He had to be moving quickly. David couldn’t see or hear him. David glanced around as he traveled. Oddly, the shrubbery began to come alive. The leaves and branches gradually became green and pliable. Flowers started to blossom as he progressed. As he moved along the path, the flowers became large, their colors more vibrant, and the fragrance more intoxicating.
David Peters lost track of time and couldn’t even guess at how long he traveled the pathway. “Ah, there’s the exit,” he said, looking at a beam of light in front of him. David stepped through the opening in the hedge and found himself in a world of vegetation he’d never seen before. The first thing he looked for was the white haired man who preceded him.
However, he stood alone. Alone on the crest of a hill overlooking an enormous valley with green hills surrounding it. At his feet lied the beginning of a cobblestone walkway. It led down the hill and circled through the valley. He looked into the distance and saw it curve about, from the valley to another hill and down again. In a number of places other pathways broke off from the main one and headed in other directions.
“This is impossible,” David said out loud. “On the other side of this hedge, it’s dry and ugly. Nothing is there that anyone would desire. Now this!”
He stood at the foot of the path and gazed in every direction. The beauty of the place electrified his imagination. He thought in terms of an immense park, but that was because his feeble mind could think of no other description for it.
“Go on,” the voice said. When he spun around to see who spoke, no one was there. Nonetheless, he obeyed the voice. He started down the cobblestone path. A feeling of belonging overcame him. He not only saw and heard the rustling of leaves and branches and the sounds of birds and frogs, but he felt them. He felt like he was a part of it all.
The feelings of fear and pain were now alien to him, he had no concerns of what lied ahead, or what he left behind.
David followed a curve in the path and found a man sitting on a folding chair and looking out over the valley. He sat in front of an easel and busily painted a seascape. The painting held crashing waves, rocks on the beach, and miles of white sand. The young man would look out over the easel and back to the canvas. There was no ocean where he looked.
“Well, don’t just stand there. Come on over and take a look,” the artist said. He looked over his shoulder at David.
“Okay,” David said, walking up behind the man. “You must be an excellent artist to do that from memory.” David moved up behind him and looked at the painting then gazed over the canvas. An ocean beach appeared to him. Where there were green hills and valleys a moment ago, became a section of the Pacific Ocean.
David had an incredulous look on his face. The painter smiled and said, “You must be new here.”
“Yes,” David replied. “I just came through the hedge a short time ago. What place is this?”
“You’ll see,” the man said, lighting a pipe.
“That smells wonderful,” David said about the pipe tobacco.
“Yep, they let me have my favorite blends. Been smoking it for over sixty years.”
“But you’re no older than thirty-two, maybe—,”
“You’ll see,” the painter said, puffing on his pipe. He turned back to his painting.
David stepped back to the path and the ocean vanished. The green hills returned to his vision. He felt more perplexed than ever. David stepped out again and walked on.
In the distance, he could see a group of people. They all were lying in bathing suits on lounge chairs. They formed a large square around the green grass. He stepped up to them and an Olympic-sized swimming pool materialized in the center of their square. He now could see tables with every sort of snack on them.
A woman looked up from her chair and said, “Have a snack. “There’s always more than enough.”
“Thank you,” David said. “I haven’t eaten in a while. Oddly, I’m not really hungry. But, I’ll try something.” He went to the first table and found a huge spread of salads of every sort. He opted for the potato salad. When he took a bit, the sensation of taste that came over his senses that he nearly cried out. The texture, the sweetness, and the creaminess was far superior to anything he’d ever eaten.
“I can’t get over how good this is,” he said.
“The woman smiled and said, “You’re new here.”
“I know, I’ll see,” David said, repeating the artist’s comment.
All those around the pool laughed as he continued to eat. He thanked them and walked off. Everything vanished from sight except the people relaxing around the green patch of grass.
On and On he went. Over one hill to another valley and around another curve in the path. David met many people along the way. They were all doing what they enjoyed doing most. Golfers, Bowlers, baseball players, dancers, singers, and so on. Then there were those who enjoyed gardening, hiking, bad mitten, and many other activities. All of them young, healthy and vigorous.
Up to this point, all were off the side of the path. However, he could see in the distance, a woman on the trail. She was coming in his direction. David sped up his pace to meet her. As she came forward, he saw that she too was young appeared healthy and attractive.
She smiled at him as she approached. “Hi, you must be new here as well.”
“How did you guess?”
“The confused look on your face.”
“There’s a lot to take in around here,” David said, looking around. “How did you get here?”
“I don’t know, for sure,” she said, a puzzled look on her face. “But, a short time ago, I walked through a bathroom door. And, here I am.” She laughed at the idea. “I was lying on a hotel bed and needed to use the bathroom. I opened the door and found myself at the beginning of a cobblestone walkway.”
“Fascinating,” David said. “I was sitting in my wrecked car and walked through a hedge on the side of the road, and that led me to the cobblestone path as well.” “By the way, I’m David Peters,” he stuck out his hand.
“Ilene Jeffers,” she said shaking his hand. “Everyone I meet seems to understand this place but me. Now I have someone to be confused with.”
David smiled broadly at her.
She laughed sweetly. “I know what you mean. But, I’m getting an idea about it all.”
“Tell me. What do you think is going on?” he asked.
“Well, I’ve met a lot of people here,” she said. “The last woman was in a kitchen baking cookies and cakes of all sorts. I asked her why. She said it was what she enjoyed doing. It was her dream throughout life to bake for others. Now she can bake any time she wants.”
“I know,” David said. “I’ve met people doing the same. Not baking, but doing things they always wanted to do. Or do things they’ve done throughout their lives and were good at.”
“Right,” Ilene said. “David, I think we’re dead.”
“Ya know, I was afraid to admit it, but you’re probably right,” David agreed. “How old were you when you were in that hotel room?”
“I’m fifty-four,” Ilene responded.
“Look again,” he said, pointing to a full-length mirror that just appeared.
She looked and saw herself as she did at thirty. Young and healthy, as she was then. Ilene stood in front of the mirror and ran her hands through her dark hair and touched her face. “I’“e lost weight too,” she said with a giggle.
“We must be in heaven,” David said.
“No, try Paradise,” a man said standing on the path. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties as well. He wore a long white robe and sported a beard, and His hair grew past his ears. They both jumped in surprise. “Neither of you remembers the circumstances that brought you here, do you?” he asked.
“No,” David responded. “I just remember getting out of my car.”
“Yes, the car that you wrapped around the tree.”
“Ilene stepped back and listened to their conversation. Some images ran through her mind. They disturbed her.
“Do you remember what you did before hitting the tree?” the robed man asked.
David remained silent for a moment as the memories flooded back. “Oh, my God,” he cried. “I was drunk again!” The tears started flowing as he shivered and moaned. “I tried so hard to stop. I am so weak.”
“I know you tried. I was there with every drink. Every time you broke down in anguish, I was there to comfort you.”
“Why didn’t you make me stop?” David cried out.
“You had to make that decision yourself. I couldn’t make you do anything. Do you remember what ran through your mind before hitting the tree?”
“You. I thought of you, Jesus. I thought about how disappointed you were in me,” David said.
“I love you, David. When you called out to me, I answered you by bringing you here. Remember what I told the thief on the cross next to me? ‘This day you will be with me in Paradise.’”
The Lord then turned to Ilene. He saw her shaking in fear and guilt. He knew that she had remembered. “I’m not going to torture you by asking what you were doing in the hotel room,” He said, as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder. Do you remember Miss Peggy?”
The question surprised Ilene. Of course, she remembered. “Why she was my kindergarten Sunday school teacher. She’s the one who told me about You. We prayed together when I accepted You as my Savior.”
“Yes,” Jesus said. “She taught many children about Me and salvation. She will have a special place in heaven with Me.”
“But, what about what I was doing—,”
“You changed your mind, Ilene. You thought back to what Miss Peggy taught you and what you promised Me.” Jesus explained. “That’s why the man murdered you. That’s why you’re here with Me.”
Ilene began to sob and put her arms around her Savior. He held her and smiled warmly at David who watched with tears in his eyes.
“Now what happens?” David asked, wiping his eyes.
“Now you wait,” Jesus said. “My Father has not decided when I will return to the Earth, as I said before, no one knows but the Father, when I will return. There is so much work for my people to do still. So you, and the rest of my family, who are here, can enjoy paradise until the next step. What would you like to do?”
“That ocean view looked delightful,” David pondered. “Ya want to go to the beach, Ilene?”
She smiled at them both, “Okay, how do we get there?”
“Just imagine it and it will appear,” Jesus said. “I have a few more new arrivals. I will be back anytime you want me.” Jesus walked down the cobblestone path and faded from sight.
David thought about the beach at Dana Point, California. Instantly, he heard the waves pounding the shoreline, the seagulls crying out and he felt the sea breeze against his skin. He looked at Ilene, now wearing a swimsuit and said, “Let’s go, and I bet the waters warm too.”
“I get to pick the next destination,” Ilene said, running through the sand, smelling the ocean air.
“Whatever you want,” David called back. “We’ve got all eternity to decide.”

Two Voices



Two Voices
Rick Adelmann

Janet came home late Saturday night after her date with Jed. Her parents didn’t seem to care what time she decided to arrive. They were both sound asleep snoring noisily. Janet tiptoed up the stairs and quietly opened the door to the bedroom she shared with her sister, Jennifer.
Jenny just turned eighteen and was two years older than Janet. They were both attractive, popular girls. Janet, a more natural beauty, wore little make-up. Her pert nose, full lips, and blonde hair attracted a lot of attention from the boys. Jennifer, however, needed to trench herself in all the beauty secrets advertised on TV, coming across as looking fabricated.
“Well, how did it go?” Jenny whispered from across the room.
She startled Janet, who had started disrobing for bed. “Oh. You’re still awake.”
“Of course, I am. How did it go?” she repeated. “Did Jed get passed second base?”
“None of your business,” Janet said, a flash of anger in her voice.
“So you’re still a virgin,” Jenny said, lying back down.
“Unfortunately not, big sister.”
“You mean?”
“Yes. It’s not what I wanted. His parents were out of town, and we were goofing off in their bed. It just happened.”
“Well, you lasted longer than I did,” Jennifer sighed. “I know you wanted to wait for marriage—,”
“That ain’t gonna happen now,” Janet said, hugging her knees forlornly. “ To make the whole thing worse, once it was over, which was a matter of seconds, he rolled off the bed and turned on the TV.”
“The jerk,” Jenny said, sitting up again.
“He acted like I wasn’t even there. I felt so used.” Janet choked back tears.
“Sorry, kid,” Jenny said. She rose from her bed and sat next to her sister. She embraced Janet, putting her arm around her shoulder to give her comfort. “Go to sleep; it will look better in the morning.”

It didn’t look better in the morning. The sisters woke early. They rolled on their sides to face each other. Janet, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, whispered to her sister. “I had the creepiest dream last night,” a frown streaking across her forehead.
“You want to tell me about it,” Jenny groggily said as she pushed herself up onto her elbows. Her hair fell across her face as the blonde waves covered her eyes.
“There were two teens, about my age, one boy, and one girl. They seemed to be a couple because they held each other’s hand. Over and over again, like chanting, they said to me, ‘don’t do it, don’t do it.’”
“Do what?”
“They didn’t say. They acted angrily; like I — I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. They scared me, kept getting in my face saying, ‘Don’t do it!’”
“It’s obvious to me, girl,” Jennifer said, pushing her hair back. “It’s your subconscious telling you not to have sex with Jed.”
“Too late.” Janet shrugged.

Come on, get up, let’s do something. It will keep your mind off last night. We’ll go to the park or the mall.” Jenny suggested.
“Okay, thanks, Sis!”
Time rolled on. A little over two months and Janet was surprised, yet relieved that Jed hadn’t contacted her. Jed turned out to be a cold-hearted guy. He played the ‘I love you’ card until he got what he wanted.
Jennifer was not at all surprised. “Typical guy,” she told her sister. “I should have warned you. Most boys have only one thing on their little minds, and it ain’t your feelings.”
The girls sat on the living room sofa watching the television, but not paying close attention to what was on. Janet sat with her legs hanging over the arm of the couch, a worried look on her face.
“Ya remember that dream I had the night I—,”
“Yea, the two kids telling you not to screw with Jed?” Jennifer said coldly.
“That one. I had it a few times since and again last night. The same two people but younger this time. A boy and a girl about ten or eleven-years-old. Both saying ‘don’t do it.’ They were acting scared. Like I planned on doing something terrible to them.” Janet’s voice began to tremble.
“Hell, it’s just a dream. Nothin’ for you to worry about. Everyone gets a bad dream once in a while.” Jennifer blew it off and turned back to the TV.
“I suppose. It might be caused by the nausea and headaches I’ve been having the past couple of weeks,” Janet said.
This last statement got Jennifer’s attention. She sat up and swiveled her body around to face her sister. “Girl, did you us protection?”
“For what?”
“When you were with Jed. Did he put on a condom?”
“I told you, it just happened. He was in and out in seconds. He couldn’t have got me knocked up in such a short time,” Janet said, shrugging off her sister’s concern.
“You fool,” Jennifer fumed. “Haven’t you been told about the birds and the bees?”
“Of course,” Janet lied. “Well, not everything, Mom never wanted to talk about it.”
“Hey, what are you two bitching about?” their father called up from the basement. He spent most of his time down there drinking beer and playing video games. He spent most time down there to escape his nagging wife. “Now shut the f*&@ up you’re disturbing me.”
“Sorry, Daddy. Go back to your game; we’ll be quiet,” Jennifer called down to placate him. Turning to Janet, she continued in a whisper, “You should know that it doesn’t matter how long he’s in you. If the sperm gets at your eggs, you could be pregnant! We need to get you to a clinic, girl.”
“I don’t want Mom or Dad to know,” Janet said, finally understanding her situation. “There’s no telling what they’ll do, especially Dad.”
“Don’t worry,” Jenny said. “I’m eighteen, an adult. I can take you without them finding out. We’ll go tomorrow. The sooner the better.”
Janet sat quietly, thinking. A million thoughts raced through her mind. “What about Jed?”
“What about him?”
“If I’m pregnant, he’s the father. Shouldn’t he have a say in what we do?”
“That horndog doesn’t care about you or the baby, if there is one.” Jennifer snickered at her sister. “We will decide.”
Janet sat up straight and looked Jenny in the eyes, “No. I will decide. I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I will decide.”
“Okay. Tomorrow we’ll know,” Jennifer conceded. “I’m going to bed.” She rose from the sofa, yawned, and headed for the stairs. “Good night, Janet.”
Janet stayed seated and barely noticed her sisters absence. She mentally went over her options. Keep the baby, abort, or give up for adoption. All three options flashed through her mind over and over. She shook her head and tried to watch the television. I’ll decide once I’ve been to the clinic. I may not even be pregnant, she thought.
Janet picked up the TV’s remote control and punched in a number. But, instead of the program she wanted, a white screen came up. Janet looked at the screen, thinking that the network was off the air. Then she saw the fuzzy images of two children appearing on the screen. The picture began to clear. In her amazement, she saw the children of her dreams. The same sandy curly hair, the same big brown eyes, the boy and girl were the same, only younger. They seemed to be around seven years old now.
Janet sat horror struck. She frantically hit the buttons on the remote to change the channel, but the two remained. They stood staring straight ahead, holding hands and staring at Janet. The clear picture of two young children, crying their eyes out and pleading. ‘Don’t do it.’
Janet felt their anguish. She trembled uncontrollably and began to cry as well. Not, from fear but the sorrow in the voices of the two children. The screen seemed to part, and Janet felt the presence of the two as they implored, “don’t do it.”
“What’s going on down here?”
Janet looked over her shoulder and saw her mother leaning over the banister.
“Get your ass to bed, young lady,” she stood there with a cigarette dangling from her lip and her bathrobe falling off her shoulders. “Ain’t you got no consideration? I’m trying to sleep up here, and all you can do is wail away at some stupid movie. Now, shut the hell up!”
“Yes, Mama,” Janet muttered, wiping her eyes. She then glanced at the TV screen and saw a sitcom playing. There were no children on the screen.

The next day, after their parents went to work, Jennifer took charge. She called a local clinic and made an appointment for Janet. She told the receptionist that she was the legal guardian for Janet. The woman at the clinic didn’t seem to care one way or the other. The full payment from the insurance company satisfied her.
Janet was nervous. She couldn’t eat breakfast, for fear of throwing it up. The images of the two children remained with her. She tried to block them out by thinking other thoughts, but they kept returning. The words ‘don’t do it’ reverberated inside her head.
They sat in the waiting room with other girls in the same condition. Some came with parents, but most sat alone dealing with their fears and confusion without any help. Janet, at least, had Jennifer with her.
Afte a long agonizing wait, Janet was called in. The doctor had her disrobe and lie on a table with her feet in stirrups. She felt like she was on display for all the world to see. She bit her fingers as the doctor, wordlessly, examined her.
As the exam continued, Janet heard faint voices coming from the waiting room. The voices of rose in volume. They weren’t talking; they were sobbing. Two young voices of children, hysterically crying. “Shouldn’t somebody do something about that?”
The doctor stopped what he was doing and looked quizzically at Janet. “Do what about what?”
“The crying. There are children crying in the waiting room.”
The doctor looked over his shoulder to the door and shrugged. “I hear nothing, young lady. Now hold still and allow me to finish.” He put his stethoscope to his ears and listened carefully to Janet’s midsection.
At the same time, the sobbing grew louder and more distraught. Janet clenched her teeth and closed her eyes, trying to rid the sound of the sobbing.
The doctor finally took off his stethoscope and addressed Janet. “I heard the beating of two hearts in there, young lady. Your carrying twins.”
Janet looked back at him dumbfounded. He showed no emotion; there were two pieces of fetal tissue inside her, not two babies. The quiet between them was only disturbed by the wailing from the waiting room, and only Janet could hear it.
“I can take care of this problem for you right now. You and your guardian merely sign this consent form, and you’re free to move on with your life.” It seemed to Janet that the doctor appeared to be in a hurry to end the lives of yet to be born children.
Janet heard the crying continue then, two small voices saying ‘don’t do it.’ Janet smiled with understanding and said, “No. I won’t do it. I will go through this pregnancy and give my babies up for adoption. There are plenty of loving families who would love a little girl and a little boy,” she said, as if set free from doing a horrible thing.
The weeping stopped. There was silence for a moment. Then she heard the beautiful sound of children giggling. The laughter sounded more delightful than any sound she’d heard before. “Can you hear that, Doctor?”
“No. I hear nothing. What makes you think you are carrying a boy and a girl?” he asked, disappointed and losing his pay.
Janet pulled her feet from the stirrups and sat up. “Oh, I know who’s inside me,” she said as the giggling continued as she dressed.
She needed to face her parents, find an adopting family, and learn how to take care of herself. But it will be all worth it. She was giving a chance at life for the two voices.

Grammy’s Gates

Cemetery gate:



Grammy’s Gates
Rick Adelmann

“I haven’t told this story to anyone in many years,” the elderly woman said from her hospital bed. Her four grandchildren hovered around her, watching her, lovingly. They were hoping and praying for a miraculous recovery but anticipated the alternative.
Grammy was a Godly woman, with no fear of death. In fact, she called her grandchildren together at the urging of the Holy Spirit to say her goodbyes. She spoke to her husband of fifty years, and he agreed to leave her side as she spoke to the grandkids.
“What story did you want to tell us, Grammy?” the brightest of the children, Melissa, asked.
“Well, it’s a story that almost got me thrown into an asylum, the last time I told it,” she answered.
“Ya mean they thought you were crazy?” the fourteen-year-old, Sammy asked.
“Yep. Crazy as a loon. My daddy especially figured I lost my senses. I learned to keep my mouth shut after that,” the elderly lady said. She squirmed on the bed trying to remain comfortable. “Now, sit down and let me tell you about it.”
The four grandchildren, ranging in age from twelve to eighteen, pulled chairs up to the bed. Their eyes riveted on the woman they adored above all others.
“Like I said, it happened when I was your age, Melissa. Just twelve years old. We were living out in the country at that time,” Grammy continued, her eyes lovingly panning her flock of grandchildren. “We had a splendid big house tucked away in the woods. Our closest neighbor lived about half a mile away, and a small church was right down the road.”
“I remember that farm,” Tiffany, the eighteen-year-old said. “That was off the beaten track. The house is gone now, isn’t it?”
“Yes. The house, barn, stables, and outbuildings have all been claimed by the forces of nature,” Grammy agreed. “Now, hush up and let me tell you the story.” She acted impatiently, but the kids knew her act.
“One advantage of being in the country was the school bus. We were too far from the school to walk, so I had the luxury of being picked up and dropped off right at the entrance to our driveway. The school was in Blairsville about fifteen miles from home.” Grammy spoke as she brushed her gray hair off of her forehead.
“It happened on a Friday in late October. It was a chilly day, and my friend, Charity and I were in a hurry to get home, as usual. But especially that day because it was the end of the week and close to the end of the school year,” she explained. “Wouldn’t you know it, but the bus broke down that day.”
“What did you do, Grammy? Buster asked.
“Well, the teacher told us to wait in the school yard while they fixed the bus. Course, Charity and I were known to break a few rules now and then. We seldom paid heed to what the teacher had to say. We decided to walk home.”
“That sounds like you, Grammy. Always causing trouble,” Tiffany said with a smile.
“We waited for the teacher to turn her back on us as we high-tailed it out of there,” Grammy went on. “We ran down the road, then started skipping and laughing. We pulled a fast one on old Mrs. McGruder. The tall trees blocked her view of the road, and we got away.”
“October has always been my favorite month. The air is fresh and breezy and made me feel alive just to breathe it in. The sun begins to set earlier as winter is right around the corner. The leaves had fallen off the big oak and maple trees, and they swirled around our feet as we ran. You know how lovely October is,” she said, waving her hand around the huddled children.
“Charity and I briskly walked along the leaf-covered road when she asked me about the cemetery. She looked at me with a frown of worry. She told me that her home was on the north side of the cemetery, and I would have to walk passed it alone to get home. She never made mention of it before, and I thought it odd she did that night.
“Course, I’ll be all right,” I said. “Why shouldn’t I?”
“Charity looked at me kinda funny. Not a ha-ha funny, but a scared funny. She then told me about the ghosts that come out after dark in the graveyard. Course, I never believed in such nonsense, and I told her so.” Grammy had all the children’s attention now.
“We continued to walk together but didn’t say much. Our imaginations were running wild with images of spooks and such. Charity’s house was along the main road, and she seemed relieved to be there.
“The night started to darken as I continued to walk by myself. I looked back to her as she waved and called out something about not letting the spooks get me. I had told her earlier that I didn’t believe in ghosts, but the dark, lonely night and the chilly breeze changed my outlook some,” Grammy’s voice lowered to a whisper.
“I slowed my pace a bit as I listened to the empty branches of the trees, overhead, clattering against each other and the wind whispering through the evergreens. My dress flapped, and my cheeks turned pink in the cold air. I saw the gates of the cemetery as I moved closer. The gates stood open in front of me,” Grammy explained to the children. She looked about at the attentive faces and saw their eyes wide with wonder.
“Course, the road went around the cemetery. I could have avoided going through there,” she said.
“Then why didn’t you?” Sammy asked. “I would have.”
“It would have taken me an extra hour to get home,” she explained. “Since my feet were already hurting, I didn’t want to walk anymore then I had to. I thought it best to walk through the cemetery, ghosts or no ghosts.”
“I stood at the open gates; my feet froze in place.”
“Were you cold, Grammy?” little Buster said as the others giggled.
“No, sweetheart, I was trying to get up the nerve to walk into the graveyard,” I answered him smiling. “There were no lights along the inside pathway and a thick blanket of clouds covered the moon. There I stood, at the gate looking into the darkness. A skinny little girl with pigtails and wearing my school dress, afraid to take the first step.”
“I don’t blame you,” Melissa said. “I’d think twice before going in there at night.”
“I thought more than twice,” I said with a grin. “I thought four or five times. Then I heard a man’s voice behind me. He asked me if I planned on going into the cemetery. Typically, I would have taken off running, but I felt strangely at peace with him.”
“That was dangerous, Grammy,” Melissa said.
“I know it was, dear, but when I turned around, I saw that he was a little old man. I read kindness on his soft face. I instinctively knew I could trust him. He offered to walk with me across the cemetery. I agreed, and we stepped out. I asked him if he knew anything about the hauntings. He said he did, but as long as I walked with him, I was safe. He said, “Don’t worry, you’re with me.”
We walked along the cobblestone path, and I occupied my mind by listening to the crunch of leaves beneath my feet. I decided to get to know the man with me. I learned his name was Bernard Thomas, and he used to be the pastor of the church at the end of the cemetery. He retired many years ago.
He said that he enjoyed coming down to the graveyard to help people find the headstones of loved ones who passed away.”
“So why was he there after dark?” Sammy asked. “No one would be looking for graves after dark.”
“I thought that too,” Grammy replied. “I didn’t say anything, though.”
“I heard a lot of noise off the side of the pathway. It sounded like people walking along with us, but I couldn’t see them. It made me quite nervous. Twice I heard voices as if a couple of people were mumbling to each other. At times, they got loud as if they were arguing, but I couldn’t understand the words. That made me scared!” Grammy kept her voice down so that the four children had to lean forward to hear.
“Every time I heard something that scared me, I would look up to Pastor Thomas. He would look down to me and smile. Don’t worry; you’re with me, he would say, and the fear left me.”
“We finally arrived at the gate at the far end of the graveyard. I became so relieved that I trotted ahead to the entrance. I realized that I had forgotten to thank Pastor Thomas. I turned and found that he had left. He just walked away, into the cemetery.”
“He probably figured that you didn’t need him anymore and walked into the darkness where you couldn’t see him anymore,” Melissa ventured.
“That’s what I thought as I ran off and went home. The next day, I felt guilty about not thanking him. I walked over to the church he once pastored to ask where I could find him. And, do you know what the current pastor told me?” Grammy asked, gazing into the faces of the children.
“That he was dead, and you were talking to a ghost,” Sammy blurted out and laughed.
“Ah, you ruined the story,” Grammy said, smiling sweetly. “The new pastor told me that Bernard Thomas passed over a couple of years ago. That sure got me to thinking.”
“What about, Grammy?” Tiffany asked.
“About life after death. I never thought much about dying when I was little. Probably you four don’t think about it either. But that experience made me realize that there is an afterlife, and I better get my life right with God. That’s when I became a Christian.”
“Good story, Grammy. Now tell us the truth,” Sammy said, stifling a snicker.
“Well, that is the truth. It all happened just as I said,” Grammy said in defense of herself. “I’m getting a little sleepy now—,” she then looked over the grandchildren’s shoulders to the other side of the room. “Did I get the story right?”
They turned to where her eyes were staring. All they saw was the pale green wall of the hospital room.
“What is it, Grammy? Who are you talking to?” Tiffany asked.
“Yea, who are you looking at?” Melissa asked, also staring at the blank wall.
“Why, Pastor Thomas, of course,” she answered, smiling in the direction of the wall. “You can’t see him. He’s here for me.”
“No,” Buster stammered. “None of us can see him .”
“He’s right there. He’s standing at the opening in the wall.” She pointed feebly in that direction. “He’s smiling like he did back when I was a little girl in the cemetery. He’s telling me, don’t worry, you’re with me.”
The four grandkids stared at the green wall, seeing nothing. “We don’t see him,” muttered Sammy.
Grammy didn’t answer.
The four children turned back to her. Grammy lied still. A warm smile on her face and her eyes were closed. Her arm extended as if reaching forward. Pastor Thomas and the little girl with pigtails and wearing a school dress, walked through another gate. This one led to a bright light that surrounded them with love.