“How did I die?” Juliet was frustrated. She had been asking questions of the old woman for what seemed like hours but she still knew little of what was happening or where she was.
“Can’t you just… I don’t know.. just give me a straight answer? All these half answers and riddles are not helping.”
Juliet had finally had enough and turned to face the old woman.
The old woman looked back at Juliet.
“The answers are before you, child.” The old woman pointed toward where the trees gathered.
Juliet turned, following the woman’s pointing hand.
The trees were blowing in a wind that Juliet could not feel. In a few moments the trees began to fade in a type of shimmering that reflected the non-water Juliet was standing on.
After a few more moments the trees were replaced by hundreds of rows of long wooden tables. Old, mangled, dark wooden tables. There were small gaps between each table on both the length and width sides, and behind each table was an overly large chair that looked like it was made from the same wood.
And standing aside each chair was a figure.
“What the fuck is that?” Juliet said as the figures shifted in the wind she couldn’t feel.
The old woman said quietly: Your choices, child. Your desires.
Juliet and the old woman walked toward the tables and the old woman began talking.
“Juliet you are close to death. You have died a few times but you have been revived and now your loved ones are waiting to see if you recover. They are praying for your recovery, as loved ones do. I heard their prayers and for now I am ignoring them.”
“What?” Juliet questioned the old woman incredulously.
“I am not here to answer their prayers. I am here to answer yours.”
“I don’t pray. I didn’t pray when I was… alive.”
“Yes, child, you did. Not in those religious ways, no. But you prayed emotionally and usually in anger. I heard them all and now I am here to answer those prayers. And more.”
The old lady began walking past the tables.
“How did I… what happened to me.” Juliet followed the old woman still hoping for an answer.
“You were… attacked. You fought back but your efforts were not enough and now you are almost dead. You have a chance for… let’s call it revenge. And my job is to help you get the revenge you prayed for.
“Your desire, Juliet.”
The old woman stopped and turned to Juliet directing her gaze to the table.
Juliet looked at the table. It was larger than she’d estimated, spanning about twenty feet lengthwise.
Resting in the middle of the table was a glass of water. Juliet turned to the old woman.
“What is the water for? It’s not like I’m thirsty or even hungry. I’m dead. Almost dead or whatever.”
“The glass is full of poisoned water.”
“Wait, you want me to drink poisoned water? What the hell?”
“No, child, the water isn’t for you. It’s for him.” The old woman pointed behind the table to the figure whose shimmering slowly began to take shape.
Juliet watched the figure take form. She began to fear. While she was with the old woman she felt no real emotions beyond confusion. Or even anger.
But now, the only thing she felt was fear. The fear was emanating from the figure and Juliet knew it was real and that her life – this life-after-life– was in a different kind of danger.
The figure finally settled in form and it was neither male nor female. It had no eyes, and where the mouth should have been was a vertical slit about six inches long and two inches wide.
There was liquid drooling from its slit-mouth, and Juliet saw tiny insects moving within the drool.
The figure turned slightly toward Juliet and it’s slit began to widen. Then it screamed a horrible piercing scream that shook the glass of water, the long table, and the water-like substance Juliet stood in.
The piercing scream caused Juliet to recoil, step back, and scream like she’d never screamed in her entire real life.
“Make it stop!”Make it stop! Juliet yelled to no one as she covered her ears. She found no relief as the scream pierced her ears and mind. She instinctively knew the creature was trying to kill her.
The piercing sound continued and Juliet felt her sanity began to slip.
Juliet screamed again and tried to grab the old woman by the arm but when her hand should have grasped the woman’s arm, the woman had vanished.
The screaming slit-mouth was now louder and Juliet fell to her knees in pain. She wasn’t certain if the pain was real or imagined but it didn’t matter she needed it to stop before she gave herself over to the growing insanity darkening her mind.
With her head feeling like it would explode, her eardrums bleeding, and her mind on the edge of insanity, Juliet did the only thing that came to mind: She reached for the glass of poisoned water.
As soon as Juliet’s hand touched the glass the screaming creature went silent, and the water-like substance Juliet was standing in began rising quickly.
Juliet looked around for a place to run to, but the water-like substance was rising all around, and it was now chest high.
Then to her mouth.
“Pour it in the opening” The old woman’s voice echoed in Juliet’s mind.
Juliet struggled to move toward the figure.
She pushed forward against the rising water-like substance and against a wind that was suddenly pushing her backwards. Juliet struggled forward, believing her life – her existence – depended on reaching the figure.
The water was now at Juliet’s eye level and she held the glass high. She reached the table, pulled herself around it, and motioned her arm toward the mouth-slit of the creature.
Juliet held tight to the table and began lowering her glass toward the mouth-slit. Just as the glass got close to the mouth-slit, it opened wider, allowing all the now pouring poisoned water to flow in just as the water-like liquid completely covered Juliet’s head.
Just as the glass emptied, Juliet let go and the water began receding. Juliet coughed and looked toward the figure.
But the figure was now gone and in its place was what appeared to be a doorway.
“Go.” The old woman’s voice was again in Juliet’s mind.
Juliet stood and walked to the opening. It was dark inside, but not pitch-black. Juliet could almost make out shapes and figures beyond the darkness.
Juliet was now at the entrance. The shapes were now fully formed and Juliet recognized two of the figures.
It was her doctor and nurse.
Juliet walked through the entrance.
To be continued…
Copyright 2020 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.