Having Heaven 2 – The Dream

Despite the fact she called it an early night and how utterly exhausted Mayra was when she slipped between the sheets, sleep simply would not come. Every time she closed her eyes she saw the digital display of her pregnancy test reading:

PREGNANT

It would have been called fitful if she actually managed to fall asleep even for an instant, instead she tossed and turned, trying to force her mind to relax, dreading the effects of a sleepless night on her ability to get through the work day tomorrow, or later today if she was being accurate. Mayra eventually realized she was achieving little more than gnawing away at her sanity, so she closed her eyes, sighed heavily and when she opened them, she found herself in a dream.

One, two, three, shoot! Scissors. One, two, three, shoot! Paper. Mayra’s right hand, balled in a fist, pumped at subliminal speed, slamming into the flattened palm of her left as she shot rock, paper, scissors in a seemingly random order that somehow anticipated her opponents’ throws and eliminated them one by one. That was how she knew this was a dream because all her life she had been absolutely shit at playing roshambo.

She was at a public pool, one she knew very well. It was located in the heart of Claremont Park in The Bronx, a mere fifteen or so long blocks from her childhood home. Her nose was filled with the scent of chlorine which was how everyone knew when the pool had officially opened for the summer because the smell burned nostril hairs and stung eyes from a city block away.

Mayra wore her first ever and favorite floral two-piece swimsuit, the one her mother let her choose by herself which fit perfectly when she was eleven years old but not so much now that she was a full grown, fully developed woman. It still served its purpose by covering up the bits that needed to be covered but she was showing off way more skin that she was comfortable with which made her self-conscious. A quick glance around the pool confirmed that no one was staring at her so her anxiety eased slightly.

It was summer recess and most of Mayra’s friends were here, both from school and her neighborhood. She was an adult but her friends were children which wasn’t bizarre seeing as that was how she remembered them, all except for Bethany, also an adult, who was the only person she managed to stay in touch with throughout the years. Incidentally, Bethany was also wearing a two-piece swim suit and hers fit perfectly which she found unfair to say the least.

Mayra had been a lucid dreamer from the time she remembered her first nightmare and certainly before she knew the ability had a name. And she was quite familiar with this particular dream because she had it many times before. The pool was some sort of anchor point for her, probably because it represented some of the happiest times of her life, when the summer was the best time of the year because it was fresh with the promise of childhood freedom and full of adventurous possibilities.

They were gearing up to play Sharks and Minnows and as Mayra demolished the competition during the selection process, she was the shark. Kicking off her rainbow flip flops, she dove into the water and took a position in the center of the shallow end while her minnow friends formed a line along the lip of one side of the pool.

“Fishies, fishies, cross my ocean!” Mayra challenged.

The minnows jumped into the water, some diving straight in, some cannonballing, and Bethany, who wanted to make the biggest splash, took a running start, jumped high in the air and pulled one leg to her chest, the other one sticking down toward the water as she bent back at a 35-degree angle. The minnows started swimming to the opposite end, giving the shark as wide a berth as they could in the crowded public pool. Mayra remained still until the first minnow was about to swim past.

“Shark attack!” Mayra yelled and began swimming at a frantic pace. The school of minnows shrieked, laughed and paddled as fast as they could trying to reach the other end of the pool, the safe base, without getting tagged. But the shark knew which minnow she was after, the one who lagged behind all the rest and Mayra caught up with Bethany easily but didn’t tag her immediately. The shark swam past her best friend and placed herself directly in the minnow’s path.

The minnow crashed into the shark and before she could back away Mayra lifted an index finger out of the water and booped Bethany’s nose, smiling, “Tag. Guess who’s shark chow?”

“That’s so unfair,” Bethany slapped the surface of the water. “You always pick on me cause I’m the slowest!”

“I pick you because you always do that stupid can opener dive to try and splash-blind me. Don’t hate me just cause I’m a water baby.”

“Oh yeah? Well, have some water, baby!” Bethany’s hands flew to the top of Mayra’s head and dunked her underwater.

Oh, am I going to make her pay, Mayra thought as she play-struggled beneath Bethany’s hands but wasn’t worried. Luckily, she managed to hold her breath in time and the water was shallow, that is, it was shallow until the pool bottom dropped away quickly and water began rushing past her and she realized she was plunging straight down like an anchor.

And then the water wasn’t water. It was more like mud. Mud that stopped her descent and left her floating for a moment before propelling her back up the way she came but when she resurfaced, she was no longer in the park pool. It was suddenly twilight but not eigengrau, the dark grey color seen by the eyes in perfect darkness, this was an inky darkness so pitch she couldn’t tell where mud-water met sky or whether she was facing a swimming pool edge, a shore or some other land mass or simply more water. She was completely adrift, disoriented and had no means of navigation, not even the faint light of night stars. Her world was now liquid and gas black in every direction. A strange and illogical thought hit her, Was I in the deep end of the pool? followed by, How long was I underwater?

“Okay, Bethy, joke’s over!” Mayra’s head was on a swivel for a sign of somebody, anybody else in the water but there was nothing. “Bethany, this isn’t funny!”

“Polo,” a voice called out but she couldn’t tell if it was Bethany or one of her other friends because it was so distant.

“Bethy? Is that you?”

“Polo,” the voice said again still far away but Mayra knew the direction it came from this time.

“Marco!” Mayra shouted and when she heard Polo confirm the location, she began swimming toward it. She paced herself because she had no idea how far out she was or how long she needed to keep up her strength. She occasionally called out “Marco” and listened for the “Polo” reply to make sure she was swimming in a straight line in the dark.

Then her swimming became labored, something was pulling her in the opposite direction. She was caught in a rip current! She forced herself not to panic because it took a clear head to escape. She knew, despite the sensation, that the rip current wouldn’t drag her underwater, it would only pull her straight out to sea. She was a decent swimmer so she wasn’t in immediate danger of drowning unless she exhausted herself by trying to fight the current that was stronger than she was. Normally, she would have either swum in the direction of the nearest breaking waves, which marked the current’s edge, or parallel to the shore to escape the current, but as she couldn’t see the shoreline in all the blackness, Mayra swam perpendicular to the current and prayed for the best. With any luck, the current she was in was an average one, less than thirty feet wide, and not a larger one that could have reached up to two hundred feet.

After a while she began getting tired so she floated on her back to conserve energy. This was usually when she would have woken herself up, during a lull in events, but this time it wasn’t working. Mayra remained inside the dream, staying afloat and attempting to relax until she drifted past the breaking waves. She felt the rip current becoming weaker. When she felt confident that she was ready to give it another try, she rolled over in order to begin swimming diagonally away from the current. Her face was momentarily beneath the water’s surface as she turned over but when it emerged she saw that it was no longer dark. The sky was unusually clear and the deepest blue she had ever seen in my life. The water was no longer dark, in fact, it wasn’t blue or green or clear or any color she had ever seen water be. It was a pearlescent white whose texture was liquid silk soft against her skin. Off in the distance she could see what looked like a shoreline but she couldn’t be sure as it reflected an intense white light even though there was no sun in the sky.

“Marco!” she called out and waited for a Polo that never came, so Mayra swam toward the shore hoping it wasn’t some sort of water mirage. Turned out it wasn’t. The water began getting shallower and when it was chest-deep, she planted her feet and walked to shore. The ground beneath her feet wasn’t soil, sand, gravel, pebbles, cobbles, rock, or shells, it was soft, almost as if she was walking on air—no, not quite that—like the fluffiest cotton as to make her feel nearly weightless. Just then, the silliest thought crossed her mind, The reason there are no clouds in the sky is because I’m standing on top of them.

Suddenly, with what should have been a start, Mayra realized she wasn’t alone on the shore. There was someone else standing directly behind her. Normally, she would have recoiled but she somehow sensed she wasn’t in any danger. She turned face to face with a being bright enough to cut the eye. Their face was in a constant state of flux, shifting from the familiar faces of people whose names she couldn’t recall, to images of other things that existed beyond her understanding and therefore defied description. From their body (their because the being standing before her was neither male nor female so she automatic used the nonconforming gender pronouns, they, their and them) which was pure light, a series of wings protruded at odd angles. She counted at least thirty before giving up but there could easily have been a hundred or more. The wings were emerald green, covered with saffron hairs, and appeared to be liquid by the way they reflected the light and by the faint brush strokes they made in the air as they gently flapped. On each wing were different faces of various hues and genders with unblinking eyes full of intelligence and understanding that spoke innumerous languages, none of which she understood but found beautiful nonetheless. She could have stood there motionless for the rest of her life, staring at the marvel she knew to be an angel, enveloped in wave after wave of peacefulness and contentment and acceptance and unconditional love.

Without warning, Mayra was slammed in the back by some sort of wave of vibration that knocked her off her feet and pressed her into the soft ground as if it had its own physical weight. She thought it might have been an explosion but there was no thundering boom. But she felt a vibration in her chest, shaking her so hard it made her teeth rattle.

She looked up stunned and glanced around and saw a crack appear in the distance of the silky milk white waters. An impossible crack that became longer and longer, stretching and slicing through the waves, traveling toward the shore. She watched as it divided the waters and the cotton soft shore, branching off along the way like ground lightning. Anything that got in its way became cracked as well as it went on through and kept going. Although it was impossible to tell how, she knew it was alive, sentient, angry and on a mission.

Unable to move, pinned to the spot in fear, Mayra watched as it snaked slowly in her direction for a moment then shot out rapidly! She squeezed her eyes shut and screamed. Then she felt something grab hold of her wrist and pull her along. Opening her eyes she discovered she was no longer on the ground but flying. No, not flying, being dragged through the sky by the angel, a pale thin hand emerged from the white light body and secured itself around her wrist. Her body whipped up and down and left and right like a flag in a gale storm but she felt no pain as if divorced from the stress of the physical demands on her ragdoll body. Perhaps it had something to do with being within the angel’s aura. She ventured a look behind and saw with astonished terror that the crack had leapt from the shore and was forking its way through the air itself. As the angel flew faster, the crack not only matched speed but it was slowly gaining on them, plotting an ominous path toward her flapping feet. She tried to call to the angel but found it hard to breath with the wind whipping in her face.

Mayra turned her head back to the crack that was now only mere inches away. The angel began flying in an evasive pattern and she quickly lost sight of the crack. She twisted her head desperately, this way and that, but was unable to see where it went. It wouldn’t remain a mystery for long. The crack had zigged and zagged until it was above and behind the angel and herself. It plummeted toward them. Then Mayra felt a sharp pain in her left heel and heard the horrifying sound of flesh tearing. She let out a blood curdling scream and shot a glance down to her leg and her mind froze. The crack was cutting through her flesh, muscle and bone and traveling up her ankle, calf, thigh…

The angel stopped, hovering in midair and pulled Mayra up by the shoulders. The mouths on their shifting faces opened and closed, speaking to her but she couldn’t hear anything over her own screams as the crack separated her crotch, her torso, her breasts, her neck and finally her head.

***

Mayra sat bolt upright in bed, shivering. Her nightshirt, drenched in sweat, was now see-through. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to stop the shaking. She immediately became aware of a voice that struck like a shaft of light through the fog clouds existing between her dreaming and consciousness state, illuminating a series of images which flashed at an ultraliminal speed. The voice, not her own though it came from within her, translated these images into a thought, a single phrase that repeated itself. As it rose in intensity and severed the last tether of sleep, she parted her lips and whispered, “Heaven is dead.”

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 1 – The Test

Some believed that existence itself was an ever-expanding canvas and human lives were merely tiny splashes of colors within a much larger, universal painting, while others saw it as a tapestry with human lives being bits of thread woven to make patterns undecipherable by mortal eyes with limited vision who were only allowed to view the tiniest of portions of the tapestry’s back side. Mayra Critchlow, however, thought of existence as a great tome and a person’s life merely an anthology of stories, not always sequential, that when bound together told a coherent narrative. And her life was about to embark on a new chapter that began with her period being late.

It wasn’t earth-shattering news or even that big a surprise since Mayra had always been what her mother called a natural born stresser. Even before she knew how to communicate effectively, she made a habit of sweating the small stuff and when she hit puberty stress carried in tow a condition known as secondary amenorrhea. Her reproductive system was affected by high levels of anxiety which caused her monthlies to temporarily stop. This time, though, it felt one hundred and fifty percent completely different and she suspected something wasn’t quite right after her friend (what a stupid term of endearment for menstruation) was two weeks late. The lead up remained the same, days before her mood soured, she turned grumpy, her chin broke out and her stomach ached constantly but Mayra became concerned when it stopped as quickly as it began. All the symptoms simply vanished. The next logical solution was pregnancy but she couldn’t have been pregnant because of the Nexplanon implant and her boyfriend Gavin wore condoms for extra protection every single time they had been together, which was less often in the past few months.

A Google search of Why is my period so late? inevitably led her to six other reasons her cycle might be a bit wonky. Among the options were major weight loss or excessive exercise—neither of which were the case, a thyroid irregularity, Polycystic ovary symptom, Chronic diseases like Celiac, low dose birth control, and premature menopause. Needless to say, she was not a fan of any of those choices.

Another website suggested waiting ten days after her cycle and taking a pregnancy test even if conception was used. So, Mayra tamped down the panic of possibly having a chronic disease, hormone imbalance, or failing ovaries and snuck out of work the following day before her lunch break and bought a pregnancy test. She decided not to grab one at home because Gavin was there and if she popped out to the store after they had just gone shopping, it would have raised a red flag. And then there would have been the sneaking of the test into the house and bald-faced lying to him if he inquired what she went to the store to pick up. It all seemed silly but she decided to go the easy route and not make a thing out of something that didn’t need to be a thing.

Mayra was tempted to take the test in the restroom at work but as she stepped into the stall she considered if that was the memory she wanted to keep if the result was somehow positive? Would it have been disrespectful to Gavin and even more so to the baby? Besides, if the test was positive, there was no way she could have concentrated on work and she would waste most of the afternoon on the phone with Bethany, doing the whole talking in code thing, which might have been fun but it would have been frustrating as well.

Exhausting just about every last drop of self-control she had, Mayra managed to wait until she arrived home and made a beeline to the bathroom, pecking Gavin on the cheek as she sped past. She never experienced a longer five minutes in her entire life and after the stick delivered its answer she paced the tiny bathroom space in a daze not quite able to handle it. There was a part of her that was tempted to go back to the pharmacy and buy one of each different test brand they had, as if she could get some cosmic do over.

She stuffed the pregnancy test and packaging in her purse—no sense in him spotting it in the trash before she had the chance to tell him—and opened the bathroom door. Gavin was right there in the doorway, rushing past her, undoing his belt buckle.

“What the hell were you doing in here so long” he asked, shoving his boxers and pants around his ankles before plopping down on the toilet. “I need to take a killer dump!”

She stared into his eyes, searching for what she did not know, but she knew she hadn’t found it and all of the courage suddenly drained from her.

“Uh… a little privacy here?” Gavin gestured for her to shut the door. “Unless you’ve developed a scat fetish?”

There was no way they would be having the pregnancy discussion today.

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

When Death Offers Hope

I awoke to a stranger standing at the foot of my bed but far more unsettling was the fact that he was dead. I was certain of this because I could see the chest of drawers behind him through his ephemeral body.

“Do not be alarmed,” the man said in soft tone that registered just above a whisper but was perfectly clear in the surrounding silence of the bedroom which had never known this level of quiet before. “I realize my sudden appearance in your home has come as a surprise to you due to the fact that you and I have never met and that I am a ghost.”

Of the million questions buzzing in my hypnagogic brain, the one that bubbled to the surface was, “What do you want from us?” and my voice cracked in a manner that made me sound considerably less brave than planned.

I tried to will my wife awake, hoping that she might collect the children and get them safely out of the house while I somehow distracted this spirit. I even slid my hand beneath the duvet, slowly as not to draw attention, in order to nudge or pinch her awake to no avail.

“Please know that I have no intention of haunting you or bringing any harm to you or your loved ones,” the ghost said.

“Then why are you here?” I replied loud enough to wake my wife but not the children because I couldn’t risk them coming into the bedroom to see what all the commotion was about.

The transparent man smiled, “You may speak as loudly as you please. I have spread a calming essence over your wife and children so that they might rest soundly as you and I converse.”

While I must confess I knew nothing of ghostly lore or a sleep-inducing essence, I sensed the apparition what speaking truthfully. I asked, “What could we possibly have to say to one another?”

“As I explain my situation, I ask that you refrain from pitying me and my circumstances for life is not a gift we keep but one we borrow and must one day return. Death is inevitable as you will one day learn.”

“Pity you? I don’t even know you!”

“Of course, where are my manners? The things one forgets once the embers of life have been snuffed. My name is Hamid Tahan and I am–pardon me, I was an Emirati merchant in Dubai.

“In the latter part of my short existence I had been diagnosed with prostate and esophageal cancer. Sadly, it was discovered in its very late stage due to my laxity in caring for my health. My illness defied all forms of medicine and treatments and according to my physicians I had only a few months to live.

” I am ashamed to admit that I had not lived a particularly good life. I never really cared for anyone, not even myself. All that mattered was my business. Though I was very rich, I was never generous and I tended to be hostile to those around me.

“But when it was far too late, I regretted it all. I discovered that there was more to life than the mere acquisition of money and I knew in my soul that if universe in its infinite wisdom bestowed upon my a second chance I would live my life a different, far better manner.

“As my mortal time drew to a close, I willed most of my properties and assets to my immediate and extended family members, as well as a few loyal friends and schools in the United Arab Emirates. I gave alms to charity organizations across the globe, as I wanted this to be one of the last good deeds I did on earth.

“And I almost accomplished the task in its entirety but my health had deteriorated more rapidly than was originally estimated and I lost my battle with cancer before I could close out my final account. This is my reason for contacting you.”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“I have studied you from the great beyond. I see that you are a good man, a kind and generous man even though you are struggling to keep your lovely wife and beautiful children comfortable in the face of the impending bankruptcy of your company. I can help you with this.”

“Help me? How?”

“I could reveal the location of my final, secret account to you, provide you with the codes and information to transfer the funds into your account. Trust me when I say it is more than enough money to pay off all your debt, provide for your children’s futures and allow your family to live comfortably for many years to come. The only thing I ask in exchange for this life-changing abundance…”

“Ah, the catch,” I sighed. “There is always a catch.”

“…is your life,” Hamid Tahan continued.

“My what?”

“I have come to an arrangement with The Powers That Be that I can be reborn if I performed a random act of kindness on a complete and utter stranger and of all the several billion candidates on the planet, I chose you.

“The only drawback for you is that this gift requires a sacrifice. Now you must ask yourself if you love your family enough to die for them? I have seen what lies in store for you and your family and I could not in all conscience live with myself, perdon my turn of phrase, if I did not try to help prevent it.

“You might be thinking to yourself that this is some sort of hoax or a scam but if you reflect on it a minute your will feel the certainty of my offer because it has been classified as a Universal Truth. These truths cannot be forged. They are constructed of unconditional honesty.”

I most certainly believed it to be some form of treachery but true to his word, I felt an overwhelming assurance that he his claim was sincere. I opened and closed my mouth trying to form words but none were forthcoming.

“You need not give your answer at this moment,” he said. “But I would advise you to decide before the week has concluded. The money will be of little use to your family beyond that point.”

“Wait! What’s going to happen to my family? If you know, you have to tell me!” I wanted to leap from the bed and take hold of the ghost and shake the answers from him, which was an irrational thought but it didn’t matter because I was unable to move from my spot.

“I apologize that I am forbidden to reveal any more to you. Please think deeply on my offer and despite your decision, know that you and your family are in my prayers. May the universe be with you, sir,” the phantasmal being who was once Hamid Tahan said as he evaporated into the dark shadows of the room.

And as I watched the gentle rise and fall of my sleeping wife’s chest I was left to ponder, if I valued my own life over the financial security of my family.”

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Some Assembly Required

In the midst of a tantrum burst of emotions, Robson stomped into his room and slammed the door shut so hard the picture on the wall to the right came free of its hook and crashed to the floor. It was one of his favorites, a print of a painting depicting a young boy and girl building a snowman with the caption “Snowmen fall from heaven…unassembled” across the bottom. The glass and the frame were cracked and now it was ruined just like everything else in his life! He kicked over his wastebasket, the plastic one with Captain America and all the other Marvel’s Avengers on it and discarded candy wrappers and other bits of broken junk he no longer had a use for skittered across the floor which only made him angrier.

He threw his head back and screamed, “Why can’t you give me what I want? Why can’t I eat what I want to eat and watch what I want to watch on tv? I’m sick of this stupid house and I hate you both! I can’t wait until I get older and leave here forever!”

And the rage kept spilling out until he had expelled all the air from his lungs and the rant became a coughing fit, but he didn’t care. He pulled in a deep breath of new air and let out a frustrated and sustained, guttural bellow so loud it vibrated his eyeballs.

When the red mist of fury lifted from his vision and he was left with nothing more than the fatigue of ages pressing down upon him, he heard a soft rap on his door. He had no desire to respond, so he didn’t but the door handle turned slowly and his father pushed his head inside.

“Got it all out of your system?” his father asked with no trace of anything being out of the ordinary.

Robson didn’t answer, he couldn’t answer, the fatigue wouldn’t allow it. But as his father entered the room and surveyed the damage, the young boy stood firm, and let his breath out through his nostrils in a defiant hiss.

His father picked up the cracked picture frame and examined it as he walked past Robson to sit on the bed. He patted the full-size mattress, indicating for his son to have a seat but the boy didn’t move. “Come on, it’s not going to kill you to sit next to me. I just need you to listen to what I have to say and then I’ll leave you alone to continue being mad at us.”

Reluctantly, Robson dragged his feet as if the gravity in the room had suddenly increased and plopped onto the bed as far away from his father as he could manage.

“A shame about this picture,” his father said. “Your mother and I bought this for you because it was the first thing you actually asked for. You pleaded with us and made your case so succinctly that we had no choice. At the time, we didn’t have the funds to spare but sometimes the happiness of the people you love is worth more than money.

“The reason I’m bringing this up is to talk to you about sacrifices. You’re too young to fully understand this but everybody in the world has to make them, no matter how young or old they are. And you may think the things we ask or tell you to do is unfair but that’s only because you don’t see the bigger picture and there’s no real reason you should at your age. Our job as your parents is to take care of the big important stuff so that you can live the easiest life we can manage to give you. But it’s also our duty to prepare you for what’s to come and we planned to wait until you were a little older but since you’re so eager to grow up, let me tell you what life holds in store for you.

“As you get older, you’re going to learn that even the people who were never supposed to let you down probably will and someone who has the same opinion about you…you will let them down, as well. That includes the three of us, champ. We’re eventually going to let each other down.

“You’re going to fall in love one day and your heart will get broken and it will probably happen more than once and it will get harder to love with each passing break. And most likely you’ll break a few hearts yourself even if you remember how it felt when yours was broken and try to avoid doing it to someone else, it’s going to happen.

“Despite your best intentions, you’ll fight with your best friends, blame a new love for things an old one did, complain because time is passing too fast, wish you had your childhood to do over again to get things right, and you’ll eventually lose someone you love which includes me and your mother.”

Robson sat motionless, staring at the cracked glass and broken frame, unable to meet his father’s gaze because he felt the sting of tears in his own eyes. “What do I do?” he said in a small voice.

“What do you mean?”

“To stop all the bad things from happening. What do I do?”

“Well, you can start by not taking the good things and times for granted but do take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you’ve never been hurt…because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you’ll never get back. But before any of that, you should go apologize to your mother, she was really upset by some of the things you said.”

Robson hopped off the bed, turned his back to his father and wiped the tears from his eyes with his shirt sleeve. He walked to the door with a purpose but stopped at the door jamb and said over his shoulder, “I don’t really hate you, you know.”

“I know, kiddo,” his father smiled. “Now, go give your mother a great big hug and kiss and shag your butt back in here so we can straighten this room up.”

The little boy took off like a shot out of the room yelling, “Mommy! Mommy! I’m sorry!”

His father stood up, righted the wastebasket and carefully tilted the broken glass into the little plastic bucket. He caught sight of the caption on the picture and thought, Snowmen aren’t the only things that require assembly, sometimes family bonds do too.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys