To continue a trend I began last year, I’ll post a piece of flash fiction here the fourth Friday of every month. Please comment and share if you enjoy my stories.
The story “The Other Side” follows:
Felisa Ravine drowned. Nothing new. She’d been drowning for months.
Since the day the family minivan was sideswiped at a busy intersection. The moment she woke up in the emergency room, a brace on her neck, and saw her sister’s bloodshot eyes.
Her sister rarely cried.
“A car accident.”
She remembered. Laughing, Rick turned up the soundtrack to Leea’s favorite movie. Felisa harmonized with their daughter’s sweet high soprano. Their usual routine to keep Leea content on car rides. Then…
Glass exploded behind Rick. The side of the van crunched, rolling and sliding, metal grating against concrete deafening, ending the song of happiness. Felisa’s neck wrenched, and her head slammed into the passenger window. Darkness.
Her sister shook her head and dropped her gaze. “I’m sorry.”
A flood of uncontrollable emotions swamped her. Followed too closely by demands to organize services she couldn’t fathom. Faces flashed in and out of her vision, blurred and dampened by the liquid grief swallowing her.
This time, her lungs ached. Her arms floated upward. Darkness beneath and gray light above. Maybe she would finally get her wish. She would join her family on the other side. Life wasn’t living without them. She didn’t want to be the survivor.
Her legs fluttered. Buoyancy carried her up, up. Her head burst from water, but her heavy chest couldn’t take in air.
Panic. Thrashing. An instinctual desire to stay alive.
Her body slid against a pebbly shore. She grasped at long grass above her head. Coughs wracked her.
Capsules—red, green, yellow, black and white—spewed from her mouth, hailing the beach. Air forced through her nostrils. More gagging and gasping and vomiting.
This couldn’t be right. She remembered pulling Rick’s favorite hooded sweatshirt over her yoga outfit, hugging Leea’s stuffed tiger tightly and burrowing into her husband’s side of their oh-so-empty bed.
A gallon of water erupted from her throat, splashing the pile of medication. She tried to stop the heaving. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She’d chosen death.
Spent at last, forehead on arms, she lay shivering. Tears dropped like hailstones on the mess of dissolving medication.
Please. I want to be with them.
Her closed eyes invited the sweet relief of unconsciousness.
A deep voice rumbled nearby. Her eyes snapped open. Rocks scraped her abdomen. Water lapped over her bare shins. Beneath her face, her arms had no sensation.
“Another prisoner.” A masculine voice—higher pitched and angry.
“Help me.” The deep voice vibrated into her chest. A stranger’s voice. Both of them.
Hands gripped her shoulders and rolled her to the side. She gasped as blood tingled down her arms, shocking her to the tips of every finger.
Hazy daylight made her blink. Hands grasped her shoulders and another pair encircled her bare ankles. Her stomach roiled at the rocking motion.
She closed her eyes and sucked air but she gagged anyway. Nothing remained in her. She’d expelled it all when she’d washed ashore.
Which wasn’t possible. Unless this was the afterlife.
The grip on her legs released an instant before her backside rested on a bed of mossy grass. Her head lowered more slowly. She blinked several times, staring into the shadowy face hovering above her.
The touch disappeared and the face moved further away.
Dark brown hair, pulled back, a braid resting over a shoulder dressed in buckskin. Buckskin? Was Heaven no more than a Spaghetti Western? Eyes a dark blue stared down from a darkly tanned face. It was all angles and harsh planes with a stern, nearly square chin and clean-shaven cheeks.
“Welcome to Hell,” the angry voice said.
Since the mouth in the face above her didn’t move, Felisa guessed the voice belonged to her other rescuer.
“Who—” she coughed, rolling to the side to curl around the wracking pain.
She’d been drowning. No, she’d drowned. Somehow the river of sorrow had become real. She’d passed to the other side. Into Hell.
Tears burned the back of her eyelids. She couldn’t be here. Rick and Leea would be in Heaven. That’s where she’d planned to go. No more living without them.
“My name is Hunter.” The bass rumble soothed the sudden panic. “Don’t listen to Rudy.”
A snarl of laughter. “No one ever does.”
Felisa rolled to a sitting position and hugged her knees into her knees. Rudy had a riot of auburn hair and a bushy goatee covering gaunt features.
“Where am I?”
Hunter glared toward the other man before saying, “We call it The Other Place.”
Rudy’s unamused cackle preceded a harsh, “That’s what I said. Hell.”
“You’re dead.” Rudy shrugged. “Killed yourself, right? Or tried to. Just like the rest of us.”
Felisa gaped at him. Impossible. Hell burned with fire and brimstone.
“Maybe we’re on the outskirts.”
Rudy guffawed. “Killers don’t get to enter the pearly gates, sister.”
Hunter’s bushy eyebrows pressed together. “We’re on an island…What is your name?”
Her tired brain whirled. An island. In the other place.
But, she’d been promised death was a gateway to the other side. That her family waited for her there. She straightened.
“Are Rick and Leea here?” Even this place could be Heaven as long as they were together.
Hunter shook his head.
“Maybe they used different names. My daughter has blonde pigtails and laughing cornflower eyes. She’s five.”
Rudy snorted. “No children come here. The pearly gates were made for them.”
“Enough.” Hunter stood. “I’m sorry about your family, but you won’t find them here.”
“Like he didn’t find the brother he killed. And I didn’t find the father.” Rudy marched away.
Felisa’s head spun. She clutched her skull and closed her eyes. This had to be a nightmare. She lay at home, dying. When she expired, this would be over and she would—
“He’s right. The people we lost aren’t here.” Hunter paused, swallowed. “Only other weaklings who ended their lives.”
“It wasn’t living without them,” Felisa said. She’d wanted to shout it, but her throat burned so nothing but a harsh croak emerged.
“It isn’t.” Hunter stared toward the river. “And neither is this.”
Felisa buried her face in the damp spandex of her yoga pants. Heat raced through her. Why did God hate her so much?
For her, the other side of life still meant living in Hell.
**The end. Or is it?
This story was inspired by a dream. I dreamt more about it and that became the novel I wrote during the Write Your Book intensive in 2022. But who would read a novel about a woman who committed suicide?