Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Journey Through Transition (Short Story)

Okay, so it's several weeks late but I finally finished typing up the story based on a dream I had the morning of March 17th.  I had used a shorter version of this for my Tipsy Lit entry that same week (see previous post), but I really wanted to get the full thing up for your reading pleasure (as several people seemed interested in reading it).

Please note that this isn't a direct recording of the dream, I've taken some creative liberties, fleshed out some elements, and dropped or glossed over other things.  I'll explain at the end of this post what changed and what didn't, so without further adieu, I bring you:

"The Journey Through Transition"
(3,012 Words)

Jenny knew she was dieing from the age of eight – an incurable illness that would likely kill her before she turned twelve.  Her parents had her make up a bucket list and they were able to tick the major things off before her funeral on her ninth birthday.  She wasn’t dead yet, but from that day forward she would be to all who knew her.  Her parents mourned and clung to her as she cried too. 

She then said goodbye to her friends and family and was sent off to the Marlayna Children’s School for the remainder of her corporeal existence.  Part hospital, part boarding school, part monastery, the Marlayna School was part of a vast nationwide network of centers where the dieing learned how to do so peacefully. 

When she arrived at the School, she touched the Soul Bell to imprint her life-signature upon it – this bell would toll the instant of her death.  She smiled when she felt the tingle in her hand as she touched it – knowing that she and it were now linked, she was now part of the school!

Jenny liked her new home and made friends quickly – all were terminally ill like herself and all were between the ages of six and fifteen.  There was one caregiver to every six children and they watched their charges diligently.  The children had a couple hours of academic studies each day (just in case they miraculously pulled through and needed to reenter society).  They had music, dance and art classes as well as copious amounts of play time.  They learned yoga and meditation, as well as an ancient Buddhist technique called “Chod”: a highly supervised meditation practice where one calls up their fears and lets those fears “devour” them.  When one realizes that the self remains after such an ordeal, the person is greatly empowered and eventually set free of worry and care.

When Jenny was ten years old, she noticed she was getting weaker rather than stronger.  Her caregivers took notice as well and paid her special attention, reminding her of her breathing techniques when her heart fluttered.  She practiced her mindfulness and letting go of tension.  Finally the moment came during reading time – she felt a shudder rake her whole body as her heart skipped into an arrhythmia that no amount of coughing would reset. A strange sense of disorientation took her and she distantly heard a bell toll twice. 

It was said you never heard the bell toll for yourself and she was thrilled to have heard her own as well as that for someone else.  For some reason people in the same dieing group would “soul-synch” and die in clusters – one of her friends had died with her!

When Jenny’s senses settled, she was still sitting in her chair, though she knew she was now dead.  She looked over and saw it was Sally who had died as well.  The girls smiled and waved excitedly at each other, happy that they’d be soul-partners in their final journey together.

Their caregiver, Margaret set her book down and said, “Well done girls, you handled the start of Transition beautifully.  Now stand up and look at your bodies.”

The two complied, getting up easily from their seats and turning to look at their shed physical forms – who could just as easily had been sleeping.  Jenny felt no sadness at having been permanently dislodged from her body.  It would be handled by the school staff.  This was her final chance to say goodbye to it.

For the next few days living people would still be able to see her and she’d still be able to interact with the world around her before completing her Transition and moving on to the Next Plane.

When they were finished inspecting their bodies, Margaret led Jenny and Sally to their rooms.  The girls followed their caregiver just as they though were still alive – they didn’t float, they weren’t transparent per say, though it was obvious they were no longer fully corporal.  Their forms would become more nebulous as they moved through Transition though.

“I heard two chimes!” Jenny declared triumphantly.  “I heard my own bell!”

Margaret shook her head.  “You never hear your own bell Jenny; the bell tolled three times.  Dylan Transitioned as well.”

Dylan!  He wasn’t even in their group!  Still, it meant he was now their soul-partner too and they’d be spending the next few days in each other’s presence.

“Where is he?” Sally asked.

“He’s struck with his body at the moment,” Margaret explained.  “So you won’t be traveling with him; but don’t worry, we’ll take good care of him.”

“Is he alright?” Jenny asked, feeling an odd sense of responsibility for her soul-partner.

“Oh yes, he’ll be fine.  He just experienced some pain during his Transition and he needs to work through it before separating from his form.  Let’s get your things together now.”

Ahead of time the children all made up lists of items that were important to them that they’d want to take when they went back home.  Margaret went through each item on the girls’ lists with careful quickness to make sure each child still wanted to take them. 

“How about this one?” she asked, holding up a stuffed elephant.  “Yes!” Sally declared, taking it and giving it a big squeeze.

“And these socks?”

They were Jenny’s.  She contemplated them – still loving the color and pattern, but she realized she wouldn’t be able to wear them.  Her garments were now the product of her self-image – she actually wasn’t and couldn’t wear anything corporeal.  Instead she touched the socks, dully feeling the soft texture that had once been so enticing.  She looked down and grinned when she saw she was now “wearing” the socks.

“I don’t need them now,” she said proudly.

Margaret smiled and continued going through their selected items.

With their bags packed they were escorted to the door where a Traveling Companion waited for them.  Mike was a grandfatherly old fellow with a push-broom mustache whose sole job it was to escort the dead children of the Marlayna Children’s School back to their parent’s for their final send-off.

“You ladies ready?” he asked jovially.

The two grinned and he led them outside to a waiting car.  It was all black with a violet light on top to identify it as an escort vehicle for people in Transition.

“Sally’s family lives closer,” Mike offered as he pulled away from the curb.  “You ladies have any objection to starting there first?”

Neither did and so off they went.

Transition Escorts always had right of way in traffic and could go as fast as conditions allowed.  The girls laughed hysterically over each bump because their soul-bodies were already getting lighter and they could bounce much higher than when they were corporeal.  This didn’t last too long however as they were at Sally’s place in less than an hour.

Her parents had been told of the girls’ arrival in advance and they greeted the two warmly and with open arms.  They had said their goodbyes to their daughter several years ago so this visit – though friendly and welcoming – had a sense of detachment the girls were already expecting.  The point of these final visits was to show the newly dead that this was no longer their world – that it no longer held anything they needed to remain attached to.  They were encouraged to explore and experience as much and whatever they liked so there’d be no lingering questions, worries or regrets when they completed Transition.

Sally and Jenny were offered sweets that were customarily provided to the departed.

Jenny had had these before and eagerly popped one in her mouth expecting the delightful sweetened coffee confection she remembered.  Instead her taste buds met only bland, powdery corn starch.  She looked over at Sally and knew she was experiencing the same underwhelming sensation.

They had of course been taught that their senses would not be as they once were in this state; that the things of this world would no longer excite the senses as before, but it needed to be experienced to be believed and that’s what this trip was about.

Per their training, they mindfully finished chewing the confections and swallowed dryly.  The food would dissolve into dust that would drift from their soul-bodies as they became less corporeal.

“Would you girls like to get into the hot tub?” Sally’s father offered.

“Oh yes!” they said in cheerful unison.

He led them to the basement where the hot tub whirred away invitingly.  Sally and Jenny “thought” themselves into swim suits and climbed in only to be disappointed yet again.

There was a vague awareness that the water was warm and the bubbles should have created a delightful sensation against their skin, but they felt only the pressure of the water against their forms and were aware of the density difference between that and the air.

They halfheartedly splashed about a little but even getting water in the face elicited no reaction or excitement.

Far sooner than they had thought imaginable, they got back out.  Sally’s father had stood by waiting – knowing they wouldn’t be long – and lovingly wrapped them up in towels.

“What would you like to do now girls?” he asked.

“Could Jenny sleep with me tonight?” Sally asked.

“Of course!”

The girls giggled, their excitement returning.  A sleepover was fun no matter what state a person was in!  However the girls had forgotten that they couldn’t sleep while in Transition – they weren’t even tired.

“Sally,” Jenny whispered to her friend that night after they’d lain in bed for a while.  “I miss being alive.”

“I do too,” Sally confessed quietly.

These feelings went contrary to their training.  They’d been taught to accept their deaths and eventual ascendance to the Next Plane.  Of course they didn’t really feel sad about being dead – it was more remorse that they’d no longer be able to enjoy the pleasures of the senses from being alive.

They spent that night meditating on their emotions and contemplating the completion of their Transition.

They weren’t hungry in the morning – Sally’s parents hadn’t expected them to be – one didn’t need food after death.

“Mom?” Sally asked hesitantly after the family had eaten breakfast while the girls had played with Sally’s old dolls.  “Is it okay that we’re not happy that we’re dead?”

“Well of course dears!” her mother replied.  “Living is a very fun thing – something to be enjoyed and cherished.  It’s perfectly normal to miss it.  You’ve already said goodbye to all of us, but you can’t say goodbye to living until you’re dead; that’s why you’re here on this trip – it’s your last goodbye before you complete your Transition.”

“But we don’t think we want to Transition,” Sally said, crying tears that weren’t flowing.  “We want to live again!”

“Oh girls,” her mother said tenderly, gathering her dead daughter and soul-partner to her and rocking them comfortingly.  “You can go back to being alive on this Plane no more than a chick can crawl back into the egg.  Transition isn’t supposed to be fun – it’s a time of change, and change is always scary and uncertain – that’s why we send those who are dieing to schools to teach them how to handle our natural responses to change. 

“But know that you two are not alone in this – you have each other and you have our thoughts and love.  You’re no less loved now than you were when you were still with us.  We’ll think of you always, but with joy that you have gone safely to the Next Plane and that we’ll all be together some day there.”

“I’ll miss you Momma!” Sally sobbed.

“I’ve missed you for a long time, my love.  And I’ll miss you some more; but we’ll see each other again.  I promise!”  She kissed both girls and they ran to hug Sally’s father as well.

They left later that day after Sally showed her friend the tree out back she had loved to climb before her diagnosis, as well as the view from the attic window.  They arrived at Jenny’s house before dinner.

Jenny was noticing that Sally was looking less “solid”, but more serene.  She privately wondered if she herself was becoming equally see-through, but she had a feeling she was falling out of synch with her friend and that saddened her greatly because she didn’t know the cause of it. 

Jenny’s parents welcomed the girls just as Sally’s family had.  Treats were given which the girl reluctantly accepted, knowing how they would(n’t) taste.  Happily they were only expected to take one apiece. 

She had thought she’d feel more excitement at seeing her family again, but instead she was just numb.  It would have worried her if she hadn’t been thoroughly drilled on the feelings and sensations of the dead.

The evening continued with pleasant small-talk, Jenny growing more morose until her mother asked, “How have you girls been handling Transition?” 

“Good.” Jenny replied evenly.  “But…but I think we fell out of synch somehow.  I’m afraid Sally will move on before me.”

“Well,” her mother said with quiet compassion.  “You must move on when you’re ready.  People can stay in Transition as long as they need to.  Don’t feel rushed just because your soul-partner is ready.”

That was an odd thought.  She had always assumed soul-partners traveled together and completed Transition at the same time.  “I don’t want to be left alone!” she said, surprising herself at the emotion that leaked out around her words.  “Sally and I are friends, we should move on together!”

Her parents hugged them both.  “You won’t be alone,” her father assured her.  “We’re here for you, ready to help in any way we can.”

Jenny was comforted, but there remained the nagging feeling that something was still amiss.  Then an idea suddenly struck her.  “Dylan!” she said, brightening.  “We can’t move on without Dylan!”

She briefly explained that one other child had died with them, but had been left behind.  Her parents were surprised and tried to tell her that he must have fallen out of synch at the very beginning and surly his status had little to do with their ability to complete Transition.

“No, no!” Jenny insisted; Sally was picking up on her excitement too.  “We need to go to him.  I see that now!”

Sally quickly agreed and Mike was called in and asked if he knew where Dylan was presently.  “Oh sure,” he replied.  “He was able to start his Transition properly after I took you two out and he’s with his family now, a little south of here.”

Jenny hugged her parents and kissed her little brother, Tommy.  Sally gave him her beloved stuffed elephant and they were back in the car despite the late hour.  Jenny knew that it was perfectly normal and acceptable for Dylan to work through Transition on his own, but she was absolutely certain that she was out of synch with Sally because Dylan was out of synch with them.

They arrived at his place after dark.  The dead boy was rather confused to find the radiant girls show up in his living room, but they were welcomed all the same and again Jenny explained the reason they had come.  

“You see,” Jenny elaborated to Dylan.  “When we learned you had died too I was worried about you.  I didn’t realize it then, but Margaret tried to distract me so the bond wouldn’t form, but it did and you stayed our soul-partner even though you should have been able to Transition on your own.  We’re here now though.  We’re here for you!” 

The boy smiled with great relief since it was obvious he was not nearly as far along as Sally, or even Jenny.

The girls sat on either side of him, each taking a hand and encouraging him on.  His family sat at a respectful distance, honored by the presence of Dylan’s fellow deceased peers. 

“What was it like Dylan?” Jenny asked with all the curiosity she had felt when they had learned of his death.  “Were you okay?”

Dylan was a shy boy and a little flabbergasted by all this sudden attention and interest, but he replied reluctantly, “It was scary at first.”

Gaining some confidence when he saw they weren’t going to berate him for his assumed weakness, he continued.  “It was all dark.  I didn’t know where I was or how I’d gotten there.  I knew I wasn’t dreaming, but I didn’t think right away that I had actually started Transition. 

“Then I heard my caregiver – Emily’s voice.  I couldn’t understand her at first, but I focused on her voice and slowly realized that I had died.  After that it was easy.

“I found out you two had died too but had already left, so I came home and have been waiting to finish Transition, but I seemed to be stuck here.”  He shrugged, then smiled and looked at them.  “I was waiting for you I guess!”

Jenny and Sally hugged him, and when they parted they were all shimmering brilliantly.  His parents beamed proudly.

“Do you want to do it now?” Sally asked excitedly.

“Let’s go outside!” Dylan said.  “We have a pond out back.”

Eagerly the three children ran outside – their bodies now feeling light as feathers.

The moon was shining brightly on the flower-rimmed pond and Jenny realized she couldn’t think of a better place to ascend to the Next Plane.

The children held hands in a circle and smiled back at Dylan’s family.  His parents waved and his siblings giggled with happiness for their brother.

There was no need to take a deep breath since the dead don’t breathe, but Jenny did anyway.  Enjoying the feeling of closeness with her soul-partners and the quickly growing vastness she felt within her.

Looking up at the moon above, the children’s forms became increasingly less corporeal and finally dissolved into the night – their souls having finally ascended to their next level of existence. 

*  *  *  *  *

Okay, so in the dream I was Jenny but I don't remember anyone's names from the dream so all names are fabricated.  There was a name for the disease she had, but I don't remember it and felt no need to name it here.  It was a common ailment in the world this dream took place in though and most of the children at the school had it.

I fleshed out the Soul Bell concept for the story.  In the dream you just distantly heard a bell toll and knew someone had died with you.

The bit about them taking academic classes actually harkens to a fellow student in the dream who was turning 18 shortly and it was uncertain as to whether he should be given a job at the school or sent off into the world since he was "the boy who lived" and all that jazz.

There was no Transition Escort in the dream - the girls actually traveled alone using mass transit.  Since there was no point in messing with a couple dead girls, they traveled just fine completely unsupervised.

The coffee-flavored confections did indeed taste bland and boring in the dream! (It was a very tactile scene that really stood out to me).

The dream ended shortly after the hot tub scene - I had to take it from there for the story's sake.

So there you have it!
Thanks for reading all this and I hope you enjoyed it.
It really would be a good way to go!

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful! I wish my brother had had an experience like that. Everyone should be able to die so peacefully and with such understanding.