Ringing in the ears; a cold numbness at the core. Confusion. The taste of blood. Sid tried to open his eyes slowly; they fluttered as he fell in and out of consciousness.
A concussive burst of air hit him, though he still cannot hear; if he were in his right mind, he would wonder of the proximity of that shell; it felt close. His eyes locked on to a cloudless starlit night, and the arm of the milky way was visible and inviting. For a moment, he felt a fleeting, ethereal peace.
The stars themselves were a million eyes staring down on him at this very moment, bearing witness to his Life. He is lost in the timeless terror and awe of the moment. He felt the small tremors as the ground shook around him.
The ringing remained, though now intermixed with the pop of artillery fire and the whiz of bullets. In the distance, like banshee’s wail, the sound of warning sirens.
Another concussion of air, and he managed to will himself stay in the present and fight the sinking warm embrace of the eternity above him.
The memory of how he ended up on the ground or where he was, eluded him at the moment.
Propping himself up on his elbows, he struggled to lift his head; a wave of vertigo hit him, he shivered; the cold in his core spreading out to his chest – he was losing blood, fast.
He managed to keep his head up and looked down at his body, wincing and collapsing as he realized the seriousness of his injury. His uniform and abdomen were covered in blood, and from the tattered cloth, it was evident – shrapnel had penetrated him. He glimpsed his innards which were partly protruding from the wound.
If the blood loss did not kill him, sepsis would. “Medic!” he yelled out in desperation. He slipped back out of consciousness, and for a moment, peace swept him away from the theater of the obscene in Okinawa.
His solitude was broken by a loud explosion that startled him awake. “Medic!” he yells out again, though how loud his voice would carry in the pandemonium of war he could only guess.
The cold was more pronounced and spread out slowly, like frost forming on the glass on a frosty winter night. A tear streamed down Sid’s cheek, leaving a clean line on his face. The dirt and blood-stained features were visible from time to time as flashes of light, like false lighting, illuminated the sky. The light show was quickly followed by thundering air and dirt and stone flying in all directions.
It was only a matter of time. His life was slipping away with every drop of blood seeping into the cold, rocky earth. He raised his hand in desperation, yelling with all his might, “Medic!”.
He hears the bouncing and sliding of stone near him. Friend or foe?
It hardly mattered now; a shot to the head might be a mercy. He could not feel his legs nor move them and every moment that passed, staying awake was a challenge to the will.
In his mind’s eye, memories, like water from a stream, flowed over his consciousness.
His first kiss with Jennie, his high school sweetheart and wife.
His father peddling quickly to take him to school on a bike while he held on to him from behind.
A family gathering for Thanksgiving; his mother holding a large pan with a butterball turkey on it. The memories were as clear as seeing the world through a looking glass. A serene smile formed on his streaked face. He looked up again, looking past the medic that was frantically working on him.
The glowing points of light, the stars, and the nebulas of the night sky took on a visage, a rough humanoid faceless shape covered by a black cloak with gold embroidery. Two bright stars in position to suggest eyes, but the face and body as though adorned with the void and light of the universe itself. His irises dilated, his face went blank, losing any signs of the consciousness that animated it, a sigh of the last breath giving – back what he was given.
Sid did not know how long he had been here; was it seconds? A few moments, perhaps? Hours, Days? Time here seemed meaningless; what is a year in the Presence of the infinite? A faded essence of a lifetime itched at his conscious awareness. He felt free here, though unbottled from the confines of the physical body.
He did not remember his name but for the vague memories slipping away like sand in an open hand. He looked around in wonder; This was familiar. He was home. Though he had no words to convey the emotion, no mouth to speak. He realized that what “he” was here was pure consciousness, the awareness of experience. Both male and female, and neither.
Standing on a clod of flat earth floating in a black void, “he” sensed standing in front of a large arch. The arch was completely black with gold veins running through it like marbled and worked void. Speckled glints of starlight could be discerned in the stone, which drew his attention.
On the other side of the arch; a presence. Images touched his conscious awareness, the image of his last breath in the body he just was. From the position of the figure in the black and gold cloak, before he became conscious of this place.
The images continued; a baby crying, a female and male holding the baby in their arms. A wooden cottage surrounded by golden fields. A giant red rose bush in full bloom outside by the front door. A strong smell of roses.
The consciousness that was Sid was confused. He felt the Presence on the other side of the arch but could not see it. Instead – stretching out in all directions on the other side of the arch was the infinite expanse of the universe. Clearly seen were the nebulas, galaxies, and countless points of distant suns.
One mote of light and void each, moved on the other side of the arch, attracted to each other; they spiraled like lovers and crossed the threshold together. His consciousness felt an incomprehensible rush of energy. Millions of images flashed before his mind’s eye and then dissipated into him, adding specks of the Presence is to his being.
To be continued…