The Boy Who Died
eath lived up to Jacob's expectations.
The day he died was sunny, as it was most days on the island of Oahu where he lived. Only a few miles away, bikini clad tourists stretched out on the sand of Waikiki beach. While they toasted themselves golden brown, Jacob lay on a steel surgical table, broken and bleeding. He'd heard that when a person died they saw a tunnel that ended in a bright light. If the person moved toward the light, God or some already deceased loved one like a great-grandmother would meet them on the other side. Jacob didn't believe it. He'd accepted that everything would end in black nothingness and for him it did. What he didn't expect was that the end was just the beginning.
The light returned. His eyes fluttered open against bright white and a face emerged from the radiance, materializing from the void. A rumbling voice called him by name. "Jacob. Jacob, can you hear me?" Behind the voice was the clink-clank of metal hitting metal and a smell like a copper penny soaked in Clorox.
"I think he's coming 'round," the voice said from behind a green surgical mask. Soulful brown eyes came into focus. Spikes of pain stabbed through Jacob's head and chest and he realized the man in scrubs was shaking him. He wanted to tell the man to stop, but a plastic dome pressed over his face. As he fought against the plastic, the tubes connected to his arm slapped against the metal pole near the gurney.
"Relax, my man," the face said, pressing Jacob's arms to his sides. "The mask has to stay on. It's oxygen and you need it."
In his confused state, Jacob couldn't understand that the green man was a doctor. All he knew was pressure and pain, like he'd been torn apart and put back together.
"Jacob, take a deep breath. Come on kid breathe."
Of its own volition, the air went in. The air went out. The pain made the air rattle in his mouth.
"That's it. A few more like that, Jacob. Slow and deep. Can you understand me?" the green man asked.
"Yes," Jacob tried to say but his voice was nothing but a rough whisper, muffled by the oxygen mask.
"Are you in pain?"
He tried to say yes again but the word dissolved in his throat. He nodded slightly too, in case the green man hadn't heard.
"Okay, just relax. I'm going to give you some morphine." The green man held up a syringe with some clear liquid in it, and then locked it onto the tube in Jacob's arm. He pressed the plunger and Jacob felt a cold ribbon twist into his vein. The pain ebbed. The light dimmed. On the ceiling there were tiles, foam squares in a steel grid that he guessed hid the wires and pipes up there. He counted the squares as he floated away, thinking of the wires and pipes under his own skin carrying the green man's juice to all his fingers and toes.When the darkness swallowed him again, all the thinking his exhausted, numbed-out, maybe-damaged brain could produce was a vague feeling that he'd forgotten something. The missing thought was an irritation at the back of his skull. The more he concentrated on it, the more the memory slipped from his grasp, an oily shoelace through languid fingers.