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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Drama Stories / Human Interest Stories
- Subject: Life Experience
- Published: 07/17/2016
deɪʒɑː ˈvuː,French deʒa vy/
noun: déjà vu
1. a feeling of having already experienced the present situation.
"a feeling of déjà vu"
Rosemary Turner couldn’t figure out why she felt like a child’s toy Helium balloon stuck in some corner of a shopping mall ceiling getting blown around on the draft of an air conditioner or an open window. Then again, shopping malls don’t have hospital beds or ear-splitting heart monitors. Slowly the gravity of her situation began to come clear. She realized she was having one of those out of body experiences or ‘O.O.B.E she had read or heard about somewhere. Her pain was gone from the cancer that had gorged on her for the last year and she was grateful for that at least, but she'd rather not be up there like a stranded astronaut without a spaceship to be tethered to. There are people below her, two nurses and a handsome young man in a white coat who is barking out instructions,
calling for a defibrillator stat! Along with them is another male with short salt and pepper hair, medium build, wearing a white shirt and blue tie. His dark trousers are struggling to hold in his stomach, beside him and around the bed are two grown up girls and one adult boy; the others are family, and friends. She knows them all of course, how could she not. The tallest is Emily her first born, now a woman herself of thirty three with two kids, Ben and Gracie, her beautiful grandchildren. Then there’s Mary, Emily’s sister and younger by three years who’s still waiting in hope of finding the right man, finally Alex her youngest, the one sitting holding her hand, a talented aspiring actor full of optimism of being the next George Clooney or Bradley Cooper. How strange it seems to look down on oneself, Rosemary thinks from where she is, much like you would gaze in a mirror to find a refection smiling back of a healthy person full of what you would expect, yet now all she sees is a body frail and infirm yellow from jaundice, now dead of cancer.
Three more people burst into the room pushing a trolley and scattering those that have gathered around. ‘’How long has she been down’’ one of them shouts above the wailing monitor. ‘’About twenty minutes’’ the young handsome doctor answers ‘’I began CPR immediately but I’ve still no output’’, ‘’she’s flat lined’’ another agrees.
Stupid things crossed her mind, of how she wished she’d combed her hair or put on a little make up, maybe got Emily to varnish her nails, you know, all the things a woman likes to do before she goes out. But what was the point, did it really matter what she looked like when she reached the pearly gates and would she even have a body or hair to worry about? Would Saint Peter comment on how much her strawberry blonde dye had faded to show her greys? Probably not, If in fact that’s where she was headed at all. Lets face it, through her life she hadn’t been an angel, and wasn’t there supposed to be a bright light she was to go into? instead of floating around on a ceiling like an aimless dust mote.
Most folks never find out what’s its like to experience an electric shock, to feel that surge of energy lock their muscles into a spasm making them tremble and shudder, but Rosemary recognized this sensation that was now coursing through her and wondering how it was possible it sent her spinning back to a time long ago when she was young. A child of maybe six or seven spiraling to a wet afternoon on her fathers farm in Minnesota. She could see herself sitting on the straw covered barn floor, much like you would if you were watching a reel of film flickering on an old sheet, the picture lined and slightly out of focus just like a home movie. ‘’I remember this’’ she heard herself whisper. ‘June 6th, 1961, we had just come home from church and I was still wearing my favorite blue dress and patent shoes, Momma had to go to the store for some groceries so she left me with Daddy to play in the barn until she came back. I brought with me my Beforever Melody Ellison doll dressed in a pretty green outfit. For about twenty minutes I had managed to keep myself amused and out of trouble just as Daddy had warned me to do. But I got bored and decided to explore, the barn was big and rain was seeping through some holes in the roof and running down a few of the wooden support beams. I was pretending I was a princess dancing to the sounds of the water dripping into an old rusty bucket. Clink Clank it went, I imagined I was in an enchanted forest with trees that could sing and straw that made a golden pathway to a fairy’s castle. I ran my hands around the beams as I swirled along humming in my land of make believe, never seeing the power socket Daddy used for his trailing light that was attached to one. All I can remember is the flash of blue light and the instant pain in my body, then the feeling of falling from a great height. For a while I was nowhere other than a blackness with just a pinprick of light far off in the distance. Too far to walk, too distant to run, if I had legs that would carry me there - I had no arms to move and no fingers to feel with but the longing to go was strong. Voices soft and serene were calling me to join them, except one who was louder than all the others, keeping me from going into the light, my Mothers. ‘Rosie’ she cried, ‘don’t leave me’. That’s when I opened my eyes; I was in my bed at home, with her standing over me.
‘Quite a story’ Rosemary hears a mans voice say from behind her just as the movie fades out and the bed sheet is replaced by a wall, a wall covered in old black and white photographs in ornate anomalous sized wooden frames. She is no longer floating on the ceiling staring down at herself in a hospital bed, instead she is aware of standing in a room, a room that smells of damp paper and ancient leather, like old well worn couches and stacked broadsheets.
‘’What just happened, and where am I?’’ Rosemary asks turning her face away from the assortment of dust covered glass cased images. The room is small with dollar green walls and a large oak bureau is taking up much of the floor. Rosemary’s feelings of just being electrocuted are fading and there is a man sitting behind the desk in a high back brown swivel chair. He’s writing steadily into what she thinks could be a ledger much like an accountant might use with income and expenditure columns lined with bottle blue ink. There are two red doors beyond him each one bearing a single similar gold letter ‘H’. He doesn’t look up when he answers her.
‘’To reply to the first part of your inquiry, Mrs Turner’’ he begins, ‘’What just transpired was you were shocked by a defibrillator, hence the sensation you just felt, your mind then evokes a way to deal with the trauma you are experiencing so associates it with the only memory it has of a similar occurrence in your life and that’s why it ran the film or home movie of that day in the barn in the only way that you could understand. You remember, that’s how you used to watch them with your Mom and Dad on the old sheet over a rope stretched between the beams. The second part I’m afraid is much harder to explain, where you are now is not a place or existence the human mind can fathom. There is no earthly name for here, or no science theory that could ever come close to where you are, so those in charge make it easier for you by manufacturing this dimension in a way that will make you feel less alarmed. It’s different for everyone of course, who come here first, for some it’s their own bedroom, or place where they first made love, for others a train station waiting to leave on an adventure; many choose a beach or church. All places where they felt happy and times they wish they could go back to.’’
‘’And who are you?’’
‘’I am much like this room as I described and the state of mind most people feel between dreams and reality, visually I’m someone from your past, a person who you trusted or felt secure with. Maybe a relative or friend, but someone who was important enough to be here when you arrived. Why don’t you come over and take a seat Mrs Turner.’’
Rosemary moved forward to a chair that wasn’t there before but was now after the strange man had pointed with his pencil to the vacant space that was once near. Looking down as she walked she could see her favorite patent shoes from her childhood on feet that she was now only aware she had. A wall mirror on the wall threw back a refection as she passed of a young blond woman she barely recognized from a time when she was healthy and vibrant, thirty five she guessed, maybe forty. 1996, the year she was in her agents office receiving her first royalty check for the novel she had written. One of the happiest times of her life. Just like in the fairy tale, Alice’s looking glass revealed a world that was distorted and unreal, so too did this one, only here she was dressed in the suit she wore that day, blue and powerful, she remembers her assertiveness and the confidence she had then, all since eaten away by an evil disease.
‘’I know this place’’ Rosemary says sitting. ‘’And I know you Frank, we are in your office and its Friday morning 10:00 am, August 9th, 1996, and that envelope I see on your desk contains a check for Ten Thousand dollars’’.
‘’This must be a special time for you Rosemary, why else would you have selected here and this period in your life as your beginning, you do know what I mean don’t you?’’
‘’You're not Frank?’’
‘’I may look like him physically to you, and speak like him. But as I said, mortal souls are unable to comprehend the complexity of this dimension, their, your, diminutive intelligence cannot think beyond the boundaries of mans primordial science so the creator allows you to choose what you see.’’
‘’So this is not real’’ Rosemary sighed, and that is not downtown New York’s traffic I hear outside the window’’
‘’Take a look’’ Frank said offering out his hand towards the window ‘’If you want it to be there it will be Rosemary, after all this is your transition’’
Rosemary got up and slowly walked over, the noise of a busy city became louder as she got closer and when she looked out she could see the streets of Lower Manhattan with enormous buildings that seemed to scrape the vast blue sky above them. She watched as yellow cabs picked up fares, honking horns sounding of frustrated drivers and the continuous buzz of people just walking, talking and relishing life. A life now over for her. She felt a tear burn her eye then wondered how that was possible if mysterious Frank was being honest with her.
‘’So I can cry in my dream?’’ Rosemary asked Frank who had finished writing in his book and was now putting it into a large grey filing cabinet near one of the doors. She could see her name on the tab it had when he placed it between what seemed to be others, her husbands and Alex’s. Frank slid the drawer closed; Rosemary could make out a square card on it with the letter ‘T’ in bold large black ink set into a small metal holder. ‘’What are those? Some sort of files or books?
‘’Records of your life Rosemary’’ Frank says looking over, ‘’files and collections of times from the moment you were born until now, your last chapter is over, I’m sorry to say Mrs Turner, and so I needed to finalize your volume and put it away. You know what I mean; you being a writer an all, every novel must have an ending.’’
‘’My husband Jack and son Alex, are they-‘
‘’Yep! In here too, filed under T’’
‘’Do you know when they will pass over? I mean when they will-,’’
‘’Oh my Lord!’’
‘’He might know, I don’t I’m afraid, all I do is keep the books.’’ Frank slides back into his swivel chair and sighs. ‘’Why does everyone ask that question’’
‘’What happens now?’’ Rosemary asks nervously glancing at the two doors behind Frank, ‘’Do I go through one of those and are they what I think they are, gateways to heaven or hell?’’
Frank swings round in his seat and points, ’’Yes but which is which I have no idea, once you go through it’s out of my hands. They never tell me, and I don’t ask. All I know is its all about what you did in your life; they watch your recordings and determine if you did more good than bad or vice versa. If one outweighs the other then its hell or heaven.’’
‘’What do you mean they watch my recordings, and who are they? - I thought there was only one God’’ Rosemary asks.
‘’There is and there isn’t’’ Frank replies spinning round again to face her, and Rosemary can see that the middle aged Frank she encountered when she arrived, with his old seventies style green herringbone suit, has just morphed into a younger 1940’s post war blue ensemble. His thick black hair is slicked back with oil replacing his thin grey locks and he looks more like Paul Newman from the film ‘Cool Hand Luke,' one of her favorites.
‘’confusing right?’’ he smiles at her. ‘’There’s God the Father, God the son and God the Holy Ghost, if you’re a Christian. Then there’s the prophet Mohammad if you are Islamic, Budda, Hindu’s, Shinto, so on and so on, you get the picture. But God, as you call him, is the creator, the architect of the universe, the Alpha and the Omega. Anyway you get where I’m going.’’
‘’And the recordings you mentioned?’’
‘’Ah! Yes, the recordings’’ Frank muses ‘’let me try and explain how they work. You know what hieroglyphics are right?’’
He watches Rosemary nod.
‘’Well, the ancient Egyptians used symbols and pictograms to make a record of that persons life, way ahead of their time if you ask me, but between you and me I think they got a little help (pointing his finger upwards) from you know who. They believed arriving at one's reward in the afterlife was a demanding ordeal, requiring a sin-free heart and the ability to recite the spells, passwords, and formulae of the book of the dead. In the Hall of Two Truths, the deceased's heart was weighed against the Shu feather of truth and justice taken from the headdress of the goddess Ma'at. If the heart was lighter than the feather, they could pass on, but if it were heavier they would be devoured by the demon. But if the feather outweighs the heart, then the deceased has led a righteous life and may be presented before Osiris to join the afterlife. Thoth, the ibis-headed god of wisdom stands at the ready to record the outcome. Of course we have moved on since then, we now keep everyone’s life on video tape so it can be watched when the time comes to decide which door each person can pass through. They are hour long tapes made up of three twenty minute segments, each one stored in a vast place called the Library of Life. Each one is added to as his or hers life run moves on depending on how long that person is allowed. You can imagine how big this place needs to be, think eternity and that’s only a pin head on the bottom shelf of one corner. Of course the tapes need changing when they are full and most are replaced without anyone noticing, but if you have ever experienced what they call déjà vu, that’s when there’s a slight glitch and the tape needs to rewind slightly to make sure there are no missed moments, Hence that weird feeling of having already experienced the present situation. Dreams too are short run clips of miss-mash footage or a kind of mini movies that run through your head while your brain tries to put them in some sort of order until the tape is removed and replaced with a fresh one.’’
‘’Could I watch one of them?, is that allowed?’’
‘’You did when then they used the defibrillator, don’t you remember?’’
‘’Oh yes, I did didn’t I’’ Rosemary frowned.
‘’There’s one thing left that is allowed while the creator makes up his mind and that is, you can relive one segment of your life, experience one last time twenty minutes of any part you wish. It could be anything from being born to your first kiss or when you wrote your first chapter of your best selling novel. That twenty minutes when you where at your most happiest or most fulfilled. But once you choose those moments Rosemary, your choice cannot be undone. So I would urge you to choose wisely.’’
As she considers Franks offer Rosemary goes back to the window and looks down again onto the busy city below. The New York skyscrapers are still there only this time they are lit up against a purple sky. Cars and streetlights illuminate the roads and sidewalks, restaurants and bars are teaming with life reminding her that time keeps going on and will do long after she goes through what ever door is chosen for her. She reflects on the moments she has cherished, sunsets on summer evenings, the first cries and laughters of her children. The morning she was married, that night on honeymoon when she walked with Jack barefoot on a moonlit beach. Or the night she got drunk with her friends on a sleep over. Too many moments to choose from, should she go back and see her Mother and Father, kiss them one last time and tell them she loved them and that she would be with them soon. Maybe it should be the time she-
‘’Well Rosemary have you decided which twenty minutes you wish to go back and relive?’’
‘’Do you want to tell me why?’’
‘’I’m going back to the most important twenty minutes of my life and a time where I felt contented and at peace and to be with all the people who really matter’’
‘’Ok, Rosemary, all you need to do is close your eyes and when you open them again you will be back to the first moment of your chosen twenty minutes.’’
Rosemary watched Frank take out a glass sand timer from his desk drawer and place it in the palm of his hand, ‘’but remember, when they are over you will find yourself on the other side of one of these doors, are you ready?’’
For a second Rosemary feels as light as a child’s helium balloon stuck up on a ceiling of a shopping mall, like she was being tossed around on the draft of an open window. Her eye lids are like window blinds trying to keep out a mornings sun rise, slowly they begin to feel thin allowing light in. She hears a voice, a young mans voice, he’s calling to someone.
‘’Dad! Emily, everyone, Moms back, she’s awake’’ its Alex’s face she sees looking down at her and smiling. He’s squeezing her hand so hard.
‘’But not for long’’ she whispers to herself.