Excerpt from Within The Cleansing Fire

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I wasn’t ready to die. I don’t think anyone wanted me to die, especially my wife. Yet, I watch as a husky man wearing a preposterously tight white uniform and plastic gloves thrusts his weight onto my chest in an effort to drive the life that has left back into my body. I don’t feel much of anything, no pain physically or mentally. An underlying calmness washes through me as I study the crimson blood covering my face from the gnarly gash slicing through my right eye. Smoke fills the sky, erupting from my car and caught between ascending toward the heavens and settling in and all around me, the jagged fingers curling around my throat. I’m unable to smell the smoldering wisps, nor do I feel the skin of the police officers arm as I try to grab at him to get his attention.
This isn’t exactly how I envisioned heaven or the afterlife welcoming me. I know I’m dead because I see my lifeless body lying on the concrete five feet from my white Nissan, twisted into an unrecognizable origami figure. My efforts at gaining the attention of the paramedics or police have gone undetected, no one hears me. I don’t know where to go, except I know I have to get to Kenzie before she finds out.
I turn from the scene, torn between staying with my physical being and leaving to join my link to this life, my wife.
“God, I’m right here,” I blurt out loud for no one to hear, “are you going to take me now?”
Where is the white light? Where are the angels and all the family and friends I have said goodbye to over the years? If I’m meant to wander the earth looking after everyone, surely I’m not the only one. So where are all the other dead people?
The ambulance speeds past me with its lights off on the highway, loaded with my stiffening body. The house Kenzie and I rent isn’t far from the road, maybe a mile from where the strange red Taurus delivered its fatal blow. A slight drizzle begins to fall, leaving a silver glisten atop the landscape. I hold out my hand under the grey sky as I step onto the gravel of the long driveway leading down to the house. The droplets ping against the tan skin of my forearm, yet I do not feel the sensation of wetness. I do not feel anything.
I pad to the large window of the living room at the front of the small cape house and see Kenzie sitting on the couch watching reruns on HGTV. She doesn’t know yet, and I wish more than anything I could keep her oblivious in this moment forever. For what is ahead of her will ruin her. Her long blonde hair is pulled half way back, showing the contours of her beautiful face. She releases a wide smile as the couple entering the house on the television trips over the threshold. The creamy skin of her neck and chest will never feel the tender kisses that I had planned to place there after the date I will never pick her up for.
“Kenzie, I love you,” I murmur into the crisp Maine air. My tone is wretched from the pit of my stomach, making the words seem dejected instead of the blissful sentiment I had voiced just this morning.
*****
“Good morning baby,” I gruffly mutter between the sheets of the warm king sized bed we shared, stuffed into the small room.
I feel her grin spread against the skin in the crook of my neck, her eyes closed to the bright sun washing over our bed. “Morning,” she murmurs with sleepiness tugging at her voice.
I wrap my arms around her smooth body, cocooning her and absorbing her tender radiation. I feel her smile widen and she places a kiss against my neck. I could make love to her every day for the remainder of my life and never get tired of caressing the curve and slope of her body. Kenzie rakes her finger nails down the skin of my back as I take her mouth with mine, opening her lips and tasting the sweet heat I have come to know so well. I roll her to her back and easily settle home. Breathlessly, she rides the waves as if we were still mounted on our paddleboards, listlessly floating in the Caribbean six short months ago on our honeymoon.
We enjoy laying in one another’s warm embrace before the reality around us calls and consumes us.
“I will pick you up at six tonight and we will go down to the harbor to eat before the movie,” I tell her before grabbing my computer case.
“Okay, sounds good. Be careful and I will see you tonight,” she says standing at the kitchen counter sipping her coffee, “I will be home later this afternoon. I only have a few clients today.”
I nod and kiss Kenzie’s forehead, turning from her and opening the creaking front door of the cape house.
*****
The crunch of gravel behind me pulls me from the memory of the only angel I have had the opportunity to encounter. The sound like crunching and crumbling molars in my skull, unable to escape or be spit out. A sheriff’s car halts in front of the small garage that holds the land lords lawn mower and other useless gadgets he doesn’t want cluttering his own yard. Kenzie jerks her face towards the window I stand at, gazing through me at the two officers as they saunter slowly to the front door. Sadie, our six year old yellow lab bounds toward the door barking, a pink and blue ribbon tied tightly around her collar, as Kenzie stands and makes her way to the officers lurking on the small porch.

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