It was 1980 and David Shannon was an old man with nothing left to live for. His children no longer cared for him and his wife had died just the year before. So, when a group of scientists asked for a volunteer for an experiment that would leave him without any of his five senses in the hopes of finding God, he jumped at the opportunity. This story contains what happened in the hours after the operation.
Staring without seeing, David Shannon lay silently in the darkness he had woken to find himself in. He saw nothing. He heard nothing, tasted nothing, smelled nothing, and felt nothing. A numbness like no other consumed him. He felt like he was floating in space without a destination. The operation had been a success. He was cut off from all senses leaving his mind free to find God and speak to Him. Though he did not expect immediate results on his endeavor, he was disappointed to find that he had spent his time in the nothingness alone for what felt like hours.
He tried to focus on anything he could possibly find in the dark, but there was nothing. He was completely alone. Without knowing how much time had passed since he last had contact with the waking world, he began to wonder how long he could endure such a silence before going completely mad. Just as that thought entered his mind, he heard the low murmurs of unfamiliar voices in the back of his mind. The more he concentrated on them, the louder they became. It was not long before the voices went from quiet whispers to screams of despair. He was surrounded by people he did not recognize and was frightened by their words.
He tried shutting the voices out, but they just grew more agitated with his efforts. It wasn’t until he heard a voice that he actually knew before the others died off and faded into the distance. Almost as soon as he realized who the voice belonged to, a vision of his late wife, Sophia, appeared before him. He did not know if he still had the ability to cry, but if he did, he was sure he was doing it now. Sophia spoke his name softly and held her hand out for him. He reached out to touch her but felt nothing when her hand met his. How was he able to see her and hear her, but not touch her? Was he still in surgery? Was this some hallucination brought on by the anesthesia? Whatever the answer, he did not care.
Floating in the darkness, David carried on a conversation with his wife about how much he missed and loved her. She smiled the smile he had almost forgotten in his old age and it made his heart ache. He thought he wasn’t supposed to feel anything anymore. The numbness was still there, but he was now more aware of his painful longing for her than ever before. As she began to fade away into the nothingness around him, the pain increased.
No, don’t leave me here alone!
But, she did and he was left with his thoughts and nothing more. It was unknown to him how much time had passed before he began to hear the hushed voices around him again. What had frightened him at the beginning now filled him with hope that he would see his lovely Sophia’s face again. However, this time was different than the last. The good feeling of love was replaced with the familiar sting of fear when her voice did not ring out over the others. Instead, he saw many people walking toward them. People he had never met in his life asking him how their child or spouse was doing since their passing.
Names he did not know passed through his mind like a distant memory. He could feel the strangers entering his mind and controlling him from the inside. Details of memories that were not his played in his brain like a movie and he could feel himself speaking it aloud. Why could he feel? There was no sensation of pain; just the feeling of a being controlling his every move. All he wanted to do was scream, but did not know if he could. The voices were growing louder to the point that he could not hear his own thoughts anymore. He no longer wished for company. All he wanted was to be left alone.
Another feeling began to consume him as those he knew now to be dead were gathering around him. A feeling of hopelessness overwhelmed him. Whispers of hell and the end times were ringing in his ears. Why could he hear them? He began this journey in search of God and found nothing but demons waiting for him in what he could only assume was Hell. Was this his punishment? Every waking thought was plagued with the presence of the dead and their endless ramblings. All he wanted to do was sleep, but they would not let him.
Leave me be! Let me sleep! All I want is peace! I want to sleep!
And so they did let him sleep.
David was not sure for how long he was sleeping, but it was the peace he had been longing for. This feeling did not last long though as the dead became impatient with him. He could feel them trying to shake him from his slumber. Why could he feel them? This question had been plaguing him since the beginning of this Hell. He was not supposed to feel, hear or see them in any way. Why could he? What had those people done to him? Scientists are supposed to know what they are doing when they test on a human, right? They came to him promising contact with a loving God and instead he was greeted with nothing but chaos. The dead reached into his sleeping mind and entered through his dreams. They screamed for him to wake up and tell them more about their loved ones in the mortal world. All he wanted was Sophia. A few moments with his sweet Sophia would make this torture more bearable. Why did she leave him alone with these demons?
Through his own screaming thoughts and the shouts of the deceased around him, another voice rang out above all the others. The voice was feminine and spoke his name softly. Though this was not the voice he had been longing to hear, its owner did seem to silence the crowd that had been badgering him for what seemed like an eternity. From the abyss, he could see a young woman walking toward him. The moment herflawless face came into view, his wife was pushed to the back of his mind. The whole time he had been communicating with the dead, their faces were but a blur. Even the face of his Sophia was obstructed, but not this woman’s; he could see her clear as day. Her skin was pale and had a slight glow to it which helped to bring out the silver in her piercing irises. Long, black hair hung loosely over her shoulders with no wind to give it life. She stood silently before him for a moment as if taking all of his features in.
“David Gerald Shannon” she finally spoke, “Only son of Michael and Lucille Shannon. Brother of Francine and Regina Shannon. Born in Mabel, Minnesota on December fourth, nineteen hundred and thirteen. Died in Elma, Washington on April tenth, nineteen hundred and eighty-three.”
Died? I didn’t die! They said the operation would be successful! I am not dead. You’re lying.
“You are correct, David, you have not died…yet” she continued with a small smile that sent a chill down David’s spine that he didn’t expect to feel, “You have done a foolish thing, David Shannon, a very foolish thing indeed. With the help of your misguided brethren, you have successfully gained full access to our world by psychic means, but you will not find what you seek. Your pitiful excuse of a race is not meant to be here, so your God will not be coming. You have entered the gateway and there is no way out. You are stuck here. There is no heaven and no forgiveness for you, David Shannon.”
David knew he was crying; the satisfaction on the woman’s face told him that much. But, he couldn’t feel his tears or the relief they would have brought him in the mortal world. He wanted more than anything to feel something other than the nothingness he had been enduring for God knows how long. And then he felt that familiar feeling of something overtaking him. The young woman had entered his mind sending a searing pain through every fiber of his being.
He could feel again. He felt the bed beneath him and the restraints holding his arms at his sides. He could smell the staleness of the air in the room they had placed him in. The taste of blood coated his mouth as if they had been feeding him nothing but raw meat while he was on the other side. He could hear the ticking of the clock in the room, and finally opened his eyes to see his surroundings. The first sight he took note of was the bite marks on his arms. How they got there, he did not know, but it might have explained why he tasted the blood. Though his eyes felt as though they had been clawed at some time during this whole ordeal, he did his best to focus on everything in the room.
He could see more clearly than he remembered being able to before. The dust particles lingering in the air were more apparent to him. There was a doctor sitting next to him who seemed to notice the sudden change in David’s movements. For the first time since before the study began, he made eye contact with someone who was actually alive. The silent exchange between the two men seemed to go on for hours before David felt a sudden twinge of anger building within him. It was not his anger, but that of the young woman who was using his body as a means of communication. He felt her controlling his body causing him to struggle against the restraints, but she suddenly went calm. David felt her demeanor change within him.
“I have spoken with God” he heard himself drawl causing the scientist’s eyes to widen as he continued, “And he has abandoned us.”
Suddenly, David felt his heartbeat slow in pace. The numbness he had just escaped was slowly creeping up on him again. He felt the presence of the woman drift away as his eyesight left along with his ability to smell, touch, and taste. The last of his senses to go was his hearing. The last thing he would remember hearing was that of the heart rate monitor flatlining. He was dead and the gateway was shut. For the remainder of eternity, he was left alone with his thoughts and those of the dead still seeking a way out.