I used to think that death was instantaneous, until a bullet had shattered my heart and I had spent what felt like hours in pain before the darkness took me away.
I remember telling my son, Alex, how when we die we go to heaven.
So why did I appear in the same car of the subway that I took my last breath? Why did the world act as if nothing had happened to me and why could they not hear my pleas for salvation?
Because I was dead. Maybe I wasn't worthy of the white curtained destiny that I had once envisioned, or maybe, life really was Hell on Earth.
Either way, I was neither here nor there; not in the time frame where I had lost to the powers of the reaper of death, nor in the purely lit hallways of tranquility.
Every day had been a normal one for me. I would travel on the subway to work and return home to my wife, Helen, and son. I would play catch with Alex and walk Dexter, the dog, before eating dinner. We never forgot to say our prayers.
I am sitting on a darkened seat, almost foreshadowing the cold chill any sitter will obtain, and I am watching several people as they embark on the journeys of the day.
I worked with a publishing company and my new client, an eighteen year-old masterpiece of a child, was holding a book launch for his first novel. I always had an eye for talent. The rain had made the morning dreary and my red hair had flared at the ends as a result of the cold, but light, shower.
There are so many couples today riding along with my invisible self. You wouldn't believe the things I have seen. A child forever forgetting their favorite toy on a dirty seat, a girlfriend ending her relationship right before her stop, a man swiftly stealing a wallet from a sleeping elderly; I have seen it all. Warning is useless, I am not meant to be here.
I would have made the first train, but I had stopped to help an older woman with the doors outside of my stop, Wilson Station. I could have still made it if I would have pushed my way around a young boy while he retrieved tokens from the booth, but I waited patiently. If I would have run faster, maybe I would have made it.
But the subway train had been leaving as I had reached the platform.
I sit quietly, knowing that this is the only way that I can be, and I watch the stops go by; St. George, Spadina, Dupont, St. Claire West; we are nearing my fated stop. A baby chortles in her stroller several feet away from me and I smile at her. Her giggles surprise her mother. Babies, for months, have been my only companions. It's true what they say about their sensitive sight.
I remember that I was going to take the fifth car of the subway as it slowed in front of me, but I opted for the fourth one because it was emptier. A man wearing the palest of shirts and the darkest of bags under his eyes had watched me lazily as I had entered and sat down opposite of him in the car.
We stop at Eglinton West and the happy baby exits with her mother, waving a friendly goodbye. I sigh and stand up, forcing myself to walk around and people watch, my only hobby. There is a woman with too many facial piercings bobbing her head to music blaring from her earphones and a man who is struggling to find out who he really is. A quiet laughter draws my eyes to an Asian couple as they snuggle on the scarlet red seats, her short black hair rests on his wide shoulder.
At first I had paid no mind to him, the shady man. Everyone in Toronto has some sort of story and not everyone has to be happy and welcoming. When I heard the rustle of his feet against some newspapers leftover from some other traveler, my curiosity had made me look up in time to see him pointing a gray medium sized pistol into the back of a teenage boy. The entire car had been watching in a frozen awe of terror and the boy, I could see, had all ready soiled himself.
I decide to sit myself in front of the young couple, missing my own love affair with my wife. Children had such precious time to gather so many emotions. We pass Glencairn and stop at Yorkdale, where the couple steps off. I lean back and close my eyes, feeling the heat of the emotions that always force themselves on me like a bad addiction whenever I am reaching my stop.
I don't know why I did it. I didn't think of Helen or Alex, I just thought of the poor boy who may not grow up to be what he always wanted to be. The car had been silent as I had stood up and had calmly asked the gun wielder to please, be rational, let the kid go. He then shock his head, but let go of the kid. He had looked over at me and had spoken the cold words that would forever haunt this lonely soul.
"Do you know if there really is a God? Or do you blindly follow him like I did until I lost my whole family? My son, my baby daughter, and my wife?" He smiled hellishly and pointed his gun at me. "When you get wherever we are supposed--" he had done air quotation marks with his free hand "--to go let me know if there really is a God; if there is, let him know that Ronald thanks him for all his blessings!"
And he had shot me.
Wilson Station. That's where I had seen my last glimpse of real life; where the lonely man, Ronald, had shot himself in the head; where the crowd of passengers, including the teenage boy, surrounded me, trying to make the bleeding stop. I feel the same emotions and I bend over and put my face in my hands, ghostly tears staining my silvery cheeks. A melodic voice raises my interest and my tears freeze halfway down my face.
Brown haired, blue eyed Helen walks onto the car with Alex and she sits quietly on a seat near me. Alex, fourteen, sits beside his mother; his red hair gelled off of his forehead. She smiles over at him as he tells her the story of how he won the soccer game for his school and how no freshman had ever done such a thing. She laughs when he tells her another story, this time about the cafeteria food, and I stand up and walk over to them.
Helen looks at where I am standing, with a yearning in her face, but I know that she can't see me.
"You're happy Helen? You're having a great time in high school Alex?" I know that they can't answer me, but I also know that my questions don't need answers. "I'm glad. I love you both, I'm so sorry."
I mutter my apology and the brightness that engulfs me next is nearly blinding.
I am on another platform, but not my dying station this time. Is this some kind of sick joke?
"Hello there Shane," I look in front of me, forgetting the mist that surrounds me.
"You can see me?" I ask; happiness, amazement, and relief intertwined in my voice.
"We've been waiting for you for a long time." He says quietly, but inviting.
"I know," I smile and walk towards the train that was previously hidden from my eyesight by the fog. "I just needed to make sure of some things."
"It's all right," He answers as I step on-board. "We all need several last minute answers."