Dear Clarence, wherever you are
“It will only be a routine surgery, nothing to worry about” The Doc told me with his always serious expression and I could not help to wonder how he would be after the work hours. He kept on babbling something about the risks of undertaking such a surgery, but I was too busy staring at his gorgeous thick silver hair curling gently around his gentle face. The hair was actually blonde – I presume, but such a light blonde that it looks silver. He was not much older than me – in his early thirties, medium built and his sloppy white coat put over his grey suits – always a different one – added to his sexiness. Ah, my gorgeous saviour!
I had visited countless doctors before arriving to him: my last hope. All said I was incurable, that there was nothing but prayer in store for me, and that I should resign, but not him. He said all of them were idiots – his actual words – and that I wasn’t ill enough to start worrying and that he could guarantee he’ll make me the one I used to be. How sweet of him! Although he didn’t know the “me” from before, that’s irrelevant.
As I sat, all ready for the “unimportant” surgery, looking at my only living relative – a distant second degree cousin – signing some consent papers all worried and such, to be pretty honest, I started panicking. Does she know more? Am I really beyond help? Won’t it be better to let it kill me slowly – I’ll at least gain a few more... agonizing... years? And what the heck does “rare” mean?
Four or five years ago was the time my life started going wrong. I had just turned 20 the day before when my sister joined mom and dad up above – or down there, Hell knows. But, could Fate stop at that much? Nah. I had to choose between organizing my sister’s funeral and my job, and by the end of the month, I was already in debt to my neck and jobless. Sweet, right? I managed to survive – barely – by quitting faculty and starting working part-time jobs. But this lull didn’t take long. I fainted, waking up days later at a random hospital, with bored doctors and indolent nurses. The diagnosis: exhaustion. They released me, and I fainted again. And again. It was at this time that the doctors I went to started suspecting I was seriously ill. And apparently I was suffering from a really rare malformation caused by the pons area of the brain becoming over stimulated by some badass hormones that came from an extra gland. If you’re wondering “what the heck extra what?!”, welcome to my world. My life for these past years became a juggle between doctors and various jobs which I lost as soon as I had a crisis. That until I found him, my serious angel.
Ah, at last, the lights of the surgery block! I felt awkwardly relieved by him stroking my brick-coloured hair and desperately sought reassurance in his ice-cold eyes. “Damn, I fell for the guy that’s going to kill me – no, do not dare think like that, he’s going to help you have a life again!” I thought as I felt a strange liquid flowing through my veins and my sight dimmed more and more The Doc becoming nothing but a silver spot on top of a green rectangle. I still faintly heard him giving orders: “It’s going to be one Hell of a surgery, may The Lord have mercy on us. And of the poor helpless thing. With a little luck, she won’t die, and I’ll be fam...” were the last words I heard, coming from a well-known husky voice, but with such coldness my veins froze upon hearing. I should have expected, though. I really should, but it was too late, my mind started drifting away and I had no choice but to believe.
“To believe? I should pray, right? But... I swore a long time ago I’ll have nothing in common with the guy that made me all alone in this vast world.”
“World? I see the world alright. Man, this is weird. I woke up to see myself – or might it be my astral projection? – above the whole wide world. Is this space? No, the bloody blue planet looks more like bloody than blue. Now that I mention, this “world” seems kind of short in oceans. It’s just the human-inhabited lands. Or, could it be...? I sure hope I wasn’t abducted by aliens in the middle of my surgery. Damn, we’re so many! I force myself to turn around to check out whether I see any stars. Oh, I’ll be damned...”
“Is this... just WHAT is this? Lots of monster-like creatures sitting in a circle around uglier monster creatures and the these little circles go around different creatures, and so on indefinitely.” I thought. “Ugly? Seriously, ugly? Can’t you at least call us different? Pretty intolerant, are we?” a thunderous voice sounded in my mind. “No. Just no. Do NOT think that. Just how much lack of respect can you have for angels?! Eh, anyway, would you like to be admitted to Heaven?”
“You must be kidding me,” I sulk in denial. “Anyway, what’s with the ugly thingies?” came my question just to gain some time to think.
“Could you PLEASE stop calling angels ugly?” the genderless voice replied with annoyance. “They’re angels. The white humanoid ones are deployed on the field where they gather data, passing it on the upper hierarchy which pass it along and so on. Everything is done through short-range telepathy. And we’re not ugly, just that we’re really different. Haven’t you read the Bible? That’s why the archangels have to take humanoid form, in order to make you listen to what they say. Anyway, human souls are judged according to their actions and, if deemed developed enough, put in a corresponding angel hierarchy.”
“If not?” I asked becoming rather curious.
“Oh, if the soul has been corrupted beyond redemption, it goes to Hell. If things are unclear but it’s too late to send the soul back to where in came from – usually by the end of resuscitation, we resort to the reincarnation system, where it joins angel souls that have fallen prey to corruption and demonic souls on their way to redemption. It’s quite an inflation of the last two sorts, so that’s why there are so many humans born. Would you like to be judged now?” it asked not giving me a moment to pull myself together and I nodded.
A force pulled me towards the centre, but quite far from where God and the saints presumably were and a low-rank angel came and shoved the images of my life – all thoughts, actions to the minds of those around. And mine, of course. I could not help regretting quite a lot of them especially the fact that my imaginary talk to God, as a 20-year-old, when facing Clarence’s death was made public to all those around. I could see compassionate looks in their eyes and I felt the same feelings I had then: “compassion? I’m dieing from starvation, and all you do is pity me and bury me deeper!”. Yet, I could see from their eyes that they understood my pain, that they did not hold a grudge for what I thought since they experienced that pain before. They explained to me that the higher the rank of the angel, the more people’s lives they had to experience. They received more prayers, more sadness, more remorse. They felt everything, ranging from gratitude, anger, despair, to literally everything the humans assigned felt, and tried their best to soothe their pain. Yet more and more closed their hearts, just like me, so they couldn’t provide even for the bare minimum, and those souls decayed more, caused more pain to others and the cycles continued. I felt tears of regret flowing from my eyes for the first time in a long time. As they saw this, they asked me where I would like to go. When facing my honest answer, they shrugged and said it’d be a waste. Yet I was relentless in my decision.
And that’s how I ended up in Hell. Why? Because I acted as I always do: on a whim.
Useless to say, my expectances weren’t met. No scorching flames, no red goat-like-horned imps, not cauldrons, no agonizing screams. Just a luxurious lobby where a smiling receptionist awaited behind a crimson desk. Of course, I took my time studying my surroundings. Tons of gold everywhere. The finest – missing – paintings hung on the walls, gorgeous – just as missing – sculptures were adorned by garlands of the rarest flowers – some unknown to man. The exquisite scent they spread, along with the lush green of the decorative plants made one think of a jungle, yet the paintings, the sculptures and the golden ornaments brought the image of an exclusivist art gallery. To bond the strange combination, all around the room soft couches were laid. Their crimson-coloured leather and emerald-green irisations created a discreet web. “Madam, please, would you mind my asking the reason for you being here?” I heard the beautiful crystal-clear voice of the tall blonde receptionist.
“Would my dear Clarence have looked like this if she was alive?” I could not help wondering, my heart squeezing in pain, but I politely replied that I was sent there after the judgement. Her smile grew cold and I could feel her tense. “Madam, we conduct a supplementary judgement, I hope your following me would not be much of an inconvenience” she said leaving her desk and I could see a short navy blue skirt barely covering two gorgeous legs.
I could not help thinking of her sexiness absently listening to the sound her high heels made on the cold granite pavement. I followed her through a labyrinth of halls similar to the reception remembering an episode of a science-fiction series where helpless victims were trapped in a hotel and made face their worst nightmares. “Please enter this room,” she guided me through a door.
As I entered, I was both amazed and petrified to find myself in a glade as I knew what it meant. “God and angels, if you have good reception where I am, I beg of you to try and take your minds off me. I’ll be alright. Just... please, for the next while, try not to connect with my thoughts and feelings.” was my last thought before my mind and body paralyzed, as it happened every time before. Panic sent a steady flow of adrenalin through me, allowing me to run as fast as I cold. But It was quickly approaching. For a moment I thought of asking God for help, as I did every time before, but then I remembered the angel I had talked to and suddenly the thought of burdening them with my own problems was shoved away from my mind. It was my fight, and mine alone. There was no one to blame. Not God, not the angels, not me, not my dear Clarence, not even It. No one. The steps approached. My hearing sharpened.
Pluck-pluck. Crack. Rustle-rustle. Fear froze my limbs, but willpower alone let me sit in one place and see it for the first time. Cold. The cold scales strangled my limbs; tiny red tongues smelled me over and over again as they approached my neck. It came and I forced myself to look straight into its bright otherworldly eyes. The huge emerald tree boa wobbled on top of a pair of hairy distorted human legs and a rainbow unicorn horn curved upwards from the back of its neck. I felt shivers down my spine but continued to stare relentlessly at it. It was a mental battle; I tried to show it that I could face it even though I feared it. My vision started becoming cloudy, and only when my eyes stung did I realise that tears were flooding my pale cheeks. Fear? Not by far! I just realised why I feared it to such intensity, and why I had this nightmare over and over again when I had a crisis.
It’s the snake. The same snake we encountered when Clarence and I, the orphan sisters, had gone to the forest when I was 15. “It was not supposed to be there”, the forest guards half-heartedly declared while we were taken to hospital to be treated. In the ambulance we swore that, if something happens to one of us, the other must live the other’s life as well. Oh, sister, how could I have forgotten? I was so caught up in barely surviving and immersed in the loneliness I was feeling...
All this time the snake was looking at me puzzled. Its legs and horn disappeared and it shrunk to normal size. Slowly all other snaked holding me started leaving were they came from, while I kept on staring at the gorgeous meter-long emerald boa. It was its beauty that had attracted us in the first place, wasn’t it? “Oh, that was unexpected,” I suddenly heard the familiar voice of the receptionist behind me. “Now, what should we do with you?” sounded the annoyed voice of the angel I had first heard. “I think there’s only one way,” the angel continued. “Well, I must agree with you. The middle way awaits. Goodbye, madam,” the woman added and the forest was no more.
All I could see was a tunnel. “Quite the cliché,” I thought, but started walking automatically toward the light. My mind drifted again to Clarence, and I wowed that I would live my life as I had always wanted: with courage and sincerity. Then I could not help but think of The Doc. The b*****d killed me. Agreed. But, shouldn’t I give him a second chance? Were his kindness – interested or not – and courage not enough to make me love him? I remembered his touch as he started surgery and could not help but wonder how he would act in front of the one he loves. The light approached and I started walking through it. Would they send me back, or make me reincarnate? Did he give up on me?
So dark, it was so, so dark. I tried opening my eyes, but they were so heavy. Yet curiosity got the better of me again and I forced myself to look around to see where those undisclosed noises came from. The light blinded me at first, but as I started adjusting to it, I could see red sweaty faces. I tried rising but a trembling red hand grabbed me and pulled me back to the uncomfortable surgery table. I could not take my eyes from the bloody imprint it left on the white tablecloth – or whatever it was that white thing they put on me. “Sedate her again,” I heard a familiar husky voice next to me. Even his voice trembled. As I raised my eyes I met his gaze and I could see something. Was it fear, was it something else? Nope. It was fear. It’s no use making false assumptions. I could feel my strength fading and fainted. Again. Ah, the bittersweet irony!
When I started getting to my senses again, I was lying on a hospital bed with an oxygen mask to my face, a perfusion let me know I was being fed artificially. Ah, I always hated this part of waking up, having to take off all things they used to keep me alive, and then look for a nurse to tell them I’m alright, all set to go home. And after all this I had a headache. Just great. It wasn’t until I had a glimpse of a silvery hair moving past my bed that I remembered what had happened. And for the toughest part of today’s act: letting the b*****d know I don’t like being ignored. I should take my perfusion, my oxygen mask or the electrodes on my chest?
As I carefully considered, with a hand on one of the electrodes, I noticed a pale face looking at me as if he had seen a ghost. He ignored what the nurses were telling him about the other patient and rushed towards me. Did he lose some weight? What could have happened to my dear doctor that could have hurt him so bad?
“You... you’re alive?” he nearly whispered to my ear as he gently touched my face. For a moment I thought it were the angels and demons still having fun over me. I tried muttering something, but coughed over the oxygen mask. He gently removed it and gave a worried look at the EKG monitor. “No wonder my heartbeat is off the scale,” I thought. But I remembered I could speak. Yet I looked into his eyes and my words froze in my throat. Damn you, Doc, you and your worried look! In the end all I could do was to nod. “You didn’t manage to kill me. Did you at least save me?” I asked eventually, embarrassed by the silence. He seemed surprised and then smiled.
“Well, didn’t I tell you it was only a routine operation?”
“Yeah. And that’s why you were the only one that agreed to do it,” I bitterly replied, remembering his freaked out face back in the OR. “Now, Doc, please come clean and tell me what happened. The whole truth.” But my remark made him revert to his usual ice-cold self. He checked my signs, and then coldly left. I was transferred to different place and was not to see him until I was released from the hospital, after several weeks.
Being jobless and broke, I didn’t have much to return to, so I decided to leave town. Where to? No idea. But before, I waited for him outside, just to have one last talk. I spotted him; he left all alone, to walk to his house several blocks away. After following him for a few streets, I patted him from behind: “Hi, Doc, remember me? So. Now d’you care to tell me what happened during my surgery?”
He looked as if I had punched him, opened his mouth to say something, then changed his mind, but eventually decided to speak.
“I... I almost lost you. That’s the truth. I... I underestimated what I was to face inside you. If I had delayed the surgery even a little more, your brain would have been forced to shut down completely. As in... brain dead. That is all, I think. You look surprisingly well for someone who has undergone such a surgery,” he ended, looking straight into my eyes with a mix of pride and affection. I hoped this is not how that woman statue felt when Pygmalion sculpted her and then by gods’ will she came to life.
“So, how long did you resuscitate me?” I asked, holding back the more stringent question “How did you feel when I died?” He tried avoiding answering the question, but in the end, he was compelled to.
“Three hours,” he muttered looking at my bruised hand.
“I guess you really didn’t want to lose me,” I finally decided to find it out.
“W-well, didn’t I guarantee you that I would bring you out of this alive, no matter what? I’m a man of my word. I sure pray you won’t need another surgery, anytime, anywhere. Girl, you’re one lucky, lucky... When we were about to give up, you revived,” he said unexpectedly softly, which made my heart melt all over again.
“I know, I saw you pin me down back on the table. I looked straight into your eyes, remember?”
“I’ll never forget that. Ever,” he shuddered and I felt his warm hand holding mine.
“Did you get famous for my surgery? I know you were talking about that.”
“Oh, how did you know about...” he twitched. “No. After your revival I decided this case is too much in God’s will for me to take any credit. Besides, seeing you fainted afterwards made me realize one thing.” And here he stopped, refusing to answer me, even afterwards. He continued walking, looking straight at his feet.
“Hey, Doc. How could I repay you? I’m jobless and broke, but I’d do anything for you,” I gathered up all of my courage and said, proud and honest. He stopped and turned his head in utter surprise. “Well, just live a happy life, I guess,” he said and then continued walking. I knew at that time that there was no chance for me to have any kind of future unless I speak up to him. So I rushed towards him, hugged him and put all my love in three simple words I whispered to his ear. He tried rejecting me, with a trembling voice, but it was too late. I could already see my feelings were answered. All I had to do was to insist. Which I did, until not only did he accept to date me, but also he let me live with him. Here, Clarence, see, I could muster up enough courage to say “I love you” to the one I love. See, I could live happily, for both of us.