Thomas Wictor

For Tony

For Tony

This post is for Tony. It’s part of the chapter titled “Lessons Learned,” from Ghosts and Ballyhoo.

Things Just Might Turn Out All Right

When I was sixteen, I died. It was an attack of irregular heartbeat, the primary cause of death from cardiac arrest. Medications have kept my episodes under control since 2007, except for the one I experienced on August 11, 2012.

The night I died, my heart skipped beats, raced, and thudded so heavily I could feel it in my neck and fingertips. It was an extremely hard time for my family: I’d had two separate fist fights with two different brothers that evening, and now, as I tried to sleep on a rollaway bed in my grandmother’s living room, hating everyone and everything, wanting to exterminate the world, I felt my heart stop. It was exactly like a power outage. I had time to think, “Uh-oh.”

Suddenly, I shot up off my cot, passed through the ceiling of my grandmother’s house, and zoomed into the sky. The night was cool and quiet, with patches of stars showing through the clouds. I accelerated violently, but it didn’t bother me because I didn’t have a body; I was light and diffuse, like a gas. My emotions were lighter, too, the fear, anger, and hate fizzing off into a kind of mild surprise. Ahead was a dark tunnel. As I entered it and streaked toward a dot of light in the distance, a sensation of absolute peace swept through me, from my vaporous toes to the top of my vaporous head.

I felt a presence beside me, inside me, all around me, something that was both male and female, yet neither. It radiated an indescribable love, compassion, and understanding, far beyond a human’s capacity. It was a being of metahuman perfection, the ideal balance of intelligence and emotion. And it was good. It was so good that I felt shabby and primitive in comparison, like a Neanderthal.

“Don’t worry,” the presence said. “Everything will be all right.” Its voice was soft, musical, and stupefyingly, inconceivably powerful. I wanted to laugh and cry with relief because this being had absolute knowledge; it knew my worst thoughts and deeds but didn’t turn away in disgust. It stayed with me, guiding me toward the approaching light that somehow didn’t hurt my eyes even though it was brighter than the sun.

At the end of the tunnel, a vista opened up. It encompassed all of creation, universes within universes, everything that had ever been and ever would be. The nearest I can come to describing it is that it was vaguely like an endless city in the Mediterranean, layers of whitewashed houses built up upon more and more layers of houses, rising up forever into a cobalt blue sky. There was the impression of a beautiful sea nearby, and a cool breeze wafted over my non-body.

For a nanosecond, it made sense. There was a click as all the pieces fell into place, a moment in which I understood everything. I thought, “So that’s it! I get it!” Then, with a violent jolt—a kind of crash landing—I was back on the bed in my grandmother’s living room. My heart had started again and beat in a steady rhythm.

I still remember understanding how everything fit together and meant something, but I can’t summon the plan itself. The only thing I can say about it is that it was familiar. I already knew about it and was simply being reminded.

Though I forgot for a long, long time, I won’t need reminding again.

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