Chapter 1 – The Awakening
I stand by the doorway and wait patiently while she looks at what used to be her body.
Turning slowly, she brings her vivid blue eyes to look up at me. “Are you an angel?” she asks in a timid voice.
If I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked that – well not that pennies are of any use to me, but still.
I gently shake my head. “No. I’m not an angel. But I am the one who’s here to take you to the angels.” I add a friendly smile to make her feel more at ease.
She considers this for a moment, then turns back to look at her grieving parents who sit agonized by her bedside. “Will I ever see them again?” I can hear the tremor in her tiny voice, the sadness I know it to be.
“Yes. I don’t know when, but one day you will see them again.”
This I’m not privileged to have seen with my own eyes, but it is what the Elders tell us to be true. I deliver humans to the door of Heaven. To their door into Heaven, but don’t truly know what occurs when they pass through. But I do know it to be something wonderful, giving joy and happiness to all who go there.
I’m a Bringer.
It’s what I do, and have done since I’ve existed. I’m here to guide, to make humans feel as comfortable as possible through their, mostly unwanted, transition from being alive to just being. Humans struggle to leave behind the ones they love. And for their sake, I have to ensure they don’t try to stay here on earth, trapping themselves for all eternity. Because once they walk away from Heaven, they will never, ever, be able to go there. Once their door closes, it never again opens.
I glance over at her parents. The mother is sobbing, clinging to her daughter’s lifeless hand. The father has silent tears trickling down his cheeks as he desperately tries to comfort the mother. They both appear broken, beyond repair. Humans always take the death of a child the worst. I think I understand why this is.
I have seen what these two people are feeling hundreds, of thousands, of times before. Have been told in a vivid description by many humans who I’ve taken to Heaven how it feels, but have never felt it myself.
I don’t feel.
Not in the physical or emotional sense. I have an awareness of feelings – sorrow, happiness, love, pain, compassion. I also note the sensation of touch. But I don’t actually feel it. I do comprehend the joy and beauty in things, such as the sun rising in the bright blue sky, or the sound of a songbird singing gaily in the morning. Just not in the same way as a human does. I know of all the feelings that surround me every day, but they just don’t attach themselves to me.
That’s just how it is – Bringers don’t feel.
I believe we were conceived like this, so we don’t attach ourselves to humans in any way. Often, though, I do wonder how it would be to feel.
With what I see in every single moment of my existence it obviously presses me to peruse the question which is worse – to feel the agonizing pain of loss, or to have never felt it at all?
I have no concept of what it is like to love someone with such ferocity that it rips you to your very core to lose them. My imagination limits my understanding.
I just sometimes wonder, what if . . .
The child I’m here to take to Heaven – Amy Jones, as I know her to be called – takes one last look at her parents, at her body, then turns and tentatively walks toward me. Her movement slow, reluctant.
It’s strange that humans have two names. Sometimes they have three, four, sometimes more. I have only one. When Amy Jones reaches me, she slips her tiny hand into mine and looks up at me.
“You look like my mamma,” Amy Jones says, inclining her head toward her mother.
I ponder that for a moment.
It intrigues me how I look to each human. They see me as whichever female human form makes them feel most comfortable. Like now, with Amy Jones, she chooses to see me akin to her mother, thus making her feel safer. They do this unknowingly.
I have never seen myself. I have no reflection upon which to do so. When I look down all I see is a solid mass of light, alike to the shape of a human body, which glistens and sparkles, just as the snow does when the sun is gently dancing off it.
Often I have wondered what my true appearance is, or if I at all have one.
I look at the mother again. To my eyes she looks to be visually pleasing. Hair the colour of ripe cherries, skin the colour of the pale moon, eyes the colour of emeralds.
Is this exactly as I look now?
I glance down at Amy Jones about to ask this very question, when I see a faraway look in her eyes, sadness covering her face. And very quickly, my question becomes incredibly futile.
“Are you ready to go?” I ask instead.
Her eyes glittered up at me. “What’s your name angel?”
I smile to myself. Children never believe I’m not an angel. I think it somehow comforts them to think I am.
“Lucyna,” she hums my name over her plump lips. “That’s a pretty name. Am I going to Heaven, Lucyna?”
“Yes, Amy Jones you are.”
“Will you be staying with me in Heaven?”
“No. I can only remain with you until we reach Heaven’s door.”
Her face saddens. “Then will I be alone?” The fear is so apparent in her voice, it practically tremors across the room.
“No, you will be with others. Many others just like you. You’ll never be alone.”
She mulls over my words for a moment. Her tiny lips trembling ever so slightly. She bites down on her lower lip.
“Okay, Lucyna. I think I’m ready to go to Heaven now.” I sense her hand tightening around mine.
“Close your eyes,” I say.
Her heavily lashed lids close slowly. I can sense her fear. Her apprehension of stepping into the unknown.
“You’ve nothing to fear Amy Jones, you’re safe,” I whisper.
I close my eyes and we’re gone.
* * *
I’ve returned to Earth since taking Amy Jones to Heaven as I wish to spend some time at my favourite place – Hyde Park in London – before I take my next human to Heaven, my next ‘bring’ as we refer to it. London, coincidentally, is where my next human happens to be. Not that it would matter where I am, as it only takes me a matter of seconds to travel. I close my eyes, think where I want to be, and there I am.
I see my friend Arlo already here, sitting on our usual bench. He too must be waiting for his next bring. We Bringers have no need to sit, to rest, as we never tire. We do so, I suppose, in an attempt to adapt to the environment around us.
I glance around Hyde Park. There are a few humans milling about, taking in the wonderful sights. This place fascinates me. Over time I have observed with interest the beautiful sights it has to offer. Year after year I have watched it travel through its seasons, noting how the trees sprout greening leaves that spiral around the willowy branches, creating the most incredible shades of greenery, for them to only turn to burnt amber as they succumb to wane and fall unwillingly from their dwelling. Lastly, they end their journey on the Earth’s floor, leaving the tree bare, only for it months later to once again begin its cycle. And I am charmed by all the different varieties, of colourful flowers. I watch as they explode into bloom. Then ultimately, and sometimes untimely, fade and die. Just as humans do. Arlo and I have been to places all over the world, seen all the extraordinary sights that God has to offer, but sometimes it is the simplest of things that can be the most captivating.
The bench Arlo is sitting on has a plaque with an inscription scribed on it. It reads –
‘John, I’ll love you always and I know we’ll be together again
one day. In the fields of Heaven, when God calls for me to
come join you, where I know you’ll be waiting patiently for
I always sit on this bench, one that has been marked by a human loss. It feels very much in time with who I am.
Humans always mark the death of ones they love. Whether it’s a headstone at a grave or a bench very similar to this one. I think I understand why they do this. An expression of how much they truly meant to them.
They really do have some very strange ways, which is why I find them so fascinating. Arlo is also intrigued by them. We spend almost all our free time together watching humans, discussing them. Seeing how they interact with one another. We spend countless hours puzzling over them. How they think. How they feel. Why they behave as they do.
“How long do you have?” I ask as I approach Arlo.
He looks up at me, his yellow hair glowing in the light of the sun. “Eighteen minutes. And hello to you, Lucyna.”
Arlo is always very precise and to the point.
“Hello, Arlo,” I say with a smile.
Taking my seat beside him, I pause momentarily, hovering over a question that I have wanted to ask him for some time, a question which has now been piqued by my visit with Amy Jones.
“Arlo, may I ask you something?”
He turns to me. “Of course.”
“How do I look to you?” He looks at me puzzled.
I refresh my words. “I know our appearance changes according to each human, but for some time now I have wondered how I actually look to you?”
“Hmm.” Arlo looks as though I have ignited a thought within him. “You have never wondered this before, Lucyna?” It almost isn’t a question, but I answer anyway.
“Well, I have thought of it many times before Arlo, but have never asked you. Honestly, I’m not sure why. It’s very curious to me.”
I turn to look at him. His bright eyes are gazing upon me with seeming concentration.
“Well, what do you wish me to describe?” I take a moment to think this over before answering. “What colour is my hair?”
“Black. As black as the night sky,” he replies.
“And what is my eye colour?”
He ponders this for a moment, rubbing his forehead in thought. “Well, I would say they are like the colour of the waters that surround the Maldivian Islands. I would have to go back and check that I am correct in this, but that is what I believe to be true. I can go now if you wish -” His eyes close, readying to leave.
“No, Arlo, there is no need. I take your word on this.”
He opens his eyes.
I now find myself even more curious. I thought by asking Arlo these questions it would end my wondering, but it now seems to have only furthered it.
How I wish I could see what Arlo sees when he looks at me.
“And I, Lucyna, how do I look to you?” Arlo says, breaking into my thoughts.
Putting aside my own contemplation, I turn and look at him even though I do not need to. I would know how Arlo looks even if my eyes were closed.
“You, Arlo, have the most glorious hair. It’s the colour of the sun, and your eyes, well they are the colour of sugar snap peas.”
His smile broadens at my words.
I glance back at the few humans around us, gliding through life. Completely unaware of our existence.
“Why do you think we cannot see ourselves, Arlo, as others do?”
But before he gets a chance to answer, my mind begins to fill with the name of my next bring. I’m always informed of when and where in good time, but I don’t receive the name until two minutes before the human is about to leave their body for good.
“Sorry, Arlo. Time for me to go.”
“Where to now, Lucyna?”
“Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, here in London,” I say, as I prepare to travel. “We shall continue our discussion later?”
He nods in response.
“I shall see you soon, then.”
I hear the beeping of machines and frantic commands of human voices before I even open my eyes.
Humans have ones they call doctors who take care of others when they are ill or dying. I do admire them. Their determination to cure and save is awe inspiring. But unfortunately for them, when a human is truly dying, when God has called that one to Heaven, no one, or nothing can save them.
The doctors are working tirelessly on the human I know to be called Maxwell Harrison, but I know that their tiresome work will not save him to his body. My being here says so.
He appears at the end of the bed where his body still lies. Maxwell Harrison is an older human, but he hasn’t died from old age. His death was meant to be when his when his heart ceased to work.
Positioned by the doorway, I begin my patient wait, allowing Maxwell Harrison the time he needs to come to this new realisation.
Suddenly he spins around, his eyes frantically searching the room. He locks them onto me and visibly wavers at my sight. Then his eyes narrow in his glare. “Tell me … am I dead?”
I can see panic and fear gripping his face, not an unusual sight for me. Some humans are prepared for death; they know its coming. Some don’t. These are the ones it hits the hardest. But all humans, though, however much prepared, will fear the unknown. It’s inbuilt. It’s in their nature to do so. That’s just being human, I suppose.
“Yes, Maxwell Harrison you are,” I answer with finality.
“And who are you – my angel?” I hear what I believe to be sarcasm adjoining his already gruff voice. “ … because listen to me, angel,” he continues. “I certainly don’t want to be dead. It’s not my time.”
“Unfortunately, it is your time.” I speak candidly.
“And who says so – you?”
I decide not to answer his question with words, instead raising my eyes up to Heaven.
He laughs. A big raucous laugh, it bounces off the walls. “The big man upstairs? Give me a break! Trust me, he certainly wouldn’t want an old reprobate like me in Heaven. I’ve definitely been no angel in my time.” He nods at me. “No pun intended.” There’s a grave expression on his face, but a smile is curving the edge of his lips.
“I’m not an angel, Maxwell Harrison.”
He looks at me with open surprise. “So, what are you then?”
“Just call me your guide to Heaven.”
He hovers over my words for a moment before speaking. “So – guide, why don’t you just put me back in my body, and we can forget all about this.”
I slowly shake my head. “I’m sorry, that’s not a possibility.”
He shrugs his broad shoulders. “Well a guy’s gotta try, huh.” I catch a gleam in his eyes before he turns back to his body.
The doctors have finally given up trying to save Maxwell Harrison, and with much resignation they all quietly move around the room carrying on with their job in the aftermath of a human death. One of the doctors begins speaking to another. This appears to prick Maxwell Harrison’s attention.
“I’ll go out and tell the son,” the doctor says.
“James,” he utters. His eyes follow the doctor to the door, just skimming past me, and his gaze remains there until moments later when a man enters the room.
The man is younger than Maxwell Harrison, but very similar looking. He has the same intense, deep brown eyes. I watch him slowly walk over to the bed where Maxwell Harrison’s body remains. Then all of a sudden, something unexpected and inexplicable hits me, almost knocking me off my central balance. It appears like a veil of shimmering light, wrapping itself all around me. And no sooner is it there, it’s gone.
What on earth . . .?
The man’s face crumples up with pain. “Oh, dad,” he whispers, laying his trembling hand on Maxwell Harrison’s chest. “What am I gonna do without you?”
I continue to watch the man as the shock of what just happened reverberates through me. Tears are tumbling down his cheeks, dripping freely onto his chest. He roughly wipes at his eyes.
Maxwell Harrison looks forlorn as he walks up to the man. He reaches his hand out to him, pauses, and turns back to me.
“Can I touch him?”
It takes me a moment to answer, to find the words, as my mind is spinning with confusion.
“Of course,” I eventually say, “but know that he won’t feel you.”
He bows his head in submission and lays his hand tentatively on the man’s back. “James, I’m here. It’s okay.”
Then out of nowhere I do something very out of character. I move from my stance by the doorway. This is not something I have ever done before. I don’t even realise I’ve moved until I find myself there, standing at the other side of the bed, looking across at the human Maxwell Harrison calls James. And I mean really looking at him.
Of course I always observe humans, but never truly look at them properly. Usually, I only bother to graze my eyes over their external features, my interest only ever laying in their minds, their emotions, their feelings. But as I stand here looking at James, I appear to be looking for more as I attempt to absorb every fine, physical, detail of him. I’m intrigued by the structural shape of his face. The depth of brown that colour’s his hair. His sun stained skin. The scar splicing his brow. His broad nose, and chiselled jaw line. His perfectly lined teeth and the full lips that adorn them. I watch with fascination as tears glisten on his lashes, sparkling against his intense, dark eyes. And as I stand here, soaking up every microscopic detail of him, I’m suddenly struck by the shimmering light again. Only harder this time. It seems to grasp hold of me, wrapping around me, knocking me backwards, lingering slightly longer than before, then, once again, gone as if never here.
Quickly shutting my eyes I go back to the doorway whilst my mind begins to spill over with bewilderment. Maxwell Harrison doesn’t even seem to have noticed my movement. He’s still standing with James, his forehead lightly resting against his shoulder.
I am completely and utterly perturbed, and I very quickly decide not to go anywhere near James again, because every time I look at him that shimmering light hits me.
“Can you watch over him?” Maxwell Harrison says suddenly to me.
“I’m sorry?” I utter, not fully registering his words, still wrapped up in my own puzzling thoughts.
He turns to me, wavering ever so slightly. “James, he’s got no one left. I’m his only family. We lost his mother, she died when he was still a baby. It’s always just been me and him. He’ll be all alone and I can’t bear the thought of it. I know him, he won’t take care of himself properly. Please, can you just watch over him? Take care of him. Make sure he’s okay. Please.”
Now he has my attention. This is not the first, or I imagine, the last time that I’ll be asked this. The Elders have taught us well on how to handle this situation.
“Maxwell Harrison -”
“Max. Please just call me Max.”
“- Max,” I continue in a soft voice, “this is not something I can do.” ‘Or right now would wish to,’ I silently add.
Max reluctantly leaves James’ side and takes a few steps toward me. “Have you ever been human?” he asks.
His question throws me. Surprisingly, I have never been asked this before.
“No,” I answer warily.
“Do you have a name?”
There’s a long pause between us. Max looks at me impatiently. “What is it?”
“Lucyna. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of that before. Is it some sort of special heavenly name?”
I smile. Max has a strange manner. Oddly, it makes me want to smile. I can honestly say I have never encountered anyone like him before in all my time.
“No. I believe there are some humans who also have this name, amongst their other names that is.”
He takes a deep breath. I find this intriguing. A human soul has no need to exert for air, but as the body requires it, it becomes a natural thing for them to do, even when no longer required. So they unknowingly continue with the pretence of breathing.
“Look, Lucyna I’m not asking for much. Just every now and then check in on him, make sure he’s doing okay.”
My eyes trail down to the floor, away from Max’s determined stare.
“Please, Lucyna,” he implores.
As his pleading words swirl around me, my voice of reason is urging me to once again tell him that it’s not possible. That it is most definitely not a possibility. It’s very much a rule breaker. The Elders are very clear on this; under no circumstances are we to honour this request.
I have been asked to do this thousands of times before by other humans, and have never once had any difficulty in explaining to them how this is not a possibility. If I and the other Bringers were to look in on every human we were requested to, we would never have time to tend to our duties. Yes, we could lie to them, ease their pain, but deception is not a part of who we are.
And yet, knowing this to be the case, why can I not seem to be able to bring myself to once again say it now?
And honestly, I really do not wish to be around James because, for some unknown reason, he seems to bring this odd shimmering light with him that insists on striking me at any given opportunity. It’s something I have never encountered before, or wish to again. And really, what could I do if James wasn’t coping? Nothing, obviously.
But as much as I try, I can’t seem to make my mouth convey the words.
I look back up at Max and can clearly see the hope on his face, as if written there in indelible ink, the very hope he is pinning on my response.
“I’ll do my best,” I hear myself saying.
Relief sweeps the breadth of Max’s face. “Thank you so much, Lucyna. You don’t know how much this means to me. I would kiss you right now, if it didn’t seem really inappropriate to do so.” He grins.
“Your thanks are plenty enough, Max.” I return his smile, far from wishing to as my mind is nearly combustible with turmoil.
What am I doing? This is not something I can commit to. I know I’m the one speaking but I don’t know where these words are coming from. It’s almost as if I’ve been taken over and someone else is now speaking for me.
Frantically, I try to search for the right words to take back my agreement with Max. Disappointingly, nothing comes to mind, or should I say nothing I find myself able, or more to the point, wanting to say?
“Max, you need to be aware that I won’t be able to tell you how James is doing. Once I leave you at your door to Heaven, we will never again see each other.”
His brows knit together. “Won’t I see you in Heaven?”
I shake my head. “No. Unfortunately Heaven is not a place I am permitted to access. I take you there, but never pass through.”
It’s a good question, and one I don’t truly know the answer to. So I say the only thing I can. “That’s just the way it is.”
Max begins pacing up and down. He appears to be mulling something over. After a moment he pauses, glances at me sideways, opens his mouth to speak, closes it again, then reopens. “Do I have to go to Heaven?” he finally says.
This is a question that is not very agreeable for me, but I’m never surprised when it occurs.
I take heed before answering. “No, you do not have to go,” I answer truthfully, “but I wouldn’t advise staying here on Earth. Once you make the choice to remain here, then you will be here for all eternity, unable to ever access Heaven. And, Max, an eternity really is a long time to spend alone.”
“But I’ll be here with James.” The hope is evident in his voice.
“And he will not know you’re here. You’ll be very much alone until the day he dies, and then what? On discovery, I believe James would also choose not go to Heaven and stay with you. Is that what you would want for him? For yourself? To be trapped on the plains, on the outside, always looking in at the world, but never able to once again be a part of it. Please trust me, Max, when I say that it’s in your best interests to come with me and be a part of something that you now belong to.”
With my speech over, Max turns from me and back to James. I know he’s considering my words.
At these moments a distinct unease always settles around me. Even though I have never lost a human to this idea before, there is always the possibility that it could happen one day. If I had the need for breath, then I would be holding it right now.
“Okay,” Max says after a long moment. He turns, bringing his dark eyes to meet mine. “I hear what you’re saying.” He pauses with some consideration. “Look, I’ll come with you as long as you promise me that you will take care of James.” The emphasis is on the ‘promise’ and he looks at me with heavy persuasion.
Please, not this again. Once more, if I could breathe, I would sigh right now. I have absolutely no idea why I have found myself committing to this.
“I promise to do my best, Max.”
Why do I continue to dig myself further and further into this? It’s like I can’t stop myself. Making a promise now, a promise that is impossible for me to keep, a promise that if I do keep, will break the rules I reside by.
He raises his brows, creasing up his forehead. “Well . . . okay, if that’s all I can get you to promise, then I guess it’ll have to do.”
“Are you ready to go now, Max?”
He gives me a sorrowful look. “No, but I guess no time is ever gonna be right, is it?” Reluctantly, he nods in assent.
“Take hold of my hand.”
He slips his large hand around mine. “You know, Lucyna, you look really similar to my wife, James’s mother. When I first saw you, for a moment there, I thought you was her . . . you’re not, are you?”
He visibly contracts with relief. “Thought not.” He shakes his head as though clearing his thoughts. “If you were my Maddy, she would have probably given me a good hiding the moment she laid her eyes on me after what I’ve been getting up to over the years since she passed.” He grins, then it suddenly drops from his face. “Oh, boll . . . err . . . blast. She’s gonna be waiting up there for me, isn’t she?” He looks at me expectantly.
“Yes, Max. I would say she is in Heaven.”
A look of discomfort passes over his face and he takes a deep breath. “She’ll be fine,” he mutters to himself.
I wonder what on earth he’s been doing that makes him fear seeing her so.
“Okay, let’s get this show on the road,” Max says. “Best not keep God waiting.” His nervousness is very apparent so I press an encouraging smile at him, hoping to offer some ease. But this smile I provide is one that is forced because something is nagging at my thoughts, fluttering around my mind.
“Close your eyes,” I say, relaying my usual line.
Max takes one last look at James, as all my brings do, taking that one last look at how their life used to be, and I find myself unwittingly following his gaze to where James still stands, his pain clearly evident as he cries silent tears over Max’s body. Then, once again, I’m hit by the shimmering veil strengthening in its intensity.
Pulling my eyes to a close, I instantly take leave, ensuring Max’s passage to Heaven and getting myself away from James and this strange shimmering light he brings with him.