DW, an Army vet, has published 7 novels. His day job is teaching elementary school. In his spare time, he camps with his wife of 30+ years.
Waking up in an Old Cabin
When Mort opened his eyes again, he looked around and thought he must be dreaming. On the table in front of him burned an oil lamp. Mort stared at the flickering wick, trying to imagine why he would dream of an oil lamp.
Slowly the events at the bar filtered into his thoughts. The sound of gunfire, the blast of his shotgun, the sight of Regnar’s revolver pointed at his chest all ran across the screen of Mort’s memory. Mort saw again as Regnar pulled the trigger, the hammer rose and fell, the big pistol spit flame and the slug of copper covered lead moved in slow motion from the end of Regnar’s barrel toward Mort’s chest. Mort looked down at his chest where he knew Regnar’s shot hit him. There was no sign of a wound.
Am I in the hospital? Where are the doctors and nurses? Is this what it’s like to be in a coma? I don’t remember anything like this happening the last time I got shot. This seems so real. I can smell the smoke from the lamp. The smoke sure smells funny. Shouldn’t I be smelling disinfectant? Why doesn’t this place smell like a hospital?
Am I Dead?
Movement on the far side of the lamp caught Mort’s eye, and he looked up.
“I see you made it across,” Hank said, tipping his hat to Mort. “It didn’t take as long as I thought it would. You must have been hurt worse than I figured.”
Mort blinked his eyes and stretched his neck from side to side. “You’re Hank. I remember you from the bar. Where are we? What am I going here? Didn’t I get shot? Shouldn’t I be in a hospital?”
Hank took a sip from the bottle in his hand. He examined Mort critically as if trying to decide which question to answer first. While he did, Mort pushed himself back from the table and took another look at his chest.
“What’s going on here? I got shot. Regnar shot me in the chest. I felt the bullet hit me.”
Hank wiped his mouth with the back of the hand holding the bottle. “Yeah, Mort, you got shot all right. The round went in between a couple of ribs, nicked your aorta right where it attached to your heart, and then pierced your lung. It must have taken a bigger nick out of your aorta than I thought. Figured they’d at least get you to the hospital before you passed over. You must have bled out right there in the bar.”
Mort stopped examining the front of his shirt and looked at Hank. “Wait a minute. I never made it to the hospital? Passed over - are you saying I’m dead?”
If this ain't Heaven, Hell or Kansas - Where are We?
Hank took another swallow from the bottle before answering.
“Technically, in purely human terms, yes Mort, you’re dead. Your corporeal form has ceased to function and will soon be buried if it hasn’t already been laid to rest. Your spirit, soul, life force, call it what you will, lives on.”
“If my body is dead, what is this thing I’m sitting here in?”
“That my friend is a manifestation of you that you recognize as yourself and a fair approximation of your human form. An interesting thing, though, when you get sent back down on a mission no one you knew before will be able to recognize you.”
Mort licked his lips and shook his head. “Uh, we’ll have to come back to that. So, where are we? What is this place? Is this heaven? It’s not what I expected heaven to look like.”
Hank laughed. “No, Mort, this isn’t heaven.”
“Then I wound up in hell,” Mort said. “I was afraid of that.”
“You’re not in hell, Mort. This place here is my house, or at least what my house looked like when I was alive. If you walk out that door right now, you’d see forty acres of the prettiest Kansas prairie land you’d ever want to see. But we’re not in Kansas.”
Mort heaved an exasperated sigh. “If we’re not in heaven, hell, or Kansas, where are we?”
“Why Mort,” Hank answered with a smile and a flourish of his bottle, “we’re in Purgatory. You grew up Catholic. You should have expected to wind up here.”
The story the Soul Collectors continues in Part 9
- Soul Collectors Part 9 - So What Is It We Do
Mort accepts that he's in Purgatory and that he's been chosen as a Soul Collector. Now he wants to know just what it is he's supposed to do next.
© 2019 DW Davis