The Transients

The easiest thing to do is an accident.

It requires no fore-thought or planning, no weighing up the pros and cons, and no asking for help.

Dead easy.

And it happens so quickly.

One minute I was taking a Sunday drive, sliding through the corners like a snake, sunroof open, sun on our heads, the howl of the wind competing with the howl of Tom Waits for attention, next minute I was at the place where you go after you die.

And where is that place?

That’s what I was trying to work out.

At least there was no physical pain. Only mental anguish. What happened exactly? Was my life over already? Did Sally die as well? Did I turn off the stove? Where was the bright light at the end of the tunnel?

I walked for hours before finding anyone, I think. Maybe time had no meaning for me, like in the movies. Maybe I’d been walking through that valley for twenty years. Maybe my friends and family had died as well.

Was it the valley of the shadow of death? Should I have feared no evil? We’re you with me? Did your rod and your staff comfort me?

Not really. I was uncomfortable to say the least.

That was a week ago, or a decade ago, I’m not sure. Now I know what the deal is. This is not the valley, this is not hell, and this is not heaven. It’s the place for transients. Or at least that’s the hope we all have here. That we are all here temporarily, that soon we will move on to the next chapter, whatever it is.

I don’t hold out much hope.

They say when someone dies; they live on in people’s memories. That’s pretty close to the truth. The exact truth is, if they are remembered, then they go to the next stage, be it a good place or a bad. If you’re not remembered, you sit and wait.

Does waiting here sound that bad?

I haven’t felt hungry for a while, I haven’t been in any physical pain, I haven’t needed to sleep, no physical desires whatsoever.

But what about up here? (I’m tapping on my temple as I say that). What’s the impact of all this in my head.

‘This is where you go if you’re not remembered’ he had said. A well dressed, distinguished looking man with an accent somewhere between Sean Connery and James Earl Jones. ‘Have you done anything to be remembered for?’

I thought about it.

‘I had family, friends, a girlfriend’’, the inflection on girlfriend rose to infer a question, to infer that was enough to be remembered for right?

Yet I’m still here.

‘Maybe they are still in denial?’ The inflection again.

‘Or maybe they are dead now as well’. His voice reverberated like a V8 idling in a drive way. No inflections there.

So yes, no physical needs here, but up here (tap tap). Up here is not good.

I was alive once, I loved and I was loved back…didn’t I…wasn’t I?

Why have you forsaken me?

I don’t hold much hope now, and for transients hope is everything. What else is there if you can’t enjoy the simple things, a roast dinner, laughter, a dog, a kiss.

I don’t hold much hope now because I have met too many people. I have met too many people who have done so much more than me, and yet are still here.

You know the man with the voice? He performed the first painless surgical procedure; he invented anaesthesia in the middle of a battlefield during the American Civil War. An old lady with a creased face and toothless smile opened an orphanage before the word ‘orphanage’ was invented. Did you know Jesus’ mother, Mary, wrote a Book of the Bible? It was removed about eighteen hundred years ago because it didn’t fit well with the church of the day.

What’s worse for the Man with the Voice is he hasn’t seen his surgical assistant anywhere.

What hope have I?

It has struck me that I see only good people here, I asked the Man with the Voice, why?

‘Do you remember who Hitler was’ he asked?

The Transients

Michael Douglass

Alexandria, Australia

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