Updated: Aug 5
A short story of the spiritual world
By Martine Cullum
Such sad faces. All of them, such sad, beautiful faces. I feel so much… so much… The words refuse to come, even in my thoughts, but it’s a cosy blanket, safe and warm, a glow that reaches out to touch and hold. It’s love. Yes, that’s the word. It’s love, inside me for all of them, whoever they are. Whoever I am.
‘She’s changed,’ from the young woman perched on the end of my bed.
‘Less feisty,’ from the tall man standing by her side, holding her hand. He’s smiling now, as if at some fond memory. Someone else puts a cold cloth on my… that place above my eyes… I slap the hand away. ‘Nope. Still feisty.’ The tall man laughs.
‘She’s burning up’ says the one with the cloth, ‘Is there nothing you can do?’
I think he is shouting, but it’s all a bit fuzzy. I cough; or try to. It’s exhausting. Maybe it’s time for me to close my eyes now anyway. I feel that’s the right thing to do. As I welcome the restful dark, I glimpse a familiar face. A man: no, a soul I have known before. If only I could remember.
‘I know you.’
‘How do I know you?’
‘You will know when you can no longer not know.’ The old man sat hunched over in the enormous winged armchair, an open book in his lap and an unlit rosewood pipe in his hand. His tired eyes scanned her from head to toe, over the top of half-moon glasses. ‘Why not take a seat? You’ve had quite a journey.’
Amy’s eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room as she stepped from the fluorescent light of the corridor. The heavy oak door slowly swung shut as she looked around for somewhere to sit. The man pointed his pipe, by way of indication, to a chair on the other side of the fireplace. How had she not seen that before? Come to that, how had she not seen the fireplace? The fire crackled and spat, and the smell of burning coals floated on the air as if to taunt her for not being more observant.
‘Where am I?’ Amy approached the chair and lowered herself into it, waiting for the familiar painful crack of her arthritic knees. It didn’t come. In fact, she felt surprisingly graceful in her movements, light yet strong. She watched as the old man put the pipe in his mouth and settled back into his chair. He looked harmless enough, though not friendly, and despite some vague recognition, being in his presence did not make her feel at ease.
‘What do you remember?’
Amy spat out a laugh at the irony. ‘I remember I have Alzheimer’s, Dipstick.’
‘So aggressive, Amy. There is no need for that here. I ask again, is there nothing you remember?’
Amy took a deep breath, surprised by how easy it was, no rattling in her chest, no pain in her back. She allowed her mind to drift back to her last conscious memory, to the soothing and not so soothing voices in the hospital. She began stroking one of her hands with the other, and the memory of the warmth of someone’s touch came over her.
‘Dan… Dan was holding my hand and there were lots of people around me… around my bed.’
The old man nodded, waiting for more.
‘What is this place? You didn’t answer me.’ Amy stood up and began pacing the small area around the chair. Her feet felt strange, and she looked down to see a pair of silver, strappy dance slippers, the likes of which she had not worn for many decades. Her gaze worked its way up from her legs to her shoulders and then to her arms. The silver-trimmed black jumpsuit had been her favourite in the late seventies. She had worn it often to go dancing at Tiffany’s or the Floral Hall. She remembered. She remembered. ‘What’s going on Mr…?’
‘Steward. Just Steward. But you know that, Amy. We’ve known each other forever.’ He waited patiently for confirmation that she recalled his name and was rewarded after a few moments with a reluctant nod, an acknowledgement that seemed to have been dragged up from somewhere deep within her.
‘You were gravely ill, Amy, were you not? Aspiration led to pneumonia and ultimately the end of your physical existence, but that time has passed now. Your earthly suffering for this life is over, but the work of your soul, for want of a familiar term, continues. Are you ready?’
‘Ready for what? Listen, don’t think I’m not grateful. I’m loving the pain free body, and the disco-ready get up, but this place is freaking me out. I remember you, kind of, but I don’t think I like it here. I want to go home.’
Steward laughed and his wrinkled skin stretched into a smile. ‘Amy, my dear, you are closer to home now than you can possibly imagine. But all in good time. For now, it is enough for you to know that I am here to help you. Now come, we have work to do.’
Steward eased himself out of the chair, letting the book fall from his lap to the floor. Amy swooped in to pick it up, not sure if she had done so to help the old man or to save the book from damage. She had always loved old things, books in particular; she could remember that too. The book was old, very old. She ran her fingers over the strange carved letters on the binding, then gently opened the cover to reveal gold-tipped pages as thin as tissue.
‘Indeed, it is, Amy. It’s you.’
Amy forced her eyes away from the book to look up at Steward. Even hunched over the old man was a good couple of inches taller than she was. ‘Me? What do you mean, it’s me?’
‘It’s the story of your life, Amy, of every lifetime you have lived, along with the potential for what is to come.’ Steward waited while Amy slowly sank back into her chair and rested the book on her knees.
‘This is some weird dream.’ She strummed her fingers on the book as she contemplated her options. Did she have any options? ‘O.K. I’ll go along with it… for now. So, I’m dead then; possible, and this is a record of my past lives.’
‘More or less. There really is nothing to be gained by me trying to explain it to you. Let me show you.’
Steward snapped his gnarled fingers together and the cover of the book flipped open. The pages began swooshing so fast that the breeze from them tousled the wayward strands of Amy’s fine blonde hair. Then silence. Even the fire stopped crackling as the book lay open at a double page drawing of a classroom. Amy immediately recognised herself as being the young girl facing into the picture from the corner of the page. She eased closer to the firelight to see the image more clearly, gently placing her hand on the delicate page.
‘You stole them?’
‘I helped you to prepare for your return home. Your book is full, Amy. You have lived all the earthly lives that you need to live. You have the opportunity now to return to the Infinite Belonging, to transform, here in this chamber into the highest vibration of being.’
‘Infinite Belonging? You mean God?’
‘If that is how you choose to imagine, yes.’
‘I don’t believe in God.’
‘So be it. Your soul is a speck in the Infinite Belonging. Miniscule though it is, it is every bit as important as every other speck, equal, accepted and loved.’
‘And where is this place?’ Amy turned her head to try to see the doorway by which she had entered the chamber, but it was in darkness.
‘It is not a place at all, Amy, it is creativity, possibility, and potential. You can experience it as whatever you want it to be, but at the same time, it is the coming together of every soul, everywhere. It is home. Does that not sound like Heaven to you?’
‘Sounds like a massive con to me. If it’s too good to be true…’
‘You feel like you need to earn it; that has always been your nature, but you’ve done most of the hard work already, Amy, there is just one final assignment if you want to think of it like that.’ Steward leaned back in his chair and crossed his long legs. ‘There are four steps to reaching the Infinite Belonging. The first is to let go of your physical body, which you have achieved many times over at the end of each existence. The second step is to let go of mental and emotional attachments. This is generally more difficult because humans rewrite their memories to fit the stories that they tell themselves. Each memory is therefore completely entangled with their identity, but you have been helped in this, Amy, in what is potentially your final life.’
‘Helped? Helped how?’
‘Think about it, Amy. You’re a smart woman, you’ll get it.’ Steward leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees, waiting for her to work it out.
‘My memories. My identity. I lost them.’
Steward nodded. ‘Technically, I took them, to make it easier for you to let go.’
Amy’s jaw dropped open, and she searched inside herself to find the torrent of abuse she always relied on to help her express anger and pain, but she could find neither the words nor the feelings. All that she seemed to be able to reach was a feeling of acceptance.
‘It looks like you are nearly there with the emotional side of things too. Well done.’
Amy watched as Steward rolled back his shoulders and seemed to relax a little. He smiled at her, and again his face looked younger, more familiar, but still, she could not place him.
‘You’ve almost completed the first two steps, but this is as far as I can go in helping you. You must work the remaining steps out for yourself, earn that place in the Belonging. Work out what they are, complete them then move on. Couldn’t be simpler. When you’re done just go back out the way you came in.’ He pointed with the stem of his pipe toward the direction of the oak door, and Amy turned to see if it was now visible to her. Still, she could not see it.
‘And how do I know when I’ve completed them? What happens if I can’t?’ Amy turned back to look at Steward, but there was no sign of him. He, along with his chair and his pipe were gone, though the aroma of tobacco still lingered.’ Amy reached inside herself, instinctively relying on her quick wit to counter anger and frustration but there were no words that fit the bill, no rage, no feelings of injustice. Instead. she found again that calm acceptance. This was her task, and she must find a way to complete it. It seemed that her brain, at least, was still working well. She would have to make use of her mental faculties before they disappeared too.
She looked down at the one resource she had been left with, the book, still open at the scene of her first day at school. ‘Where do I start?’ She once again drew closer to the firelight to view the image, gently placing her hand on the delicate page. It was the tingle of pins and needles in her fingers that she noticed first, then in her arm and her whole body as she was vibrated into tiny specks of light, then, as if she was the tail following behind a comet, dived into the page.
‘Mummy don’t leave me. Mummy… Mummy!’
There were so many strange faces. Boys and girls in blue Tee shirts or blue and white gingham dresses, like hers. So much noise. So much pushing and shoving. She wanted to hide. She wanted to cry. Where was her mother, her father? Even her Nana would do, just someone to grab hold of and hide behind.
Amy was confused. She felt the fear and abandonment as if she was still that five-year-old girl on her first day at school, she felt the pain in her ears at the overwhelming noise of it all, and yet she understood the situation as an adult. It was a heady experience.
A large crack rang through the air. The sound of wood splintering. A deathly quiet fell across the classroom. A boy, twice the size of any other in the class, stood in the ruins of a doll’s house oblivious to the reactions of the dozen open-mouthed children surrounding him. Methodically, and without a shred of anger, he kicked and stomped until just one wall of the house remained.
A shrill whistle came from the doorway. The children, except for the boy in the ruins of the doll’s house, turned to face the sound.
‘Well, boys and girls, I see we have some work to do. Come sit down on this mat, there’s good children; you too dear,’ the form teacher said to Amy, ‘don’t just stand there.’
Another crash. Amy turned to look at the large boy, who was now squatting amidst his demolition work with his arms around his knees, rocking to and fro. Cautiously, Amy took the half dozen steps toward him. She held out her hand for him to take hold. The other children held their breath, waiting for the inevitable. Amy stood still, hand outstretched, trembling a little, and waited. After what seemed like an eternity, the boy’s flat, greasy head of hair lifted, and two sea-green eyes smiled up at her. He reached out for her hand.
‘Amy Jane King’ she said. ‘Hello.’
The boy nodded and released the grip around his knees to extend a hand to her. ‘I’m Steven.’
Amy recognised the tingling sensation in her body as she once again vibrated into thousands of tiny pieces, pieces of light, pieces of sound, she was riding on the soundwaves, she was dust in the sunlight.
‘Wow. Ok, that was a rush. So, the book is a way to review parts of my life, of any of my lives, presumably. Cool. And I’m guessing that I need to take some learning from it, so what did I learn there? I made a choice, a choice to be someone who helps people, who gives them a chance. Is that it? Steward, is that it?’ She was shouting into the chamber but to no avail. Steward was still nowhere to be seen and nothing appeared to have changed.
She tried to turn the pages of the book over, looking for inspiration, but although they were as light as tissue paper they would not turn. ‘I wonder’ she said, then clicked her fingers as Steward had done earlier. She sat back as the delicate leaves flipped lightly over, creating once again the little breeze that Amy could feel on her face. When the pages settled. she could see an image of herself in her twenties, sitting in the lotus position in the front room of a flat, Dan’s flat. She laughed. She could remember how uncomfortable she had felt bending herself into that position; she had never been the most elegant of creatures. She had also felt ridiculous, this yoga stuff had not been for her, but Dan had wanted her to try it.
Why would the book be showing her this? She looked more closely at the picture and studied the room. On the wall, behind her left shoulder, was an image of the seven subtle bodies of the human aura. Amy had never paid much attention to it in her time on earth but had a vague recollection of Dan trying to explain it to her. This must be the reason for seeing the image now. She placed her hand on the image and the poster took over the whole page. She studied it then sat bolt upright in her chair.
Amy circled her neck, realising as she did so that this was more out of habit than need. There was no benefit from trying to release a stiff neck, there was no physical discomfort at all. It was clear to her that she had moved beyond the physical layer, the first layer indicated on the poster. Steward had told her she had left most of her feelings and emotions behind, so she knew she was almost through that second layer too. Everything here in the chamber seemed to rely on thought, so, she determined, she must currently be in the mental layer. What came after that? She looked more closely at the image on the page. ‘Astral layer,’ so that was her next goal, ‘but how on earth do I get there? She laughed at the thought. ‘You’re not actually on earth anymore, stupid.’
Amy paced. Other than when she was having a bath, which didn’t seem to be an option at this time, she did her best thinking whilst on the move. Her sparkly dance shoes made no sound as she covered every inch of the chamber’s stone floor. She wondered if she was on some unknown deadline to complete her assignment. She wasn’t even sure whether time existed anymore. She had read about time being a human construct and could readily accept the idea of time having no end, but even here, in this strange place, it was difficult to imagine the concept of a non-linear existence. ‘Think, woman. Think.’ What could she use at this stage of her journey. Logic. Logic would get her through.
She looked back at the poster in the book. The journey seemed to consist of shedding aspects of her life that vibrated at a lower energy frequency; the physical, the emotional, and now the mental. What is left if you let go of thought? She couldn’t imagine. And did letting go of thought mean she needed to let go of imagination too? How? The book hummed in her lap, purring like a kitten pleading for attention.
‘Another memory? Another lesson? Ok, let’s go.’ She clicked her fingers and the pages of the book flicked over, stopping at the image of a small, sad-looking child standing in a kitchen doorway. In the centre of the image, a kitchen chair lay on its side, and in front of the chair, a woman lay on the floor, propping herself up with one arm, her fine blonde hair hiding her face.
Amy felt the now familiar change in vibration and knew she was heading into the memory.
The pain was coursing through her hip. She ran her hand over it; not broken, just bruised, like her pride. Her heart, however, was another matter. How had it come to this? She heard a little sniff and turned her head, ignoring the swelling that had started to deform her jaw. Chloe was leaning on the door frame, sucking her thumb, tears running down her grubby little face. Amy wondered how much the child had seen. Chloe was a smart kid; she knew there was something very wrong here.
They both heard the front door slam shut, followed a few seconds later by the roar of car engine. Safe. At least for a while. The trouble was Amy had no idea how long that while might be. She called to Chloe who ran over and flung her arms around her mother’s neck. Amy ignored the pain, and they hugged each other allowing the love they shared to drive out the damage of recent events. When Chloe let go of her mother, Amy held her at arm’s length and gently wiped the tears from her daughter’s eyes with her one free hand.
‘We need to get out of here, Chloe; just you and me. What do you say?’
‘Maybe. But maybe somewhere further than that. Somewhere new. Here, help Mummy get up, can you darling? Can you push that chair over to me?’
Chloe’s little fingers closed around the back of the wooden chair and using all the strength she could muster she pushed it across the linoleum floor toward her injured mother. Amy grabbed at its legs and pulled herself up to a standing position.
‘Go and put Rosie and your favourite toys into your backpack, Chloe. We are taking them on an adventure.’ Amy reached for her phone and called the only number she could rely on, her best friend from university. ‘Can you come round right away, Dan? It’s time.’
The chamber seemed dark again compared to the harsh light of her old kitchen, but Amy was getting used to the adjustments and barely took a beat before sitting down to analyse the experience.
‘Another defining moment. I think I’m getting the hang of this now. The schoolroom gave me the opportunity to develop empathy, leaving Peter gave me a strength I didn’t know I possessed and the opportunity to find my self-respect. It helped me to develop resilience.’ Amy felt a tingling sensation, and at first thought, she was being pulled back into the nightmare situation in the book, but it did not feel quite the same. There was no pull, it felt like… like an intake of mountain air. She felt lighter, cleaner. It was as if she had been relieved of the lessons she had learned like they had been uploaded to some spiritual master computer. She knew what she had to do.
Repeatedly, Amy clicked her fingers and delved into the life just gone, reliving experiences, and having what she was learning uploaded from her. Her graduation, giving up her dreams for the man who got her pregnant, Chloe’s birth, and the moment, years after leaving Peter, that she first realised she was in love with Dan. Each time a memory was uploaded she felt lighter and less substantial. Her energy’s vibrations were growing higher and higher.
She wondered why, when the book was the content of all her past lives, she was only going back to her most recent life but reasoned that she must have been through this process many, many times before. Had she ever been told though, that any of those previous lives had been her final life? How many times had she been through this process and failed to reach the final goal? Steward had said he had helped her this time, that her Alzheimer’s was an indication that she was on the last leg of this journey; that this time she would reach what he had called The Infinite Belonging.
How long had she been at it this time? There was no way to tell. No feeling of exhaustion came over her. The higher vibrations did nothing to inhibit her mental abilities and she wondered how she would know when she had done enough. Where was the black and white chequered flag, the goalpost, the arrival gate?
‘All good questions, Amy.’ She heard the voice in her head and swung around, but she was still alone. That voice, that strangely familiar voice. Steward, no, not Steward. Dan. Could it be? Could she trust that it was? Maybe that’s what was missing, trust, the one thing she had never been able to do.
‘Ok book. I need another clue.’ She clicked her fingers and waited for the fine pages to flick over and settle on another image. This one, however, was not a memory, the page was blank. Amy panicked, was she at the end of the road? Had she had her last chance? She searched what was left of her ability to reason. Trust, she needed to trust. ‘Just do it, Amy,’ she told herself. ‘Just make a decision to trust.’
The image unfolded before her eyes. Her whole being was taken over by wave upon wave of pure bliss. She felt like a planet exploding, waves crashing, flowers bursting into life. As she watched the page fill with mathematical equations, obscure symbols, and molecular diagrams she understood it all. She understood and she trusted.
Steward’s words came back to her. A speck. She was indeed a speck, but that speck held within it everything that existence was capable of manifesting, anything it chose: good or evil, physical or psychological. She was a speck that belonged to the universe, to a multitude of universes, but she also was the universe. Steward had helped her. She would never have seen it without him; without being able to experience those unadjusted memories.
Her body, such as it was, was vibrating apart into millions of tiny particles, glowing like the light she had seen on her way to the chamber. She rose from the chair and without any conscious effort found herself in front of the oak door. Silently, the door began to open, the light pouring through into the chamber.
Within the light, Amy could see the outline of many souls, some clearer than others, and one that appeared to be coming toward her. It was Steward, younger still than when she had last seen him, or maybe it was just the glow emanating from him. His face appeared to be changing with every step forward, plumping out, his hair fuller, his back straighter. He smiled at her, and she remembered his words ‘You will know when you can no longer not know’.
‘Dan,’ she said. ‘It’s you. But how can you be here when I left you down…’
‘It was always me, Amy. Time, like everything else, is…’
‘…a human construct.’ She nodded and moved closer to him; the connection stronger than she had ever experienced before. Dan took her hand and led her into The Infinite Belonging. Amy was home.