Curled up in a chair in the hospital room, I watched the “me” laying on the bed sleep for several days. The feeling of being pulled towards the ‘me’ on the bed came and went. I was never more hopeful than the last time it happened. I was within inches of my body when the sensation ceased. I grabbed for my body but, before I could reach it, I was back in the chair, frustrated but hopeful. That was the closest I had been to rejoining. I could feel the will to live.
Why am I separated? What is keeping me from waking? I thought back to all the movies about people crossing over. It didn’t make sense. Wouldn’t I be the one having experiences that would keep me from wanting to come back? There was no tunnel, no light, and no departed loved ones helping me to cross over. There was just me the observer watching my body sleep. Could it be that there were three of us: the observer “me” stuck in the hospital watching my body, the “me” recovering in the hospital bed, and a third “me” visiting Mom and Jim in heaven refusing to come back? I remembered my friend Vicky telling me about our different layers. I just remembered a few: the physical, astral, casual, celestial, and etheric. Or something like that. I think she said the etheric is closest to the physical so that would explain why I can still feel sensations that happen to my physical body like the defibrillator and the patch. She talked about the astral being the closest level to the spirit plane; maybe I was in my astral body. Maybe this “me” floating outside of my body was something altogether different. Something Vicky doesn’t even know about. I was so frustrated and confused. I couldn’t think of anything else that would keep me from wanting to wake up other than being with Mom and Jim again.
I watched as friends and co-workers stopped by with flowers and quick stories about what was happening in their lives and how they missed me and prayed for my recovery.
I walked around the hospital in observer mode for what seemed like days. I walked past the staff… unseen. Only a few patients could see me. I assumed they were on the edge of death. I sat with an elderly woman as she pointed out the relatives filling her room to help her cross. I couldn’t see any of them but said pleased to meet you as she introduced each member of her family that had passed. I was hoping that not seeing them was a good sign that I was more rooted with the living than the dead. I spent most of my time in the children’s ward telling stories to the few that could see me. I tried not to think about the fact that if they could see me, they might be dying. I couldn’t remember stories from my childhood, so I made some up. I was sure on some level they knew I was different from the staff. I hoped they wouldn’t ask questions. Questions I had no answers to.
Deciding that I couldn’t wait for my body to pull me back in, I took a running start and leaped onto the bed falling backward. I hoped the momentum would shove me back in my body. Instead, I went through my body as well as the bed and ended up on the floor underneath. I stared up at the bed frame and mattress. “I’m in hell, I thought. I’m sure of it. I’m doomed to watch myself for eternity.”
My next strategy was to lie on the bed. If I were a fragment of the Kate on the bed, maybe I could connect. Perhaps I would see what she was seeing, see what was keeping her from returning. I crawled out from underneath the bed. I’m sure I could have just risen through it, the same way I fell through it. It just felt normal to crawl out and climb on top. I wanted to feel normal again. I wanted to feel solid. I lay next to my body and placed my head gently against my physical head and waited to merge with my body’s dreams, thoughts, and desires. For the first time since being separated, I felt myself drift into a deep sleep. It was like a movie was playing in my head. Was this a dream? It wasn’t in color, more like a translucent gray.
I was an observer, similar to when I observed my rescue and watched my body as it recovered in the hospital bed. This couldn’t be heaven, could it? Had I found Nirvana? I couldn’t believe my eyes. I watched a dream-like movie unfold in front of me. My doppelganger Dream-Kate was living the life I had always wished for. Mom and Jim were very much alive. Jim was an adult in his 30s, and Mom had graying hair. She looked vibrant and healthy. Scenes of shared meals flowed quickly. Everyone was bantering back and forth like we used to when we were kids.
I screamed for them to hear me. I couldn’t believe Mom and Jim were alive. They couldn’t hear me; they couldn’t see me. I felt my heart racing; it was beating so fast I could feel it in both the observer me and in my body. I felt panic rising. The image started to blur. The heart monitor attached to my physical body sounded an alarm. The nursing staff ran into the room and surrounded my body. Something was injected into my IV. I was losing the connection with the images of the life I had always dreamed. I screamed no as loud as I could. I could hear the nurse yelling for a crash cart. I didn’t want to return to my body. I tried to calm myself; I didn’t want the images to go away. I didn’t want to be pulled back into my physical body. I didn’t want to wake up. Even if they couldn’t hear me, even if they didn’t know I was watching. I wanted to be a part of their world. I wanted to see them, watch them. I tried breathing in and out slowly, seven counts in, hold for two, seven count out, hold for two. It was working, the visions became clear again. The alarm on the monitor ceased. The staff seemed satisfied that the injection worked. Even though I wasn’t in my physical body, I could feel tears flowing down my cheeks. I could taste the salt on my lips. My lips continued to quiver despite the breath work.
I focused on the vision again. Dad brought a turkey to the dinner table and picked up a large knife. He pretended that it was a samurai sword and held it to the sky honoring its role in the family dinner. Mom laughed and called him a nut. He and Mom seemed so happy together. I could feel my heart beat faster when I realized I had a family of my own. I had a husband and a beautiful daughter. She had my blonde curls, and they hung over her eyes and bounced off her shoulders when she laughed. I knew it was just a dream, but I could feel the joy Dream-Kate felt as I watched her experiences. I took a closer look at Dream-Kate’s husband. Not bad! He was handsome with a kind, gentle demeanor; he looked like … like … the captain? Had Dream-Kate married the captain? I never thought of the captain romantically; in fact, I never wanted a family. That awareness didn’t rear its head until this very moment. I thought of Sam. It was never about Sam not being my soulmate, it just wasn’t what I wanted.
Observing my doppelganger began to feel more like recalling memories than dreaming. It felt like the experiences I was watching were suddenly merging with mine as though they were my own. The emotions associated with these experiences filled my body with an intensity that was dizzying. The sense of loving someone so deeply and being so connected filled my heart where all the holes had been. I was no longer just observing; I was pulling Dream-Kate’s experiences into every cell of my body, edging out the old feelings of anger, loss and abandonment.
As the feelings flooded my body, I could see why the “me” on the hospital bed didn’t want to wake up. It was getting harder to distinguish the feelings of merely observing a dream with the feelings that I was living a life I had always imagined. The family scenes swirled away and then slowly a new scene came into view. This felt as real as the family series I had watched. I watched as Dream-Kate examined the contents of the Alexander case file. She was working on the same cold case I had inherited from Larry Sadler when he went on disability for a bad back. I saw the photos of the crime scene. Only they were slightly different. Saul’s hair was longer and Sarah, his wife, was much younger. The children were two boys instead of a boy and girl. It was different, but definitely Saul and Sarah. There was a picture of a train and a crumbled train schedule. I tried yelling again.
“That’s my case, that’s my case,” I screamed at my doppelganger as she flipped through the case file. She glanced over her shoulder as if in response, but didn’t seem to see me. She turned back to her folder. My heart raced again when she turned towards me. Suddenly, I felt myself being pulled backward with a speed that made me reach for the walls to slow myself. Only it wasn’t walls. It was more like a tunnel of swirling smoky purple and gray hues. I had seen this tunnel before. Where?
I opened my eyes and glanced around the room. I saw Vicky sleeping in the Lazy-Boy chair. I was back in my body. I didn’t want a life without Mom and Jim. I started to cry.
Vicky woke up and ran towards the bed. “Kate, are you okay? Shit, you gave us a scare.”
Before I could respond, she hit the buzzer for the nurse.
“Where am I, what happened? I saw Mom and Jim. They were alive. They aren’t here are they?”
Vicky held my hand and looked towards the door. “Let’s hold that conversation for later,” she said as she squeezed my hand.
The head nurse ran in and saw me awake. She called the doctor and the on-call psychiatrist which was standard protocol for all suicide attempts. Both arrived within minutes.
Excert from Walk-In Investigations, Streaming Sarah for daily prompt Doppelganger.