A Glimpse of Paradise
This was a story I wrote when I was 17 for a High School English practice paper. The question was something like 'write a story in which a character encounters a new world.'
A soft breeze caressed Martin’s face as he awoke, a breeze that tousled his sandy hair and swept through the long grass that surrounded him as he opened his eyes for the first time. Why was the sun so bright here, on this meadow? Not harsh, but bright. A comforting warmth that seemed to remind him of a soft blanket ensnaring him in a fugue of relaxation and tranquillity. It was if a voice had told him ‘here you are safe’ and he’d simply laid down and embraced it all. These songs were not the songs he heard when he last closed his eyes, the melody of whistling grass and the hymns of songbirds that flitted from idyllic tree to idyllic tree and long since overcome the percussive assault of car horns and lyrics of obscenities shouted by people everything they could ever want save for time.
I can’t find a pulse.
It’s not too late!
Martin opened his eyes and slowly rose to his feet to survey his surroundings proper. A picturesque meadow of beautiful grass and flowers that spiralled outwards from willowy orchards of apple trees that populated the landscape. To the distance, a gorgeous city seemingly made entirely of silver without a hint of grime, smog and heavy air that so long ago plagued his life.
Was it so long ago? How long had he laid there? On the ground, in a strange peace with these new surroundings? He last remembered a tension in his arm being released as he drifted off to sleep in his bed, sent into this paradise with a soft beep of a nearby monitor.
Stand by for Defibrillation.
Around him, Martin heard a contented hum of another person rising from the soft loamy ground. She was a copper-skinned woman with soft eyes that made contact with his own. Reflexively, Martin braced himself for the customary scowl or dip of the head he was used to, but instead a warm smile emerged from her lips as she began walking towards the city of silver, subtly beckoning him to follow.
Martin ventured through fields of red lilies that spiralled their way across the meadow, emitting an aroma of comfort that circled around him, guiding him onwards.
3, 2, 1, Clear!
This vision of paradise was interrupted for the briefest of moments as the landscape fizzled Martin. The elderly man cried out in confusion as the woman shot him a look of soft concern, as if she knew something Martin didn’t. Her eyes spoke the farewell that her voice did not.
Try again damnit! 3, 2, 1, Clear!
A violent tearing sound tore its way through Martin’s body as his vision shrank. The violet sunset and silver city vanished from view in a shower of sparks and motion as the meadow around him burst alight with potential, with movement.
A familiar movement. A movement of cars, of trains, of buses and planes. A movement of a city he abandoned. Martin reached out to his surroundings and tried to hold on to this picturesque landscape. His chest burned with a heat that threatened to consume him as he sank to his knees, hands out, desperately reaching for the beautiful lilies that guided his way. Lilies that were not longer there, disappearing in a static of red and green as Martin toppled to the ground, face up.
“Heart rate stabilizing at 79 BPM. He’s gonna be okay”
Martin looked at the sterile hospital room that he had called home for the past three months. Palliative Care 103 written in a ugly, blocky script above the door. He looked up at the doctor above him holding a pair of electrified pads and froze, paralyzed by what he had seen.
What had he seen? He couldn’t remember once the sounds of car horns set in, drowning out his vision as he drifted back to sleep. It was a dream, he remembered. A good dream, a warm dream.
He hoped to dream that dream again.