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 Category:  Horror and Thriller Fiction
  Posted: October 4, 2020      Views: 71

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What would you do if you woke up in total darkness?
"Dead or Dreaming" by Lorraine Jackson

Lorraine Jackson

Hell found me. Am I dead or alive? Where am I? What happened to me prior to this moment? How long have I been here, wherever here is? I know that I am lying down, but I don't know if I am in a bed, on a cot, on a floor, or on the ground. I also know I am in total darkness. Or could it be that my eyes are closed? Of course, Debbi, your eyes are closed. This is a bad dream that you probably won't remember when you wake up. I will just relax and see where my dream takes me.

I am aware but feel weightless, as though I am suspended in space, with neither foundational support nor protective covering, just floating aimlessly. No. If I were floating, I would feel movement. There is no movement. In my mind, I know where my head, arms, hands, and legs are, but I am not able to detect them or feel their weight. Did I die? If I did, I know why I went to hell.

As I recall, Mom took me to the doctor the other day and the doctor said, "She's anemic. You should give her lots of beef liver, spinach, and beets."

He also gave Mom a prescription for a nasty tonic. Cindy finds it amusing and laughs every time Mom sits a plate of flat, brown, unappetizing liver and soggy spinach in front of me. I am only ten years old, but I know that "He who laughs last, laughs best." I paid Cindy back by taking the head off her favorite doll and hiding it under my bed. It wasn't as funny as I thought it would be when she found her doll and let out a blood-curdling scream reminiscent of the screams in old horror movies when the vampire is about to bite the neck of the innocent damsel in distress. It could be heard from the basement to the attic. Mom said the headless doll traumatized Cindy as it represented a headless person to an eight-year old. Mom already scolded me for scaring my little sister. Why did I still have to go to hell?

Have I been asleep? I hear something. It sounds like far away voices. Who is talking? What are they saying? I wish they would speak louder. I hear a man. I hope he wakes me up if I am asleep. Now I hear a woman. Why is she babbling? I think she said the words, "dead" and "coma." What does "coma" mean? I know what dead means. I am just a little kid. How did I die? When?

I feel nothing above or below me, but I am sensing movement. I think I am floating. What are the voices saying? Please speak up. I am straining to understand. I hear a horn blowing. No. It's a siren. It sounds like the siren of the ambulance that took Dad to the hospital when I was twenty-three years old. Dad was an alcoholic who would come home from work drunk every Friday night. He would yell at Mom and curse at me and Cindy.

"Why don't you shut up and leave Mom alone?" I remember shouting at him.

"You go to hell!" he snapped back and swung his arm out to hit me but lost his balance and fell. He landed so hard on the floor that it felt as though the house was caught in an earthquake. As he lay on the floor, we saw blood streaming from his temple. Mom dialed 9-1-1 and the ambulance arrived and took Dad away, sirens blazing. I was glad he was out of the house. "You go to hell. You go to hell."

Is that what happened to me? Could a drunk old man condemn me to hell? The current siren is so far away that I am struggling to hear it. I sense movement again, but I feel as though I need to fall asleep.

I no longer hear sirens. The voices are gone. I hear nothing and remain in total darkness. I need to figure out who I am and what has happened to me. But more importantly, I need to wake up. I know my name is Debbi and I grew up and live in Pike Creek, Delaware. I am thirty-two years old. I am an elementary school teacher home from work on vacation. No. This is not a vacation. Schools have closed because of the coronavirus and people have been advised to stay at home and shelter-in-place to control the spread of the virus. I meet my students three days a week on Zoom, a video conferencing platform.

Now I remember. A neighbor in my community told me about Mrs. Braxton, the elderly woman who lives alone, down the road from me, in the two-story cottage surrounded by overgrown grass and weeds. She tested positive for the coronavirus. "I'm sorry to hear that," I remember saying. "I don't really know her, but I will not be going near her house. I have to distance myself, stay healthy and be prepared to teach my students when schools open back up."

Mrs. Braxton is not my concern. I am just grateful that I have not been exposed to the virus. But is the virus worse than the hell I am currently experiencing?

I am sleepy and feel as though I have been drugged. If I am unconscious and not dead, am I dreaming? I have no way of measuring time or determining if it is day or night. If I am in hell, I don't feel my flesh being scorched by hell's fiery burn of eternal damnation that religious folklore describes, but I AM in total darkness, unable to see or hear or laugh or experience joy. I have never considered the validity of hell and perpetual darkness. It is believed by some, to be the resting place for evil, unkind, and selfish people. Selfish people. Selfish people. Mrs. Braxton, I am sorry I was too selfish to reach out to you. I could have gotten a phone number to call you or offer to grocery shop for you. I could have placed your purchases on your front porch without ever seeing you, much less touching you. Have I been so self-centered that I deserved hell? I have no answers. I just feel sluggish, as though I'm losing consciousness.

Wow! I feel something touching my face, and now my hair. I hear a man's voice. It sounds far away. I think I am coming back to life. Could that be Dad I hear? No. Dad died years ago. This is a kind voice without Dad's intoxicated slur. I am trying desperately to open my eyes. I feel a warm tear gliding down my cheek. Something is touching my hand. I can feel! I detect the scent of isopropyl alcohol wafting through the air. I can smell! I hear the man clearly shouting, "Nurse, Nurse." He must be a doctor, and I must be in a hospital. Oh God, please let me open my eyes. It's happening. Light! I see blurry light. I see the doctor, an older gentleman, with mixed brown and gray hair, seated in a chair, smiling down at me. He is holding my hand.

"Angela, sweetheart. Can you hear me?" I can hear him. There are two nurses scurrying around the room adjusting equipment.

"Doctor?" I hear myself saying incoherently. "Where am I and what happened to me?" The light is blinding. It appears I am looking through the thick base of two drinking glasses. I must squint to focus. I want to rub my eyes, but my arms will not move.

"You were in a car accident when your car was hit by a truck and pushed over a cliff. You don't remember?"


"You've been in a coma for the past five months. The doctor will be in to see you in just a few minutes."

"You're not the doctor?"

"No Angela." The man's smile is warm and comforting. "I'm your husband."

"Why are you calling me Angela? My name is Debbi." I feel exhausted. I am afraid I will drift back into darkness. I will try to continue talking. "I am a schoolteacher who lives in Delaware. Mrs. Braxton, my neighbor, tested positive for Covid-19. I'm going to help her when I get out of this hospital."

"What on earth made you think of Mrs. Braxton? You don't need to concern yourself with anything but getting well," the man is saying. "I just want you to take all the time you need to get better, so I can take you home and take care of you. You will remember everything in time. Mrs. Braxton, by the way, was the principal of the school where you teach. She died two months ago."

"When did we get married?"

"We've been married three years. We live in Bozeman, Montana."

"Montana? How old am I?" My mouth and jaw feel weighted with cement.

"You are thirty-seven years old. And if you don't remember, I am twenty years older than you."

A young, smiling doctor in a white lab coat has come into the room. "Hello Angela."

I have briefly glanced at him, but I am concentrating on the man who claims he is my husband. I have never seen him before. I have never known anyone by the name Angela, and I don't know when I moved from Delaware to Montana. Is any of this real or am I dreaming?" If what I have heard is my new reality, I know my indomitable curiosity will allow me to resolve every puzzle after I leave this hospital. My eyelids are heavy, and I am about to drift off to sleep, but there is one thing I am now certain of. Hell found me.

New Arrival Writing Contest contest entry

Author Notes
To be in hell may mean you are unable to enjoy or dislike routine things of your life. This is a story about someone who finds herself in total darkness pondering her existence and questioning the circumstances that brought her to her current state. Her thoughts wander and she concludes she may be dead and in hell or she may be experiencing a really bad dream. Do you believe in hell? If so, what is it and where is it? Could it be in things that occur in your everyday life?
Pays one point and 2 member cents. Artwork by World Travel Photos at

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© Copyright 2016. Lorraine Jackson All rights reserved.
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