Day 27

The worried faces of Dr Dan, Mavis Davis, and Dad Person are above me. Dr Dan gives the news. I listen and I don’t say much. Actually, I don’t say anything, I’m just too tired. They speak of my hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the thickening of the muscles in my heart, and what can be done, and what can’t. It isn’t good.

Day 28

Mavis Davis and Dr Dan sit by my bed. I’m feeling better.

‘We want to ask you about your resonance is me theory, Kyle,’ Dr Dan begins. ‘I see now where you get your one big light idea, but how did you come to the charged particle?’

‘Well it was after my visit to one big light that I was thinking about Mister Redmond.’

‘Who’s Mister Redmond?’ Mavis Davis asks.

‘Mister Redmond lives across the street from us. He and Missus Redmond have four children, and they are all girls. Mister Redmond was the neatest man ever. He had the neatest garden on the street. And he had the cleanest Toyota Corolla in Ireland. Every Saturday he cleaned and polished that car. It was like new. He always wore a shirt and tie and blazer. He only took his blazer off when he worked in his garden or cleaned his car, and even then he wore a buttoned cardigan. Mister Redmond refereed our football games from his garden gate. And in summer, during Wimbledon, we’d play tennis on the road and he would umpire, calling out the scores, Fifteen Love, Deuce, Advantage Kyle, and all that. And he would make the line and net calls, you know, Out, Net, Second Serve, all that umpire stuff, and that wasn’t easy as there was no net at all, only an imaginary one. Then, a couple of years ago he started to get unwell, you know, the old people’s thing. Last time I saw him he was in a highchair and his girls were feeding him. He didn’t know me. He didn’t know the girls. And I’ve wondered about that. Like, he was still there, and yet he wasn’t there. So where did Mister Redmond go?’

‘Aren’t you a bit young to be worrying about such things?’ Mavis Davis says.

‘When is the best age to start?’ I ask her.

She doesn’t answer.

‘Go on with your story, Kyle,’ Dr Dan says.

‘When I went to one big light, I didn’t have a body, well, not this body anyway. I’m not sure if I had a shape that could be explained or understood, not now, though I’m sure I understood when I was there, and I’m sure I remembered when I was there, and that’s a fierce curious thing as my brain was still on the football field. So what part of me travelled? And what part of Mister Redmond is missing? And is it the same part?’

‘And what do you think?’ Dr Dan asks, leaning forward.

‘No. It isn’t. It can’t be, if we think about it.’

‘Go on,’ says Dr Dan.

‘We all have a physical part, a body. And we all have a thinking part, a mind.’

‘You mean a consciousness,’ Dr Dan says.

‘Yes, a thinking part that is intentional and unintentional, like dreaming and stuff. And some believe that we have a spirit part, like a soul. But the spirit part and the thinking part get mixed up. People believe our spirit includes our thoughts and ideas and conscience. But it doesn’t. The spirit is a lot more than that, and yet a lot less in a crazy kind of way. I think our spirit part is our knowing part, I think we already know everything but that this light inside of us cannot interfere or interact in a Earthly way, so that we do not know what we know whilst in a human life, that we must learn anew for some reason, and that those are the rules and somehow we know that and we agreed to that. I think the human body is some kind of retainer and reducer, a carrier and a barrier. And that’s the way it has to be.’

‘I’m doing my best to stay with you, Kyle,’ says the tall doctor, ‘but . . . ‘

‘Okay,’ I continue, on a roll now and just letting the thoughts fall and working them out at the same time. ‘Some believe in a life after this and think that when we die our thinking part will go to some other place and carry memories and conscience and everything with it. But it doesn’t. Mister Redmond is proof of that. His thinking is broken and dying, like my body. Soon his thinking will be totally gone, but Mister Redmond’s physical body will still be there. And so will his spirit. That will only leave him when he dies. But then it will travel having all his knowing and memories and stuff. But if his knowing and memories are in his broken brain and lost, along with his thinking, how can that be? What’s going on?’

‘So what is going on, Kyle?’ Dr Dan asks.

‘Because the knowing part and the thinking part are different things. And his memories and stuff are not and never were in his brain, they were just accessed by it. And when his brain got damaged he lost the way in.’

‘But isn’t Mister Redmond’s memories and stuff damaged and already gone?’ asks the long fellow.

‘No Doc, I don’t think so. Mister Redmond’s thinking part is dying because his brain is dying. My physical part is dying because my heart is dying. The body is of the Earth and belongs to the Earth. It doesn’t leave it. When we die the body dies. And so too with the mind, the thinking part, the consciousness. The thinking part is of the Earth and belongs to the Earth. It doesn’t leave it. When we die the thinking part dies. I see this in the slow drain of Mister Redmond. His thinking part belongs to his brain. And his brain is dying. But his memories and stuff, his life, exist still in some sort of charge. What is lost here is the way in and the communication with it. The knowing part, too, is not of the Earth. It’s that charged particle, the resonance, from the one big light and it’s like a rhythm or energy or vibration or frequency that exists below the physical and thinking stuff. It influences us like the Atlantic Ocean influences Ireland. But it doesn’t do our walking or our thinking. That’s how arseholes and bad people exist; their frequency is fucked up. Those guys, literally, have a bad vibe. Or maybe they don’t have a spirit; perhaps, a life doesn’t need one. Who knows?’

I look to the two doctors and see two squinted faces and two tight mouths.

‘Dad Person, I continue, ‘loves playing these Elvis LPs on his record player.  If I listen to these songs I hear the music and I hear a voice. But there is another sound. Underneath the music and the voice there is a static charge. I can hear it in the quiet parts. That’s because these sounds were not built on nothing. That’s because these songs were recorded in a studio with electricity and stuff. And that has a sound, the sound of the physical world. The songs are built over this sound. They are built on something that isn’t part of the song but isn’t an absolute silence either. We too are built like that. We are built on something that isn’t of our physical part and isn’t of our thinking part, but isn’t an absolute nothing or silence either. We are built on a particle of the one big light; we are built on the resonance of ourselves.’

‘But, Kyle,’ says Dr Dan, ‘you visited the one big light and you took your thinking part with you. And you took it back. So how does that work?’

‘Yes, I’ve thought about that,’ I reply. ‘And I think my thinking part didn’t go, but that it was my knowing part returning to the light. But I didn’t go into the light, and that’s the confusion. From that light, I think, there is no return. Not to the same person anyway. Maybe we return to another place. Who knows? And nobody can know because the returning knowing part doesn’t have the physical part or the thinking part of the original living person, what you call the . . . what is that word, I can never get that word out, some words do that, they refuse to work with you.’

‘The consciousness,’ says Dr Dan.

‘Yes that. That dies. And, hey, if you don’t believe, well, just go ask Mister Redmond.’

The usual gang visit in the evening. I’m so tired I can barely talk to them. The one big light and resonance is me discussion has tired me out. I don’t even have the energy to ask about Sunlight.

I doze for some hours and wake to a quiet room. It is the night and Old Grey and Old Bald are asleep. The hospital big chiefs are at home so I ask Julia, the ward nurse, to put on the late radio show, the one where they play the soft stuff, you know, the songs no one can admit to liking, but that, secretly, most everybody does. Everybody except Boyish Girl that is, she is Metallica and Pearl Jam all the way and there is no mush in her music. It’s metal or death with that one. But now it’s just me and Julia the nurse so we put on the radio, nice and gentle, and we really get into it and we give Chicago’s Hard to Say I’m Sorry a fair lashing. And we are just building the thing up to a big finish when I die.

And I’m in that somewhere else again. I recognise it. I know it. And I know I’ve always known it, the floating, no, not floating, rising, the no weight, the shape but not a body as such, just different, the curtains or veils, kind of dark and kind of see-through, And below me Ireland like on one of those satellite pictures, then the Earth falling away and then other worlds, zillions of them, then the great light. And I’m there, not in the light as such, or maybe I am, it’s hard to know. I’m in a garden, no, not a garden but in a beautiful green land of wild grasses and flowers and trees and a small silver river, it’s like Ireland on the most beautiful day ever. Someone approaches, a woman, but not Dear Departed Mother. And not the girl. No, it’s someone else I know. It’s Mavis Davis.

She is in normal clothes, that is Earthly clothes for civilian use and not hospital wear, and she looks different out of her regular medical gear, and she looks different out of her regular human form. ‘Hey, Mavis,’ I greet her. ‘You fooled me there for a moment. You almost look . . . ehh . . . something.’

‘What?’ she asks.

‘Human,’ I tell her.

‘Still a funny guy, Kyle,’ she says. ‘Did you miss me?’

‘Yes,’ I tell her. And, madly, it is true.

‘How can you be here?’ I ask her. ‘Are you dead too?’

‘No,’ she says. ‘I’m still there, but here too. Isn’t it a crazy thing altogether. The whole show is fantastic, magical. It’s very tricky. Of course, the me there doesn’t know about the me here. That’s the way it as to be.’

‘Right,’ I say.

‘I brought a friend of yours,’ she says.

I go to say something clever, but can’t. My brain has frozen. Or wait, I don’t have a brain, that’s still in the hospital. She’s right. This is tricky.

Mavis touches me and tells me to relax. A girl stands by the river. It’s Sunlight. If I don’t die now of joy, then maybe, just maybe, I will live. But no, that can’t be, because I’m dead. But actually, I’m more alive than I have ever been. I mean, I’m Earthly dead, but that’s hardly anything at all. It’s very confusing.

She walks to me. ‘Hallo,’ she says. ‘I’m Birta. I have been thinking about you.’

Thinking about me? That’s so crazy. And what a crazy cool voice she has. I had wondered about her voice. And Birta? What kind of a name is that? But I like it. I like her. Well, more than like. Way more than like. I can’t speak. I can’t even think about speaking. I’m trying to think about speaking. I’m trying to think about thinking. But nothing is working. I probably look like a complete eejit. She touches me and I feel her. I mean I really feel her, like some wild fusion and buzz and connection and it is so good. If this was Earth they’d all think I was having a heart attack. But it isn’t and I should probably tell them that it isn’t a cardiac arrest, just a panic. But I can’t. I might have got the thinking back, but speaking still escapes me. And anyway, I don’t have a heart; that too is back in the hospital. This is mad stuff.

‘I’m Kyle,’ I say, it’s all I can manage.

‘Yes,’ Birta says, and laughs. ‘I know.’

For five Earthly minutes, maybe ten, we don’t speak. I can’t. But the silence could have stretched for a year, or a hundred years, without making any difference. Time here is a different thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure, it isn’t a thing at all. Then we get going and it all comes out in a burst and we don’t stop. She says she lived in Iceland. How cool is that? I tell her a secret, a fact that nobody knows. I tell her that Iceland was first discovered and peopled by the Irish; that we were there before the Vikings, and that we should rightfully claim it back now that things have settled down with the Norsemen. I tell her that’s where she probably gets her flaming hair and pale white skin.

‘Maybe,’ she says. ‘But then, all Icelanders have pale white skin, just like the Vikings.’

‘Okay,’ I tell her. ‘Fair enough. But I still claim the hair for Ireland.’ And she agrees to that.

‘But you were there with me,’ she says. ‘Don’t you remember?’

And now I do.

‘Time to go,’ Mavis Davis says.

‘What?’ I ask turning

And Mavis is walking away through the green and towards a low white cloud. ‘Time to go,’ she says.

Mark Mulholland

Mark Mulholland is not from the USA or the UK or even Australia or anywhere snazzy like that. Mark, through no fault of his own, was born and raised in Ireland. However, when fifteen, as luck would have it, he underwent a stroke of genius and left schooling to linger around a second-hand book store. By further miraculous intervention he slipped his way into local employment and with his small earnings bought books by their cover or title or by some indefinable inclination. The whole world was to be found in that book store, he says, and everything a boy needed to learn could be learned there. He has been educated in this way ever since.
Mark writes about light, gravity, God, purpose, belief, behaviour, death, good, bad, all the goofy stuff, and he comes at these questions from odd angles. Because what Mark eventually figured out is that nobody knows anything about everything. So he might as well have a go at it.
Mark is the author of the acclaimed novel A Mad and Wonderful Thing and his short fiction has been published in the USA, Ireland, and the UK. He has been shortlisted for the Dorset Fiction Award. He lives in rural France.