Day 33

Yes, I died again. And, yes, I came back again. And when I wake from being dead, I find that I am in the Intensive Care Room and Mavis Davis is holding my hand. Things must be bad. I try to say something, but I can’t.

Day 34

I wake up to a crowd. I don’t know what time it is. I don’t know what day it is. But they are gathered about me. The best I can do is to give them a smile. Girlish Boy is sitting to my right and I can see he is trying not to cry. And Dad Person is sitting by the vital signs unit and I see how old he looks. Boyish Girl is standing at the back of the bed. She shakes her head at me. ‘I hear it was Chicago that did it,’ she says. ‘Jaysus, Kyle, but that shite would floor anybody.’

Mavis Davis walks into the room, the Earthly Mavis, that is.

‘You are my hero, Mavis Davis,’ I say. And she walks to the bed and leans over. ‘It’s a crazy thing altogether,’ I tell her. ‘The whole show is fantastic, magical. It’s very tricky.’

And Mavis leans closer. Yes, I meet the girl of my dreams and what happens? What happens is I get kissed by Mavis Davis.

Day 35

Dr Dan and Mavis Davis bring me the news. I will be transferred for a transplant operation as soon as a suitable donor heart is available. But I need to get better for the trip.

‘No bother,’ I say. ‘I’ll get busy with that.’ And Mavis Davis laughs. Whoohoo!! Someone phone the Pope. It’s a miracle.

Dr Dan asks about the one big light again. The man is obsessed by it. He wants to know why I didn’t go in to it.

‘Why, I don’t know,’ I tell him. In fact, I don’t really know that I wasn’t in it. So I tell him about the green land and the river and the beautiful girl. I say nothing about the other Mavis Davis. ‘Perhaps, it just wasn’t my time, not yet. I don’t know why.’ And then I look to them both and offer my open hands. ‘My life closed twice before its close, It yet remains to see, If Immortality unveil, A third event to me.’

‘Very good, Kyle,’ says Dr Dan. ‘Miss Dickenson, isn’t it?’

I give him a thumbs up and a nod. ‘Miss Emily her very self,’ I tell him. ‘She was a strange cookie.’

And I tell them there was someone there at the one big light on my first voyage. ‘No, maybe not a someone,’ I say, ‘not a someone with arms and legs and stuff, but someone. And, it’s crazy, but it was Dear Departed Mother. Not actually her, I mean not the body and the thinking parts; and not her in a recognisable human way, but, yet, still her; her energy and spirit and that almost silent wonder that was her. I think souls recognise each other. No, more than that; I think souls know each other. At least, I think so. But I’m not sure about any of it. It’s impossible to detail because I’m describing it through human reason; but that doesn’t explain it. It’s very different there.’

‘Your mother died from the same illness,’ Dr Dan says. Man, he’s good. ‘The drama and effort of your birth was too much for her own hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.’

‘Yes,’ I say. ‘She gave me her heart. What more can a mother give?’

Day 36

I wake up to find Mavis Davis sitting beside me.

‘Hey, Mavis,’ I greet her.

She wants me to tell her again about the girl, to tell her about Sunlight. So I do.

‘Do you think she was a kind of angel?’ she asks.

‘No,’ I tell her. ‘I think she is a kind of friend. Do you remember what I told you about souls and recognition?’

And Mavis Davis nods and rises and makes to go.

‘Mavis,’ I ask her. ‘Where does love go? Like, I mean, does it just keep going on forever and ever and ever, travelling out into the infinite? Or does it falter and weaken and fall? Does gravity get a hold of it and pull it down? Gravity is a tricky thing.’

‘I don’t know,’ she says. ‘Do you?’

‘I’ve been thinking about it,’ I tell her.

And she smiles. And she sits back down and takes my hand. ‘Go on,’ she says.

‘Well, I’ve never been with a girl,’ I tell her. ‘So what do I know? But here’s what I think. The physical-part love can last a bit, but only a bit. The thinking-part love will last longer, maybe a whole life. But the resonance and charged-particle-part love, the vibration or spirit or soul thing, that love will last eternity. In fact, it doesn’t begin here. It is already there.’

I’m suddenly tired and sleepy and drift off. And when I awake, Mavis Davis is gone but Doctor Dan is there. He smiles. ‘Hey, Doc,’ I greet him. He nods as he busies himself reading some chart stuff. I guess he wants to chat about the energy is me thing, but doesn’t want to ask and come across fixated or anything like that, he being a big important medical consultant and all that.

‘You know,’ I tell him, ‘it could be that we are waves and that I just see myself as a resonance and charged particle because it’s easier to reach for and hold. I mean, the whole duality thing of wave and particle is a pure puzzle. It would put anyone sideways. It could lead to a crisis. Like, not just who am I, but what am I? Isn’t that right, Doctor Dan? Or what do you think, yourself?’

In the afternoon I am alone with Dad Person. I tell him about Dear Departed Mother. I tell him that they will be together again, like they were before, like they are, like they always will be, because that’s how this light thing works.

Day 38

I have the maddest dream. I’m in the Intensive Care Room, in the dream, and a crowd has gathered. All are here except Mavis Davis who, all say, has been missing since our talk on the theory of love. Maybe that scared her off. Or maybe she’s away playing golf. Who knows? Except, of course, that I have seen her twice since then, so they are all wrong, but anyway, as this is only a dream, I go with it. Girlish Boy is beside me and he is fidgety and keeps grasping his hands the way he does when he watches me play football. They turn when we hear a noise from the corridor. The doors burst open. Everybody jumps up, and Old Grey and Old Bald are pushed through in wheelchairs. The big smiles of the two old fogies would brighten a wet day in Longford. And that’d be a miracle. Nurse Julia is next to enter. Something is happening here. But I’m afraid to guess. It’s not my birthday, is it? No, unless I’ve lost a few months. No, I know today’s date as Dad Person read the sports news to me earlier, so that’s not it. It could be something really big, like . . . . No, I’m afraid to even think that.

‘Hey, Doc,’ I say looking up to Doctor Dan who is standing beside me. ‘I’ve been contemplating matters and I think it’s a cord.’

‘You think what’s a cord, son?’ Mr Bradley of the bony face asks.

‘Light,’ I tell him. ‘You see, Doc, there’s a problem: a wave is not a thing, a wave is what a thing does. A wave must be carried by or through or along something. That’s the rule of nature. And the rule of nature is for everything, even for an electromagnetic wave. So how does light travel through space if nothing is there. All the geniuses tell us that it just does. But does it? I’m not sure about that. Either space must be something or light has its own carrier. And I think it’s a kind of cord. Did I mention the cord before? Like an attachment; a thread or a rope, like a helix perhaps. Something like that. I’m not sure. But that could work. Or the nothing must be something. That would work too. That might explain things.’

Dr Dan pulls a tight face and raises a finger but as he does so the door opens again and Mavis Davis steps in. She is in her regular clothes again too and that shouldn’t happen in a hospital. But, as I say, this is only a dream so I go with it.

‘You probably think this is just a dream,’ Dr Dan says, throwing a spatula in the works.

I ignore him and greet the new arrival, ‘Hey, Mavis. What have you been up to?’

‘Did you miss me?’ she asks.

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

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

I feel excitement bubble through the room. I hear Girlish Boy breathing and he looks ready to burst, the same way he looks when I score a goal and he wants to run on to the pitch.

I go to say something clever, but can’t. Again, my brain has frozen. And this time I do have a brain, even if it’s just a dream brain. Dr Dan touches my hand and tells me to relax. He looks to the vital signs monitor and then nods to Mavis who has a look around then goes back out before entering again pulling a cart with a big glass case on it. And in that glass case there is a heart, and the heart is beating away good even though there are no pipes or pumps or human support system connected to it.

‘Okay,’ Dr Dan says. ‘Let’s clear the room.’

‘What?’ And I must look panicked again.

He smiles to me. ‘Except for Kyle’s new heart, of course,’ he says.

The room empties. The nurses in the monitoring booth pretend to be busy. Nurse Julia takes a seat in the corner and reads a newspaper. They want to give us privacy, but I suppose they’re afraid I’ll die again with the excitement. Nurse Julia knows not to trust me with that stuff.

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

‘Yes,’ the heart says, and laughs. ‘I know.’

Day 58

I am transferred to get a new heart. I lie hooked up to various apparatus and contraptions with Dad Person seated on my right. Boyish Girl and Girlish Boy sit on the end of my bed. And on my left is Birta. They don’t know she’s there, of course, but I do. Then Mavis Davis walks in. What is she doing here? She didn’t have to come all this way. Crazy woman. I shake my head and a finger at her. She comes over and touches my arm and checks the monitor and charts. Old habits, I guess. She looks to me, scrunches her face tight, and raises her hairy eyebrows. And then she smiles.

‘So, will you still be you, Kyle?’ she asks. ‘With another’s heart?’

I give a thumbs up.

‘And will you still love us?’ Mavis asks.

I give another thumbs up.

‘And that particle of light inside you?’ she asks. ‘Will it still be buzzing?’

‘Eternally,’ I tell her. And once more give the thumbs up.

‘Then, maybe, those crazy theories of yours are right,’ she says.

I nod. ‘Who knows, Mavis?’ I say. ‘Maybe they are. And maybe you know that. Maybe we all do.’

Behind Mavis, pinned to the wall, are two get-well cards, one each from Old Grey and Old Bald. The two old codgers made it. Perhaps, we’ll beat the odds. I hold Dad’s hand.

Day 65

I am alone with Birta.

‘Hey you, Icelander,’ I tell her. ‘I thought that the first seeing of you stopped my heart. That I couldn’t take the force of it. And it took crazy weird doctors and football-going cardiologists and resonance-from-big-light loving surgical consultants to fix me. But the heart was already gone, and you came for me.’

She smiles and says, ‘If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.’

I nod. How magic is that? For that is an Emily Dickenson line.

‘If I can ease one life the aching,’ Birta carries on. ‘Or cool one pain.’

‘Or help one fainting robin,’ I complete the verse for her. ‘Unto his nest again.’ And I have to reach and touch her and check that this is real, and that I have, unbeknownst, quietly slipped off home into the light.

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.