. . . At The End Of The Tunnel
by Alpert L Pine
I can't get the final image out of my mind. I close my eyes and there it is, always waiting. It's horrible. It is . . . beyond words.
For most people who go through similar, the so-called near-death scenario is a wonderful and uplifting experience--it reinvigorates, making the life they return to meaningful and special. That glimpse of something beyond our knowledge, usually something described as good and pure and divine, is enough to change lives. Returning from near-death, these lucky people endeavor to change for the better, becoming friendlier, selfless, compassionate. Focused on living. Grateful for life.
For most people.
However, my experience was . . . not like that.
Oh, it started out much the same as all the many varied accounts of the phenomenon one can read about. I was in a hospital room, suddenly floating up near the ceiling--my consciousness, I mean--and I was able to look down and see a scrum of doctors and nurses all huddled together around a patient. For a moment, that patient's identity remained obscured. But then I reached an angle where I was able to look down and see clearly.
It was me on the bed.
Yet, I was conscious; I was a floating . . . consciousness, looking down as doctors fought to save my life.
I could still hear, but everything sounded far away, distant. Echoey. Like being underwater. Machines beeping, frantic voices.
Then it was all gone; I entered area of darkness, as though I had slipped upwards through the ceiling and was in a space between floors. I still believed that I was in the hospital. However, rather than emerging into the room above, the darkness increased. The last vestiges of sound disappeared.
I was alone in the quiet dark.
Floating. I still had a sense of body, of floating. I felt that I was moving around, changing directions, able to peer into the blackness. There was simply nothing else with me.
This feeling lasted a while. I found myself alone with only my thoughts for company. Time became something distant and unknown. Minutes might have passed, or hours. Or no time at all. Or eons.
This timelessness persisted and even my thoughts dropped out of my realm of attention. I might have stopped thinking, or I might have floated there, imagining entire lifetimes, universes.
The next time that I was aware of being aware, it was the result of a slight change in my environment. At first, I merely sensed it. The darkness was all-encompassing. Only after some time did I blink and begin to notice the light.
I assumed perhaps it was a trick of my eyes (despite the fact that I could be said at that time to be eyeless). A trick of my consciousness then. This spiritual vision, or whatever term one might use to describe it.
But before long, it became obvious that there was a light.
Light and shadow mixed together, and I came to realize that I floated not in a formless void, but rather within a confined space with boundaries becoming increasingly more visible.
It was a tunnel.
Believe it or not, this is the first time (at least, since the hospital room and the doctors) that I understood what was happening. All that time spent thinking thoughts seemingly without end, and only now was it sinking in.
I was dead.
Or anyways, dying. Crossing over.
This was it. The light at the end of the tunnel. Cliche, perhaps. But reality.
I moved closer, or the light came nearer. Soon it was huge, filling an ever-larger portion of my field of view. My conscious vision. The walls of the tunnel became clearer. There was only one way to move, one direction to go, and that was towards the light.
I grew closer. A feeling of calm washed over me. Somehow it put me at ease to encounter this familiar image. I'd been prepared for this moment. Near-death accounts spoke of this. Poems, stories, and novels. Films depicted this scene.
It was the light of Heaven.
Or so I thought.
Just as I was giving in, feeling my soul rush to merge with this light, something shifted.
The brilliant light moved, as if held in the hand of some great being. It seemed to drop down and then focus upward, becoming less a point of light and more a source-- a beam of light pointed up. Like a cosmic flashlight.
And there, revealed by the light . . .
I was reminded for an instant of a face illuminated by the glow of a flashlight, a spooky image projected for jittery squeamish laughs as scary stories are told with hushed tones in the deep night around a dying campfire.
Only this was no camping trip. And I was the only thing dying.
And the face exposed in that cosmic light was not the joke of a friend.
It was monstrous, a horror.
This was not Heaven.
The face . . . was the face of a clown, make-uped and grinning and cruel. Bloody smile twisted up to insane proportions, bizarre feral angles and impossible alien emotions slathered across its features with a whimsical terrible misery.
It began laughing.
A shrieking, howling gleeful wind swirled around me, buffeting my consciousness. I was like a fragile soap bubble caught in the midst of a hurricane.
The grin widened. Pointed teeth appeared, horrible and dis-colored and rotting. The smell of death and decay and dying things wrapped me in a breath-stealing embrace.
And all the time, I continued drifting forward. Towards the vile thing. The monstrosity. Towards that gaping putrid maw, towering deadly fangs.
I felt the hot humid air of the thing's mouth emanating from within, washing over me like toxic water crashing to shore.
I cried out. I hollered and twisted and fought.
That horrible open mouth loomed, mad grin smeared across features grown as large as mountain ranges. I was slipping into the valley of death and there was no God anywhere to save me.
I wept for my soul. For my fate. For the end of everything.
And just as I crossed the threshold, passed into the shadow of those terrifying wicked teeth, into the sweltering vile darkness beyond, within--
--there was a violent snapping sensation, as though I were being pitched forward during a head-on car collision at ninety miler per hour while belts restrained my body. I felt torn in two directions.
Then I was hurtling backwards away from the thing. Ripped from the closing jaws at the final instant. The illuminated face, smeared with that vile make-up, grinned with hideous hatred and anger as I escaped. The flames of an eternal inferno glowed within the black holes of those clownish evil eyes.
I was swept away, back into total darkness. The sensation of moving continued for some time, while I struggled to determine whether I was blind or not, dying or not. Dead . . . or not.
I woke in a hospital room, blinking my eyes, until the concreteness of the image convinced me that I was alive and awake. Machines beeped somewhere behind me. I felt the soft fabric of a blanket under my fingers. Daylight came in through the partially pulled curtains covering the window. A dark tv hung on the far wall.
I was alive.
My recovery was quick and routine. The doctors were impressed. I left the hospital after only a few days with instructions to take it easy and to rest my body.
I hadn't the nerve to ask how I was to do that, when every time I close my eyes, that face returns. That evil, grinning, twisted make-uped alien face.
The monster I know to be waiting there for me at the end of the tunnel.
Waiting, and laughing.
This story was originally posted on r/writingprompts at reddit.com in response to the prompt, "[WP] You just had a very close near death experience. You are shaken up—not because of what happened, but what you saw before you were brought back." You can read the full thread here.