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Shanti expected pain, but her whole body hummed, like that glowing feeling after an orgasm. God, it had been so long since she’d felt that hum of electricity between her thighs. If only this feeling were from a man, but it wasn’t.
The last thing she remembered was the blue scorpion coming towards her, then pain in her leg. She’d heard that some predators sent endorphins into their prey as they ate them. If so, she wished she’d gotten stung to death a few months earlier so that she could’ve experienced this kind of release before laying down a chunk of her savings in search of a spiritual release in India. This feeling traveling through her body was the ultimate release.
Oh no, she groaned, she was dead.
That eight-legged freak had killed her.
All she’d been doing was looking for a sign from God. But she guessed God intended to talk to her face to face.
Shanti struggled to open her eyes. When they adjusted she saw the dark blanket of night disturbed only by the stars that poked through. She wondered where she was. That looked like the Big Dipper over there. Was she still on Earth? Maybe she was having an out of body experience?
But…no. It felt like she was still in her body.
The tingling in her leg continued. It radiated down to her toes and up through her spine. There was no pain. Instead it felt…good. Really good.
Her mind turned once more to the sweet release that hummed at the base of her spine. She gave into the need to press her thighs together. But the friction didn’t work. It only increased the pressure. And that wasn’t the only place she felt a delicious pressure.
It radiated up and down her leg. She also felt a pressure resting on head. When she tried to blink, she felt an obstruction on her brow. Her eyes flicked over to the side. A hooded figure loomed over her.
This must be the Angel of Death. Wasn’t that Saint Peter? But she was pretty sure Saint Peter didn’t wear a hood. Plus there were no shimmering wings.
Maybe it was Anubis, the Egyptian god of the Underworld. That was who her father had expected to meet at the end.
Shanti had spent many nights wondering who greeted her parents at the end of their lives. Her parents subscribed to different religious systems from each other. Her father began his life praying to Jesus, then prostrating to Allah, and finally ended up following a cult that worshiped the ancient Egyptian gods. Her mother had been a different story, or rather the same continuous story. From birth to death, Shanti’s mother continued her lifelong devotion to Shiva. In life, her parents’ different beliefs didn’t interfere with their love. They had been the most accepting people she’d ever known.
Shanti had never subscribed to any particular religion. She’d gone through so many in her youth that they all melded together. She did know that there was a Creator. It was evident in every blade of grass, in the organic systems of all living creatures, in the perfection of the ecosystem. That is, before humans began poking at it with a stick.
Shanti was surprised to find her easy acceptance of this next stage of her existence. She was health-conscious by birth right. She’d expected to live an active life as an octogenarian as the coach-potato adults and the handheld-device addicted youth in her community withered away after half a century. She’d wanted to be able to say ‘I told you so’ to everyone in her community who went against her and continued to pollute the waterways. She’d wanted to dance in front of them in her svelte yoga body as they all lay in hospital beds on dialysis. But they’d have the last laugh.
Thirty was too soon to go. But so far death was having its perks. For example, that building buzz of an orgasm.
She wanted to hold still and let the waves of pleasure consume her. But then they stopped. The pleasant pressure released from her leg, but not her forehead.
She looked down at her leg. The hooded being had removed his -or maybe her- hand. Shanti tried to peer into the darkness of the hood, but she could see no facial features. She saw no dog muzzle to indicate Anubis either.
“Am I going to heaven?” Shanti asked.
“To Nirvana?” She wracked her brain through all the religions her parents had introduced her to. “Elysium? Shangri-La? Zion?”
Still no response.
“Well I can’t be going to Hell. Not with all the work I’ve done for the environment and animals.”
The hooded figure pushed his hood back, revealing his face and Shanti let out a blood curdling scream.
She’d never thought the Creator was a being like her. She didn’t think such a craftsman had a huge ego to craft its highest being in its own likeness. Plus she believed in evolution, which told her that humans were not born first, neither were they naturally the highest on the food chain. Had it not been for a meteor, the dinosaurs would have eventually evolved to write the stories that would make up religious texts and humans would be worshiping a reptilian god.
It was a shock to see such a different being up close and personal.
The closest approximation Shanti could use to describe this being was that he looked like a depiction of the Buddha. Not the human prophet Siddartha Gutama, who was an Indian human male. This being resembled the cone-headed Buddha depictions with nodes around his dome instead of hair. His skin was a pale shade of blue. His eyes were overlarge and without lashes.
When all the air left her lungs at the end of the scream, Shanti calmed down and caught her breath. As common sense returned, she guessed this all made logical sense. She was in India after all. It was only fitting that one of that culture’s idols serve as her guide into the after life.
The being held up his hand. Even his fingers were overlong. It took Shanti’s mind in a different direction, wondering if all of his limbs were long.
God, she was horny even in death.
The hooded figure stretched out his fingers to her as though he wanted her to take his hand. After a brief moment’s hesitation, Shanti placed her hand in his. The second their palms touched, warmth flooded her body.
Pictures flashed through her mind. She saw an Indian woman smiling at her, surrounded by other cone-headed males with big eyes. Blue men, purple men, green men. Then stars. So many stars. And planets. Planets of colors she’d never imagined.
Was this what she could expect after life on Earth? To travel amongst the stars?
Shanti blinked and refocused on the being before her. His lips hadn’t moved, but she got the sense that he was communicating with her.
“Would you like to see the stars?”
Shanti gasped. Her gasp was the only sound in the clearing. His lips still hadn’t moved. The words she’d heard in her head hadn’t really been words, more of an image of the stars in a sea of dark space and a sense of someone welcoming her into that space.
“I have not heard the language of the Earth for many years.” His large eyes probed hers. “My deepest apologies if you find this invasive.”
He went to withdraw his hands from her. Shanti clasped it back, tightly.
“No. Its fine,” she said. “Its just -I’ve never experienced this before. Well of course I’ve never experienced this before. Unless there’s such a thing as past lives, which my mother believed in, but I’ve never been so sure. I don’t really know what I believe, which is crazy now that I sit here before you and you’re giving me a choice of what to do next with my soul.”
Shanti stopped her tirade and took a deep, cleansing breath. She stared up at his eyes. His deep, soulful eyes.
“Did you understand any of that?” Shanti asked. She waited to hear his response, but it sounded from within her, from somewhere deep within. It began in her gut and radiated to her head. She struggled to concentrate on his words, or were they his thoughts?
“I understand that my touch does not repulse you.”
His thumb rubbed the ridge of her hand. Shanti felt a thrill skitter up her arm. “I like the way you touch me,” she said.
A small smile ticked at the corner of his mouth. His lips were full. She wondered what they would feel like against her lips, her neck?
His hand moved to her neck.
Shanti’s eyes widened. “Oh god, are you reading all of my thoughts?”
He shook his head slowly, his eyes were still fastened to her neck. “I do not understand all of your words.”
His eyes traveled across her lips. Shanti felt the heat. She pulled the corner of her lower lip into her mouth.
His eyes locked on her mouth. “I can read your emotions, you desires, clearly.”
Shanti’s lips parted. His nostrils flared.
Oh God, was she seriously flirting with this…she didn’t know what he was.
“I am Eloheem.”
Shanti knew that word. It was the Hebrew word for angel. So this was it. She really was dead. She looked down at her leg. The wound was closed. Only a red spot remained, but the redness was fading fast before her eyes.
“I sense unease within you.”
Shanti turned back to him. But he was no longer looking at her eyes, lips, or neck.
“Does it still ache?” His hands went to her thigh. When his long fingers brushed her skin, Shanti shivered. That pleasure-filled pressure running to her core once more. Her eyes closed unbidden and a soft moan escaped her lips.
“I sense another ache in you.”
“Yes,” she moaned aloud.
The physical feel of his fingers combined with the mental invasion of his voice threatened to send Shanti over a cliff of pleasure.
“Tell me your name,” he whispered into her mind.
“Shanti.” This time the sound hit her ears.
Shanti opened her eyes. His large eyes roamed over her body leaving a trail of heat in its wake.
“If you come with me,” he said into her mind once more, “you will never ache again. I promise you…”
Shanti watched as his mouth opened. She saw his tongue, saw his teeth clench the second before he sounded out her name once more.
Shanti couldn’t form any words with her lips. Luckily she didn’t have to. He said he could read her emotions, her desires. What she felt was crystal clear. She reached for his hand once more. When their fingers clasped, Shanti knew her life, or whatever this existence now was, would be forever linked to this man, or whatever this being before her was.