To Survive or to Starve

To Survive or to Starve

As I drove by a crummy restaurant in a little old town in Arizona on old Route 66, I saw the sign, Free coffee for those over 55.  Free was all I could afford. I dumped plenty of cream and sugar into my cup for energy. As I sat at the counter sipping my fourth cup a woman sat next to me. She set her purse on the counter and asked me to save her seat while she went to the bathroom.

As soon as she turned her back I opened her purse, reached in and grabbed a roll of bills. As I yanked my hand out a plastic bottle of pills fell to the counter. I stuffed them in my pocket and hurried out the door, jumped in my car and prayed I wouldn’t run out of gas before I found a working pump.

Feeling bad about stealing the woman’s money my conscience that I always pictured as my do good angel sitting on my right shoulder berated me for doing what I did. I argued with it that to survive, stealing money like that wasn’t really bad. It wouldn’t listen and rattled on about treating others as I wanted to be treated gave me a headache.

I found a gas station at the edge of town. When I dug into my pocket to pay, I pulled out the woman’s pills and swallowed two hoping they’d make my headache go away. They didn’t do anything to help my headache but they caused my heart to race so fast I couldn’t breathe. I fell to the oil stained cement and barely able to move I waved for help.

Next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital bed. “See what happens when you break the law,” my conscience nagged.

I slapped my right shoulder to shut it up. Then I felt it. Death was creeping up on me. I didn’t want to go-not yet. Where would I go if the grim reaper came and took me today?  How many patients have risen from this bed as spirits in search of a place to go? I closed my eyes, and in the dark I saw spirits of those who laid in this bed and departed this world, but still clung to the bed. All were begging to have their lives returned, so they could say a curse or other last words.

Suddenly the walls and ceiling disappeared and the grim reaper came through the door. I saw heaven far above and I fell in love.

“That’s not for you,” the reaper said and pointed down below.

I felt roaring flames exploring my flesh from down there. “Wait, I want more years,” I told the reaper, “but if it’s my time, heaven is where I want to go.”

“Go on then.” The reaper pointed to a stairway that went to heaven. I lost an arm and two legs on the way up, but I made it to the top only to find  a padlock on the pearly gates. I rang the bell, angels sang and gave me thoughts of spring. A man with bloodshot eyes and wearing a dirty robe approached.

He held out a jug and through rotten teeth said, “Have a drink to brace yourself, because you’re full of guilt that not even God can forgive, so you’re going down below. He pulled a lever and the stairs transformed into a glistening water slide that delivered rejected souls directly to the flames that angrily hissed as water from the slide poured onto them.

“I’ve been good,” I screamed as my speed increased and I approached the hissing, steaming place that must be hell. The slide went right by my hospital bed. As I was  about to pass it, I grabbed hold and hung there with the other souls and I asked, “How long can we hang on?”

They inhaled in despair and then told a lively tale, “For eternity, and

after that we don’t know.”

I felt the heat on my feet. Eternity was too long, so I’d fight to stay alive. Hand over hand, I pulled myself into the bed and laid on my back, closed my eyes and prayed, not for me, but for Saint Peter at the gate. I told God that he’s cruel to compel a saint like him to pull the switch sending so many to burn in flames.

“That’s why I turn my blood to wine, so he can numb his brain from the pain.”

My eyes opened. I saw the ceiling and walls had reappeared. I yanked I.V. tubes from my arms and jumped from the bed that was nothing but a gateway to hell. I ran out the door and saw imps wearing white and acting like doctors with scalpels in their paws.

They swarmed around me and began to operate without washing their mitts or putting on a mask. I fought back and used their blades to decapitate them all. Looking for more heads to take off, I heard a far away voice ask if I was awake.

I opened my other set of eyes and saw a human face looking down at me.

“You’re in the recovery room. How do you feel?” a nurse dressed in white asked.

Thank God, it was nothing but a dream I thought until the nurse bound my hands and feet. She called in the headless imps who had new blades in their hands. Screaming for help that didn’t come, I watched those headless things, cut open my stomach and stuff my entrails down their throats.

I awoke again and knew I’d never have seen the monstrous world that divides our reality and abuses our mortality if I hadn’t stolen the money and taken those pills. Dreams, so it seems, opens the door to other worlds that shut down any logical or comforting thoughts I may have. While I’m awake, I tell that little devil who lives on my left shoulder that I’d rather be dead, than to steal again and have to lie down in that hospital bed.


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