Friday Flash Fiction – 550 – Through a Glass Darkly

Geoff opened his eyes, what just happened… a funny turn and where was Jill? The living room looked strange, not straight, his eyes, should have made an appointment about that headache, but surgery busy doing Covid boosters… opticians, ring tomorrow.

The rest of him felt odd, don’t say he had Covid, Jill would kill him just before Christmas, only a week since he had the booster, not kicked in yet? He wished now he had bothered to get some of those lateral flow tests, could check, eliminate that before panicking. Right, let’s see where Jill’s got to. Ow. Geoff bumped his nose on something. He tried to put his hands up, but couldn’t feel his arms, or his legs. A stroke, God no, not a stroke, vegetative state and all that. Surely Jill would come and call him for dinner, call an ambulance, speed was of the essence, but all the ambulances were queued up at the bloody hospital, full of patients waiting to get admitted. Jill – illll – no use, he couldn’t talk.

It wasn’t painful, the opposite, he felt as if he was floating. But why couldn’t he hear the television, the news was on when he got up to check the pump in his tropical aquarium. There was Jill, sitting on the sofa doing the crossword! Bloody hell hadn’t she noticed what happened to him? She did look strange. If he took a deep breath perhaps he could summon the strength to yell. His breathing felt odd, he was feeling warm and sleepy…

Something nudged Geoff’s shoulder, paramedic at last? He half turned and let out a silent scream. This wasn’t Jill towering over him, or a paramedic; it was a mermaid. Staring, unmoving, he recognised her, that red hair. Huge plants waving round her shoulders and behind her a gaping mouth, an ugly creature that could only have come from the depths of the ocean.

Hallucinating, that’s what was happening. Intensive Care, Stroke or Covid, didn’t make much difference, still helpless, but if his mind recognised what was happening he could fight for survival. Jill sitting nearby, nurse looks like just like that ghastly mermaid ornament the grandchildren gave him for the aquarium, had to put it in to please them, no wonder it was giving him nightmares.

Noo… keep away, yellow and black stripes, those bulging eyes…  sharks as well… I know you’re not real…

Oh hello Marica, no I’m not busy, glad you called. I’m just relaxing doing the crossword, watching the fish. I never took much notice of them before, but they are very soothing, except for that new one the grandchildren bought me after Geoff died; it keeps staring at me. No I am feeling okay, I’m just worried the poor fish isn’t settling in. I know it’s only a fish, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have feelings. It circles that ghastly mermaid ornament then comes back to stare at me. No of course I don’t believe in reincarnation and nor did Geoff. At least you had time to talk about the meaning of life with poor Mick. Geoff didn’t have a chance to talk about what he thought, gone just like that. I went to tell him dinner was ready and there he was lying on the floor by the fish tank.

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Sunday Short Story – Sheep May Safely Graze

‘Daaad, that’s disgusting, it’s still oozing blood.’

‘You can’t beat a rare 16 ounce steak, it’s your sawdust burger that looks disgusting.’

‘At least I’m not eating a sentient being.’

‘He’s not sentient anymore, besides, he had a good life roaming free and eating all that lush Scottish grass.’

‘You mean he was one of the unlucky ones, castrated, never destined to be the prize bull.’

‘That’s life…’

‘Even the prize bulls are herbivores; if they can turn grass into muscle, why do humans need meat?’

‘Your daughter’s right Geoff, even if you don’t care about the animals you eat, you need to care about your health.’

‘…and I am eating all the delicious veggies you cooked to go with my juicy steak.’

‘But you had egg and bacon for breakfast and a huge ham sandwich for lunch.’

‘From outdoor reared pigs, I thought that was okay. Humans have always been omnivorous, that is why the human race will always survive… Phew, is it me or is it hot in here. I’ll take the dog out and enjoy a death stick, ha ha.’

‘Daad, I thought you were going to try vaping.’

‘That’s for teenagers, sucking in steam that smells like a sweet shop, my grandfather smoked forty a day and…’

‘…lived to be a hundred, yes Dad, you have told us that a hundred times.’

‘Your father’s been a while.’

‘Probably chatting to next door, his smoking buddy…. Oh it’s okay, I can hear Rex… why is he barking like that?’

Geoff opened his eyes, the dreadful pain had disappeared. The sun shone in his eyes, but that couldn’t be right, it was a dark autumn evening in Mildred Avenue and where had that stupid mutt gone? Green fields, rolling hills, a meandering river, reminded him of that Scottish holiday. Peaceful, the air so fresh, no sound but the bleating of sheep. He stood up and took a few shaky steps; he had lost his glasses somewhere, but his eyesight was perfect. Sheep dotted up on the hills, cattle grazing by the river, this was paradise, but what had happened to his house, his road? Was he in a film set, or in heaven? No, there was a farmhouse in the distance, best to ask there.

No sooner had he thought this than he was there, in the yard, chickens pecking around him, a sheepdog lying in the sun, a sow brushed past, followed by her piglets.

‘Hello, anyone around?’

‘So you have arrived Geoff.’

He couldn’t see where the voice was coming from. ‘How do you know my name, who is this speaking?’

‘Your long suffering guardian angel.’

‘Ha, ha. Very funny. Am I dreaming, fell asleep on the sofa watching Countryfile?’

‘No, you’re dead.’

‘You’ll be telling me next I’m in heaven.’

‘You are, though it’s not your heaven.’

‘Whose is it then? Don’t tell me the Jehovah’s Witnesses were right all along, are there lions here?’

‘All God’s creatures, you are just seeing all the ones you have eaten.’

It dawned on him with a mixture of relief and fear; he was in intensive care, his wife and daughter must be feeling smug. All that nagging about him being an obese middle aged chap, vulnerable to Covid, going down the pub and not social distancing. Hallucinations, that’s what happened when they put you in an induced coma, not so bad, but he must not relax. He would show them, he would get better; if Boris and Trump could recover, so would he. His hallucination was still rabbiting on.

‘Your daughter was right all along. The answer is reincarnation, it’s time for you to go to your next life.’

Two could play at this game, he hadn’t finished with this life yet. ‘Okay Gabriel, or whatever your name is, who will I be next time?’

‘A pig; but don’t worry, you have earned a dispensation as you were not a bad husband and did not commit any crimes against humanity. You are about to be born in a muddy Hampshire field, suckled by a healthy sow, playing with your siblings till it’s time to go into the barn to be fattened up.’