She knew she was dead.
Not dead as in, "If you touch that cake I made for the bake sale, you're dead." Dead as in lifeless, breathless, deceased, demised and defunct. A doornail, she was.
She wasn't sure what had precipitated this state. It would come to her, she believed, if she waited and concentrated long enough.
More than likely, she'd have plenty of time to do that.
This situation felt like the recovery room after a minor surgery she'd undergone when she was--what, eighteen?--where she'd drifted in and out of her physical surroundings while the anesthetic wore off. As if her brain were a flickering pilot light and her body was almost out of fuel.
She didn't feel as if she were lying down now. For that matter, she didn't feel as if she were standing up, sitting, kneeling, or hanging by her knees from a tree limb. She would figure out where she was, and what had happened to her. In a minute.
Turning what used to be her head to look at her wristwatch, she found it was gone. Which was just as well, since she had no wrist to wear it on. No hand, no arm. She thought she turned the other way. Uh-huh, nothing on the right side either. Still, she could feel her body in its entirety. She wiggled her fingers and all ten toes. The invisible digits lifted and fell like wireless piano keys.
Maybe her eyes were shut. She flapped them several times, discovering that the view did not change. It wasn't that everything was dark. Rather, everything was the same hazy brightness, as if she were peering through gauze.
Was there anything recognizable in this watery light?
Now that she thought of it, she could discern--something. A rectangular spot shivered in the middle distance. It reminded her of a horizontal door. If she squinted a bit at it, it came closer, a geometrical blemish on the pervasive whiteness.
She would have been breathing faster now if that were still possible. This must be the entrance to the fabled other side, where there'd be a blinding brilliance and the voices of ancestors cheering her on.
Maybe she wasn't irrevocably dead after all. Maybe she had slipped out of her body while it lay in some emergency room being pummeled and jabbed by frantic technicians. Maybe here was her chance to pull back, take a rain check, return to whatever she did for a living when she was living.
No thanks, just looking, she would say, digging in her non-existent heels. You're busy, I know. I'll come back later.
The rectangular shape began to glow greenish, and streaks of silver squirmed across it.
What do people see if they're having a near death experience and they aren't heaven material? I know I should have returned that can of spaghetti sauce that I found in my groceries and hadn't paid for--I don't even like spaghetti. Was it a test? Would the door to hell be green?
The rectangle resolved itself into a slab of signboard. Staring at it, clenching air fists, she willed the silver streaks into readable letters: WASHINGTON, DC--45 MILES.