Written by Tara Clark

I woke up, sleepy and confused, sprawled across the front seat of my car.  I yawned and stretched, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, wondering where I was.  I turned the key in the ignition and…nothing.  Great.  I must’ve pulled over to sleep and forgot to turn the lights off or something.  Stepping out of the car onto a dirt road, I was surrounded by beautiful woods and a serene stream slowly lapping by.  “Where am I?” I wondered out loud.  I tried to check the GPS on my phone, but it wouldn’t turn on.  “Wonderful.  I must’ve forgotten to charge it before I left,” I muttered.  Just then I noticed a beautiful old Victorian home, perched majestically on top of a hill, with a small sign on an old wooden post lightly swinging in the breeze.  I squinted in the morning light, barely able to make out the faded writing.  “’Wayward B&B’.  Well, I hope they have coffee and a phone,” I mumbled to myself. 

Stepping up the creaky wooden stairs, I marveled at the beauty of the pillared wrap around porch, stained glass windows and the enormous hard wood door with the golden knocker.  As big and heavy as the door looked, it seemed to open with a touch of a finger. 

At the counter, an impossibly gorgeous woman greeted me.  “Good morning!  My name’s Anyela.  How can I help you?” 

She couldn’t be real.  She practically glowed and was TOO cheerful.  “Good morning.  My car broke down and my phone died.  Do you have a town close by and a way to call a tow truck?” I asked. 

“We don’t have a phone here, but you’re more than welcome to stay a while and have a cup of coffee.  What is your name?” she asked. 

“Tara,” I replied.  She looked at me, slightly confused.  “Don’t you have a reservation?  I could swear I set up a reservation under that name yesterday,” she said. 

“No, I don’t,” I retorted.  I just wanted to call a truck and get out of here.  There didn’t seem to be another soul around, and the quietness was starting to unnerve me. 

“Yes, here it is…Tara,” she said, producing a paper. 

“No, you must have the wrong person,” I said irritably.  “I just need a tow truck, a bathroom to freshen up, some coffee and I’ll be on my way.”

 “Isn’t this your name, birthday and social security number?” she asked. 

I snatched the paper out of her hand and looked it over.  It was me alright.  It seemed strange that I didn’t remember setting this up, but I was beyond tired when I left the house last night.  I must have called and just forgot, but that didn’t make any sense. 

“Yes, that’s me but -” “Well then, there you go!” Anyela interrupted.  “Here’s your key, and your room is up the stairs and down the left hall. You can’t miss it!  I will have coffee and breakfast brought up right away while you get settled in, ok?  We are so glad to have you here with us, and please have a wonderful stay!” she exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. 

Frustrated, confused, agitated, and becoming slightly angry, I grabbed my bag and stomped up the stairs.  Just as I got to my room door, a strange sound started to permeate through the walls.  Putting my ear to the door, I was quite surprised to hear the most soul inspiring harp music I had ever heard coming from within.

 “Hello?” I called, knocking on the door.  Getting no response, I knocked harder.  “HELLO?” I yelled.  Still no response.  Unlocking the door, I walked in to see a spectacular room with high ceilings, glass walls, and golden ornamentation.  “Excuse me!” I said.  “I think there’s been some sort of mistake.  This is supposed to be my room.” 

“Yes, it is Tara.  Welcome!” came a disembodied voice.  I suddenly realized that all I could hear, aside from the voice, was deafening silence.  I could have sworn the music was coming from inside this room. 

“Who is it?  Who’s there?” I asked.  “Show yourself!” 

The room turned completely black.  Slowly, the ceiling lit up with bluest color I had ever seen, while the floor seemed to glow fire orange.  I was starting to panic, looking around for any way to escape. 

Suddenly, the voice boomed out “there are only two ways out of here, but first you must be judged accordingly.”

 “What are you talking about?” I shouted.  “Judged by whom?  Let me out of here!”

 “You will be allowed to leave after you answer my questions,” the voice replied.  “Are you ready Tara?” 

I spun around looking for an exit.  “Tara?”  I felt around the walls.  “Tara?”

I was violently jerked forward.  “Tara?  Can you hear me?”  I opened my eyes to see a handsome brown- eyed man staring down at me. 

“She’s awake!” he shouted.  “Someone get over here NOW!”

“Wh-What’s going on?” I asked.

 “Do you know where you are?” he asked. 

I painfully shook my head no.  “You’re in the hospital,” he said gently.  “You were in a terrible car accident and we lost you for a while in surgery.  After we restarted your heart, we had to put you in a coma and on life support.  Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I nodded, though I wasn’t sure what he was getting at.  The pain was so unbearable I couldn’t focus on anything he was saying.

 “Wait…did you just say I was dead?” I asked. 

“Yes, but you made it through.  You still have a few more surgeries and some physical therapy, but I think you’ll be ok,” he said smiling at me.

 What did that mean?  Was that terrifying nightmare just a dream?  That wasn’t ACTUALLY purgatory…was it?  Well, I’ll think about that later.  I’m so tired…

“Tara?  TARA?  ANSWER ME!” ……

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