From The Other Side
A short short story by Ronald Rowlands
It was a morbid conversation, appropriate for the situation, I suppose. We had just come from Fizzey's funeral, and my Dad (83) had died last week.
Jeff was holding the floor, as he usually does.
"Life sucks, I always think it's sad, when a man's occupation kills him." Fizzy was a coal miner. He'd worked hard all his life in the coal somewhere down near Cessnock. Jeff continued.
"I mean, what is life. Just a series of experienceslove, hate, jealousyhot, coldfear. Now there's an experience that modern society has almost taken away from us. How many of us have experienced fear? I mean real fear." There was silence.
"I have." My own voice startled me.
"Yes, real fear."
"What, some time when you were a child?"
"No, just a few days ago, as a matter of fact." Peripheral conversations ceased and I became the centre of attention.
"Remember that severe electrical storm we had Tuesday night?"
"Wednesday", someone corrected.
"I was lying in bed, all alone, really down in the dumps. I'd spent the last few days going through Dad's thingshis clothes, his books, his papers, passing some to my sister, leaving some with Mum, bringing some away, throwing most into the garbageending a life.
"As you know Bett's in Sydney for a few weeks to help Mum adapt to her new life style. So as I said, I was pretty lonely, and sad. It's important that you understand, my frame of mind, as it probably accentuated the fear that was to come.
"The storm started with a slight flash of lightning followed by an enormous clap of thunder that made the whole house jump." A murmur of affirmation passed through my audience.
"Immediately after the thunder I thought I heard a noise in the next room. Then a voice came from either the hallway or the doorway of my bedroom. Someone was in the house with me! I sat bolt upright. At this stage, I wasn't experiencing fear," I glanced at Jeff, "just alarm. I was expectant. The voice continued, it was familiargood lord, IT WAS DAD!
"I threw myself back into the bed, curling up with the bedclothes into a tight ball, my stomach knotted. Was I dreaming? A flash of lightning seemed to come right through the window, lighting up every corner of the room. Another tremendous roll of thunder rattled the windowpanes then tumbled away into the distance. There was no one in the room, yet the voice came again. My stomach cramped and there was a warm sensation between my thighs (later I discovered I had lost control of my bladder).
"Desperately I tried to marshal my thoughts. Dad was addressing me. What was he saying? My mind was like a whirlpool as I tried to concentrate, tried to comprehend. I started to recognize isolated words. He seemed to be telling me about some past event, or happening. But I was all confused-the lightning, the thunder, and then the pelting rain. I just couldn't understand."
"That's extraordinary", said Jeff. "If you weren't dreaminghehe must have been trying to contact you from the other side? There could be no other explanation."
"Well, actually there is", I said, draining my glass and placing it back on its coaster. "That first clap of thunder triggered my telephone answering machine in the next room and played a message Dad had recorded a few days before his death, that I had failed to retrieve.
"Whose shout is it?"