This is just a little thought that came to me when I was trying to get in the festive mood, watched "A Christmas Carol" (Dickens, you genius) and got to the ghost of christmas past, which reminded me of the thing about life apparently flashing before your eyes if you're dying(I'm a bit morbid sometimes), which in turn gave me this idea. If anyone's unfamiliar with the term, Purgatory is basically God's waiting room and the place souls go to be prepared for heaven according to Christianity. Anyway, this is going on a bit too long for an author's note, so without further ado...

People Vera met in Purgatory

Chapter 1- Slipping away

Time was closing in on her now.

The heart monitor beeped again, constantly announcing to the empty ward that Mrs. Clark was, indeed, alive. Opening her eyes to the blinding light, she winced at the aching in her bone as though an invinsible tube was slowly sucking the marrow from them. Moaning, she turned her head to stare out the window, watching the droplets of rain bang rythmicly against the cold window pane, just as it had for the last two days, knocking at the glass harder and harder like an impatient child. How much longer?

Days laid in bed had left the old woman time to think, during which she had came to a few interesting conclusions. The first she noticed was that she could decipher things about the other patients from their bedsides, which was how she knew that the woman two beds down on the right had a lot of granchildren- bright painted pictures of smiling faces lay in an inch thick pile next to a withered daisy chain and a battered teddy bear. A young woman had came in a day or so before with a little blond girl, who soon set about drawing flowers and princess' on her granny's cast. Similarly, she knew that the old lady with the lavender rinse on her left had a grandson who liked to cook- bright plates of piping hot meals were brought in along with several little trinkets by a gangly boy of seventeen at about four o'clock most days, turning heads for all the wrong reasons with his candy floss pink hair and ridiculous piercings. What lunatic did that to their own body? He always stayed to chat with his gran long after the matron insisted visiting hours were over, though, she had to give him that. Consciousness slipping away, the elderly lady's worn out eyes glanced at her own bedside table, blurred from old age growing over her vision. Nothing. Bare. Hot hurt behind her cataracts, she shut her ancient eyes, hoping the nurse would think she'd drifted off.

The second thing she noticed was that if she pretended to be asleep, she could listen in to gossip. Just by shutting her eyes, she already knew that pretty Nurse Clare was getting married in the summer, and that Nurse Jo's barrister husband was defending in a murder trial. Then of course, there was the last tidbit of information she'd heard, the one she wished she hadn't- Vera Clark was going to die soon. No-one had dared tell her to her face, but she knew too well it would happen soon. The tiniest details alerted her to it; the pity in Nurse Jo's smile when she refilled the old woman's glass, the doctor checking her pulse grimly when she pretended to sleep, the fatal expression when the lavender rinse lady glanced at her when no one else was awake, that terrible, unspoken knowledge flowing between the two dying women, however much she needed to think it wasn't true. Perhaps it was odd that she hadn't thought about her fate much, but she hadn't really. As long as the nurse were flitting between the beds like birds between branches, or the trolley of books had came around, or the doctor was asking how she'd slept, she hadn't had to. But it was dark now- everone was asleep, the night was dead, and her mind was a very morbid companion. Vera turned her creaking neck to whisper to the her neighbor, her words clinging to her throat.
"Hello?" No such luck. The other woman's back was turned, grey hair glowing silver in the moonlight. She was alone.

Would it hurt, she wondered? What would happen? The uncertainty scared her more that the concept did. Shaking her head, she tried to shove her trail of thought into another direction. Would she meet her family again? Her Lucy? Her Albert? Or would everything just be black? A horrid, sinking worry wormed into her chest at this thought. Would anything happen at all? She wasn't left on her own with that awful question for long before something moved against her ribcage like an unborn child might. The clock droning on the wall seemed to speed up for a moment and then stop, silent and unmoving. For a moment, she felt completely calm despite knowing what was happen, her fears wrapped up and hidden like old ornaments. With each moment, the frail woman felt herself floating upwards, a pair of invisible hands gently gripping her arms and lifting her up. Within seconds, the old woman shot up like a firework, barely able to catch a glance at her body before her soul slipped out into the sky, aches and pains no longer troubling her.

It was over.