ENTER THE LIGHT
Jill watched Craig closely to see if she could gauge his mood after the ward round, tonight he seemed pensive and slightly on edge which wasn't like him, normally he took everything in his stride.
"Bed 8 seems to have a mild infection we need to check her temps regularly throughout the night." This was a 45 year old woman with wounds to her arms and legs after being mugged near to her home. The attacker had not been found so far.
"Bed 11 needs watching too I'm not happy about that abscess; it may need draining before morning." This was a 67 year old male admitted with sever abdo pains and vomiting, he was still sweating profusely.
"Bed 13 seems very poorly and I'm not sure if she'll survive much longer."
The 70 year old woman had fallen at home fracturing her pelvis, her breathing had deteriorated suddenly and she was unresponsive to stimulation. Dying Jill had thought, shocked by how thin and feeble the patient had been when admired slightly delirious too.
"Are you off shift," Jill asked seeing his brow knit and shoulders slump.
"Technically," he admitted, "But I need to rush those X-rays and blood screens," so he'd be sticking around for a while yet.
"You look exhausted," Jill told him and he didn't try to deny it.
"Who isn't," he threw back often pulling a double shift for which he wasn't paid any extra. With the virus decimating staff they were short-handed and as usual the bosses were caught on the back foot with no relief in sight.
"I'll keep an eye on things here; I just need to get something from downstairs."
Jill had noticed a stall run by some volunteer something religious she hadn't seen before, it sold books and small gifts all second-hand of course. Sometimes she read to patients who couldn't sleep, or who were afraid to.
"Shouldn't you be at home," Craig asked batting her question back. He was right but like him she was pitching in, what did she have to go home for anyway?
As she moved across the ward to an exit she took a peek at the woman in bed 13 and was astonished to see a figure hovering close by, tall and shapely with luxuriant blond hair. A young woman but not a member of staff; not dressed in a party frock with high heels. It was way too late for visitors so who could she be, and why was she stood so still gazing down at the old lady in the bed?
"Excuse me," said Jill perturbed for some reason and bright sky blue eyes flashed up at her vivid with anger, the gaze halting her in her tracks with its ferocity.
Then suddenly the woman was no longer there, she had just vanished.
"Problem," joining Jill Craig frowned?
"There was someone over the bed a woman I think," Jill felt dazed and disoriented. There was nobody there now yet the memory of those blue eyes had left her shocked and the waft of strong perfume was unmistakable.
"I can't see anyone," Craig sniffed, "Oh that's nice," he'd detected the scent too something tacky and tarty, not the sort she would ever wear.
"She was right there honestly," Jill felt her cheeks burning.
"Are you sure," looking around it was clear they were alone now apart from the sleeping or groaning patients?
No thought Jill I'm not sure, maybe I'm overtired and my imagination is running away with itself, "She was very pretty and in a frock, her eyes were blazing with anger."
Circling the bed he came back, "Don't you crack up on me," he joked and forcing a smile she ran a hand through her dirty blond curls. Had she seen someone or not, was she losing it – no, that perfume was real enough and nobody here wore anything like it.
So who had it been a daughter, cousin, a friend? The woman's eyes hadn't been friendly they had been full of spite but directed against whom?
"I need some fresh air," Jill decided, "And a leg stretch, I'm off downstairs."
"Good idea," he called, "See you later for a coffee."
SEE BRIGHT SPIRITUALIST FORUM said the sign over the stall which had some woman in charge, thin, dark clothing rather spinsterish in appearance with dark hair combed dark into a several ponytail. Even so she offered a thin smile as Jill approached and began to finger the selection of tatty paperbacks.
"Are you here all night," the nurse asked pinching the bridge of her nose?
"I am," the woman behind the desk was studying her carefully, "It wasn't your imagination," she suddenly said catching Jill off balance.
"Excuse me," the nurse dropped a book and bent to pick it up as she did the spiritualist also squatted catching her by the hand.
"I sensed her to," she said, "The woman in the frock."
Startled Jill blinked at the thin, rather plain face devoid of make-up, big boned and narrow lipped. She had never been a beauty this woman in dreary clothes but her eyes were full of character and intelligence.
"What did you say," Jill asked as she straightened up her tiredness evaporating?
"She's still here," said the spinster.
"Who is," Jill almost snapped, "And how do you know?"
Ignoring these questions her companion said, "I'm Florence Dunleavy by the way," not a local accent and educated; she was about forty and tall with a straight back and disarming directness.
"Jill Castle," said Jill, "Are you a believer then," she nodded at the sign, "a spiritualist?"
"Oh yes," Florence admitted then, "The woman you saw was real."
Still able to smell that strong tarty perfume Jill felt drawn to her new friend, "I was tired that's all my mind playing tricks on me."
"Sometimes," said Florence, "When we are at a low ebb we perceive things we wouldn't ordinarily notice, the defences come down the barriers waken."
Not a believer in spirits or the afterlife, not even sure if she believed in God Jill offered a condescending smile, "There are no ghosts here Florence."
"Oh yes there are," said the woman swiftly and with total assurance, "Arrivals and departures, places like this are full of them."
"Is that why you're here," Jill almost accused wondering if this nutcase hoped to see a ghost?
"Perhaps," it was almost a whisper.
"Well I just want something to read a light romance if you have one."
Then Florence aid something that shocked her to the core, "The old lady in bed 13," and stepping back the nurse uttered a low sound of astonishment, how the hell could this charity worker know about that?
"Is she a friend of yours, do you know her," this was the most logical explanation?
"We must go and see her," said the spiritualist but Jill shook her head, nobody unauthorised was allowed on the ward at this hour.
"I don't think so," she said but Dunleavy was already speeding towards the lift, forcing Jill to stumble after her, "You can't go up there," she insisted but soon they were both inside the lift and its doors were gliding shut.
"What you saw was the old woman's astral body," Florence began but Jill didn't want to hear it. No way could a member of the public enter the ward and as a nurse it was her duty to ensure this; Craig would be furious.
"I respect your faith, but this is a hospital not a church."
"Spiritualists don't rely on faith Jill, they prefer evidence," said the older woman primly then she frowned and touched the lift wall, "Oh dear."
"What's wrong," Jill could see anything, she touched the lift it was cold but then it would be it was metal. Next instant she snatched her hand away it felt burned, the metal more like ice, "oh god," she exhaled a plume of white vapour and began to shiver.
She was now stood in a mobile fridge, the temperature having dropped from pleasant to painful in an instant; even if the central heating had failed it shouldn't go so cold so quickly.
"She's detected us," said Florence.
"Who has," Jill demanded as a patina of white frost began to obscure the lift buttons?
"Violet," the woman in black replied.
"How do you know the patient's name, are you a friend of hers?"
Head shaking Dunleavy said, "Violet Primrose Carnation, mum must have been a botanist."
Violet Abernathy, the woman who'd fractured her pelvis did indeed have a raft of flowery names but there was nothing fragrant about her based on what Jill had been told. A right old misery, was the general consensus.
The doors pinged and opened, the terrible cold evaporating at once, it was warm on the ward.
"We need to go back down, we're breaking hospital ru..." but Dunleavy was already striding across the ward she seemed to know exactly where bed 13 was because there was no hesitation in her progress.
With a low curse Jill hurried after her hoping that none of the doctors put in an appearance, it was the last thing she needed with this madwoman in tow.
Then Florence stopped and pointed, "Can you see her," and Jill could. The young woman in the frock was back, moving around the bed she glared at them with those fierce sky blue eyes, her red bud of a mouth downturned with disgust, her pretty perfect features cold and hard.
She was stunning no question about it with long legs and a curvy figure; the sort that turned heads.
"Who are you," Jill regained the use of her voice and added some authority to it, "No visitors are allowed up here."
Contempt darkened those lovely eyes and hands on hips the siren regarded her – taller, slimmer, more confident; a real man eater by the looks of her. There were some pretty nurses here but this girl left them in the shade with her amazing legs, hourglass figure and pert boobs.
The siren threw a withering gaze at the gaunt old woman in the bed, "Look at it," she sneered, "Dried up, withered, wrinkled; You wouldn't believe she used to look like this," and she cupped those amazing alluring breasts.
Jill suddenly got it she made the mental connection; this ravishing young beauty was the same person as the patient in bed 13.
"You're Violet," she gasped, "But I don't understand."
Florence did though, "In astral form we can be any age we want," she said, "So naturally we revert to our peak."
Wait, what had this crazy woman just said, "Astral form," Jill echoed?
"Violet's physical body is dying so she's exteriorised herself."
"Men used to fawn over me," said the vivacious visitor fluffing up her own hair, "I never had to buy a drink when I entered a bar, they were fighting to get near me."
It was a vain boast but Jill found she didn't doubt it; any woman who looked this good would never be short of admirers.
"I want that again," said Violet, "I want to crook my little finger and have men dance to my tune."
Florence sighed, "That life is almost over Violet, you got old, lost your looks and now you're dying, it's time to..."
But the blonds' eyes flashed with outrage, "They stopped calling, ignored me in the street, I became invisible just another poor old biddy some sad pathetic relic."
Jill could imagine that for this woman losing her looks would have been hard, it's hard for us all she mused; wondering how she would cope when the time came?
Would she sink gracefully into old age and just accept it or be all bitter and twisted like Violet?
"There's nothing you can do about it," she said, "We all get old."
"But I want to be young," Violet shrieked these words, "I want to have what I had before, to be noticed, desired, lusted after by every man in the room."
Dunleavy responded by saying not unkindly, "You're heading towards a different world now Violet; one were appearances aren't so important."
"NO," cheeks flushed and eyes damp the glamorous spectre strode into the centre of the ward looking like a movie star, she twirled around causing her skirt to fan out and reveal more of those lovely tanned legs. Jill could only envy them, hers didn't compare.
"Soon," said the spiritualist, "It'll be time to move on."
But not listening to this Violet strode up the ward rolling her hips and tossing her hair, "I could have any man I wanted even the married ones; especially them," she said saucily and with some pride, "I just clicked my fingers and they came running the old ones, the young ones, the reps, the pious, the husbands," she laughed gaily at the memory of her conquests.
"You seduced husbands," Jill wasn't sure she approved of that?
"They were the easiest, bored with their dull little wives and their empty predictable lives."
"So you wrecked marriages," there was a hint of censure in the nurse's voice now?
"Don't judge me;" said Violet looking Jill up and down, "I never forced any man to do anything he didn't want to do," another laugh poured from those rose bud lips, "They were only too willing and eager to taste what I had to offer."
At the far end of the ward a door opened and Jill was appalled to see Dr Craig appear, having also noticed him Violet gave a whistle of approval and sauntered towards Craig, the sway of her hips now even more pronounced.
He wouldn't be able to see her surely she would be invisible, but even as Jill told herself this she saw Craig's bulge in amazement and a smile play on his lips as the old familiar magic did its thing.
Not only could he see Violet he was reacting to her as all men did, swept off his feet in a tidal wave of hormonal lust.
"We must do something Florence," but the medium had moved over to the withered old shell in the bed Violet's true physical appearance.
"Look at this," she urged.
"But what about Craig."
Wagging a finger the psychic drew Jill to the bed and then the nurse could see it, a thin rope or cord, a luminous line connecting the old Violet to the young one. It was pulsating softly and a mixture of colours mostly yellows and greens.
"What is it," she asked reaching to try and touch it?
"The akashic cord, once severed death occurs," Flo explained.
"It's getting thinner," Jill noticed, "The pulsation is slowing."
Dunleavy smiled, "Violet's incarnation is almost done," she said.
"What will happen then, I mean apart from her dying," Jill wondered?
"Progress," said Flo, "Hopefully," she grew thoughtful, "Maybe we can help her along."
"How," Jill was stumped, she saw Violet walk up to Craig, embrace him and place a big wet kiss on his lips. A surge of white hot jealously boiled through her, that damn bitch. She felt like going over and slapping the smug, oh so gorgeous face very hard.
Placing a hand on the old woman's damp forehead Dunleavy concentrated, her breathing altered and her eyelids began to flicker, her lips were moving but Jill couldn't hear the words.
"What are you doing?"
"Don't break my concentration," Flo pleaded.
Losing patience Jill stomped over to where Violet was nibbling Craig's ear, he seemed to be enjoying it rather too much and again jealousy burned in her chest.
"Excuse doctor," she said in her most disapproving voice. Craig tried to step back but Violet clung to him like an octopus.
"Oh buzz off plain Jill," she mocked tracing her fingers down the man's cheek to his neck, "This is a private party."
"Let him go," Jill was shocked by how shrill her voice was how much anger was in it, why was she acting like this, why was she so emotional?
"I don't think that's what he wants," Violet smirked and Jill lost it, reaching out to grab the other woman she felt a burning electric shock shoot up both arms and the next instant she was lying on the ward floor gulping for air.
"Stupid bitch," said a cold sharp voice, "Never touch me again."
I won't thought Jill realising she'd been electrocuted, Violet was like a live cable. Picking herself up, she tottered on uneven legs. Well that went well, she mused.
Looking over with interest Florence shook her head don't do that again. Righting herself the nurse crept back to the bed almost needing to lie in it herself.
"I'm almost ready," said Flo, "Let's try something more subtle."
Rebuked Jill sat on the side of the bed holding her head feeling well and truly beaten up. Hands circling the head of the old lady Flo began to let out long blowing exhalations and Jill saw the akashic cord flare bright silver then bright green, blobs of light shot along it moving outwards.
With a cry Violet's ghost let go of Craig and spun around holding her own mid-section, rage and shock washed over her features, she shouted something and marched back towards the bed.
"Don't touch her," Jill mumbled still slightly dazed but Flo didn't react to the advancing siren.
"Stop that at once," the cry was fierce.
"Your incarnation has ended Violet," the medium was amazingly calm, "If you stay here you'll become trapped, earthbound and that's not much fun."
Unimpressed by this the arrogant beauty went right up to Dunleavy, "I'm having plenty of fun," she said, "With her boyfriend."
Cheeks flaming Jill felt raw and exposed, but Violet wasn't finished.
"She's so hot for him but hasn't the guts to do or say anything, it's pathetic."
Humiliated Jill studied the floor, what Violet had said was true she did want Craig but felt he was out of her league. He was a good doctor with a brilliant career ahead of him, why would he bother with her?
Flo said, "Overstaying your welcome is pathetic."
In response to this Violet rested a hand on the psychic's shoulder and Jill tensed up but there was no burst of voltage no pain and Flo wasn't hurled to the floor.
Instead the akashic cord thinned, flashed a few more times and snapped. Eyes popping Violet watched this then heard the old woman give one last grunting gurgle before becoming very still.
"You're dead," Jill enjoyed saying it.
"Yes you are," Flo agreed, "Once the cord is severed an incarnation has ended."
"Shut up," features tight with panic Violet gazed into the frozen glassy eyes of the shrunken corpse and suddenly all the smug self-important bombast seemed to leak out of her.
Taking the thin shoulders she shook them as if trying to rouse her old self her former body but it was no good, it was inert a useless shell.
"I can't be dead," she cried, "I don't feel dead," indeed her astral form was vibrant, beautiful and bore a new light an inner radiance, "I'm alive."
"Not in this dimension," on her feet Flo moved to the foot of the bed and pointed. A shimmering radiation was coming out of the side wall gaining in strength and colour, a brilliant rainbow forming in its centre then opening outwards.
It was breathtakingly beautiful and Jill felt her chest tingle, oh wow what was this?
"It's calling to me pulling at me," said Violet her voice now no longer harsh but full of awe and wonder.
"It leads to a new life," Dunleavy sighed.
"But this is my life, I don't know anything else."
Jill blinked sure she could see movement within the rainbow figures, hands and faces, yes smiling faces warm and welcoming an old woman, a younger man and a tall gangly youth.
"People," she whispered, spirits she assumed, the ghosts of those who had gone on before, a welcoming committee.
"I know them," voice catching Violet blinked back tears, "My baby brother, my aunt Peg."
"Go with them," Flo advised and taking a tentative step Violet wiped her face with an arm and seemed to shudder.
"I don't understand," she said, "I'm afraid."
Tone now soothing and supportive Flo moved alongside her, "There's no need to be nobody can harm us on the other side; it's where we all truly belong."
Craig was gazing at the amazing other worldly display too, the shock on his face palpable. Jill went over to him sensing that this was a key moment for her to, they linked arms.
"Isn't it amazing," she said not totally meaning the spiritual gateway?
"Unbelievable," he gasped as Violet approached the light show, the figures within waving to her, smiling and calling out although their voices were not audible to Jill.
Violet though could plainly hear them, "Yes," she said, "I will," and with a spring in her step she moved faster towards the wall, "I'm coming."
She looked back at Dunleavy who was smiling, "I'm going now," she said, "I don't need to be here anymore," then she eyed Jill with Craig, "He's quite a catch, don't lose him."
Then she was gone into the light which closed around her, shrank, imploded and sank back into the wall, a wall that grew dimmer and darker.
I won't lose him thought Jill, life's too short and too precious to hesitate, "How about that coffee," she asked?