‘This isn’t going to hurt is it?’ said Andrew, dragging on the last remnants of a spliff in a carpark on the edge of town.
‘It might hurt a bit, yeah,’ said Omar holding out a Taser, closing in on Andrew.
‘But it won’t kill me?’
‘No, no, we just want people to think you died. Briefly.’
‘But if we just want to pretend I died do we really need the Taser?’
‘We need to create the sense that you’ve been knocked out by something. Look it’s all set up, everything is in position, and I’m going to call the ambulance as soon as you hit the floor. We’ve discussed this a million times.’’
‘Wait, why are we doing this again?’ said Andrew.
‘I don’t know, why do we do anything? Money, fame, the yucks?’
‘OK, OK, let me psyche myself up…’
But before Andrew could finish his sentence Omar jabbed the Taser into his chest, digging in hard, once, twice and then a third time. The spliff came shooting out of Andrew’s mouth and he collapsed.
Omar dialled an ambulance and it arrived in minutes. The nurses scooped Andrew off the floor like he was a damp dishcloth.
‘Is he alright?’ said Omar, giving his best impression of being concerned.
‘No sir,’ said the ambulance man, sucking on a mint, ‘he’s dead.’
‘I know that, but wait, what!? Dead!’
‘I’m afraid so sir, his heart has stopped beating and we can’t seem to resuscitate him. I assume you were the last person to see him alive? Can you give us any clues as to what happened to him?’
Omar shoved the Taser deep into his pocket and said, ‘Oh god, oh god, what’s happening? It was just a silly prank.’
‘Sir, I advise you to get your story straight before you talk to the police. This doesn’t look good.’
‘The police? Oh jeez, no.’
Omar squeezed past the nurse and grabbed hold of Andrew, ‘Wake up you idiot, wake up!’
In the hospital, Omar paced around the waiting room, pouring himself paper cups of water from the cooler, crumpling them into balls and then hurling them into the bin. But it wasn’t long before Andrew was wheeled out of the emergency room, blinking furiously, his face flushed.
‘Your friend is a very lucky man,’ said an elderly doctor with a giant paunch. ‘He was clinically dead for a significant amount of time.’
‘So,’ said Omar, ‘no need for the cops?’
‘No,’ said the doctor, ‘Andrew says that won’t be necessary.’
‘Oh, thank god. Can I see him?’
‘Yes, but be aware, he’s in a fragile state.’
Omar poked his head into Andrew’s room and said, ‘Hey buddy.’
Andrew groaned then sat up and placed his pillows in a comfortable position.
‘You nearly killed me,’ Andrew said.
‘In fact, technically, I did kill you.’
Andrew made a move to strangle Omar, but he didn’t have the energy and instead flopped back onto his bed.
‘I’m sorry Andrew, I really didn’t mean for all this to happen.’
‘I saw things Omar, I floated outside my body and saw crazy things.’
‘Leave it now mate, there’s no need to continue with the plan, you’ve been through enough.’
‘The plan was to pretend I had a near death experience, but I think – I think it really happened. I actually had one.’
‘You’re not well Andrew, you’re delusional.’
There was a knock at the door. A man with a side parting, fringe dangling by his cheek, entered the room. I’m Christian Kyle, writer and journalist for Alternative Media. ‘I received a phone call yesterday that a man named Andrew Fitzpatrick had a near death experience.’
‘No,’ said Omar, ‘you’re wrong, no one here had any experience. I’m sorry to waste your time.’
‘Me, I did,’ said Andrew, ‘I died and I saw things I couldn’t have known about.’
‘Really? Fascinating,’ said Kyle pulling up a chair. ‘Tell me all about it.’
‘Well,’ said Andrew, eyes wide open. ‘I saw a bright, bright light and then I felt my being rise up and float above my body. I mean I could see my body below me and all the doctors milling around too. Then I floated out of the window. I have this image of a unicorn but it’s hazy. I can’t really place where that comes in. Next thing I know I’m back in my body and all the doctors are peering at me, confused but happy.’
‘Well Mr Fitzpatrick,’ said Kyle flicking his fringe from his cheek, ‘what you have here is a classic near-death experience. We’ll need to do further research and confirm your story with the doctors of course, but if everything goes smoothly, I’d like to write about this in my magazine. Maybe sometime you could join me at one of my symposiums and speak with others who have similar stories demonstrating life after death is a very real phenomenon.’’
‘I would love that,’ Andrew said, ‘it would give me some direction. All of a sudden, I want to be someone, straighten myself out. Maybe travel, spend more time with my family. I want to grow.’
‘Yes, experiences such as this can often lead to positive life changes. You are not alone. Well, let me write you a cheque for your time and if things progress as they should, you will get more. I have a really good feeling about this.’
Kyle shook Andrew’s hand and left the room. Omar ran his hands through his quiff in despair, ‘What the hell are you playing at?’ he said.
‘All this mumbo jumbo you’re going on about.’
‘I’ve seen the light Omar. I’m serious. If you can’t support me on this then it’s your problem.’’
‘Are you listening to yourself? Look, I’ll come back to visit you tomorrow, maybe then you’ll see some sense.’
Omar marched out of the room. Andrew relaxed back against his pillows and gazed up at the ceiling with a look of awe.
A couple of days later Andrew was discharged with a clean bill of health. He waited for Omar by an alleyway outside the hospital and lit a joint. Then he stubbed it out and threw it away, saying to himself, ‘No more, things have to be different. Come on Omar, where are you?’
Then Andrew caught a glimpse of something out of his peripheral vision. He sidled down the alleyway and found a stuffed toy animal, pink and yellow, laying on a pile of bin bags. It was a unicorn. He poked it. It was real.
‘No way,’ he said and went to find Omar. When he emerged from the alleyway Omar was still nowhere to be seen. Andrew called him but only got the answering machine so he left a message, saying, ‘I found the unicorn! I found the unicorn! You can’t say I’m crazy now. Hurry up and I’ll show you. Oh man this is major. Get back to me as soon as you can, bye.’
When Omar did arrive, he was out of breath and all apologies. ‘The underground is a state,’ he said, ‘have you been waiting long?’
‘Yes, but it doesn’t matter. Did you get my message?’
‘Well come this way, I have something to show you.’
Andrew led Omar down the side alley. A garbage truck was just exiting through the other side, beeping as it went. Andrew came to the spot where he had found the unicorn but it, and the bin bags it was resting on, were gone.
‘No, no!’ Andrew cried out. ‘It was just here.’
‘What was?’ Omar said.
‘The unicorn. The truck must have collected it, oh man. Don’t you see, this was proof I came out of my body. The emergency room must be just above our heads.’
‘I don’t know what’s happening to you Andrew. Maybe you’ve been smoking too much weed or you banged your head hard when I Tasered you but these crazy ideas have got to stop.’
Andrew perceptibly slumped and then lit up. ‘I’ve got to talk to that dude Kyle,’ he said.
The next day Andrew took a trip on the train to visit Kyle in his country home that was located by a shimmering lake surrounded by trees. As Andrew rang the doorbell wind chimes tinkled. Kyle opened the door, barefoot – incense wafting from inside the building.
‘Welcome Andrew, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you again. We have many things to discuss.’
Kyle guided Andrew to a seat in his living room. Crystals were placed on the mantelpiece and the side table and paintings of Buddha and Ganesh were hung upon the walls.
Andrew gulped then blurted out, ‘This is wrong, I have to give you your money back.’
‘Oh,’ said Kyle, ‘why is that?’
‘I didn’t have a near death experience. It was all lies. Here, take the cheque.’
‘Andrew, it is common for there to be doubts. What is this really about?’
Andrew picked up an astrology book from the coffee table.
‘I just don’t know if this is me.’
‘God finds us in many ways.’
‘God? I didn’t know He was involved.’
‘Oh most certainly and what you have experienced is the beginning of the journey to getting closer to Him.’
‘I really don’t know about that. This is all a bit overwhelming.’
‘Would you like to try a forty minute meditation with me?’ Kyle said, flicking on some whale sounds on his stereo.
‘What is it Andrew? Why are you resisting?’
Just then Kyle’s phone rang and he said, ‘I have to take this. Take a look around maybe something will ignite your spirit.’
Kyle disappeared out of the patio windows and padded around the garden as he talked. Andrew stood and wandered about the house. He sniffed the fresh flowers in the vases lining the hall but recoiled in disgust. Then he walked up the stairs and arrived at the bedroom. Inside was a shrine opposite the bed with beads wrapped around a picture of an Indian Saint sitting in the lotus position. Andrew pulled out his phone and dialled Omar.
‘Hey dude, sup?’
‘I’m at Kyle’s house.’’
‘Oh man, look I don’t want to hear it, OK?’
‘Omar, he’s trying to get me into God. He’s got all this spiritual stuff around. He wants me to find the real me. I can’t take it.’
‘Of course not, I know the real you and you haven’t been you lately.’
‘But I don’t know who I am anymore.’
Andrew picked up a book lying on Kyle’s bed. It was called Unbound Spirits by Christian Kyle. Andrew flung it to the floor knocking over a statue of Siva.
‘Tell me who I am Omar, who am I?’
‘I’ll tell you who you are, you’re an idiot!’
Andrew stood up straight and dropped the phone. ‘I’m an idiot,’ he said. ‘Of course.’
Andrew poked the picture of the saint. Then he punched it sending it crashing to the ground, cracking the glass. Then he tramped around the room smashing effigies of gods and tearing apart the dreamcatchers hanging over the bed. He howled with delight, clenching his fists.
‘What the hell are you doing?’ Kyle said, appearing at the door.
‘I’m an idiot!’ Andrew said, picking up his phone and barging past Kyle. He raced down the stairs in a fervour. On a table by the front door lying next to a flickering candle Andrew noticed a selection of tiny porcelain unicorns. He stopped in his tracks. He looked back at Kyle but he was busy tending to his spiritual paraphernalia.
‘I’m going to kill you!’ Kyle said.
The unicorns glistened in the candlelight with pink, yellow and blue colours. Andrew’s life flashed before his eyes – vomiting on his mother’s lap as a baby, yanking his little sister’s pigtails as a toddler, giving friends wedgies in primary school, dry humping his first girlfriend, passing out after his first drinking binge, crashing his dad’s car, and so on all the way up to being Tasered the other day in the carpark.
‘Woah,’ he said, feeling dizzy. He felt the urge to smash but instead picked up one of the unicorns and placed it carefully into his jacket pocket. ‘Well, who knows?’ he said, and he dashed out the door.