A loud knocking noise sounded from the front door. My father, a very tall man, had to stoop his towering head to lean and open it. There, in the doorway, stood my grandfather. His only arm was raised as if to knock again until he saw his son smiling warmly down on him.
"Edward, so nice to see you!" He said in his always pleasant voice.
"Good to see you too dad!"
My Grandpa stepped inside, a tiny gust of frigid November wind sneaking its way in also. He seated his jolly frame and my parent gave small talk to our ancient visitor. I went over to embrace him awkwardly and he patted me on the back.
For a while we talked about my grades and school and then I sighed gratefully as Grandpa moved on to my parents and how work was going. This fraction I found unamusing and I sat politely on the sofa until finally they left.
"Dinner’s in the fridge!" My mother yelled quietly as she and my father closed the door silently behind them.
"Oh no! This is what I had been dreading! Being left behind with this old timer! What a bore!" I complained silently to myself "He'll probably just fall asleep in the chair and drool the whole time!" I rolled my eyes.
My Grandpa briskly walked to the fridge and I heard the beeping of the microwave as he placed our meal inside. I flipped through some channels on the television but found nothing interesting and went into the kitchen to see if I should help. For a minute I stood uncertain in the doorway, deciding whether I should speak to this almost-stranger.
I didn't know my grandfather well. We had only met when I was ten and I was thirteen now. He didn't visit often, maybe once or twice a year because he lived in Seattle, and too me he was an outsider. I didn't even know why he only had one arm!
The old man turned and stared at me for a moment, smiling yet calculating and examining. I tried not too but I couldn't help but glare at where his other limb should be.
"You want to know how I lost my arm." He said it as a fact not a question and I was so embarrassed my lips refused to move.
"It’s okay." He said "You’re allowed to be curious."
I could still only stare at him. His old blue eyes were faded with age but I could tell that they still held the same adventurous attitude and spunk they probably had when he was twenty. Wrinkles were folded in pale creases with very little color across his forehead and it was obvious that he used to be a tobacco user by his yellow teeth. He reminded me a bit of Santa Claus with his round belly and grey hairs scattered roughly across his chin. He wore an aqua t-shirt with suspenders that were at least ten years old with knee high socks and basic brown shoes covering his feet. He waved a withered hand at me and beckoned me to join him at the dining room table. I cautiously sat down beside him.
"Would you like to hear the story? I warn you its pretty long."
Since I still couldn't speak and there was no polite way to refuse I nodded my head dumbly and situated myself to a more comfortable position. Then he began.
"It all started when I was twenty three. I was fresh out of Wisconsin University and I had the best golf swing for miles! I could hit a hole in one from fifty yards and I was planning to expand my career."
"On October 13th, a Friday night, my best competitor, Mark Wright, challenged me to a golf game and I accepted. It was drizzling slightly that night and there was some thunder but we never took precautions and we started the game anyway."
"The first couple of holes Mark won but toward the end I started to pick my game up and I was winning 74 to 83 when it happened. I stepped up to hole 13 and planted my feet firmly to ensure good accuracy. My elbows were tucked and my caddy held his breath as I raised my club and swung to hit that ball. As I followed through my club came up high and a little thread of lightning made its way from the clouds and faintly toughed my metal club. The electricity bolted down the club and into my arm."
He pointed at his missing limb and my mouth was agape as he showed me the scar.
"I was knocked unconscious by the shock and the last thing I remember before I passed out is Mark standing over me looking concerned."
He stared off into space for a minute as if remembering something and he smiled at the thought then returned to his tale.
"When I woke up I was in the hospital. Lots of doctors fussing over me!" He pointed to himself, almost proud "And they told me that they needed to put me in a chemically induced coma. It’s a long sleep that they put you in on purpose so that you can heal faster. While I was in that coma it changed me forever. I went to places no one else has gone before and still came back! The memories are vivid!" he said pointing to his head.
Then he got a grave look on his face and though staring right at me he wasn't looking at me, he was remembering again.
"But you don't want to hear that!" he said quickly, clearing away the half finished dinners. He washed then nimbly (as nimble as an old man could get) in the sink and went to flip on the television, turning it up extra loud so as no one could talk above the racket. His actions confused me and I wondered why he seemed reluctant to tell me the rest. I decided I WAS going to hear the rest.
For a while I let him watch his noisy T.V. while I finished up some dreary geometry homework. Then it was time for bed and I fretted that I wouldn't ever hear the rest of the tale. I worriedly brushed my teeth and drank some milk then hopped under the welcoming covers of my four poster bed. Grandpa walked in and shyly said goodnight then turned out the light and as he turned to leave, I spoke commandingly:
He gave me a serious look then laughed and spoke:
"I knew I would have to tell you."
Then he sighed and sat done on the edge of the bed and began his strange tale a second time.
"While I was in the coma is saw the future. I saw the most beautiful woman, with long red curls that flowed endlessly down her back and emerald green eyes that sparkled in the morning sunlight. I knew she would be mine some day. I saw the cutest baby girl in her arms who I knew was your mother and my child. I even saw you, a bouncing baby boy, as they say. But my long sleep took a terrible turn....."
He couldn't finish the sentance but took a few deep breaths and tried again.
"I saw my own death."
My mouth dropped and I prodded anxiously for more.
"How do you die?" I asked, a little too thrilled.
He gave me a stern look and said "I’m not going to tell you. If you know when someone will die you treat them different and I don't want anyone worryingabout me. Anyway I saw my afterlife too."
Here he paused and went over in his mind as to whether he should continue but I goaded him into more information.
"...........I saw myself go to Hell. I had never before been a good person and I saw myself fall into a bottomless fiery chasm and land in the boiling lava of Hell." He shook his head doubtfully.
"I climbed out of the lava and searched through every tunnel I found but they all had no beginnings and no ends and I became lost in the dark underworld. I came to a lake full of black water and I got into a ratty, old paddleboat with a driver with one eye. His skin was a pale ashen color and his one good eye was a sickening purple. His other eye had rotted so much it just fell out of the socket. The thing wore no clothes and no matter how long you looked at him you could never decipher exactly where his bottom or top were. He was so mangled and twisted that his body was a broken human pretzel. He paddled me across the water, all the while staring right at me. His purple pupil seemed to burn a hole in my heart because after I got of the boat I had no will to continue. I curled up into a ball and lay in a corner in the dark until it sealed mostly shut and I was able to drag myself onward. Hell was terrible. No matter what, you knew there was no way out, that you would be stuck here forever. But I was saved. While I rotted in Hell I heard the most wonderful voice. Even though it was just speaking it was a song in itself and each word rang with musical clarity. It echoed of the walls and lit everything up and I could see! I saw the end of the tunnel! But the voice got softer with every step and the light was disappearing so I raced to the end. The light faded before I reached it. No matter how fast I ran I never got any closer and soon I was plunged back into the eternal darkness. I gave up then. I had no more will to keep going. The weight of it all came crashing down on my heart, reopening the wound made by the creature and making it so big I didn't know if there was any heart left. I crumpled uselessly to the floor and didn't even know if I was breathing. Actually I didn't even care. But my anger got the better of me."
He gave a devious little half-smile and continued.
"Rage rebuilt my heart and I tore down the walls of my prison! They were only mere illusions and before long all light was restored and I was back!!! I leapt up and down in my hospital bed and all the nurses thought I had gone mad in my slumber, except for one."
He smiled again.
"Allison was the exception. She was leaned over me, red curls billowing behind her like a sail and worry filling those amazing green eyes. She never left me after that until she died."
A few tears overflowed his eyes and he self consciously wiped them away.
"I loved her so much. I just hope she didn't go to where I was. It was too terrible a place for her, Hell doesn't deserve Allison!"
Grandpa raised a hand as if to protect my dead Grandmother.
"But even though it was awful I am grateful I had that experience."
My mouth hung open and he raised a hand so he could continue.
"It changed me. I was a better husband to Allison then I ever could have been before. It taught me many things that I should have learned earlier but ignored. It taught me to really appreciate what you’re given. That’s why I miss Allison so much. I hope when I do go I can go back to my Allison and if I have to rip down those walls again I will!"
He stated the last comment in a stubborn immature way then looked at me sincerely.
“Dont take this world for granted.”
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