(Chapter 1  ...)


At first glance everything looked the same. The French Provincial Furniture, the white bedspreads, the matching plush carpeting. Yet something looked different and I was confused.
     Seconds earlier the morning sun had been flooding the guestroom, its light blinding, its heat uncomfortable.
     Now twilight surrounded me, dim and shadowy. I rubbed my forehead. "What the hell?"
     I glanced out the window. The bright blue sky of a moment ago had turned the color of a tarnished steel plate. It hung low over the golf course. Blurred shapes moved on the grass-darted, zigzagged, paused. Golfers, I thought. But no. They wouldn't all be dressed in the same gray clothing, monochromatic and dull. The whole landscape appeared dull, and the clubhouse, perched on a distant knoll, was obscured by rolling, churning fog. I heard no voices, and had trouble seeing.
     The guestroom where I stood looked dark and hazy. I had difficulty discerning familiar objects. The red needlepoint pillows embroidered by my wife's mother years ago in Germany, lay neatly on the bedspreads, but the cuckoo clock with its carved wood antlers hanging on the right wall not four feet away was barely visible through an almost black shadow. Its ticking sounded hollow.
     Where had the day gone? I tried to mentally retrace my steps. Only a few minutes ago, I came into the guestroom to get my coat out of the spare closet. I was about to leave the house for the hospital, to make rounds and then scrub for surgery. I shook my head. What's going on?
     My glance wandered to the foot of the bed and stopped there. I sensed that what lay beyond the bed would give me the answers, yet I dreaded those answers. Still my curiosity got the better of me, and driven by some outside force, I looked down. There, through the dark haze, I could distinguish a shapeless form. The blood seemed to rise to my eyes, half-blinding me.
     I moved closer.
     A body lay at my feet. One leg, grotesquely twisted, peered from under the torso on one side. The right hand clutched the tassels of the bedspread. I bent over for a closer look and found myself staring into the unseeing eyes of my own face.
     "My God!"
     I took a shaky step backward, my heart leaping to my throat. Fragmented thoughts, like painful particles of hot sand, needled my brain, making me wince. A thought flashed throught my mind, something Gretchen had said. My wife, who was born and raised in Frankfurt, studied metaphysics with her mother's friend who exerted great influence on Gretchen's young mind. I tried to remember what she had said to me about death when I came home one day distressed about losing one of my patients.
     "When you're deprived of a physical body," she had said to me then, taking both my hands into hers, "your emotions vibrate at a higher rate of frequency. Both the good and the bad are intensified. You say that your patient was a good man, so he would be happy now." She let go of my hands and kissed me, but I shook my head, dismissing her words as so much nonsense.
     Now I examined my hands, expecting to see through them, but to my relief, they were solid. I pinched my forearm and the resulting pain was comforting. Nothing had changed in my body and I could still control my movements.
     I had no wounds, felt no pain, and was in control of all my faculties. Then it dawned on me that the low-back pain I had developed over the last five years was gone. I even experienced a sense of euphoric lightness in my body, which I had not know since the days when I was thirty pounds lighter and twenty years younger.
     Relieved, I wanted to sit down and think how to make myself wake up from this nightmare. Gretchen's favorite Louis XV chair stood nearby. It rested under the small writing desk and I reached to pull it out. It didn't move. My hand, firm to my own touch, went right through it. I tried again. Nothing. Panic seized me. Frantically, I tried to grasp the chair, its dainty silk covered arms, its seat, but my hand clutched at the air instead. I swore and pounded my fist into the palm of the other hand. The sound of my own voice startled me. All the buoyancy I felt a moment ago drained out of me. I dropped my hands.
     That heap on the floor ... "God! How can it be? I'm not dead. Surely I'm not dead!"