I never believed in the whole “light at the end of the tunnel” folly where people, after having a near-death experience, would startle awake in a cold sweat exclaiming, “I saw the light!”
But there I was, in this so-called “tunnel” facing a glaring light, when the last thing I remembered was sleeping in my room—the royal bedchamber, as others called it.
Had I died? If so, how? Was I assassinated?
I didn’t remember wronging anyone, but then again, being a powerful public figure meant others had all sorts of reasons to want me dead.
The pressure forcing me toward this mysterious light made me forgo the hope that this was all a dream. Instead, I relaxed—that seemed to make things more comfortable—and went along for the ride.
The journey seemed to take an eternity. I half-expected to hear, at any moment, a choir of children singing an angelic hymn, beckoning me toward what I hoped would be heaven. Instead, as if I were looking through a foggy window, everything around me turned into a bright blur, forcing me to shut my eyes. Indiscernible sounds assaulted my ears, making me dizzy. When I tried to speak, the words came out as a cry.
The cacophony of indistinguishable sounds slowly mellowed, and I heard a muffled voice saying, “Congratulations, sir and madam, he’s a healthy boy.”
I suppose I should have been coming to the conclusion that I had just experienced the miracle of birth firsthand, but I was momentarily overcome by the thought of my own demise. I couldn't be dead, though, if I was just being born, could I?
Assessing my situation in the rational manner befitting a king, I made note, first of all, that wherever this was, I understood the language. That was a good sign.
I slowly and painfully opened my eyes once more, and they were bombarded with different colors and figures. It took a bit of time for my infant eyes to get used to the light. A not-so-appealing face moved into my line of sight—a man with long, greying hair on both his head and chin, wearing a pair of thick glasses. He seemed to be the doctor, but he wasn’t wearing a doctor's gown, nor were we in anything remotely close to a hospital room. I seemed to have been born from some satanic summoning ritual, because we were on a bed of straw, on the floor of a small room dimly lit by a few candles.
I looked around and saw the woman who had clearly just given birth to me. It seemed reasonable to call her ‘Mother.’ Taking a few more seconds to see what she looked like, I had to admit she was a beauty, though that might have been due to my still-bleary eyes. Rather than glamorous, I would better describe her as lovely, in a very kind and gentle sense. She had striking auburn hair and brown eyes, long eyelashes, and a perky nose, and I felt an urge to just cling to her. She exuded an irresistible maternal warmth, and I wondered if all babies felt this instinctive bond with their mothers.
I peeled my eyes away and looked at the person standing to my right. By the idiotic grin and teary eyes he gazed at me with, I assumed he was my father. Immediately he said, “Hi, little Art, I’m your daddy. Can you say dada?” I glanced around to see both my mother and the doctor roll their eyes as my mother managed to scoff, “Honey, he was just born.”
Taking a closer look at my father, I could see why my lovely mother was attracted to him. Aside from the few loose screws he seemed to have, expecting a newborn to articulate a two-syllable word—I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe he had been overcome with the joy of becoming a father—he was a very charismatic-looking man with a cleanly-shaven, square jawline that complemented his features. His hair, ashy brown in color, was kept trim, while his eyebrows were strong and fierce, extending sharply like two swords. Yet his eyes held a gentle quality, perhaps imparted by the way they drooped a bit at the outside corners, or the deep blue, almost sapphire, hue of his irises.
I heard my mother’s voice ask, “Doctor, why isn’t he crying? I thought newborns were supposed to cry.”
While I finished studying my presumptive parents, the bespectacled gentleman who called himself a doctor dismissed my mother’s worry, saying, “There are cases where the infant does not cry. Please continue resting for a couple of days, Mrs. Leywin. Mr. Leywin, I’ll be available in case you need me for anything.” And that marked the first day of a new life.
The weeks following my journey out of the tunnel were a new kind of torture for me. I had little to no motor control, other than being able to wave my limbs around, and even that got tiring quickly. I soon realized that babies don’t really have much control over their fingers. When you place your finger on a baby’s palm, they don’t grab it because they like you; they grab it because it’s like getting hit in the funny bone. It’s a reflex. Forget motor control; I couldn’t even excrete my wastes at my discretion. I was not yet the master of my own bladder.
The satanic demon-summoning place seemed to be my parents’ room. As best I could tell, I seemed to have traveled back in time to be born into my own world, in the days before electricity had been invented. At least, that was what I hoped—but my mother quickly proved me wrong.
My idiotic father had been swinging me around one day and bumped me against a drawer, scratching my leg. And my mother healed it.
No, not like ‘a bandage and a kiss’ healing—this was a full-blown, shining-light-with-a-faint-hum-from-her-freaking-hands type of healing.
Where the hell am I?