That night I finally had the chance to read Kitty’s letter. I took it from under my mattress where I had hidden it. Glancing at the door to make sure it was closed, I opened the envelope with a little knife, as quietly as possible. Then, taking a deep breath, still standing in the middle of my room, I began to read.
“Dana, If you read this, I am dead,” the letter began. “Sheesh what a cliché of a sentence! Like something from an Agatha Christie novel, isn’t it?”
After this, she had drawn a smile. I was horrified to read on, somehow. But I could not turn my eyes away from the paper.
“Look, I know this is going to sound crazy… In fact I cannot quite believe I am writing this. If I am wrong, you’ll never know, and we’ll see each other soon, and I’ll know it was just my imagination. I’ll collect the box, or maybe leave it and this letter where it is for us to find sometime in the future. We can then have a good laugh about it when we are old and grey… Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I just better stop rambling and write what I sat down to write.”
Curiously I turned the first page of the letter to see what was written on the reverse of it.
“You remember when we talked about ghosts and what will happen when we die? Well of course you do, and have probably been wondering about it now that I am… gone. Gone to wherever it is we go when we die.
“I need to tell you that I somehow know this is going to happen. I have had such vivid dreams lately where Darryl has come to meet me.”
Darryl was her brother who had died of a brain tumour. Four children in Kitty’s family, now two of them dead…
The memory of Kitty’s parent’s at the funeral flashed vividly into my mind’s eye: ashen faces, humped shoulders, unable to speak when they lowered their flowers on her casket – I couldn’t bear the word coffin… Little Ella standing behind them with round eyes, not understanding where her big sister had gone. And Andy, Kitty’s big brother, holding Ella’s hand with an expression somewhere between grief and rage.
I felt like choking, cleared my throat and continued reading.
“Darryl was so real, and I felt so totally happy that there I began to wonder whether I was getting closer to the veil between our life and… well, whatever you want to call the afterlife. I have read about such things happening. People who are about to die, feeling very happy and unafraid before it actually happens. And that someone from the other side comes to fetch them, someone they know and love. Darryl certainly fits that description.”
Kitty had been interested in NDEs or near death experiences, and had read a lot about the subject on the net. But it was something she could discuss with no one but me. It was not a topic most teenagers at school would talk about – death was somewhere too far in the future for them, and older people seemed too scared. Kitty’s loss had awakened her deep interest in the subject. She had tried discussing it with her parents, but they were churchgoers like my mother and thought it was dangerous for Kitty to investigate anything of that kind. That did not stop her, of course, and we had been talking about NDEs. I had also felt a bit queasy about it, and changed the subject as soon as it didn’t feel impolite. Death wasn’t my favorite subject either. Now I wish I had listened more to what she had to say.
I read on.
“And then, in my dreams, I began to see glimpses of what was likely going to happen to me. I had these dreams often, and they became more real, dream by dream. I saw a car, and I was looking at myself on the ground, floating above the scene, and I felt totally calm and happy. Yes, calm and happy, as if nothing was wrong in those dreams. I observed myself there on the roadside, probably dead, or at least dying, and there was nothing to it. Can you believe it? To see your own death and not feel fear?
“In some ways it was scary, I admit, but I could not feel afraid. It just felt the way things were meant to be. And you may call me crazy, but I felt like my… mission in life, for lack of a better word, would begin there. And Dana – it was all about you, whatever it was I was supposed to do with my life. Yes, I know. It sounds strange. I wonder about these dreams, and whether they are a warning to try to prevent this from happening. But how can I avoid all the cars in the world? Well, I can’t. So I decided to live on, come what may. And, as you are reading this now, we know that death came.
“I want you to know I am not afraid of death. When I think of it, it feels like a bright light in my mind, and I feel Darryl there. How could I fear my own brother? If he is there, then all my other loved ones will be too. Grandma. Grandpa. Misty.”
Misty had been her Shetland pony. Too small to ride, but she had been in the family for thirty years and her death had been a difficult thing for Kitty.
I reread her words about her mission in life, and that it involved me. A horrible thought came to my mind – had her strange dreams caused he to step in front of the car so it would not hit me- had they given her the illusion she was meant to protect me? But no, something did not match here…the car had swerved from the curve directly towards me, and Kitty had stepped sideways… but not in front of me – she had stepped away from me and the car, a basic reaction to avoid being hit.
To my eyes it had looked like the driver tried to hit Kitty on purpose, which I did not understand. She should have been able to avoid hitting Kitty, but did not. Instead she had swerved towards Kitty again, when Kitty tried to jump away. If the car had continued on its original course, it would not have hit her… nor me, having made the first evasive move.
For a second I had been staring straight at the driver, but for the life of me I don’t remember seeing her face. It was as if there had been a shadow behind the wheel… A psychologist said that was caused by the shock, and I might remember it later. She had asked me to call when it did, if I needed help when I remembered her. But I doubted I’d ever call – why would I?
If the shrink was worried about my reaction to remembering the driver, she need not be. I remembered the drunken lady very well from the moment she stumbled clumsily from the driver’s seat, and wobbled out on her high heels, supporting herself against the car. And I hated her already. I did not need any shrink to tell me I should let my emotions out.
I could still see the dent in the hood and the shattered windscreen in my mind’s eye, and hear the sickening thump in my ears. The memory made me gasp for air, and I had to sit on my bed and bend down with my head between my knees for a while. Slowly I relaxed, my lungs began to breathe normally again, and I managed to go on reading.
“Those dream discussions with Darryl felt very real. One night he showed me a big orange butterfly and said he would send it to me. It was wintertime, so I did not take this promise seriously. Do you know what happened the next day? You should. Remember that biology class, when Eva fell over backwards on her chair?”
I did. Eva had been tilting the back legs of her chair, something she often did. That day she rocked further and further back until eventually she managed to tip it right over, and she lay flat on her back, shrieking, much to the joy of the whole class. And during that same lesson, suddenly a big orange butterfly had flown into the classroom. Where it came from, no one knew, but in an instant it was there, and it flew right down onto Kitty’s desk.
“Quiet everyone!” The teacher had calmed the class, which was in an uproar by then, because like all students we relished any unusual happening that gave us the chance to rock out a bit, and two such in one class was almost too much to hope for. Then she explained that some butterflies wake early in the spring, when the sun gets warm enough. Yes, even with snow outside. Ours was an old school, and probably the butterfly had hibernated in some crack in the wall, now warmed by the early spring sun.
“So you remember the butterfly now? I was certain Darryl sent it, and that little creature was proof to me that we don’t cease to exist when we die.
“I would like you to believe that too.
“Obviously I am now on the Other Side, in the Unseen Worlds. I will try to contact you by sending you signs I still exist. What you need to do is to keep your eyes and ears open, and try to sense when I am near. I have read it is not easy to approach sad people – I mean approach from “the Spirit Side”. It has to do with heavy energies. So you need to be calm, and try to remember the fun we had, and I will try to reach you then.
“Maybe I’ll drop a book for you to read – that would get your attention, bookworm that you are!”
The hairs on the back of my neck rose. I mean literally, I could feel them bristling.
“Yes, I just might contact you through a book. I cannot tell you what it is, because I have to keep its secret, and someone other than you might find this letter. Still, it has to do with dreams. You will understand what I mean when the time comes.”
I didn’t know what to think. Part of me shrank from the idea of the “Unseen Worlds” and the “Other Side”. But now the book falling on my toes seemed like something Kitty had… planned? Why else would she talk about contacting me through a book? And what was the secret that the book from my shelf held? I would have to read it through carefully again.
“Oh, and do take Muffin back home. I am certain he is there with you. He is probably the one who found this letter, isn’t he? I used to train him to find things I hid. I always used a little rose perfume on the things I wanted him to find, and that’s what I did here too.”
True. The silk sash that had held the key to the box smelled of tea rose. Kitty had probably used a drop of her treasure – a small bottle of Body Shop’s genuine tea rose oil her mother had bought when she was young. They did not sell it any longer and one drop of it smelled like a bouquet of roses for hours. Just roses, no other perfume. Kitty loved roses.
Used to love roses.
There was a P.S. at the end of the letter.
“P.S. And Dana – even if I don’t succeed in reaching you, I want you to remember that you will always be my best friend. I am sure we are soul twins. We just happened to be born in different families, but there was a reason we met. I will love you always. And our separation is not for all eternity – eventually we will meet again.”
She had drawn one more smiling face and a heart and signed her letter with a big, bold “Kitty”.
I sat there for a long while. Finally, I folded the letter back into its envelope and sat quietly for a long time, surrounded by the voices of nature falling asleep that came through my open window.
I went to bed, and on a whim took the pendant Grandma had given me into my hand. It felt heavy, and warm. Familiar, and reassuring, as if I had owned it all my life.
That night I dreamt of a woman sitting in a dark tent, writing on paper that looked like papyrus. I could only see her pale fingers holding a reed pen, and the flickering light of an ancient looking oil lamp – a shallow pottery container filled with oil. The tip of a wick protruded from a little hole at the end of a neck reaching out horizontally from the container of the lamp. The lamp was burning with a warm flame. I knew the writer was a woman from her delicate pale fingers. I could not see what she wrote, but I knew with the certainty of a dreamer that she was telling someone about the death of another that was dear to her.
She had no tears left, but I cried for her loss as well as mine in my sleep.