"Look! Look who's here!"
Out of blackness and the primordial ooze from which all things come creeps the consciousness of a return to a dwelling. There is a telephone ringing inside. It has rung four or five times more by the time I throw down my things and flop onto the bed. I seize the telephone, which is brown, and metallic — not like your usual phones at all.
There is a strange moment of silence on the other end of the phone, and then my mother's voice. She was talking aside to other people on her end while waiting for the phone to answer. Thus, the awkward empty period, and finally the application of her voice directly to the telephone.
"Gil," she says, "it's Mom. Dad died last night." The news is delivered in a matter-of-fact tone of voice that I have been anticipating for some time now. Mom, trying to be straight ahead and strong and conversational, even as she delivers the news.
Before I can reply, I am distracted by something to the right of the bed, to which I turn.
It's my Dad, looking fifty something, in his tan sweater. He is laughing uproariously. "No Mom," I say, "Dad's here. Dad's here, with me!"
I jump to my feet and embrace him. We are laughing now, together, as though we share a joke. I turn to the others in the room, who have somehow materialized since my arrival, and attempt to share my excitement. At first the words will not come out of my mouth, frozen in the throat in a manner which has characterized other dreams in the past. But they do finally, and I point out my Dad, gesturing gladly. There is no immediate response from the others. "Look! Look who's here!" I'm saying.
I then I realize what the joke is which my Dad and I share. It is that the others can not see him; that only I can see him. He has really died, and this is a ghost. It is Dad bringing the news to me himself, and laughing as I have not seen him laugh since I was a young man.
He is no apparent pain.
I feel that familiar tug — that pull from another place — that quick, powerful seizure of vertigo as the framework of tonight's dream shatters, returning me to the world we call real. I am now fully awake, shaken, and on my feet in my London hotel room. Just a dream. That's all it was. However, the vision of my father lingers in the air, and his laughter clatters and echoes off into the night. The vision fades and then vanishes as I readjust my wits to what passes for reality at four A.M. in a foreign city. CNN news is grinding away on a TV set which I forgot to turn off.
I can see him again. Then I can't. I scramble for my notepad.
It is hours later now, in a bright morning sun from which I have always taken strength and hope in the past. But today I am nervous, and unsteady. I am unsure which parts of my nocturnal visitation were real, and which parts weren't. I am expecting the phone to ring, and for it to be my mother calling.
The phone does ring sometime later in the day, as I'm piecing away at my corporate homework in the Convent Garden offices of ALSG, dispirited and sad about my life. It's not my mother though, but my girlfriend Kathy instead.
"Gil," she says, "are you sitting down?"
"Yes, Kathy," I say. "What's up?" "Well, it's your father," Kathy says, with a strange hesitation in her voice. "He died last night."
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.