The Other Side
I opened my eyes to the darkness. I could not tell where I was, but I seemed to be floating. And I was no longer cold. In fact, I felt better than I ever had in my whole life. How could I feel like that since I had been shot? (This is what I assumed had happened to me. I did not really know.)
As I floated there, I saw a pinpoint of light in the far distance, and I started moving toward it. As I neared the light, I could see that it was a shining tunnel, which I went into. I moved at a great rate, so that I quickly came into the presence of a shining being. This being had no form and did not speak, but I “heard” its words inside my head.
“Caleb Dilliard,” the being “said,” “you have been brought here for me to tell you that it not yet your time to come with me. That time will come, but in the meantime you have many important things to accomplish. Do them well, and we will meet again.”
“Wait!” I started. “Who are you? Where is this?”
The being “said” nothing more as the light faded and I found myself once again in darkness. I must have fallen asleep, for I knew no more until I was awakened by the sun coming in the window. I raised myself up with great pain and difficulty. I was in a large room with other soldiers lying in beds. This must be a hospital, I thought, and I am here because I was wounded on the parapet.
A woman dressed in white came over to me. “Corporal Dillard! You’re awake! Praise God! You have been delivered from your coma! I must fetch the doctor!”
I was puzzled. I had been in a coma? I had felt nothing up until my recent experience with the being. What was that? And how long had I been in a coma?
I tried to lie there quietly since any movement on my part brought me great pain, and a few minutes later, the nurse came back with a doctor. He was an older man with a gray beard.
“Corporal Dillard, I’m Captain Ingels. I’m your doctor, and I must say that we’re pleased that you have regained consciousness. We thought you were never going to come to.”
“How long have I been out, Doctor?”
He thought, and then said, “It will be six weeks tomorrow.”
Six weeks. I had so many questions for them, but asked the most important one: “Is the war still going on?”
Ingels’ face fell. “Yes, it continues, but I cannot see that it will last much longer. Grant continues to have men pour in to replace his losses, and they have much more by the way to supplies than we do. We are being gradually ground down, and there is nothing to do for it.”
I do not know what I was expecting, but I felt a sense of disappointment.
“Would you like something to eat?” the nurse asked.
“Yes, please, and I do not know your name.”
She smiled. “It is Abigail.”
“Hello, Abigail. I am pleased to meet you, even under these circumstances.”
“Before I get your food, would you like something for the pain?”
“Yes, please. It is quite strong.”
“I’ll go get both,” she said.
“Oh—before you do, how is my family?”
“They are well, In fact, your wife visited you twice, but you were of course insensate and could not tell.”
“Laurel was here?”
“Yes, and she is a lovely lady.”
“Thank you. I know.”
“I’ll go get what you asked for.
She walked off, and I had the opportunity to think about what had happened to me just before I woke up. Who was the being? It didn’t look like Jesus—in fact, it had no form, being made of light. Should I tell anyone what happened to me? Would they not think that it was a dream or delusion? But it was like nothing I had experienced before. I determined to say nothing until I could talk to Adolphus. He would understand, or perhaps know something about the being. But all that would have to wait until I saw him, and I did not know when that would be.
The nurse came back with a bottle and a spoon on a tray which held some dried pork and apples. “Here you are,” she said. She set the tray down and took the bottle and poured some into the spoon.
“I should have know it would be pork and apples,” I said, “but in my present condition they seem to me to the food of the gods.”
She laughed. “Perhaps you are a minor deity. But first, your worship, you must take your medicine. It will help you heal faster.”
“What is it?”
“Whatever it is, it is good for you and you must take it.”
She proffered the spoon, and I took it into my mouth. It was the foulest piece of work I ever ingested, and that’s saying something considering all the materials I put into my mouth as a boy. I struggled not to spit it out, which I might have done had my nurse not been present.
“Faugh!” I exclaimed. “That is so foul. Why did you not tell me?”
“I told you nothing of it either way, knowing if I told you how wretched it was, you would not take it.”
“And how you know how terrible is?”
“As part of our training, we nurses were required to have a taste of each medicine we would give to our patients. Just a mere taste of this one made girls spit it out or throw it up or say unladylike things about it.”
“Which did you do?”
“None of those. I swallowed it, which we were not supposed to do, and, being slight of form, I fainted.”
“If I faint, will you revive me?”
“You have not so far, so I believe you are safe. Now eat your food from Olympus.”
I ate my meal with gusto I would not have believe before my injury. Such a thought made me realized that with all our banter, I did not ask what happened to me. I would have to remedy that situation.
With a full stomach and the medicine at work on me, I fell asleep. As I did, I wondered, would Laurel come again. Surely she would, I thought, and with that I lost all awareness.