Lincoln County Central invites local artists of all varieties to share their latest creations with the community.  Submissions will be showcased in a running feature titled ‘County Creations.’

Unfinished

By Rick Hardy

As she came to the edge of the battlefield she did not hesitate. The gore and blood had ceased to bother her centuries ago. That didn’t mean that she felt nothing. She still felt pity and a huge sense of unneeded loss each time she saw scenes like this. She had seen so much that the shock and horror of such dismal scenes no longer had much impact on her.

She moved, without walking, from one body to the next, pausing to touch some of the men with hands that were not hands. They responded by touching her with their hands that were not hands.

Her gown was white and yet, at times, it looked grey or opal. On occasion it even seemed to be translucent or a blinding blue-white. She observed this with her eyes that were not eyes, but did not wonder about causes or explanations. She merely proceeded across the battlefield, touching as she went. But, she did not pause to touch everyone on this killing field.

Uniforms or political philosophies meant nothing to her. Some, she sensed, were good men and she touched them. Some were good men who had done evil things and a few of these she touched. Some were evil men and these she avoided. She was not judgmental in her actions, she merely sensed, that if she were to touch them, she would not like the way they would make her feel.

Sometime in the far distant past, she had tried to touch everyone. She had quickly learned that instead of gratitude, some responded with anger and animosity. They often tried to belittle her or frighten her. Not that they could communicate with words, by using mouths and lips and tongues that were not mouths and lips and tongues. But they could communicate evil thoughts and desires and emotions that she would not tolerate, so she would not touch them.

When she touched someone, she communicated, without words, all they needed to understand about death. “Your body is no longer alive. You do not need to remain. You may leave and move on if you wish.”

The very old and very young seemed to understand this more quickly. She often found they had left their bodies without her touch. They did not seem so urgently attached to their bodies as the men she found on battlefields.

In another age, an age of plagues and disease and cruelty, she often came upon the spirits of infants sitting beside or lying beside mothers who had yet to accept that death had conquered their bodies. In those days she had been moved by the sight of an infant, often with a tiny hand that was not a hand resting softly on an arm or breast, or face of the mother, patiently waiting for realization to overcome denial.

Often the elderly were quick to leave bodies that had been wracked with pain. The maimed, the disfigured, the diseased, did not need her message or encouragement. She would see them leave, pause for a moment or two, and then they were gone. They simply moved on to whatever came next.

There were those, particularly among the young, that struggled the hardest with the reality of their own deaths. They seemed to stay with those bodies trying to will them to live. Some would stay for days hoping that at any moment, the body would awake and join the living once again. Some stayed in their bodies until after burial. She could sense them lying silently in the cold dark earth waiting for something that would never come.

The trauma of burial, or destruction by fire in some cultures, or watching a corpse decay or be eaten by scavengers eventually convinced the most persistent of spirits and they would eventually leave their bodies.

Preventing or lessening that trauma had become her mission. It gave her satisfaction and made her feel better, more complete. It did not make her happy, because happiness was beyond her, but she did feel a quiet sort of joy. The gratitude they expressed was uplifting. It had sustained her for centuries, and so she continued with her mission.

By using that term, do not suppose that she had been assigned a task or responsibility by some higher power. She had given this mission to herself.

Under certain conditions, she did not understand, she could be seen by the living. This usually occurred after darkness had fallen. Most often, only a few of the living could detect her presence with their mortal eyes. This night was one of those occasions.

She had witnessed death and destruction when it was an up close and personal business. Much of the work of death on this battlefield had been done at a distance. The technology of war had advanced to less personal, more distant devices. Detecting her light colored gown across the field of death, a soldier raised one of these devices to his shoulder and fired.

The soldier’s bullet missed its mark and even if his aim had been true, it would have found no mark at all. Irritated, she turned to face the soldier. He saw her move toward him with her hand outstretched and the first and second fingers pointing directly at him in a most threatening manner. The man dropped his weapon and ran for his life. She paused while others of his company stared right through her or past her, searching for the impending threat.

An instant later, she was back at her task, sensing all and touching some. Their unspoken thanks and gratitude filled her heart that was not a heart and sustained her through the night. She finished shortly after a beautiful sunrise revealed the ugliness of death.

Long ago, she had probably questioned how she was able to travel. Now she just accepted the fact that shortly after becoming aware or sensing death, she was there. She was aware of individual death, even at a distance. Multiple deaths attracted her, drew her, and she was suddenly there. Because it helped in her mission, she did not question how or why.

She would move from one bedside to another, or from a bedside to the scene of an accident. Hospitals and hospices were a somewhat new phenomenon and she appreciated the organization they brought to her mission. Assisting those souls who were now spirits without bodies had been her only purpose for centuries. She helped them understand that since their bodies were dead they could separate from them and, if they chose, to move on.

Leaving the body seemed the biggest hurdle to most. Moving on was not. She knew that at some time she had lived and died and left her body. Yet, she had not moved on. Something inside her communicated that it was not yet time. She felt unfinished and could not let herself move on. Curiosity had tempted her slightly but she found it easy to resist.

As she committed to her mission, she had undoubtedly asked herself, “When spirits move on do they go somewhere, to another dimension of existence, or do they simply cease to exist?” She had her opinions or beliefs, but her desire to serve others and finish what needed to be done was far stronger than her curiosity. So she continued, moving from body to body, from disaster to disaster, from war to war.

Once or twice a century, she supposed, she came upon others with the same chosen mission. They did not speak, but briefly communicated just the same. They had chosen the same task for similar reasons. Like her, they also journeyed from death to death.

Deep inside, she had developed a theory that was not a theory because it was not based on impulses traveling from neuron to neuron in a living brain. Nevertheless, it was her theory of what it would mean to be complete, to be finished so that she could move on.

She would be finished when her world was finished. She and those who had chosen this same mission would be complete when the world no longer supported human life. At times, she believed the end was rapidly drawing near. Other times she saw indications that humanity might prevail over its worst flaws and predispositions. Perhaps mankind and her mission would come to and end with the death of the star that gave this planet life. Until then, there were plagues and disease and starvation and wars. It seemed there were always wars.

Once again she found herself on a battlefield. Night had fallen and all was quiet except for the cries of those who had clung to life despite their mortal wounds. She had to bypass these until later in the night. Time had little meaning to her. She continued her task and was somewhat surprised that morning was not far away.

In the predawn chill she sensed the glow that hinted at morning. She reached down to touch the hand of the next soldier and was surprised by his youth. Like so many she had seen before, he seemed barely old enough to play war, let alone fight in one. This thought nudged a memory that was not a memory and she remembered that she must have been about his age when she had died. She was at once both happy and sad about the memory. Sad that she had died so young, yet happy that she had remembered something about herself that had been gone for too long.

As she touched his hand he touched her back. This was not an uncommon occurrence. Many times she had experienced a spirit touching hers more deeply to offer more than just a surface, “Thank you”. He arose with her right hand that was not a hand in his left hand that was not a hand. The two faced each other and communicated.

Her senses that were not senses suddenly became more aware. At the same time, her mind seemed to dull. She could not quite make it respond like it should. Her heart that was not a heart seemed to beat faster and her lungs that were not lungs attempted to keep pace with a demand for oxygen that was not even real.

The two continued to communicate without the confusion and misinterpretation that come with the use of words. He stepped closer without stepping and their bodies that were not bodies were almost touching. He now held both of her hands in his.

No impulses moved from neuron to neuron, but a memory formed and flashed into her mind. She was a child waking from sleep. She had been sleeping by a fire and had roused to see the coals dimming as morning came. She was warm and she could hear voices and see shadows of people that had to be her family and loved ones. She heard no words, but the tone of the voices were pleasant and peaceful and she was very happy.

She felt as if those coals were now in her belly; not high up like a stomach full of warm food, but lower down. Not burning like flames; but warming and peaceful like those embers from her distant past.

He moved forward once more and their faces were almost touching. His lips were very close to hers. She felt the warmth and peace move down into her legs and up towards her chest. As their lips touched, she felt complete. The two spirits hesitated for another instant and then they were gone.

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Clark M. “Rick” Hardy is a long-time resident of Alamo, Nevada, and has been highly involved in many facets of the community. Rick worked from 1979-2008 as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in the Lincoln County School District. He is also a building contractor and has constructed many homes and buildings in Alamo. He served a four-year term as a Lincoln County commissioner and in many other local and state capacities through the years.