Chapter One - Preview

For me, it all started when I was seventeen, just a few weeks shy of eighteen. I'd drowned when I was caught in a current after diving into the canal on a dare and smacking my head on the edge of the bridge from which I dived. Clinically dead for six minutes. I was in the hospital for a week, hearing words like brain damage and disability were batted around as possibilities. The refusal to speak on my part didn't bolster their faith in a full recovery.

No one seemed interested in the possibility that I didn't want to talk. Interested in the idea that maybe I didn't want to relive the things I saw in those brief moments that I'd moved on.

There'd been a vision. I only remembered bits and pieces, but they were enough- Flashes of brilliant white light and robed figures with hoods hiding their features.

I'd grown up having known the imagery before I could even spell my own name. With a retired theology professor for a father and a Sunday School teacher for a mother, How could I not? His continued faith may have faltered after my mother's death, but my father made sure I remembered that for the wicked there was Hellfire and brimstone, and that for the moral was the glory of Heaven. Glorious angels of beauty unrenowned and buildings of gold.

Amidst the beauty of the memories that stuck in my mind was the brief range of emotions left behind by the visions. Terror. Dread. Fear unbridled by glory and hope. Why was Hellfire suddenly more inspirational than the panic striking angels?

Finally, when my father decided that enough was enough, he asked that I be released on the grounds that the physicians couldn't find anything wrong with me.

While he talked about setting up appointments for me, I got ready for my release. An hour before I left, I had a visitor I hadn't expected. The hospital's chaplain. He and my father had been friends for as long as I could remember, but we hardly spoke. The last time I had even spoken to him was when he officiated my stepmother's sister's funeral a few months prior.

"Hello, Kenna," he said, realizing how strained the familiarity with which he addressed me was. "May I call you Kenna?" He stared at me for a moment before I nodded, deciding that it was better than being called by my last name. "I've come to speak with you about your experience. Your father is worried about how quiet you've become. They all are. The doctors, your father, your stepmother. They fear that there's been some sort of permanent damage."

I shrugged, indifferent to his plea. My father may have been worrying about my silence, but I was too busy trying to repress the terrified sensation I felt at the thought of Heaven.

"Might I ask you some questions about what happened? The answers will remain between the two of us, if you so wish," he stated, adjusting his glasses so that they rested once more at the bridge of his nose.

Once again, my shoulders heaved in response.

"Did you see anything? While you were- When you died?"

While there was a touch of surprise rising up in my that he'd actually referred to it as death rather than period of unconsciousness and near death, I was still tempted to roll my eyes, but my conscience got the better of me. Instead, I sighed and nodded.

"I remember your aunt talking about you, even before your father married your step mother. She spoke very highly of you. In a manner which leads me to believe that the likelihood of your going anywhere but Heaven to be very low. Tell me, Kenna, did you go to Heaven?"

I didn't respond at first. I hid behind my wall of silence. Memory told me to answer in the affirmative. Instinct told me otherwise. I still was shaky at determining which was right.

I could feel his eyes peering into me as he awaited my response. How could I tell a member of the clergy that-

"Heaven felt wrong, didn't it?" he asked, and I felt my spine stiffen in response.