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It was agreed. Tacitly. As long as there was no fuss, everyone could offer to hang themselves up quietly. The least little commotion, the soldiers would come in and rough things up to get the job finished on time.
So the quiet little huddle of friends quietly and with brave (forlorn) faces offered themselves up - one by one by one.
Security was so tight, the walls so thick, the distance to the outside so big, no one even questioned if there were any other choice.
First to go was gentle and brave Beth. As the soul group stood looking at each other as in a dream, Beth murmured, as in a dream: "I'll be first".
The bravest among them - The Arranger - took her soft young form and hung the orange blouse on a wire hanger. She arranged it lovingly with great care. When all the wrinkles were smoothed out by the gentle caress of friendly passing over of hands, the one who was to remain, the one who performed the role of mother of the little band of souls - The Arranger - like sending her precious ones off to school for the first day - passed the hanger over to The Commander. Not being of the roughest class of soldiers, he took the little soul dressed in its best orange blouse into the room next door and gently hung it up to dry.
The minds in the waiting room were carefully calculating the longest moments in time available to spend in the preparation without overstaying the boundary allotment by the ticking clock.
The back recesses of their minds revived childhood stories of Peter Pan walking the plank - hearing the tick tocking of the clock on the inside of the waiting crocodile at the end of the inevitable gangplank.
The receiving solder patiently waited outside the half-open door for just the right moment to come in - to receive the next item for him to hang up to dry. He prided himself on his sensitivity in this most delicate of duties.
He almost imperceptibly glanced at his wrist watch from time to time to be sure the job would be done before the end of his shift.
Neither did he want overtime, nor did he want the gruff commander on the next shift to finish the job roughshod and clumsy.
He did care that the job was done right and skillfully, with conscious consideration. He desired that no clumsy, pushy buffoon would come in with the next shift and make a muck and insult of the gentle nature of the souls getting ready to be hung out on his watch.
The little band sweetly and bravely clung to each other. They were educated and cultured. Making a fuss was anathema to their upbringing. Each was committed to making no awkward display for the sake of supporting her brave sister souls. Each secretly and in the privacy of her own thoughts - wondered if the dream would end and everyone would wake up and shake their heads at the strangeness of dreams as they prepared to go about their own days.
The hypnotic group trance prevailed.
It was as a dream, and they were all play-acting.
As no wake up call happened, after a seemingly all-too-short pause plus the pressure of the guards timed presence outside the door, the next brave soul stepped forth from the huddle. She had affixed the sweet still smile to her lips. They were all thinking the same spiritually correct thought - which they sincerely believed at that moment - that death was just a little lull in their consciousness - and next they would awaken in some glorious realm filled with some unknown kind of light. Some kind of a golden light surrounded with the essence of spirit. Perhaps a reunion of some sort. Like the high-school reunion they had attended last year. Everyone looking at each other, marveling at the changes, trying to make the best of them, and looking for old signs of recognition amidst cries of "Oh My God! Is that really YOU?" All the way secretly wondering "What Happened".
A quiet timid soul, seeing the dilemma of her soul sisters, stepped forth next. She offered up her floral printed summer cotton dress. It had a full skirt, soft, swaying - good for swirling in the wind. It would look charming hanging on the drying rod. The perfect covering for a summer day breezy event.
The Arranger lovingly accepted the gift of her dress into her hands. As with the first, she too arranged this offered gift with great care and precision. The little band of waiters watched intently. Soul-fully.
When all the wrinkles and creases were smoothed out to perfection - as best as one could in this impromptu waiting room - the considerate soldier stepped through the doorway and received the hanger into his hands.
He took it lovingly. Softly he went into the room next door, and hung up this dress next to the blouse - on the drying rod.
The little group in the bedroom bravely noticed that their huddle was noticeably smaller. Two down. More yet to come.
One by one, each stepped forth to go next. Very orderly, in deep stillness, and quietness. Each was focusing on keeping her mind still and getting ready for the great surprise of the moment when her own turn came to be hung up on the rod. Hung up to dry.
Each silently wondered if they would notice anything. Any sensation? Just stillness? Would they feel alone? Frightened? Relieved? Would some friendly hand come to sooth their foreheads, like their mother did when they were little children with a fever in the night? Would anybody care? Would anybody notice? How would it feel to be hanging helplessly? Would they have regret? Would it be just like going to sleep, and waking up someplace else - like falling asleep in the back of the car on a trip and groggily waking up to being sleepily carried by a parent in the middle of the night into a waiting warm comfy soft bed?
Would it have been better to try to escape the hanging? Make a big fuss, and maybe get man-handled and shot after being roughed up?
Quicker? Hence easier and more certain?
These unanswerable and unspoken questions hovered in the air - just out of conscious reach.
The silent majority of the group proceeded peacefully - with resignation - to their hanging. Each put forth her best garment for the special event.
The smallest among them put on her soft white nightgown. She looked so pale and thin. So delightfully delicate. Just a waif of a young woman. A shadow of her former giggly buoyant self. She was last to go. The Arranger thought to give her some extra encouragement. So she gave her an extra firm send-off hug. Instead of the light barely-brief hug all the others had received from the circle as they departed, The Arranger wanted to give the Littlest One some special attention. Perhaps to relieve the hidden anxiety in her own mind. So she gave the Littlest One an extra firm hug. As if this-is-really-happening, be-brave-goodbye hug to her little form. She pressed the Littlest One into her ribs, into her breast, and into her heart. A Momma Bear hug. She felt the warmth and living throb of her littlest body. She could feel the trembling underneath the quiet surface of her passive face - so carefully arranged.
Like the deep current under the calm surface.
All too suddenly, The Arranger realized the mistake. Instead of the fleshly hug being supportive, it touched upon the carefully put-to-bed fear of The Littlest One that maybe - just maybe - the hanging up would not be so peaceful and lovely after all. It would be too final. There would be no escape.
The Arranger gently, firmly, and quickly pulled her energy and body back from the too-physical-for-comfort embrace.
As she arranged the little white soft flannel nightgown on the smallest hanger, all so gently, all so carefully, she stretched out the time of the arranging to the max - as long as she dared without breaching the time allotted for this arranging. Each smiled wanly at each other. Each focusing on the reality beyond the hanging period. Each thinking how they would arrange their minds.
Gone were the reassuring partings of friends - the bravely called out:
"It'll go quick - no worries!"
"It won't take long at all and we'll all meet on the other side."
They had discussed how they would find and recognize each other on the other side.
Like high school girls going off to college - wondering how they would meet and find each other on the new larger campus.
Would they still look noticeably the same? Or would they have to look for some subtle invisible signs apparent only to the soul knowledge?
The Littlest One was arranged in silence. When she was all smoothed over, she was handed out the door to The Commander - who took her and hung her up in the room next door. He shoved some of the other hangers of the previously dried over a bit to make room for the newest, last and littlest one. Still wet with life. The pale white nightgown shivered in the breeze.
The Arranging One - having finished her day's work - thought fondly of her friends - wondering when her turn would come to be hung out to dry. Would some friendly hand arrange her just so, smooth out the wrinkles, be sure she was hung up straight on the hanger? Or would it be some careless untidy person who just threw her form haphazardly, all out of shape onto some rough object? And then abandon her roughly to her fate on the drying rack? Swinging and swaying haphazardly instead of orderly and nice?
The Arranger turned her mind to the pleasanter choice of scenarios, and went to sleep. She whispered soulfully to her friends just before she passed into sleep: "See you on the other side. Watch for me. Don't forget me if it takes too long."
Vaguely, during the night, her consciousness came back into the bedroom. She heard the soldiers talking softly in the drying room next door. She saw that they had removed the items that had thoroughly dried. But one blouse was still damp. She was still holding on. The orange blouse wondered why she was taking longer than the other ones to dry. She was numb to any sensations of this world, but her mind wondered if she were indeed going to dry, or if she would be taken down and brought back inside the room.
No one noticed her concern or question at all. The soldiers just squeezed each item to test if it was dried enough to take down. They left her to her solitary alone hanging waiting dampness. She hung wonderingly. Immobile. Helpless. Just waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Watching watching watching. Hung in limbo.
The Arranger went back to sleep - the questions barely hanging in her consciousness. How long would it take to be finished drying?
And what next?
This story weaves together highfalutin spiritual concepts, realty politics, past life impressions, many people passing over, fear, consequences, living and drying.
"Genius! Like Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, Harry Potter.!
Rosie, San Diego
"Shedding clothing is an interesting way of explaining the beginning of something. Cute story - not morbid. It is like the story of a girl who decided to come down with all the light that was missing from this planet. She said "I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go." She came down - and forgot why she came. So a second volunteer came down and sang on her window sill til shel remembered."
Copyright 2010, 2016 Pat Crosby. All Rights Reserved.
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COMMENTS RECEIVED VIA EMAIL
Much to ponder.
I have a sense of animal souls or of angels incarnating in animal forms in the story... they see themselves as gossamer beings.. in the warrior world of this earth they are meat to be hung out to dry (as in the etymology of that expression).
Also, an experience of mine this weekend: Driving south on the state highway from my house, a heavily shaded road, I was angry that a car approaching me had no lights on. I hardly saw it until it was close, and animals would have no chance. On my return, like clockwork, there was roadkill, a furry being, on that shaded stretch of road. When I passed that way again, crows were carrying off the meat. Departure of a gossamer soul?
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