She was taunting me in my final moments. In an instant, the knife swung down in a bright flash like a bolt of lightning. I heard the blade slice and enter flesh with a squish. It was odd. I felt no pain. Perhaps Janice was merciful and my death was quick.
Then I heard her voice call out, “Do you call this sharp!" Her arm rose to show her hand holding the knife with its blade buried deep in the onion.
“What have you done to my kitchen, Donald? That knife should have sliced through that onion with ease. Don’t you ever sharpen them? How do you expect to cook like this?"
I remained frozen. Had I died, or had I gone mad?
Janice dropped the slain onion on the cutting board. “I’ve been watching you, Donald. Watching you try to move through life without me. I said you would never survive without me. Didn’t I? I never suspected that you would do so well at proving my point." Janice, or the spirit of Janice, turned and glided toward the stove.
“And look at the crud on this stove! You know they started a pool on you where I just came from? They wagered how soon you would set the house aflame and roast yourself along with it." Janice shook her head, then dropped her chin into her chest as if admitting a loss.
She turned and looked at me. “Well, what do you have to say for yourself?"
I tried to speak, but I heard myself mutter, “Uuuhh."
“Donald, you look like you’ve seen a ghost." Then, she laughed. “Well, I guess you have."
Janice bent one leg across the other and put a hand on her hip.
“Well, anything to say?" she asked.
My throat felt like someone had poured a bag of sand into my mouth. I swallowed hard.
“Is it you, Janice?" I asked.
“You mean you don’t even recognize your own wife? Oh, Donald, how could you forget, after all we’ve been through?”
I could feel my body settling down. My breathing eased, my heart no longer jumping out of my chest.
“But how? How is it possible? Is this all a dream?" I asked.
She spread her arms and raised her hands up over her head.
“More like a nightmare I’d say. I die and leave you alone and look what happens."
Her arms and hands flopped down at her sides. “I’m just surprised you haven’t killed yourself yet."
Janice must have noticed that her appearance dumbfounded me.
“Don’t worry, Donald. I’m here now."
“You mean, it’s my time?" I asked
“No, sweetheart. I’m here to help."
I am perplexed.
“Help with what?"
A tender look of sympathy spread over Janice’s face. “Sweetheart, I could see you’ve been struggling. They could all see that you’ve been struggling."
“Them . . . where you came from?" I asked.
“Yes, them, Donald. I persuaded them to let me come back for a while to help you out. Just until you’re able to, you know, get along a little better."
“They allow that?" I asked.
“Believe me, they were not too keen on letting anyone come back. But when have I not gotten what I wanted?" she said. “Besides, I think they were happy to have me gone for a little while." Janice surveyed the dirty dishes in the sink and shook her head.
The terror continued to subside as confusion took its place.
“I have to ask, Janice. Why are you wearing a robe?"
Janice waved her hand and turned her head away.
“I know. The whole flowing white gown thing, right. Look, you know the ultimate comfort for me is lounging in my robe and pajamas. If I need to dress for eternity I’m going with comfort," she said with a smile.
My thoughts turned from believing I’m trapped in a nightmare to living in a dream. I’ve recovered somewhat, but my legs were still wobbly. I turned and slowly walked over to the kitchen table.