May wakes up in a white room.
She blinks the sleepiness away and sits up. Taking in her surroundings, everything she can see is white. From the walls, empty of any decoration nor furnitures, to her bed sheets and blanket and even the clothes she has on her. She cannot remember how she got here, much less does she know what the place is.
“Hello?” In that tiny voice of a 7 year old, May calls out. There is a door at the centre of the wall opposite from her bed and she has half the mind to walk towards it. But, before she can even set her feet onto the cold tiles, the door opens and in walks a man in a white coat. Another white thing to add to her list.
The man immediately closes the door behind him so May cannot even dream to peer out so she focuses on him instead. He looks like he is of the same age as May’s parents, in his early 30’s and he smiles at her reassuringly. “Hello, May. Did you sleep well?” The facts that he seems like he could be friends with her parents and that he knows her name put May’s mind a little at ease and she answers his question with a quick nod. “My name is Michael and I’ll take care of you while you’re here,” he says.
The little girl lights up at the mention of his name. “‘Michael’ like the angel?” She asks with the brightest smile on her face and Michael can only say ‘yes’. “Does this mean I’m in heaven?”
Startled, Michael gulps and then, summoning that same optimism as the child in front of him, he tries to copy her smile. Though, it isn’t without a little twitch at the corner of his mouth when he again says ‘yes’. A conscious adult such as him does not have the heart to say anything else but that.
“Can I see my parents?” She asks the damned question and Michael is forced to break his pattern of yeses and finally gives her the dreaded ‘no’.
Michael takes a seat beside her on the bed. “I’m afraid your parents are not allowed to enter… heaven.” He hesitates before continuing. “At least not yet.” The smile on May’s face suddenly falters as if the thought of paradise no longer amuses her because she finds it lonely to be without her parents. Seeing this, Michael rambles on in hopes of helping May recover her spirit. “But, if you keep on being the good girl that you are, I promise that I’ll let them visit sooner. You’ll see them in no time.”
The light reappears in May’s eyes and she reaches for Michael’s hands. “You promise? Angels can’t break their promises.”
After their short conversation, Michael excuses himself and promises that he will come back with her breakfast. When asked why she still needs to eat or sleep or goes to the bathroom in heaven, Michael can only offer “because heaven works that way” as an answer. He knows she has so many more questions and it almost deters him from coming back to give May her breakfast for he cannot bear having to lie again to an innocent and naive girl but he has already lied enough and it is impossible to backtrack now without possibly hurting her feelings.
Michael does come back with breakfast of toasts and jam but he does not stay. As early as her first meal in heaven, May already feels lonely and bored. There is not a single thing in the room that she can play with. For one, there is nothing else present except for her bed, a plastic table where she is having her toasts and a small bathroom in the corner without locks on its door. There isn’t even a window where she can look out of. From the ceiling, there hangs a light bulb but staring at it gets boring after a few minutes. May wishes she has some colour pencils and papers to draw on and she makes a mental note to ask for them the next time Michael comes in.
Lunchtime comes but Michael has a serious look on his face when he walks in and May feels it is inappropriate cause more stress for him so she doesn’t ask for them right away. Instead, she dutifully answers all of Michael’s questions.
“May,” he starts. “You understand that to come here, something must’ve happened to you, right? Something bad. Do you remember what it is?”
May tries her best to answer but a girl can only remember so much while munching down a chicken sandwich. “I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember what happened before you- before you fell asleep?”
“No.” She swallows down the sandwich.
“What’s the last thing you can remember?”
“Can’t you ask god? He knows.”
The innocence in her answer could’ve charmed Michael in any other circumstances but not this one. He struggles to keep a smile on his face. “May, I need you to try and tell me the last thing you remember. It’s important to- to know where we shall place you after this.”
Putting her meal down, May frowns at her guardian angel. “But this is heaven. Are you saying I’m going to hell if I don’t answer correctly?” Her lips quiver from the fear of hell, a place so terrible and made for keeping bad people, as her parents have taught her. “I don’t want to go to hell.”
“You won’t,” Michael is too quick with his words but not his thoughts that it takes him some moments to find his next sentence. “But I need the answer so I’ll know if we can put you in a different heaven.” Michael himself is getting confused with his own made up heaven analogy but if that is what it takes to get an answer out of her, he’ll be damned if he doesn’t know how to properly lie to a child.
Scratching the back of her head that Michael knows does not itch, May looks down as if thinking, trying to remember what is lost from her memory. Or at the very least, the fraction of memory that is closely related to the one she lost. “I remember mommy and daddy,” she starts and Michael sits up straighter, leans his body towards her and is all ears. “They were telling me something. A good news. I don’t remember what they were saying but daddy put his hand on mommy’s belly but the belly looked swollen. I don’t know why they were smiling when mommy’s belly was swollen like that. I was scared but they were smiling and laughing.”
“You were scared?” Michael inquires.
“I was scared.”
“Were you angry, too?”
“Why would I be angry?” May turns her head and looks at Michael. In her eyes, Michael can see confusion, fear and, he believes, the anger that he speaks of.
“May, do you know what ‘pregnant’ means?”
“With a baby,” she answers, nonchalant. She fails to see where Michael is going with this.
Michael nods. “Correct. Your mommy is pregnant with your little brother or sister. That’s why her belly looks swollen.” May looks down at her swinging feet. She has a habit of swinging her feet when she feels nervous. Michael’s tone tells her he thinks she is stupid. “Do you like that mommy is pregnant?”
“I didn’t know she’s pregnant.”
You just don’t remember that you do know that, Michael wants to say but instead, he asks, “Well, now that you do, do you like it? Or are you angry?”
Michael is trying to make sense of what had happened that could cause a 7 year old girl to be sent to this god awful place she believes to be heaven and he thinks he’s being clever with his approach. But May’s response catches him off guard nonetheless. “Why does it matter? I’m dead. I’m in heaven.”
Feeling defeated, Michael lets May eat the rest of her meal in peace and asks no more follow-up questions. She is still a child. Maybe his questions are a little too intense if not condescending. May takes the silence as her turn to ask questions.
“Can I get colour pencils and papers? I get bored.”
“No,” Michael says. Short and precise.
“How about crayons?”
“Can I go outside?”
“Do I get to see my parents?”
“Are you an angel, Michael?”
“Am I in heaven?”
That’s it. Michael can’t even keep up his lie for a day. Maybe he is an angel that god created to always tell the truth.
“Can you leave me alone?”
Finally a ‘yes’ comes out of his mouth and Michael walks out of the room. As soon as the door closes behind him, he hears a scream from inside and in that moment he knows that when he asks May about it tomorrow, she will not remember why her throat hurts.