John Andrews passed through life as invisible as possible. His early memories were difficult living with unhappy parents who frequently took out their unhappiness on him. Emotionally scarred instead of lashing out, John retreated into himself. Blend in, don’t make a fuss, make sure not to stand out be invisible. Unfortunately, the necessities of survival disconnected him from the rest of the world as well.
School life consisted of going to school every day, doing his work and coming home. John wasn’t a nerd, didn’t like sports nor was he into student government. No one really remembered him, just the quiet person that sat in the back. He made no connections. College life was the same. Picking a college and major at random it really didn’t matter. He just needed enough money to survive. After graduation his invisible existence continued, sitting behind a desk all day doing his work and then leaving without a fuss.
John Andrews existed nothing more, nothing less.
The invisible man did have his virtues. He was a kind man, always helped a stranger, would lend money to people he knew and would not expect it back. On especially hard days, he would find himself in pet store and visit the caged animals. John connected with those creatures knowing he lived in a prison he made for himself. The saddest part if anyone bothered to ask if he was happy, John would have truthfully said, I don’t know.
Fate would step in on one cold wintery day. Sitting on a bench outside his office, John watched a group of children skate across the frozen city lake. Sipping a cup of gourmet coffee, one of his few vices he watched as some of the girls spun around like tops. They all seemed happy, laughing and giggling even when one of the girls fell. There was no rancor in their laughs just friends having a good time. The only thing John was concerned about was the warm spell that lasted a few days earlier in the week. The ice might be thin in some parts and he hoped that the city would have checked it beforehand. A terrified scream brought him to his feet.
It felt that his purpose in life had all lead up to this moment in time. John reached the break in the ice in seconds, not even realizing that he should have slipped half the way. Three older women had managed to pull two of the children out of the freezing water.
“Who is missing.” He asked while taking off his shoes and jacket.
A small girl, with tears in her eyes said. “Alison and Janet didn’t come up.”
John dove into the water, it’s cold hitting him like a hammer. A thousand needs smashed across his nerves, but he felt none of it. The first girl he found quickly. It was difficult to see in the murky water but John reached under her arms and brought her to the surface. With all of his might, he pushed the girl on to the ice. After two quick deep breaths, he dove again.
Unfortunately, years of neglecting his body started to catch up to him. His chest began to burn. Pain radiated in his arms and back. Still the thought of those children’s happiness marred by a death of one of their own drove him forward. He never knew such happiness in his life and he felt, no he knew that he needed to protect it.
Still the body has its limits. It screamed at him to stop but he couldn't, he wouldn't. The flash of a skate in the darkness filled him with purpose, his lungs now bursting he reached down grabbing a small girl from its murky depths. His vision darkening, with one last push he drove towards the surface.
When the darkness cleared, John Andrews sat on a little hill overlooking the lake. Quite a number of people had already congregated at the lake's edge. Of course, it didn’t really matter anymore but he was glad to see he had at least made it to the surface. Paramedics seem to be trying to resuscitate him, but John was sure it was pointless. The only thing that still concerned him was the little girl the other set of paramedics were worked on. He really hoped she would live.
“Well John Andrews that was one of the bravest things I have seen. You humans can be quite amazing, though usually you suck.”
John looked up to find a young girl dressed in what appeared to be a Victorian outfit including an old fashion fur muff. He wondered if she was in some sort of play then he remembered he was dead.
“No I am not an angel, nor a Valkyrie or whatever else you might imagine.” She replied reading his thoughts. "I am a spiritual detective.”
“A spiritual detective, that’s an odd job function.”
“It’s an odd job,” The young girl smiled. “So what are we going to do about you?”
“What do you mean? I’m pretty sure I died. You can now take me to heaven, or that other place.”
“You’re taking this all very well John Andrews.”
“Well there is not much I can do about it, so no real reason to get excited over it.” John wasn’t paying attention to the conversation he really wanted to know how the little girl was doing. “Plus I feel that I have accomplished what I set out to do in this life.”
The world changed around the pair. They now stood inside County Hospital in the emergency room. He looked around, groups of nurses and doctors appeared to be working frantically to save their lives.
“You had a purpose John?
He nodded. “To save those girls happiness.”
The young girl slid her arm into his. “Because you never had any yourself?”
“Something like that, I guess.” John replied, it didn’t really matter. He never felt alive except for those
last few minutes of his life. If he died now, it would be OK.
“No it wouldn’t John. You’re a good spirit, who had a hard life. You deserve to have more.”
John laughed, “Not likely, looks like the doctors have given up on me.”
“True you had a massive myocardial infarction. Pretty much destroyed your heart. You don’t do anything by halves do you John.”
“A heart attack, well that would do it. What about the second girl I saved?”
The spiritual detective squeezed his arm. ”Alison has moved on as well. Learned whatever she needed to learn, fulfilled her purpose.”
“No.” John could feel sorrow build up inside him. Both girls needed to be saved, that was his purpose in this life.
“John what if your purpose in life was to save Janet but Alison’s purpose in life was to save you.” The spiritual detective walked behind John and gave him a little push.
John slowly opened his eyes finding himself in a hospital room. Everything felt different, looking down he knew why. He raised his hands, no longer were they the rough hands of a middle-aged man but that of a young girl. New memories came to him, her memories. Alison’s family, her friends, her experiences but over all her love of life flooded into his very spirit. It was like merging with the sun.
Alison once John turned her head as her parents entered the room. She could feel their warmth their love. Her smile lit up the room. She would not waste this precious gift of a second chance.
A young woman in Victorian dress floated above the family reunion. Alison’s parents moved forward to embrace her in a hug, quickly followed by a little girl who was bouncing about the room in joy. The spiritual detective reflected that in John’s entire life his smile never touched his eyes as it did now.
“Be happy John Andrews.” The spiritual detective smiled then faded from view.