This passage from my memoir “Cult Child” discusses a near-death experience I had when I was five years old. The setup is an exorcism in which I was bound to a chair and beaten in order to exorcise a demon from my body. Details can be found in the book. This information is being shared with the goal of learning more about the path of a near-death experience, particularly in childhood. Some of my most vivid memories are from this time.
“I have departed myself. I am traveling in another dimension where humans don’t normally visit, where we go to escape horrific things. This place I have found myself at feels like my real home.
I am on the edge of a forest, which is behind me. Directly ahead of me is a vast field of flowers. I am in awe of the colors. I have never seen so much brilliance before. There is a golden blanket of flowers in a color prism so pure; it gives off its very own glowing light. If light can sing, if color has a voice, it is a symphony to me as its soft harmonies pour from the shimmering petals. This is not only a color my eyes see. No. I can feel this color inside each hair and cell of my whole body.
Suddenly, I sense immense danger. Fear and panic settle into my throat. My chest is heavy. I struggle to breathe. I glance behind me into the thick forest of trees. There is a dark thicket there as though all around the trees is a bed of thorns waiting to slash my legs if I run into the forest. The shadows pouring through the leaves are so deeply black it is the color of nothingness.
My heart is pounding out of my chest as I stare into the darkness, waiting for a band of Elders to come running toward me. Echoing from within the trees, I hear the faint screaming of a child, the guttural sound of her wailing for help. I am desperately filled with the urge to go help her. I must run toward this crying voice, but I am paralyzed with fear of the danger waiting in the forest.
My attention is suddenly back to the field of flowers. In the pocket of my skirt, my hand brushes the rock I found in the potato field one morning while picking grubs. It is special to me because it is shaped exactly like a heart. I have been hiding it, tucking it under my pillow as I sleep. It has become my little doll. My daughter. The most special thing I own. I carry it in my pocket, touching it when I can; terrified it will be found and taken from me.
Yet, I feel a gloating feeling, because I have a secret that no one knows, not even evil Sister Debbie. I clutch the rock as the echoing screams of the child in the forest fade behind me.
I let my eyes soak in the field of flowers in front of me. I am looking at the golden flower petals again, shining as far as my eyes view can stretch. They are held together by small, black centers. I can see each tiny strand of the flowers’ details as my vision is extremely intensified. I can see inside of its very DNA to the center of its birthed existence. I have microscopes for eyes.
I am left breathless by the beauty in front of me. I step toward the flowers. I want to touch them, smell them, pick them, and hold a fresh bunch of them to my chest. I want to dive into them and dance with their movement. They sing softly to me, little gold cymbals with angel voices. I am giddy inside thinking of running through this beautiful field forever.
There is a presence to the right of me. I can feel its vibrations, fully aware of its existence, but it does not make me feel afraid. I am more curious as to what I am feeling. I know it is good. I can feel the love coursing from it. It feels like someone from home; the home where I am supposed to live.
I can’t move my eyes away from the beauty of this field. There is a sudden echo of the crying child. My fingers rub the rock, and I push my toes into the soft grass, fighting the urge to run back towards the forest. I look down at my feet, watching the shadow of the being that is drifting beside me. The shadow holds my eyes mesmerized as I follow it.
My eyes move upwards, to the right, where blue satin like material is flowing. The blue sometimes looks black, changing hues with the movement. It dances softly right in front of my face, and I see that my hand is wrapped inside of another hand.
My eyes continue travelling until they come to rest on the slender fingers engulfing mine. The wrist is covered in soft, cream colored lace jetting out from beneath a long, shimmering, blue sleeve. I keep following the arm upward, until my view falls on the face of the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. She is smiling down at me with open lips, her teeth brilliantly perfect and white, but not like real teeth. Her teeth are more like shards of light beams both static and flickering at the same time. She has black hair, long and straight, falling down her back like a horse’s mane, all the way to her waist. Each strand of hair is prevalent to my eye. I can see each molecule as it moves almost in slow motion but seemingly normal here.
Her eyes are twinkling and grinning at me playfully. I smile back, glowing inside of my own heart. I am feeling something again; something I only felt when I was a baby. It was stolen from me by bad people, but I feel it with her. She is somewhat translucent, shining beside me as a half human, half soft, misted light glowing around and through her whole body.
I am instantly in love with her face. She has the kindest eyes I have ever seen. Her skin is a soft, shimmering blue. It is not like my skin, not this pale, human skin that peels and bleeds beneath it. Hers is pure light layers and even slightly transparent, glistening just like her eyes. I know immediately that she is my Mother in this other world. I am her daughter. I know it with sureness, no doubt. This one, not the one sitting at the fat table, starving her skin away; this is my real Mother. I know her right away with a familiarity that feels like home. I am happy here with her. I exhale. Finally, I am safe again. Time has gone away.
The sounds from the forest catch my ear once again, and I look behind me. The screams of the child echo from the trees. Why won’t she stop screaming? I feel a sweep of agitation at the distraction. I hold my breath and jerk my head back fast back towards the flowers and the warm presence of the Mother. She is holding my hand ever so gently. I want to step inside of her skirt and hide forever.
We stand together wordlessly, watching the soft breeze move the yellow flower petals like an ocean of pure gold. Forever we stand there together, two beings enraptured by light.
I don’t know how long the beating lasts that is happening back in the room I have left. My heart feels heavy now. I know I have to go back into the forest and return to Sister Freda’s room. I don’t want to go back there. I want to stay here forever.
I am cloaked in the sadness of knowing I have to leave here and go back. I watch the Mother’s eyes. My heart aches deep, because I feel no sadness from her gaze. Why isn’t she sad? I don’t understand this. How can she not feel the sadness I feel? Her mind tells me that it will be okay as she continues to smile with shimmering teeth.
“No.” I wordlessly reply. “It won’t. They hit me. All of the time.”
She looks at me, approving, gentle and knowing.
“I know,” her eyes tell me.
I feel frustrated and confused. I don’t understand why I have to go back. I beg her with my mind.
“Can’t I stay? Please?”
My eyes are starting to tear up. They leak onto my cheeks as I plead with her. She doesn’t speak. She just looks at me with peaceful eyes which say she understands why I don’t want to go back, but that I must. Her lips continue to smile. How can she smile like this when she knows how horrible it is back there?
I don’t cry or stamp my foot in protest. I don’t throw fits like any normal five year old would. I just stand there with tears flowing down the sides of my eyes. I feel like a woman inside of a child; my eyes steadily lock with the Mother as our connection becomes a thin strand. We are being pulled apart from each other.
She is fading, becoming invisible. The field of golden flowers is waving through her skirt, which is slowly vanishing as it turns more and more transparent. She is still holding onto my hand, her soft, pale fingers interlaced with mine. We dance inside of the separation, no struggle, just her steady stream of energy pulsing through me.
We have accepted this parting. Her love sweeps past me like she is breathing a sigh onto my skin. I have never felt anything like this. I must be dreaming. I am sleeping. That’s it. A dream. I turn back to the forest. It is calling me.
“Sila! Sila! Answer me!”
The trees echo the sound of Sister Freda’s voice. Prayer. They are praying softly. They must have got the demon. I know I have to go now. I turn my back towards my otherkin Mother and her engulfing, colorful field of flowers. I step towards the trees, and I am sucked into their darkness at lightning speed.
I return to myself with no awareness of the moment I re-enter my body. It does not sit on my mind now, like when I left. I don’t know if I pass out, how long I take their blows or who unties…”