The first time she died it was around noon, on a stifling hot day. Her carriage had ran off-track. Something had scared the horses and they sprinted off course, almost inverting the carriage as they went, knocking it on obstacles right and left. She was already injured when the carriage fell sideways onto a giant rock off the stone-covered road. The horses were so terrified that they continued to run at full speed. So fast, that they never even realized there was no more ground left to trample on. And the carriage fell off a high cliff. And that was their end.
The second time Teresa died, it was during a tornado. It was monsoon season, and everything happened too fast. As the saying goes, ‘when it rains it pours’, and there was certainly hail that day too. She was caught in a stone-house, not built to last such natural disasters. She could see the whirlwind approaching, but there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. The feeling of getting caught up in this monster, was like being pulled into a roller coaster from which you can’t escape. And then it all goes black. And you remember nothing more.
The third time, death came silently. Teresa was aboard a large cruise ship with her boyfriend. They had just gotten engaged in the most romantic of ways – he had even arranged fireworks for her – and she was over the moon. They were cozy in their cabin suite, falling asleep in the early hours of the morning, when something immense, hard and bulky crashed onto the ship. They hardly felt the water filling up their room, and it was only seconds before this force of nature took their last breath.
Teresa’s fourth encounter with the Reaper was during a car chase. She was after a known-fugitive. She knew this meant a promotion, recognition and acknowledgement that she was good at what she did. And that women could be just as good police officers as men. But when she finally trapped the fugitive and there was no way out, out of seemingly nowhere, he fired a gun that hit her straight in the heart. Her consolation lay only in the fact that she managed to fire right back and get him for it.
They say if you have one encounter with the afterlife, you would always remember it. Teresa had five. And she remembered every last minute. Even the shark bite that took her fifth life, when she tore her foot in the ocean outside a reef she set to explore. She remembered how she screamed and splashed, but there was no-one around to hear her because she had drifted too far out.
But somehow, she never remembered what happened afterwards. After the light at the end of the tunnel appeared. After she had crossed over.
It always felt like waking up from a dream. She was simply starting a new life, as if that was where she left off. It was strangely natural. But she never gave it too much thought.
Lately she had always been tormented by a thought – an obsession that penetrated her very being. It was the only thing that terrified her. La hora gris. The grey hour. When it is neither night nor day. But when it is better to fall than rise. That was how it had been imprinted in her brain. That hour of day scared her, more than anything.
It was that hour that she felt her end would come. Her final end. That hour that would take away everything from her. And that is why she rarely kept anything other than the clothes and jewelry she wore.
She spent a couple of years worrying about this fatal moment.
Until she met a man on the pier by her house. He appeared oddly familiar, and for some inexplicable reason she felt she knew him, deeper than any other person she had ever known. She felt a connection with him. A mysterious, incomprehensible feeling of trust, affection and attraction for this man.
And it was all realized when during that grey hour, he came towards her, smiled, and said: “Don’t drive yourself crazy and enjoy this moment, because you never know when life is going to hit us again.”
Instantly she knew. He had been with her all this time. He had accompanied her through all five lives. He was the carriage driver, the owner of the wooden shack, her fiancé, her police chief, her scuba instructor. He had failed to protect her all those times. But now he was right there. And everything would be all right.