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In Italy, a man on his way home from a business trip has a car accident and slips into a deep coma. He finds himself in an unknown dimension, before a mysterious supernatural being that exhorts him to tell him about his life. Thanks to the good behavior he demonstrated during his life, it is decided that he is destined for a heavenly place. There, he can do things that would have been impossible in life, and he can have a glance from above of the family that he has left behind on the Earth. Having planned to carry out good deeds for the benefit of the weak and needy of Earth, he is allowed to return there, and, beyond all hope, he wakes up from his coma. He is able to return to his wife and children, but he is also faced with many difficulties. With each passing day, he feels more and more nostalgia for the afterlife, and his family life becomes a prison for him. One day, he leaves on a long journey south, to other regions in Italy, in search of himself. He devotes his life to helping people and animals that are suffering. But the stumbling blocks become bigger and bigger, while his nostalgia becomes deeper and deeper, just as does his desire to return to that heavenly realm to bring to a close the circle of a life which he has lived twice. The author Fantaramus, or, rather, the man who hides behind this pseudonym, has decided to unearth an old story that he has kept tucked away for a long time. This is his first novel, with others to come.
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The Man Who Lived Twice
Bringing to a Close the Circle of Life
Translated by Sonya Pall
© 2016 Fantaramus, all rights reserved
First print edition: July 2018
Translation from the original Italian language by
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews.
The days have come and gone, and I now gaze upon the threshold of my seventh decade. Granted, I’m not likely to see as many eons as old Methuselah, and I could very well live for several more years, except for the fact that I currently find myself alone in a hospital bed in such critical condition that the doctors have given me just a few short months to live. I do believe these could be the last sunrises I see over the valley of the shadow of death, otherwise known as our mortal world, bringing to an end my miserable existence.
With this in mind, I would like to tell you a story that I have been keeping locked up in the vault of my memory where it has remained, safely hidden. I wish to share it because it’s a story that’s truly beyond the imagination, filled with unbelievable events, all of which represent a significant part of my life; and so I think it could be of interest to you.
It’s not just a chronicle of my life’s events, but it’s also a tale of compassion, warmth and love.
There are many episodes in my life that have come about, as in a metaphorical circle, as a result of an ordinary car accident, which, due to its severity, transported me first to an abstract dimension, a lofty place on high, and finally ending with these final days that I have left, bringing things to a full circle. And so, I shall now share my tale with you so that it may be left to posterity before it is too late.
My name is Davasio Gioacchino. I was born in the year 1950 in Pesaro, which is in the Marches, one of the twenty regions of my beloved Italy. I had always lived in the same region. Even if I moved, it was never too far away. While I was growing up, my family lived in the countryside on land that, despite the hard work my parents put into farming it, generally gave little in return. Furthermore, half of our harvest would go to the landowners, according to the rules of sharecropping. Given the conditions of the times, it wasn’t easy for our family to get by. However, our home was a place where peace and harmony reigned, one of the blessings of a simple life. And so it was there, in a home of modest means yet filled with warmth and love, that I spent my childhood. I began attending the regional schools at age six and completed the elementary level. However, when I was about to start secondary school, I decided I didn’t care for my studies anymore, and at that time I was permitted to stop attending if I chose to. At the very least, school was not obligatory as it would become a few years later, and my parents made no small effort to try to get me to change my mind. However, stubborn mule that I was, I wouldn’t listen to reason.
With time, I came to regret this decision quite bitterly. As children, however, we’re more concerned with instant gratification and fun and games. And school, in my opinion, was just no fun.
Later on, my family moved to a place not too far away where the land was better, so we were able to cultivate a higher quality crop and more of it. By then I was no longer a child, and so I too contributed as much as I could by helping my father in the fields. And so, with our new little farm, our financial situation improved considerably.
In those days when you went out to the bar, along with talk of sports, women and cars, people would also talk about how without an education you couldn’t even get a job as a garbage man. And so, at around the age of twenty, I decided to go back to school. It was a brief stint, consisting of night classes on the subject of mechanics, which I had quite a passion for. At the end of my course of study, I received a certificate that would come in handy, unbeknownst to me at the time, a few years later in landing a job with a company that manufactured machine tools. I worked onsite for this company for a few years, and after that, I took on the role of sales representative. This new job title, in addition to giving me a higher salary, allowed me to travel throughout Italy and down the whole boot while I set up industrial machinery, and I was more than happy to do so because I absolutely loved being out on the open road behind the wheel.
That, in a nutshell, was me in those days. As my life went on, there were some good times and some really hard times, but nonetheless I was always able to overcome hardship with the strength of my will and by doing my best, because you only live once, and so, regardless of what life throws your way, it deserves to be lived to the fullest and in the best way, always. And I always led a life that touched on both satisfaction — although, truthfully, not much of it—as well as disappointment, or more precisely mistakes — there were so many of those, on the other hand, that you might say human existence is just a forge where people are shaped and tempered by the mistakes they go through. In any case, you really need to know how to take what life gives you, which is no small thing. And if someone in a position such as myself can say this — I mean, someone who finds himself in bed, and not for any of the more enjoyable reasons — then you’d better believe it.
The idea of passing on to the next world is something I’m not afraid of at all. In fact, I’d say I’m looking forward to it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about rejecting life. I have loved my life and still do, despite my present circumstances, and I’m pretty sure I’m still in my right mind. What I mean is, passing on would be the only way for me to continue the fantastical journey that I began many years ago and that I left unfinished.
Who of sound mind, you may wonder, looks forward to death, knowing very well that it’s one of the few things we can be sure of in life? I know, and yet, it would be difficult for you to grasp what I want you to if you don’t know my whole story, a unique story you’d never expect; because, at least as far as I know, it’s an experience no one else in this world has ever gone through.
It was the winter of 1989. At that time, I was thirty-nine years old, easy on the eyes, with no serious health problems, athletic enough, and an avid traveler, taking trips in Italy as well as in other countries. My family consisted of my wife, whom I loved despite one or two flings I’d had on the side — which had been based purely on lust, not love — and two adorable boys aged twelve and fifteen. I lived in a small town where I had a few friends and some relatives.
One evening, while I was driving back home from a business trip (as I said, I was a sales representative in the machine tools sector, at times with limited sales results, which, as it so happened, was the case on that awful day), I was tense and irritated behind the wheel, but I apparently didn’t realize it. Doing things in an irritated state of mind never bodes well. What’s more, it was raining buckets, the wind was howling, and it was already dark out. Under such unfavorable conditions, good sense would have told me to pay close attention to the road. Instead, I was driving much too fast on the wet, slippery asphalt, infuriated over the terrible day of work I’d had. My visibility of the road was unfortunately just as terrible as my day had been, and I lost control of my car. I skidded off of the road near a canal, which at the time was filled to the brim. I didn’t end up in the water, however, but hit a sycamore tree on the side of the road that, in an instant, brought both my car and my life to a crashing halt.
After a period of listlessness and numbness — how long it lasted, I couldn’t guess — as I was slowly regaining consciousness, I realized that something strange was happening. I couldn’t get a hold of the situation very well at all. Everything felt hazy. My vision was blurred and I couldn’t see anything around me clearly, but my senses gradually came back to me. I found myself in an indescribable state, unable to ascertain whether I was alive or not.I’d most likely passed out and was just coming to, but at that moment, this didn’t occur to me, and I stubbornly kept trying to wake up. Overcome from the effort, I closed my eyes to gather my thoughts before trying again.
My mind became fixated on the horrible possibility, reflecting that, in the unlucky event that I had met my demise in that car accident, I would miss out on so many things. I’d never see my friends again, or my colleagues, who, though competitors in the field, were nonetheless good people who I valued. Above all, I thought about my family. What would I do without them? I cherished my two sons and loved their mother deeply. Still floating in that undefinable state between sleep and wakefulness, I became even more upset at the thought of never being able to enjoy my favorite pastimes again, like soccer and tennis, which I played for fun in what little free time I’d carved out for myself. And then at home, I would miss the nature documentaries that I loved so much due to my love of animals and nature. Inspired by them, I would take long, relaxing walks in the woods and along winding mountain paths.
If I truly didn’t exist anymore, I would no longer, among other things, be able to behold wonders like a moonlit sky or the crashing waves of a stormy sea. And I could forget about the trips I’d spent so much time planning and which I had looked forward to — excursions to other lands with cultures that were different from my own, but which still deserved respect… in short, all of these plans would remain just plans, forever unrealized.
As these dark and gloomy thoughts continued, I also considered the fact that, having been born after the two World Wars, I’d been doing reasonably well. I had avoided both wars, and although the country was still struggling, it was reviving itself, experiencing a rebirth. I had been living in the era of the post-war economic boom and, furthermore, the devastating epidemics of the preceding centuries had fortunately almost all been wiped out. As a result, people were living better and longer lives. The advent of new technologies, moreover, had led to the creation of new jobs and a higher standard of living. By then, everyone could afford to have a car, and TVs, radios, and other electronics and household appliances were selling well. Finally, the recent appearance of the Internet offered unimaginable possibilities, even though at that time, of course, nobody really understood its inherent potential.
Those were exciting years of politics, women, cars and music that the young folk gulped down like a cool drink on a hot summer’s day, while the grown-ups, on the other hand, used these same things to nourish the spirit so that they could adopt a more relaxed, comfortable lifestyle.
As I was saying, the quality of life had improved remarkably and people were able to enjoy themselves. And so, just when I had a life really worth living, I didn’t want to believe it had all been taken away from me just like that.
I pushed these thoughts out of my mind and tried to get a hold of myself, but I still couldn’t tell whether what was happening to me was real or not. All I knew was that I was getting the feeling like when you’re asleep and you’re not really sure where you are. I couldn’t figure out whether I was in the spirit world or in a horrible nightmare. In any case, I felt a lightness in my body and in my mind, as if I was floating in a soft cloud, in limbo, with no sense of time. And, strangest thing of all, I wasn’t in any pain whatsoever, and even if I couldn’t make head nor tails of it, given the serious accident I’d been in, that very fact was nonetheless a tremendous consolation.
All in all, I didn’t feel that bad. In fact, weirdly enough, it felt so good that, for however long it lasted, I hoped that the moment would never end. Moreover, I didn’t hear any voices or noises around me, and that was pretty nice, though I thought this was strange since I was always used to people being loud in places like this, especially when they shouldn’t be. What worried me more, though, was that I couldn’t even hear the voices of the emergency medical staff I knew should have been there.
While I was still absorbed in my thoughts, little by little I began to notice that something strange was happening, and so I quickly snapped myself back to attention. Something indefinable was materializing in front of me. It didn’t have a human form; it was something else, something that was unfamiliar but that I could see very clearly. I tried to understand who or what it was, but it was difficult to do that, given that nothing seemed to be making any sense at all.
The phantom being started to come closer. I was at first struck with fear, but then I tried to calm down. Focusing on it, I was able to at first make out a softly glowing form suspended in the air. Its glow was growing more and more intense, giving off both light and heat — not just heat, but some kind of radiation that had a tranquilizing effect, perhaps meant to prepare me for what I would learn not long after that. I kept staring in disbelief, petrified as the glowing shape got closer and closer. I then felt another pleasant sensation, a slight vibration that slowly passed through me. I imagined that perhaps this unknown presence was, in its own way, trying to make contact with me, and so I gave it my full attention, trying to understand who or what it was and what it had to tell me.
I didn’t know how yet, but I was really hoping I would be able to extricate myself from this surreal situation. It was imperceptible at first, but then, becoming stronger and clearer, the glowing phantom’s first real communication reached me, but not in the way I had been expecting. It had been sent directly to my mind. In a mere second, its cerebral message was in my possession. It was apparently able to bypass the typical mode of verbal communication, adopting a telepathic method I wasn’t familiar with. But I was fascinated because this method demonstrated an exceptional level of comprehension without any risk of misunderstanding. Communicating this way, you also didn’t need to use auxiliary functions, like hearing, to help get the message across.
I was enjoying this science-fiction-like atmosphere, which was also calming. It soothed my curiosity, and so I paid a great deal of attention to the message he was transmitting to me and focused on listening carefully.
“Human, I am your Lord, He who created all things in the earthly world and who knows the past, present and future of every living thing. It is of no importance at all which creator I am; I am yours, and it is up to you to decide with which deity you prefer to associate me, and in this regard I will illustrate to you the following so that you can have a clear understanding of what lies ahead for you and of this place where we find ourselves.
“All of the inhabitants of Earth sooner or later come before me: they come from every corner of the world with different languages, cultures and religions, and as such they must consider me their one and only God. They have the right, if they wish, to address me by the name of the deity to whom they are devoted: within me resides every known messiah, for I am the perfect synthesis of them all.
“So then, whereas you first found yourself in the impure realm, you now find yourself in the very purest, in the presence of the being that knew you even before you were born and who knows every minute of your brief passage on Earth, and what’s more, your future.”
The glow that wrapped the entity dimmed to a lower intensity, almost fading away, although it was still discernable. Still astounded beyond belief, I tried to make out a face or a body. But this was in vain. Nothing was distinguishable, or at least, I wasn’t permitted to see anything distinguishable. So I thought again about the being’s first mental statements, and once I had calmed down, I understood that I was in the presence of a divine entity or god. Alright then, fine, but which one? I wondered to myself. Even being the atheist that I was, I knew of at least three, without taking minor religions into account. I had some idea that the monotheistic religions venerated Jesus Christ, Allah and Mohammed.
Still immersed in mystical doubt, I almost didn’t notice when the entity’s light had brightened up again, signaling its return. “In the realm from whence you come, you possessed a body and a soul,” it told me. “Now, in this realm, you no longer have the need to take care of a body because you do not possess one anymore, while your soul will remain with you and you will be able to add a great deal to it that you will learn from us, as long as you are worthy of remaining here.”
This last telepathic communication caused me great distress. So then, that’s the way things were. I hadn’t just been imagining things. From what the message was saying, I was really dead.
I was horrified. It couldn’t be. I didn’t want this! It had to be only a dream, yes, only a bad dream. Panicking, I tried desperately to look at my body as a way of proving the glowing entity wrong. However, when I looked down, I saw neither legs nor feet, neither arms nor hands; as for a face and eyes, on the other hand, I reasoned that I indeed had to have these if I was able to see the immense void that surrounded me. If I had just seen Him.
Had my body truly disintegrated? I was deeply troubled and demoralized by this thought. In this new realm, what other more horrible things could happen to me? What was my final destiny? I was completely overcome and would have broken down into tears if I’d been physically able to.
Demonstrating His ability to perceive my thoughts perfectly, with reassuring assertiveness the god returned to me, sending a message through me that calmed me down somewhat. “I beg you,” the message said, “don’t surrender yourself to the thoughts that plague your mind. If you are deemed worthy of Heaven, there you will find none of the negative elements present in the world from which you have been severed. On the contrary, you will be filled with the healing benefits of its pure goodness. Of course, you will no longer have those fleeting possessions that were so dear to you when you occupied a cumbersome body that ages with the passage of time; but I assure you that you will never miss them: they were utter nothingness, while here you will come to understand the absolute whole, and you will be able to fully enjoy its immense benefits. Remember, furthermore, that the most important part of each living thing is the soul, and you possess yours still.”
This abstract entity then vanished once more, giving me time to fully absorb its words and to gather my confused thoughts. Its latest statements slightly raised my sunken spirits, but now I felt the need to ask for explanations regarding my current state. So, gathering my strength, I attempted to speak. I tried moving my lips, but despite tremendous effort, no sound came out.
Again, the entity returned and coursed its message through me in the manner I was by now used to. “Look,” it said, “speaking in the way you have done in the past is a useless waste of energy in this place. The voice of thought, like a gust of wind, comes strongly and clearly to whomsoever it is directed to, and to none other.”
The communication continued:
“I know that you have many questions running through your mind and that you will want answers, to these and to those you may have later and from time to time, and time here is infinite. But trust me, your queries will be satisfied. Many explanations will be provided to you shortly, while for later queries, all you will need to do is form the question in your mind and I will receive it. Thereafter I will provide you with the answer.”
There was no longer any doubt in my mind that this was a superior being, exuding charisma and wielding an exceptional power that made him pronounce only incontestable truths. I was very moved, given that I had never been a believer during my life, the main reason being that when I was young, I had never gone to church, mainly because it was too far of a walk from my home. My father could have driven me, but there was always too much work to do in the fields. He just never considered faith to be absolutely necessary. And so, from a young age I never make a big deal of it, having missed the crucial window for assimilating it into the routine of life. Still, to justify the absence of religion in my life to others and to avoid embarrassment, I hid the truth by going with the first reason I could think, which basically came from repeating the words of Saint Thomas: that I would have to see it to believe it. This might not have been the strongest line of reasoning and was very open to debate, but in my opinion, it was very logical, given that I had never seen concrete evidence of the miracles attributable to Jesus Christ.
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