Kagoshima Immaculate Heart Women’s College sits on a hill in Toso overlooking Kagoshima City.

It is a boarding school where the students live in the dormitory along with a couple of nuns who watch over them and three or four English-speaking women who serve as English as Second Language instructors to the girls. That is why I was there.

My dormitory room was on the fifth floor on the southeast corner, so I had sliding glass doors on two slides of the room. They gave me a beautiful view of Kagoshima, the bay, and the Sakurajima volcano on the opposite peninsula across the water. The west side of the room was lined with closets and cabinets, and the north side was a solid wall with a single sliding door which opened to the foyer and the bathroom.

That bathroom was what indirectly led to my near-death experience. The previous tenant had been an Australian woman with beautiful, long, chestnut hair, which she dyed with henna. The colors had permeated the plastic of the bathtub and left an unsightly mess. When I moved in, the nuns told me that they had plans to replace the tub and remodel the tiles during the winter break.

Thankful to them, I patiently waited until the end of the fall semester. After all of the students had left for the holidays, the nuns told me to pack whatever I would need for the next couple of weeks and move into guest quarters in a little apartment on the second floor of a house a few doors down from the dormitory. Compared to my dorm room, this little apartment was huge, and I was quite content to stay there as long as needed for the remodeling.

In an attempt to keep my dorm room as clean as possible, the workers closed the sliding door and sealed it with duct tape. They then proceeded to gut the bathroom. While removing the old grout and preparing the cement walls and floors for the new tiles, they must have used an electric sander which created a fine, cement dust, for that dust permeated my room, through the sealed door.

By the time the work was complete, the winter holidays were nearly over, so the nuns asked me to move back into my room the evening the workmen left. It was late and the winter days were short, so by the time I climbed up the mountain and up the five flights of steps to my room, it was already dark. When I pulled off the duct tape, I was showered with a rain of fine particles.

Coughing and waving the dust away, I slid open the door. In the darkness with only a few beams from the area light penetrating the curtains, the whole room sparkled with a thin coat of powder. It was beautiful.

It took several trips for me to carry my possessions back from the guest house to the dorm room, each trip the equivalent of eight flights of stairs up and eight flights of stairs down, so by the time I finished, I was tired. I certainly did not feel like cleaning the entire room.

“I’ll do it in the morning,” I told myself. As long as I flipped the dust off the futon, which I used as a mattress, and put new sheets on it, I thought I would be fine. I was wrong.

I went to sleep and awoke to find myself staring down at my body resting on the futon. Strangely enough, this perspective did not seem in the least bit alarming. I was calm, peaceful.

I was standing at the foot of the bed which was oriented north-south with the headboard toward the north, next to the door and my feet to the south against the curtains and the sliding door to the balcony. In order for me to be standing where I was, I had to be standing through the futon and the bed on which it rested.

Almost immediately, a large circular gate of radiating bluish-white light opened where the north wall and door had been only a moment before. A figure approached through the gateway. His outline seemed masculine, but I could not distinguish any features because of the intense backlighting. Standing at the head of my bed, completely unhindered by the headboard, bookcase, and door, he defied Newtonian physics by appearing to occupy the exact same space as they did, only I saw him and not them. He reached down and placed his hands on my shoulders. Immediately, I was back in my body.

“Get up.” Whereas before I could see my room, the gate, and the outline of the figure clearly, now I became aware that my eyes were swollen nearly completely shut, I could barely breathe, and all I wanted to do was rest. In my illness and confusion, I dared to argue, “I don’t feel like getting up.”

The figure still had his hands on my shoulders, and in a firm, but matter-of-fact tone, he replied, “Get up or you will die.” With that, he flipped me out of the bed, and I landed on my hands and knees on the floor, in the middle of the room, a foot or two away from the bed. I looked up, my swollen eyes barely able to open, yet I saw the silhouette of the figure perfectly. He had not moved from his position in front of the gate. Instead, he raised his hand, pointed towards the south wall’s sliding door and indicated that I was to go out onto the narrow balcony.

Obediently, I turned on my hands and knees, and crawled to the door. I had to reach up to unlock it, but I finally succeeded on sliding it open, crawling out onto the cool cement and leaning against the wall. The figure in the gateway stood and watched until I was safely outside, then turned, walked back into the light, and vanished along with the gateway. I remained on the balcony until the bell struck to awaken the nuns around five o’clock or so. Waiting a few minutes for them to begin stirring, I struggled to stand.

There was a phone on my desk, so I called down to the dormitory’s reception office. It took a little while for one of the nuns to answer, and when she did, she did not seem the least bit concerned that I was not feeling well because of the dust. Her response was, “Wash the curtains.” I knew that no help would be coming up, so I had to go down. I made it to the stairs, but I could not navigate the steps, so I sat down and eased myself down one at a time until I finally reached the bottom.

Just a few more steps, and I was finally at the front entrance. Looking in the office window, I called for the sisters. When they appeared, the look on their faces told me I must look as bad as I felt. They immediately directed me to a chair in the office. One of them made me a cup of green tea. The other went upstairs. What did she do? She took down the curtains and sent them off to be cleaned. That was it. No ambulance. No doctor. No medicine. I sat in the office sipping my tea until I could breathe a little better and my eyes were able to open slightly. Then I laboriously made my way back upstairs, opened the other sliding door to get a cross-breeze, and slowly and gradually cleaned everything in the room.

It took days before I felt better, but I was grateful to be alive. I didn’t tell anyone about my experience. I figured no one would believe me. They would just think it was a hallucination brought on by the severe reaction to the dust. However, to me it was more real and more vivid than any experience I’ve had in the “real” world. The memory is just as clear today as it was when it first happened, nearly eighteen years ago. Besides, I’ve never heard of a hallucination tossing anyone out of bed.