He was in a brightly-lit room with gleaming surfaces and the smell of disinfectant. Machines were humming and beeping, and there were many people concentrating on the task at hand. He could feel their intensity. Then he realized that he was hovering, weightless, looking down on this scene, and he saw himself, with his chest split wide open. "I guess it's true," he thought. "This is what it feels like to die. It can even happen to me." Off in the distance, as if at the end of a brightly-lit long tunnel, he could see his parents, who had died years ago, along with a dog that he had as a young boy. They beckoned to him. He felt torn. It looked so beautiful and peaceful in that place. For a few moments, he thought about going there.
But then he remembered the heights of power he had reached. The decisions that he had made - decisions that had altered (and in many cases destroyed) the lives and fortunes of millions of people. Their fates had literally been in his hands, and his every thought had been calculated to obtain more power for himself and his small circle of allies. He had been hated. Had, in fact, often been called "heartless". But that didn't matter. That was just jealously. More importantly, he had been feared, and that was an addictive feeling. He fed on it. He didn't want to leave that behind. It was too tempting, and he wanted to be that person again, drunk with power, feeling like a god.
It was then that he sensed a malevolent force in the room, pulling him away from the tunnel. His nostrils filled with the stench of death as a shapeless darkness descended upon him. He suddenly felt a fear that was greater than any he had ever experienced, and he heard a voice calling out, "Mother! Father! Help me!" He realized that it was his own voice, the voice he had when he was a child.
Then he felt himself falling and everything went black.
How much time had passed, he did not know. He was conscious of being in a different place now. He was no longer looking down at himself, and it was warm and quiet. Behind his closed eyelids, he could sense sunlight coming in through a window, and he heard voices that he recognized. His wife and daughters. His grandchildren.
It was strange, but he felt surrounded, almost enveloped, in a coccoon. Bathed in a feeling that was completely pure and uplifting. It was as if the people in the room were sending out some kind of power that began to heal him. Why had he never been able to feel such a thing before? It was nearly blinding in its beauty, and he wanted to cry.
Then he felt something happen inside of him, deep down in his chest. There was an intense ache, but it wasn't because of anything that they had done to him in that other place. If this feeling could have taken on a physical form, it would have burst through his incision and flown about the room. It poured out of his entire body, and he knew that somehow, in that moment, everything had changed. A thought entered his mind, something quite momentous.
"This is love, the feeling that I have always known existed, but had to imagine." It seemed like such a simple thing, but it had eluded him all his life. And then something else occurred to him. "I have time left," he said to himself. "Maybe even another ten or twenty years. Maybe enough time to make amends, so that putrid, dark-shrouded thing will pass me by when my time comes again."
He thought of that Charles Dickens story, the one with Ebenezer Scrooge, who had said, after seeing what his future held, "Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change." He breathed in and out deeply. He could feel the blood pumping through his veins and hear the beating of his new heart, a heart that had been taken from someone else who had also been surrounded by love, yes, but who had also loved in return. He decided then and there not to waste this chance.
At that moment, Dick Cheney opened his eyes and began his new life.