I woke up.
It wasn’t a dream. I was awake, standing perfectly upright, eyes wide open. I could feel everything just fine. My body felt like it was in perfect shape. I had just gotten hit head-on by a car piloted by a drunken idiot. How exactly am I here? What IS here?
I looked around me and saw everyone looking down; they were the students and teachers that had been at the collision. Looking down myself I saw… me. I was lying on the ground, dead. What the hell…?
Amanda was still by my side. I tried to talk to her, to get her attention, but the words wouldn’t leave my mouth. I couldn’t speak at all. I tried moving my arm to touch her, but it refused to move as well. My legs didn’t budge. I had only my head that could turn. A lot of questions were being formulated in my head, and each one was starving for an answer that I was seemingly incapable of providing at the moment.
“See what’s all around you?” a voice came from behind me. I couldn’t move my body sufficiently enough to see who it was. I wasn’t even capable of asking this entity either to satisfy my inquiries.
“This is your life when you passed on” the voice said once again. I had realized that from what I had seen for myself. One thing I forgot to investigate was Hunter’s car; I could see the teenager himself crawling out. One of his friends was also emerging from the wreckage. The other one looked to be severely injured and was still in the car, blood exiting from a wound in his chest.
“Oh I’m sorry” I heard the voice say. “Are you still on mute?” I heard the snapping of someone’s fingers. Afterwards, I discovered I could now move my mouth. Finally I could ask some questions to whoever this was.
All I knew so far was that it was a male; obviously not old, as evidenced by his strong, probably middle-aged voice. There was also no doubt that this being controlled some sort of power.
“First off, who are you?” I asked to the man. “Second…” I gestured to my body lying on the ground. “What exactly is this?” I was much too confused at the moment.
“Well,” the man began, “to answer your second question, that is you on the ground”.
I sighed. “I’m talking about this scene as a whole” I responded, annoyed.
“I thought you’d like a good joke” the man replied. “Anyways, this scene is exactly how everything was when you died in a still picture. You are here right now because you’re ready to move on to a new place. I doubt you’ll hate it” the man said excitedly. One would think he was a real-estate agent.
I grimaced, not sharing his positive demeanor. His comment wasn’t a good sign. I was moving somewhere… but where?
I decided to continue the conversation. “Now, my first question. Let’s go back to that”. I made myself sound more assertive.
I could’ve sworn the man shrugged his shoulders at this time. “You wouldn’t understand much” he said simply.
I raised an eyebrow, forgetting that I couldn’t see the man, and vice versa. “How so?” My curiosity was burning.
“It’s an incredibly complicated story, and frankly it’s much too long. I’m not in the mood to read it”.
“Fair enough” I agreed, finally caving in.
“And you wouldn’t understand it anyway” came his response.
“I don’t think that’s fair”.
The man sighed. “This conversation has already droned on for too long. It was supposed to be a quick-in quick-out speech”. I bet he rolled his eyes at this part. “It never is that easy”.
Something inside of me snapped. “I know I’m dead” I said, anger building up. “I was killed by some idiotic jerk, so I’m really not in the mood for jokes or your complaints, thank you”.
I started crying, my emotions going haywire. “My whole life was just messed up. Everything I wanted to do, everyone I wanted to be with… it’s all gone! Forever!”
“Life sucks” the man replied simply.
I cursed, no longer respecting this man. “That’s no excuse for what injustice happened!”
“This stuff happens all the time”.
“I don’t give a shit! I want my life back!”
The man got angry himself. “All you did your entire life was complain about how awful your life was; now here you are begging me to give it back. I’m not sure if your logic makes much sense, wouldn’t you agree?”
I fell silent as the truth was delivered to my ears. I had… hated… my life. I guess I didn’t fully realize what I had before I lost it all. Did I even have anything to begin with? Confusion was reigning in my madness.
“Now if you don’t mind, I have things to do, so let me make this as brief as I can” the man said icily. “Just go up the stairs and you’ll be at home. Do whatever you want unless it breaks the laws set forth. Good day”.
I felt the freedom of movement come back to my body. I immediately turned around to see the man, but he was gone. He had disappeared seemly into thin air. In his place was just a staircase. I stared in awe; it was made out of pure silver and gold which glowed in the afternoon sunlight. I had to admit it seemed rather Hollywood, but I wasn’t in the position to criticize. The man had instructed me to climb the stairs, but even if he didn’t I would have anyway.
I took my first step and heard the single cord of an organ played. I took my foot off and looked around as though Beethoven was hidden somewhere playing his favorite tune. At this point, anything ridiculous like that made sense. Dismissing the sound, I continued up the steps, the organ beginning to play more rapidly and more grand. Its tune sounded somewhat… happy. It made me feel strangely at ease.
I began to see something forming at the top of the stairs. It looked like… an exact replica of my own house! Seeing this, I quickly rushed towards it, the organ becoming more intense. Maybe I was going to come back to life and just going back to my home! How could I have been so stupid? I quickened my pace, my desire to reach my new destination increasing. I tripped on the next step, got up, and persevered forward. I could see my friends, my family… I’d be home!
The door was right in front of me now. At this point, the organ was holding down one high chord. Slowly, I reached out for the doorknob and twisted it, hesitating at first. I took a few deep breaths, then a few more… then I yanked the door wide open. The organ had stopped playing entirely.
You could try to imagine the disappointment I felt when I saw nothing inside. You could try, but you would never know how I felt. I fell on to my knees in pure sadness. There goes my life! It’s gone, trashed by the scum of the world. I couldn’t believe it was over… I hated it, but in this new light… I had too much to lose.
The house was completely empty; no furniture whatsoever. The walls were now a dull gray color. In fact, the layout differentiated from the original building by a large margin. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I stepped inside the desolate place.
I inspected the place thoroughly, but I saw nothing inside at all. It had been completely emptied. I turned into a room on the ground floor just by the door; and stepped back in surprise. It was the still picture of me when I died, back when I had met the man. It appeared as an angled painting on a stone pedestal, and had been made smaller to fit the frame. However, it was no longer still. Everyone was moving now, as though this was all just a news broadcast.
I observed the scene before me. An ambulance had come, but it had been all too late. I was long gone, dead. My body was unmoving, and I could tell the hospital staff was debating on what to do with my remains. Others had begun tending to Hunter and his friends. He was nearly in perfect condition, figures, but his minions weren’t as better off; there was one that still remained in the wreckage of the vehicle. Amanda was now standing in the background, crying, her face turned away from the scene. Nearby her were my friends. They were looking everywhere besides where my corpse lied, the sadness evident on their faces. If only I could be with all of them right now… but I knew that I could not anymore.
I broke down into tears once more. I couldn’t let go of the fact that this was my afterlife, that I was dead, I was no more. It was like those stories of people dying young, their lives ripped into shreds and thrown away, only to be forgotten as time goes by.
I slowly walked away from the scene, took a few deep breaths to control myself, then I continued to walk around the house just to get away from that painting. A little part of me wanted to discover something happy that would lift my spirits in some way. I should’ve known that there would be nothing to find, I should’ve known better, but my small hope of finding something kept me going.
Defeated, I headed back downstairs after expecting the upstairs. I turned around and was surprised to see a man standing there. I jumped back initially, stunned by his sudden appearance.
“Like the new place?” the man asked me. He looked to be middle-aged, wearing a light-green cape and a gold shirt with silver pants. He had brown hair with a long beard and a goatee along with it, with a face containing little to no imperfections. My mind instantly slated him down as the one I had argued with just minutes earlier.
I shook my head furiously. “No… no, I hate it” I said, disgusted by the place. It not only gave me false hope, but no comfort. Weren’t homes supposed to give you comfort in some sense?
“Why? This is your new afterlife home” the man said, gesturing around. “This is where you’ll be living”.
Again I shook my head in disagreement. “No. I’m getting out of here”.
I walked to the front door of the house quickly, brushing past the old man. He flicked his fingers as I passed. I grabbed the doorknob and tried opening the door, but it wouldn’t budge, no matter how hard I tried.
I cursed, loudly. “Let me out of here!” I demanded, pulling at the knob furiously. “I don’t want to stay here!”
The man shook his head. “This is where you live. It’s just like home!” He was trying to be the wise man, but simply appeared and sounded like a broken record.
I slammed my fist on the wall, starting to lose it. “How is this home? Nothing like this reminds me of home! All it has is the oh-so famous movie, What Happened When Jordan Died, in the next room. It’s a real thrilling tale!” I spat sarcastically.
The man didn’t budge. It was as though everything I said blew around him.
“The outside looks exactly like your home. The inside” the man said, gesturing to the wide open areas that used to be populated by furniture, “is yours to personalize”. The man started walking to the front door. “Now, I must be on my way”.
He flicked his fingers, opening the door. He turned around and smiled. “Don’t think of me as the bad guy. I just wanted you to feel at home, give you a fresh start here”.
My mouth hanged open. “What exactly IS here? Do you plan on telling me?”
“The afterlife” the man answered simply. Getting answers from him was like playing chess.
“So… the afterlife is just this house?” I inquired.
The man sighed. “I know you have a lot of questions, but I have so little time”. He stepped outside, waving goodbye as he went. “Enjoy yourself!” he said.
I ran outside to ask him one last question, but when I stepped outside the door I noticed there was no ground beyond it; my house was perched rather precariously on a cloud.
For a split second, I stood on the edge of the cloud wondering how the physics here worked exactly. Eventually, reality fully set in. I shouted in shock and quickly leaped back into my house and slammed the door behind me. I heard laughing from outside the door and decided to investigate it, carefully emerging from my house. It was the man.
He grinned when I reemerged. “Just kidding!” he said. He flicked his fingers and the clouds before me parted. I saw multiple houses sprawled out on huge clouds. Each one was different and unique. One of them was a castle, a modern two-story house and another one a farm ranch. Many people were wandering around outside, people I assumed that also lived in the afterlife. A handful of them were gathered in front of my own house. It was like the world’s giant neighborhood.
I saw no end to the roads that sprawled out before me like a snake, going far until disappearing from sight simply because it had gotten so far away. If this was indeed the afterlife… life after death, as the man said… maybe this place has everyone that has died in the past, maybe thousand years. Maybe even more!
I stood awkwardly at my doorstep as the people looked at me almost as awkwardly. What did they expect? I thought I should just slowly back up into my house and wait for them to leave, but all of the sudden an elderly man began pushing himself to the head of the group. I could hear him grumbling from here. He seemed to be my height, with a full head of gray hair, beard and goatee combo, with a face lightly wrinkled with age.
“Back away, all of you back away!” the old man said. He was crying profusely. “That’s mygrandson!”
I stepped forward after I heard him say that, confused but elated at the same time to see a familiar individual. “Grandpa?” I asked the old man as I walked towards him.
He came to me as fast as he could and embraced me, still crying. “Oh my boy… I can’t believe this could’ve happened…”
“I… its ok Grandpa” I said, leaving his embrace. I was about to cry again myself. “I’m… I’m ok. I’ll be fine here”. I tried my best to calm him down since I didn’t want to become more emotional than I already had.
He shook his head. “It’s not a question of if you’re fine… you… you died!” he said, still crying. “I’ll strangle whoever did this!”
His words gave a new though into my head; maybe I needed revenge on Hunter. After all, no one in my eyes deserved it more than him. I shook my head, trying to get these thoughts out of my head. I wasn’t going to fall down to his level.
I resorted back to attempting to calm Grandpa down. “Grandpa, I’m fine. I know what happened… I just want to move on. Forget it ever happened”.
Grandpa looked at me strangely. “You want to just forget you died?”
“Yes!” I exclaimed, a new mindset dawning on me. I had alternatives outside of brooding. “I wanted to remember… but now all I want to do is just leave it behind”.
He fell silent, then nodded after a brief period of time. “I understand your decision”. He nodded again. “I just don’t know… why”. With that, it seemed the conversation had come to an uncomfortable hold.
I knew exactly why. I guess the man who I assumed ran this afterlife had been right… and now I had chosen to follow the advice he gave me… subtly. I had hated my life so much. Now that I had perished, it was all the past. It’s time to forget the past and pave the road for the future. It’s time for a new life… a fresh start… in this new world. As much as I liked my friends and missed them… desperately missed them… thinking about them and crying about it didn’t help one bit. It only made me feel worse about the current situation.
The more I thought about it, the more momentum I gained on making this ultimate decision. It was like losing a soccer game; you have to learn from your mistakes, and then move on. I had died… lost that game. Now it was time for the moving on phase.
Did I still feel bad that I was killed by a sick bastard? Of course. I wanted so badly to rip his head off his shoulders, and I know for certain that nobody would miss him. Thinking of revenge wouldn’t help; I’d never get it. Besides, Hunter can’t get me here, can’t bother me here. This is a holy pace, isn’t it? I’m protected from the evil people of the world.
Nothing bad can get me here.