My Grandpa nodded once again, still trying to fully comprehend my decision. I didn’t blame him. It wasn’t every day somebody said they wanted to forget about dying.
He actually put on a smile and shrugged, his mind made up. “Well… it is your decision…”
He relaxed quickly, and his face lit up. “I have an idea! Let’s go meet all the folks ‘round here! There’s not a better method of moving on than getting acquainted with the right people.” Just like my grandpa; quick to question, but quick to support when he liked the answer he got.
I nodded. “Sounds like a fine idea” I responded. Getting to see the locals sounded like the best way to get used to my new life in this new land. It was a first step.
My Grandpa got his sense of humor back. “You’ll like all the girls ‘round here, they’re real pretty” he said grinning.
I gently punched him on the shoulder. “Grandpa!”
We were currently walking towards the town square of the area I lived in; at least, I assumed it was. There was a large fountain depicting an angel spewing water out of its mouth. Surrounding it was a barrier of gold and silver blocks. I started strolling towards a group of people resting beside the beautiful structure, ready to start meeting new people, but my Grandpa steered my away from them.
“They’re heavy grievers” he said, gesturing at the people by the fountain. “You’re a new arrival. Best to avoid them”.
I shrugged and followed my Grandpa, trusting his judgment. He pointed up ahead at a building at the edge of the square.
“Here’s where all the characters are” he said happily. “This is the After Café. Amazing name choice, I know”.
I laughed at my Grandpa’s joke and opened the café door for him. Looking at the building from the outside, it looked very eye-catching; just regular, worn-out brick with a few windows; but on the inside it looked like a vintage recreation of an 80’s restaurant. The menu, however, was huge, and so was the interior even though the exterior had said otherwise. I guessed some afterlife magic was at work. From what I had witnessed the man that greeted me to this place do, I knew he was a powerful being.
Immediately as we walked in, my Grandpa was called by a trio of elderly gentlemen sitting in front of a window in the top right-hand corner.
“Hey there, Barry! Good day to ya?”
My Grandpa breathed a quiet sigh. He didn’t like his actual name too much. He preferred to be called Brandon, and that’s what we always had called him. I assumed he made an exception for his friends, though he didn’t seem to like having to.
Grandpa nodded. “Yes, it’s been a fine day” he responded.
One of the men gestured to me. “Who’s the boy with ya?”
My Grandpa was caught off-guard by this question. He took a deep breath and replied. “It’s my grandson” he said while staying in a cheery mood.
The men were taken aback.
“Your grandson?” they said, almost in perfect unison. “How old is he?”
“Sixteen” I replied.
“They always said the good die too young” one of the men said. He shrugged and pulled two chairs over to his table. “You seem to not be troubled so much, so I won’t bother ya” he said. “Why don’t ya’ll sit down?” he offered us.
My Grandpa nodded. “Don’t mind if I do”.
I shrugged. “Why not?” following my grandpa’s motion.
I took a seat at the table, my Grandpa sitting down right next to me. The three men began to introduce themselves to me.
“Well it’s good to see ya” one of them said while shaking my hand. He looked to be the oldest, with a completely bald head and quite a few wrinkles. It looked like he might have been the shortest, too. “My name’s Kyle”. He nodded to the man next to him.
“That’s Vernon” he said. Vernon, a tall man with tanned white skin, little gray hair on his head, and a large moustache, smiled and shook my hand as well.
“And I’m Phil” the last man introduced himself. He was a little shorter than me, and had the youngest looking face, and the most hair, which still had a touch of brown in the gray. He shook my hand as well.
“So I guess you’ve been getting ‘round the town well?” Vernon asked me. His voice was really deep and a little hard to comprehend.
I shook my head. “This is the first place I’ve gone, excluding my house”.
“Oh yeah!” Phil said. “I heard that some young fellow was moving in soon”.
This confused me, and sprouted more questions. Was my fate sealed… before I even knew it? Was I destined to die, and everyone here knew it and had just been waiting the whole time? I simply shrugged. “I guess that was me”.
“Did you get a good place?” Kyle asked me. I shook my head.
“I didn’t like it at all. I’ll get used to it eventually” I answered, covering up my sour mood on my domain with an optimistic response.
“I hated my first place as well” Vernon said, relating to me. “They recreated the place I lived in when I was a just a little kid. Broke me up pretty good, but I got over it in time”.
“My first place was my vacation home in France!” Kyle chipped in. “That’s what I call hospitality”.
“Mine was that one house I spent the night in with that hot chick in Vegas” Phil said with a grin.
My Grandpa and the other men broke out into loud laughter. I laughed weakly, as I didn’t understand their humor up to this point.
My Grandpa told his own joke while still laughing from the previously told one. “My first home was that one vacation home in Ohio!” he said. The men all laughed. I did, too. There really weren’t too many places to go to in Ohio.
“I guess your place still has that scene of your life” Kyle commented, bringing back the subject of my house.
I frowned, remembering that terrible encounter with the painting. “I don’t want to talk about it” I muttered, barely audible to the men.
Vernon nodded, once again showing he had been there too. “Don’t worry, we know the feeling”.
Phil sighed and shook his head. “Yeah, I remember my still picture. Got it removed as soon as I possibly could. I don’t wish to talk about that either”.
A waitress that looked to be as old as the men came over to our table. She was wearing a pink dress with her nametag that read ‘Jane Smith’ pinned under her right shoulder.
“Can I get you anything?” she asked me. Picking up a menu in front of me, I just asked for a cherry Coca-Cola. All I needed was a good amount of caffeine in my body.
Suddenly, a memory flashed in my head for some reason; I had planned something when I was alive that involved a lot of soda… somehow, even though I had barely been in the afterlife for an hour… I couldn’t seem to recall it! Try as I might, my mind came up blank as though I had been reborn or had my memory wiped. Maybe my venture to erase my memories of when I was living… was working!
I looked over at my Grandpa and his friends, coming back down to Earth, or at least its clouds. “Don’t you guys want anything?” I asked them.
They all shook their heads. “Jane knows what we get” Kyle answered.
The waitress nodded. “Always the same thing. I’m assuming it’s no different today?”
The men nodded. “Yep. Same old, same old” Vernon said, waving his hand.
The waitress jotted our orders down on her notepad and disappeared behind the counter.
Kyle clapped his hands. “Well, you seem like a fairly nice young boy. The world needs more of you” he said, complimenting me, something I heard rarely.
“Too late, it’s polluted by the likes of idiots and jerks” I responded. It wasn’t the best way to reply to the praise, but it was the truth. I still could recall that vile creature named Hunter.
Phil shrugged. “It’s tough, but eventually those people will get smacked in the face by reality. It doesn’t take too long. I remember that this one punk had bullied me all the way up to high school. Years later, when I returned to the school… he was a janitor!”
My Grandpa nudged me as the others laughed at the joke. “He’s right, you know. Idiots and jerks can’t stay like they used to be or they sink in life’s grand stream” he told me.
I bowed my head. “It’s just hard… they bug you so much you can’t wait for reality”.
“Well, we don’t have to care about those individuals now!” Vernon said cheerily. “They aren’t around these parts, nor will they ever be”.
“Amen to that!” My Grandpa said, nodding. I seconded his call, though in a less enthusiastic manner.
Our waitress came back with our drinks. The glasses were huge; I couldn’t wait to drink it all down. I could probably consume all of the soda in the world right in this moment.
My Grandpa picked the glass up away from me.
“I don’t think you’ll do well with that, you look like Jaws over there!” he joked. I laughed and he gave the wonderful drink back to me. My Grandpa had always been one for humor, whether it is good or not. He just liked making people smile or at least trying to.
I dove right into the soda and immediately felt much better. The savory cherry taste felt so good. It put me at ease for what seemed to be the first time today. I started chipping away at my mountain of memories, useless memories that served only to destroy me… and so far progress was steady.
Kyle took a sip of his own drink. “Ah, now this is the stuff you know” he announced to the table.
Phil sighed. “You tell us that every day” he pointed out.
Kyle shrugged in response. “My opinion won’t change”.
I shook my head. “This is where it’s at” I told them, holding up my soda.
“Never been a big soda fan” Phil said.
“Loved the stuff when I was little” Vernon said. “All I wanted to do is play and have fun”.
My mind shot a brief memory into my head of me and my friends running around at a waterpark and playing a very intense game of tag. We splashed water at each other and dove away from close tags. As quick as the recollection came in, it was shot out like a cannonball.
“Nothing wrong with that” I replied honestly after moving on from my latest flashback.
“Nothing at all!” My Grandpa shouted, “Unless someone gets hurt”.
Kyle laughed. “Then it gets hilarious!” he said. We all had a good laugh and started playing off of the joke. The first few were funny, but we quickly stopped when the joke got old. Another memory of joking around tried to get into my mind, but it was shut down this time.
Jane walked back over to our table. “Want anything to eat for today?” she asked us.
I looked back over at my menu and was about to say something when my Grandpa spoke up.
“I was actually thinking we could scoot out” he announced, a surprising statement since we were all, at least I was, having quite a lot of fun.
“That’s fine” Vernon said, waving his hand.
“Have fun around the afterlife!” Phil called after us as we walked out the door.
My Grandpa opened up the exit and we both headed outside.
“Umm, just wondering, why’d we bail on them?” I asked Grandpa. I wasn’t mad, just curious.
“They get loud as the meal progresses” he confessed to me. “One drink leads to another, and they can get a little annoying, even for me. I didn’t want to subject you to that on your first day”.
I shrugged. “I’m used to loud people. But it doesn’t matter, let’s get going”.
We walked across the square and down a path made purely out of silver and gold. Everything seemed to be made out of those two particular materials in the afterlife, and it seemed to brighten everything up.
My Grandpa was moving faster than he usually did. I had neglected to mention he wasn’t even wearing his cane anymore.
“Why aren’t you using your cane?” I questioned him.
“No need for it” he responded simply. “If you’re injured or handicapped, you recover from your condition and are able to move around freely”. He smiled. “It’s a very good bonus”.
A large path winded down to a huge house. That’s an understatement; it was gigantic, made purely out of shiny-looking cobblestone and more silver and gold bricks. The windows were blue with intricate designs on them colored in red. The walls around the place and the towers made it look reminiscent of an old Medieval Times castle. This one had obviously been modified quite a bit.
My Grandpa noticed I was gazing at the stunning piece of architecture.
“That’s where good ol’ George lives” he said, pointing at the grand structure.
“George?” I asked, wondering who it was. I had one too many questions.
“He runs the afterlife” he replied. “Nicest man I’ve ever met. He’s done nothing wrong to anybody, and he will never do any harm”.
I remembered meeting that one man before and after I had entered the afterlife. He showed me the house I’d be staying in and basically introduced me to the place. I assumed that had been George.
“He’s incredibly busy twenty-four seven. You know, running the afterlife is no cakewalk” Grandpa said in a matter-of-factly tone.
Wanting to explore me, we continued down the path. There was so much here! It would be impossible to see it all, but I wanted to go and view whatever I could today to get my bearings.
“Where are we going to go to now?” I asked, wondering if my grandpa had ventured these parts before.
“Just wandering” Grandpa replied.
Just as we passed by the pathway that lead to George’s residence, we heard a creaking sound of what sounded like a gate opening. We both turned our heads looking for the source, and we located it at the entrance to George’s large house. Emerging from the house was the man himself, decked out in a shining silver robe, otherwise looking the same from when I first saw him.
“So I see you’re getting around fine!” he called after me, much more cheerful than before. I remembered snapping at him in our first encounter, and I regretted showing such behavior towards an adult, but at least it seemed he was quick to forgive me.
I was unsure how to reply, as I had just learned this man was incredibly busy every living minute of his life. Now he had the time to chat with me?
“I guess you like this place more than you originally thought” he said. “I told you it just takes a little getting used to”.
He waved at my Grandpa. “Brandon, good day?” He even knew my grandpa’s name?
He was just as unsure how to respond as I. “I… guess” he said, stuttering in awe.
George sighed. “Its OK guys, don’t treat me like I’m a dozen levels above you”.
I managed to start some conversation with this man. “We were just by a café”.
“After Café I guess?” George assumed. “It is your Grandpa’s favorite after all”.
“It’s a nice place” I said.
George nodded in thanks. “I knew building it would be a good idea”.
“You built that?”
“I did indeed. Brick by brick. Doesn’t take too long”. I partially believed him. After all, I had seen plenty of afterlife magic since coming here, so everything seemed possible.
“I know. I built the Parthenon just piling some bricks on each other” I countered.
George laughed. “You’ve got a sarcastic humor” he pointed out. “I’ve been sarcastic for all of my life”.
“So have I”.
“But I was being sarcastic”.
I offered a little laugh at his response. It sounded like something I would have done.
George raised his hand as though he had an idea. “You know, you seem like a very nice teenager. Why don’t you come over to my residence for a little while later today, hmm? I’m hosting a little get-together of sorts. You can get to know some people”.
I looked over at my Grandpa. His mouth was wide open in shock. He looked down at me, smiled, then nodded in approval. It took a while to reply since I was so stunned by his sudden offer.
“Sure, I’ll be around” I said after a long pause.
George grinned. “Good. Just be around at my place at about… 4 I guess? Sounds good enough. There’ll be plenty of residents and a nice banquet to be had. You’ll have no trouble meeting some new faces!”
He walked back into his residence, waving as he did. “See you then!”
The golden gates closed behind him as he walked back inside his house. My Grandpa’s mouth was still wide open in surprise; the conversation had gone by so quickly, and I had just made plans to hang out with the most powerful man in this world.
“What an interesting person” I commented. It marked the understatement of the day.
My Grandpa patted me on the back. “You just got invited to George’s house! That rarely happens to anybody!” he said in congratulations.
“So it’s not that common?” I asked him the obvious question that already had an equally obvious answer.
My Grandpa shook his head furiously. “No! It’s a privilege and an incredibly rare request to receive!”
I never would have guessed that on my first day in the afterlife I would get to be in the presence of the man who ran the place himself, and at his own house! I could barely recall anything that had happened in my past life at this point… forgetting was easier than I thought. Hopefully all of my old life will be dissolved into nothing eventually.
My Grandpa was extremely proud of how I got to be with George this afternoon, and he continually expressed that feeling over the course of the day. I felt slightly nervous by the fact that I was going to go see him. What were his expectations? Who would be there?
I tuned these rampaging thoughts out and just continued to follow my Grandpa around the large city that was the afterlife. We went by many more restaurants, cafés, and saw many more people of various looks and personalities. Grandpa seemed to have a lot of friends around the place.
I heard a bell chime in the background. In the distance, I could see a tall bell tower that looked over the surrounding landscape, or clouds for lack of a better term. It was probably counting the hours of the day.
Grandpa pointed at the structure, seeing my eyesight locked on it. “That’s basically the clock for this section of the afterlife” he said. “Places up here still go by time zones. We’re in EST around here. According to the bell, it’s three o’clock PM right now”.
I nodded and noted the time in my head; I had one hour left until I went to go see George at his house. That made me realize how fast he had scheduled this event.
We continued deeper into the afterlife, the buildings as luxurious and unique as the ones where I lived. There were plenty of places to go from the looks of it.
“Now here’s a good spot” my Grandpa said, motioning ahead towards what seemed to be a furniture store.
I raised an eyebrow. “Why is there a furniture store here, out of all stores?” I asked him.
“Well, it’s for your home. I doubt you have stuff in yours yet” he responded.
“Are we stopping by now?”
“No, no. It would be silly to drop by at this time” he answered, shaking his head.
I gazed at all of the furniture inside the store. They ranged from small enough to fit a baby, to big enough to fit a party. The multiple colors on the fixtures looked like a giant rainbow. Some of them had golden decorations on them.
I stared in amazement at the most expensive fittings. Materials such as those cost a great deal of currency back on Earth, in the real world. How could I possibly afford such things? I didn’t even have any money.
“Grandpa, how do people afford this stuff?” I asked.
My Grandpa shook his head. “It’s not about money here. Everything’s free”.
“Everything is free? Couldn’t that be abused really easily?” I asked.
“The people that make it into the afterlife have enough sense to not take a bunch of stuff from a place. They limit themselves”.
My Grandpa and I kept going into the afterlife, checking out the places that caught our eye the most. I seemed to have completely forgotten about my previous life. All of my focus turned to this life, one that I could tell I would enjoy.
The bell chimed in the distance.
“That would be three-thirty o’clock PM” my Grandpa pointed out. “We best get heading back if you want to look good at George’s place”.
I clenched my fists and shook my head. “Well, great. We’re so far away, we won’t get to my house in time!” I said. “We should’ve thought this through a little better”.
My Grandpa smiled, his face alight. He must have had an idea. “Nonsense! We can just teleport!” He said it all too simply.
I took a step back in surprise, but I quickly recovered. “Alright, stop pulling my leg. Let’s try and be serious about this”.
Grandpa nodded excitedly, rejecting my accusation. “Yes! Yes we can!” He came over by my side. “It’s not very hard either, so don’t worry about mastering it”.
“Teleporting… simple? Those words don’t seem to fit” I said. “Also, let’s not forget that it’s not even possible!” I started to laugh too. My grandpa was good at telling jokes while acting serious at the same time.
“It really is easy. Just say ‘teleport’ and then the place you want to go to. It’s just that easy!”
Now I thought I would just play along. “Really? Huh… so I can just go ahead… say that I want to go home… and I just go home? Gee, it’s so simple!”
He shook his head. “This is completely true. No lie”. He was becoming so serious about this that even I became partly convinced
I sighed, bracing myself for whatever ridicule may follow. “Alright…”
I took a deep breath, released it, then spoke the words I was instructed to.
“Teleport home” I said. I waited a few seconds for something amazing to happen, but nothing did. Suddenly, I felt by body jolt forward, a weird electric feeling passing into my body that tickled my spine and shivered my body. I started spinning around slowly, my body gradually being raised into the air. I think I started getting a little sick, this new sensation unfamiliar to me.
And just like that, I found myself home. I looked around to make sure; it was indeed. It was as monochrome as it was when I left it, with still not one single piece of living essentials around. The door into my house laid right in front of me, so I guess this was the main room.
A knock came on my door. I strolled over to answer it, believing it to most likely be my grandpa. As I went en route to twisting the doorknob, my head suddenly turned and I found myself face to face with the painting room again. Curiosity took control, and I ventured inside.
The picture of my life was no longer playing. It looked as though someone had thankfully pressed the pause button. It was still the same scene; the school parking lot with my dead body lying motionless on the hard pavement. I remembered abruptly how cold it felt, and that weird feeling of blood exiting my body.
Stop it I screamed at myself. This is a new day in a new life! Time… time to move on. Look forward. I departed from that terrible area and swung the door wide open.
“So, how was your first teleport?” my grandpa greeted me. I had expected he had been waiting outside.
I shrugged. It was hard to describe. “Weird. I mean, it felt weird. Incredibly weird, I think I almost got sick at one point”.
“Everyone says that their first time” he responded. He clapped his hands, eager to move on and get to the party.
“Anyways, you’re gonna need something half-decent for tonight I would assume” he said. “Do you have anything sort of nice?” He knew that I wasn’t one to be too fancy.
I shook my head and shrugged in defeat. “I don’t have any clothes to begin with”.
My Grandpa shook his in response. “No. You’ve got to have something by now. Sometimes it just takes time for your clothes to be transported”.
“Wait… stuff just gets transported?” My head was starting to ache from all of the confusing aspects of the afterlife.
Grandpa seemed to realize this, and he chuckled. “Well now, you shouldn’t have to question everything. Now run along and check quick”.
I ran upstairs quick, searching the rooms thoroughly to try and locate anything that could have been randomly appeared since I was gone. In the final room on the right, at the back of the house I saw my clothes; sorted nicely on a table in the corner of the room. Looking the clothes over, I picked up a green and white shirt with my tan khakis.
I came back downstairs wearing my clothes for the night. It was comfortable to be in some of my old clothing articles.
My Grandpa nodded. “Looks like that’ll do” he said. He walked back to the door and opened it up. “We best be on our way then. Don’t want to be late!”
“Can’t we just teleport?” I asked.
“Not to George’s house. It’s the only place in the afterlife that can’t be teleported to”.
“Then we need to get going then” I said quickly, surprised by this development.
My Grandpa held open the door for me, and we began to go down to George’s house.