Life After Death
My cousin used to tell me that when you die, the white light you see is the hospital room as you get pushed out a vagina into your new life. That's why babies are always screaming, he'd tell me, the pain of their last death is still fresh. As we grow up, we forget, and then we go through it all again. Over and over until the end of time itself.
I believe in the white light at the end of the tunnel, but the rest of it sounded like bullshit to me.
Reincarnation sounded like a fairy tale; something you'd tell those who were scared of death even though it has always been part of life.
I don't know what I believed in before it happened. The white light was all I got to before I'd stop trying to think about it. I wasn't scared or worried, my mindset was more 'it's not going to happen to me anytime soon' so I didn't really care. But then it did happen.
All I remember was being halfway through my English essay, my eyes drooping closed as I'd been working on it half the night. I told myself I'd finish it when I woke up...but then I never woke up.
It was a surreal experience. I don't even know how I got there, but I was watching myself being transported from my house to the hospital. I watched as the doctors tried aimlessly to resurrect me. I felt no jolt, no pull to go back to my body, I was too far gone by that point. I was stuck watching, not understanding what was going on.
I'd never believed in out-of-body experiences before. You were either in your body or not, I didn't see an in between. But I definitely there, standing just off to the side of all the commotion. No one could see me, everyone rushed around in a panic, running through me on several occasions through the morning. I thought I was going to throw up. My brain didn't quite comprehend the reality of the situation, it felt like a bad dream.
There was no possible way that I could have been standing there, watching myself die. But I'd recognize myself anywhere; I'd sent too much time in front of the mirror to not. My skin had lost it's color and my hair was a nest from what little sleep I just have gotten before it happened, but it was me.
"Scared?" The voice made me flinch. It wasn't one of the blurred and buzzing voices that was coming from the hospital that had settled into dust upon my ears. This was a clear voice, a crisp noise through the air that rattled my chest and got my blood pumping. Which was weird considering I was dead and didn't think my blood could still pump.
I turned to see him standing not that far away from me, in a secluded corner of the hospital room, away from the craziness that was my death. His ice-like eyes were scanning me over, almost checking me out. I wanted to gag but held myself proper. He didn't look like much himself, more like a thug I'd find not attending one of my school classes (had my school let in that kind of riff raff).
"You're probably terrified-"
"I am not scared," I defended before I could bite my tongue. I should have known better than to fall for the bait, but something was pulling me towards him. I found myself taking a step forward, but as soon as I'd moved just slight he was standing in front of me, almost waiting for me to fall just so he could swoop in and be the hero he didn't look like.
"Everyone's scared," he breathed, his voice coming straight fro my thoughts, and that was when I fell.
Waking up wasn't fun. My body moved as if I'd been swallowing rocks in my sleep and they were now congregating into gravel in my stomach. I was heavy and drowsy and didn't realize until it was too late that I wasn't in my own bedroom. The wall had been too close and suddenly my head was aching as much as my limbs. I tumbled back down to the bed.
"Word on the street is you're supposed to be smart." My eyes snapped to the doorway where he stood, leaning against the wooden frame. "Ouch," he continued at my glare, placing one hand over his heart. "Are you always this bitter?"
"Would you care to explain me exactly what the fuck is going on?" I growled, getting to my feet. My eyes were taking in my surroundings, looking for an exit. The room itself was small. Faded pink carpet, dirty white walls. The bed itself hadn't been all that comfortable, but it was the only object in the room and I found myself clinging to the bedpost for support as I tried to not let my eyes wander too far away from him.
This all felt like some elaborate prank gone wrong.
Either that or I'd been kidnapped.
Both options seemed unlikely, and a pulling feeling in my gut told me something else was very wrong. I didn't feel quite myself, rather an abstract version. The more I tried to concentrate on it, the more I couldn't focus on anything. It was like trying to recall a dream; the more you remember, the more you forget.
The young hooligan ran a hand through his hair, a lime-green mess that stood at all ends upon his head. I watched in disgust as he continued to watch me. "You're Courtney."
"I know who I am," I snarled, surprised at my own tone of voice. I wasn't a mean person, generally, but I guess this situation called for some uncertainty. "Who the fuck are you?"
His smirked deepened. "I'm Duncan," he told me. "I'm here to make your process easier."
"My 'process'?" I questioned, "What 'process'?" Duncan didn't answer as quickly as before, instead his eyes were wondering over me again. The sickness started again, and before I knew it, I was shaking on my legs and had to sit back down on the bed. "What are you doing to me?" I asked, doubling over in pain, curling into a ball onto the bed. For a moment I thought I was about to start throwing up those rocks that had taken up residence in my stomach, but Duncan was by my side instantly, plastic bucket in hand.
"I'm not doing anything," he whispered softly. "This is just your body adjusting to the change."
Nothing he was saying was making much sense to me, and I wanted to ask him more about it, but my words left my mind, my tongue was numb, and then I was falling all over again.
The second time I woke up it was because of the whispers. They were distant at first and I still thought I was dreaming into the darkness, but they got closer and they got louder and suddenly I was screaming for them to be out of my head.
Then she was there, with her too bright hair and her too bright eyes, and I was sure I shouldn't have been able to see them through the dark of the room, but she was almost shining like a halo.
"It's okay," her voice spoke softly, realizing me back down to sleep. I wasn't as tired anymore, but I didn't want her to stop talking. "You've had a long day and you need your rest. Don't worry about it, we've all been here before. There are so many in your position right now, and we're here to help you all."
I tried to ask where here was exactly, but the words came out in a language I had just made up, and the girl simply smiled. Shockingly, her smile was as bright as the rest of her.
"Duncan will be with you in a few hours to get you ready, until then don't do anything too strenuous, and don't over think this too much. We'll explain everything as soon as you're back into your own sound mind again."
If I had been confused before, this was a whole other level. I'd always been called smart, top of my class overachiever, but suddenly I was dealing with something that you couldn't learn about in text books. I didn't realize it at the time, but it's not really something you can learn at all, it's something you had to experience.
So once the girl had gone, slowly raising the light in the room as she went, I had plenty of time to think and plan. I wanted to escape, but my muscles had me glued to the bed, so instead I just had to stay aloe with my thoughts. They were all a jumbled mess of half-written notes and homework I knew I needed to finish for school. I wanted to keep it light, not over think anything as the young woman had suggested, but once my mind turned from confusion to memories, there was nothing stopping me.
The feeling of standing in that hospital room, watching my own dead body being worked on by doctors and nurses, it was overwhelming. I was sure it had to be some kind of dream, but, then again, I wasn't so sure of anything at that moment. I wondered if I'd been slipped something in my drink, a kind of drug that was leading me to all new kinds of hallucination. I wouldn't put it past my cousin to want to 'show me a good time' the only way he knew how.
I wasn't sure of how much time was passing, or if anyone knew I was stuck in this pathetic room. There was no window for me to see into the outside wall, just the four walls that made me want to break out a scrubbing brush.
In the end Duncan did show up, looking a little worse for wear. I wanted to question him about it, which didn't feel too good with me, but I somehow knew better to just be quiet and accept whatever it was he was here for.
"Will you just tell me what's going on?" I asked, surprised how well my defeated voice matched how I was feeling. I was tired and worn out, and all I'd done is lie in bed for what felt like a century.
"You died," he replied bluntly, obviously not in the mood for games anymore. "You died and now you're hear with us. With me. I'm here to make sure that you get into the afterlife safely."
"...Are you on medication? Are we in some kind of mental hospital?"
"Are you feeling better?" He asked instead, boycotting my question. I didn't reply to him at first, I waited to watch his movements. He was graceful as he strode across the tiny space that separated us. Duncan pressed his hand to my forehead, checking for a temperature, and I was too mesmerized to swat him away. "You look better," he went on, grabbing my hands and helping me to my feet. To my surprised I didn't feel weighed down anymore. I was feeling kind of...normal. It scared me that I could feel so average when given the circumstances I should have been terrified out of my mind.
"You're starting to accept it," Duncan told me, tapping the side of my head making me wonder about those supernatural powers I was sure he ws gifted with. "You want to fight it, but you can't. You know that what I'm telling you is the truth; you're dead."
I opened my mouth to argue but ended up a gawping fish out of water. My throat dried up once again and the only way it felt better was when I tried to say anything else.
"How can I be dead?" I questioned, trying to channel a more rational brain. I started pacing the floor, passing Duncan as he leaned himself against the wall. "I was doing my homework a few hours ago. I have classes to go to in the morning!"
"You don't, not anymore."
That was when reality started to sink in for me. There was only so far you could take a prank, and this was far out of the park by then. My thoughts started to quicken and my legs were wobbling all over again. Eventually I started falling again.
"You need to stop doing that," I could hear Duncan's voice warning me. My vision cleared, central first and then all of it at once. "Bridgette told me you should be passed this stage."
"Wa stig," I heard myself mumble, trying to form any words at all. My tongue was feeling heavy and my vision wouldn't focus suddenly.
Duncan gave an annoyed sigh. "When you die, you go through stages. You are in complete denial and your body is trying to push this all away. It's a stage that is reserved for people who weren't expecting to die," he explained, but I can't say I took much of it in. "We get the elderly and the suicides, the ones who knew it was coming. They can pass through a lot quicker than you can. Then you get those who were in freak accidents who, in the back of their mind, knew it was coming, so all we have to do is calm them down and move them on. And then there's people like you. We don't even know what happened to you, and you probably won't ever find out, but you're here, you're dead, and we have to get your mind ready to be judged."
"By who?" I swallowed. "St. fucking Peter?" I snorted at the idea. I'd never cared much for religion in my living life. My parents had been too busy to ever take to me church. The closest I got was when my elementary school had to do our Christmas performance at our local church one year when the school hall had flooded. I'd been terrified out of my wits back then at all the creepy statues they had lying around the place, but over the years I'd grown numb to the thought of 'something greater' being out there.
"Something like that," Duncan smirked. "Now, come on, you should be okay to take a tour."
"A tour?" I asked, swinging my legs back out of the bed. I tried not to think about how I'd ended back in there; the thought of Duncan having caught me from falling on my face was too much to handle for one lifetime.
"I assume you'd want to see the place you're going to be staying in," he replied, shrugging his shoulders. "Or you can stay here. Your choice."
One last look at the shoe box room and I was out the door.
The corridor was lit up too brightly, to the point where I had to shield my eyes if I ever wanted to see again. I was starting to understand that bright light of death.
I could hear Duncan laugh at me. I removed my hand to yell at him but was taken away by the sight around me. We were't in the hallway anymore, instead we were stood in the foyer of what appeared to be a 16th century castle. It was picturesque, something straight from a history book. I was amazed at the detail. The hand-laid bricks, the sweeping staircase, the chill in the air. I was too mesmerized to realize that Duncan was already halfway up the staircase. I decided it was best to follow him instead of getting so distracted, seeing as I would have been utterly lost and was sure Duncan wouldn't appreciate me not following him. He seemed like a jerk, someone I would not associate myself with when I'd been alive, but he also seemed to care to some extent. He'd kept showing up in my room and he's caught me when I'd fallen.
"Keep up," he called. "Wouldn't want you losing your way."
We passed down a long hallway to the left of the staircase, a lot dimmer than the last one we were in. The portraits on the wall had the eyes that followed you, and I was starting to wonder if I'd been sucked into some kind of horror movie.
There was a long ten minutes of silence, and by the look ahead, we had a long way to go before we even reached the end. It was like looking at a distorted Alice in Wonderland painting, where the walls were askew and the ceiling slanted downwards, and the further you walked the smaller the space around you became.
"Where are we exactly? This seems like a pretty shitty place for the almighty Afterlife," I snorted.
Duncan didn't turn to look at me as he replied, continuing their journey down the hall. "This is more like a waiting room," he told me. "You'll stay here for a few days until you're full settled, and then we move you onto Afterlife...maybe."
"Maybe?" I asked in confusion. I made my strides a little quicker to catch up to him. "Why maybe? What happens if I don't get into Afterlife?" The concept was new, and every time I thought I had my head wrapped around what was going on something else became the spanner in the works.
I was refused an answer at this point, which I would have fought about, but our journey had ended. Duncan pushed open a door and my emotions took over.
I was home.
The two of us were standing in my bedroom. My bed sheets were neatly straight, just as I always kept them. My laptop laid open on the desk, just as I'd left it before falling into bed that night. The way I saw it was the way I'd have seen it as if I'd just come home from a long day at school. I yearned to throw myself onto my desk chair and finish that assignment, or simply throw myself under my blanket for a little home comfort. I was in awe.
"I figured you'd like it here better than the dungeons," Duncan tried to joke, but I barely heard a word he said. "I need you to understand that this isn't real. You're not going to get to go home, whatever the outcome is." He walked past me, to the double doors that lead out to the view of my back yard. It was the perfect view in the summer; the city lights were visible in the back drop, but were far enough away that the fairy lights I had scattered through the garden shrubbery had a major effect.
That wasn't the view I was met with when Duncan pulled open the doors. But I was not disappointed.
White towers gleamed under what looked like an unending sun. Small buildings and flying cars, open pavilions and actual people. The pearly gates protected everything it could reach, surrounded by floating clouds that made me wish I had been more of a sci-fi geek growing up. This was definitely something out of a movie scene, something that could only be imagined, not seen.
"That's Afterlife," Duncan told me, holding a hand out for me to grab. I took it without hesitation. He pulled me forward, standing next to him. I couldn't hear him breathing or feel his skin against mine, all I could focus on was the view before me.
Reality felt like a distant dream now, not this place. It had been minutes, hours, days, since I'd been back in my bedroom, telling myself that I was going to finish my work in the morning. The sense that I had been living this fantasy, the one with the view out my window that wasn't my back yard, was overpowering. My mind slipped into a reality that it shouldn't have, and I suddenly realized how unimportant going back down to Earth was.
"I'll come back for you at some point. We can talk, go over the more important details."
I turned to watch him go, calling out in confusion, "What am I supposed to now?"
Duncan turned to me with an unreadable expression. "Now?" He grinned wickedly. "Now you live."
A/N: Well well well...what do we have here?
A NEW STORY!
Ugh. I told myself I would not post anything until I'd written whole bunch, or at least had written the plot out...but I couldn't contain my excitement!
This is an idea I had towards the end of posting CTS, and was one of the previews given in the epilogue, for anyone who also read CTS...If you did not read CTS, you should CTS because it's a kick-ass story! Shameless self-promotion right there XD
Anyways, there is no update schedule for this. I am hoping to get started on writing other things, both multi-chap and oneshot waaaah! I'm hoping that if I have loads of projects to write, I won't take long breaks in between, because I should always have something different to write :D :D
As always, feedback is welcome, educated plot-guesses, plot-help, any kind of criticism...whatever thoughts you had when reading this!
Thanks for reading, please review (: