Afterlife -Short Story
He didn’t feel any pain. He heard the noise of the collision, and then … nothing.
How can there be nothing? he asked himself. No discomfort, no sounds of sirens, no voices standing over him. Nothing. Just nothing.
He opened his eyes to total darkness. Panic rose inside him and he made a sound like a frightened child as he thrashed his arms around. In the back of his mind he was expecting to hit the sides of something; some primeval nightmare said ‘coffin’ to him. But his hands didn’t touch anything at all, there was space all around him. He calmed a little. The darkness scared him, it always had done, but at least he wasn’t confined.
“Hello,” he called out. No reply. He called again, louder this time, “Hello!”
He sat up and felt the smooth ground he had been lying on; it was certainly no hospital bed.
“Is there anybody there?” he called out.
His voice didn’t echo, not even a little. It was as if there was an infinite amount of space and darkness around him.
Tentatively he stood up, feeling his body with his hands for signs of injuries; he could feel none. He took a few steps forward and a thought occurred to him. I’m blind! He frantically waved his hand in front of his face but he couldn’t see it. He cried out and rubbed his eyes, but still it was only darkness.
“I want to see!” he called.
There was no theatrics, no noises, no flickering of a florescent bulb … it was just light. He could see himself. He looked at his hands as if he had never seen them before, then examined the rest of his body.
“I’m okay, I’m okay … just relax, deep breaths.” He walked forward. There was nothing to walk forward to, no walls, no furniture, no points of reference at all.
“Where am I?” he yelled in frustration.
Again, there were no dramatic sounds or effects, the world around him just instantly turned from a pure white vista into a translucent state.
This world was like nothing he had ever seen before. He fell to his knees for a moment. This was impossible, he said to himself, nothing on Earth looks like this. He stood again and walked forward; this time there was something to walk to. There was a shimmering barrier between him and what lay beyond. It acted like a semi-visible wall that appeared to ripple as water would under a gentle breeze. On the other side of the barrier was an endless panorama of shimmering orbs, each the size of a large building, each floating effortlessly in empty space.
He spun on his heels; he was in one of the orbs! He could see its arching structure above him, and when he looked down at the floor, what had, at first, appeared a solid surface now allowed him to see the bottom curve of the orb.
Just as he had no reference before for distance, now he found he had no reference for time. How long had he spent alternatively crying, panicking, screaming, pleading or sitting still, trying to catch fleeting thoughts? He didn’t know. Actions did not pass within time.
A strange composure came over him. He wiped his wet cheeks with his hands and walked toward the wall of the orb once again. This time he stood and watched intently, taking in every detail of what was before him.
The orb closest to his own was about five-hundred feet away, swaying in the nothingness, as if it were the head of an enormous flower, but there was no stem adjoining it. He stared at it for an indeterminable amount of time, and for the briefest of moments he could have sworn that he saw a tiny figure pressed up against the wall of that orb, just as he was pressed against the wall of this one.
There would be no point in shouting. Even if sound could penetrate the shimmering wall, he was sure that the neighbouring orb was too far away for anything to be discernible. He rubbed his palms over the translucent surface. It didn’t feel solid, it didn’t feel like anything at all, and yet he couldn’t push his hand through it. He walked the entire circumference of the orb; which was beginning to feel more like a cell now. He made his way into the centre and stood there.
“What do I do now?” he asked himself. He looked up into the iridescent void above him and his mind wandered.
Without warning his body became light and he began to float upwards. Another wave of panic set in, but this was quickly tempered when he realised he could move at will, as if swimming in air. He stopped, floating free several feet above the ground. He turned to his left and began listing in that direction. He moved quickly to his right and suddenly darted that way, effortlessly moving upward into the dome of his orb.
He was flying, actually flying, without any restriction or resistance at all. He swooped this way and that, moving like a swallow would. For a few moments his thoughts were not on where he was, how he got here or why he was here at all? He was free.
He pictured himself in a blue summer sky, flying above the spectacular mountain ranges … and he was there. Below him were the snow-capped peaks, and above him was a crystal blue sky with a warm yellow sun.
“How is any of this possible?” he asked himself. He drifted downward and landed on a grassy slope. There was no orb here to hold him, just the vast open space. He ran his hand across the wet grass. It was as real as anything he’d ever felt. He picked up a rock, it too was real. But there was something missing. There was no breeze, no sensation of weather at all. It was not cold, not warm, it wasn’t anything. It felt so unnatural that it scared him and he wished for a chilled highland breeze to come along.
When the wintry breeze hit his skin, it took several seconds for him to register it.
Did I just make that happen? he asked himself, can I make the weather here? He thought of rain … and it began to rain a cold shower. He thought of snow, and it snowed. He pictured in his head a terrible lightning storm, and the world darkened around him and the forks of electricity poured down from the blackness.
“I want a house,” he screamed as the storm intensified.
There was a log cabin close to him, just there, as if it had always been there. He ran inside, and found a fire was lit and a plate of roast chicken and vegetables steaming on the table. After changing his wet clothes into dry ones from the bedroom, he sat and ate. Halfway through a mouthful he began laughing to himself, an almost maniacal laugh, “Why am I eating this? I can do anything!”
He waved his hand across the table and laughed to himself as every kind of luxury food filled its surface.
“Stop the storm,” he said and immediately the sky outside the cabin turned from black to a bright summer blue.
“I want to hear birdsong.”
He listened to the birds’ chorus for a short time before he let his mind run freely. A madness overcame him, a sudden delve into his own unfettered thoughts and desires. How long he indulged his fantasies he didn’t know. Beautiful naked women fulfilled each sordid whim that ever crossed his sexual ego. The log cabin became a marble palace. Alcohol flowed and he let himself fall deeper and deeper into the pleasures of the flesh.
There seemed no end to his energy. He didn’t sleep. He didn’t need sleep and there was no night. No end to the pleasure he could give to women, or that they could give to him. Mid-congress, a thought occurred to him. He could carry on like this forever … he was in heaven.
Heaven, he thought, the word repeating in his mind over and over again, but that means ….
He stopped … he stopped everything, it all disappeared: the palace, the drink, the food, the girls … all gone. He was standing in the centre of the orb yet again, as if nothing had happened.
“Why did you stop?” asked a voice.
He spun around on his heels and looked wide-eyed at the figure standing before him. The man was middle-aged, with a long friendly face which seemed to hold a permanent smirk. He was dressed in indistinct white trousers and a white tunic. The most striking thing about him was the two angelic wings sprouting from his shoulders and arcing their way down his back until their tips almost touched the ground.
“Hello,” he said in a stutter.
“Hello,” replied the angelic man, you stopped your fantasy. Why? You can have anything you want here.”
“But it’s not real.”
“Isn’t it?!” the angelic man held out a hand and an apple instantly appeared in his palm. He threw it gently.
“Does that feel real?”
“Yes, … yes it does.”
He bit a small section of apple. It was just apple, it felt and tasted like any other apple he’d ever eaten in his life.
“It’s an apple,” he said flatly.
“And were the girls real?”
“I don’t know … I don’t what’s going on, or where I am.”
“Where do you think you are? Where do you think all of these people are, billions of them?”
“Then that’s where you are,” the angelic man smiled.
“But I’m an atheist, I don’t believe in God.”
“Then,” the angelic man began walking toward the wall of the orb, and beckoned him to follow, “there is no god, not here anyway. Do you still want it to be heaven?”
“Where exactly is here? What has happened to me?”
“You have passed from one existence to another.”
“Death is only a word, an expression, a fear. You are part of the Universe.”
“Can you send me back?”
“That is not within my power or any power.”
He stood against the shimmering barrier and watched the orbs that stretched in vast numbers into the distance.
“Why are you like an angel?” he asked solemnly.
“I appear as you wish to perceive me.”
“And the others, the millions of others, all of those people in all of those orbs, how do they perceive you?”
“To some I am mercy … to others I am pain, but it is always how they choose me to be.”
“Are you God?”
“I am you … I am all of these people. I am your totality. Without you I am nothing.”
“Everyone is here?” he asked.
The angel tilted his head, “Everyone?”
“All of the people who have ever lived, ever died?”
“Yes, from the preborn to the aged, they are all here, they are all perceiving me as they see fit.”
“But some of them are perceiving you subconsciously. I didn’t consciously want you to be an angel.” He looked at the man. His wings had gone, but otherwise he was the same.
“That is true, those who live in fear or hate, only see fear and hate, wherever they are.”
“And they’re all here?”
“All of the murderers, the child rapists, the war-mongers …Hitler? Stalin? Blair?! …all of them?”
“Yes, they are all here.”
“All here, with total power, total pleasure if they so decide … immortality?”
“Like you, they can choose what they want. They are only prisoners if they build the prisons themselves.”
“Go away!!!” he yelled, “Just go!”
He was alone.
“It was all for nothing. Humanity, decency, morals, religion … it was all for nothing. All of the evil people got the same as the good, in the end.”
He watched the orbs for some time. He thought he could see a pattern of changing colours rippling through the orbs, but he couldn’t be sure.
He cried and cried, and afterwards he became angry. He screamed and screamed, but there was no one there to hear him, or care about what he did.
His mind raced, thoughts colliding and contradicting. As he spoke out a plan formed itself, “I want the power to leave this place! I want the power to destroy those who do not deserve immortality!”
A lunacy overtook him, but not like before, now it consumed him. He found those he was looking for easily. There were so many sinners. He killed, he maimed, he tortured. He invaded their worlds and torn their dreams apart. He would be justice to the Universe … as a God should be.
Two Entities watched the billions of orbs for a time that was no real time at all.
“More of them are turning,” said one to the other, “Why can’t they be happy? They can have anything they want, and still they return to violence, dominance and destruction.”
“They are becoming terrible Gods in their own minds,” replied the second Entity.
“But they could have been so much more.”
“Some will be … they will learn, they will create where once they destroyed.”
The Entity looked down into the orb of the young man he had spoken to; he was just lying on the ground, creating his own Universe, it was one of pain.
“They will learn,” he repeated to himself.