My death was painless, quick, but the afterlife is a pop-up ad, inescapable. I think I remember looking one way but not the other, maybe the blow of a horn, definitely the thud of my body and CRACK of my skull against street. Even though I could think through what had happened, go back as far as my birth, none of it mattered; can’t get lost in images when they themselves are lost in nothingness.
That didn’t stop me from trying, again and again I watched, pseudo-lived through what I already had until I blinked in a memory then opened my eyes for real. At least, it felt like I did, and I hadn’t felt anything more than an echo since whatever vehicle smacked the life out of my body.
No matter what I thought had happened darkness remained true, the absence of light was the only thing; the void heat-wave shimmered, and as if in response to my confusion, a small square of light appeared. It grew, magnified until white was all I saw, had become the new black.
‘CONGRATULATIONS! YOU WON!’
Said a canned female voice as letters, bright red and big, spelled out the message in time:
‘YOU ARE THE 10,000,000,000,000th VISITOR TO THE AFTERLIFE!’
I ranked higher in death than I ever had in life.
‘PRESS HERE TO COLLECT YOUR PRIZE’
I never clicked on spam, didn’t plan on starting; a hand shaped like mine once was, down to the pinstripe skin tag finger scars, appeared in front of me. I didn’t have a head to shake or mouth to object with, was forced to watch the limb that looked like mine follow directions, tap the word ‘Accept.’
I, whatever that was, dropped back into memory: the horn, rolling thumps-
My eyes opened on their own to a world no longer one color- I was in sunlight; denim scratched my thighs, cotton brushed my chest, a breeze blew as I walked.
Alive again, that was my situation, no way around it; newspaper in a nearby garbage can said it’d been a month since I died.
How long does it take maggots to crawl out of flesh? For skin to shrink-wrap itself tight around a corpse’s skeleton?
Expecting the worst I checked my reflection in a store window; my ugly face stared back, nothing I wasn’t used to though, not a single piece of gravel lodged in my skin or tire mark to be found. I sniffed but figured if I was to rot it would, at the least, take more than a few seconds’ sunlight to start the process.
That didn’t make sense, though nothing about my situation really did; we come from nothingness, from death we are born and so we must return. Second lives aren’t supposed to happen.
Yet I’d appeared where I’d died, only a few blocks from where I’d lived my entire life; the space between me and my parents’ house became miniscule, then nothing. I was at the front porch.
It was summer but the shades were drawn, windows shut, front door sealed in front of the one with a screen; they swore they’d never leave but there aren’t many reasons to keep promises to the dead.