Life After Death
'Living', as Duncan called it, wasn't as exciting as one may have thought.
He did show up a few days later, but in the meantime I was pretty much confined to a bedroom that looked like mine but didn't feel like mine.
I was having plenty of time to adjust to this new way of life, but the pains in my chest wouldn't subside. I was isolated, alone. I was out of touch with everything around me. I suddenly didn't need to eat or sleep. I could feel my body changing like I was going through puberty all over again, and that was very traumatic.
I was yearning to go to Afterlife, like it was calling me from the open window. I considered sneaking out just to see it, but every time that thought crossed my mind the windows slammed shut as if the castle itself could read my thoughts.
When Duncan did make a reappearance he wasn't in the happiest mood. At least he couldn't be pissed off with my fainting anymore. He whisked me off through the castle, just walking and talking, but I barely caught a word he was saying. I was enchanted by everything we passed. After everything that had happened, walking through the medieval castle was the thing that felt the most surreal. I wasn't exactly a history buff, but I excelled at school and all its subjects.
"And at that point the world implodes, it's all your fault, and we have sex on the radioactive wave as it heads out to destroy the rest of the galaxy."
"Fascinating," I mumbled, trying to get a closer look at the rich-purple tapestry hanging on the wall.
"You're not listening to me," Duncan continued, clenching his jaw.
"I don't see how any of this is important." Which was true. I was going to get into Afterlife and live as a dead soul-thing for the rest of forever.
"You want to get into Afterlife, don't you? So you have to listen!"
I rolled my eyes, shocking even myself at the action. But I still didn't see the big deal. "I don't see the problem: I'm going to get into Afterlife, right? There isn't another option." I was ready to shrug it off as nothing, just another test for me to ace- assuming it was some kind of mental or physical challenge.
Duncan, however, cocked an eyebrow at me, jaw clenched tight enough to break a few teeth.
"You don't understand how serious this is," he told me, to which I wanted to reply with some witty remark I hadn't thought of yet, but he continued talking instead. "If you don't get into Afterlife, you get reincarnated. You go back down to earth. You go back down there and fuck everything up."
My heart stopped all over again and for a moment I wondered if this was another side effect of dying. But then the realization dawned, the words had come out of Duncan's mouth. I could go back to earth. I could go home. It had only been a few days but I was itching to go back. I wanted to hug my parents, tell them I loved them, how sorry I was for not telling them sooner.
"You're not understanding, I can tell."
"I could go home..." I whispered, in awe. Though slightly pissed that I hadn't been informed of this earlier.
"Tell me, Courtney, how many stories do you hear about people coming back from the dead, as themselves, and continuing on with their lives?" That was when I deflated back to the floor. "Reincarnation. You go back to earth, but as someone, or something, else. You could be reborn all over again as a human, a kitten, a flower. You wouldn't be you and you wouldn't remember anything. A clean slate."
"Maybe I want a clean slate," I shrugged. The idea was appealing; starting over again. But the pained look on Duncan's face made me think I'd said the wrong thing.
He didn't acknowledge what I said, or even look at me, for the rest of our brisk walk. We soon ended up back at my bedroom slash torture chamber and I was alone with a second glance.
Rescue came a few hours later, but I was quickly dismissed by Bridgette as having no real hold on time. Hours, days, years, it wasn't a set schedule. Things happened as they happened, one moment at a time. There was no system to tell you how many moments had passed in between moments, and you would drive yourself crazy trying to think of it.
I found Bridgette to be more useful than Duncan when it came to explaining things clearly to me. He just cared about getting me into Afterlife because that was his job and then he would abandon me for the case afterwards. Bridgette was a nurse, I learnt, so she had a more caring nature.
I vaguely remember her from the other moment when she cared for me when I was sick. I hadn't been in my right state of mind- and an argument could be made that I still wasn't in it now- but her bright blonde hair and bright blue eyes were unmistakable. Her smile never left and she was so gentle with everything she touched.
Bridgette took me to her nurses station which was empty apart from the two of us. The whole set-up reminded me of a hospital, with various rooms and clipboard charts. A shiver ran down my spine at my last thought of being in a hospital. I'd been hovering over my own body, watching my family desperately crying because I was gone forever to them.
"Is there anyway for me to check up on my family?" I asked Bridgette. I needed to know if they were adjusting to my death, that they were moving on and being okay again.
She didn't answer right away, but soon whispered a quick 'no', and moved onto her duties without too much lingering. I found that was the case with most subjects- both Duncan and Bridgette didn't linger on anything, they just got on with it. It was a technique I'd been proud to have in my life, never stopping for the unimportant things. But now I wasn't alive and I was suspicious of everything everyone wasn't telling me.
I hadn't mt another dead person yet. Weather they were as experienced as Duncan or Bridgette, or had died the same time as myself. I didn't feel as connected to this world because I was so confined to what I had already been taught, which was nothing at all.
"What's going to happen to me?" I asked, distracting Bridgette from her paperwork once again. She wasn't angry about it, notably sensing my uneasiness. She placed a kind on hand on arm, her smile warming me until I was melting into my seat.
"You're going to get into Afterlife, Duncan's going to make sure of it, and then you're going to go to school or get a job or be a bum, whatever life suits you."
"What after Reincarnation? Do I not qualify or something?" The silence hurt but the tension killed me. I thought I'd been getting along with Bridgette, she'd answered a lot of questions Duncan left hanging for me.
"It's complicated, Courtney," she whispered gently, not looking me in the eye. Bridgette continued flipping through her stacks of paper, something to do with all the patients she oversees, but I could tell she wasn't paying that much attention to it anymore. "We're not in the position to tell anyone what to do when they get here, you get a choice and then the Elders let you know if you chose right. You can opt for Reincarnation if you want to, but if the Elders decide Afterlife is best for you, Afterlife is where you go. Afterlife, ultimately, is better. I don't know what I'd do without my memories of my family to keep me going." I listened as Bridgette continued on, her voice turning to tears at her own thoughts. I wanted to reach out and comfort her, to tell her she didn't have to tell me anything, but I wanted to hear what she had to say, I needed to know the after effects of what was turning into my new life.
"Or imagine your family when they die, and they come up here expecting to be reunited with you, only to find you got Reincarnated. You remember nothing about them back down on Earth, living life as someone they would pass as a stranger on the street," Bridgette shook her head, looking disgusted by the idea. "But I guess it works both ways. When you've been here forever and your family finally die and join you, and they then choose Reincarnation and they get granted it." Bridgette shook her head, snorting, "It shouldn't even be an option."
Courtney left Bridgette that day with a lot more to think about than she had imagined possible. Life had been difficult, but being dead was a new challenge entirely.
A/N: Notably shorter chapter. I would expect most chapters to be around this length.
How are we enjoying so far? I feel like we're seeing into Bridgette a bit more while Duncan is still closed off...we'll see how well that plays out for Courtney ;P
Next chapter sees Courtney being judged! Does she go to Afterlife? Does she get Reincarnated? What's with all the pushiness Duncan?! It's Courtney's choice! Kinda...
Let me know how you guys are enjoying and what your predictions are going in XD
Thanks for reading, please review (: