Two weeks ago I had an itch to write some fiction, and an idea that developed into this story popped into my head. After last week’s post, one of my good friends enthusiastically asked if this was part of the “new book.” That was never a consideration, but this has been an easy and enjoyable piece to write. I am definitely feeling it as my fingers fly across the keyboard, which I can’t say for the story I started over a year ago that has sat dormant for a very long time. Thanks for the suggestion Sharon.
This will be the last episode of Kyle’s experience, but be warned, it won’t provide closure, and you will have to draw your own conclusions. After all, if this is going to be the premise of my second novel , which I guess I am committing myself to, why not give you something to look forward to? Of course, there is that minor detail about getting published, but that is a different story for another day.
“Can we go over this one more time please?”
“Sure Kyle, but do me a favor and please try to relax. I know this is a lot to absorb, and it’s important that you are at peace with whatever you decide. So take a deep breath, and fire away with whatever questions you have.”
“Thank you,” Kyle said. Taking Sarah’s advice, he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, slowly exhaled, and cleared his head of the incoherent jumble of thoughts that were swimming in different directions. Reopening his eyes, he continued.
“To start, how can I possibly return back to that?” he asked, pointing at the tablet that lay face down on the table. “I thought you said I was already gone.”
“Time is different here, remember? They just started working on bringing you back and haven’t declared a time of death. If you walk through that door, you’ll survive to live another day.”
“But didn’t you also say I have a terminal malignancy? Why would I want to suffer through that if I don’t have to?
“It isn’t terminal, yet. Not even close. It will be however if you don’t listen to your body and your wife for a change. But you also need to remember that if you do go back, you won’t remember any of this. You aren’t going to wake up, have a Mr. Rogers moment and change your ways.”
“So why offer that as a choice?”
“Because you’ve earned enough points to have that option.”
“And the other option is to be reborn into a different life and start from scratch? What kind of life would that be?”
“I have no idea, but based on the points you’ve accumulated so far, I’m pretty sure you wont have to deal with the kind or hell you dealt with as a child and adolescent in this life. You’ll have different challenges, of course, and they could be very painful in different ways. Life is always full of challenges, but I suspect you won’t have to deal with anything like that again.”
“There’s three doors, so why don’t I have three options? I saw you escort the last guy that was here through that door, ” Kyle said, pointing to the one on the right.
“That door is the end of the line, and it isn’t an option for you right now. Anyone who enters that door has either failed miserably and has not met the minimum point threshold, or has earned enough points to relax and enjoy eternity.”
“That’s the door to Heaven or Hell?”
“I thought you weren’t religious?”
“I’m not. But I also never thought I’d experience anything like this.”
“Let’s put it this way,” Sarah said after a thoughtful pause. “If you’re wondering if that door will either lead you to a place with pearly gates, angels and harps, or a hot, flaming abyss with demons and pitchforks, think again. Everyone has their own idea of what Heaven and Hell might be, and that door will take you to whatever your version of those are.”
“I take it the last guy didn’t like where he was going.”
“I’m sorry, but that’s really none of your business.”
“Fair enough. So can you give me a good reason why I should consider going through the door that will take me back to the emergency room?”
“You mean besides your wife and kids?” Sarah asked.
“C’mon Sarah, I’m not that big of an asshole! But you did say I don’t have the points necessary to reach whatever the end of the road is, and that if I do go back I will have to deal with cancer. That prospect has always scared me to death, no pun intended. You also made it sound like if I start over and eventually do what what’s necessary to earn the points, I’ll see them again. So why put myself through all that pain and suffering?”
“Because,” Sarah answered, “there are no guarantees what kind of life you will have, what you will be confronted with, or how you will do if you start over. The first part of the life you just left was horrible, but you admirably made it through that gauntlet and did something positive with your life when it could have easily gone the other way. That by itself put you over the top to go through that third door.”
“But you said that wasn’t an option. What happened?”
“Well, you weren’t the most faithful husband or devoted father, were you?”
“Oh,” Kyle said, feeling the embarrassment warm his cheeks. “You know about my, um….my indiscretions?”
“We know everything about anyone who comes here.”
“So why are you here then. Didn’t you have the same choices?”
“No,” Sarah answered with more than a tinge of regret. “If you don’t earn the option to go through that last door one way or another after ten lives, you’re required to serve here indefinitely.”
“That sucks. Then what?”
“It’s like any job, except you are always on probation. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but at some point, the second or third door becomes available. It’s all predicated on how I perform here.”
Kyle sat back for a minute to ponder everything Sarah had patiently explained, and contemplated the most important decision he remembered ever having to make. It appeared he was close to what he thought of as winning the race, but going back would force him to confront a fate that had always terrified him. Yet, he did love and miss Mary and the kids. Why did it take something like this to make him realize that?
“I can’t emphasize this enough” Sarah volunteered. “Regardless of what you do, keep in mind you will not remember any of this experience or our discussion. So don’t plan on having this in your back pocket as motivation as you move forward.”
“Just like in my previous lives?”
“Exactly. Sometimes however, things temporarily sneak through and percolate to the service, but they are like smoke. You recognize something and try to grasp onto them, but they dissipate quickly. You’re familiar with the concept of deja vu?”
Kyle nodded. “Can you at least tell me how many lives I have lived so far? It would really be helpful to know how many more chances I have to get this right.”
“Of course it would,” Sarah said with a knowing smile,” but unfortunately that can’t factor into your thinking.”
“So you can tell me.”
“I’m sorry,” Sarah said, sounding like she meant it, “but no.”
Kyle looked past Sarah to the three doors and pondered his fate. Did he really want to go back and possibly suffer a fate he feared above all others? Since he wasn’t going to remember anything about this experience, there were no guarantees he would become a better husband, father or man, which meant he would be back in this room, having the same discussion, confronted with the same decisions when it ended.
He also couldn’t escape the feeling that if he did return, Mary would learn about his infidelities. How he handled that lovely situation would provide another test upon which he would be judged. Why put himself through all that?
Then again, Sarah did imply door number three, the one that lead to his version of Nirvana, would have been an option if he hadn’t ventured down that path. Plus there were no guarantees he wouldn’t fuck up a new life if he chose that option, and he had no idea how many more chances he had before he got stuck here. That prospect didn’t thrill him either. Kyle kept mulling his options over and over, a seemingly endless loop of internal debate, when Sarah’s muffled voice brought him back to the present.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
“I said our time is up, Kyle. I’ve answered all your questions and provided all the information I can. I understand this is a terribly difficult decision, but, as you know, others are waiting, so we both need to move on. You need to make a decision, so what’s it going to be?”