Okay. So. I feel like I should get this out of the way, just so there’s no misunderstandings. The truth is, I’m dead. Yeah, that’s right. Dead. Just as dead as your Great Aunt Bertha, who tragically passed in the great exploding pencil case incident of 1902, god bless her soul. She says hi, by the way. Hopes you’re looking after yourself and your family. I hope so too, you never know when you’re gonna go after all. Such is life.
How I died isn’t important. Well, it probably is to some people, but what happens happens and to be quite honest I’d just like to keep it at that. All you need to know is that I’m still, in fact, just as dead as I was when I started being dead, and I sure as hell ain’t getting any more alive. I was there, you know. After I’d died. I remember it like it was yesterday, probably because it was. Well, only 23 hours and 47 minutes ago, to be exact. One second I was alive, the next second I was standing over my body. So it goes. I remember how my body twitched as the nerve endings died, how pale I became as my lifeblood – literally – leaked out of the back of my skull. I remember the glassy look in my once bright, green eyes, I remember being found. Oh, how I wish I didn’t remember being found. She didn’t scream, didn’t cry, just a sharp intake of breath along with a barely whispered “oh, my God”. I remember how her tears welled up and overflowed, how her shaking hands fumbled for the stupidly large baby pink phone I always used to tease her for, how she stuttered out the address, and the emergency, and the “please hurry oh god I think he’s still moving”.
It didn’t really hit me that I was well and truly the opposite of alive until the first responders arrived. There was two, one with a clean shaven face and one of those haircuts that every guy seems to have and none seem to pull off, you know the one. The other was older, probably, but I’d never been good at guessing ages, and he wrinkled his nose at the state of my room, with the clothes strewn everywhere and the pastel blue walls that I’d covered in random stickers since childhood.
“He’s dead, Jim.” The first told the second, voice gruff and manly, kind of like that one gruff and manly actor.
“For the last time, my name isn’t Jim. I’m sick of you. I want a divorce.” He replied, probably. I mean, I was too busy watching them mess with my limp body to pay much attention, what do you expect from me?
They took me – I mean my body – away not long after that, and then I got taken… here. I’m not really sure where here is, but I certainly am here, rather than, well, there, I guess. How I got here is kinda hazy, a lot of bright white light, some pretty guys with wings, a harp or two… you know the drill. Where I am now could be accurately described as a waiting room. The décor was simple and muted, with greys matching creams matching bursts of colour from the flowers in spun glass vases, strategically placed on the small, spindly tables that resided in the corners of the room. As I allow my eyes to scan my surroundings, they fall on a framed painting hung on the wall opposite, slightly askew. It features a small kitten clutching onto a gnarled branch, its large eyes staring beseechingly into my very soul. Into my soul? Maybe I am just my soul now. Either way, it didn’t change the title of the painting, engraved underneath it on one of those fancy golden plaques. Hang in There. A small chuckle sounds in my throat. You too, kitty. You too.
I notice a cream door framed by two of the tables, and I wander through it, curiosity getting the better of me. It leads into another waiting room, emptier than the first. In fact, the only thing it contains is an old T.V., turned on, showing nothing but the black and white fuzz of static. I step closer to it and it starts to focus, forming a picture. A picture of me. My life. From birth to death, which was now 23 hours and 52 minutes ago. How time flies when you’re having… well, I can’t say it was fun, but it sure was something. Now it’s over, and I’m watching it on a television screen in a strange waiting room in who-knows-where. It’s true then, what they say, about your life flashing before your eyes. I look at the screen as it flashes that time when I was 8 and broke my mother’s favourite vase of spun glass, that time when I was 15 and having my first argument with her, she was still wearing my grey shirt, clutching at that dumb pink phone. Then, all of a sudden, I’m 18, and I’m crying, and there’s clothes strewn over the floor and before you know it I’m dead and there’s these two first responders and his name isn’t Jim. Neither’s mine. So quickly and it’s over. So it goes. Screen back to static, me back to waiting room. I think I’ll be here forever. Not good enough for heaven; not bad enough for hell.
It’s been 23 years, 4 months, 12 days, and 9 hours since I died. I glance at the picture on the wall. Hang in There. You too, kitty. You too.