3-The Choice of a Lifetime


They, not that I know who they are, say in death, a person experiences the sensation of going through a long dark tunnel with a light at the end. They lied. There was no tunnel, just the chaos and panic that erupted after my life ended.

Kurtis held my bloodied body as he alternated between calling out for help and telling me to stay with him. He babbled about kissing me for the first time and how it wasn’t enough for him.

It made me happy that he admitted the same emotion for me I had for him. Except I was dead. Who died while singing karaoke? Taking away from the fact that it was total degradation to die so exposed on stage, with everyone and their drunk ass mother staring at me, I didn’t even know how I died. No matter how hard I reflected on when the lights went out, the only memory that surfaced was a vague sense of someone in front of me before the explosion of pain in my chest.

My life didn’t flash before my eyes. I don’t know why it bothered me to not experience these things, but I felt cheated that death was nothing more than watching your lifeless body. Where were the angels? Okay, that’s reaching in my case, but where were the demons? The soul reapers that would carry my body to the pearly gates to await judgment. There had to be more to death than watching paramedics attempt to work on your lifeless body. Time ticked by; bar patrons couldn’t get out fast enough. The blood all over my body probably clued them in that a murderer was in their midst. Police officers corralled everyone by the bar to take down their names and addresses. No one saw anything. One minute I was up on stage, the next minute I was dead on the ground. God, even at the end of my life, I was messing it all up.

“Good evening.”

I swiveled around, but the movement proved unnecessary as my focus just shifted from in front of me to behind. Amid all the chaos and confusion, one lone patron sat at the table, with a goblet of amber liquid in hand as if nothing happened. The man stared right at me. He wore a suit that would have stood out like a sore thumb in the dive we were in. Chiseled in a Greek God kind of way with a square chin and eyes that a girl could get lost in.

“Are you talking to me?”

“You seem to be the only person floating around.”

“Why aren’t the police questioning you?” Not that I found it a trifle suspicious or anything. Someone murdered me. I didn’t think I rated high enough on anyone’s dislike list for murder.

“Apparently you do, in fact, rate on someone’s list of people to murder as you are dead.” The man took a swig of his liquor and lifted it level with his eyes. The look of appreciation made less sense than her apparent death. The glass made an audible thug as it hit the wooden surface. No one looked at him or even noticed that a random person was still at the table drinking.

“Did you just read my mind?”

“Yes, I did. I’m only here as a courtesy. You slipped through the cracks before they put a freeze on death.”

The pure explosion of randomness that spewed forth took me by surprise. “A freeze on death? Who are you? Who killed me? Why am I dead? Am I going to Heaven? Don’t answer that last one. I’ve never been a very good person.”

“I cannot answer your questions. I suggest you hang out with your body, take in the sights. I’m sure the strike will end soon, and you can move on.”

“What strike?”

“Death workers feel entitled to more than we have given them. To set their universe right, they’ve stopped working. I believe your unions do similar things when workers wish to fight the system.” The disdain in his voice wilted my rampant curiosity.

I died at a karaoke bar. The unfairness of it all crept into my stupor. All the things I didn’t do or should have done. As I thought on it, there wasn’t a lot I had going for me. I had a crappy position at a place that didn’t appreciate me. Other than Kurtis showing interest in me after months of hard-core crushing, I had no real emotional connections to anyone. My parents passed away years ago. Their world revolved around me, but they left me far too soon. My friends were acquaintances from work that I bonded with over beer and accounts from work.

I wasted my entire life doing absolutely nothing of value or importance.

“Your thoughts are depressing. I apologize that you have not led an unfulfilled life.” He said. “Young Daria, one day this will make sense. I wanted to meet you. Your decisions have such a pivotal role in our world.”

If I had eyes, I’m sure I’d be in tears. My entire life reduced to inconveniencing a… wait. I didn’t even know who or what this man was.

“Who are you?”

“I’m someone who is deeply sorry that your life has ended. We had hoped that the strike would not occur, but alas it has.”

“Who are we?”

“The council of Life.”

Then to top off my extraordinary night, he disappeared before my eyes. Well, if I still had eyes, which was subjective to the condition I found myself in.

So, I took his advice. I stayed with my body and watched the surrounding people. Those from work huddled around with tears in their eyes. At least my passing had meant something to someone. Sharon stayed with Kurtis, attached at his hip until he went in the ambulance with my corpse. As the doors shut on the ambulance, a moment of panic set in. He told me to stay with my body and my body was about to leave!

I reached forward and tried to touch the ambulance door. The faded view of my fingers slipped right past the metal frame as if nothing stood in my way. I took a moment to reflect how utterly cool it was to pass through a solid object and then took the full plunge. Within a few seconds, I’d breached the ambulance and hovered over my body once more.

The distinguished gentleman from earlier popped in the ambulance just after I got in myself. He sat down on the bench next to the gurney between Kurtis and the paramedic.

“One more thing. Your spiritual guide feels terrible that they cannot assist you with this transition because of the strike. They’ve asked that I return and give you a choice.”

I had a spiritual guide. Perhaps the day wasn’t a total loss. “That’s okay. We all have priorities I guess.”

“You would be sympathetic. Why aren’t you hysterical, anyway? I thought all you lot had huge breakdowns when you died?”

I couldn’t muster enough outrage to have a breakdown. “I’m dead. I can’t change it. I just don’t know what to do from here.”

“This strike thing, it’s not your fault. The reapers want more power in the council. The angels want free will. The demons want hell all to themselves without the invasion of twisted human souls. They spend their entire lives transitioning humans one way or another with little to no reward.”

“Are you a reaper?”

“God no, I couldn’t handle talking to basket case humans all the time.”

“Are you an angel?”

“Do you see wings?”

“Are you a demon?”

“Ditto for horns.”

“Well, what’s left?”

“This universe is vast. There are countless creatures that roam it. Let’s just say I’m like a congressman of sorts. I represent people who cannot speak for themselves at the council of life. Though rarely do I represent humans, I felt bad that death would strand you at a bar when you died.”

“You must be a very good politician. I keep asking questions, and you have yet to answer one.”

“I’m the best. Now, I’m tempted to put you back in that body just to save myself the paperwork. Do you want to live?”

Duh. “It beats the alternative of haunting my corpse.”

“Here’s the thing. Humans who have actual death experiences come back with a few quirks. Well, more than a few. Basically, you’ll come back completely changed. Still a go for corpse reanimation?”

“I won’t be a zombie, will I? Eating brains is disgusting.”

“You won’t have to eat brains.”

“I just can’t imagine eating someone’s brains for survival.”

“Silver lining and all. So, is that a yes?”

“Will I still be me?”

“You’ll be you with alterations.”

“In what way?”

“It’s different for everyone. I need to know, like right now.”

Was I ready to find out what awaited me after death? Not a chance in hell.

“Fine. Put me back or do whatever you have to do.”

“That a girl. No paperwork for me.”

With that his hand flung out and grabbed at me. Whereas I didn’t feel the door when I passed through, his hand gripped my essence and forced me back into my body. Even though I wasn’t sure why, I struggled against him. My survival skills which sucked on stage, kicked into high gear and I fought him with everything I had. Sadly, this amounted to more of a shimmering convulsion than an actual battle.

For a few moments I felt my lifeless body. Nothing worked but an energy within me seemed to grow. Who knew how long I’d been dead, or even if I ever died? All I knew was that tonight ranked as the weirdest night in my life and I’m sure that when I wake up tomorrow, I will need a ton of alcohol to have it all make sense.

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