Life As We Know It

Another story from the upcoming collection of Life Sentences…

‘Hello?’

‘Hello?’

‘You need to open the door.’

‘Door?’

‘Can you see it?’

‘Yes, But…’

‘Pull it open and I’ll explain.’

‘But who… why? My dog. Where’s Bonkers?’

‘Please, just open the door.’

Carol-Ann Strudel looked around. Her eyes must be off. There was a door and… nothing else. Now she looked not even a wall… or a floor. Weird. She pulled the door open. ‘Wow! That’s…’ she pulled the door back towards her and looked behind it. Still blank. In front there was a beautiful path through the woods. Like the one she and her dad…’ she stifled a sob.

The same soothing compelling voice spoke, like a mix of Peter Ustinov and that bloke who did the voice overs for the Milk Tray adverts… ‘In you come… that’s it.’

As soon as Carol- Ann stepped forward the door… she didn’t know how to describe it.

‘Dissolved? Most people think of it as dissolving.’

‘How did you know I was thinking about the door?’

‘Everyone does. They latch on to the familiar. ‘Latch?’ Door?’ Get it?’

‘I’m sorry but this is all a bit weird. Can you just tell me why I’m in this wood?’

‘Here’s the thing. While I explain, can you walk towards the beginning?’

‘The beginning?’

‘The path. Ahead.’

‘How can I be walking towards the beginning? And where are you? I can hear you as if… as if…’

‘I’m inside your head?’

Carol-Ann spun round. Nothing there. Actually even the path was gone, just thick wood.’

‘You’re creeping me out. I’d like to go home. I’m not going anywhere until…’

‘But you are.’

And she was. Even as she determined to stand still her feet kept moving forward.

‘If you cast your mind back you might recall the stairs, the loose tread… yes?’

‘I fell?’

‘Indeed.’

‘So where am I? Where’s my hall? What happened?’

‘Your Hall is still in East Lothian. You, well, you transitioned.’

‘Transitioned? Do you mean died?’

If a voice could cringe, this voice cringed. ‘We try to avoid such finite expressions. You’re moving to the next phase.’

‘The afterlife?’

‘In a sense.’

‘Sorry. Can I sit down?’

‘With what?’

‘With what?’

‘You’ve nothing to sit on?’

‘I’ll perch on a log. I’m not proud.’

‘No I mean you’ve nothing with which you can sit.’

Carol-Ann looked down again. She wasn’t there. Specifically her bum wasn’t there.’

‘Where’s my body gone?’

‘It’s where you left it. East Lothian Royal Infirmary. We trialled a Bring Your Body With You a few years back and to be fair the folks quite liked it but it sort of freaked out those remaining. So we had to stop it.’

‘So what am I?’

‘What you’ve always been. You.’

‘No come on. I was born and I had no clue who I was. I just became aware of it as I grew up.’

‘Yes?’

‘So I can’t have been me. I really would like to stop. The trees are making me feel giddy.’

‘It’s the shadows. They can do that.’

‘Does everyone use this path?’

‘Everyone has their own bespoke transition to the beginning.’

‘Is this the Shadowlands? I heard about them at…’

‘No.’ The voice wrapped her in tiredness. ‘Sorry but if I had a… hang on… a pound… I can’t keep up with all the new currencies … for every transitioning spirit that’s come this way and said Shadowlands, I’d have a mountain of useless notes to…’

‘Coins. They got rid of the notes.’

‘They did? I’ll make a note. Ha! ‘I’ll make a note…’ good, eh?’

‘Can you cut out the puns? I’ve just died…’

‘Transitioned…’

‘… and I’m being made to walk down this bloody path….’

‘… track…’

‘Stop interrupting. What’s going to happen to me?’

‘Same as last time.’

‘Last time?’

‘When we reach the beginning, you’ll spend some time with a counsellor, running through what went right and what went wrong with your previous choice…’

‘… you debrief the dead?’

‘… more a review of the accumulation of your experiences. It helps us try and find you another role that suits you.’

‘I get to go back?’

‘It’s up to you really. You can hang around but…’

‘But…?’

‘Do you want to stay on this track for eternity?’

‘Eternity? What is eternity?’

‘It’s like any grotty Monday without the prospect of a Tuesday…’

‘Ok, so I can go back. Is this like a Buddhist thing?’

‘You mean you get another existence as a species higher up the pecking order?’

‘Yes.’

‘No.’

‘No?’

‘We have quotas. If everyone wanted to be a royal baby or dictator’s offspring things would be a bit out of kilter. It’ll depend what credits you’ve earned.’

‘But no one told me about credits. Why wasn’t I told about credits?’

‘If everyone knows about credits them everyone will be end up fulfilling the same criteria. You’ll forget.’

‘I’ll forget.’

‘You said it yourself. You were born, and you knew nothing. It’s only here that you’ll remember your previous existences. In a moment you’ll get your folder and you can see what you’ve been before.’

‘Do you know?’

‘Oh yes. Perk of this job.’

‘And?’

‘My lips are sealed.’

‘What lips?’

‘Good one. You’re getting the hang of this. Shall we find a counsellor?’

‘No, hang on. Isn’t this a bit discriminatory? I mean if someone’s been say Mother Teresa then they’ll get another plum role. Should we really be defined by our past lives?’

‘Very profound. Now Miasma Thomas in booth 4 will sort you out.’

‘But surely it’s unfair.’

‘I only said you accumulate credits. I never said they’d do you any good. And anyway it might not be human. Off you go. Sounds like there’s been a tsunami and we’ll all be needed.’

Carol-Ann felt the voice begin to fade away, before it returned. ‘Oh, word to the wise. They’re offering a special on endangered species…’

‘Like elephants?’

‘I was thinking more along the lines of dinosaurs…’

‘But they’re extinct?’

Carol-Ann heard what sounded like a rustling of paper. ‘You sure?’

‘Absolutely.’

‘Bloody hell… I’ll have a word with management. They really need to update these notes.”

‘But what should I do?’

‘What everyone does when they’re not sure.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Come back as a tree. We’ll have updated things by the time you’re back with us. Happy germination.’

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in flash fiction, short story and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Life As We Know It

  1. 🙂 😀 😀 Excellent idea, we need more trees!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jennie says:

    Oh, I liked this!

    Liked by 1 person

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