He’d skipped dinner, sat up all night computing figures, refusing sleep to his eyes. Excited…beyond excited. Bills, paid; stocks, doing well. More cash to save. Now what to do? Family car needs change. Another BMW? May be an escalade, like Mr. Lawals’. Now, that would be nice. Fuck the economy, who cares? Definitely not this man. I’m living large, he thought. The house…oh, the house. It needed another new coat of paint. Yeah, how about changing the floorings, make it hard wood; turn the kitchen to pure marble, like the Buchis. Wifey would like that. Yes, that would be nice.
Then, we’ll know who’s who.
The thought went through his mind, and he got the visit.
The pain lanced through his chest and travelled down his left arm. It happened so fast, he slumped, hard, on the ground. The noise brought Wifey in, running.
“Help,” her faint cries reached him before he slipped away into a darkness so overwhelming, he felt extinct.
He saw no shapes; no figures, yet he knew their voices had called out to him.
He said Yes, I’m here. He didn’t hear his own voice. When he spoke, it was a language so different from the one he knew.
So many voices. They laughed, evoking dread in him.
Where am I?
Their hilarity encircled him. Like wolves, their mirth wasn’t kind.
Please where am I?
He felt, rather than heard their collective, impatient grunt.
A chasm, they said. Somewhere between hell and heaven.
Oh, a hospital, he guessed, probably suspended on a ventilator with several wires hooked up to him as Doctors and Nurses battled to save his life. He stood up. Pain lanced through what was his chest, now turned to empty space. He swallowed hard to stifle his growing sense of panic. He looked down. No feet. No legs. No arms. He reached up to touch his face with fingers that were no longer present. He felt …vacuum.
Did I die? Am I dead now?
No. Last night. You didn’t eat. Why?
He shook his head. What used to be his head. Here he was, caught between heaven and hell, and this was the question they were going to ask him.
I was busy -the words flowed out of his shapeless, formless void .
Busy. He felt the hardness to their tone. Busy doing what?
Trying to be; to become.
Rich. Successful. Famous. Better than my neighbor.
You didn’t eat.
No, I didn’t eat. He hadn’t meant to reply, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Here, words weren’t uttered. They simply hovered empty space.
Suddenly, he felt hungry.
But I’d like to go home now. I’m hungry. I’d like to go home and eat.
That won’t be possible. Your home is in the world. The world is for the living.
You said I wasn’t dead.
We said you didn’t die now.
I don’t understa-
You died. A long time ago.
I don’t understa-
You died. While you lived.
So I’m dead.
You’re dead. No going back.
No going back.
Their laughter continued. He stooped to weep, knowing it would be for eternity.