This is just procrastination talking, but why not a rough draft for all the world to see, warts and all? So maybe it’ll be a thing, I’m a great writer after all (hah!), to force myself to write a short story every week, however long, to air out an idea might be a good thing. This is a 100% rough draft without revisions too. Sort of my take on NaNo WriMo.
Some minor minor revisions.
I’m an idiot. I didn’t look left or see that the little green right turn signal was on and the walk sign was orange. It seemed ridiculous, traffic was still moving forward, but I couldn’t. One would think that by 2020 they would have worked out a better system to stop people like me, but they haven’t. So I went forward, and so did a bus. I always thought I’d be killed by a cab when jaywalking though the streets of Manhattan. But a bus is pretty close to a cab. The bus driver didn’t notice either. The bike rack on the front clipped my knees and I went down, then under a tire, then under the bus. Thankfully I suffered a major concussion when flipped upwards against the underside of the bus. I was knocked out and dragged for about a hundred feet before coming to a stop at a red light when a crowd of horrified onlookers swarmed the door begging the driver to stop from going further.
As some sort of cosmic justice handed down from on high I had to rewatch it before transitioning into something else. That’s how I know that I’m an idiot. If it had ended with me being clipped by the bike rack my last thought was “shit” rather than “idiot”. Instead, I got to watch the bloody smear and the little queasy after effects. It was cinematic too. Stanley Kubrick must have been in charge of editing the experience. I could swear there was a steady cam involved as I raced toward my final resting place with the crowd closing in. For anyone who thinks that life up above is looking down from clouds, they’re wrong. I’ve never seen so many cuts in my life outside of Saving Private Ryan swarming the beachhead. And that gave it sort of a comedic meta feel as I watched my body sputter against death. When it was over, I wondered what was next.
I was naked.
Thankfully intact and unharmed and a few pounds lighter.
People rushed around the bus and I caught a couple of close ups of horrified faces – there were the rending of garments and a couple of vomits and I finally tired of the whole thing. Boring. If it was someone else under the bus I would have been mortified, but watching one’s death is pedantic posturing from the Kubricks above.
Then I started floating upwards.
It seemed rather gauche.
Clouds passed me by. Then the atmosphere as I accelerated upwards. I guessed that I was going to an exoplanet, but I could have been going somewhere else. As far as experiences to have when dead, flying through space is not as exciting as it sounds. Space is empty. Really empty. So after passing the wonders of the solar system (which I loved), and then the Oort Cloud (asteroids are less exciting), there isn’t much at all. The stars looked the same and I could still pick out the constellations for quite some time. Then a jump cut (or maybe a fade, it’s hard to tell when it’s so black out). I was going to an exoplanet. I hoped it wouldn’t be all to myself, that would just be lonely.
The flight slowed and I started to glimpse the wonders around me. There was plant life that was blue and red to capture different wavelengths of light. Only a few were green. The planet also seemed larger than Earth. There were only a few loose leafy greens (or blues) scattered on the surface, everything else appeared to have a rigidity to it not found on earth despite the trees towering hundreds of feet like giant redwoods. In all fairness it looked like a science fiction paradise dreamed up in oh so many fan fictions. I digress. The planet was stunning, that’ll be enough. Though I hoped the fan fiction would continue with some women.
Gates appeared. There was a man outside of them sitting on a stool looking bored as hell that his job was a doorman for all eternity. I wondered what the poor sap did to land that position. There was no line either. I expected heaven, or hell, or whatever this is, to obey the same rules as a restaurant with people waiting for a seat in eternal bliss in a garden of eden. After landing I walked up to the sad looking man who met my gaze with a sort of blasé hatred. He shuffled over and said ‘Peter’ under his breath to which I stifled a laugh. He sighed and rolled his eyes. He disaffectedly welcomed me to “heaven” (his verbal quotation marks).
I asked if he had anything else to say. Like listing my sins or telling me why I made it.
“What difference does it make. You made it.”
It struck me as strange, that I made it. I didn’t believe in anything, much less and afterlife. So I asked if there was a hell. He said yes, of sorts, not really. And that he was trying to figure out a way to get there. I inquired. He said I looked like someone who would understand soon enough. Then I asked if I could die again. No. I probably couldn’t kill myself though it wasn’t in the rule book and no one on the planet would harm me.
Through the gates I entered the massive garden. For days I climbed the trees and discovered new fruits to sample and harvest for later. But there was no hunger. I just ate. And I didn’t gain weight. The expanse of the planet seemed to have no bounds when traveled by foot. Days passed without seeing another soul, then weeks, soon I was talking to myself just to hear another voice. Nolen-esque shaky cam started to plague my vision and I longed for someone to be with. A month passed and then what seemed like a year or so (but I lost count of days after 121) and I wished to go back to the depressed man on a stool to talk to though he seemed like poor company. And then she arrived.
The sight of another human being stabilized my mind with the prospect of conversation and the sight of a woman stabilized other thoughts. She was laying naked the grass with a small harvest beside her staring up at the abnormally large sun that had become my oppressor in recent months. I sat down next to her and she smiled and said hello. I managed to reply. We conversed about the planet, about the trees, and then how she managed to survive alone. She said it was paradise. Meeting people here and there but living off the land in a pure and wholesome way. Those last words caught my attention. Pure. Wholesome. The stabilized other thoughts started to destabilize. So I broached it. Sex. Nope. No one felt the need. The world was enough.
I ran screaming.
A jump cut hurled me centuries into the future and I landed in a fugue of exhaustion and fright. There were the gates. Peter was waving another person into the garden and I slipped out before he closed them. He stared at me with an eyebrow raised.
“So you’ve figured it out?”
I nodded. He laughed.
The system, like a restaurant, is not perfect. Once in a while mistakes are made. Not that I was supposed to go to hell, or some such place, but that I was left too intact. Peter suffered from the same problem. He was there before they worked out most of the kinks. Who they were, he didn’t mention much. I begged for more details and all he said was that they were writers. Then gave a little more. First Homer, the place was violent as hell, then the reformations came, then the screen writers. Apparently, if you win an Oscar, you get to have a say in eternity. They had bickered about what to do and what constituted heaven and eventually settled into a stereotypical detente that would make people happy given a couple changes. Pynchon was almost let in, but they made sure that didn’t happen. He decamped and went elsewhere. Peter wanted to go there.
I told him to follow. We were going to hell. At first we climbed the trees and hurled ourselves off. There was no luck other than that it hurt like hell as we splattered on the ground and then reformed into a stable human shape. Then sharpened sticks to fall on, that just left them poking out of our chest. Sticks, stones, crushing, falling, drowning, setting ourselves on fire… The one thing we didn’t try was killing the other. The survivor would be left alone and eternity on this planet would be assured. April appeared one day, drawn to the forest fire Peter and I were trying to die in. She wondered why I had a branch in my skull. She found others to come and watch our violent adventures and occasional immolation, numb to what we were attempting to do and dumbfounded as to where we wanted to go. I was tired of them after the first month of them laying there with their fruits oblivious to what was happening in front of them like eunuchs devoid of humanity, but Peter snapped at their placid onlooking. The world turned to slow motion as Kurosawa nearly stopped time to prevent what would happen next. Peter slammed the branch into the crowd, flooring one of the on lookers spraying blood on the ravenous gatekeeper. Though quiet and forlorn when I met him, he turned into a screaming murder beast that laughed as he bludgeoned an onlooker to a pulp and then continued to pound the corpse out of an eternity of boredom and frustration releasing in a single act of violence. Then he disappeared. He found the way out. And I joined him as April passively watched the slaughter with a little smile of obliviousness and worthlessness. It was a release like no other.
I half expected a smash cut. Instead it felt like a long and meandering sentence that obeyed no rules other than that the consciousness could understand it in its total form without ever being able to perceive the sentence in entirety so one is left flipping pages to reread and grasp the lack of an ultimate meaning or action. We were there once we gave up trying to figure out what was coming next. We were in Germany. Skeletons of bombed buildings were around us. A man in a gimp outfit approached us and said welcome before wandering off after a talking dog. Peter was home. So was I.