The Dead: Book 22 (frag. 1)

Submitted by Ken Watts on Wed, 08/31/2011 - 09:39

The first thing he noticed—even before wondering how it was that he could notice anything at all—was an astounding clarity of mind.

That came first: even before he became aware of the two doors, of the two figures standing beside those doors, of the room he stood in, or of the fact that he was standing.

As he took in the strange shapes—plural, because they were nothing alike—the strange shapes standing before him, he still found himself marveling at how clear his thoughts were.

He had believed, before his final moments, that he had achieved the greatest clarity possible: achieved it through a careful reduction of the pain medication, through weeks of discipline, through sheer willpower.

It had been crucially important to him that he made the decision without any confusion, without any fear, rationally.

And he had achieved that.

He was sure of it.

The decision had been the only reasonable one he could make.

Now, facing the two doors, and the two figures, he felt relief wash over him.

Relief that the pain was over, certainly, but also the relief that this new clarity brought—the ability to see, without any question, that he had chosen correctly.

He took in a long, deep breath through his nostrils, and actually laughed as he let it out.

One of the figures—the taller one—nodded slightly.

"Hello, Thomas."

Thomas glanced from one figure to the other, and then took in the rest of the tiny room.

There was no furniture, not even a chair or a picture on the wall, and the only doors were the two in front of him.

He met the speaker's gaze.

"Where?... How?... Am I...?"

"Yes, Thomas. You were successful."

"I see." Another deep breath. "And this is...?"

The shorter of the two answered.

"Neither. Your religion has no word or concept which even approximates this room, or what lies beyond these two doors."

"My religion? You don't understand. I was, am, an..."

"An atheist," the taller one said,"and so you think you've no religion."

"Well," Thomas said warily, "what religion would you say I have?"

The figure smiled.

"Which God don't you believe in?"

Thomas chuckled.

"You have a point."

"Enough theology," the shorter one interrupted them. "The point is that you have no previously constructed conceptions to help you interpret this occasion, and so we will have to supply a framework which will allow you..."

"Yes," said the taller, "and we're particularly anxious to get started, because you're a particularly interesting case."

"I am?"

"Indeed," said the shorter, "you are a very rare occurance. Less than one tenth of one percent of the continuum contain a mixture of..."

Thomas shook his head.

"I think you two, um, gentlemen, must be confusing me with someone else. I'm not special at all: quite ordinary, in fact."

The taller shrugged.

"You killed yourself?"

"I did."

"Why?"

Time for another deep breath.

"Ah... Well, I didn't have the best possible life..."

The tall one nodded.

"That's putting it mildly," he said.

"I don't just mean just the last few years, either. It may be hard for you two to understand this, but..."

He stopped.

"Yes?"

"Sorry. I was just wondering how I could possibly have any opinion about what you two could or couldn't understand..."

"So it wasn't just the last few years, since the illness?"