A Peculiar Demise

The weirdness began on the day I died…

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The view from up here is incredible and makes me feel somehow complete, which is ironic. I’m aware of the fact that I’m dead, although any disassociation from my material being doesn’t seem to have kicked in yet. I look down, out across the world that I’ve called home for thirty-six years, and I realise with some slight sense of melancholy that I won’t miss it at all. I’ve had a damn good run. But all good things, as they say, must come to an end.

The weirdness began on the day I died. If I’d thought life was a wild ride, I didn’t have the faintest clue how bizarre death would be. Man, talk about an everlasting freakshow. My death itself was nothing spectacular; no falling off a cliff while taking a selfie, no skydiving incident involving a tangled parachute, no tomb-stoning off Victoria Falls, nothing as dramatic as that. It was a brain aneurysm as I lunged for a tricky shot during a game of badminton.

I imagine I landed in a heap, observed by my fellow players who initially asked if I was okay before moving closer as their concern grew. All I remember is diving for the shuttlecock as it whizzed toward the far corner of the court.

There was a bang inside my head and then everything went black.

I recall briefly wondering what had caused the power to fail, not realising the power had failed inside my brain. The next thing I experienced was a weird floating sensation, as if in a dream, and these faint, blurry images started appearing at the edges of my vision. I was surrounded by scenarios, like a million barely glimpsed televisions screens were shooting past me. I caught brief snapshots, random moments of some guy running, a woman laughing, a baby crawling, people celebrating something. All of a sudden everything slowed down as one particular scene swung into view. I watched myself diving for the shot, badminton racquet in hand, and then landing with a thump on the hard floor of the sports hall. And again, everything went black.

I’ve been an atheist since college. At the age of nineteen, after years of indoctrination, after a childhood filled with dire warnings about keeping the faith and praying for my soul’s salvation, I decided that I was old enough to think for myself and not let others decide what I should or should not believe. I read texts on theology, history, religious studies. The information I gleaned was fascinating, but it also confirmed that the God I was raised to fear was simply an amalgamation of a thousand other gods throughout history, a mythical being created to instil awe and obedience in the world’s masses. The result of all my investigation was that I stopped believing in any god and happily got on with life. I convinced myself that death was just an ending, like falling into a deep, dreamless sleep, and that I would know no better when it happened. But here I was, watching my past play out before me, with no clue as to what was going on and no direction in which to steer my thoughts.

The sheer dense blackness started shifting. Again, filled with shapes, images, movement in all directions. Slower this time. I saw a young version of my mother cradling a baby in her arms. That scene departed, replaced by others. I watched myself growing up, attending college, getting married. I watched as my wife and I sat by my mother’s deathbed years later, bidding her a tearful farewell.

These images faded into an even deeper blackness than any I’d yet experienced. After an interminable wait it once again grew lighter as new images appeared: horrific scenes of torture and depravity on a scale I’d seldom witnessed. I was appalled and terrified, yet I was a captive audience, floating past these scenes like a passenger on a carnival ride through hell. What was I experiencing? My personal hell? But surely –

A scream wrenched my attention to one side. I was back at my mother’s bedside as she passed away. Her body was still as I held her hand but a second ethereal version of her was squirming and thrashing about, screaming and moaning in sheer despair as it hovered above the bed. It rose higher, thankfully fading and then disappearing altogether just before it reached the ceiling. The wailing lingered even as the scene imploded.

A dull grey light appeared in the distance and then grew to a brilliant, blinding white that illuminated my space. The multitude of television-like images were present again, rotating all around me, to the sides, above, below. I saw my parents embracing as they stood over a crib. Then I saw them again, much older, sombrely holding hands as they sat behind a desk opposite a stony-faced doctor. I saw my father lying in a hospital ward. It was dark and he looked confused, glancing around, his face contorting either in pain or in bewilderment, possibly both. Then he slumped in the bed, his eyes slowly closing. A faintly glowing version of him rose from the corpse, looked frantically around the ward, frowning, perplexed. There were no screams, just a gentle sigh as the spirit departed.

The scene morphed into another depicting a large hall, a milling of bodies around a central figure. It was me on the floor, with the other badminton players gathered around. I was twitching slightly. Someone came rushing in from the side, carrying what looked like a small red suitcase. My body grew still. As I watched, spellbound, a gossamer version of me, frowning in consternation just as my father had, emerged slowly out of the shell that had served me so well throughout my life. The figure floated higher, glancing around, and then looked straight across at me.

There was a bang inside my head and then everything went black.

Silence and darkness followed, an endless pause in this crazy adventure, and then the light gradually came filtering back in. A path opened before me, illuminated by a soft, warm glow. I stepped onto it, feeling strangely grounded again. I walked, slowly, toward the source of the light. A pair of figures, insubstantial at first, came into view ahead. As I grew closer I could see they were beckoning. I picked up speed and then, realising that my mother and father were waiting for me, I sprinted.

By Martin Webb

From United Kingdom

Twitter @MWebbAuthor