The Afterlife

Marc Friedlander

I woke up at the usual time, the day after I died. Force of habit I guess, but I did have to get into work. I arrived there at around 7:00, just like always, and sat down at my desk. Same old junk on my desk, same old crap on my computer screen. Not knowing what else to do, I just did my usual routine – and read the Google News. At 8:00, I started working. Really just shuffling paper – not accomplishing anything. It was quiet. Nobody else had gotten into the office yet – not that unusual. Since I was dead I didn’t figure on getting into any discussions with anyone anyway. I don’t know, I was just a little … underwhelmed by all this. I guess I figured that the AFTERLIFE would have more that would interest me but I was wrong – dead wrong actually. All my life I figured that it would be kind of great – that I could fly about, maybe even go to the moon or other planets, go through walls, and be invisible or haunt those that had pissed me off during my actual life. I thought that there would be green pastures, floral fragrances, maybe even some angels on clouds with wings and harps - all that afterlife kind of stuff we hear about. I saw absolutely none of this. After just minutes I began to get bored (just like my regular day). The time was passing the same as ever. That’s another thing – I figured that in the afterlife, a year would feel like a second – after all, what is time to the dead? But no, I was gazing at my watch and it was moving as reluctantly as on any other work day at 8:00. It was dragging.

I fiddled at my desk for what seemed like days. Finally at about 9:30 a guy I didn’t know approached me. He walked straight to my desk, and said, “Hi, I’m Tom. I’m the District Manager."

(SHIT am I in trouble aready?)

"I’m here to give you your orientation, kind of explain things and show you the ropes. You’re brand new and you’ll find out that eternity turns out to be a really long time. And eternity is what we’re in for here. All of us."

That sounded a little unsettling to me. I had this sense of foreboding about being dead that I had never anticipated.

Tom went on: "Yeah, there’s not much to do here. The afterlife is not like the ...beforelife, if you will. What you are now, is the final result of all the choices you ever made. When you were alive you could do whatever you wanted – although you never knew that. You could have lived in Hawaii or had 7 children, become a fighter pilot, a doctor, a scientist, or an architect. All you had to do was choose it and then have the guts to go for it."

"You make it sound so simple but life's a bitch, man."

"Yeah life's a bitch. Wait till you have a few millenia of death under your belt. Most people lose sight of the fact - if they ever knew - that life is their one infinitesimal moment in the universe to do whatever they want. It takes time and guts - and you have to overcome some obstacles that the BIG GUY will throw in your path, but in life you can get what you want as long as you don’t give up. You alone are steering your own ship. Most people never understand this until they’re dead, but now and then a living person, who sees further than the average Joe, just gets it. They’re the people who seem to achieve things that most people think are impossible. Everybody wonders how they do it - what it takes is the tenacity and the conviction to go for it and make it happen."

“So that’s your big secret of success? Seems pretty straightforward. That’s all I had to do? Just 'go for it'? Easy for you to say. I made some tough calls. I did some stupid things. I did the best I could under the circumstances."

“Yes, but now that you’re dead, all you’re going to do is work at this desk from now on. Nobody cares much what you’re doing, we’re all bored shitless. Nobody gives a fuck what you’re up to here. You can gaze at your watch all day. You can just go on daydreaming like you usually used to do here. You can write those little stories you used to love to write, and dream away. But there’s no internet, no Facebook, no video games, no YouTube, no music, nothing except whatever you were just working on just before you died. You’re going to stick to that … forever".

This was sounding really ghastly to me now. I never really wanted to be doing this work at all, much less forever. I never really got to do so many things I always wanted to do. I just never got around to them. I never set my sights on something and decided for certain – I AM GOING TO DO IT and then did it. Well, now and then I did, and because of that, I knew Tom was right. The things I achieved in life were the things I decided to do and never gave up on. But there were so many other things that I wanted to do, but just never pushed myself to make those things happen.

Now I would never do those things.

Tom was beginning to get on my nerves now, and I was starting to get hungry.

Tom said, “Look before I go, do you have any questions – anything you’d like to ask me about the afterlife?"

I said, “Well, what time is lunch? Is it still around 1:00?"

Tom said, “Lunch? Why you asking about lunch now?”

“I’m a little hungry, that’s all.”

“Lunch is in 1000 years. Don’t forget you’re here forever. 1000 years will feel like, well, 1000 years. I’ll be around again in like, 995 to see how you’re doing.”

“TOM WAIT!” How am I going to stand this for eternity? I really thought that the afterlife would be much more enjoyable than this!"

Tom smiled.