by David Steffen
The afterlife was arbitrary, Sam Fichtner decided. There was no Heaven or Hell, only one place. He’d had plenty of time to ponder since he crossed over. The Hereafter was filled with endless rows of clear domes like the one he occupied, a space of infinite size covered with a grid of cake platters. When people died, they were each partitioned into one of these domes, to spend the rest of eternity.
The domes didn’t curve downward out of sight, but upward so that they filled the sky, like the interior of a giant sphere. And although the distance across the sphere was so immense that he should not have been able to see them clearly, he found that if he concentrated he could see the tiniest of details of the domes at any distance.
God works in mysterious ways, so the expression says, and it is true, no matter what name you give him. But Sam had never understood just how mysterious His ways really were. Sam had always assumed that nothing awaited after death except oblivion. Many believe the afterlife is bifurcated to reward earthly behavior, like toys promised to a child by parents pretending to believe in Santa Claus, and that made a sense of its own, but both views were dead wrong.
Sam remembered dying in a car accident, so clearly there was an afterlife, but the segmentation of souls into their respective places apparently had nothing to do with morals, and there were millions, maybe billions of partitions, not just two. Some of the domes appeared to have millions of souls in them, though they somehow never looked more crowded, some had just a few. Domes with just one individual are extremely rare. From his lonely dome, population one, Sam could see into the other domes full of people talking, laughing, fighting, loving. In his dome, a marble pedestal. Upon the pedestal, a sandwich. His favorite breakfast, his own strange invention. Peanut butter and honey, with garlic salt mixed in.
He took the sandwich and nibbled it, not because he was hungry, but because he had little else to do. It was sweet and salty and rich, as it always was. Another sandwich appeared on the pedestal, taking the place of the first one.
Time passed. With nothing to mark the seconds, it could have been days or months or centuries for all he knew.
He had little else to do but watch the other domes. A dome next to his held a huge crowd constantly drinking, talking animatedly, fighting, even occasionally screwing. Other domes were more subdued, but the people were always interacting, finding ways to entertain themselves with their meager belongings, arm-wrestling, playing cat’s cradle with their shoelaces. He ached for any kind of human contact. Even a fistfight sounded appealing, just to feel real again.
Pounding on the glass did nothing but send the whole dome vibrating and make his teeth ache. One of the drunks in the next dome saw him and pounded on his dome in return, laughing at the vibrations it caused and prompting his buddies to start a fistfight to get him to stop. Lucky bastard.
He resigned himself to his lonely, dismal fate. Watching the other domes wasn’t so bad. It was better than network TV, at least. He could make up stories about the people he was watching, and guess about what their lives had been like. He watched and sang songs and watched, and paced and watched.
One day, after unknowable eons had passed, he heard a voice behind him, soft and sweet. “Hello?”
He spun to look, and there she was, brown hair, unfamiliar clothes, deep green eyes. “Hello.” Just the presence of another human being sent chills up and down his spine. He thrilled at the novelty of hearing sounds generated by a completely different person.
“Where am I?” she asked.
“I don’t know. The afterlife, I guess.”
The silence stretched on as she looked around, looking at the domes beyond the glass. He struggled to think of something to say, his social skills having waned considerably. “Would you like a sandwich?” He asked lamely as he took a sandwich and handed it to her.
She lifted a corner of the bread and peeked inside. “My favorite!” As it turned out, it was the last food that each of them had eaten before they died, and they decided they must all be partitioned by their last meal.
“There’s got to be a moral in all this,” he said.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” she said with a smile, “but a chocolate chaser improves your eternity.”
“And blessed are those who share recipes.”
©2016 David Steffen — Published electronically at DigitalFictionPub.com: February 26, 2016. You may link to or share this post with full and proper attribution; however, the author retains the complete and unrestricted copyright to this work. Commercial use or distribution of any kind is prohibited without the express written permission of the author.
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