For someone who had killed herself, she was awfully cheerful. She was sitting at a small, one-person table in the corner of the pub, twiddling her hair and giggling. There was a bottle of beer on the tabletop. If I hadn't known that it was untouched, I would have thought she was drunk.
"Something amusing?" I asked, having walked up to her.
She jumped and looked towards me, her eyes finding mine. She smiled somewhat sheepishly. She was such a pretty girl. Why she'd killed herself, I couldn't imagine.
"I just can't believe this," she said. "Who'd have thought there'd be pubs in the afterlife?"
I nodded in understanding. "Indeed."
She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, then reached out and touched her beer. She picked it up, then set it back down. "I was worried there for a while," she mused. "Suicide being a mortal sin and all. Thought I'd end up in a lake of fire or something."
"If you don't mind my asking," I said, "why did you take your own life? If memory serves me right, you had a pretty good one. And you were only sixteen."
"Still am," she told me. "Only been dead for a day."
"Yes, of course. So why end it there? Why so soon, and so suddenly?"
She gave a jerky shrug. Picked up the bottle of beer again and this time took a sip. "Just got tired of life," she said through a grimace.
"Not used to beer?" I asked.
"Didn't really drink much in life, seeing as how I'm underage."
"Quite a few people do drink underage, some frequently."
I'm not quite a few people." She took another sipthis one longerand grimaced again.
"Yes," I said. "You were more obedient."
"I was smart," she countered, obviously not liking the word "obedient."
"And yet you killed yourself."
She nodded"That I did"and took another sip.
"Have you given much thought to the people you've left behind?"
"Not since waking up here. I was a little preoccupied wondering what the hell was going on
and thanking whoever's in charge of this whole afterlife thing for not throwing me in a lake of fire." She paused, and I waited for her to continue. Her face took on a sad expression. "I thought about them before I did it, though. And while I was doing it."
"Did you feel remorseful at all?"
She sighed. "A little."
I cocked an eyebrow. It was easy to tell that she was lying.
She bit her bottom lip, knowing she was caught, and sighed again, her hand once again going for the bottle. "Alright, a lot," she admitted. The bottle went to her lips.
"But you didn't let that stop you."
She tilted her face away from me, her eyes staring blindly into the space of the pub, her mind off in the distance. "I first wanted to die when I was eight years old," she said. "My brother had had Leukemia and
he didn't make it. They told me he went to Heaven." She gave a nostalgic smile. "That's what they always say, but I wanted it to be true. I wanted to believe he was alive in some sense." She took a breath. "One night I had a dream about himhe was alive and he didn't have Leukemia, and he and I had fun together. When I woke up and saw that it was just a dream I started crying. I went to my parents' room and told them I wanted to die too. I wanted to die so I could be with him."
"What did they say?"
"They said I had to go on living for him." She bit her bottom lip again and looked down. "I tried to. I really did. But then, I just
I got fed up with it all. So I took myself out."
There was a moment of silence. Memories were coming back to me, flooding my mind. Memories of myself lying in a hospital bed, blurry faces staring down at me, muffled voices crying. One thing about the afterlife: it makes you forget. Every day your memories grow dimmer and dimmer, until they're all but gone and you no longer know why you're watching over the people you're watching over, seeing their lives unfold, hoping with them, loving with them, laughing with them, crying with them. And caring about themyes, caring about them with all your soul.
Until one of them dies and your heart breaks, and they end up in the afterlife with you, and the memories come rushing back.
"So how did you die?" she asked. "Old age?"
It certainly would have looked that way, what with my white hair and wrinkled face. One misconception about the afterlife is that people don't agethey stay eternally young and reside in some ethereal world where they're either filled with bliss or suffering in anguish. But the truth is, there's not much difference between it and the world of the living. People grow old. They date and argue and party and sleep. They live in houses and drive cars and work and go shopping. There are only three differences: one, people in the afterlife don't dream, they sleep in total darkness; two, they don't reproduce; and three, they don't experience time like the living do. They age quicker. Time is not at a standstill in the afterlife. Far from it. One year in the land of the living is approximately ten in the afterlife. Eventually they begin to fade. Not die (they're already dead), just fade away bit by bit until they disappear.
And then they return to the land of the living, in a woman's womb, and are born again, as someone else, to lead a different life.
Lately I had been feeling myself fade, slowly. I'd been preparing myself for my departure, saying goodbye to the friends I'd made, thinking about my next life, wondering if I'd have the memories of this one. I didn't expect so, but sometimes people in the land of the living make claims of remembering past lives. I think it has something to do with how in-touch they are with the otherworldly. How connected they are to the supernatural.
"No," I replied. "I died as a child."
She looked surprised. "I'm sorry. How?"
I hope I do remember. At least I hope I remember her in my dreams. Alive.