Life after Death

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Life after Death?

Yes. Can I help you?

Well, you know . . . I saw your ad in that travel magazine.

AFAR? or Destinations?

I don’t remember. It was at the doctor’s office. Does that matter?

Just wondering. It wouldn’t have been The New Yorker would it? One of those little bitty ads in the back?

I look at the cartoons but I never read those back ads.

You should. They can be pretty weird. Weird as in interesting.

Well, it was a travel magazine. Which is what I said. Which is why I called.

Right. That would be AFAR or Destinations. There’s a discount deal with AFAR, but only if you are a subscriber.

That doesn’t apply to me. I just saw it at the doctor’s office.

There’s a website, too. You can Google it. Lifeafterdeath.org, all spelled out with no periods. It has all the information.

That’s where I got I got this number, from the website. I wanted to talk to a live person. It’s kind of a thing I have.

That’s ironic, sort of, if you think about it.

What do you mean?

Never mind. I can tell you everything you need to know over the phone. It will be my privilege. Can I start by asking your name?

What does that have to do with anything? I just want to ask a few questions.

You no longer have to eat or sleep; this is Life after Death.

It’s all strictly confidential, if that’s what worrying you.

I called to get information, not give information.

Hey, I understand. That’s perfectly fine. I’ll be glad to help. What can I tell you about Life after Death?

Well, that’s it. Life after Death. Is this for real? How does it work? What does it cost?

It’s for real all right. First you’re dead and then you’re not. It’s quite a ride while it lasts.

What do you mean, while it lasts?

It’s not Eternal. It’s important that you understand that. It’s in the ad I think.

It did say Not Eternal but it didn’t say it was temporary.

Temporary is not exactly the word for it; just not permanent. It lasts about three months, give or take. It can seem longer.

Ninety days. And then what?

Then you are dead again. Life after Death is not permanent, that’s what Not Eternal means. It’s not affiliated with any religion. And I can assure you, it’s not hocus pocus. It’s for real.

I know what Not Eternal means. So what does it cost? The ad I saw was careful not to mention that.

$99,000.

Ninety-nine thousand dollars?

It’s not for everyone. That’s why it’s only advertised in certain magazines.

Which anybody can pick up at the doctor’s office.

What do you mean?

Never mind. And what do you get, what does one get, for one’s hundred grand.

Ninety-nine. Life after Death. First you’re dead and then you’re not. It’s quite a ride while it lasts.

How long are you dead?

Not long. You don’t need a death certificate or anything. It’s all prearranged, and prepaid of course. The service kicks in within hours after you’re gone.

Gone where? What’s going on there? Where is it?

It’s not exactly a where.

Then how can I be there if there is no where?

The where is not the thing. Think of it as adventure travel. Have you ever been to Antarctica?

That’s none of your business. But yes, in fact. Once. Year before last.

And did you get to the South Pole? Did you hug a penguin? Did you trek to the top of a mighty glacier? Probably not.

It was on a cruise ship. You’re not allowed to go ashore. What’s your point?

The thrill was just being there, right? Even just standing at the rail of the ship.

There was a helicopter trip included.

That too. You were experiencing it. That was the adventure, the experience.

We couldn’t see shit because of the fog. Are you cold? Is it cold?

Cold?

I was cold the whole time. Even in the fucking lounge it was cold.

Were you on that Russian ship, the Lermontov?

The Polar Princess.

Celebrity! I’m surprised you say it was cold. Maybe it’s considered part of the experience. I hear the food is great, though. Don’t they have that famous Icelandic chef, what’s-his-name?

The food was so-so. That’s another question I have about this Life after Death experience. What about food?

Food?

What do we eat?

Oh, I get it. I can answer both questions with one answer: no. You’re not cold and you don’t eat. It’s a non-corporeal experience. That means . . .

I know what non-corporeal means.

It’s an out-of-body experience, or existence. That’s part of the thrill, the adventure.

So I’m what, a ghost?

No. Ghosts appear to other people. Or appear to appear. Your experience is entirely your own. It’s not mediated through the physical senses. Your body and all its needs and desires have been left behind. You no longer have to eat or sleep; this is Life after Death. It’s different. That’s the whole idea.

How different? Am I like an angel dancing on the head of a pin or something weird? Am I the same me?

Oh. That’s the big existential question.

The what?

The thing everybody wants to know. And the answer is yes.

Yes what? Yes I’m like a ghost?

Yes you are the same you. You have the same memories as when you were alive, and you are very conscious of what you are experiencing, which is Life after Death.

So I know I’m dead.

Oh, yes. You might even remember dying if you didn’t die in your sleep. Or in a coma. Let me ask you this: You say you were at the doctor’s office when you saw the ad. Were you there for a serious problem? Or let me put it another way. Was there a discussion with your physician that piqued your interest in Life after Death?

That’s none of your business. What happens to my body?

That’s entirely up to you. I mean to the arrangements you have made. This procedure strictly involves your consciousness.

And how does that work? Is there like a medical procedure or something?

Your doctor is not involved. He doesn’t even have to know about it. Or she, as the case may be. There is a prion directional scan but that can be done over the phone in minutes. It’s all beforehand. There’s an app you download that does all the work.

What kind of app?

It explains itself. The procedure has to do with quantum probabilities, and involves consciousness only. You know how a wave can become a particle?

I’ve read about it. I guess.

Well then, imagine a sequence that collapses a probability wave into a provisionary instead of an actual particle. Nothing lasts forever. But this procedure can expand the collapse event itself, giving it a singular dimensionality in time.

Temporarily.

Come on! It’s more substantial than that. Three months can seem like a long time.

Whatever. So I’m just a fucking particle, standing at the rail looking into the fog, waiting for something to happen. Or at least appear.

You are your consciousness, freed of its earthly bonds at last. There is no fog. There’s nothing at all. Life after Death provides the experience, the rest is up to you.

The rest of what? What about the others?

Others?

Other clients. Customers. Aren’t there others?

So I’m a fucking particle. Standing at the rail, staring into the fog, waiting for something to happen.

Yes but not for you. Don’t worry about them. You are alone. It’s not like a cruise ship. There is only you. It’s a unique experience. You are in a way, the center of the Universe. You are all that there is.

Sounds kind of lonely.

It’s not like a party. It’s Life after Death. It’s a unique, you might say unforgettable experience but, as I said, it’s not for everyone.

Only for those with a hundred grand to spend.

There are costs. Let me ask you this: Did you ever in your life have a month that was worth thirty thousand dollars.

Thirty-three. That’s a good question. Well, yes, I guess so. Never for three consecutively, though.

So now’s your chance. It’s not that much if you think about it.

What I’m thinking is, what’s like to die twice? Does it happen all of a sudden, the second time, or is there a gradual fading. Does it hurt?

That I can’t tell you. You might even be looking forward to dying again. Or dreading it. It’s all up to you.

Are you trying to talk me out of this or into it?

That’s a good question. Do you have any other questions?

Do you take PayPal? I don’t like credit cards.

PayPal can be arranged, I think.

You think? Aren’t you supposed to know?

I’m sure it’s okay. There is probably a credit check but that only takes minutes these days.

So I’m a fucking particle. Standing at the rail, staring into the fog, waiting for something to happen. That’s it?

Like I said, there is no rail. There is no fog. There is nothing at all. Except you. Experiencing Life after Death.

Alone.

Alone is hardly the word for it. You are the only thing in the Universe. You are the Universe. About time, some would say. That’s the thrill, or at least the adventure.

What if I don’t like it there?

As I emphasized before, that’s entirely up to you. All Life after Death provides is the experience. There is no there, there is just you. Dead but still alive.

For ninety days.

More or less. I am told it can seem like forever.

In which nothing happens.

You are the happening, one might say. There you are, you are the there. You are all there is, regarding all there is, experiencing it for ninety days unless the phone rings.

The what? I thought there was nothing there.

Until the phone rings.

And then what?

You will want to answer it.

Terry Bisson is a science fiction writer who lives in Oakland, California. His most recent novel is Any Day Now.

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