I cannot move. My body (or whatever I am) is frozen stiff. I’m not cold, nor hot; I simply feel nothing. My vision is obscured by a pale purplish haze. Silence/stillness like I have never experienced cloaks my senses. Am I floating? My heart should be jumping out of my chest, but I don’t feel anything, just anxiety, fear. What is going on? Why do I feel this way?
“Because you are dead,” a disembodied voice says. Well, not a voice really---a message, a feeling, a wave. It is soft, almost feminine, calming.
“How can that be?” I think.
“You do not remember? The bus. The children.”
I do. Kind of. A small school bus laying on its side, some sort of tanker truck afire. Running toward the wreck, opening the back door, hearing screams and moans. Kids bloody and scraped, but all seemingly mobile. Helping them up and out, pointing a path away from the carnage and danger. Little feet scurrying into the distance. Relief. The driver pinned. Crawling inside. She is hurt, her eyes reflecting fear and flickering flames. Desperation. Then a flashing light, searing pain, followed by darkness.
“You were brave,” the voice whispers, soothingly.
“What else could I have done?” I feel as if a smile washes over me. Is that even possible?
Then a feeling of sadness. My boys, though children no more. My grand kids. My wife.
“They are gone to you now. I am sorry.”
My eyes feel like they are filled with water, but no tear emerges. I am John Alexander Chmilewski. My wife is Renee, my boys Thomas and Terrance. They are both married and have little kids. I am fifty-eight, an overweight ex-high-school jock, relatively successful lawyer. Nice house, beach vacations, a cruise or two. I love my boys. What will I do without my family?
“Do not be sad. This is the way. “
How quickly everything you know can be gone. “Am I in heaven?”
The voice pauses. “Not really. But a somewhat apt description, for the moment, as it is understood by your primitive human mind. But the concept suffices, for now.”
“Are you my guardian angel?”
If laughter could purr, that is what I hear. Another lengthy pause follows. “Again, a simplistic understanding. But yes, in a way, I have been watching you for a long time. Still, this is not common. A mistake was made and you paid the price. Normally a human would have moved on to the Other already. “
“The bus driver?”
“She has moved on.”
I doubt I am smiling, but it feels as if I am. “Why me and not her?”
And then the voice is quiet for a long time. Just before new panic sets in, it sweeps over me again. “You are different. You were like me once. But you failed. You were punished.”
“Me?. . .I did something bad?”
“Something wrong. Stupid. You were punished, made human though not human. We monitor such situations. Had you died as you should have, when you should have, you too would already have moved on. But that is not how it works with one of us.”
“But. . .?”
“Another, like us, made a mistake. We are not perfect. As one of us you would have survived the explosion, walked out of the flame to the astonishment and wonder of all, and that would have been unacceptable. The One Who Cares could have ended you right there to protect the larger myth, but you redeemed yourself.”
“So, I am not human?”
“No, you are, were, fully human, but with an inner core that is not. What is left . . .memory, spirit, soul . . . that is human too. You will always have that, it is you, but what now exists is more like what you were before. Your actions, and life, earned a . . . reprieve, of sorts. You will still move on, eventually, but you are being offered a Choice.”
“Does this happen often?”
“No. Not never, but normally not. Maybe once in several hundred million years. But it is not unprecedented.”
“Did I know what I was doing when I ran to the children? Did I have some special sense of myself?”
“No. You were human in almost every way. You did what you did, I guess, because of who you are.”
“And it earned me a choice?”
“What is the choice? What is behind door number one.”
If one could feel a smirk, I felt it. “You can move on.”
“Go where souls go?”
“Is it nice?”
“I cannot say.”
“Can’t, or won’t?”
“I cannot say. I have not gone there. It is not for me.”
“Are there many like you?”
“More than you can imagine.”
“And the other option?”
“You will be sent.”
“Oh, I know what is going on. You are going to wipe my mind like in that movie, Heaven Can Wait, or something like that, and I will become a new person and live another life on Earth.”
“No. We cannot do that. We never do that. We cannot wipe who you are, who you have become, who you might become. And as you now have reverted more to what you were before your Fall, a new option must be offered. But we can send.”
That sounded somewhat ominous. “Why send?”
Another long pause. I was getting sick of those. “So one like you can earn more experience and possibly serve a greater purpose. For instance, memories that you should have had that would have helped in the future existence but for the mistake did not may be now attained. For your Other.”
“I do not send. I just offer the Choice.”
“There is another world in the Universe?”
A chuckle tickles me, somehow. “Humans! You are advancing as a species, but still have so much to learn. So much beyond what you can imagine, yet it is. Many existences, dimensions, realities. It is not your fault, but you do not understand ‘limitless. ‘ Maybe one day, but you have so far to go. I hope to be there when awareness comes to humanity. But for now, you will be sent, if you so choose. But you will be different.”
“So, the stories we hear, in religion and such. They are real?”
“If you are my guardian angel, sort of, why did you not step in to protect me, to save me? Why did you allow so much pain?”
“It is. . . how would you say? In your world, it is sometimes referred to in popular television and stories as a “prime directive.” You know this term? We do not interfere, we are expressly forbidden to interfere. Unless directly instructed to do so in special cases, by One Who Cares. Only then. And if one does so on their own, they pay a high price. You did.”
That slight revelation made me wonder if I had angered the One by overstepping my bounds. “What did I do? I cannot remember.”
“That is nonhuman memory. It is gone. You cannot have it back. Part of your punishment.”
“Will I lose my human memories?”
“No, either way, no matter what you become you are who you are, and always will be, although you can add, expand, improve. But some experiences hurt and can do damage. Mistakes can be made.”
“Can you tell me which will be the better choice?”
“I think you already know that I cannot.”
“Do I have to choose now?”
“Yes.”There I was, floating. With a choice to be made. So many unknowns.