the afterlife seems to be a desert and apparently I was so good or so wicked or just one of those uncountable degrees in between the two
to have this entire desert to myself.
No food or water in sight. Good thing I’m dead or else I might really be in trouble.
I have no idea how long I have been here, and the last I remember was the peculiar sight of a 158 grain semi-jacketed hollow point
leaving the barrel of a 357 Magnum
to end up in my eye…
I am certain this gets me into some special club.
The lights went out and I awoke here as I might from a nice little nap.
I am incredibly serene, the landscape is magnificent, and I’m perfectly happy to sun myself on this rock like a lizard
. If I ever tire of this, I figure I’ll walk around and explore, but for some reason I have become convinced that I’m waiting for someone.
A few minutes, or millennia, or four hours, or two and a half months (a smidge difficult to tell) later, I see a winged figure appear at the horizon line directly in the center of my field of vision.
This must be whom I am waiting for.
I watch it approach until it is close enough for me to refer to it as a she…
She is tall, perhaps seven feet, dressed a bit like a valkyrie
on her day off, with beautiful wings the color of smoke
, and when she arrived at my stone, I looked into eyes the color of…
the color that when someone asks you to imagine a color you’ve never seen before and you can’t.
It was in those unfathomable
depths that I thought I saw confusion
.” I said
I always thought that to be a pretty good opener…
“You are not a child nor are you a puppy.” She stated flatly, and she was correct.
“No…Is this a problem?”
“I am Hecitie
, guide of children into the Underworld
, and I am also associated with puppies.
You are neither. Why are you here?”
“Well, I did make an extraordinary catch with my left eye, and now I am here…”
“You died in battle?”
“Well, yes and no.”
“Do you like puppies
“Ah… sure, puppies are nice.”
“Walk with me for a time” she said, “while I divine
why you are here.”
We walked along for an indiscernible
amount of time through this immeasurable
desert, and I felt no fatigue, which I assumed to be another perk of being dead. Every time I tried to spark up
conversation, the words died on my dead lips with a look from those otherworldly eyes
“You quested others with the disposal of your shell.” she finally said.
“You were born into your previous life on Holy Innocents Day
, December Twenty-eight.”
These were not questions
, they were declaratives
, but I wanted to participate in conversation
while I still could.
“Then it is here you must wait till your decaying meat sizzles in the pyre
. So few quest
s are given or undertaken anymore that they have all but disappeared from my responsibilities. Even in ages gone, children rarely quested others, but you were born on the day that Herod
slaughtered infant boys, and I am forever tender to any soul brought into the world on that day. You are welcome in my realm until the quest is completed, but I must leave you as my duties are never ending.”
“Can you tell me what my friends are doing?”
“They have entered the slipstream
somewhere near Wall Drug, South Dakota
…and she was gone.
I looked around for a new perch and found the rock that I woke up on.
It was a perfect rock, and it was mine for the time being. I regained my spot and looked out across this landscape. I found myself wanting a cigarette
, not for the nicotine
, for death works better that the patch
, but just for the simple pleasure of smoking
. Before my desire took full root, a finely rolled Drum
appeared in the corner of my mouth, lit.
I took a long, luxurious
pull and thought to myself, take your time kids, this is going to be a nice layover.