Based on a true story
Condensed from "A Dead Guy Walks Into A Bar"
Unpublished novel currently in its tenth rewrite

Part One: No journey worth taking is easy

Popular definitions of life and endless strains of happily ever after music can pervert the mind. You begin to think that true love is about finding someone and spending your life with them. It can happen and does, but the script of life doesn't always write itself that way. When happily ever after isn't as obvious as a Hollywood ending systems can implode. That isn't because they have to. It is because our interpretations of a given situation come with preconceived notions of what "should" be. The only escape is to throw away the manual and reinterpret everything as it happens. Depression and frustration are born of expectations and outdated standards of success. You don't always choose the series of scenarios that represent a constant river in your life. Sometimes things go as planned. Sometimes they do not.

A man on the brink

They told him everything was going to work out fine. The constant reassurances were maddening. As if they could possible know. Empty promises from people with no control over the situations in his life only increased his frustration. They did not know how strong the undertow was. His fiance hadn't just broken off their engagement as many chose to believe. He had found her out in the hot tub playing intimate games with two of the eighteen year old boys she supervised at her job site. When he told her that she had to leave, she did so, but after she vanished he found she had run amok with his credit cards and sunk him deeply into debt. It did not help that he had been laid off from his job and had to pick up part time work to get by, or that he now had a two bedroom townhouse without anyone to pay the other half of the rent. He had no legal recourse. Everything was in his name.

Desperation finds corrupt saviors

The walls of his kingdom were collapsing all around him. The barbarians had sacked the city and were making their way to the core of the palace. He was powerless to stop the collapse. Waves and waves of bad news poured in. They were threatening to repossess his car. The owners of the condo he now lived in alone informed him that it had been three months since the other half of the rent had been paid and they wanted it now. He was going to have to leave and disappear into the night himself now. His luck found him a person who was willing to help. Unfortunately, he was unable to see that she was helping him for her own reasons. Susan enjoyed seeing people in pain and he was ripe for having his pain increased exponentially. She got him to trust her and to put all his faith in her. Then she pulled back the curtain.

Losing faith in everything leaves one man an island

He moved from place to place and was forced to count on the less than enthusiastic charity of friends and family. He saw himself as a burden. They never realized how deep his troubles were. He moved into a one room apartment on the wrong side of town. Then he believed he had found his oasis. His best friend was splitting with his girlfriend and needed a roommate in the house they had shared. Before long his best friend confessed that he had been offered sexual party favors from the man's ex-fiance and frequently enough had accepted them. While the man sought to digest this information, he found himself being seduced by his best friend's ex-girlfriend. Not long after their tryst the man found himself accused of rape. He had fallen prey to another of life's hidden traps. His best friend's girlfriend used her accusations as a way of reuniting herself with the best friend. The walls of the empire continued to crumble. Now he could add his best friend to the list of casualties.

Burning down the house

There is no "reset" button in the game of life. Had there been one he would have pushed it at that point. There comes a time when one needs to burn down the house completely and start over from scratch. Otherwise the quagmire of snowballing disaster pulls you under. The undertow of life is relentless. It leads ordinary people to take desperate action. When the empire crumbles and the man stands alone, all he wants is an out, for he fears the next step is for them to tear his flesh from his body. He believes there is nothing left for him to lose. The pain becomes a burning sensation that burns deeply into the soul. When it burns too hot, vision is obscured and hope becomes a blind wino you watch being clubbed to death on the side of the road.

No journey worth taking is easy

What can lead a man to sentence himself to the ultimate penalty? To take one's own life is a last refuge from ever mounting pain. You become an island, trapped within yourself with tunnel vision focused darkly on your perceived failures. Everything becomes your fault. You think to yourself, I simply was not good enough to succeed. The world is better off without me and I am better off without it. The reassurances of those around you now become an overwhelming noise. Maybe if they had real answers it would mean something, but you are now beyond answers. There is a steel wall in front of the man and he seeks to push himself through it. He starts to write his own ending and prepares to publish it. He is alone and he will die alone. It will be days before anyone even knows. He doesn't care if they ever learn about how he shut down his own prison by walking its only inmate to the gas chamber.

If leaving is easy, coming back is harder

Ultimately he didn't worry about where death would take him. He only worried about making all the noise stop. He worried about being able to have another chance. He died the uncarved stone, having no concrete preconceived notions about the nature of death. That would soon change. The ultimate question would be asked. Did he want to move on or go back? It seemed a silly question until he was taught that there was a reason to go back. There was unfinished business and he would be given what he needed to survive and thrive this time... but they told him:

"This will be the hardest thing you will ever do."

That was only the beginning of the puzzle.

Turn page to:
Part Two
The Desert of his Soul

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