Congratulations, You’re Dead – Short Story

“Congratulations! Youre dead!”

I looked around, trying to ensure the taxi driver was talking to me.

When had I got in a taxi?

“It’s the ferry.” The diver said.

“What?”

“You know, the ferry to the afterlife. There’s a bunch of us now – ferry drivers. Everybody gets a personalised experience.”

“Oh…”

“So yes, you are dead.”

“Oh…”

“And soon you will be reunited with all your loved ones.”

“Wait what?”

“Any hearing impediment should have been fixed when you died – wait, are you deaf? Because that’s different. I can sign if you prefer?”

The Driver hopped into the back with me, moving newly formed hands in what was probably sign language.

“No.” I managed. “I’m not deaf.”

“Cool.” The Driver popped back into the front seat.

“I just… reunited with all my loved ones?”

“Yup. Exciting isn’t it.”

“That’s one way to put it…” I stared out at the formless grey void through the taxi window. The afterlife was a lot less puffy clouds than I had expected. “How long does it usually take to get to the afterlife?”

“Enough time to process that you’re dead.” The Driver said

“How did I die?”

“’fraid I am not permitted to answer that.”

“Why not?”

“We’re here.”

I blinked to find the house of my dreams forming in front of my eyes out of the formless and shapeless mist.

A beautiful wildflower lawn with a gravel and flagstone path leading to a bright green front door.

The Diver opened the door in front of me. Before I knew it I was walking up the path, running my hands through the wildflowers. When I reached the door I paused.

Was this my house? Should I knock? Was I still supposed to have anxiety in the afterlife?

I knocked.

The door opened of its own accord. I stepped into a carpeted hallway. The stairs stood in front of me but I turned to the left and into the open living room.

My grandparents were the first people I noticed. It should have been hard to recognise them but I had had their wedding photo up in my house as long as I had owned my own home. They loitered by the fireplace, picture perfect smiles on their faces that were a little too perfect and practiced to be comforting.

I searched for the source of their discomfort, hoping that it wasn’t some afterlife trick.

In a pink floral armchair to the right of my grandparents, one I would never have chosen in a million years, sat a ginger headed woman who’s presence shot a blast of love and excitement through me, as if I were being hit with Cupid’s arrow.

Clarice smiled shyly at me before cutting her eyes to one side, directing me to the sofa in front of me from which two heads popped up, one with brown hair tied up in a perfect ballerina bun, and one with perfectly dyed and cropped hair.

I walked around the sofa toward the 3 people who seemed happy to see me but otherwise uncomfortable.

Oh…

Oh no…

“What exactly is this?” Jamie snapped, gesturing around

“The afterlife?” I offered.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Clarice shaking her head and hiding a smile behind her hand.

“No.” Jamie’s tone held a warning note. “Why do all of these woman claim to be your wife?”

“Because we each are.” Allie interjected

“I don’t want to hear it from you.” Jamie’s hand snapped up to bar Allie from speaking to her, almost clipping Allie in the nose.

“I’ve been married more than once.” I said

“How could you do this to me?” Jamie sniffled

“She’s been like this the entire time.” Clarice muttered

“You can’t expect me to be okay with all this!”

“I think you need to calm down.” My grandfather said, voice deep, calm, and soothing.

“Calm down!?” Jamie shrieked. “How am I meant to calm down in the face of the knowledge that I devoted my life to one person and didn’t get the same in return?”

“You expected me to have no past or future outside of our relationship?” I asked, bewildered. “You expected 30 years of loneliness?”

“Okay, she is one thing.” Jamie gestured to Allie, “but her!” Jamie’s hand flew out to Clarice. “You never told me about her!”

I opened and closed my mouth a few times, trying to decide what to tell Jamie. Clarice was my first love, my first wife.

“I think I’ve had enough.” Clarice said, standing from the chair.

I reached out to try and persuade her to sit, a reflex that probably wasn’t necessary anymore. It had been so long, and she looked so much more herself than the last time I had seen her when the disease had wreaked havoc over her body.

“I have waited patiently for the last 50 years to see my love again and you have the audacity to throw a tantrum because you weren’t a first and only love? No. Allie already proposed that we try to be friends but you wouldn’t take that. You need to get over yourself and accept that people move on.” She turned to me “And you. I die and you marry her?”

*

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