“We’re gathered here today…In memory of Travis Marrows.”
The organists chimed a tune on his pipe organ as the choir dressed in purple robes fidgeted in their squeaky pews. Ladies in long black skirts and dresses fanned themselves while the gentlemen in business suits adjusted themselves on the hardwood benches. Travis, dressed in a black suit and tie, rested quietly in the black coffin with his hands folded on his chest.
“There…is…a date placed on our heads. A day appointed for man to die. None of us knows what that day is. It is written in the book of James chapter four.”
The Paster removed his glasses, placed them on the podium and wiped his sweaty forehead with a napkin.
“Go to now, ye that say, today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain. Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. Can I get an amen?”
“AMEN,” The congregation shouted.
“You see…life…is brief, a moment, a vapor, as the scripture tells us. Yet…it is valuable, irreplaceable, and unique. And, we should never take it for granted.”
Sobs filled the room as a boy and a girl sat behind the pastor in front of the choir. The ceiling fans spun above and mixed heavy perfume and cologne.
“Here we have a man…whose life was taken at the youthful age of twenty-seven…a…troubled man…who didn’t make the best decisions in his life.”
“But there is a GOD!” the man shouted, slamming his hand on the podium, “Who is faithful, that can redeem the lost.”
“None of us standing here, know where he is going. It’s really none of our business. But never forget my brothas and sistas…life…is short and once you’ve lost it; you can’t get it back. Let us then…honor the Lord with our life. Let us bow our heads for a moment of prayer.”
With the service completed, everyone lined up to view the body, including his two children, parents and grandmother. Sobs filled the congregation as the boy and girl somberly placed lilies on their late father.
Travis somberly stared at his corpse.
Looks like I messed up big time. I wish I could say something to them, but I can’t. My wife didn’t bother to show up to the funeral…that’s understanding…I was hoping she would, so I could see her one last time. Why did this happen? I know it was my fault, but…I was doing what I’m supposed to do. Others did it…so why did it have to be me? It’s just not fair.
The palm bearers related to the deceased picked up the casket, carried it to a white Hertz, and drove off.
Standing in the church alone, Travis slouched on a pew and tapped his feet on the floor. As he sulked, a white light blinked behind him. He turned around and saw a door at the center of the room, down the main isle, with a blinking sign above that said-PROCESSING.
“Guess that’s for me,” he shrugged, rising to his feet.
Travis always wondered what happened after someone died.
Clasping the gold knob, he opened the door and a heavenly light, followed by a rush of air, hit his face. Squinting and raising one hand, the scent of pomegranate filled his nose as he entered into a seemingly infinite white room. A simple oak desk, with a desktop computer sat in the middle of the space. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw a well-dressed man reclined in his chair. With his mouth gaped open, a silky, black mask covered his eyes as he snored, snorted and scratched his stubble.
“What the hell?! Why is he sleeping? Isn’t he supposed to be a spirit or something?”
Travis carefully closed the door and walked towards the sleeping individual. Stepping around the polished desk, the man’s obnoxious snores got louder. Reaching, he touched the man’s shoulder.
The startled man awaked, straightened in his chair and his eye covering fell on his lap. Travis stepped back as the stranger rubbed his face and blinked.
“Ah man,” he said, shaking his head.
He spun around on the office chair, looked at Travis, and froze in disbelief.
“What the hell are you doing here?!”
Travis, not knowing how to respond, shrugged.
“Uhh…hello. You got a mouth, don’t you?”
“Aren’t you supposed to know?” Travis asked
“No, I mean, why are you standing so close to me? Get your butt from behind my desk!”
“Oh, sorry,” Travis said, walking around the desk, “You were sleeping so…”
Ignoring him, the man rolled up to his desk, patted his sleeves, grabbed the mouse and gazed at the monitor.
What’s going on here? I know I’m dead, but…it doesn’t feel like it. And who is this guy supposed to be? Death? He sure doesn’t look like it? And why was he sleeping? Now that I think about it, that guy with the dreadlocks was eating cereal. Nothing’s adding up.
“Umm,” Travis scratched his head.
“What,” the suited man replied, eying the screen.
“Am I really dead?”
“Shotgun to the chest,” The man replied. “Why do you ask?”
“Just doesn’t strike me as a place where people go after they die. I mean, where’s everyone else? Isn’t there supposed to be a line or something?”
“Have you been dead before?”
“No,” Travis hesitantly replied.
“So, you didn’t know in the first place, did you?” the suited man asked, typing on his keyboard
“I was just…”
“They’re some things you’re not gonna find on google, son. Stop assuming. It makes you look stupid.”
“Okay,” he sighed.
“And on that note, what are you smelling right…,” he tapped the return button, “Now,”
Travis sniffed twice to intake the sweet aroma filling his nose.
“Smells like strawberry shortcake,”
“Good,” The suited man said. “I already know that you can hear….so that leaves…” he motioned with his hand for Travis to come closer.
Travis stepped forward.
“Hold out your hand,” the suited man said.
He pulled his desk drawer, dug inside, and closed it.
Travis held out his hand and the suited man stabbed his knuckle with a needle.
“Oww!” Travis screamed and yanked his hand away.
“Good,” the man said, tossing the pin over his shoulder.
“What’s all this for?” Travis asked slightly annoyed.
“Testing your senses.”
“Why would you need to do that? I mean it doesn’t matter, right? I’m dead.”
“Doesn’t matter to anyone alive.” The suited man said. “Here, it’s something different,”
“How different,” Travis asked, now curious about his response.
“For one, now that you no longer have a body, the things that would normally keep your body alive are no longer needed but you still keep your senses. You can smell but you don’t need to breathe. You can taste but you don’t need to eat. You can feel pain but you can’t die.”
“That’s pretty cool,” Travis said. “Perks of being immortal right?”
“Depends on what?” Travis asked
“Look, I’d rather not answer twenty-one questions. I’ve been through this a million times and I just want to get you processed and send you on your way,”
“Why?” Travis chuckled “So you can go back to sleep?”
“Uh, yeah. Been awake for so long, I sleep just for entertainment.”
Travis blinked in disbelief.
“Now if you don’t mind, let’s get to the more…intimate part of processing.”
“What’s the next part?”
“Judgement,” the man said as he opened his desk draw took out a blue ball, tossed it into the air, and caught it in his other hand. Relaxing in his black leather office chair, he squeezed the spherical toy several times as he glanced at his computer screen.
Travis stood silent, scratching his head.
“Travis Marrows. Being that you died at the young age of twenty-seven, and…I’m not expecting much of an answer, what lesson have you learned in life?”
“To be kind and helpful to other people?” Travis asked, shrugging his shoulders. Giving an answer he knew would appease the average person.
“Ok,” the suited man sighed, placing his ball on the desk and folding his arms. “Son…let me tell you something about me. I may not look it, but I’m a very tolerable person. I’ve met millions of people across the globe, each with their unique cultures, slang, living habits etcetera, and I understand that a person’s upbringing can influence how they think. So, I’m not offended easily…but…I have my limits. That limit? Is lying. You see, I’m not Grandma Helen, I’m not your mom, not your dad, and for damn sure I’m not one of those women you tried to pick up behind your wife. The minute you closed your eyes and that coffin lid closed over your corpse, the games you played in life…ended. I know your thoughts, I know your habits, I know your intentions, pains, pleasures and I know…” he slammed his palm on the desk and the room quaked, buckling Travis’s knees, “WHEN YOU’RE LYING TO ME.” His voice boomed.
The rumble faded, and Travis rose to his feet. He froze in fear as he stared at the being glaring daggers at him.
“I asked you a simple question, what did you learn with the life I gave you?”
Travis nervously scratched his head trying hard to think of an appropriate answer, but soon came to acknowledge the truth.
“I don’t…know,” Travis mumbled shamefully.
Satisfied with his answer, the suited man leaned in his chair and stared at him for a few moments.
Travis turned his head away, too ashamed to look the being in the eyes.
“That’s unacceptable,” the suited man said. “It means that you’ve remained ignorant all of your life.”
“I’m talking.” The man firmly silenced him. “Did you know that the necklace you died trying to steal was fake?”
“What!? F…fake?” His eyes confusingly bounced in his head, trying to make sense of what he just heard.
“No, it couldn’t’ve been fake. That thing looked real.”
“You think I’m lying?” the suited man chuckled, “Someone, who educated herself on the security truck’s route, ocean-twelved it before it was delivered…pretty impressive work, if I say so myself.”
“I died for a fake jewel?”
“That’s what happens to ignorant people, son,” the suited man rocked comfortably in his chair. “They die for dumb reasons.”
“You couldn’t’ve stopped me?” Travis interrogated, outraged.
“I’ve done all I could,” he said, throwing his hands up. “I spoke through your Grandma, various associates…friends, love ones…everybody. You didn’t listen.”
“You know what I wanted for you, son? I wanted you to live a meaningful, happy life. The challenges you encountered were there to encourage you to learn. You were a father, after all. I’ve been seeing too many young men with potential, lose their lives because they chose not to learn. And it saddens me, dearly.”
The suited man sighed and plants his chin on his palm. Travis couldn’t say anything. He just stood there with a guilty look on his face.
“So, what happens now?” Travis finally broke the silence.
The suited figure sighed as he picked up his ball and squeezed it several times staring at Travis.
“You’re not in my system,” he said, shaking his head. “Selfish greed and lust motivated everything you’ve done in life. You had countless opportunities. Scholarships you could’ve taken advantage of, people who cared about you and you had a woman who really loved you along with kids. You were… worthless in life, son. I’m sorry, but I gotta throw you in the pit.”
“Can I do it again?” Travis said in a panic.
“Can I try again?” Travis spoke a little louder.
“Why should I give a condemned man a second chance?” the suited man said.
“Look,” Travis sighed. “I messed up and I can’t think of anything to say to change that. I know I don’t deserve it, but…I just want…” he scratched his head. “To fix things.”
Rocking in his recliner, the suited man pensively stared at Travis.
“I will not resurrect you, but I can release your soul back into the world. Because of your…demise, your wife denounced me and I removed her from my database. I don’t really mind whether or not someone believes in me, but I want you to experience my primary frustration with today’s generation.”
“Thank you, sir,” Travis said with a relieving sigh.
“Don’t think it’ll be an easy trip. It’s going to be rough from here on out. I want you to convince your wife back into my list.”
“Sounds simple enough,” Travis said. “Do I have to bring her here?”
“No, that’s not how it works.” The suited man said tapping his finger on the desk. “Having your name on my list is a lifestyle, not a signature. She makes the right moves, follow my rules and believe in me up until the day she dies, then I will attach your soul to hers and you won’t spend all of eternity in the pit.”
“Okay,” Travis sighed. “I can do that…I think.
“You’d better…cause if you don’t then I’ll toss both of you out. I’ll have Anthony fill you in with the rules…get out.”