My name is Avery Kopeland, and I died when I was fourteen-years-old. It was in a car accident. My brother Mitchell was seventeen, and although he was my parental appointed chaperone, he loathed carting me around; "When you get your damned licence, Avery, and I'm off at college or wherever the hell I am, at that point, and Mom goes all psycho and tells you to drive Bella everywhere, you'll see where I'm coming from. So don't try and tell me to stop being an ass about it, Avery, because it sucks. And because of that, when you're in my car, just sit and shut up and I'll drive you where you need to go. But you're not my friend, Avery, you're just my sister. So don't talk to me and try to sympathize or lecture me, because it won't WORK!"
Sometimes, I really wish that Mitchell had just shut up.
But then again, I guess I can't blame Mitchell for anything. The car accident wasn't his fault. It was a snowy Saturday in late December when I died. Mitchell was in a particularly pissed off mood as he drove me a few cities away to my violin lesson.
"Goddamnit!" he screamed as a blue Sedan cut him off on the highway. He slammed his fist against the horn and added, "If you don't know how to drive in the snow, then don't drive at all!"
"Yelling at the car won't do anything, Mitch," I mused, adjusting the zipper on my worn-out jacket. It was below freezing out but Mitchell refused to turn the heat on in the car.
My brother simply grunted and dove into his usual lecture: "Avery, don't bitch about my driving. You think I wanna drive through a bunch of snow to bring you to your precious violin lesson? No, I don't. I would rather be goddamn sleeping, Avery. So stop bitching and live with my yelling at idiotic drivers or I'll let you walk all the way to -"
Mitchell never finished his sentence. He would've had he had the chance, for my brother was not the type to cut himself off in the middle of a rant, but the chance never came. Because of the SUV that seemed to come from nowhere. It rammed full force into the passenger's side of the measly compact car my dad had recycled to be "teenage suitable".
Mitchell cursed. It was the only thing I remember clearly after the initial accident.
Then... screeching... spinning. I saw, as I sat tangled in the compressed remains of the car, Mitchell clinging to the steering wheel. The airbags exploded, and the car just continued to skid quickly and dangerously, across the busy highway. I don't think anyone else plowed into our totalled car, but the metal divider in the center of the mass of vehicles spelled out ultimate disaster. It was the deciding factor in my life and death.
As soon as the passenger side - again, taking the brunt of the accident - smashed into the divider, I was over with. My mind stopped spinning, along with the car; it fizzled, slowly, to a halt.
Four other cars were severely damaged by the SUV, whose drive apparently was high and drunk - a lethal combination. Even then, I was the only one who died. Even Mitchell, who had to be freed by the jaws of life, suffered far less than he could have. Far less than, given the state the car was left in after the crash, he should have.
Mitchell and the others in the crash lived.
Immediately after hitting the divider, I knew I was dead. It was the kind of thing that was natural and instinctive. At any given moment, one can figure if they are alive. The same ability comes with death.
I knew I was dead.
But I didn't know what it would be like to be dead.
There was no white light. There was no life flashing before my eyes. There was, in fact, nothing. My mind was blank. I could see nothing. It was almost as if, with death, I had ceased to exist all together; my brains, my being, my soul. And all I could manage to think was, This freaking SUCKS.
Wonderful last thoughts, indeed.
However, fortunately or unfortunately - however you look at it - these were not my last thoughts at all. For, after a time that seemed to only take a few minutes but, in reality, could've taken far longer, color and life came back in a flash.
I was in an ordinary looking room with whitewashed walls and a smooth table in the center. There were two chairs at the table, across from each other. One of the chairs was empty, but in the other sat a man. He seemed to be young, with a mane of curly red hair and a beard that could rival a child's image of Santa Klaus, and his skin was pale and smooth. He turned towards me, revealing a mellow smile on his face and sparkling green eyes.
"Hello Avery," he said pleasantly.
A rock-hard lump formed in my throat, but I swallowed it away. "Where am I?" I asked in a weak voice. I added, "Who are you?"
The man laughed and beckoned me over to the empty chair. "Sit, Avery, and I'll explain," he said.
Hesitantly, I obeyed the man's orders and sat across from him in the creaky metal chair. Then I rested my elbows on the table; they were bare and perfect, as if they had not been nearly destroyed in the accident.
"Who are you?" I asked again. When he didn't reply, I offered, "A-are you like... God?"
The man leaned back in his own chair and laughed heartily. "No, Avery, I'm not God." Then he grew serious. "But if that was meant as an inquiry if you are in heaven, or a place after death, then well, you are in a place after death. But you are not in heaven."
"No. Such places are made up to please the living, Avery, so that they do not fear death to such a degree. In reality, after death, you are simply born into a new life, brand new. All your memories of your old life are gone, as are the sorrows."
"So is this just like a... pit-stop... on my way to rebirth?" I must have been shaking out of my skin, for the man reached a gentle hand across the table and took hold of mine.
"Calm down, Avery," he said softly. "There is no need to be frightened."
I pulled away from him and jerked my head back and forth. My mud brown hair whipped against my cheeks. Then I looked back up at the man, whose placid expression almost made me want to throw up. "J-just answer me, p-please." I choked on my words. "P-please."
The man sighed. "Well, Avery, I suppose in some senses, it is. Most people who live full lives sit here a bit, come to terms with their deaths - then move on. But you, Avery... you..." He stopped in midsentence and frowned; his lips were like a rubber band, tight and narrow.
"W-what about me?" I asked. "W-what's so different about me?"
"Have you ever heard of fate, Avery?" the man inquired.
I managed a half-hearted nod. "Yes," I said.
"Good," replied the man. "Well, Avery, one's fate is determined before they are even born; the person who goes into the body does not matter, for they will adapt to what fate has set out. It is pure chance of who one ends up as. Fate does not determine such trivial things like what you eat for breakfast, but say a person dies after their breakfast catches fire and they suffocate in the inferno - that is fate. Your fate..." He stopped and shook his head, then continued with: "Your fate was to die at sixty-one, Avery. To grow up and marry a fine man, and have three daughters and a son with him. You were to become a doctor who let work take over her life. Your eldest daughter would plead for you to retire, but you would not. Your fate was to have a heart attack at sixty-one, Avery, for although you were to be a doctor, you were not to be good with taking care of yourself."
Slowly, I let the information seep in. Then, I shook my head and wrung my arms in front of my chest. "No," I said. "That's not right. Mostly because I'm not sixty-one. I'm fourteen."
The man chuckled bitterly. "Avery, that is my point. It is clear that you are fourteen and not sixty-one."
"Then why am I here?" I demanded.
"Avery," said the man, "you were not supposed to be in that car accident. That accident was meant to happen three seconds after you and your brother passed the scene. The car that hit you was to miss you narrowly instead of hit you. Because the accident should've happened three seconds later. Fate is specific like that. One second - one nanosecond - alters fate forever. Generally, fate is reliable. In fact, it is reliable nearly every single time; out of all the people alive right now on earth, only two or three people will have their fate turn out unplanned. You are one of those people, Avery."
"No," I snapped back. "No. That's like a one in three billion chance, that's not right. I'm supposed to be alive right now. Until I'm sixty-one, right?"
"That was how it was planned."
"Then why am I here?"
"Because fate made the one in three billion chance. And the one in three billion chance, although it only afflicts person directly - you - right now, it will affect others in the future. You were to be a doctor, Avery. How many people would you have saved? How many people's fate shall have to be radically altered now, because of you? The homeless man on the corner? He is not born yet. You were to give him a $5, Avery, because you were trying to teach your youngest daughter about helping the needy. With those $5, he was to go out and barter for some weed. While high, he was to get a woman pregnant, Avery. Without those $5, he never would've purchased the weed at that time, thus never getting the woman pregnant. That homeless man's child will not be born because of that. Because of the one in three billion chance. The thing with fate is that even if this error only directly affects you right now, it will affect hundreds - thousands - in the long-run, and these thousands will affect other thousands - a domino affect. Because of one little error with fate, a three second error, everything can potentially change."
It was hard to grasp. I was one person in the world, a fourteen-year-old girl named Avery Kopeland from a no-name town in New Jersey. I couldn't affect that much. And yet, according to this man, I could. Because fate screwed up, and I was dead way too soon.
Somehow, I managed to whisper, "W-what am I going to do then? W-what's going to happen? C-can I just go back to my life and die at 61?"
"It doesn't work like that," said the man in a mournful tone. "I wish I could say to you 'Go back, Avery, and live your life' but I can't. The body of Avery Kopeland is dead. All Avery Kopeland is now is a memory, a plot in a cemetery. Avery, you can't go back to that life. That life is dead."
I felt like throwing up again, but I swallowed it down. Sweat trickling down my back, I asked the man, "Was A-Avery m-my first life?"
"No," he said. "First lives get woven in, but most of the people alive today have been alive before." He paused and added, "Avery Kopeland. Your fourth life."
I clenched my fist, unable to comprehend it. "Fourth life?" I tested out.
"Yes. Fourth life."
"And when I'm r-reborn it'll be my fifth? And I won't remember being Avery or anyone before that... o-or this?"
"In most circumstances, yes," said the man.
"Most circumstances?" The sick feeling dropped to the pit of my stomach.
"You see, Avery, because of the unique condition of your death, your life is still considered incomplete. It would be impossible for you to be reborn into a whole new identity when, technically, you still have 47 years left to live. Meaning, a whole new person can't be created for your mind to inhabit for the next 47 years."
"S-so what am I going to do?" I asked.
"I'm getting there, Avery, but I can guarantee that you won't like it." The man sighed and stared deep into my eyes, as if he pitied me.
"Just tell me," I pleaded quietly.
"Avery, while you cannot be born into a whole new identity, your mind could inhabit a pre-created body. As in, someone still alive -"
"B-but that's not right," I said. "That would be stealing someone's life and -"
"Hush, Avery. Let me continue." He lowered his hands to the table in a gentle motion. "You're right Avery. Nobody wants for you to be stealing someone else's life. However... fate is generally right when it comes to death. And there's a lot of people destined to die soon."
"I don't understand."
"Avery, while fate decides when someone is to die and they are not to die before that time is up, it will gladly extend a lifetime by a short period. Any interactions beyond that time, however, will not affect anybody; the days before death, if one strongly wishes to live longer, are like an unknown grace period. Everyone is immune to you, as if you are there but invisible, and you are just to die a few days later - one cannot survive after their destined death date more than one week. For example, while you were to die at 61, regardless, had you had a stronger will to live, you could've survived a few extra days, but nothing you would've done would've affected those around you. Most people lose the will of life if they think death is not in their future, and only fight to live while sick or ailing. However, loved ones of those sick and ailing are prepared for death. Unexpected death is much worse."
"I-I still don't understand."
"Avery, for the next 47 years, you are not able to go into a brand new created identity. However, as I said, there are many people destined to die unexpectedly very soon. They don't have a strong will to live. But you, Avery, could enter their body and give them that will, and give loved ones last days with the person."
"That's a-almost cheating," I stuttered. "Because the loved one wouldn't really be with their dad or wife or whatever. They'd be with me."
"Once inside a person, you would absorb their memories. However, fate would still recognize you as Avery Kopeland; therefore, your memories of Avery Kopeland would not fade. You would have the memories of both Avery and the person. After the person dies, you would come back here for a new... body. Until the 47 years are up. Then, you can go on as if this never happened. For fate can reassign what is to happen to all those people Avery Kopeland would have affected, even if it does make things inexplicably complicated. You could be a new person in 47 years."
"47 years," I repeated. I stared down at my fists and shook my head. "I'd have to go and die again, and again, and again for 47 years?"
"It's either that, Avery," said the man, "or die all together. Your entire soul and being would just... disappear. Do you not think it's worth it, Avery? Giving people last days with their loved ones, and then you get a new life. You won't remember this... it's just a filler."
I didn't reply, at first, because I didn't know what to say. And then, after a bit, I looked back up at the man. "O-okay?" I said unsurely. "I-I guess I'll do it."
He smiled sympathetically and squeezed my hand tightly. "Everything will be okay, Avery. Everything will be okay." When I didn't say anything else, he added, "It will seem natural. You'll appear in the person's body with all their memories and relationships and personality. It will be easy, Avery. After it's done, you'll come back here and meet with me. For the next 47 years, I'll be your... guide... to this. I'll give you your next person to... inhabit. And then, after the last person, you will report back here for the final time and be reborn. And it will seem as if none of this ever happened. Okay, Avery?"
"O-okay," I said again.
The man let go of my hand and said, "The first person is a teenaged girl, around your age."
"Teenager?" I asked. "And she's destined to die?"
"Fate can be cruel in purposeful assignments. But you are to give this girl last days with her family, Avery. Oh, and by the way, you will enter her body as well as any other body in the future the day they are destined to die. Keep anybody alive until the next day, and it is some sort of a success. Just keep the will to live, Avery. "
"Okay, Avery. Her name is Grace Garrat, and she's fifteen-years-old. She has severe asthma, and it will be an attack that will kill her. Do not worry about pain, because although death seems painful to anyone who watches, did you feel pain when you died, Avery?"
"I should've," I said, "but I didn't."
The man smiled. "Right, Avery. Right. Are you ready?"
"Goodbye then, Avery. See you soon."
I blinked, and then everything had changed.
A/N: I'm very, very sorry if I offended anyone's religion with any part of this chapter, but this isn't meant to be a religious story so… yeah. Anyway, I'd really appreciate any reviews so review and I'll try and return the favor!