POST - DEATH
CHAPTER ONE: BEN
It was 4AM and I couldn't sleep. I could never sleep. Nothing interesting enough ever happened in my life to tire me out. I lay on my single bed with only my stripy pyjama bottoms on, my greasy sunken and gaunt face staring blankly at the mould-ridden ceiling. The bedsit that I resided in was in the worst possible area of the town. There was more of everything in this area. More homeless people strewn across the pavement like human rubbish bags. More graffiti plastered over walls proclaiming violent threats to passers-by. More gangs. More drugs. More prostitutes. More depression. I guess more doesn't always equate to better in the grand scheme of things.
I turned on my side in the bed – pushing my long and greasy black hair out of the way as I did so – so that I could see the marvelous view outside my window. The flickering orange glow from the broken lamppost adjacent to the flat shone inside my house like a beacon, obscuring any sight outside. It was as if heaven itself had opened up and was localised outside my manky bedsit. And it was destroying me. A blank stare of despair was corroding my very soul. There had to be more to life than this. I could be doing anything right now. I could be lounging around on a sun-kissed beach with a margarita in hand, whilst scantily clad women walked by and I thanked my lucky stars that I was alive. I could be living the high life with the beautiful people who only seem to exist in lifestyle magazines. I could be happy. Except I wasn't. And why? Simply because life isn't fair. I was thirty-four with no aspirations, no qualifications and no foreseeable future. I was pathetic.
And then I died. It happened as suddenly and as quickly as that: a gasp of breath, a tightening of the muscles and you're gone. I don't know why I died. It could have been the terrible diet of processed foods I had been constantly consuming for years. It might have been the mouldy air in my bedsit had finally poisoned my lungs. It was probably stress. My head had felt like it was going to explode ever since the insomnia kicked in.
Death is sort of like love: You can't possibly describe it to anyone but when it happens, you just know. You stop fearing it and embrace it for what it is: Nothing. That's all that was there. Absolutely nothing but complete darkness for a while. Then came what comes after death: Post-death. I didn't know if I was in heaven or hell. I didn't know if I was anywhere at all. The strangest thing was that I didn't care. I was awash with neutrality. All my cynicism and hatred towards most things was gone and had been replaced by a calm pool of Zen like mastery. In that place, nothing was there and yet everything felt as perfectly placed as a feng-shui handbook. Death was the way to live.
I suddenly felt a strange sensation of movement. I was thrust from neutrality and rocketed away from that wondrous place where nothing mattered any more. That place had been so beautiful and I had felt nothing. Now however, the pit of my stomach was pelted with worry: just like in life.
I awoke in the exact same place I had died with a bearded and rugged man looking down at me, a worried expression on his face. That man was Jeremy. Jeremy had insomnia like me and liked to visit me during the night to keep me company. I looked to the left where my mould ridden wall would usually be to witness two paramedics clearing away various pieces of apparatus that had presumably been used to revive me.
"Are you okay pal?" Jeremy asked with panic in his voice.
I didn't answer. I couldn't answer. I looked at those gargantuan bags under Jeremy's eyes and felt sorry for him. For the first time in a long time I felt rested. Death'll do that to you. Despite the fact that the tired feeling had gone – replaced by something I barely recognised – every other feeling flooded back rapidly. All that anger towards life had returned and I was back to my old self again. Every part of me was the same except for a single memory. It was a memory of when things were better. It was a memory of death.