I had imagined this moment before, believe it or not. I mean, who didn’t imagine how they would die? Or what would happen afterwards? I looked over at my mom who was in the driver’s seat next to me. Blood was running down her face and getting on her scarf that I had bought her for Christmas five years ago. For some reason, all I could think about was how jarring red was when placed next to the pale flower pattern of the scarf. I tried to speak but it seemed my throat wasn’t letting me.
Outside I hear screeches as cars came to a halt and people beheld the sight in front of them. How did this happen? I focus on my lap which is crushed by the dashboard. I try moving, but I’m pinned. My own blood drips onto my leggings. To my right, the door has been caved in. From a truck was it? Our tiny hatchback didn’t stand a chance.
Pain was ringing through my body as wildly as my ears were. It suddenly came crashing in and I felt everything. My legs were being crushed. My mind was disorientated, and it was harder and harder to force the black away from the edges of my vision. My arms seemed to weigh a ton.
A hand gingerly touched mine and I followed it up to where my mom was sadly smiling at me. The smile held a lot of emotions for me. It was “I love you”, “I’m proud of you”, and “It’ll be ok” all wrapped into one. It was the last thing I saw before the blackness won.
It was surprising. I was still thinking in the pitch blackness. It made me think I was just passed out. Maybe I was in a coma. Maybe the light that was gradual growing was a hospital light. But the light didn’t stop growing. It became unbearably bright. It seemed to never grow until it finally receded, and a different darkness replaced it. Light was filtering through my eyelids, soft and inviting. When I finally blinked my heavy eyelids away, a sea of seats filled with various people and animals greeted me. I was in a movie theater, I realized. A big one at that; the sea of seats stretched impossibly back. Even with the lights on, I couldn’t see the end.
Applause erupted, making me jump. Everyone who was able was standing and clapping for me. At least, I assumed it was me. I was the only one standing at the front.
I looked at the closest row to me. The nearest person smiled and waved me over to the seat right next to him. He was wearing very beach appropriate clothes, swim trunks and a simple white shirt, which were at odds with my sweater, leggings, and snow boots. “What’s going on? Who are you?” I asked him. His smile was reassuring, almost like he understood how I felt.
“Hi Lia. My name is Anthony. Welcome to what happens after.” He gestured around him to the movie theater.
“So this is the afterlife?”
“Sure, if you want to call it that. I don’t know it’s actual name.”
I stared at him in confusion. “Shouldn’t you be the all-knowing guide who tells me what’s next?”
“Oh, I can tell you what’s next, but I’m certainly not all-knowing. I am you after all.”
“What do you mean?”
“I… we…,” he glanced around the room, “are the old reincarnations of you. When I died, my soul was reborn into you. And now that you have died, your soul is about to find a new animal or person to be born into.”
I looked around the room. It was filled with different people and various animals. Next to Anthony sat a German Shepard. Next to the dog was standing a Mexican woman wearing business like clothing. Next to her was a man in a military uniform.
“All of you are my… past lives?” Anthony nodded.
“That’s… incredible! Oh my gosh, that’s so cool!” I laughed in disbelief and stared around at the people and animals that had been me throughout all eternity. The experiences that they all must have led must be incredible. Every year must be represented in this room. This seemingly never-ending room. That if she chose, she could get information about what it was like to live in any given time. “What do we do now that our actual life is over?”
“We sit, and we watch as our soul is reborn again. We watch them live just as all of use watched you live your life.”
I turned towards the dark screen. “That’s it? That’s all we do?”
“Well, we talk about the new life. We bet and give theories on what we think their decision will be. Like I for one was happy that you chose to live in Maryland. Being from Asia, I had never seen snow until your life. Come on, sit. The next life should be starting soon.”
The lights started dimming as I sat next to Anthony. It was crazy to think that this is what my life was leading to. I was slightly saddened that there wasn’t more. That I couldn’t fly or snap my fingers and get to explore the rest of the world. I suppose it was better than nothing. Not that I could imagine what being nothing would feel like.
The screen started lightening. Everyone around me started applauding as a doctor with blue scrubs came into focus, and my new life began. A life of watching someone else live while I watched on the sidelines. I shouldn’t complain. I could have had a worse person to sit next to.