It’s been a year since it happened. I still remember it as if it happened the day before, and it remains fresh in my mind. On a causal summer day, I was walking down the street, planning to go to the convenience store for some snacks for me and my sister. As I approached the door however, I heard commotion inside the store. People were screaming, and I heard glass windows shattering from the loud, sharp sound of a shotgun. I backed up, not sure what to do. Just as I was deciding to run away, the gunman spotted me and aimed his gun. Before I knew what was happening, I felt a hole in my throat. Warm, congealed blood spilled out onto my clothes. Not long after, it hindered my ability to breath.
The world faded in and out as I felt myself flying. Looking back, I thought I was a bird in flight. It’s funny how fear can turn into delusion so quickly. When I hit the ground hard on my back, the sobering reality of the situation hit me. I tried to move, scream, or do anything. But I was frozen, as if I were paralyzed. The last thing I remember before I stopped breathing were people surrounding me. A few were bent over, trying to talk to me. Others were crying, and one was on his cellphone, calling for help presumably.
The next moment that I remember was awakening in a chair. I didn’t know where I was, and I opened my eyes further to look around. I was in what appeared to be a doctor’s office. There were other people in the chairs, talking excitedly in hushed tones. I leaned over to one of them.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Where are we?” The woman looked at me strangely, the responded.
“We’re in the Waiting Place,” she said. “Each day, one of us is called to leave and we are discussing who gets to leave next.” I looked at her, not understanding what was happening.
“Wait, does that mean I’m…” I started. The woman nodded, confirming my thoughts.
“Yes, dear. We’re all dead.” I couldn’t understand and got up to look around. There were green chairs lined up, a door on the left side and panes of glass. I looked out the windows, I saw a train station and nothing else. I pulled my head away and was about to sit down when I suddenly found myself staring at a graveyard. I recognized I was back on Earth, but I was in a different place than before. The sky began to turn a deep shade of orange as I made my way towards the graveyard gates. They made an ear-piercing squeal as I pushed them open. To my surprise, I saw more than a few people walking around. I saw a few at gravestone, putting red and white flowers there. I decided to see if what the woman said to me in the waiting room was really, completely true. I walked up to the woman and stood there for a moment before speaking in a clear, loud voice.
“Hello,” I said. “Whose gravestone is that?” I waited for a response, but the woman ignored me. I shouted it louder, but she walked past me as I didn’t exist. The curiosity that filled my senses was too much as I walked towards the gravestone. When I read the words, I found myself back in the green chaired waiting room. The ladies seated greeted me pleasantly, as if I didn’t leave.
I sat in a chair with my face in my hands, wanting to cry. The name on the gravestone were mine. I’m dead. I’ve been dead for 4 months. I sat in that chair for some time waiting for something to happen. Every 5 seconds, a person would be called by a woman in a white uniform, and they would leave through the back door. Hours passed like seconds it seemed. 1 minute later, I decided to take a nap when my name was suddenly called, jolting me. I looked at the woman in the white uniform, who seemed to resemble a nurse who gently pointed me towards the door.
“Go now, you only have tonight,” she said in a voice only I could hear. An envelope was handed to me as I walked towards the open door. As soon as I did, I found myself in a familiar place. A mixture of confusion, happiness and elatedness filled me as I heard my sister’s voice. Looking around, I was in my room. Wasting no time, I ran outside the door to meet her, only to be stopped when I realized I still had the envelope in my hand. Sitting down on my bed, I opened it carefully. Incased inside was a letter written in a mysterious hand. It said:
For the few sins left on your soul in your earthly life, you must serve 100 hours in the Working Place. It will feel as though you are waiting 100 years. Only then, will you be allowed passage into Paradise. However, due to prayers from your sister, I have allowed you to be with her tonight until the midnight hour. Then your servitude must begin.
Your loving Father.
Roger wanted to cry from relief, fear, and worry, but he smiled instead.
“Thank you,” he said. “Thank you so much.” He gently put the letter into his pocket and left his room. Walking down the stairs, he saw his sister, mother, and father in the living room. His sister was crying, and her parents were comforting her. She was dressed in an adorable lady-bug costume and had a pumpkin basket.
“I want Roger,” Roger’s sister sobbed. “Why can’t Roger be here?”
“He’s right here with us,” Roger’s father said. “He’ll be coming with you to trick or treat, won’t you Roger?” He looked up to the stairs where Roger was standing.
“I’m here,” Roger said, quietly. He walked down the stairs and hugged his sister for a moment breathing in her warmth.
“Now sweetie, get ready to go trick or treat, it’ll be fun!” Roger’s father said. Roger’s sister wiped her and rose. Her brother held her hand as she began walking towards the door. Her parents followed suite. The night was beautiful, something I’ll remember forever. The pale white moon, the sparkling stars and my sister’s candy-coated smile as we walked from door to door. When my sister and I returned home with our parents, it was 15 minutes to midnight.
I spent as much time as I could with her, playing with her toys, reading her stories, and watching her eat her candy. She never heard me or saw me, but I think she knew I was there. 1 minute to midnight, I was preparing for my departure and sitting on my couch. Suddenly I saw my sister walking down the stairs and walked up to me if she saw me. Just before I left, she spoke the sweetest words I would ever hear.
“I love you, Roger.”