Science Fiction Speculative

I am a ball of light.

        I am a glare in a slate of blue, like the plasma white of the sun.

        I am now aware of my awareness. I ask myself why I am aware.

        I am not alone.

        The base of my form rests on a bed of white clouds.

        Every particle to my core is vibrating. My light is taking shape.

        I am materializing. 

        “Welcome,” I hear a voice behind me and become fully conscious of my surroundings.

        I am atop a vast plain of clouds. The sky is a rich blue, and despite no visible sun or light source, the clouds’ lumps and imperfections are shadowed and highlighted. As my shapeless soul forms into something more human with a nose and mouth, I inhale. It smells of TV static, like the black and white feed that melds to a gray as the viewer moves away.

        I turn to address the voice I heard, and see a woman sitting atop something resembling a desk. It is white, smooth, and strangely shaped, like something created in computer modeling software. The woman, sitting passively with her legs crossed, resembles a stewardess in a navy blazer and skirt. But, her face is impossible to comprehend. My vision is blurred in a way I had never experienced before; it was as if someone had turned down the graphics quality of our surroundings, with pixelation and blur like that of a 90s computer monitor. I blink, and nothing changes.

        “Am I dead already, or is this some pre-death hallucination?” I ask, not wanting to spend more time here than needed. The liminal plain of white and blue is making me nauseous- it is surreal and uncanny, with every air particle charged with anticipation.

I have never been here, but it is familiar.

The woman remains unmoving as she responds, “You are dead. Are you aware of your cause of death?”

I feel I am nearing home.

“Yeah,” I call out. “Bad car accident, right?”

“Correct,” she types something into the computer.

“Was anybody else hurt?” I ask, and she turns back to face me.

“No. It was icy and you hit a tree.”

“Oh, thank goodness,” I sigh. “Is my family doing alright?”

“They are mourning, but they will be alright.”

“My wife is a strong woman. I feel awful for leaving her like this, but she’ll manage.”

The woman stares at me, unmoving.

I continue, “So, is this heaven or something?”

“No. This is Limbo,” she answers. “Don’t be confused by the name. This afterlife resembles that of Hinduism more closely than Christianity.”

“Hinduism? So there’s multiple Gods?”

“In a way, yes. You see, your world operates much like what you know as ‘The Sims’. A simulation. Each-”

“So everything we do is programmed?” I interject, and she stares at me blankly.

Is everything I am thinking right now pre-programmed code? 

She continues,  “Each law of nature is a line of code, and artificial intelligence evolved on its own from there. The big bang was the creation of your world, with nothing but an energy input and said laws of nature. The AI took over the rest, creating Earth and the many forms of life surrounding you. So yes, your thoughts and actions are your own. You are your own person, but your mind and psyche were nurtured in an artificial universe. Your creators are the people from our world.”

“So, you’re saying that everything back home was created by technology? That, in the real world, there’s no Earth, or dogs, or… pizza? Are there even human beings?” I ask, incredulous.

“Yes, there are human beings, in essence. Humans are the dominant species on your planet. They are different from every form of life in that they are conscious. They have the power to think abstractly. While a dog would see a bone in front of it and simply know that it wants it, a human can imagine a bone, ponder the morals of eating a bone, and wonder whether the animal of the bone’s origin had feelings as well. That is your psyche. The human psyche is separate from the simulation- its cultivation is the sole purpose of this simulation. Your psyche is what stands before me in Limbo and what will continue to the afterlife.”

“Okay, so this is like my soul. But, what do you mean by ‘its cultivation is the sole purpose of this simulation’?” I ask. 

“Think of life on Earth as a trial run,” she starts. “After birth and before death, you do millions of things that positively and negatively impact people. People who do wrong must return to Earth in another body for another chance. In fact, my document here says that your psyche has already lived approximately 103 lives before this one, all failed. However, those who do not fail enter our world. Our world is far more abstract than yours, looking nothing like Earth, but is full of pure souls and joy. The accomplishment of moving onto our world is comparable to ‘achieving Nirvana’, or entering Heaven.”

“So, no Hell,” I clarify, sighing in relief and laughing. “Thought for a minute there that I was at risk!”

The woman faces me, expression still blank. “That depends on your experience on Earth. I’m sure many lives could be compared to Hell.”

I shrug, distracted by a new thought. “If your world already has these immortal people,” I ask, “why do you need to create more from Earth to join you?”

        “Because we are not immortal. We die and ascend as well, eventually. There is another level of existence, even above us, a Heaven we are unfamiliar with. We assume it is a plane of further joy and purity, of only the greatest souls.”

        “Ah, I see,” I sigh, taking in the information. After a full minute of silence and stillness, I stepped forward. “Now, what’s the hold up? Am I ‘reaching Nirvana’ or going back to Earth?”

        “That’s the issue,” she responds. “You got backlogged for an issue.”

        “An issue?” I repeat softly.

        “You see, from your actions and the positive impact you had on people throughout your life, you qualified for ascension. Our algorithm declared you a ‘pure soul’,” she explains.

        “Really?” I ask, recalling all my wrongdoings. I was no Gandhi- I had told dozens of white lies, gotten into arguments, and, of course, did that thing. 

        That thing had kept me up at night, staring in the mirror, confused. It had left me in tears on the Fourth of July. It had left me unable to pick up a gun, except to contemplate whether to turn it on myself.

        “Unfortunately, those who are eligible to ascend must pass a final verification: there is a checklist of ten rules that the person must have followed throughout their life,” she explains. “As a Christian man, you know these as the ‘Ten Commandments’. Your devotion to a God is accepted as worship of a higher power- and since we are that power, we trust that you will dedicate your soul to respecting our people and our ‘Heaven’. With this, you have passed nine out of ten of the Commandments.”

        Knowing which I had broken, I bow my head.

        “However, one of our rules is ‘Thou shalt not kill’. You have killed.”

        I nod, accepting my fate. I plead to myself that I may retain a memory of my past life upon reincarnation, so that I may return to my family and let them know I am with them.

        As I wait for whatever judgment this woman has for me, she speaks up again.

        “Your devotion to the military was out of pure care for millions of people,” she states. “In killing a terrorist leader, at the risk of your own safety, the overall positive impact you had on the world skyrocketed. You indirectly saved thousands of innocent lives.”

        I look up again, eyes wide. The thought of being a killer, someone who had taken the life of a person with family and goals, had clouded the praise and awards I had earned throughout my life. Though rationale told me over and over that what I did was good, having blood on my hands had me in therapy for the past four years.

        “This positive impact was what qualified you for ascension,” she states. “However, it is also what inhibits you. You have killed, and nobody who has killed may ascend.”

        I furrow my brow, tilting my head. “So, what’s going to happen? Do I get to live another life?”

        “No. I cannot gain clearance to let you down to Earth again. Your soul is too powerful and pure. Allowing such people back on Earth can have unbelievable effects and consequences on the timeline. The mistake of reincarnating one soul as Jesus Christ changed the course of history. These are pure souls- ones that must remain in an upper realm.”

        “So, am I going to be the exception? Will I ascend, even though I killed someone?” my mouth curls into a smile as I imagine the Heaven that awaits.

        “No. Unfortunately, you must stay here.”

        My smile fades. “Here?”

        “You must stay in Limbo, where you will feel no suffering except the wonder of what ascension may have been,” she turns to her computer. “If you have any questions, please return here. Until then, you can go wherever you wish in this realm. If I recall correctly, Socrates and Plato traveled that way. They have somewhat of a civilization of other wise men, and you may enjoy their company. Your capabilities and power as a psyche in Limbo are far more than that on Earth, and I am sure you will be content in your stay here.”

        “But-” my voice trails off. “There’s no other option?”

        She continues, “Most souls initially appreciate the fact they can fly or move at the speed of their will. I recommend finding others so they can instruct you on the lifestyle here.”

        “Is another chance really impossible?”

        She was typing on her computer again, silent.

        I was suddenly aware of the lack of wind. There was not a single tremor in the atmosphere. The temperature surrounding us must have been perfectly aligned to body temperature, as it felt like a true neutral. I could hardly feel the divide between my skin and the rest of the world.

        I turn back to face the white clouds and blue sky, blinking again in an unsuccessful attempt to rid my vision of the pixelated haze. There had to be something or someone out there to help.

February 19, 2022 04:15

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Sharon Hancock
02:44 Mar 04, 2022

I enjoyed this story. Very unique and creative. I especially like the mention of the philosophers and their thinking civilization


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Lonnie Larson
23:58 Mar 03, 2022

A very unique take on the dynamics of life and then death and the consequences of the in between. To pure to go back and yet tainted, preventing him from going forward. Great job. Keep up the good writing. I look forward to seeing more from you.


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