The Between

Written in response to: Set your story at the boundary between two realms.... view prompt


Fantasy Speculative Fiction

The Between is a strange place. It’s nothing and it’s everything. It’s cold and hot, dark and light, full and empty. Loud and silent. Peaceful… chaotic. Almost poetic. It shouldn’t exist. No-one knows it exists, actually. Yet here… I… am… and I don’t know how I know that.  

I don’t know how I got here. I know I’m here, and I know I’m not alive. Nothing with a heart beat could have survived that blast. Was it a blast? Sure felt like it… maybe it was nothing. A car crash? Why can’t I remember? Surely I’d remember how I died? I don’t have a pulse any more. I don’t feel pain, but I don’t feel life, either… I’m at peace. Content…  

So where the hell am I?  

I’ve heard stories of this place. Old wives’ tales about how, if you don’t open the window in the room where someone dies, their soul will be trapped forever. Or how if you die while looking in a mirror, your soul will be trapped there forever… shit like that I never believed. Or, my favourite one, how if you don’t believe in any God or whatever, you’ll end up lost. I hate to even consider it, but maybe Father Brian was right. Maybe I am a condemned and lost soul. Maybe I am doomed to wander this all-and-nothing place for the rest of eternity.  

I’m going to look around a bit. I can’t be trapped. I also can’t be alive. None of this makes sense but you know what? If I think about it too much, I’ll probably panic and freak out.  


“Call it. Time of death, 16.04.”  

The paramedics had spent enough time trying to bring back the corpse. She was dead. There was nothing left for her now. Not in the physical realm, anyway. I sighed, watching her lifeless body be lifted into a body bag. How many times had I seen that happen? Although I was a bit confused as to why she’d left her body and fainted again… that had been new. But perhaps... could it be?  

Oh. My. She absolutely could be.  

I knew where she was, but I didn’t want to go straight away to get her. A non-believer, she’d spent her entire life testifying that there’s nothing after we die, so nothing matters. How wrong she was. How wrong all humanity is. Worshipping Gods all over the place. You know, regardless of what you call ‘him’ (God, Allah, Buddha, whatever), it’s all wrong. None of you got it right. Not to piss in your cornflakes or anything, but the God you all pray to is a collective. A group of beings (myself included) who make sure souls go where they’re supposed to. God is simply the collective name of that. Because yes, it is obviously very confusing for a human brain to understand this kind of thing.  

Yes, glitches in the ‘matrix’ and coincidences are included in that, too. Sometimes, things slip right on through, and we get tired. It’s boring grunt work half the time, but every now and again, one of you slips through the net and ends up in the Between… and that’s where the fun starts.  

Now, enough questions about what happens when you die. You’ve lessons to learn while you’re here – maybe you should focus on that. Or, if you’re taking a coffee break right now, you can keep listening to my tale. It’s a good one. Alright? Good.  

The paramedics had called her death, and usually a little before that point, I get to see the soul leave the body. Then, I have to stop it from freaking out. Yes, you become an ‘it’. Gender is a human social construct and it’s weird. Then, I take it to the Etherworld for processing, or the Netherworld for an ending. It depends on how well or badly behaved you were on Earth.  

So, when this soul – Jenny – left its body and then fainted literally out of existence, I knew it was going to be fun.  


I swear to God, if I meet some Beetlejuice looking motherfucker here, I’m going to… do something. I’ve no idea what I’m going to do, but I’ll do it. I’ve been walking for a while, and so far I have learned several things. Number one, I’m definitely dead. Number two, this world is kind of like Minecraft, in that I can build things if I want to. I’ve built three huts, two DeLorean cars, a very tall pole which serves no purposes, and a three wheeled eighteen-wheeler truck that runs on rubber ducks for fuel. And, consequently, I’m bored again. Oh – and number three, I can fly. Like literally fly. It’s incredible. But obviously I wish I could fly on Earth, because that would be way cooler.  

I don’t know how much time has passed, because apparently my corporeal being has lost its watch, clothing, and everything else. And at this point, I’m fairly sure I’m only human-shaped because that’s the shape I’m used to being…  

Oh. My. God. I can turn into a freaking TANK!  


I found her behaving strangely. She’d learned an awful lot about the lack of Earthly physics in the Between. I watched her for a bit, building her things, and then turning into a tank of all things. And then a chair. And a plane. A rubber duck. Several rubber ducks. A goose. She had a bird phase for quite some time, and then she transformed herself into a pigeon and started meowing. I laughed. Then, she turned herself into a human with wings, rose up (she’d clearly learned that she can fly here, too) and exclaimed that she was an angel. And then, she turned herself into a giraffe.  

“Are you having fun?” 

“ARGH!” she screamed and became human again. She freaked out a bit when she didn’t hit the floor. “GET ME DOWN!” 

“I mean, you can get down whenever you’d like. You’re in control.” I helped her regardless.  

“Who are you?! Where am I?! Did I die?! What happened?! Why can’t I remember anything?!”  

“Your Earth name was Jenny. You’re in the Between. Yes, you died. You got hit by a car that crashed into the side of a petrol tanker and threw you straight into the explosion. You’ve been in the Between too long and all traces of pain get wiped, here.” I gestured around. “You’re reduced to your most basic state, and therefore can become…” I could just about suppress my laugh. “A goose.” 

“How long were you watching me?” 

“Since you fainted your way into the Between. I just wanted to see if you’d do what other souls do, and curl up, or if you’d do something else. And you had fun.”  


“Meaning, I can offer you something I don’t get to offer a lot of souls. Come. Is there anything on Earth you want to take care of?”  

“I… I guess…” the fact that she’d died and couldn’t be alive any more took effect. She looked at me, horror-struck. “I... can’t just go back?” 

“You can, but not to your body.” I pressed my lips together. I knew how this was already going to go.  

“Right... then... yeah, I want to go back and see my family again.”  


The journey to Earth was a bit jarring for her, but she coped fairly well. I think she was so overwhelmed by being dead that she forgot to be overwhelmed by being crushed back through the tiny hole she’d slipped through. We landed right by where she’d died, but already her body was gone. It was as though nothing had happened at all. Time is a social construct, but also moves physically differently in the Between, compared to Earth. One day on Earth is a blink of an eye, or a breath, in the Between. So, it had actually been several days – almost two weeks – since she’d died. I explained this to her. 

We made a beeline for her parents’ place. The usual heartbreaking moment, parents crying, getting ready for something. I knew what. She hadn’t twigged.  

“Can they see me?”  

“If they could see you, they’d be terrified.”  

“Why? I’m their little girl. They love me.”  

“Yes, and right now, you’re a soul, and the human brain isn’t stable enough to comprehend what you actually look like.” I pushed a cup a tiny bit. Not enough to get her parents’ attention, but enough to show her that we have power still in the physical realm. “Move stuff. Give them signs. Whatever. But that’s it.”  

“Alright...” she looked at her photo and traced a ‘finger’ around the frame. She pushed it backwards, and it almost fell. “Oops! I didn’t mean to do that!”  

“Sure.” Her parents turned to the photo, startled. Almost instantly, they both started to speculate why it had happened. Was it a sign? Was it Jenny? Was it their little girl making contact? And on the day of her funeral, too! Jenny froze up.  

“What do I do?” she asked smally.  

“Well, you can give them another sign. You can touch them and put the thought in their head. Reassure them. Just feel what you want them to feel. Love, reassurance, that you’re okay.” Jenny nodded. She did perfectly well, and her parents seemed to accept it perfectly well too. It was a beautiful sight, but I had work to do. I gave her a little bit of time, and then I pulled her away.  

“Wait - wait, wait... they’re going to my funeral, right? Can I go? I want to see how many people show up...” 

“A few golden rules. Number one, you never go and see your body after a traumatic death. Or after any death, actually. Number two, you never reveal yourself to family, because they will freak out and not piece together that it’s you. Number three, never go to your own funeral. Ever.”  

“Why not?”  

“Because you’ll either freak out, or realise no-one likes you, or both. Better to just leave that party to those who actually need it.”  


Of course, she didn’t understand. But it was time to go.  

“Now, is there anything else you need to do?”  

“No. I’m okay now.”  

“Good. Because it’s time to go to the Etherworld.”  

“The what?”  

“Hold tight.”  


This has been surreal. The Between? The Etherworld?! I am so confused. I’m dead... but this being? This creature? He appears human to me, but there’s something off about him. And I say him – several times now he’s snapped at me for gendering him. I guess when we die, we become an ‘it’... but then, I'm learning that everything that made me a human is a social construct. Time, gender, language, culture... all of it is a social construct. One we needed, but there we go. I don’t know what to think about it.  

Seeing my parents was hard. I wanted to speak to them and tell them I’m alright. But then Aponeus dragged me away... I get it. It has things to do... ugh. It. I did ask about using ‘they’, but that was off the cards, too. It's strange – the concept, I mean. Aponeus is also strange, obviously, but how much stranger can they get? THIS IS HARD. I don’t like it. Dying seems to be more complex than living. At least there, there were rules. And I could use ‘they’.  

Anyway. He’s brought me to the Etherworld. It’s primarily white, a lot of space, and these creatures. We communicate with feeling, too – like I know what everyone is doing here because I can feel it. I turn to Aponeus.  

“Why am I here? Is this heaven?”  

“No. It's like a processing centre. But you’re a special soul. A builder. I’m not going to process you. I’m going to make you a part of the collective.”  


“What Earth walkers refer to as ‘God’ in whatever form is actually the collective. Us. Everything you see here. God and its derivatives are residual memories from this place that linger post-processing. We send souls back to Earth when they have another lesson to learn, or when they have another role to play in furthering another soul. But they sometimes remember this place, their previous lives, whatever. I mean, faith is faith, and if that helps a soul on its journey, we don’t judge or complain. It's when they get crazy about it and start hurting others that it becomes a problem.”  

“So... what’s the ultimate goal?”  

“Universal acceptance. And we’re still a long way off that, yet.”  

“Okay... so why me?”  

“Because you fainted into the Between and realised without guidance that you can build. So, I’ll process you today to become part of the collective, and then you’ll help us build the world that souls go to. You’ll help shape things. Evolution, I think humans call it.” 

“Oh... okay. So, I could give a hippopotamus wings?” 

“I would strongly advise against that.”  

“In theory.”  

“In theory, you could do what you like. In practice, I would strongly advise against it.”  

“Alright then...”  

So. I get to become a god, effectively. A god.  

No, not a God, and if you start on that line of thinking, I’ll process you back to Earth for another life or ten thousand.  

I forget, Aponeus can feel whatever I feel. 


Processing her into the collective was simple. We maybe process one soul in every ten billion to become part of the collective, so it’s quite rare. But the ceremony for it is always lovely, regardless of what the soul will become. Gathering the Senior collective around, going through the ritual of passing on knowledge, it’s a beautiful thing.  

See, the collective is a group of souls who are all-accepting. If the goal on Earth is universal acceptance, then the collective is a group of the souls who’ve achieved that, and who want to remain here to help. A new addition is rare, but Jenny is especially special. Jenny was a new soul, and this round on Earth was its first. To become a member of the collective after just one life... that is astounding.  

Once shed of the social constructs of Earth, Jenny chose its ethereal name: Ereses. Ereses, builder, evolutionist. A creation soul. And I was so proud to have been a part of it.  

After induction into the collective, Ereses had a keen interest in the Etherworld and the Netherworld. I explained everything, and gave a short tour of it all. Ereses would need to visit both realms in its creational path, so it wasn’t time wasted at all. The Etherworld is my favourite place, since it’s where souls go to process through to Earth again, to learn another lesson or help another soul learn a lesson. It’s a bright and beautiful place filled with love.  

Yes, that’s why children are born loving unconditionally. I’m sure you understand that hate is a taught construct, an unfortunate by-product of selfishness within society. But you watch children of a very young age play together, and they share, they hug, they bolster each other.  

The Netherworld, by contrast, is devoid of love. It is the end for souls. Literally the end. If a soul is beyond reaching the goal of universal love and acceptance, then they’re ended. I could give you examples, yes, but then you’d go hating those people, and that is not the goal. So, examples would mean you increase your risk of a visit to the Netherworld almost to 99%. I don’t want that for you, and I don’t think you want that, either.  

Perhaps you will believe this story. Perhaps you’ll think I’m mad, spouting about the Netherworld and the Etherworld. Perhaps you’ll be angry that I give you an alternative to your god, but understand this: faith is faith. Regardless of where it comes from, or who you worship, or what you believe in, faith is faith, and all religions preach love and acceptance.  

So I’ll leave you with this, dear one: love, accept, do good and be kind. Or I’ll be showing up to take you to the Netherworld, and better be sure I’ll be giving you a lecture the entire ride there. And I can’t be sure it won’t bore you to a secondary death, since I can lecture for what will feel like an eternity. So be good.  

Aponeus OUT.  

October 27, 2021 10:42

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Gip Roberts
19:37 Oct 30, 2021

I can tell you were beaming with inspiration when you wrote this. My eyes were all but glued to this computer screen all the way through it. I love the hints at reincarnation and explanations for it and the idea of "God" actually being a team of higher powers all working together in harmony with no "social constructs" hindering them. This was beyond awesome, it was beautiful.


Amy Jayne Conley
21:17 Nov 04, 2021

Thanks Gip!! :D I actually had this idea rolling around for a while, you know like a bit of a daydream? To actually get it on 'paper' was sweet! Your words mean a lot. Thank you so much!!


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