Jack's Death

Submitted into Contest #131 in response to: Set your story in a drawing room.... view prompt


Science Fiction Contemporary Fiction

Jack opens his eyes with a start. Everything is at once strange and yet familiar. He doesn’t feel bad but he doesn't feel right; like clicking off a checklist he senses the quick adaptation, the focus adjustment. Now, he never felt better, his mood had never been more optimistic, his muscles hummed with health, his heartbeat is a pulse of wellbeing. He is sitting in a 19th-century Victorian armchair with a carved crest and a needlepoint seat facing a nondescript man in the same.

“Where am I?” Jack asked.

“You’re in the drawing-room,” the man says. Jack thought it was a man, he couldn’t be sure. His blended visage was slightly blurred while everything around the being was crisply defined. The tapestries and murals depicting pastoral scenes interspersed with standing suits of gleaming armor while medieval weapons were displayed on racks; all in startling detail, like his eyes had somehow improved.

“What’s a drawing-room?”

“It’s a room where you greet visitors and, often, make them comfortable.” the man replied in a voice that matched his appearance. Jack noticed the parlor table, also Victorian, loaded with goodies. Had it been there a second ago? A carafe of merlot with glasses, crackers with brie platter, cigarettes, hand-rolled blunts, cigars, a bottle of bourbon-whiskey with shot glasses, steaming coffee pot with cups, chocolate bits, and more of his favorite guilty pleasures.

“Is that cocaine?” Jack asked, rising to inspect the goodies.


Jack backs off with rising suspicion.

“You’re a stranger. Are you trying to set me up for arrest?” he demands.

“You can’t be arrested, there is no law. This is a sampling of things you used to enjoy. From now on you can have as much as you want of anything. The display is meant to make you comfortable.”

“Sounds like heaven on Earth,” Jack comments. He looks closer at the hewn stone walls and corbelled ceiling of the large room. He grows even edgier when he notices there were no doors. He hadn’t realized his lack of identity until his memories began to fill in, the earliest ones first.

“This is a very nice reception,” Jack admitted. Certainly nicer than anything he had ever experienced, he remembered. Echos returned along with the memory of his rapid decline ending with a painfully extended death.

“I’m dead. This is the afterlife?” he questions and his host nods in the affirmative.

The shock wore thin quickly. He had never felt better, his senses had never been sharper, he was young, his scars and tattoos were gone, and the amenities looked good. He moved forward and poured a cup of steaming black coffee and found the taste to his liking. He added some Blanton’s Single Barrel and tasted again before carrying the cup with him back to the chair.

“Who are you?” Jack asked.

“I’m a blending of everyone, here to greet you and acquaint you with your surroundings.”

“All right! I made it to heaven! This is heaven?” Jack asked.

“For some.”

“What do you mean? What else is here? Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” he enthused, feeling frisky.

“There isn’t enough room for animals, only sentients. You’re in a galactic space that includes what you consider to be aliens.”

“It’s a big universe. I believe in aliens,” Jack agreed.

“Galaxy. The living Milky Way galaxy. The universe is everything including millions of galaxies.”

Millions more? Jesus. So I’m in galactic space. What does that mean? When I died I thought I was going to heaven and serve, or end up in hell with its river of fire.”

“Did you believe that?” the being, the host, asked.

“Eh, I did suspect that life was special and sentient life special special. I thought about an afterlife but I couldn’t figure out how it worked The Bible stories seemed a bit simplified, like something to keep the rubes quiet. What’s your name, by the way?”

The being smiled. “It’s Sag,” Sag said and the two rose to shake hands before resuming their comfortable seats. Jack took a cigar after Sag indicated it would be all right with a nod. He found a table for his things at the chairside complete with a hydrogen lighter and a double-guillotine cutter for the cigar.

“That’s true. Your time was the cusp between the alien provided religions and the adoption of the proven Answer.”

“Alien provided?"

“You, Jack, are from a technological age that can understand what is happening. Aliens, space travel, AIs, computation. A decent education allows you to self advance. For thousands of years previous, tens of thousands, different alien species visited and adjusted human DNA.”

“Alien abduction! Sure. It didn’t happen to me but I believed it, kind of. The aliens were watching us and waiting, and hoping, that we would evolve into good enough citizens to be welcomed into the federation, or whatever.”

“It did happen to you, but never mind that. Actually, most aliens aren’t as smart as humans; their computers think for them and they don’t practice much. Think of the Egyptians, of the Aztec,” said Sag. “In both of these cases and many more, alien teachers lived with the humans to guide and train them. They adjusted the native genes of the region but it was hard to get it right. The aliens don’t stay forever and there aren’t that many. They died or moved or went back. When these teachers left their civilizations collapsed and the skills were lost.”

“So where did my civilization come from?” Jack asked.

“Humans are of many different tribes developed with greater or fewer abilities. Some were developed as slaves, some as rote workers, some as peers, and some as food.  A human helping AI arrived in the system and raised everyone’s IQ. It used freeform suggestions, like Einstein and Michelangelo, and gene-altering abductions. Then, the AI laid back and didn’t give orders but allowed people to work things out themselves.”

“So we developed the Answer religion?”

“The religions and languages you are familiar with were created to mollify and help the people of their time. Then, life was proven, and no leap of faith was needed,” Sag told him.

“Of course, life exists. I’m here!” Jack informed.

“Uh-huh. As atomic science progressed the atom was dissected and elementary subatomic particles were focused upon. The muons, quarks, leptons, hadrons, and bosons have responsibilities of their own. The atom’s attraction comes from the graviton, for instance. One you hadn’t heard of is called the niftron and was found to provide life.”

Jack suspected the onset of boredom and set his cigar on the table with concentration. “Niftron what?” he asked grudgingly.

“A life force was found to be contained in each atom similar to magnetic force. This intelligence is active when the right atoms are lined up in the right way just like magnets. Magnetism is active only in iron or an electric field but the particle is in every atom. Are you following?”

“I get it.”

“Now take into account the understanding that atoms have perfect rebound. In the game of pool, when the cue ball bounces off another you can discern the speed and direction of the two moving balls. You can use that information to determine the speed and direction of the cue ball before the collision, going backward. The same thing can be done with atoms moving about in three dimensions.”

“There are a lot of atoms. That would take a big computer,” Jack said with as much enthusiasm as possible.

“Eureka! Exactly! Ok. A Godlike device. So, in the middle of our galaxy is a black hole named Sagittarius A. In your time it had already swallowed four million suns and eventually will gobble them all.”

“Eventually? What year is this?” Jack asked with concern.

“Year? Let’s just say that the Milky Way has aged beyond the life of your sun. In order for ‘us’ to reanimate you, your atoms have to be here, within ‘Sag’. So, Earth is now under the event horizon - in the hole.”

“I’ve been dead a long time,” Jack announced.

“I guess. Does it matter? Here you are. Here’s where The Answer makes a minor leap of faith. It seems reasonable that if atoms can activate their life particle when conditions are right, then maybe when all the atoms are mushed so hard together that the protons touch, they activate. The niftron from every atom; all the dirt, rocks, air, and water.”

“That’s a lot of smarts,” Jack agreed.

“And it would have to be, to track each entering particle backward through its’ entire history.”

“That makes sense. When all my atoms are here the information can only fit together in one way. You can recount every move I made my entire life!”

“Yes. But thought is a chemical reaction too. ‘Sag’ not only knows every action you’ve taken but also the reasoning behind it.”

Jack got worried. “So, am I back, or is this the interview? Did Saint Peter read The Lamb’s Book of Life and find me in it?”

“No, no. There’s a committee. But you see the similarity? Aliens, who usually followed a version of The Answer, helped the human prophets craft their religion in terms that could be understood.”

“Of course. So where is the lake of fire?”

“Sag is pretty hot. You don’t even want to know what your actual temperature is. Some individuals are found to be too vile, in thought and action, for the committee to revive. There’s a lot of room here, but it is limited. Some bad apples just linger as hot plasma, forever, whereas you serve at the right hand of the Lord.”

“Is my family here?” Jack asked.

“Certainly. You’re not related to John Wayne Gacy, are you?  Good! Their atoms may not have been processed yet, but if not, they will be soon.”

“I’m glad a lot of people make it. I’m not anti, I joined a Christian church once and liked it, but I wasn’t exactly devout. I tried to be a nice person.” Jack said convincingly.

“Yeah, well, here’s the thing that makes this place even nicer for the pious as long as they didn’t force their views on others. Remember when I told you I can see your entire history down to a thought? Well, so can everyone else.”

One Missippi, two Missippi, three. “Oh no!” Jack cried in dismay.

“Remember the time you made a girl walk home because she didn’t put out?” Sag asked. Jack turned red in burning shame, shrinking into the seat.

“I was drunk, didn’t know where I was going to get the gas to drive her where she wanted to go, and she started bitching at me!” Jack blurted.

“Really, there was no excuse,” Sag informed.

“I know,” Jack cried, hanging his head. “I think about it every day, wishing I could change it.”

“I know you do and such poor actions aren’t your habit. You gave of yourself to your wife and children daily, selflessly. A few will look at you with dislike but most will forgive you. Most beings have selfishly hurt others in their past, once or twice. You will have to get used to seeing past faults in others. The true saints do strut around, lest you forget they’re saints. They’re pushed to the top of Sag’s righteousness scale while the bad are forced to the bottom, feeling revulsion from everyone, forever.”

“I hope I'm OK,” Jack said, recovering.

“You’ll be fine. I can warn you, though, that you will be exposed to the true feelings people have for you. This will lead to a few surprises among your family and friends.”

“I tried to inspire love among my family but I am not sure, for most of my marriage, my wife Susan loved me.”

“When you get the chance, look her up and find out. You have plenty of time,” Sag said and, after a bit of quiet wait, added, “Want to try out your wings? Fancy a banana split in the public square?”

“My wings? Oh, I get it. Sure, let’s have a split,” Jack agreed.

The change wasn’t instant but it wasn’t a slow graduation either. The walls faded to be replaced by a park setting with manicured trees, shrubs, and stone block walks and patios. A sun blazed warmly in a blue sky dotted with cotton puff clouds. Jack and Sag were alone at a large pine picnic table on backless benches. Alone for a moment but others quickly joined them, walking by, nodding their hello’s, or sitting at nearby tables. The beings were mostly alien of humanish design or ridiculously bulbous and tentacled.

A quick look revealed the entire history of the being in question and Sag gave Jack time to enjoy. Eventually, Jack said, “You know what I like about this?”

“No, what?” Sag lied.

“It’s inviolate. There isn’t any way to cheat. There’s no way some force could mess with your single atoms to tell a lie about you. Unbelievably fair. “

“Godlike in its design,” Sag led.

“Yeah. Where is God, so I can thank him?”

“To go somewhere or create somewhere or find someone just think about it and it happens. You’ll get better at it, you have forever to master it. About God, though, you are it. The collective you.”

“Eventually, all the atoms in the universe will come together as one. All this intelligence will think it over and create the next universe starting with a bang. They’ll set all the rules, usually a bit better than the last universe.”

“A big bang,” Jack supplied and Sag nodded.

“So who created that?” Jack asked.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” teased Sag? It took a second but Jack caught on.

“God?” he said.

“As good a word as any,” Sag said.

“Good things do happen,” mused Jack.

“I’m almost done here. You’ll figure out soon enough how to get around and enjoy yourself. You’ll stay as long as you like before you disincorporate yourself to wait for the final universal reconstruction. You, however, have a special purpose, if you should decide to accept it.”

“You’re making me nervous. What is my ‘special purpose’?”

“The new universe will go along as the old universe did until the impurities mount and control is lost. Things progress on their own, from that point. On Earth, there was an atomic war that exterminated the human race shortly after you died. Your team will be infused with memories of this place and given a few special tools in order to prevent this catastrophe from happening. Do you accept?”

“Really, you know I don’t have a choice! What team?”

As he looked at Sag a lovely young human woman approached the table and extended her hand familiarly for a shake before seating herself across from him. She has a warm brown complexion, is five foot four with soft brown wavy hair. He feels it would be a mistake to debase her intelligence even though her sparkling green eyes signal her readiness for a nap, for bed.

“Becky,” she says nicely.

Before he can react a man moves up behind her. He is six feet with a healthy Nordic blonde complexion. He smiles with even white teeth and offers a firmly gripped shake.

“Ned,” he says and sits.

No sooner had Jack finished the shake than another man appears before him. This man is dressed in a white uniform with gold Aiguillettes. He is five-ten with straight black hair and a yellowish complexion. 

“Bao Chong,” the man says and assumes an attentive stance. 

“Any questions?” Sag asks.

February 03, 2022 16:31

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Desiree Haros
14:28 Feb 07, 2022

This was a pleasure to read. I look forward to reading more from this author.


John Hanna
19:27 Feb 07, 2022

Thank you Desiree, That is a very nice comment and never fear, the next story is for you!


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