Toronto, Canada. 2021
Peter gulped down the last of the beer and threw the bottle out of the window, letting it hit the road next to a car earning him several honks of disapproval. He swore and punched his own horn, then grumbled something about “minding their own business” and kept on driving.
He had just gotten out of the bar after being kicked out when it closed, but he had several cases of beer in the back seat. He meant to save them for when he got home but thought, with everything going on, he deserved this.
By “everything going on”, he was referring to being fired from his job at an engineering company where he helped manage the building and money two days ago, when he was overheard by his boss swearing at several of his colleagues under his breath and deeming them (and several of his managers) incompetent. Then just yesterday his three year long relationship with his high school crush Amy ended when she broke up with him since she claimed to have lost feelings. And this broke him. In only fifteen hours he had managed to go into a spiral, drinking, smoking, crying.
He had been to three different bars and gotten kicked out of two, the first when he threw a shot glass (while highly intoxicated) at the bartender when she refused to serve him any more drinks. The only reason she hadn’t called the police is that he was a regular customer, meaning that they had time to talk and get along. And then the second when it was midnight, therefore closing time. Peter only left when the bartenders threatened to call the police if he didn’t leave, which left him in a very bad mood. But nevertheless, he managed to climb into his car and start to drive down the busy streets of Toronto to his apartment.
After finishing his first beer and throwing it out the window, Peter turned around and reached to the backseat to grab another one. Without his drunk conscience even realising, the way he had leaned also brought his one hand on the steering wheel with him, making the whole car swerve into the lane beside him, narrowly avoiding the vehicle beside him, who along with several others honked at him.
“Ya ya I know I know.” he slurred to himself. He reached back up and took both hands off the wheel to open the bottle, and in that time he failed to realise he was 20 meters away from an intersection. When he looked up, the light that was once green was now red, and while he could have had time to press the brakes, all he did was stare, as if his body was too slow to do anything. The last thing he saw were the headlights of a truck to his right coming. Straight. At. Him. Boom.
He was conscious. Aware that something was trickling down his forehead, but not what. He fell back unconscious. Several images were going through his head, mainly the light he saw of the headlights. He was conscious. He was being carried and felt his body resting on a surface. It rolled while several blurry faces looked down at him. He was unconscious. While everything was black he could hear sirens, chatter, and screams. Then it all went silent.
Peter was aware that he was awake, lying down, but didn’t want to open his eyes out of habit from waking up to an alarm. And yet he felt amazing. It seemed like he had the best night of sleep ever. Which didn’t make sense due to the amount of alcohol being consumed the night before.
He opened his eyes and saw a big blue sky, not a cloud in sight. Then, out of his peripherals, the side of a building. Then another. And two more. Only then had he remembered what happened. Bolting up until he stood, he looked at his surroundings. His car, along with several others that were there during the crash such as the ones that were honking at him stood there, but for some reason they looked as if they hadn’t moved in a century. Weeds that crawled out of the cement crawled onto the vehicles, the glass of the windows littering the ground and rust forming all over the paint. It was only then he was aware that he felt… nothing on him. The warm breeze licked his skin and when he looked down, all of his clothing had disappeared, but only two meters away the shirt and pants he had during the car were folded and clean on the ground. He quickly changed into them, but when he looked around his mind seemed to explode with questions.
“What… happened!?” he said out loud as he got a good look of his surroundings. As far as he could see, the city was exactly what it looked like before, meaning that every single vehicle that he saw during the accident was exactly where it was. All of the buildings were at the same place and so were the lamps and one mailbox he could see. But just like his car, everything was destroyed. Weeds, vines and even trees grew on the numerous cars and buildings. Grass stuck out of the many cracks in the road, and the structures looked like they might fall at any moment. I must be high. he thought, as he circled around looking at the city he once knew. In fact the only thing stopping him from completely losing it was how beautiful and quiet everything was. For the first time in years he could hear the beautiful chirps of birds in the middle of the city, as well as chittering of different kinds. Here and there out of the corner of his eyes animals darted about, birds flying and squirrels running. Down the road he could even make out two deer crossing the street together. It looked like no human had been here in years.
“Hello?! Can anyone hear me?!” he yelled, hoping for someone to explain to him what happened. But, on top of everything that was already happening, when Peter kept yelling he felt, starting from his forehead spreading throughout his entire body, a bizarre sense of calm. It was as if someone had taken away all the bad thoughts… but they were still somehow there. This feeling also prevented him from panicking and he guessed had been drugged. So instead of fighting it he leaned into, and stated to convince himself that this was all a strange dream. Now, being in a car accident didn’t seem so bad. Not if you were strangely transported into an apocalypse.
About an hour later, when he was walking down the road to see if there was any sign of human life, Peter saw something peculiar. In the distance between two buildings he saw a giant wall of what looked like clouds or dense fog. Coming from the ground. That went to the sky.
He stared at this for a full two minutes, chuckled at the sheer amazement of this new world, and started jogging towards it as his new objective.
While he was passing by a plaza he saw three bikes on the ground, but they had the same strange old look. Peter ripped off the plants growing on one of the bikes, and it surprisingly still worked, although the tire was severely deflated and the gears were rusty. But it did the job, and soon he was travelling faster than he jogged while working even less. It was quite a sight to see, all of the old buildings, roads and shops he once knew all destroyed. He passed by his favourite pizza place, the store where he bought his clothing, and even the restaurant he went on his first date with Amy. Amy.
He hadn’t even thought about her since he woke up. She was in fact, partially why he was drinking and why he was in a car crash. Well, his job too. But no. Peter could see how stupid he had been to be drinking that much. It was his fault he got fired. His fault Amy broke up with him. Therefore it was his fault he got in that crash.
A bead of sweat dribbled down to his ear and he wiped it away with his shoulder. The sun was very nice, but also very hot. He tried to bike on one sidewalk under the shade of the buildings which worked, until about an hour later he entered on the highway, closer to the mysterious wall of fog. The closer he got, the taller it seemed, and he wondered if that was the edge of the world. He biked onto the grass until he was only about a hundred meters away.
Peter then hopped off his bike and walked with his mouth gaping at the sight of the wall. The closer he got, the stuffier the air felt, and once he was beside the wall he had no idea what to do. He put his arm up and brushed the fog with his fingers, which was the softest thing he had ever touched. But suddenly, the further he put his fingers, the less he felt on his skin. As if the fog was only a few centimeters thick. He tried putting his foot on the other side, then placed it on the ground. Not knowing what to do, he took a deep breath and stepped through.
Nothing could have prepared him for what came next. He scanned along the wall of fog which as far as he could see was still there, but hundreds of people were stepping through as if they had woken up with him, even though he had previously seen no one. And he also noticed a lot of seniors, and people of mixed ethnicities. But when he looked forward, there hundreds more that were coming towards the wall to greet all of the new arrivals. And all of these people came from what looked like a different world. Thousands upon thousands of giant trees and plants that reached hundreds of meters high formed a strange forest. Between these plants were wooden bridges, houses that were built on the side of the trees, and staircases built along the enormous tree trunks. Ropes, vines and he even saw a wooden slide were between the leaves of the shorter trees. And when he looked toward the ground giant mushrooms had planks under them, forming a house. There were hundreds of stone paths with beautiful black fences. He could also see what looked like several giant ponds, the size of lakes for him. Lamps that stood everywhere on hooks or on the bridges put a glowing light that added to the sun that was trying to reach through the leaves. Oh and one more thing, there were people everywhere. People on the patches of grass having a picnic, a small number of kids on the slides or running around, several older citizens talking and laughing, people swimming in the water, and even some adults strapped to a tree building another house, all of this as far as the eye could see into the forest.
“Welcome! I know you must all have lots and lots of questions, we all did when we first came, but it will just be easier to show you!” said an older man, accompanied by several others all of different ages. Peter had a good look at them, and noticed they all looked like they were from different countries.
“What is this place? Why are we here?” several of the new people asked, including Peter.
The man looked around proudly, and said. “Welcome, everybody, to Wargandu: the Land of the Dead. Meaning you have all died, and this place is to be your new and forever home.”