Scattered: a short story

What happens when you die? No one has come back to tell us. Oh, there are people who have claimed to see the “other side”, a near-death experience, on an operating theatre table or beneath the turbid waters of the deep. Some claim to see a light. Others that they have met beings from beyond. Some claim a sense of peace. Some a sense of unfinished business. Some claim to have met aliens and been given an important message to bring back. These are the ones that go on lecture circuits or write books. The usual types seem to flock to them. Dispossessed, lonely, hurting people, searching for something and grabbing onto anything and everything, hoping to find a shred of meaning.

There isn’t any, of course. But the fools will try.

Then there the Pushers. They haven’t died, so they haven’t come back. Yet they claim to know. They have the “truth”, they say. You can find Pushers everywhere you look, and you don’t even have to search too hard. You can find them on any given Sunday, every few suburban blocks. Well-dressed, well-spoken, waving a book around and singing songs. And taking your money.

The Pushers go by many names but the message is usually the same, with a couple of minor differences. Some Pushers say you go to Heaven, a place of eternal light and happiness and ra-ra and gold streets and magical trees and…I dunno…some other stuff. I never paid much attention.

Some Pushers claim that there is a space between here and Heaven, a way station called Purgatory. I’m not sure how it works, but apparently it’s a place where you go through some sort of purification ritual. The theory has it that you finish life impure, and have to go through a wash cycle before you’re clean enough to go to Heaven. Then it’s all light and ra-ra again. Or whatever.

Some Pushers look like a great black square stone and a million people travel there every year. Still other Pushers live in caves or little cabins on mountains and fewer people go there. These Pushers tend to be the kind that say you come back after death, and if you’ve been a good person you come back under better circumstances. If you haven’t, you don’t. Fewer people go to these, as I said, partly because it is easier to book your enlightenment via a travel package than it is to stomp through mosquito-infested swamps to consult your Pusher.

Other Pushers hang out in communal living spaces, compounds. These usually have a couple of things in common. One, they are the charismatic Pushers, and pull in drifters from all over. They all tend to live “off the land” and stockpile weapons. Some end up in body bags, the victims of Kool-Aid or the FBI, while others get a life and leave. The one thing they all seem to have in common is that, eventually, the leader will claim to have heard a “message” telling him that he has to bang all the women and the men must be celibate, for their own good.

No matter the Pusher, the central stuff remains the same: “I have the truth, I am the conduit and the bearer of the message, you must listen to me and…oh…I need your money.”

I am, when all is said and done, agnostic at heart. I have never claimed to know what happens when you die. You can’t know. How could you? I have more questions than answers and rather than let those keep me up at night or – worse – drive me into the arms of a Pusher, I have become content with not knowing.

Had. HAD become content with not knowing.

Because, now, I know. Now that I’m dead. Oh boy, do I know.

This is Part 1 of a much longer story. This, and many others, will be available in a collection of short stories that I shall release soon.