I am flying, in the air at least 10-12 feet above the ground. Below me there are 4 lanes of cars which I am crossing effortlessly. I feel the gush of wind on my face and my eyes are set on sky above. But then my view changes as my eyes drop below horizon. ‘Somebody just cut off my wings.’ is what I think as I go plummeting to the ground like a crashing meteor. I feel nothing but a blinding light on my eyes and then darkness. For a couple of minutes there I can see nothing, hear nothing, but time is ticking as I get the feeling, sort of a sixth sense that I am being surrounded by people. A couple of them turn me over. I open my eyes slowly and wait for my blurry vision to get clear. The first thing I see is an extended hand close to me with the words,
“Are you okay? Grab my hand and get up.” says he.
Someone I don’t know and yet I acknowledge that comforting voice by getting up. Effortlessly, as if nothing happened, I get back on my feet to see the road intersection I just flew over.
“Come on. I’ll take you home.” he says while placing his right arm around my shoulder and we start walking. I am unable to see the person’s face clearly and yet I am walking with him, having full confidence in him regarding where he is taking me. As we walk the same road leading to the destination I came from, he asks,
“Do you remember what just happened?” he speaks without looking at me, but in front where we are heading.
“Yes…” I have to strain my brain a bit to recollect the recent memory. “There was a girl, in the middle of the road at the intersection. She was busy with a phone call completely ignoring the truck approaching the intersection at a very high speed. I saw her well in advance but did nothing. In the very last moment I ran and pushed her out of harm’s way, getting myself caught instead. And then…” I pause assuming he already knows what followed.
I end the sentence abruptly because there is something else bothering me. A thought that is hovering around in my head but for some reason I am unable to pin it down. Hearing my narration of the incident he simply replies with a, “Hmm.” and then continues to walk me down the road, leading to my home. As we arrive to the next signal we turn left to a smaller road. That’s when it hits me, a thought that should give me goose bumps but it doesn’t. I am hesitant to say it out loud, but then I do,
“I… Am I dead?”
I am feeling light headed, but the surrounding appears normal. Regular streets that I walked countless times, same shops on the road side, though closed now, since it is early morning. The response of the man walking with me doesn’t help either as he simply smiles.
“I can’t be dead. No, that is not possible.” I say.
But I have the answer with me. I’m not a flying superhero made of steel who could get hit by a speeding truck and walk away without a scratch and yet I feel no pain. Hearing my words, he smiles again, wider this time with another “Hmm.” of being pleased. It’s as if he knows the answer but he wants me to get there. Annoyed by his meaningless response I look at him again. This time I looked carefully to blow away the fog that is covering his facial features.
“Father!” I say out loud, pushing myself away from him. There was anger in my, “Fa..” but fear in my “..ther!”
This kind of response from me is understandable since I am looking at the person who died a decade ago. My father, an alcoholic, died of a liver failure. He was the one responsible for our present condition; a hard working housemaid i.e. my mother and a school dropout ‘Bhai’ (a bully) of the locality i.e. me. As the reality strikes me, everything around me fades away in a blinding whiteness. The only thing that is visible is, myself, a person look-a-like my father and the road leading to a small shack I call home.
“Come, let me take you home.” he says again extending his hand towards me.
As if hypnotised I move closer, then him placing his arm around my shoulder again we walk the visible road. There are many thoughts swirling in my mind. Never in my entire life did I think about death, I was a very realistic man. ‘Man’ is what I called myself. I never considered myself to be a boy since the time I turned 13, when my father died. I never mourned for him; it just made me strong, tough and emotionless. But now that I see him, happy, the way he was before alcohol consumed him, I was a boy again.
“Why did I die? Why me? Why now?” I ask politely.
“Because you did good.” he says pointing straight ahead.
Up till now my eyes were down on the concrete road, following the white painted line, using it as a guide to walk straight. But following his extended arm I look ahead. The shack that we were walking towards is there no more. Instead there is big dried leaf standing; 6 feet high and about 4 feet wide. The veins of the leaf are prominent. Starting one from the root of the leaf, as the vein grows higher it splits into numerous branches, ending at many points on the blade of the leaf. The veins are glowing with blue/red. The root vein is full blue, but as I move my sight upwards, I see some of the branches glowing red. Going higher the number of red branches goes on increasing until the highest tip of the vein is blood-red.
“This is you.” he says as the leaf gets closer, “Or to be more accurate the leaf represents your, this life.”
When we stop, we are a couple of feet away from the leaf. That is when he starts explaining. “Green leaf for the living, while the dried for the deceased.” he says pointing at both of us.”Every soul has a leaf. The veins are the lines of your life. Every point on them represents a possible instant in you might experience. Here the blue is when you were ‘good’ while the red is when you were ‘bad’ and the white line traces the moments you actually lived.”
As I leaned in to look closer, I see that there actually is a white line. Just one line with no branches, distinct in the web of randomly scattered red-blue glow. As I trace the white line from the root, it starts with blue, but then there are red areas, which keep on increasing until the white vein meets the leaf’s blade in blue. All this time that I am trying to take in this new information, the only though in my mind that I care about, is what I say out loud.
“I died because I did a good deed!” I say wanting an explanation.
“Yes.” he says.
“Why?” I raise my voice.
“Tell me…” he asks, “The girl you saved in the last few moments of your life. Were you looking at her by accident or was there some other reason?”
Normally, back among the living I would feel no guilt and give a bald-faced lie to get me out of the situation. But now, it’s different, I have nothing to lose and so I confess,
“She’s a girl I’m very much attracted to, for many years. I adored her but she never looked back at me. Even though I gave her subtle hints that I liked her, she pretended as if I was invisible. So, today finally I was going to confront her, tell her that I loved her, and if needed…” I stop speaking. ‘If needed I would force her to love me back.’ I don’t say this out loud but his expressions tell me that he heard it all.
He gives me a faint smile and then looking at the leaf he speaks, “This leaf doesn’t just show the life you lived, but also the possible moments that could have occurred had you chosen differently.” He says pointing at a specific area. Close to the blade where the white glowing line terminates, just before, there is a red branch splitting away which instead of ending at the leaf’s edge, it goes back to the main vein continuing to the topmost tip of the leaf. “Go ahead.” he says, “Touch it and see what could have happened.”
I take a step forward and place my middle finger exactly on the point where the red split begins. A fraction of second, that’s all I need as I push myself back with horror. ‘The things I saw, the things I would have done… unforgivable!’ I think. In an alternate timeline as I saw her busy in the middle of road, I saw this as an opportunity. While she was standing steady I simply passed by her, mischievously patting her behind. She yelled at me and then became conscious early enough to escape a near accident. By then I had time to slip away. I wait for her to return, same place till the night. When the road is empty I confront her, tell her “I love you.” boldly grabbing her wrist. But she resists, trying to free herself. I get angry; I force her to love me back, as decided. Dragging her to a dark alley I do horrible things to her, things I wouldn’t have guessed would happen earlier that morning.
“But why kill me? You could have stopped me from doing this by other means.” I argue thinking he might have god-like abilities based on the things I saw so far. “Was I that irredeemable?” I ask.
“No. You were capable of good which is why this happened instead.” he says hinting the current outcome, “But beyond that point, Yes.” As he stops speaking I look back at the leaf. Beyond that red split, there is no branch that ends in blue. Then without him saying anything, I press my finger again on the leaf. I hesitate at first but then firm on that red branch; I slide my finger right up till the topmost tip. I want to know what worse could have happened.
I see, all of it like some sort of nightmare sequence of a Bollywood movie: Me running away after doing horrible things to the innocent girl, getting enrolled in a deadly gang, going underground in hiding, smuggling drugs, human trafficking, murders, and involvement in terrorist bombing. My mother still alive, facing all the criticism due to all my wrong deeds. In the end when the neighbouring people go to burn my mother alive with the house, I save and bring her to my place. Then I give her a loaded gun for her protection. Instead of thanking me she points the gun back at me saying that I am the one who is a threat to her life. As I stand fearlessly knowing she won’t shoot, she does and I drop dead.
Snapping out of this horrible alternate reality I stay frozen for a moment. After seeing all this, I should accept my fate without any resistance, but my bad attitude pushes me to ask one more question. Thinking that realizing his mistake he would send me back to the world of living. Just one question I ask,
“All these things I could have done are wrong. But that doesn’t mean you should get me killed. Isn’t this a crime over here, wherever we are at the moment? You murdered your own son. Aren’t you even a bit guilty?”
Father is not surprised hearing what I just asked but instead he speaks calmly,
“Beta.” he says reminding me the times when he used to call me that to show how much he loved me. “While I was alive, I was the person responsible for you to do bad deeds. I was the one responsible to leave you two in a bad condition when I died. Yes, I am guilty of that which is why I volunteered to walk you this path instead of some stranger soul. But, what happened to you in the end, it was solely your decision.” He says in a heavy tone.
“As I’ve said earlier, there still is a tiny bit flicker of goodness in you. All you need is some motivation.” His tone softens, “Do you remember what you were thinking just before you charged in to save that girl?” He asks but doesn’t give me time to think or see for it myself. Instead he continues,
“When you saw the truck fast approaching the girl in the middle of the road you realized that the collision is going to happen. That’s when the memory of her smile flashed in front of your eyes. The cute smile that she gave you while you were sitting outside your house and she walk passed you. That is when you decided to follow her. Remembering her innocent smile, without a second thought you ran to save her thinking these exact same words…”
I stop him from speaking and I say those words myself,
“Now that I’ve had my share of something magical, it would be wrong on my part if I rob rest of the world of the opportunity to experience her beautiful smile.”
Note: First of all, Thank you for spending your valuable time to read this story I wrote.
-This is a heavily fictional story which is why I wanted to mention a few points so as to assist you for a better read. My intention isn’t to change your philosophical or spiritual beliefs of life but for the sake of story please try to understand the following points.
-Death and afterlife has been a subject of interest of mine, for almost a couple of decades now. I want to learn how death chooses its victims but sadly there are no test subjects who can tell me more about death. Instead all I can do is to make my own theory by means of writing fictional stories. Hence, this story.
-Time as we experience in real world is linear. There is a fixed sequence that events follow but that is boring. This is why I have written the story in form of jumping back and forth in timeline.
-I believe that afterlife does not have sense of time. This is why the story is being narrated by the boy in present tense. This also helps in distinguishing the past events he recollects from the present.
-The process of transition after death I’ve shown in the story is what I believe in. The father doesn’t say anything until the son realizes that he is dead and then reality fades away. The dead doesn’t know he’s dead unless he accepts he’s dead by himself. He should decide to move-on all by himself too, after getting all his questions answered.
-I believe that even though as a grand plan our entire life is mapped out, still there are important events where we have complete freedom to choose what our future is going to be. Hence, I introduced the leaf as a visual representation of the idea I am trying to explain.
- Above somewhere I’ve said ‘the leaf represents your, this life.’ The reason for me to used the words ‘this life’ is to give subtle indication about my belief in living multiple lives, one after the other.
-In the world of the dead, I believe there is no such distinction as good and bad. These are manmade terminologies which is why I put those two words in quotes.
-Sorry to take your extra time. Hope these additional points have helped you understand the story better. You can always go to the top and read it again to achieve full clarity.
-Please do provide feedback in comments, irrespective of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.