Scheduling a Post Mortem
a peek beyond the veil
“It’s normal,” they explained. “This is just what happens, and it happens to everyone.”
I tried to protest, but found myself voiceless.
“It’s alright,” they said, “it’s okay. You won’t be able to speak any more because you don’t have a body any more.”
I thought this was a cause for concern, but I was forced to keep my alarm to myself.
“It’s not very hard to learn how to do what I’m doing. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but you can’t really see, either.”
They were right. It wasn’t the black I was used to when I closed my eyes. It was something else—a total lack of vision. In fact, the total lack of sensation altogether pressed in on me and made me feel claustrophobic, although I couldn’t perceive space or closeness anymore.
“If you want to communicate as I do, you can shift your awareness slightly in the right direction.”
I thought that sounded stupid and impossibly vague.
“Well, good bye,” they said.
“Wait,” I thought.
“Yes?” they said.
“What do I do?” I thought, rather proud of myself for being able to communicate.
“Well, to be frank” they admitted, sheepishly, as though one could be in this new reality, “there’s not much to do.”
“Can we keep talking?” I asked.
“I don’t see why we should, but I also don’t see why we shouldn’t.”
“Alright, can you tell me how I died?” I thought it would be best to know.
“What was your name?” they asked.
I told them.
“Let me Google it,” they said, and suddenly there was a phone, a real phone, with a glowing screen, and I felt a sense of space and time, and I felt a sense of closeness to the phone, and I wanted to hold the phone.
“Hold on,” said the voice. I could see the home screen. They had accidentally held down one of the apps so that they all jiggled and now they were trying in vain to click on the Gmail app. But they were just moving it around on the screen. And it was especially frustrating because they kept moving it between two rows, and so all the other apps were moving too, jiggling up and down between the two rows, and you could see a split second where the little Gmail icon was being subsumed by another app to try to create a folder called “Productivity,” but then whatever invisible mechanism or internal physics regulated the placement of apps on the home screen of the phone would cast its terrible judgment, and the little folder would disappear, and the apps would continue jiggling, up and down the rows of the home screen of the phone.
This continued for what felt like a thousand years, but was more likely a few hundred—you know how time passes when you’re frustrated, and also in another realm.
I decided to chance an intervention. While I could see nothing but the movement of the apps on a screen, I could sense their ever-growing frustration with a technology they could not grasp. For the first time in centuries, I communicated with them.
“Why are you trying to click on Gmail? I thought you were trying to Google how I died?”
“Gmail is Google,” came the terse explanation.
“I think you should click on Safari,” I said, unwilling to back down. “Gmail is Google, but not in the sense that you’re thinking it is. It’s not the type of Google where you can look stuff up. It’s just a place to check your email.”
I waited for a reply, but none came. I think they were annoyed.
“That’s annoying,” they said, after a while.
“How can you have a phone here?” I asked.
“It’s $0 down, but the APR is really high,” they said, distracted.
“You have to click Safari. And then go to Google dot com,” I said, doubling down. I wanted to know.
“Alright, alright. But I thought you could type a Google search into the URL bar, and it’ll do it for you.”
“You can do that too,” I said, sealing my fate. A few seconds later, I was convulsing in the throes of agony as I watched the query being typed into the URL bar, each space dutifully replaced by a period as they missed the space bar for every word.
“You should just go to the website,” I said. “That query won’t work, because the last word you typed happened to be a real top-level-domain, so the browser is going to try to take you to that website instead of the Google search page. It’s a really common error.”
The aura of the universe seemed to shift towards “nonplussed.”
“Looks like you died from water,” they said, after a while.
“I died—like, from drowning?” I was incredulous.
“It says here you were being chased by a pack of hounds,” they said, “and they chased you into the water.”
“And I drowned,” I moaned.
“I think you died from being splashed by a paddle,” they said, confused. “I’ve never seen a death quite like this before.”
“I died from a violent splashing.” I was miserable. “Who was it? Who struck that fateful blow? I must know,” I pleaded.
“It was Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States.”
“That peanut fuck!” I fumed. “I’ll kill him!”
“Who else but Ritam could write short fiction this layered and dense with jokes, puns, references, and a rollicking good time, and do it all from his phone on the A train?” they asked.
“Hear hear,” I cried, and we were merry forevermore.
“That peanut fuck!” made me laugh. Reminded me of this: