Will watched helplessly as his body swung back and forth.
“Wow, how did that happen?” A white light opened up next to him and he faced it, holding his hand up against his eyes to protect from the glare. Someone walked out.
Will said, “Hey there! Pretty harsh, isn’t this?” He waved to where his body had been suspended and noticed it was gone. He looked around, the bedroom looked odd, disused. “And who are you, Dude?”
The young red haired man, dressed in jeans and a black tee shirt, smiled and said with a nod, “I’m Aurelius. Your guide to the afterlife.” He briskly walked out of Will’s bedroom and down the stairs.
Following him to the kitchen, Will saw his mom and dad eating dinner. There were only two place settings. Then his mom started crying. His father abruptly pushed back his chair and carried his still full plate to the sink, where he dumped it with a clatter. He walked out the door. Will’s mom sobbed harder.
Will’s mouth hung open a moment in frank disbelief and then he turned to his companion. “Is this my fault?”
Aurelius smiled. “Come with me.”
The kitchen faded away in a slow melt, revealing a huge mansion with a neatly tended rose garden. There were a lot of people in the garden, but their features were indistinct, almost impossible to see, like they’d been made from mud.
Aurelius handed an envelope to Will. “You are number 2,356.” He started to walk away.
Will put a trembling hand out and touched his arm. “Hang on. I’m not getting this. You’re not much of a guide if I still don’t understand.”
Aurelius sighed. “This is the house of the inventor of Sereniplex, the drug which was prescribed to you for your ‘social anxiety’. It tripled your risk of becoming suicidal.”
Will’s brow smoothed. “That’s right. Jeez that’s fucked up. I was embarrassed to ask Ginger to the Prom, so Mom asked the doctor to prescribe it. That is wack. I would never have killed myself. Heck, I wasn’t even depressed.”
“Now you’re getting it. Shyness isn’t a disease, but it sure made this guy rich. All those others waiting here, they all get to have a piece of him just like you. They’re waiting here for when he dies.”
Will plunged one beefy fist into the other. “I got it! I’d still be alive if not for him.”
Aurelius lifted an eyebrow. “Well, have fun.”
He started to head into a ball of light that was hovering just over his shoulder, but Will, holding a sheaf of papers taken from the envelope, blocked him before he could get in.
“Okay, maybe I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, but in this envelope are just a bunch of names and addresses. What do I do with them?”
“It lists all the people who knew that the drug caused suicidal impulses, but went ahead and fobbed it on the public for personal gain: you get a piece of all of them once they die. You are number 2,356, for all of them. Wait your turn anywhere. There’s a couple of congressman on the list, sales reps, your doctor…”
Will shook his head, feeling like he did in Geometry class. “So is this place Heaven or Hell?”
Aurelius winked. “Death, like Life, is what you make of it.”
This time Will didn’t stop Aurelius from walking into the light. Casually, wondering if anyone might be watching or even cared, Will slipped away from the crowd.
Okay, maybe some people want revenge, he thought, but what he really wanted was a good cheeseburger.
And if this place was really Heaven, there would be one.