The Afterlife

You’ve died and gone to heaven, only it’s nothing like you’ve imagined. You’re greeted by a guide—someone from your past—who gives you a tour and explains what you can expect out of the afterlife. There’s one question you’ve been dying to know and, at the end of the tour, you decide to ask.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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148 thoughts on “The Afterlife

  1. cmoye

    Rolling down the freeway at 90 miles an hour, top down, happy. What a great day for a ride!
    I’m enjoying a box of Jelly Bellies when I drop them. I bend down to save what’s left and find myself about to run smack into an 18 wheeler. How dumb was that??!! I say the quickest prayer possible as I unsuccessfully try to stop my car,
    Next thing I know, I see my dad walking toward me without a limp. He looks great!
    “Hey Knucklehead”, he greets me with my pet name. “Looks like you weren’t using your noggin’.”
    I smile the biggest smile ever. Obviously I am dead, but that’s just fine with me.
    It doesn’t initially look anything like I imagined. Actually I realize that I am in my old neighborhood, approaching the house I grew up in. Some of my former neighbors are there also.
    The Tomblins was as Dad escorts me back to our old home. I see Mr. Marshall too. We wave.
    Dad says that everyone starts out at a familiar place, one where you felt loved. This is just an image really, sort of like a hologram, made to help with your adjustment.
    Dad tells me what to expect in the afterlife. The biggest thing is that time really is relative. That takes some getting used to he says. The next thing is that no one owns anything, or anyone. We share everything, cling to nothing. Everything and everyone is ours forever. God just wants us to be happy. That’s all he ever wanted. We were just slow to get it when we were mortals.
    In moments we are transported to a glorious garden with trees of all kinds, filled with juicy fruits and nuts.
    “Mine for the taking?” I foolishly ask.
    “ Yes, but the word, “mine” isn’t used here. Get it out of your vocabulary.”
    I bit into the most amazing mango ever, juice dripping all over my clothes. Paradise indeed! “This is the Eden God originally planned. This is how he intended for us to live before Adam and Eve made bad decisions.”
    “Does anyone ever get kicked out” I ask. “If so, where do they go?”
    “Unfortunately, it happens from time to time. God usually sends them back as an infant to start all over again.”
    “Sounds fair enough to me”
    “God is always fair. Always has been. Always will be. Glad you’re here. Looking forward to welcoming your mama when it’s her time.”
    “What about her new husband? Whose wife will she be?”
    “First of all, remember I told you that no one belongs to anyone. We all just appreciate each other’s company. Secondly, not everyone gets to enter paradise. Some folk, like him, aren’t ready, and we be sent back to try again, and again until they get it right. “
    “Wow! I feel even more special now!”
    “You are my child. Welcome home. “
    I turned and looked and saw the nail scars in his hands.

  2. theSkilled

    After the gun shot and the sting of silver, I was nowhere; no feeling of time, no tangible objects. There was only the sensation of another one of what I had become near me. I know it is hard to explain nonentity, but that was what was there… or not.
    A voice used mindfulness to communicate with me. It wasn’t speaking; only palpable oratory. I could sense the thought of language, although not English. Yet somehow I knew what they were apothegm.
    “This is it,” said the spirit. “This is what man waits for in the afterlife. There is no continuity of time. There is no discourse or corporeality. You will not see through physical eyes but instead feel through the soul of which you now are.”
    I was expecting something of Greek mythology where I would not remember my foregoing life. Instead, I evoked it even more vividly. I could recollect the sharp cool breeze of sailing on my father’s boat in the lake. I could see my sister and I opening up presents on every Christmas day we ever celebrated. Then came the pain. I could remember my father leaving, my mother turning to liquor and my brother killing that man in the street. LOCAL COLLEGE STUDENT SLAUGHTERS FATHER OF FIVE IN BRUTAL BEATING OUTSIDE OF HIS FAMILY’S RESIDENCE. I replayed my sister coming down for breakfast that chilled winter morning and her blue fuzzy sweater slipping up, showing the freshly made scars on her wrists. Most of all, I remembered that I had forgotten all of those things, pushing them back to the deep, dark recesses of my mind that no one would ever go to, and then trying to replace them with insignificant memories of happier times such as a child makes up an imaginary friend.
    “I just have one question,” I said meekly.
    “And what is that?” the voice asked.
    “How do I forget?”
    There was no hesitation from the spirit. “You already have.”
    “Then why do I still remember?” I asked.
    “Do you remember who I am?” the spirit asked, not answering my question.
    “No,” I said.
    “I am your sister. There is no need to go back to the tangible world so you have chosen to forget right here, in the afterlife. This is your selfish choice and now you must live with it.”
    And with that I was left alone to my senses.

  3. ats11

    Leaves rustle as I step through the dense forest, dew or rain still clinging to the carpet of leaves below my feet. I haven’t been here long, though I can’t be sure of that as all sense of time seems to be absent. Everything is lush and green, not what I expected at the end…

    Something glows through the masses of entangles leaves and vegetation, and soft halo of light envelopes someone making their way towards me. I know this person, and she has been waiting for me for years, decades. I have known her spirit to be with me in life as well as newly found death. She smiles, her long hair dancing around her face, a face that looks so much like mine.

    “There are rules here,” she starts, her smile remaining present, “but they are rules of the heart, rules you already know because they got you here. This is your reward, your freedom. Enjoy it.”

    Simple enough, I thought. I hadn’t expected anything less. But I wondered one thing…

    ” Will they hurt? Will they miss me?”

    She threw me a sad smile and started back into the tangle of forest, “Who’s to say?”

  4. Sammy

    I thought there was supposed to be clouds. Clouds, golden gates, angels singing; those were the things I was expecting to see when I got to heaven. Instead I’m standing shoeless on the beach, sand between my toes, watching the waves crash on the shore. I look to my right and see a figure walking towards me. It’s a tan man dressed in a military uniform. I know this man, it’s my grandpa. I break out in a sprint and jump into his arms. This is my grandpa as I always picture him, around 45, fit and healthy like he was before his stroke. We cry and talk for awhile and then he tells me it’s time to take the grand tour.

    “Why isn’t heaven up in the clouds with gold gates and stuff? I don’t understand where we are, are we still on Earth?” I ask him.

    “No, Sammy. Heaven is many different things. This place we are at now is what you make it to be. It is the place where you are at peace and happy. You start here so that you are calm and relaxed as you cross into the afterlife.”

    “I still have so many questions..”

    “I will answer all your questions in time but right now let me show you around and explain a few things and if you still have anything to ask by the end then we can talk about it” said grandpa as he held out his hand. “C’mon Sammy-girl, let’s take a walk.”

    We walked down the beach and he told me all about heaven. He said it is amazing. He said it’s peaceful and calming. People don’t fight or hurt each other and no one is starving or sick or in pain. He tells me that the people here are rewarded for being good people while on Earth. He says Angels are here to help us with the transition; he referred to them as heaven’s therapists. He said we can do nearly anything we want. We can do amazing things like climb mountains or simple things like watch all our favorite TV shows. He said we can be with family and old friends if they want to be with us also.

    This all sounded amazing to me. I was excited to begin my new journey here but there was still something that was bothering me. “Grandpa, will I get to meet God?”

  5. x-3

    I guess death comes to everyone eventually, it was inevitable. I wasn’t upset with what happened just merely afraid of what was going to happen in my afterlife. I was killed in a hunting accident. I was beneath a bear tree with my dogs, and the shooter had shot the bear. However there bear wasn’t killed with the first shot and it came up swinging. I got in it’s way as I rushed to save my dogs. It didn’t take much, I was nearly in pieces as they rushed my to the hospital. Only to die hours later, not even a stitch was made. I was only twenty-one, hadn’t even experienced life, I was still just a kid. So I Gathered my confidence and stepped forward towards that renown light that everyone speaks of, but it darkened as a figured appeared. I honestly thought I was in some serious trouble, however I held of my urge to run. Taking another brave step towards that figure I smiled softly as I saw those features I missed so much.
    I heard his bark of excitement and out of greeting, my once great dog jumped up in greeting, placing his paws on my hips, straining to lick my face. I felt the tears fill my eyes, it was of happiness. It is said that each person has two soul mates, one being human and the other being an animal. The hound of mine was my animal soul mate. He didn’t have a long life, just merely over eight months when he fell ill and the vet had to put him down.
    I touched the top of his head softly, as if afraid I would harm him, or this whole scene wasn’t real. Gently removing his paws from my hips he sat back as a good dog would. This bluetick coonhound was a great dog and just knew how to cheer me up on the worse of my days. A smile spread across my face, and I as I stepped into heaven with my dog now at my side I smiled softly.
    Trigger, my dog, barked at me again, but this time the bark was simply translated to hello. I was startled by his voice, it was deep and raw with loyalty. I nodded hello, only because I was to shocked to speak.
    Again he spoke up barking, only for him to really say, “It’s been a long time master. I am your guide for this afterlife, as you were my guide during the living time we shared.” It looked as if he were smiling like he would back in the good ole days, back when I was a freshman in high school.
    Finally finding my voice I spoke to my companion and guide, my voice was shaky as I asked, “Why is their life and death? Why does it exist even?”

    ((Just merely short of 500 words. This is my first real writing time at 15, I thought I give it a shot since I kind of want to be a writer. I understand there will be a lot of mistakes.))

  6. Misssharee

    Ive Missed You

    Tammy! Tammy! Oh my God No! Thos were the last words I heard as I felt my spirit leaving my body. You see, I was just murdered by my husband of 12 years. You would think I would be more upset but Im not because im now finally at what everyone says “Peace.” “Wow. Its really beautiful here.” I said to the young man standing in front of me. “It is isnt it Tammy?” he said in a low tone. “Humm. You sound familiar. Do I know you?” “Yes Tammy. Its me Brandon.” “Oh my God! Brandon!!!! Ive missed you! ” I screamed. Brandon was my nineteen year old cousin who was gunned down 3 years earlier. When he died I lost my will to fight back and live. He gave me strength and told me to leave my husband but I never did because I thought I could change him. “Ive been waiting on you Tammy. From here on out I will be your guide through Heaven.” As we began to walk, he explained to me that he was afraid when he first got here because there were no familar faces. He then took me to a beautiful garden that had a lake where everyone was standing and looking down into the water. “Why are they just staring at the water Brandon? Thats a little crazy.” I said with a slight grin. “Its not crazy at all. We can see all of our loves ones we left behind. I watched you and everyone else in the family. I overheard some of the angels saying your name and I immediately requested to be your guide.” “Wow. can I see my kids?”I asked. “Only when they are missing you.””Wow.” As we walked further into Heaven I began to become sad, but yet still peaceful at the same time. “Do you have any questions Tammy.” “Yes.” “Are we able to torment those that have killed us?”

  7. Dud

    “You seem completely content to be here, lad,” slurred the shaggy-haired man. “I am. Life was getting ponderous and mundane anyway. What the heck, I’ll have some fun here.” Truth be told, I knew this unkempt man-guide. He sat next to me at my favorite Irish bar every weekend; this drunkard was obnoxious. Told “jokes” like, “How did O’Malley, the optometrist, introduce himself? ‘I’m Eye-rish, get it.'” The patrons at the bar got it, alright. We tried but couldn’t get away from him fast enough. He died the way a lot of alcohol-loving people do; fell asleep at the wheel and hit a brick wall. Believe me, I’m not proud to admit this but I never gave him another thought. I tried to be a good person but some people just didn’t bring out the best in me. “So, you listen up, please. I know you recognize me. Listened to you for years; I can’t and refuse to do it here. Get me someone else!” Taken aback, he grumbled, “I won’t argue. We had some good conversations, though, didn’t we?” “No, no, I chortled, we actually never did.” Then I followed up with the sixty-four thousand dollar question, “Why did you have to take the stool to my left every Friday night?” He waved his hand and started to jog/limp away but not before snidely questioning, “Why was it empty every Friday night?” Good point. Good riddance.

  8. kketner

    “Welcome to Heaven, Gina,” said a man with a grizzly beard, a flannel shirt, and faded blue jeans.

    “Uh, yeah, thanks,” I said, looking at the room we were in. It was a school gym filled with people looking as perplexed as me while others wandered around the room, finding those perplexed people and talking to them.

    “I’m going to give you the tour,” the man said. “Just follow me.” He gestured to me and began to walk.

    We left the gym and walked out onto what looked to be a suburban street. “Everyone who comes to heaven gets their own house based on their previous life experience and preferences. While you’ve lived in cities and suburbs, it looks like the angels in soul resources determined you would like the suburbs best. “

    I nodded and walked along behind the man quietly. He handed me a pamphlet. “Now, this is a booklet about the suburb you’ll be living in. There is a list of community activities and a map of where everything is. If I know you, you’ll be wanting to head to the library or the language learning center. Did you ever learn Russian like you said you wanted to?”

    I came out of my stupor when I realized this man knew stuff about me, and wasn’t just a tour drone. “How do you know any of that?” I asked and stopped in place.

    “Well,” he said, “I’ve been watching you from up here in Heaven.”

    “And just who are you to be watching me? Are you a perv or a guardian angel?” I asked, annoyed at the prospect of someone watching me when I thought no one was looking.

    “Gina, don’t you remember me?” he asked.

    “Clearly not,” I said.

    “Gina, it’s me, Orell, your father,” he said.

    I was stunned and staggered in place. “But, I…”

    “I’m sorry, Gina. I thought you might remember me,” he said.

    “I met you once,” I said. “Once! It’s rather unfair of you to expect me to remember you. I’m 81 for christ’s sake!”

    “Hey, don’t shout out the big guy’s son’s name – he doesn’t like it.”

    “Well, I’m sorry, but this is a heck of a thing to spring on an old lady,” I said. I then looked down at myself, concentrating on the skin of my forearms and hands. “Well, I guess I look younger here, but the fact remains, it’s been many decades since I even thought about you.”

    “I’m sorry, Gina, I really wanted to be there for you,” he said.

    “Not enough,” I said. “If you wanted it enough, it would have happened. You met me once when I was eleven and then bailed after that. You didn’t even help my mother when you abandoned her with a baby.”

    “Well, I…things were a bit more complicated than all that,” he stammered.

    “Answer me one question, there is one thing I want to know: why didn’t you love me enough to stay? What wrong with me?”

  9. jenk00004

    My chest hurts and my throat burns. I cry with all my might, flailing and reaching toward a light that’s impossibly bright. My own voice echoes back to my ears and my cold, naked body shivers until warm hands engulf me. I lean into a woman’s chest, crying and pushing my face into her robe. “Shhh. Shhh…” a gentle voice hushes me. I can’t, at first. I gasp for air and force it from my lungs with all the volume I can muster. My nameless rage, some unmet need, pours from me in howls until I’m exhausted.
    Finally quieted, I let her rock me. Her sweet breath grazes my face and the subtle vibrations of her voice form a soft melody. Back and forth, back and forth we rock and her warmth makes peace tingle and spread from my belly to my fingers and toes.

    “All better?” She smiles down at me with light framing her face. “What big, gorgeous blue eyes you have. And a perfect little nose.” The beautiful stranger strokes my cheek, her eyes bright and kind.

    She hums as she sets me against her shoulder and I peer around the room, realizing for the first time that I’m surrounded by others like me; rows and rows and rows of them. They’re sleeping. They’re happy. “Good girl,” she rubs my back. Her cheek is smooth against mine. “Good girl, perfect girl.”

    I want to ask, feel everything in me needing to ask, but I don’t know how to speak. “Oh sweet thing, don’t you worry. I’ll take care of you,” she murmurs and my eyes grow heavy, “You’re safe now.” I can’t fight the intoxicating invitation of slumber. That was all I needed to know.

  10. Chancy

    “Dude, I almost didn’t think you’d make it!”

    “You’ve got wings!”

    “I mean, with the way you flipped off that old lady last week and all…”

    “The wings!”

    Kyle stopped rocking and pulled back. “Yeah, what about them?”

    “I always assumed it was a metaphorical thing about the wings.”

    “No, we get wings.” He touched a few golden feathers from his expanded pair. “Here, let me give you a hand.”

    Kyle turned me around and started kneading at my back. I squirmed a bit, feeling a ticklish sensation right between the shoulder blades. “Anyway, I’m going to be your guide for a bit, all right? I’ve gotta show you some things.”

    “Oh…Okay. Well, do I get a halo? Ha! Watch it!” I pulled my shoulder forward but he roughly moved me back in place.

    “Calm it. I’m almost done. And yeah, we just have to fill you out a form for that, and they’ll send it to you by phoenix.”


    “No, buddy, does it look like I have one? And here, you’re all set.”

    I craned my neck around to find a small pair of feathered, black wings barely peeking from behind my back. “…That’s it?”

    “Yeah, sorry about that. Your wing span sort of goes by how well you did your last week, and all it was for you was porn and pissing people off.”

    “Right…So, what do I do now?”

    “I have to show you your human. Each angel is assigned someone they have to look after until they die. Not everyone gets one, so consider this person lucky. You’re stuck with them for life.”

    “Sounds good to me. Who’s yours?”

    “Well…that was you.” He returned my smile. “Couldn’t stop the car though. God told me he wanted you now before you got yourself into a bit of trouble down the road that would have been too much for you.”

    “Ah…Oh! Can I ask something?”


    “Is…Is my father here?”

    The boy’s smiling, amber eyes dimmed, Kyle squeezing my shoulder and sighing, “He should have treated people better…Especially you.”

    I felt the fluidity in my figure freeze to a startled halt. “W-what?”

    “Calm it,” he shushed, pain to his tone. “He’s not where you think he is; he’s just resting.”

    I stood for a second before nodding, feeling my wings twitch before flapping two gentle flaps. And when I looked into Kyle’s eyes, the old eyes I had known so well before he had taken his life in an act of desperation, I couldn’t help but recognize the feeling of being consoled those hard nights knowing he was gone.

    “None of us are perfect,” he said. “Believe me, I know. Some of us just aren’t born with a certain love we need to give to the world before our time comes. Anyway, come on.” He turned and gestured for me to follow him, letting a genuine grin slip onto his face. “I need to show you who you’ll be looking after.”

  11. RichGraham617

    I stand up, wipe myself clean of the grass that I laid in and look around at the camp ground I spent summers at as a child. I remove my headphones and begin to explore the grounds I knew so well as a youngster. The smell of what once would have been blazing fire engulfed my nose and a wave of nostalgia hit me in an awesome way and I turned to where the fire pit is and see white smoke rise from grey embers that once burnt violently as logs where my family sat around last night tending to it as they drank beers and told true stories of their youthful antics while growing up in the projects of Cambridge. I walk over to the fire pit and hear a voice from my past that sends chills up my spine. I turn around and to find my Aunt Moe lighting a cigarette. She blows the smoke hard from her mouth and points to the fire pit, “Rich the embers are still hot! Don’t fuck with them.”
    “I wasn’t going to, um, Aunt Moe?” My heart beating hard and my breath becoming short and fast.
    “Calm down kiddo.” She walks over to me extending her arms to hug me. We wrap our arms around each other and she rocks side to side like I remember she used to. I step back, “I need to show you around,” she says smiling. She walks past me grabbing my hand pulling me in her direction.
    She flicks her cigarette into the pit, “Rich your dead. How it happened doesn’t matter, just need to know that it happened and you’re here. You were allowed to bring the one aspect of your life that kept you calm in the most stressful times of your life. For me it was my cigarettes, for you it looks like it is your music. Hence,” she points to my neck, “your headphones. You’re here at our land in New Hampshire because this was the place that made you the happiest. Again, I’m here because you needed a familiar person that is linked to your happy place.”
    I stare at the sky as the sun shines through the grey clouds that blanket the world. The wind blows warm on my cool face and Aunt Moe walks over to one of the myriad lawn chairs that surround the fire pit. She picks up a stick and starts poking at the ambers. “You probably are worrying about your mom. Don’t! In time you’ll create a new world for yourself with all the people that made your life so heavenly and hellish. You’ll struggle at first but within time like writing a story it will all come together.”
    After lighting another cigarette, she hands me the pack and opens up the red igloo cooler that stores Guinness, my favorite beer. She hands me a can and a pint glass. I place the cigarette in my mouth, looking around the land. “Got a light?”