“What is this place?” I ask. But no one answers.
“Our apologies for this disruption. We will continue in just one moment.”
What was that?
Horrible dream. Awakening in this bleak, dark chamber. I’m standing, but effortlessly, like hanging in place but without the pull of anything holding me up.
“One moment, please.”
“Who are you?” I want to know. Strange voice. Not natural. There are other people standing with me in a semi-circle, five of them. We’re all separated by individual spotlights and surrounded by darkness otherwise. None have their eyes open. I reach out to nudge the woman to my right but my arm won’t move!
“One moment, please.”
What is this? I’m some kind of prisoner? Then I hear a “psst” from my other side.
A wild-eyed man to my left is straining his eyeballs to see me, unable or unwilling to turn his whole head. Otherwise he stands as I do, arms at his side, legs together, posture effortlessly erect.
“It’s a glitch!” he whispers, trying not to move his lips. “I can’t take this any more! Hey, is someone coming to get us out of here? Is this a breakout?”
“I don’t know where we are,” I admit, getting a bit apprehensive. Even when you feel like you’ve seen it all you know more than ever that you haven’t.
“Shit!” cries the man in anguish, truly disturbed. His ragged clothing reeks of distress.
“Can you tell me what’s going on?”
He composes himself, the only muscles ever moving being those of his face. He pulls himself together enough to get out barely audible sounds. “I’m living it over and over!” he croaks before sobbing, “Is this what I deserve? Over and over? Forever?”
Whatever he’s reliving, I don’t need details. “What do you mean ‘forever?'”
“Might as well be forever…”
The new voice comes from my other side. Cool. Calm. Female. I turn to see the woman to my right looking at me, her head fully turned. She wears scanty, sexy leather and has a face that must be at least 60 years old. Her body is in great shape.
“He’s being tortured in a thousand ways,” she says of the wild-eyed man. “He deserves it. In life he was a serial rapist. We get what we deserve here.”
“Who decides that?”
“Our generous hosts, of course,” she smiles. She seems almost pleasurably exhausted.
“Are you getting what you deserve?” I ask.
“I think so,” she chuckles slyly. “After all, from the time I was 18 I was a nun. I hope this glitch doesn’t last long. This holding chamber is depressing. Why don’t they brighten it up a little? I want to get back to my boys…”
“One moment, please.”
“This is worse than anything I done!” cries the tortured man. “This can’t be a fair way to treat dead people!”
“But I’m not dead,” I object. Then I have to think about that. I mean, I have died, but – well, it’s all been in the process of learning how to use the powers granted me by computer scientist Doctor Bijaksana. Those deaths have always taken me to the next parallel Earth, where I continue to exist and have been told that I’ll go on as such until I’ve fulfilled my full 12 subjective decades or so. But my point to the lady here was simply that I never really died. Or at least I wasn’t dead when all of this parallel Earth stuff started happening.”
“You must be dead,” says the ghoulish fellow prisoner. “That’s just your afterlife. You only think you’re exploring the universe. That must be what you deserve. You’re fuckin’ lucky.”
“How would anyone know what I deserve?”
“The aliens know!” the man cries out. “They come out of the ancient past, and they have detailed holographic recordings of everything you’ve ever done, gathered en route from past to present. Your whole life can be run through their system in seconds. Then they decide and here you are.”
If I did die, then in effect this alien afterlife technique interrupts and suspends the quantum tunneling process by which a “dead” person under 120 years old would naturally reconstitute in parallel form. Somehow they’d have to trap a person’s individuon* in the quantum wormhole. They trapped me in transition, between realities.
“Alien science never found proof for a real afterlife in nature,” says the woman. “So the aliens created afterlife in simulation. They decided that all intelligent life should get what it deserves for what will seem like an eternity.”
This version of me has been kidnapped. Does “he” know what happened? Let me shut these two out and open “my” brain to my thoughts…
…Yes. He’s been here a long time. Never having proof that existence continues beyond the flesh, the aliens created what they call neural preservatives and stimulants to grant the freshly dead the sensation of forever after.
“We are now going back online.”
Prepare for the night of alien judgment.