When the subway’s doors opened, Rebecca White boarded slowly frustrating the younger morning commuters behind her. She shuffled with her retirement sneakers toward the priority seating near the doors. Two men had already settled on the bench. She glared at the men until one of them acknowledged her and quickly offered her his seat. She smiled the best that she could as she accepted it. When she sat, she pretended not to notice that her large handbag hit the other man on the bench who had ignored her. She allowed her large winter coat to overflow into his space. The doors closed and all the passengers settled. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall. She never napped because she did not trust people, but she felt exhausted. Rebecca did not wake many hours later when the operator announced, “This train is out of service.” A kind passenger patted Rebecca’s shoulder on his way out and found her dead.
Hours earlier, Rebecca had been aware in another place. She was suspended in a directionless space. There was, however, a single cue giving her the perception that she was moving. It was a light ahead of her that grew in both size and intensity. The light was a perfect white: a light that represented everything.
Rebecca heard someone call her name. “Rebecca,” the voice said. “Rebecca. Rebecca. Rebecca. Rebecca.”
“WHAT?” she shouted.
“You can do it again if you want.”
“I can do what again?” Rebecca asked.
“Why?” she asked.
“Rebecca, you have an inalienable right to liberty. Your personality – your neuroticism in particular – restricted you your entire life.”
“I meant, why would I want to do life all over again?” Rebecca said.
“Life can be beautiful.”
“It could be if it weren’t for all the living. People are everywhere and their rotten hearts are filled with betrayal. They pretend to be your friend one minute and stab you in the back the next. Always wanting something– It was best to be alone; it was best to do everything alone. I could do anything anytime I wanted, even if I had to watch my own back the entire time. And those were just the regular people; there were monsters too. People were monsters.”
“There you go.”
“Why do I still have these feelings?” Rebecca asked. “I’m dead, right? Shouldn’t I have a gigantic cake-eating grin on my face right now?”
“You won’t be perfect until you go beyond.”
“Aren’t I beyond now?” Rebecca asked.
“If I go back – and I’m not saying I’m going to – but if I go back, can I have a few things be different?” Rebecca asked.
“I want to be perfect if I go back,” Rebecca said. “All of me.”
“You get a random half of your mom and a random half of your dad, but I’ll see what I can do with the unique mutation.”
“I don’t want to go back then,” Rebecca said.
“You can do what you want, Rebecca; but just know that you have the right to be free.”
“I was free,” Rebecca said.
“Do you remember your first kiss? You were thinking Ryan Harris was giving you mono the entire time.”
“It’s called the kissing disease for a reason,” Rebecca said. “I didn’t know all of his medical history.”
“You were fired from your first job on the first day for yelling at your coworkers.”
“They were too chatty with the customers and avoiding doing their share of the work,” Rebecca said.
“Do you remember when you were old enough to take your first trip to the beach unaccompanied by an adult with your friends?”
“Oh, now I’m not allowed to miss my friends?” Rebecca asked.
“You were so depressed that you would all be graduating that you stayed in the hotel room crying for the entire duration of the trip.”
“At least they didn’t have to see me in a swimsuit,” Rebecca said.
“You were a beautiful young lady and you did not enjoy a moment of your youth. I can go on and on with examples if you would like me to, Rebecca. My point in the end would be that you were imprisoned by your own personality your entire life. That was not just.”
“All right, I’ll do it again,” Rebecca said. “But first I’d like to know why you won’t just let me go beyond beyond if the afterlife is so great?”
“Time on Earth is a privilege. It is like a rollercoaster. Think about how much you experience on a rollercoaster: anticipation, excitement, fear, relief, surprise, laughter, nausea, etc. Earth is like that; the afterlife is not.”
“The afterlife sounds lame then,” Rebecca said.
“Would you want to ride a roller coaster forever?”
“Yes,” Rebecca said.
“You’re being hostile.”
“Fine,” she said.
“Are you ready then?”
“Let’s do this,” Rebecca said.
Rebecca was born again. She did not remember her life before or her timeless existence after it. She was herself as she was in her previous life, but on her best day: not suspicious or anxious, but happy and resilient. Her first kiss was sublime and she remembered it fondly for the rest of her life after she recovered from mono.
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