I recently sent three stories to SoftCopy Publishing for their upcoming first publication appropriately entitled “My First Time”. Two of the stories were very short shorts and one was a short story. One of my short shorts made the cut.
So today I present to you one of my rejected stories. To fit the anthology, it had to begin with “The first time I X, Y.” It was initially about a thousand words shorter but I reworked it a little bit to turn it into a four parts publication that will occupy my Fridays for November.
Now it is up to you to judge if I was cut because I overestimated my writing talent or because the stories in the anthology will kick a**. 😉
A Few More Deaths – Part One
The first time I died, I thought my life was over. Then, my eyes snapped open and I convinced myself, for about a second, that I unintentionally became a vampire. I knew for sure I was dead. No one survives a shotgun slug to the head. While I might not be an expert shot, I couldn’t have missed. And with all the pop culture forcing the concept into my brain, vampirism really sounded like a reasonable explanation for my “undeath”. Now that I’ve gone through the process a fair number of times, the first thing I think every time I wake up here is how much reincarnation sucks.
A huge marble block crushes me on its way down the pyramid of Giza. Some other poor bastard will have to haul it back to the top; death ended my lifetime contract.
I wake up in the white room for the umpteenth time. All my deaths rush back into my memory, from the suicide by gunshot up to now. Most of them should have been instantaneous as implied in the “dead on impact” catch phrase. Unfortunately, death has its staffing problems like every other business.
“Reincarnation sucks,” I whisper. What am I supposed to learn from my last life? That the famous Wonders really aren’t that thrilling to build? With an airless grunt, I float off my gurney and concentrate on summoning particles to form a temporary body. I hate wandering Limbo’s halls without fake flesh on.
No helpers await my arrival this time. After my suicide, which happens to be my soul’s first death, a calm petite woman sat by my “bed” – I really see it more as a morgue slab – to welcome me. She apologized for the delay as any well-trained secretary would. Delay? I could have slapped her! I had just spent hours with bullets killing me.
For souls, death is a moment frozen in time. Life ceases. Your body hits the floor, your brains repaint the room but you’re not carried to the great beyond until a reaper shows up to offer you a ride. Until that happens, you’re hanging in your dying moment. Had I picked a softer death for my first time, the delay would have been forgiven upon the woman’s apology. However, I had the pleasure to feel steel pellets grating against the back on my skull, waiting to blow it wide open, for three hours. The “welcome to Limbo, here is how reincarnation works” speech really irked me.
Though the level of annoyance over my death definitely decreased since my first run-through, I still wake up on the pissed off side of the bed. I made a mistake during my initial life and paying for it is what reincarnation is all about. I learned the “suicide is a big no-no” bit pretty fast – that is, once I got here. Couldn’t I have known prior to my blowing my brains out? Of course not! Even if it hadn’t been my first life, we don’t get to remember our time in Limbo when we’re incarnate so the whole “learn your lessons” mission is bull.
Maybe I wouldn’t be so enraged if I stopped quoting these guys in my thoughts.
My temporary body pulls together pretty fast and I walk out of my room with long strides. Most souls prefer floating around, a mark of laziness I despise with all the non-fibers of my being. Teresa fakes a body all the time too which earned her points on the friendship chart.
I swing by her place. She’s not there but since the “In Flesh” sign is unlit, I’ll probably find her in the cafeteria. It’s lunch time after all. Besides, I want to check the Karma board.
Various souls eat and chat in the barren and boring cafeteria. Everything in Limbo looks like a hospital – or maybe it’s the other way around. As if being dead isn’t depressing enough in and of itself. The only elements belying the ER feel are the soul mates walking hand in hand like teenagers. They even eat from the same plate. The whole thing is way too cute and cuddly for me. Besides, “food for the soul” might be a compliment to literary oeuvres in the fleshy universe but if we remembered the tasteless white gooey mixture from the Limbo cafeteria, the phrase would take a whole other meaning. There really isn’t anything romantic in gulping spoonfuls of that. Table for two or not.
I lurk around the place for a while, looking for Teresa – or so I tell myself. The top-of-the-evolution-chain soul distracts me more often than I dare say. She’s nowhere around but I need time to build up the necessary courage to walk in front of the Karma board. The damned thing exists solely for competition purposes and to remind me how much time I have left to serve in hell. After three rounds of the room, I finally head for the machine. Good thing I don’t have any breath to hold else I might faint before I reach my destination.
As soon as I step in front of the Karma board, it scans me and seeks my file. In a few seconds, the screen displays my information; a representation of my soul, the list of my lives complete with names, occupations and causes of death, and my total number of Karma points. At the top of the list shines my first life; Dave Albeister, Physics undergrad, suicide. The Karma points for that life draw attention with bold, red and flashing numbers. Someone wanted to make sure everyone knows that young adult suicides penalize your Karma; I began the reincarnation cycle a thousand points in debt.
My other lives all work toward repaying my initial mistake. And being in the red makes your lives suck. Red marked souls are basically inmates: cruel sentences, limited distractions and bullying guards organizing your schedule. When I headed back to Earth after my untimely departure, I was granted the role of a prehistoric bug, a short-lived and humiliating experience. As I redeemed myself, I moved up to small animals and then, eventually, back to human again.