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Luckily for Kaitlyn, or maybe luckily for me, I didn't get much chance to hate her over the next few days.
After the funeral, we had zipped back to God World. I have no idea what "zipping" means, but that's what Kaitlyn had called it when we left for St. Luke's. There was certainly no sensation of movement - one second we had been standing in my bedroom and the next second, the bedroom had changed into the church. I had expected a moment of vicious cold or terrible nausea or zombies clawing at my legs, but there wasn't anything like that. It was like a scene change in a movie, except that it didn't just happen on a screen.
I suspected "God World" wasn't the official name of my new home, but that's what everyone seemed to call it. As a matter of fact, the first words I heard there were a very perky "Good morning! Welcome to God World!"
That had been Kaitlyn. It was a bit of a shock, because for a week, all I had been focused on was getting well enough to die alone. I know that people always gush about how nice it is when people die surrounded by their friends and family, but I had never understood that. Why would I want my parents or Tracy to see me die? It was bad enough that I was going to die - I didn't want them to have to live with the memory of having seen it.
I'd been on a respirator at the end, and didn't have the strength to communicate in any useful fashion, so I couldn't tell anyone to go away. The vigil had gotten to be a 24/7 thing once the doctors had announced that I didn't have long, so I was going to either have to do something or try to pick someone to die on. I summoned all the strength I had left - it wasn't much - and I "rallied" enough that the ICU nurses told my family to go home and get some sleep. On the second night, I let go.
I vaguely remembered feeling like my chest was imploding and people running into the room, but I was under a DNR order, so there wasn't much then could do, and then I got incredibly tired and I drifted off to sleep...
When I woke up, I had just enough time to realize that my bed had gotten a lot nicer when Kaitlyn's cheery voice broke in.
I sat bolt upright, and the next few seconds were a little chaotic in my brain. As best as I can remember, my thought process ran something like this:
Who the hell is that?
Damn, she's hot.
Wait, I just sat up. I haven't sat up in two weeks.
Now that I think about it, I feel pretty damn good. Didn't I just die?
Shit, am I green? No, not green. That's good. Tracy would have gloated for weeks if it turned out that Scalzi was right.
Actually, since I'm dead, Tracy can't really gloat to me about anything. Well, I guess she could, but she's never struck me as a, I don't know, necrophiligloater?
Shit, there's a hot girl in here and I'm only wearing a hospital gow... no, I guess I'm not. I'm wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants. That's good. I must have changed after I died.
At some point, I need to deal with that. If I'm dead, what's going on?
I don't believe in the afterlife. I was positive about that. It was going to be nothing. I'd die and that would be it, but this doesn't seem to be nothing.
"I'm ashamed that I don't have a more original question, but where am I?"
The woman giggled, triggering a rush through my body that made me realize I was feeling even better than I thought.
"Everyone asks that, and everyone apologizes for it. You were an atheist, even though you went to a UU church, so 'God World' is probably the best answer. If you had been a Christian, I'd say you were in Heaven. Valhalla might be the best analogy."
"So I'm dead."
It took me a while to come up with the next question. Partially, I was hoping for something a little more witty, but a lot of my attention was being sucked away by her black t-shirt that said "Kiss me, I'm a Goddess" and her almost complete lack of a denim mini-skirt.
"OK, I was expecting some version of 'Why?', so you get points for originality. Am I what?"
Another blink before she looked down at her shirt and giggled again. I liked the giggle.
"Actually, yes. I'm the Goddess of the Harvest, but you can call me Kaitlyn."
She extended her hand, and I shook it, while thinking that all the ancient artists had gotten her look completely wrong.
"I'm Michael, and I'm ... well, I guess I'm not a soccer player any more."
"No, you aren't. You are a godling, and you've got a lot of studying to do. On the other hand, the nightlife is fantastic."
A smile that seemed made up of equal parts delight, seduction and impishness.
"Better than you can imagine. But don't worry about all of that right now. Get up, take a shower and get dressed. I'll be back in 20 minutes to take you to your funeral."
I started to sputter out six questions at once, but she shushed me.
"Trust me, you'll have all the time in the world to ask us anything. Funeral comes first. Wear something nice."
She gestured toward a massive closet and a chest of drawers.
"Bathroom's through that door. See you in a bit."
She leaned down, kissed me on the cheek and walked out.
I sat there for a long moment. I wanted to go after her, but there didn't appear to be a door where she had gone out.
"She can probably walk through walls," I muttered to myself. "If she takes me to the funeral on a horse named Binky, I'll know I'm hallucinating. That's got to be what this is - some kind of pre-death hallucination. Right? So I might as well try to enjoy it."
I got out of bed, and realized again that I was feeling a hell of a lot better. As a matter of fact, I seemed to be in perfect shape - where I would have been during a soccer season, but without the nagging aches of unhealed injuries.
I checked out the closet, and was somehow not surprised to find that everything fit perfectly. It was even all the styles that I liked, but about 20 times more expensive than anything I owned, and I dressed pretty well when I was alive. Two successful pro athletes in the same family provided for a pretty comfortable lifestyle, especially when one was a tennis star that raked in millions in endorsements.
That stopped me. If I was dead, I wasn't part of Tracy's family any more. Or my parents, or my brother, or my sister. I was dead, and all my friends and loved ones were alive. I had wanted them to go on happily without me - I had kept telling them that, and I had meant it - but I hadn't been expecting to be thinking about it. Or, if God Girl was really going to take me to my funeral, watching it.
"It's a hallucination. Just play along," I mumbled.
So I picked out a black suit, admired the tailoring, found all the proper accessories and headed into the bathroom. I had been planning on taking a quick shower - you get good at those in soccer stadiums that don't have much hot water - but that plan ended when I got into the stall. Tracy and I put high-tech showers into our house in Detroit, but they weren't close to this one. For one thing, there weren't any buttons or knobs. I got in, closed the door, and the water came on. It was the perfect temperature, and it was coming at the perfect speed from every possible direction. It was like showering in a cloud. There was even music - Beethoven's Fifth.
"Ride of the Valkryies would be more appropriate," I said.
I wasn't even startled when, within a second, the music had changed. Great sound quality, too.
The shower felt so good - I hadn't had one in six weeks - and I was having so much fun with my new room-sized iPod that I must have been in there for 45 minutes. It finally dawned on me that, hallucination or not, I didn't want to be late for my own funeral. So I got out, dried myself with a soft, fluffy towel - whatever this was, it was very comfortable - and peeked through the door into the bedroom.
There wasn't any sign of Kaitlyn, so I came out and got dressed. As I was putting on my shoes, I heard her voice.
I looked up. I still didn't see a door, but there she was, dressed in her sexy mourning outfit.
"Yeah. Sorry that I took so long."
"Don't worry. No one gets ready in under an hour the first time, and as you'll learn, time's not all that important here anyway. The short deadline was just to get you moving without having a lot of time to mope."
"Well, I won't say it was completely successful, but here I am. Are we taking your car? I don't have a Valhalla driver's license."
I got the giggle again. That time, I had been trying for it.
"No, we don't need to drive. We'll zip."
She walked over to me, took my hand, and we were at the church. We were along the west wall toward the back, and she released my hand and hopped onto the windowsill.
"See? We got here just as they were about to start. No, you don't have to bother asking. No one can see us, and there's nothing we can do to get their attention. Just watch."
I stared in fascinated horror at the grief-stricken faces of the most important people in my life before glancing around the church to see the capacity crowd. As our minister took the podium, I turned to her.
"Isn't this a bit of a cliché?"
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