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Jan 2012
He was definitely dead.  That much could be gathered.  He was standing over his own body, sixty feet away from the car.  fifty-nine feet away from  the telephone pole.  The pool of blood on the blacktop was rippling from the sheets of rain that were piercing it.  The rain bounced off of his lifeless eyes, staring on into the cloudy sky.   His shocked expression was forever frozen on his face.  He walked around the corpse, both fearful and excited.  He was dead....He was DEAD!  He was on the other side!  He looked around, searching for the 'white light',  but all he found  was a man dressed in a ratty  trench coat staring directly at him.  Rotting teeth smiled at him under a grungy  Fedora in a way that reminded him of a jack-o-lantern carved into the likeness of Indiana Jones that had been left out past Thanksgiving.  A withered hand beckoned him.

He was not hesitant.  He was not fearful.  

Those were emotions controlled by a brain that was currently about as useful as a bag full of gelatin.  He strode forward and took the man's hand.  It was neither hot nor cold.  They were no longer in the rain.  They were in a room with a large monitor
sitting in front of a station of various knobs, buttons, and switches.  A large leather chair apathetically awaited use .  He was aware that none of these objects  actually existed, because they were in the place where things don't exist.  Still, he sat down
and turned on the monitor.  He looked at the labels.  Some were obvious, such as P L A Y,  P A U S E, and S T O P.  Others were strange, like the ones labeled F I R S T S and L A S T S.  He pressed the former.  A list appeared with items as simple as "Kiss" to ones as specific as "Sprained Left Ankle in November".

He chose the former.

The screen went blank, then a video appeared.  It was a boy and a girl lying on a hill on a blanket at the onset of dusk.  The boy he instantly recognized as himself. The boy brushed his hand against hers.  She let him.  Fingers now entwined as they stared at each other.  At the time it had felt like hours, but it was less than a
minute before lips pushed apart to make way for tongues.  His first kiss.  It didn't take him long to figure out how the machine worked from that point on.  

He spent years going through every second of his life and reliving it from a new perspective. It didn't matter, he had all the time that never was and never would be.  He saw his mistakes and his triumphs, his loves and his heartbreaks.  Finally, he decided he was
finished.  It was time to go.  The man in the Fedora smiled.  Smiled that Cheshire smile

They were in a hallway.  It seemed to stretch for miles.  Every twenty paces or so, there was a person, standing on a platform, obscured in darkness.  He walked to the first one.
A light flickered on.  It was his mother.  She looked like she did when he was a boy, vibrant and full of life.  She never lost that, even as her body aged and her health declined, she always had something to smile about.  He talked to this apparition of his mother.   They talked for hours about his life, of random topics.  Things they had never had time to talk about when they were both alive.  After some time, she gave him one of her wry
smiles.  He nodded and made his way to the next person.  His father.  

He continued this for quite some time.  He talked to everyone from his brother to a guy he used to get high with in college.  Years passed as he said his final goodbyes to all the people in his life
that he had ever known.  All of them were happy for him.  All of them had something to tell him that he had never known about them in life.  None of them were real.  When he was done, he turned to the man in the fedora.  A smile.  A smile that had a personality all its own, a smile that simultaneously showed compassion and seething hatred.

The last room.  No one said it was the last room, but it had that feeling of finality to it. It was spartan, nothing in it except a marble floor that seemed to stretch for eternity in every direction.  It probably did.  In front of him were two pedestals.  On each of those
pedestals was himself.  The one on the left was wearing a fine tailored suit, had radiating skin and a smile that cameras feasted on.  The one on the right was a stark contrast.  The teeth he had left were hanging lazily from the roots.  His hair that he had left was thin, oily, and ridden with lice.  His mouth turned upwards in an insane grin that was only
matched by his thirsty, bloodshot eyes that seemed to bulge from his pockmarked skin

                                          They both spoke at once.

You were born on                                           You were born on
July 3, 1985.  Your                                           July 3, 1985.  Your
parents fed your                                         mother died when you
curiosity at a young                                     were 4.  Your father
age.  Your passion                                   turned to alcohol.  He
was art.  You painted                                 took his pain out on you.
your first work when                                     You dropped out of    
you were nine.  By the                                high school and moved
time you were 16, you                             as far away from this
were renowned as a                             life as you could.  You
artistic prodigy.  You                      quickly discovered a bad crowd.
attended the Art                                     You met a girl, Cindy.
Institute of Chicago                                       You got her pregnant.
on a full scholarship.                                   You started selling drugs
It was there that you                                     to make ends meet
would meet Claire,                                       for your accidental family
your future wife. By                                       It wasn't long before
the time you completed                                     You made a mistake
your school, every                                             and ended up in jail.
museum wanted a                                        years later, when you
piece of your work                                       were released
hanging in their gallery                               you found that Cindy      
Your work would be                                       had killed herself
remembered for                                                   and your son.
hundreds of years after                                       You had no job          
your death.  You had                                                 no skills
a wonderful family,                                        You spent your days
fame, fortune, and                                          doing odd jobs for
everything that came                                   money.  Money that
with it.  You lived                                           You spent on drugs
until 89, where you                                        Until the age of 45
died peacefully in                                       Where you froze on a
your bed, surrounded                           street corner, surrounded
by loved ones.  This                        by human excrement.  This
is your life's best                                           is your life's worst
possible outcome                                         possible outcome



He nodded, then looked at the man in the fedora.  That smile crept up.  A smile like a hyena. He snapped his fingers.  Two doors appeared.  One was Oaken and battered.  The grains of wood barely visible over years of neglect.  The other door was new and had just been  painted with a fresh coat of sky blue paint.  

The man spoke for the first time.

This is the last decision you shall ever make.  The door on your left will lead you to the  afterlife, and the judgement that awaits you.  Whatever is decided, that is where you will spend eternity.  The door on the right will allow you to be reborn as a new soul.  This one will no longer exist.

He gave it a good long ponder.  Had he been good enough in life to pass the judgement?  What if he ended up in a hellish nightmare for the rest of eternity?  Could he do better
if he started fresh?  The thoughts swirled about him like a whirlwind until finally.

Years later

He chose.

The man in the fedora smiled.
I'm aware this isn't a poem.  It started off as one, but then I kept writing.
Joel A Doetsch
Written by
Joel A Doetsch  St. Louis, MO
(St. Louis, MO)   
5.0k
   amanda cooper, ---, JL, --- and Nate Evans
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