Some time ago, a book was published called Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, by David Eagleman. This delightful, imaginative, moving, thought-provoking book is a collection of short imaginings of what the afterlife might be like.
I thought I'd have a go at writing one myself....
You will wake up in what appears to be a reasonably good quality hotel room – clean, comfortable and completely characterless. There will be the usual tea and coffee making facilities, TV, en-suite bathroom and so on. The thing that will be missing is the door to the outside. The view from the window (which does not open, by the way) will appear to be a generic cityscape – nowhere you recognise.
You will wander around for a while, as all hotel guests do on their first day in a new room, peering in the various drawers and cupboards and checking out the quality of the biscuits/soaps/shampoos/towels, etc. The cupboards and drawers will all be empty apart from the usual hotel paraphernalia of leaflets about laundry arrangements, the Room Service menu, Do Not Disturb signs and those strange detachable coat-hangers. On none of these items will the name of the hotel be found.
There will be a phone beside the bed, but it will have only one button marked ‘Room Service’.
Eventually, you will be bored enough to turn on the TV. There will be only the one channel, however, and after watching it for a short time, you will realise that it is showing your life.
After watching some more, you will realise that what is being shown is not simply a replay of your whole life, rather it is a collection of selected events - all ones where you have behaved badly, have made mistakes or been embarrassed. Not one instance of you letting yourself or others down has been omitted from this montage and it makes excruciating viewing.
You could, of course, turn off the TV at any time, but then there would be nothing else to do.
Puzzled, ashamed and intrigued by turns, you will continue to watch. From time to time, you will take a break to sleep or to order food and drink from Room Service – which will appear almost immediately out of thin air.
Days will pass, the bed will somehow be made, the room will be cleaned, and the tea and coffee, and the little soaps, shampoos and towels will all be replenished as if by magic.
Eventually, the TV will get to the end of your life and then the programme will begin again from the beginning.
At this point, it will come to you that you are probably meant to do more than just passively watch the programme, so this time around, you will try to work out why you are being shown only the bad parts of your life.
As each scene unfolds, you will study it more closely than you have previously. You will try to divine some meaning in it, but no other meaning will become apparent and the programme will repeat again when it reaches the end. This will happen several times and the lack of any apparent progress will reduce you to despair, you will imagine that this is some kind of punishment for your sins.
If only I could be granted forgiveness, you will think.
The thing is, there will be no one else here but you.
It is only when you finally realise that you are the only one who can forgive the lapses and sins being shown on the TV, that the missing door will finally appear and you will be able to leave.