You're dead. Before you get "over there," you can ask one question. What shouldn't it be?
|Questions You Shouldn’t Ask After You Die.
I have no idea if anyone is reading this. If it ever got over there.
It was hard to find pen and paper here and you can be sure there is no electricity. If you are reading this, then know this: When you die… but wait. It’s better to simply tell you my story.
I can no longer remember how old I was when I died. I remember that I was married and had children, but all their names escape me. I was never any good with faces, so it should come as no surprise to those who knew me that those are gone. If they were ever there.
There are odd things I remember. Seeing a tiger at the zoo, but no idea which zoo. The sound and feeling of my thigh peeling off a plastic chair on a hot day. I also remember that the chair seat was olive green with yellow and brown flowers, but I have no idea whose chair or where it was.
I remember the screech of the truck that hit me, but everyone out here remembers how they died.
I also remember the pizza waitress. I can see her face as I write this, which is odd. She was dropping down the pizza on that fancy raised pizza holder when the lights flickered and everything got cold. She looked at me, her eyes white, her teeth clenched as if she were in pain. Her voice as cold as the moment. “Don't ask for meaning.”
Then the temperature returned. The waitress snapped her head back and forth and closed her mouth with a click. She shook her head again and then tumble-walked away. I was dining alone … in a hotel I now remember … with a book … The Once and Future King … so I couldn’t ask any of my tablemates if they heard what I heard or felt the cold. I looked around the restaurant and everyone else was acting normally. No one else was looking around
Some days later … or was it years before? … likely later, I picked up a red and orange leaf from the sidewalk. It was a very similar color to my dog. My dog! I can't recall his … or her … name, but this is the first time I’ve remembered my dog since the screech. Since my death. I looked closely at the leaf and then, that cold moment, and it turned into a piece of paper. Or fabric. And on it was the phrase: Don't ask about yourself. And then the cold snapped away and the leaf was crumbled in my closed fist.
I’m losing my train of thought, I can feel it fading away like, like … like something that drips through your fingers and is … is… some color. Something sticky. Need to keep writing before it all goes.
The third time, or one of the four times in no order, I was searching for … something … on my laptop when the screen went black … yes, black … and the song I was listening to sang incorrect lyrics. It had suddenly gone cold, so I knew to pay attention. Not the first time. “Don't ask, don't ask, don't ask where you are. Don't ask, don’t ask, don’t ask near or far.” And then the computer pinged as it restarted and the music stopped as suddenly.
There was one more time … it was … it was before the song one … or after … nope, I lost it. Maybe it will come back.
Then of course the screech. I never saw it coming and I cannot recall where or when it was. But I can hear the screech and remember the sense of being knocked backwards and then over … yes, over. And then …
It was my daughter. … I can see her face so clearly. What was her name? It's slipping away like soft Jell-O … Jell-O! … Stop. Focus. She … my daughter … her name? … was showing me a new piece of jewelry. A rock … one that meant something to her … to us … she had made into a pendant and as I looked at it, the speckles of quartz took on a shape of a phrase: Don’t ask what happens next.
And then the cold snapped away and … nope. The memory is gone now and all I have left are the words you just read. And I am reading them now as if I were reading them for the first time, as well. That was the fourth time. Or the third … in any case, there were four. That I know.
And then he screech and the sensation of being knocked backwards and over a glowing rope.
I see nothing, though there is plenty of light. In my head or behind my head … if I had a head … a voice that was kindly and yet equally impatient.
“What do you want to know?”
I knew I had only seconds, if that, I expected, but I knew what not to ask. Not “Am I dead?” or “Am in Heaven?” or “Is there life after death?” or “How did I do?” A question popped into my mind: “Can I have more questions?” but then I realized the answer might be a simple ‘No,’ so I asked…
The interesting thing is that the answers we want when we are alive, the so-called ‘big’ questions, are the same questions asked over and over and over again by those over here.
So we know all those answers.
Is there a God? We know that and hundreds and thousands show up in never ending lines with that same answer.
Is there life after death? Do we have souls? Are there aliens? All known answers. Thousands and millions times over. It's not anyone’s fault. They didn't know to ask something new. And they're all ‘big’ questions. The right questions. Or they were on the other side. Over here, they are common as dirt … dirt. More common than dirt, actually.
But I knew to ask something new, something different, since I was given a few clues … a few cold clues to not ask the same old questions.
When I arrived, I saw others also arriving and being asked what question they asked and being rewarded, as such, with heavy sighs and no one even waiting to hear the answers … since they already knew it. Already heard it. Hundreds and thousands and millions of times before.
And we do know what we’re all doing over here. That answer we have. We’re trying to get all the answers to all the questions. We’re sure of this, since we’ve heard that answer many, many times from those arriving. So many times that when we hear that was the question, we don't even listen for the answer. It’s always the same. In the exact same words.
What happens next? Well, we know that, of course. It’s one of the more common questions. So we know the answer to that question a hundreds and thousands and millions of times over.
So… getting back … I asked my question. A new question, as it turns out, since I had those clues.
After I asked my question, I appeared over here. Others came over to me, half-heartedly … expecting very little … yet still inquiring. I was asked what every new arrival was asked. “What did you ask?”
Apparently I am a receptive. There aren’t many of us over there. Over with you … if you are reading this. One fewer now, to use gallows humor.
They could find me and send me hints. Some people are more receptive than I was, so they get lots of hints. Others not so receptive, so they get smaller or less obvious hints. But, all in all, there are very few of us. Perhaps you are one? Perhaps you are reading this?
Reading this back I realize I forgot to write what I asked … hard to concentrate on this. I asked, “What questions should I ask?”
And then my head was filled with so many questions … so many questions! … a seamless endless stream, until I felt my head … if I had one … would explode and then, “poof!” before I could even comprehend the wave of questions … I was over here and being asked what question I asked. I said, “What questions should I ask?”
And suddenly I was surrounded … so incredibly surrounded for as far as I could see … if seeing was what I was doing … and being asked to rattle off the questions that poured into my head
I think we got to a hundred and eleven different ones until I could remember no more. There were hundreds more. And, every now and then I remember a new one, such as, “How many questions are there?” … Important, though … We have transmitted that question already and now have that answer.
Most of the time a receptive asks one of the common questions. Again, it's not their fault. So hard to believe that you will end up in a place where the big questions aren’t the important ones. Where a seemingly meaningless question like … like … well … I don’t want to say since all the questions I could remember to ask were already answered and I do not want you to waste your one question. Does that makes sense?
Not helpful, I know. So, if you are reading this, I will end more helpfully. Ask the question we ask you to ask. And if you are not receptive, then do not ask any of the ‘big’ questions. Trust me, we have those answers. Ask something small or interesting or, if you can't quickly think of anything, ask this: What questions are as yet unanswered?
There are many.
But there are fewer and fewer now. We’re solving the puzzle. And then we can get to what’s next. What’s next? Please don't ask that question! We already know that answer. Thousands and millions of times over.