Aaron was back. Now what? Quotation Inspiration Winner, Feb 2017
|The Trouble with Resurrection
Aaron woke up in darkness. Not just darkness, but a pure absence of light, the kind that was palpable, suffocating. He blinked several times just to make sure his eyes were really open. Fear coursed through him, galvanizing him to move but his arms were immediately constrained by the confined area he found himself in.
“What the hell?” he managed to croak. His throat was dry and even moving his mouth to form words was difficult.
“Ummm, technically you’re not in Hell,” a sibilant voice said.
“Wh-what? Who?” he tongue-tripped. He tried to turn his head but whatever he was lying on bunched up, locking him in place.
“Tuck your chin and look down at your feet.”
Aaron struggled to do so and was finally able to see a small, red pinprick of light.
“That’s me,” the voice announced proudly. “Well, that’s what you see of me. You may have noticed that we’re in tight quarters.”
“No shit!” Aaron blurted. “Where exactly are we?”
“Oh, good, an easy question.” Aaron could sense humor in the voice. “You are in a coffin, at the Peaceful Acres Cemetery. I didn’t catch the name of the town or …”
“I know the rest. This is where I live.”
“Actually, that’s past tense – lived,” the voice said, emphasizing the “d” sound.
“Oh my God! Am I dead?”
Now, clearly chuckling, the voice responded, “I knew we’d get to the tough questions. Let’s get a few things clear. First, I’m not God. You can call me “L.” I’m – let’s just say, a close relative, but not the Man in Charge … or Woman … or …” L paused. “Why do you make things so confusing? Never mind. Second, yes and no. You’re more like … undead, but not alive. Haven’t you noticed you’re not breathing?”
“What have you done to me? Did you turn me into … into a zombie?” Aaron cried.
“Calm down. I’ll explain everything. Have you heard of the Infinite Monkey Theorem?”
Aaron puzzled a moment. “Wasn’t that someone’s notion about an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters given an infinite amount of time producing the complete works of Shakespeare?”
“Pretty much. I have access to a lot of philosophers and physicists. You are the proof of that absurdity. You see, when you die, it’s pretty clear where you’re going. You’ve done so much good, so much bad, you know the drill. You are unique. You, my friend, are a conundrum. Your life was perfectly balanced. There’s nothing tipping the scales one way or the other. So, I’ve decided that you get 8 hours back in this plane to change that.”
“As a zombie? Buried under six feet of dirt? I don’t see where there’s a lot of good that will come from that.” Aaron paused, a panicked thought running through his mind. “I’m not going to start eating brains or anything, am I?”
“Hmmm. Negativity. Noted. And, no, no brain eating.”
“Wait! I wasn’t being negative. I was just gathering information and organizing my thoughts!”
“Really? I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt … this time. Now, you’re not buried yet. The grave is still open and I’ve arranged for it to stay that way until tomorrow. Check your watch. You have 8 hours … starting NOW!”
Great! I’ve been reduced to a decomposing Cinderella and sent out on a Don Quixote mission.
“Did I mention that I hear your thoughts too? Time and tide, Aaron.”
“I told you there are a lot of folks I have access to!” This time, there was a distinct sound of laughter.
Aaron pushed at the quilted surface and lifted the lid, a shower of red dirt rattling around him. He blinked in the sudden light, raising an arm to shield his eyes. Oh, noting the sleeve of his jacket, my blue pinstripe. I always liked this suit. “What are you doing, Aaron?” he said to himself. “You’ve no time for vanity.”
Standing on the coffin lid, Aaron was able to work his way out of the pit. Dusting himself off, he headed into town. Lost in thought, he wandered down the main street, its familiar shops and the passersby invisible. The past is the past, he mused. So, what can I do to change the past?
L’s voice caused him to jump. “Don’t scare me like that! Didn’t I leave you in the pit?”
“We’re in this together until the end.”
Aaron glanced up, getting his bearings. He caught a glimpse of himself in a shop window. Not too bad for death warmed over. He smiled at his reflection, noting that the result was more grimace than smile. I probably should avoid smiling.
“Aaron? Is that you?”
Aaron focused on the voice. “Father Donnelly? How are you?” he said, trying to sound nonchalant.
“Didn’t I … Weren’t you …,” Father Donnelly’s voice trailed off as quickly as the blood drained from his face.
Aaron wasn’t expecting to run into people he knew. Finally, seeing the look of panic on the priest’s face, he said, “Dead? Yeah, it was one of those Lazarus things. I guess you did a really good job at the service this morning.”
Aaron rushed forward as the priest fainted, catching him before he hit the ground. “Oh ye of little faith,” he murmured. “Hey, I kept him from hurting himself. That’s a good thing.”
“Yes but you also caused him to faint and that wasn’t a nice thing you said. One plus, one minus. Still tied.”
Aaron fumed away, making it halfway down the block before the ambulance went by. “I guess someone called 9-1-1. I sure hope Father Donnelly is O.K.”
“It wasn’t you that called, though, was it.”
“Well excuse me, but no one thought to bury me with my cell phone.”
“Point taken,” was the begrudging response. “So, do you have a plan yet?”
Aaron had wandered into the town square. He looked around at the park-like setting, feeling a pang of regret at the beauty that surrounded him, which he had never taken the time to appreciate or enjoy. “So many gifts surround us and we take them for granted.” He sat on a bench watching the children scamper about on the playground. “Sarah and I always planned on having children. It’s funny how life can overwhelm you to the point where the important things get brushed aside.”
“Uhhh, I guess I should mention that it’s too late to pursue that now. No blood flow, no - “
“Ewwww,” said Aaron, cutting him off. “Now that’s a disgusting thought not to mention too much information. Can you lose points too?” The wind kicked up and Aaron swore he heard laughter as it rustled through the trees.
“You know, you never asked how you died. Perhaps if I share that memory with you, it will help you focus on what you can do.”
Aaron froze. “Died?” Of course I died or I wouldn’t have been buried. He searched his memories. The last thing he remembered was arriving home. He had a vague memory of sitting in the living room sipping a Scotch on the rocks. The thought of the smoky liquid, its earthy flavor filling his mouth, was sharp.
“No, you can’t drink either. Without blood flow, your taste buds won’t work. You’d be really disappointed. Here, let me add ten minutes to your memories.”
As if a missing puzzle piece had been suddenly placed, the faded memories of his last moments came into sharp focus.
He had been sitting, sipping his Scotch when Sarah came in.
“You perverted son of a bitch!” she had yelled.
He remembered being totally shocked. He had no idea what she was yelling about. “What are you talking about? Have you gone crazy?”
“Child pornography! What sort of a sick degenerate are you? I can’t believe we’ve been married all these years and you were sneaking around, looking at this disgusting shit! I’m glad we never had children!”
“What? I’d never …”
Sarah held up a thumb drive. “Don’t deny it. The proof is right here,” she screamed throwing it at him.
Aaron stared at the thumb drive. He had found it lying in the street and picked it up. He remembered thinking he’d look at the files and return it to the owner. He struggled to remember. Yes, he had laid it on his desk … “Sarah, stop! It’s not what you think. It’s not mine!”
The pain in his chest was sudden and excruciating. He tried to stand but fell to the floor. “Sarah, help,” he said reaching out toward her.
“It’s Gods punishment and it serves you right,” she yelled, turning and leaving the room.
Aaron sat on the bench, his head cradled in his hands. “I died from a misunderstanding. I left my wife thinking I was a monster and having to keep a secret that I know tore her heart out.”
Aaron got up and crossed the park. The last remaining payphone in town was located at the north entrance. L! You’ve got to help me. I don’t have any change. Make the phone work!
Aaron pulled the phone from the receiver and heard the dial tone. He quickly stabbed at the keypad, pounding out his home number.
Aaron immediately recognized his wife’s voice. “Sarah. Don’t hang up! This is Aaron. There’s something I need to tell you.”
“Aaron? No, that’s impossible. What sort of a sick joke …”
“Sarah!” he commanded. “I don’t have much time. Listen to me.” His mind raced, searching for a way to convince her he was who he claimed. “I remember your last words as I was lying on the floor. You said ‘It’s Gods punishment and it serves you right.’” Aaron waited.
“How do you know that?” her tearful voice asked.
“Because I was there. I can’t explain how I’m able to talk to you now but it’s important for you to understand. That thumb drive wasn’t mine. I found it outside Lake’s Hardware Store. I’m telling you this so that you can take it to the police. They may be able to use it to track down the real perverts. Your silence is only protecting them.”
“Aaron, is it really you? If that’s true, I’m so sorry. I was so mad when I found it …”
“The second thing I need to tell you is I forgive you. I know how much you love children and how much you want to protect them. We both do. I want you to know how much I love you. We will see each other again, promise.”
“Aaron! I love you too. How can I ever forgive myself?”
“By being good. By doing good.” Aaron could feel himself starting to weaken and realized his time was almost up. “Remember, Sarah. I love you.” With that, he hung up the phone.
Aaron began the long walk back to the cemetery. Arriving, he lowered himself into the grave and lay down in the coffin. “Down the rabbit hole again," he said mirthlessly. "It's been quite a day, L. I felt like the white rabbit; ‘the hurrier I go, the behinder I get’. So, what's the final score.?”
The tiny red spark reappeared, casting a faint warm glow on the grave walls. “I begin to see why you were created. It was a pleasure knowing you, Aaron. Oh,” a slight lilt of laughter seemed to fill the voice, “and say hello to Lewis Carrol when you see him. Not everyone's here.”
The light faded and Aaron lay in the gathering darkness. Checking his watch, he saw he still had some un-life left. He pushed the top of the coffin fully open so he could watch the stars and, perhaps, the moon rise. He wasn’t going to ignore the surrounding beauty anymore.
An entry for "Quotation Inspiration: Official Contest"
Prompt: Write a story inspired by the quote: "If you fell down yesterday, stand up today." -- H.G. Wells
Word Limit: 2000
Word Count: 1977
With thanks to Fangus and Robert Edward Baker for their editing and encouragement