by J.B. Ezar
What happens after death?
"You don't have to fear death. It's nothing like they say it is, but it's not bad."
"So you don't just disappear, do you?"
"Well, you exist, in a sense. But it's different."
"It's hard to explain. In life, you don't realize how much of what makes you who you are is meat and liquids. You don't have that anymore when you die. And it changes you. You can't get angry or excited as fast as in life. There's no rush, no urges. Everything seems to be... more distant. But also so much clearer. You get rid of everything unimportant."
"It sounds boring."
"Maybe it is. But shedding your body also frees you, frees your mind."
"Frees for what?"
"For processing, of course. You see, once you're out there, you're part of something bigger. As if you're a neuron in a super-brain of the universe, and you get to do what you're best at."
"A super-brain? What super-brain? God?"
"How the hell do I know whose brain that is? Maybe God, maybe a god, maybe some alien form of life, maybe it's the Dark Energy itself... Do you think a neuron in your brain knows about you?"
"Ok, ok, don't get mad..."
"I don't get mad. Or upset. I'm dead, remember?"
"A living person is like a fetus in a womb, he doesn't know about other people, even his own mother is beyond his comprehension. He doesn't even know if there's life after birth. Just like the task for him while in a womb is to grow and practice breathing movements, the task for a living person is to experience everything, and to train the mind."
"Train for what?"
"Oh, but I've told you, for processing! You're not listening..."
"What is this processing?"
"It's like... You get these... waves of sudden thoughts. Information, lots of it. At first, you are overwhelmed, you don't understand it. But something in it catches your attention. Something familiar, and you recognize that bit, and suddenly you know what to do with it. And you do it."
"I don't understand."
"I don't know how else to describe it. You just recognize a pattern. It's like when you're good at reading people you see when they lie. You may not know—consciously—where to look, but you know it when you see it. In those waves of information, there is so much of everything, you will never understand it all. But something—it's probably something you were good at in life—something just stands out."
"And what do you do with it?"
"You process... Think that thought, calculate that number... I don't know, it depends on your specialization."
"Well, at first, you get all the information load, but as soon as you're used to processing what you recognize, more and more information of that sort is diverted to you. If you were good at finding a square root, you get more square root calculations. It's like there's a brilliant dead project manager somewhere out there, and he's directing all the info flow to all of us in the most efficient way."
"It's not funny."
"Oh, but it is! This network system, it's just brilliant. Like the visual cortex... Oh, I'm sorry for all the brain references, but I thought it would be hilarious to use it, you know, in your situation. With your tumour."
"Sorry, not funny again? Sorry, sorry... Where was I? Oh, like the visual cortex, it gets all the signals from the eyes and older parts of the brain, and even though a single neuron doesn't know what is it about, the output is an amazingly detailed picture. And this super-brain, with all its dead-people-neurons, perhaps it can develop a super-consciousness, and it can understand what that picture means. You get it? In death, you're a part of this understanding."
"I don't want to be a neuron. I want to take my wife to the beach someplace warm next year as I promised."
"That's your meat talking. Don't worry, you won't even remember why it was so important, to keep promises."
"I don't like your afterlife."
"It's not my afterlife. It's the afterlife."
"Well, I don't like it. The prospect of nothingness and total blackness is more soothing."
"Suit yourself. I was just trying to... facilitate the transition, if you know what I mean. Oh, not funny again? Sorry, sorry."
"Go to hell!"
"To the processing, you mean."
The door opened, and the dark figure stepped aside to let the nurse through. It just stood there, watching her change the bag for the drip, and although it had no face, Simon swore he felt it grinning at him.