What's a dead man to do with himself when the light doesn't come for him?
I AM PHANTASM
My death had been unremarkable, clichd even. I was a 52yr old man with a sedentary career as a financial planner, got little exercise, well, none really. Sometimes I'd throw Bluto's favorite toy across the room and he'd fetch it but I was usually seated at the time so that probably doesn't count. I drank too much, ate too much, was 60lbs overweight and was stressed out most of the time over all the things that stress most people: money, work, family, life in general. It was a toxic cocktail of unhealthy habits fueled by laziness and a lack of personal discipline that was bound to catch up with me sooner or later.
Bearing these facts in mind it came as little surprise when I found myself in the grip of a massive heart attack that afternoon during a meeting with one the company's top clients. One minute, we were discussing diversification options based on current market trends, the next minute I had fallen over backwards in my chair clutching at my chest and groaning as Brad quickly dialed 911. To their credit, the responders were there within 10 minutes and worked diligently and to the best of their ability to revive me but I was gone before they even had time to get me secured on the gurney and ride the 40 floors to the ground. Celia was crying when it became apparent I had passed away. I thought that was a nice touch. I had always liked Celia.
Appropriately, the additional time spent dealing with my death during business hours was deducted from the client's bill.
So here I was; a freshly deceased, middle-aged, moderate Republican, ex- financial planner. My wife arranged for the viewing and funeral which is now, apparently, called a remembrance service because who doesn't love a good euphemism? I thought it all went well. I was surprised by the number of people who showed up although I suspect many of them were there out of a feeling of social obligation rather than any genuine emotional connection to me. Still, it was nice that they had made the effort. My family was openly devastated and I was going to miss them as much as they were going to miss me but death is an inevitable fact of life that everyone has to deal with. Through sound investments I had provided for them in the event of my demise and hoped only for the best for each of them. I would think of them often.
Having made the transition from life to death I was now awaiting my eternal reward. I had always been, if not a devout Christian, at least an okay one. I felt confidant that I would be judged worthy of entry into Heaven and so I anticipated the light I had heard so much about. The light that would guide me to my destination and the paradise I had been told of ever since I was a child at the Divine Trinity Christian School in Teaneck, New Jersey. This was going to be incredible! I was finally going to see what Heaven looked like for myself. Would it be as I had imagined it: streets of gold, angelic beings, the souls of all the people that had gone before? Would I get to meet Marilyn Monroe, Walt Disney, Elvis? The anticipation was palpable. I can't remember the last time I had been so excited, so full of expectation. I felt like a kid at Christmas. Bring it on!
So I waited.
It's almost time, I can feel it!
This is taking longer than I thought.
Yeah, a lot longer.
Okay, what's the hold up?
I get that I have eternity but can we get this show on the road, please?
Goddamn it, where's the freakin' light!?
Oh, I shouldn't have said that! I only meant that I'm very eager to take my place among God's faithful. Please forgive my impatience, Father, but I'm ready to go - now.
Seriously, am I missing something? Was the light already here and I missed it? Does it always take this long? My God, it's been weeks! I was under the impression that you see it as soon as you pass. It appears before you, beckoning you to your eternal reward, or punishment as the case may be, but I'm quite sure there's been nothing of the kind. There's no way I would have missed it. Who misses seeing a divine light that envelopes you in warmth and love? Still, there must be some simple reason for the delay. It'll happen. I just need to show some patience. Seated on my headstone, I'll just make myself comfortable and wait for it. It'll happen soon enough.
23 YEARS PASS
I'm sure He hasn't forgotten about me, they must be just really backed up from wars, and murders, and heart disease, stuff like that. Hey, we've all been there. I can deal.
12 MORE YEARS PASS
Aaaaany time now...
6 MORE YEARS PASS
What the hell is going on here!? This is ridiculous! Okay, now I'm mad! I want that light now! Right freakin' now! Got it? I'm sick of this crap! DO IT NOW!
1 MORE YEAR PASSES
Sitting here all this time, something disturbing has occurred to me; I'm beginning to think that, maybe, this has all been... a lie.
No! It can't be!
Or can it?
Can it be that none of it was ever real? After all, I've been sitting here over forty years waiting for this light that never comes. The light was the portal through which I was going to enter the afterlife. If the light isn't real then maybe none of it is.
If nothing I've been taught about what happens after death is true then what am I supposed to do with myself for an eternity? Eternity. That's like...forever!
I need to think logically here; if Heaven and Hell were true, I would have spent my eternity either worshipping God or being tormented by Satan. I think if I were being tortured 24 hours a day forever, anyplace would be paradise by comparison. It doesn't even have to be Heaven, Detroit would be paradise by comparison. So, theoretically, since I'm not currently in a place of eternal punishment and pain, it can be argued that I'm in paradise just sitting here on this gravestone.
So there's that.
Alright, let's think this through; if this is all there is to the afterlife, if it's just eternal existence as a spirit being then I have to assume it's up to me what I make of my spirit self. When I was alive, I was a physical being and it was up to me what I made of it so there's really no difference between my previous life and the life I have now. In either case, I have to make the best of it. The only real differences are that now I'm no longer a physical being and I have all the time there is. If I'm not a physical being then I'm no longer hamstrung by the limitations of a physical body. Case in point; I've been dead for decades and I've never once had to breathe, nor eat, nor drink, nor pee. I'm never hot or cold regardless of the weather and I never get sick, or sleepy, or...anything. In fact, I can't be shot, stabbed, strangled, run down, blown up, or assaulted in any way.
Holy bananas, I'm invincible!
How did I never realize this until just now? Because I was so fixated on that stupid light I couldn't see what was right in front of me. I used to have childhood dreams that I was a superhero, now I have the kind of powers that truly classify me as one.
Oh my God, this is amazing! The possibilities are endless! I barely know where to begin! Actually, I don't know where to begin. If I have no physical limits then I can do anything! I could go to the deepest parts of the ocean just to see what's there, or to the center of an active volcano just for the fun of it! I could also journey to the furthest reaches of interstellar space unaffected by the lack of oxygen, the radiation, black holes, pulsars, the extremes of temperature, nothing can harm me!
My mind is reeling from these thoughts! What do you do when you're like Superman, minus the strength, of course, and without all the stupid stuff like heat vision or hurricane breath? Okay, so maybe I'm not quite like Superman but I'm still feeling really powerful! I need a name! Something that defines me by my unique circumstances; Afterlife Man!
No, that sucks.
Better but it sounds more like a threat than a name.
Okay, what am I; basically, I'm a ghost. What's a cool word for ghost? Let's see, there's spirit, revenant, apparition, poltergeist, phantom, phan...phantasm. Phantasm! That's it!
I AM PHANTASM!
Paragon of justice! Defender of the weak! Stopper of...badness! When Phantasm appears, evil screams like a little girl and runs away! This is gonna be great! Superheroes are hugely popular! This is so much more exciting than going into the light would've been! I can finally be in death what I could never be in life - cool! And just think of the media opportunities: comics, books, a TV series, movies! There'll be a Phantasm action figure and Phantasm merchandise! Kids will dress up like me for Halloween! I'll be famous and all I had to do to make it happen was die! If I had figured all this out sooner instead of wasting forty years waiting for that damn light, I'd be a star by now! Well, the wait is over, my time has arrived!
Phantasm is here!
Then, amid the trees that grew in abundance around my gravesite, a point of light began to form. It quickly expanded until it flooded the whole area in a warm and loving glow that could only be described as serene. The light was directly in front of me and seemed to beckon me to step into it. I stared into the divine display with eyes wide and my jaw agape in amazement. At long last it had finally come for me.