A slice of afterlife story.
“Wake up, Lowell,” the voice was just a whisper, but insistent.
“Lowell! Put down that comic book and get dressed! The bus will be here in ten minutes.”
8-year-old Lowell sighed. He surreptitiously placed Batman in his book bag and pulled on his socks and shoes. He grabbed the bacon sandwich that his mother held out and ran for the open bus door. His unzipped coat flapped in the wind. A hastily tied shoelace came undone and he barely avoided falling as he stumbled up the bus stairs. He dropped into his seat with a thump as the long-suffering driver slammed the bus into gear and pulled away.
“Wake up, Lowell,” the voice barely registered in the noisy classroom.
“Earth to Lowell! Come in Lowell!” Mr. Hanratty called out.
The civics teacher thought he was hilarious, but only the class suck-ups ever laughed at his supposed wit.
“Seriously Lowell, pay attention. This Civil Defense drill just might save your life someday.”
Lowell had seen pictures from Hiroshima and didn’t think that hiding under a school desk would make any real difference to an atom bomb. Even a high-school senior with a B- grade average could see that. He was much more concerned with the draft lottery coming up next July. What would he do if he drew a low number? Eddie’s big brother had come home from ‘Nam in a flag-draped coffin.
“Wake up, Lowell,” The voice urged, its whispering tone almost familiar.
“Come on man, we gotta get going. The wedding is in three hours and you really need a shower, dude.”
Lowell groaned and slowly sat up. His head was splitting and there was an old sock in his mouth that turned out to be his tongue. It had been a bad idea to let Eddie throw an impromptu stag party the night before the wedding. But the real mistake was doing all those shots with the groomsmen.
“Wake up, Lowell,” That same soft voice, almost like a comforting friend.
“Dad, Dad, you have a grandson!” Eric shook Lowell from his doze in the maternity ward waiting area.
“He’s 8 lbs 12 oz and Lucy is doing great and everything went perfect and they’re bringing him to the nursery now and come look Dad!” Eric was almost babbling, overcome with joy and exhaustion.
Lowell rose quickly and followed, eager to greet the next generation. This was the payoff, the reason for working hard and sticking it out, grinding away for more than 30 years.
“Wake up, Lowell,” The whispery voice blended into the thin, December wind.
“Come away, Lowell. It’s cold and the reception is starting,” Sarah put her hand on Lowell’s arm and gently urged him from the open grave. Her lined face was streaked with tears, but somehow, she was the stronger one today.
“Meghan had a good life, Lowell. She made a difference. She knew you were proud of her, how much you loved her.”
Meghan had taken all the precautions; she’d masked up and worn gloves while working long hours in the Covid ward. She’d insisted that her middle-aged parents isolate at home. Lowell and Sarah hadn’t hugged her or even seen her in person for months. Then, in one of life’s bitter ironies, she’d contracted a severe case of the virus just days before the vaccine became available.
“No one should have to bury their child,” Lowell sobbed, the words catching in his throat.
“Wake up, Lowell,” The voice was still a whisper, but it was growing more urgent.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Endicott, it was a massive stroke and there just wasn’t anything we could do,” the doctor said sympathetically. “Would you like to speak with our chaplain? Or I can refer you to a grief counselor?”
“No, thank you, that won’t be necessary. I’d just like to be alone with Lowell for a while.”
“Of course, take all the time you need. Just let the nurse know when you’re ready to go.”
Lowell wanted desperately to reach out and comfort Sarah as she’d comforted him, but everything went dark and it was time to move on.
“Wake up, Lowell,”
Lowell opened his eyes to a dimly lit room. Pale beams of light played over his body like miniature searchlights. He was half-reclined on a comfortable chair reminiscent of a Dentist’s office. To his left was an indistinct figure working at some kind of computer console. Lowell felt alarmed, but remained still. Somehow, he just didn’t feel like moving.
“Who are you? What’s going on?” Lowell asked cautiously. He felt disoriented, with no idea of where he was or how he’d gotten there.
“I am the Curator,” the figure replied without looking up. “My function is to record and catalogue.”
“Record and catalog what?” Lowell asked with confusion.
“Current subject Lowell Endicott,” the Curator answered. “87.35 cycles. Recording completed.”
Lowell realized that the Curator was speaking without breathing, and there was also something a bit disturbing about the Curator’s face. It was too smooth, too evenly toned, and the lips didn’t move naturally when speaking. Lowell had a sudden flashback to an electronics show that he’d attended with his grandson. One of the Japanese companies had displayed a very life-like robot that looked real at first glance, but grew creepy on closer examination. He had that same feeling now.
“Are you a robot? Or an alien? My God, am I being probed? What’s happening here?”
“Cataloging completed. Uploading data now.”
Lowell suddenly wondered if this was a version of the ‘white light’. But why would God need a robot? He’d have angels with harp music playing from clouds in the background, right?
“Are you St. Peter?”
“Function complete,” the Curator said and stopped. It didn’t shut its eyes or even close its mouth. It just stopped, motionless, staring blankly at Lowell.
“Please, don’t leave me alone! Tell me what’s going on, why am I here? What happens next?”
“Wake up, Lowell.”
Author's note: ▼