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by Jester
Rated: E · Novel · Fantasy · #2269289
Matthew wonders, what's it like in someone else's afterlife sphere? He'll find out.

Chapter 8


With little else to do one evening, Matthew drifted himself up through the Hoyt House roof again for one of his fascinations: watching floaters. The Portland sky hosted thousands of them that night, spheres with semi-transparent membranes. Inside were people who had once lived in material bodies. They seemed to be busy pursuing memories or unfulfilled dreams. Sometimes the occupants looked to be troubled.

He remembered fondly watching all manner of occupations, anything from day-care workers to farm hands to attorneys... all busy playing vignettes of the life left behind.

Many spheres contained people in various sorts of traumatic situations, many that lead to death. Some were full of flames with furnaces or what looked like flaming polluted bodies. Each of them had a clearly audible voice crying out with fear and despair. Curious, Matthew got close enough to one of them to feel the heat but, backed away. Is that what Hell is? Each sinner gets a personal hell?

And there were some that appeared to be black holes of nothingness with a pair of lost-looking eyes floating within. Others pulsed with bright colors. Joyful singing of what sounded like hymns could be heard in some, while other spheres were filled with laughter and hedonistic pleasures. Like floating jukeboxes, a few spheres vibrated music and songs from various historical periods. Matthew wondered if dead musicians lived in them.

Every once in a while a sphere would float by containing a dead male with a closely cropped beard and a woven head covering. In a white robe, he would be reclining on a couch, allowing a collection of young females to serve him in various ways. They always looked bored. As did he.

Most spheres would gradually float upward toward a bright light like bubbles rising in carbonated water. As they ascend, their membranes would gradually lose definition. The Heavens seemed to welcome each one as it eventually dissolved into the Light.

Instead of feeling hope and faith at this vision, Matthew usually felt waves of anxiety and a heaviness. It made no sense. Why should watching those spirits rise to the divine hope that is there for all in the next life feel so troubling? Maybe it was just that Jill was still stuck at the house in her wheelchair. And as long as she was there, he would be.

Matthew remembered how his own sphere began to slowly take shape, shortly after his plunge into the Willamette River. Most newly dead people get the attention of afterlife riff-raff if they have yet to ascend to Light. These entities were bottom feeders looking to exploit their dilemmas.

His sphere knew just what to do: grow into a membrane to surround Matthew and store his memories. Visions of his sister Jill choking on smoke. Plus a heavy feeling of being lost mixed with terrible grief. Jill! In his case, personal karma.

Gazing upward again, he noticed that some spheres, instead of dissolving into the Light as usual, descended back down. It was common for them to drift aimlessly among houses in the neighborhood. Whenever Mathew witnessed a sphere slowing its drift and blending right through the outer wall of a nearby house, his guts would quiver. He could practically feel it happening as if it were his own home.

Not at my house!, he would declare. Watching penetrations like this gave him the creepin willies. I have enough dead people here already.

So, he planted a No Vacancy sign on the crest of the roof and reminded himself to tell Greta to be on guard. A floating sphere might try to gain entry at any time.

Matthew long wondered what it was like inside a sphere that was not his own? One evening his curiosity was too much to resist. He simply had to find out. Careful to avoid barging in on a sphere that was currently occupied, Matthew watched for one that looked to have an isolated outdoor setting. From directly above he heard the sound of a river with the sound of a horse whinny and snorting.

He was intrigued. Oh to sense Mother Nature again! How long has it been?

He placed an ear to the membrane to listen for the sounds of people. Hearing none, he placed his hands on the membrane surface and slowly blended right through.

Matthew thought to himself, I know that I don't belong here. But it's so amazing! Inside this sphere was an entire mountain range. The terrain just blended with the sky with no horizon to be seen. The temperature was just right, not too hot nor too cold. Nearby lupine was displaying wonderfully blue flowers, poked at by hummingbirds.

Streams of snow melt gurgled down the mountain range foothills. I remember now! I used to hike mountain trails. Mountain aromas filled his nose. If I could only taste mountain runoff water again. Spikes of cream- colored bear grass reached four feet in the air, emitting a delicate scent. Matthew wondered if this might be someone's heaven. And he is an intruder.

"Howdy partner!"

Feeling like an adolescent who had just been caught, Matthew said to himself, OK. Face the music. He turned around, expecting a stern school teacher or police officer. Instead, there was a cowboy with a big grin, astride a horse.

His ensemble was loaded with lots tack, including snakeskin riding boots with silver buckles, spurs and a black felt ten-gallon hat. Mother of pearl snaps on shirt pockets added a gentlemanly touch. He reached into a vest pocket and pulled out a hand-rolled cigarillo. With a thumb, he somehow magically ticked off a stick match to light it. Cowboy inhaled deeply to his satisfaction and slowly exhaled.

"Want one?", he offered with an engaging smile.

"Oh, hi." Matthew was totally thrown off. A rhinestone cowboy offering him something to smoke? "Thank you, but I don't smoke." The entire idea of fire and smoke was not appealing.

Ignoring Matthew's reply, Cowboy just gazed dreamily at the mountains, the streams and foliage. Then he beamed at Matthew. "You like my place?"

"Oh boy do I ever! It's fantastic." Matthew continued to rubberneck. There was so much beauty to see.

"Yep. Sure is purty. It's always purty here" Cowboy hopped off of his paint horse, who wandered off to graze. He removed his hat to reveal a full head of curly dark brown hair. With large blue eyes and perfect teeth, he was tall and fit in a John Wayne sort of way.

"It's a wonderful place you have. And is that a pond over there?" He heard a splashing sound. "A fish just jumped!"

"Yep. Happens all the time," Cowboy replied. "That's my pond all right. Ya otta see the dragonflies too. Really purty." He then rubbed his belly. "The fish is good eatin' too. I cook 'em over a campfire every day."

"A campfire in here? Isn't that dangerous?" Matthew already had to face the consequences of an untended fire.

"Nah." Cowboy just grinned and stared off. "Nothing ever goes wrong here."

This must be his version of Heaven, Matthew wondered. "Is it always so comfortable like this?"

"Yep. Purty much all the time," he replied in an empty sort of way.

"Don't the seasons change? You must get cold in the winter?"

Cowboy pushed his hat back and scratched his chin. "Winter. Ah, yes, I remember winter. It felt cold and damp." He stared off at the mountains again. "Seems like long ago."

Matthew was intrigued. "No winter weather here?"

He shrugged, "Not yet. Every day is perfect, just like the day before. I watch the same wildlife, watch the same flowers and streams." Cowboy paused and stretched out his arms. "Look at me. I'm young and fit as ever. My health seems to be pretty much perfect too."

He gestured over to his horse. "Even my paint Imogene grazing over yonder. She's in the prime of life, as always. Ain't aged a day since the day I met her. I never believed that horses could live so long."

"It's always like this? After the life I just lived, I say: Sign me up!"

Cowboy removed his hat to suggest openness and asked, "Care to join me? Got plenty of room." He gestured toward the surrounding wilderness.

Matthew was sorely tempted. This beats Hoyt House and its unhappy residents any day. But Jill was there and alone. And he would have to carry her with him, even into this sphere "I appreciate your offer but, I have obligations."

"I understand about obligations." Cowboy paused to push back his hat again. "I remember lots 'em. Plenty of demands on me. People depending on me. But, none here. I seem to be on some kind of a long-term vacation."

Matthew got curious. "How long have you been here?"

The question yanked Cowboy back from his speculation. He looked at Matthew and scratched his chin. "Can't rightly say. Must be a number of years, I reckon. I lost count." Then he snickered, "Long enough to get bored."

Matthew was incredulous. "Bored here in Paradise? You gotta be kidding."

"Each day is as easy and predictable as the rest. Sometimes I feel that I need something different. Frankly, I'm tired of trout. It's like I want to exert effort again. I want to figure things out," Cowboy removed his hat and tapped his forehead. "Using my own smarts."

He then resumed staring at something in the sky. "This place requires nothing of me. Nothing requires effort." He gazed at the mountains again and added, "I just might have been here enough years, young fella."

Matthew just had to know. "Do you mean to leave this place?"

"To live with some challenges for a change. I always wanted to go to college but never got the chance to. Just might be a good idea." Cowboy tucked in his shirt donned his hat. He looked upward to see the ceiling of his sphere thinning like a stretched balloon. A very bright light began to stream through. He grinned from ear to ear.

This must be one of those sphere membranes I've been watching. They gradually get thin before dissolving. And this is the inside view, like the inside of a bubble. Next, the interior began to fade a bit. The mountains, the meadows the sky slowly became more and more translucent.

Matthew took his eyes away from what was happening above him as waves of anxiety coursed through his being. He was suddenly cast into a familiar dark and murky world where he stumbled around. It was a dark and menacing place to be lost in. Nevertheless, the vision remained captivating. This is so familiar. I remember this place from my nightmares.

Then Matthew came to. He looked around only to watch the thin membrane of the sphere flow and quiver as if it would burst any moment. What happens if it breaks? How do I get back? What about Jill? I need to get out of here!

In a moment, like waking from a dream, Matthew was on his feet again, on the roof with the same view of the Portland night sky. Although he had no need to, he grabbed hold of the chimney for dear life lest he float back into the sphere. It nearly touching the Light by now.

Matthew watched Cowboy in his sphere, now almost completely translucent. He was reaching up with both arms toward what looked like a shower pouring down. Instead of water, light crystals descended all around him. His expression was ecstatic as he blended upward with the Light.

He ought to be feeling wonderful at this time. After all, he just witnessed Cowboy ascend to a heavenly realm. Instead, Matthew was flooded with a gloomy and apprehensive outlook. And for no good reason, a feeling of helplessness.

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