Standing right in front of him was his friend Stan; his dead friend Stan. He looked the same as he did 20 years ago. Death suited his friend Stan well.
“What the hell is going on? I don’t understand.” He said to Stan.
“You killed yourself.” Stan said.
“No, it was all just a dream. I didn’t go through with it. I didn’t have the guts. There were so many times I’ve thought about it but never did.”
“This time you did. Look for yourself.” Stan said as he pointed over to the couch. He saw himself slumped over, blood everywhere.
“No, this can’t be real. It was all just a dream.”
“No it wasn’t. It really happened. I died. You died. Now here we are.” Stan said to him.
“Where is here? Is this purgatory?”
“Purgatory? No. This is more of a salle d’attente.”
“I’m sorry a what?”
“Think of it as a waiting area.”
“A waiting area? A waiting area for what?”
Stan opens the door and instead of the normal street view there is a vast area of green grass, streaming waterfalls, and piercing blue skies. He saw children and animals playing in the fields. The scenery had a strangely calming affect on him.
“I’m still not understanding.” He said.
“Summerland is where you go after you’ve completed your education.” Stan replied.
“School’s been out for a very long time for me.”
“No, not just yet. You have to go back.”
“Go back for what?”
“Until you’ve done it right.”
“So I’m being punished?”
“Punishment? No, you’re getting another chance.”
“Yes, it’s more like a do-over.”
“I don’t understand.”
“In order for you to enter The Summerland, you must successfully complete your life. You haven’t done that yet.”
“So I guess you did?”
“Yes and no.”
“What do you mean yes and no, and what is successfully completing my life?”
“I died too soon by my own doing. I had to go back too, but I got it right.”
“I don’t understand. You died in an accident, you didn’t kill yourself.”
“Yes it was an accident but it was avoidable. You don’t know the true story.”
“What’s the true story?”
“The night I died I was drunk but that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to get higher. I was on my way to buy drugs when I got into the accident.”
“You were looking for weed?”
“No, much stronger. I kept it a secret from you, everyone really. I was a drug addict.”
“I never knew. I couldn’t even tell.”
“That was the point. I didn’t want anyone to know. Skeletons, we all have them hiding in the closet. I had to go back again and again. I did so until I got it right.”
“Something like that.”
“So I can come back as a frog or something.”
“No, it doesn’t work like that. I know what you’re feeling right now. You’re unsure of what’s happening. You’re trying to take it all in and it’s all very confusing.”
“What I am is angry. All those years I needed you, you weren’t there. I learned a long time ago that I was truly on my own.”
“You were never alone. I was always there watching over you.”
“Watching over me? Not once did I ever feel that way. Not once. I hear religious people saying all the time that they’re looking for a sign. You didn’t think to throw one my way?
“I’m sorry. It doesn’t work like that.”
“So when you left it really was ‘until we meet again’?”
“I didn’t leave. I died. You did too. It’s almost time for your next chance.”
“How many chances will it take?”
“As many as it’s required.”
“So when I go back will I remember any of this?”
“No, It doesn’t work like that either. You won’t remember me, this life, or that this conversation ever took place. Not directly anyway.”
“You ever have Déjà vu?”
“Yes, everyone has.”
“Sometimes, every now and again, you will get the feeling that something has happened before.”
“Yes, but with Déjà vu your mind tells you that it’s never happened before but you think it has.”
“So? I’m not following.”
“It’s really just you remembering one of your other chances.”
“So this will never end?”
“No, it will eventually end.”
“You’re given lessons throughout your entire life. They’re always going to be there and they keep repeating themselves until you’ve learned them. They’re hard and trying but you have to keep going. Keep fighting like Rocky did. Dust yourself off and keep moving forward.”
“This ain’t the movies. Life doesn’t work like that.”
“No, you’re right it doesn’t… but wouldn’t it be something if it did? I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not. What’s hard for us to remember is that every single person is going through something at one time or another. They are all going through their own personal war. On your next trip find peace within yourself. Once you do that, everything else will line right up.”
“What if I can’t?”
“Then you’ll do it again. You’ll do it as many times as you need to until you’ve learned all there is to be taught.”
“Sounds like it will take a while.”
“Time does not exist in Summerland.”
“Now that sounds cliché.”
“It does but time is not the same as it is for the living.”
“When do I go back to be among the living?”
“Soon. You’ll start to forget things slowly until you don’t remember a thing.”
“Then what happens?”
“You’ll be born again.”
“Will I see you again?”
“Eventually. Once you make it to Summerland.”
“I’m feeling a little groggy.”
“Your time has come. Your next chance is waiting.”
As he said his last word, he started to see Stan disappear in the fields. Slowly the grass turned back into the sidewalks and streets. He looked down at his hands and saw that he too was slowly disappearing. Fading away into nothingness.
…To Be Continued…
**Inspired by the words of Richard Matheson**