Inspired by the short story book, Sum: 40 Tales Of the Afterlife, by David Eagleman, I wanted to write a short story in a similar vein. So here it is, entitled, "Overdue."
Imagine that when you die, you wake up in the atrium of an ancient building.
You stand, and approach the desk where an elderly gentleman sits.
He looks up slightly, smiles, and his eyes twinkle from beneath his narrow, horn-rim glasses.
"Welcome," he says, in a familiar tone, one you've heard maybe in your dreams.
He introduces himself as the Librarian, keeper of the books.
He explains what you feel you have always known, but have never been able to articulate - a metaphor you recognize from the living world - that we are nothing but stories, separated by chapters, embarking upon the hero's journey, self-contained, with a beginning and end. WE are the books.
Our souls were contained within.
In life, those instances of déjà vu were just moments being reread.
Forgotten memories, "lost chapters", were parts edited or left unread.
And those once unsettling moments where we felt like we were being watched, we were in fact being read, enjoyed, taken in, perused.
An aimless browser scans our more boring parts, turning whole sections to blurs in our memories.
The readers enjoy our extremes: our plights and our ecstasies, reading intently our more intense encounters, our first loves and heartbreaks, our deepest regrets and fears, searing those moments into our hearts & minds.
It is left a bit vague as to who exactly is reading, and even more so unclear who writes the books. Even the Librarian does not know.
When asked, he shakes his head sadly.
But he glosses over this quickly, excited for you to see the collection.
He brings you to a vast, unending room, with shelves upon shelves of books, countless tomes, collections, and anthologies, a multitude of different covers, dust jackets, fonts, and writing styles.
You try and find your friends and loved ones, to see how they are doing, and how far they are in their own stories, and maybe somehow send a message that you are okay and thinking of them, while you read that they are thinking of you.
Every second that passes, you see many of the books continuing to grow.
The Librarian presents you with a choice.
You may go back, as some have chosen to, but he warns you: "It is hard to beat the first time around, and you will remember nothing of the previous book," or you may stay here, not necessarily in the Library, but in the after-life.
But this too holds a caveat: you have limited privilege with regards to checking out the books yourself.
But we may take comfort in picking the latter: for whenever a story is read, that life is enriched, the soul feels like they are living in the moment, and if it is someone we know, they will think of us, and tell a portion of our story they remember.
And you realize your previous assumption was incorrect:
These novels are not self-contained.
Our literature is a unique one: existing both in flux, and purely in crossover.
It is why the human race loves its stories:
We memorialize each other because deep down, we cannot shake the feeling that all we are is a collection of literary allusions to each other.