|The sudden brightness was vertiginous. Edison Carter flung his arms out and braced his footing, feet spread. He took deep breaths and looked around, desperate for something, anything, to provide him with a frame of reference. And in an instant, a tall wall with an ornate metal gateway materialized in front of him, along with an elderly man standing behind an equally ornate white podium.
The man, strands of his longish white hair caught by a light breeze, stared at him with a smile on his face, leaning forward to rest his elbows upon the top of the podium. “Er, Peter?” asked Edison hesitantly after a couple minutes of awe and confusion.
“Peter” look around, inspecting his surroundings. “Interesting. And also fairly cliché. So Edison, let me guess — did you walk into the light?”
“I don’t remember anything, but yeah, I suppose I might have. Am I dead?”
A slight frown came to “Peter’s” face. “Yes. Well, no, your body is dead. This construct you see is all your creation – including me. Not all that imaginative, really.”
“Are you saying I can just summon up anything with my mind? Wait, do I even have a mind anymore?”
“Peter” smiled again, and with a twinkle in his eyes, nodded. And Edison returned his smile.
Suddenly Edison shot skyward, large white wings sprouting from his back and catching the wind, sending him horizontally across an extensive grassy plain. Tears came to his eyes, partly from the blast of air, but mostly from the shear joy in his heart.
As he rose higher into the atmosphere, he found himself among heaps of cumulous clouds, and he was surprised to find himself soaring with others, spread out at various distances and travelling in all directions. A young girl sailed diagonally down towards him, passed overhead, and then crossed below him on his right before coming out of the barrel roll at his left side. She flew along side him for several minutes, mirroring his movements, and he believed he could hear her giggle from time to time.
After a while, she joined a couple of others flying ahead and to his left, but instead of joining them, Edison chose to glide alone, ever so slowly rolling and descending to the wooded land below.
Edison alit in a clearing along the edge of a small lake. Frogs chirruped quietly along the shoreline, and the smell of pine was so invigorating that he had to turn and admire the trees which stood behind him. He noticed a narrow dirt path between the fern and milkweed, leading to a small dock protruding through the cat tails and tall grass. He also became aware of a well-worn wood bench under a clump birch and facing the lake.
Walking over to the bench, he looked out over the lake to the opposite shore, then noticing the dragonflies lightly touching the water and leaving small circular ripples. He became transfixed by the reflected setting sun and became alert again with the snapping of a striped bass at one of the less careful dragonflies.
Edison sat down on the bench, and after a moment leaned back and closed his eyes. A loon ululated its haunting melody in the distance, and the sun’s fading rays gave warmth to his upturned face.
“Now THIS is commendable,” said “Peter” as he walked down from the path. Edison kept his eyes shut, and the loon rewarded him with a variation of its earlier call.
“You know,” replied Edison , “I never pictured a hereafter like this. As a matter of fact, I never really considered that there was an afterlife at all, now that I think about…”